Sea History 024 - Summer 1982

Page 14

USS Constitution and the American Spirit by Peter Sterling, Director, USS Constitution Museum with an introduction by Admiral Arleigh Burke, USN (Ret.)

It is most difficult to conjecture all the thoughts that come to mind when a sailor looks at that grand old ship, Constitution, or to represent all that she means within the confines of one museum-when she carries a message reaching out over the horizon! The old frigate is a living inspiration to all the men of our present-day Navy. The retired veteran looks with pride as he remembers his first days at sea in a coal burning man-o- war and wonders if the pointers on the 24-pounders in Constitution had as much trouble as he had in learning to lay his broadside 511 gun on the target. The brand new recruit just out of the training station looks with amazement at the old relic and wonders how the crew ever got along without TV and electronic devices. They each have pride in that early ship which pioneered in what was needed to def end the interests of the United States at sea-an example for all sailors to follow. Everything in the Navy changes so rapidly that each succeeding generation deals with completely different equipment in a completely di//erent manner to accomplish the same basic tasks that confronted the skippers of Constitution and their men. And so we look back with wonder at men who were faced with nearly insurmountable problems, yet developed equipment and methods to deal with those problems and win. They accepted the challenge and did what was needed for their nation. Every American sailor has his own idea of what Constitution stands for, why she is important, what she means, even as men do about their nation. She is the symbol of what Americans have stood for from the beginning, and she represents what will have to be done again and again by Americans skilled in their profession, devoted to their duty, and working together in common cause. ADMIRAL ARLEIGH BURKE, USN (RET.) 12