PORTSMOUTH — All branches of the military were celebrated on Navy History Day Saturday at Albacore Park.
Patti Violette, executive director of the Albacore Museum, said Navy History Day was born out of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s observance of Navy Day starting in 1922 to honor sailors.
“It’s an opportunity for the Seacoast to celebrate all military branches now,” Violette said.
This year’s theme was “Search and Rescue” featuring a number of booths, discussions and re-enactors, such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Navy’s Deep Submergence Systems Program to rescue lost submarines, a replica Vietnam-era infirmary and a discussion of the Navy’s SUBSAFE program, which was put into place following the loss of the USS Thresher off the coast of Massachusetts in 1963. The event also featured authors D. Allan Kerr, Michael Mitchell, Frank Hood and Denise Brown, who held book discussions and signings.
A tribute to the Navy sailors lost on vessels before, during and after World War II was led by USS Thresher Base Commander Kevin Galeaz, who read the name of each ship, followed by a single ringing of the Albacore’s bell.
“We exist to perpetuate the memory of the men who died on the Thresher and other submarines, so it is very important for us to come here to remember them,” Galeaz said. “We want to make sure we’re honoring and respecting the men who sacrificed their lives at sea in defense of our country.”
To help celebrate Navy History Day, Kevin Beam, executive officer of the USS New Hampshire submarine, addressed attendees and ceremonially cut a cake with his officer’s sword. USS New Hampshire is at PNSY for its scheduled two-year maintenance, but Beam said the sub is now out of dry dock and waterborne before it gets dispatched to a base in Norfolk, Virginia, once it goes back into service in January.
“Every day if you’ve ever been on the shipyard, you look around; you’ll see a sign that says, 'From sails to atoms,’ I think that epitomizes both the shipyard and how this whole area has been impacted by the Navy throughout our history,” Beam said. “We’ve been really lucky to have such a great community to welcome us and the entire crew to help compensate for the fact many of the crew’s families are not here with them.”
For military history buffs, the place to be in the Seacoast was at the Albacore’s Navy History Day, said World War II re-enactor Cody Gilman of Dover. He recently scored a decommissioned Korean War-era “Super Bazooka” to use in his unit’s upcoming re-enactments.
“Yes, its real name is the Super Bazooka,” Gilman said. “I come from a gun collecting family, so I was always interested in antique weapons. A lot of people I go to re-enactments with have all types of machine guns, but you never see anyone with a bazooka, so I had to get this. It’ll be good to take out a tank or two next time we’re out.”
It was this historical immersion that drew Navy veteran Joseph Freda and his grandchildren. His son Joseph Freda Jr. is currently serving on active duty as a Navy helicopter commander. “I wanted them to experience the Naval history of our country,” Freda said.
Betty and David Moquin, re-enactors dressed in World War II German infantry uniforms, helped their re-enactor compatriot show off his 1936 BMW R71 motorcycle and side cart. David Moquin said he was enjoying Navy History Day because it helped bring the past alive.
“Some people whose favorite subject in school was math maybe became an engineer or a surveyor or something,” he said. “My favorite subject was history, so we get to live it today. And everyone here? You can bet their favorite subject in school was history too.”