Navy, Old and New, on the USS New York

Posted on 08. Dec, 2009 by in Life & Times, Profiles, Seasonal

by Erin McCarthy


Frank DeCicco, 80, climbed aboard the U.S.S. New York 56 years after he served in the Navy on the U.S.S. Helena during the Korean War. He sniffed the below-decks air, tinged with metal and oil.

“A navy ship’s a navy ship. To me they all smell the same,” he said.

DeCicco, of Bethpage, N.Y., was one of many Navy veterans to visit the U.S.S. New York during its 10-day stay in New York City over the Veterans Day holiday. For some veterans, it was an opportunity to remember their service and to see how the Navy has changed.

Tom Murray, 65, of Lake Hiawatha, N.J., served on the U.S.S. Essex during the Cuban blockade in the 1960s. For him, one thing made the U.S.S. New York very different. “We didn’t have so many Marines,” Murray said.

The U.S.S. New York is an amphibious landing craft capable of transporting 700 Marines, their vehicles and supplies. It has a crew of 350 Navy sailors. Marines and Navy officers welcomed thousands of visitors like Murray onto the U.S.S. New York last week to celebrate the ship’s commissioning.
Murray wanted to see the ship because it made a strong statement in response to the 9/11 attacks, he said. “This is the strongest country in the world, and we shouldn’t allow things like that to happen,” he said.

The ship was forged with seven and a half tons of steel taken from the ruins of the World Trade Center. Construction on the ship started in August 2004. After its stay in New York City, the ship was heading to Norfolk, Va. From there, it will be used in missions abroad, said Petty Officer Tung Nguyen, 35, of Seattle, Wash.
Nguyen volunteered to serve in a special unit created for the New York commissioning because of the ship’s symbolism. “To me, it’s a symbol of freedom and to never give up,” he said.
DeCicco, who was wearing a U.S.S. Helena hat, also appreciated the symbolism of the Twin Towers’ steel in the ship. He, along with two friends from Long Island, said they came to honor the eight people from Bethpage who died on 9/11, including a New York firefighter.

“We’re happy to see the steel has forged ahead, and the US Navy is a part of it,” DeCicco said. “It’s a pride for our city. I know the men and women will serve proudly.”

The U.S.S. New York also showed how much the Navy has improved since he was an 18-year-old in the Navy, DeCicco said. He was impressed to see men and women sailors serving together and with the sheer size of the U.S.S. New York.

Most of all, he was impressed with the change in the Navy diet. The first question he had for the sailors: “How was the chow?” DeCicco discovered that the Navy now serves biscuits and gravy for breakfast. In the early 1950s, he got beans and cornbread.

He didn’t mind the change, he said. “I enjoyed my beans and cornbread, and I still enjoy them today.”

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