Going back in time on the USS Cassin Young

By Joseph Normandin

Posted by John McHale

The line was too long to get on "Old Ironsides" -- the USS Constitution -- in the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, so a friend and I checked out the World War II destroyer, the USS Cassin Young instead. What a treat.

We were fortunate enough to bump into an amatuer historian and member of the National Park Service onboard the Cassin Young named Bob Harris. He gave us a personal tour of the ship, the highlight being the Combat Information Center or CIC right across from the captain's quarters.

Today the command center of any naval vessel is all digitized, very different than the time capsule we stepped into that Saturday. Today navigation , radar , etc are all processed on state-of-the art displays with super fast embedded computing -- while on the Cassin Young charts marked by hand adorn the walls and table tops.

Pictured is the plotting board for the battle of Okinawa in World War II. The top right shows radar position 3 near Okinawa where the Cassin Young was first hit by Japanese kamikaze pilots, according to Harris.

Harris said more than 25 sailors onboard the Cassin Young lost their lives to Kamikaze pilots during World War II. Not many know of the heroism of those sailors, which is why he says he enjoys his volunteer job aboard the Cassin Young -- so he can share it with who ever will listen.

The only downside is the rotten few who don't respect the sacrifice those sailors made and steal various objects from different parts of the ship, he says. During our visit he stopped in the captain's quarters to re-hang the captain's jacket, as some tourist most likely stopped to try it on to have a picture taken.

HArris says the high points of his job come when a former crew member of the Cassin Young , long retired and well over 70 years old, comes for a tour. During one moment that Harris shared, a former sailor cried out in joy when he saw his old bunk and shouted to his wife "that’s where I spent two years of my life!"

The Cassin Young is named after a hero as well. According to documents onboard the destroyer, Navy Capt. Cassin Young received the Medal of Honor for heroism during the battle of Pearl Harbor in World War II.

According to Wikipedia his Medal of Honor citation reads: "For distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism, and utter disregard of his own safety, above, and beyond the call of duty, as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Vestal , during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by enemy Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Commander Young proceeded to the bridge and later took personal command of the 3-inch antiaircraft gun. When blown overboard by the blast of the forward magazine explosion of the U.S.S. Arizona , to which the U.S.S. Vestal was moored, he swam back to his ship. The entire forward part of the U.S.S. Arizona was a blazing inferno with oil afire on the water between the two ships; as a result of several bomb hits, the U.S.S. Vestal was afire in several places, was settling, and taking on a list. Despite severe enemy bombing and strafing at the time, and his shocking experience of having been blown overboard, Commander Young, with extreme coolness and calmness, moved his ship to an anchorage distant from the U.S.S. Arizona , and subsequently beached the U.S.S. Vestal upon determining that such action was required to save his ship."

If you ever find yourself in the Charlestown Navy Yard, definitely visit the Constitution , but be sure not to miss the Cassin Young . Ask for Bob Harris, you'll learn quite a bit.

For more information on the Cassin Young's specifications, visit
http://www.nvr.navy.mil/nvrships/details/DD793.htm .

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

February 2014
Volume 25, Issue 2
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