The memorial to the U.S.S. Juneau (CL-52), which was lost during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, was rededicated in its new location along the seawalk at a remembrance ceremony Tuesday that marked the 70th anniversary of the ship’s sinking.
Port Director Carl Uchytil, a retired United States Coast Guard icebreaker captain, led the remembrance for the Juneau and its crew, 687 of whom were killed either by the explosion that sank the ship or by the harsh conditions, including repeated shark attacks, as the survivors awaited rescue.
“You can tell how a country or community elects to remember its fallen heroes,” Uchytil said, as snow streamed down onto the small crowd gathered near the South Franklin Dock for the ceremony. “I can say I’m very proud to be part of this community, for Alaskans show up in 30-degree weather to remember those who gave all for our freedom and liberty.”
Assemblymember Randy Wanamaker announced that Mayor Merrill Sanford, who is in Anchorage this week, had proclaimed the week “U.S.S. Juneau Remembrance Week.”
“The highest honor that we can pay to them is for us to remember and exercise our freedoms and our liberties,” said an emotional Wanamaker, a veteran of the Alaska National Guard and Washington National Guard. “Participating in our government. Respecting the rights of others. The other thing that we can do is to work to build bridges of understanding with other peoples of the world, so that we may eliminate the causes of war and prevent the need to add more names to an already too-long list.”
The U.S.S. Juneau memorial was previously located at the present site of the downtown Visitor’s Center, where a reception was held with refreshments following the event. The memorial was moved into storage when construction began on that building, which was itself dedicated in a ceremony over which Uchytil presided early this summer (http://bit.ly/T2qjDn).
Port Engineer Gary Gillette, a former U.S. Air Force technician, said, “We determined that this location along the seawalk was a fitting location and adds a point of interest along the walk.”
The U.S. Navy, in which the Juneau served as a light cruiser, was represented at the ceremony by Petty Officer Gregory Cazemier Jr.
Cazemier provided a brief history of the ship and its actions in the battle, which is often considered a turning point in the war, in which it ultimately met its demise.
“They gave their all so that we could continue to live the lives that we live today,” Cazemier said of the ship’s crew.
Among the dead were the five Sullivan brothers, whose deaths marked the single largest loss for a family in a single event in American military history. The brothers’ story is commemorated in the film “The Fighting Sullivans,” which was screened at the Gold Town Nickelodeon last week (http://bit.ly/TYs1Wk).
Another sailor who lost his life was Seaman William George Meeker Jr., whose letters to a sweetheart back in New Jersey were recently donated to the Juneau-Douglas City Museum (http://bit.ly/W6dQMk). The Meeker collection was exhibited at a special reception on Saturday (http://bit.ly/THwOco).
As trumpeter Dave Hurlbut played “Taps” near the end of the ceremony, wreaths were placed by veterans representing the Auke Bay American Legion Post 25, the Southeast Native Veterans and Taku Post 5559 Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The Juneau Community Band also performed the Navy hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Serve,” as well as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at email@example.com.