LATHAM, NY (02/25/2020) (readMedia)-- LATHAM, N.Y. -- A hundred-year old ship's bell was re-dedicated by the New York Naval Militia during a ceremony at New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs headquarters on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
The 40-pound bell once signaled the time on the U.S.S. Flusser, a destroyer used to train naval reservists in the 1920s, including members of the New York Naval Militia.
"The bell before you is the only remaining piece of the U.S.S. Flusser," noted Commander Don McKnight of the New York Naval Militia in his introductory remarks at the ceremony.
"It has been nearly 90 years since this bell last performed its official functions onboard the naval combatant before the Flusser was decommissioned."
Since the 15th century, bells aboard ships were used to signal the time of day so sailors knew when to go on duty. They were also used to indicate the ship's location in fog and are rung to mark the moment when a captain or high ranking officer boards or leaves a ship.
Ships' bells play a key role in many naval ceremonies.
The refurbished bell has been mounted in a new black walnut wood frame and will be used during New York Naval Militia ceremonies and will be displayed in the Division of Military and Naval Affairs building lobby.
The bell was re-dedicated 100 years to the day the U.S.S. Flusser, the ship it was mounted, was commissioned in Squantum, Massachusetts at the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Yard in 1920.
"A ship's bell, foremost, establishes the rhythm of a ship," said Rear Admiral Warren Smith, Commander of the New York Naval Militia. "It is used for many purposes, but it is a reference point for life aboard ship."
New York Maj. Gen. Timothy LaBarge, commander of the New York Air National Guard and the senior officer present at the ceremony, remarked on the history of the Flusser.
"The Flusser only lasted for ten years, reflecting the advances of technology at the time."
"She is a connection to our naval history," LaBarge said. "She connects our Naval Militia to the great ships of our Navy history and heritage, to our naval traditions, a fascinating culture."
The New York Naval Militia is a component of the New York Military Forces, which also includes the Army and Air National Guard and the New York Guard, a state defense force.
The Naval Militia is composed of 2,800 current and former Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard members who agree to serve on state active duty when called by the state of New York. They put the skills they've honed in federal military service to work for New York.
There are also a small number of members who have no prior military service or are retired.
The Naval Militia traces its history back to 1889 when a Provisional Naval Battalion was organized. That unit was formally mustered into State service as the First Battalion, Naval Reserve Artillery, on 23 June 1891. One year later the New York Naval Militia was called to active duty to protect steam ship passengers during the 1892 cholera quarantine at Fire Island.
Naval Militia members served in the Spanish American War and the conflicts since.
Naval Militia members responded to Hurricane Irene in 2011, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the Buffalo snowstorm in 2014, and Lake Ontario flooding in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The New York Naval Militia also operates a fleet of ten patrol boats which can assist law enforcement and the Coast Guard in New York's waters. These boats include a landing craft- style boat which can be used to deliver troops and supplies to waterfront locations.
The U.S.S. Flusser bell was mounted on the destroyer USS Flusser (DD-289), built in 1919 by Bethlehem Shipbuilding in Massachusetts and commissioned February 25, 1920.
The Flusser was armed with torpedoes and 4.5 inch guns. The ship was 314 feet long, had a crew of 114 men, and a speed of 35 knots. It was the third ship to bear that name.
The ship's namesake was a Civil War naval officer, Lieutenant Commander Charles W. Flusser, who was killed in action on April 19, 1864 when his ship, the U.S.S. Miami was in combat with the Confederate vessel Albemarle near Plymouth, North Carolina.
The Flusser served with the Atlantic fleet after being commissioned.
In 1925 the Flusser was assigned to U.S. Navy forces in Europe and toured 15 countries before returning to the United States and homeporting in Newport, Rhode Island.
At Newport the Flusser was used to develop destroyer tactics and also served as a training ship for reservists, including members of the New York Naval Militia.
In 1930 the ship was decommissioned and then scrapped in order to comply with an international treaty limiting naval armaments.
"The Flusser served in the Roaring 20s," a time of great prosperity, optimism and technological innovation," LaBarge said, noting that her decommissioning marked the end of the decade before the challenges of the Great Depression.
"The Flusser and her bell keep that connection to a time of optimism and her legacy of affluence and prosperity," he said.
Somehow the bell of the Flusser made its way to New York. The bell wound up in the New York State Armory in Oswego, New York, probably because at one time there was a Naval Militia unit located there. When the Oswego Armory closed the bell was transferred to the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga.
With the Naval Militia searching for a bell for its ceremonies, the museum agreed to loan the bell of the Flusser. Members of the Naval Militia volunteered their time to work on the refurbishment of the bell for its public display.
And with the striking of four bells at 2 p.m., the bell of the U.S.S. Flusser once again chimed in its official duties a century after decommissioning.