GROTON, Conn. – Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London celebrated the U.S. Navy’s 244th birthday with festivities, a cake cutting and Meet Your Navy Day event at the Submarine Force Library Museum, Oct. 16.

For Meet Your Navy Day, representatives of SUBASE New London tenant commands, Navy recruiters and the Naval Sea Cadet Corps hosted exhibition tables giving demonstrations of what they do and information about their respective command or organization. Outside the museum SUBASE New London harbor patrol and firefighters allowed school children to see or climb aboard their vehicles.

“Everybody say ‘Yeet!’” said one student of Mary Morrisson Elementary School over a harbor patrol boat’s loudspeaker as her classmates explored the patrol boats and firetrucks and asked questions to the service members and civilians who operate them.

Among the tables inside the museum were Fleet and Family Support Center, Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory and the Naval Sea Cadets, represented by commanding officer of the Nautilus 571 Division, which operates out of SUBASE New London, Lt. Cmdr. Stephanie Hyland and some of her cadets.

“The Naval Sea Cadet Corps actually has two groups: one is the Naval League Cadet Corps for 10 to 13 and the Naval Sea Cadet for ages 13 to 19,” said Hyland. “We teach the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment, and we drill the second weekend of every month right on SUBASE New London. We encourage them to join the Navy after graduating. The Coast Guard also sponsors us. Some cadets go enlisted, some become officers, but there’s no obligation to join. It also gives a lot of benefits for civilian jobs or college as well. They go through boot camp which is like actual Navy boot camp but brought to the level of a high school student. They also can do field operations, leadership academies, master-at-arms school, sailing and seamanship. Anything you can think of, they do it.”

Following a ceremony in which Naval Submarine School’s color guard, the Silver Dolphins, paraded the national colors and West Side STEM Magnet Middle School’s school band played the national anthem, “Anchors Aweigh” and the Navy Hymn.

SUBASE New London Commanding Officer Todd Moore spoke and connected the Navy’s birthday with this year’s theme, which commemorates another great feat in Navy history.

“The theme for this year’s Navy birthday is ‘no higher honor,’” said Moore. “That theme is tied to the 75th commemoration of the Battle of Leyte Gulf which spanned October 23rd to the 25th, 1944. This battle, which supported the invasion of the Philippines, was a key turning point in the war and the largest sea battle in modern history.”

Moore emphasized the role submarines played in the lead-up to the battle in gathering intelligence and hindering Japanese activities in the southern Pacific.

“The battle actually began weeks before the engagements up in Luzon,” said Moore. “It began with actions from the submarines of SUBPAC [Submarine Fleet Pacific]. They not only passed crucial intelligence as they saw Japanese battleships emerge from port and head out to sea, but they actually engaged in attacks and damaged the fleet as they set sail.”

Moore also recounted the engagements of the legendary unit Taffy III whose downright Spartan efforts held off the Japanese and protected American troops landing on nearby islands.

“Among the heroic stories of the Battle of Leyte Gulf is the epic tale of Task Unit 77.4.3, call sign ‘Taffy III,’” said Moore. “Taffy III consisted of three destroyers and four destroyer escorts and took on a much larger enemy force. As a final stand on Oct 25, 1944, Taffy III and USS Samuel B. Roberts, commanded by Robert W. Copeland, bravely charged into a line of Japanese battleships in order to protect American landings on nearby islands. The American Destroyers were pulverized in the action; Roberts in particular suffered multiple direct hits from the Japanese battleship Kongo before Copeland was forced to abandon ship. All though the U.S. destroyers were routed, they convinced the Japanese by the ferocity of their action, they ought to turn away and not press on, thereby saving the landings. Lt. Cmdr. Copeland would later say that he could think of no higher honor than commanding such a crew as that of the USS Samuel B. Roberts. Today Sailors of the U.S. Navy units around the world continue to distinguish themselves around the world as they carry on the core principles demonstrated by our forbearers.”

Following the speech, Moore, along with Hyland, Lt. Cmdr. Carl Matteucci, Cadet Derrick Raymond and Sea Cadet Patricia Krepps together cut the cake and passed out the slices to guests.

On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, voted to send two swift-sailing, armed vessels to cruise against transports carrying munitions to the British Army in America. The Continental Navy began the proud tradition that is carried on today by the United States Navy.

Connecticut Media Group