USS MAKIN ISLAND, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors from USS Makin Island's (LHD 8) Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) received the ship's new bell which is on loan from Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington D.C.
"The story on the bell is that it was part of USS Tarawa (LHA 1). They carried it throughout the life of the ship," said Lt. Cmdr. Paul Dougherty, Makin Island's assistant supply officer. "When Makin Island put in a request for a bell, the curator of the Naval History and Heritage Command noted that he had the Tarawa bell in stock. We put in a request for it and they shipped it to us in Pascagoula, Miss. and we then brought it on board."
While the bell is on loan, Makin Island is responsible for maintenance and care. This requires the ship to display it with dignity and maintain its good physical condition.
Makin Island is honored to have the ex-Tarawa bell on loan until another "Eagle of the Sea" (Tarawa's motto) can sail the seas. "The custody and care of the bell constantly reminds the crew of everything Tarawa did to help us prepare to become a ship", said Capt. Bob Kopas, Makin Island commanding officer.
"Tarawa provided countless training and qualification opportunities for our crew before we took custody of our ship and worked with us and the detailers to transfer approximately 10 percent of Tarawa's finest crewmembers to our ship after their Decommissioning," Kopas said. "Without their extra effort and assistance, Makin Island would have been more challenged to do the multitude of operations we've been called on to do during our first months in the fleet".
"The bell has over 40 years worth of history," said Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class (AW) Carlito Chua, who recently reported to Makin Island from Tarawa, after it was decommissioned late last year. "It makes me proud of what I do, decommissioning the Tarawa and being a plankowner on this ship; I'm involved in the history of both," said Chua, one of the Sailors working on the restoration of the bell and the construction of a proper bell stand to display it with the honor it deserves.
The following words will be inscribed on the bell stand to remind Sailors of the bell's significance: "For the contributions that USS Tarawa (LHA 1) made training Makin Island Sailors during Tarawa's 2008 deployment and developing numerous professional TARAWA Sailors who now are in our crew, USS Makin Island is honored to hold this bell in trust until another "Eagle of the Sea" sails with the fleet."
The bell is not the only item with historical significance on board Makin Island. Located in Carlson's cafe, part of the crew's mess decks, is a photograph of former Gen. Evans F. Carlson, along with a flag and his medals, which are also artifacts from the Naval History and Heritage Command. Carlson, then a colonel, commanded the raid on Makin Island during World War II. There will be additional artifacts, including an original Raider uniform, that will be displayed throughout the ship to reinforce Makin Island's heritage and namesake.
"These artifacts help to teach our crew the history of the ship and the history of the Navy," added Dougherty. "The pieces that we have that are being displayed give them a good sense of the Makin Island raid, the men who were involved in that raid and the stories behind the heroic acts that these men performed. Their stories will come alive through these museum pieces that we have."
Makin Island is currently circumnavigating South America, via the Strait of Magellan, to its new homeport of San Diego. During its transit, the ship is scheduled to make port visits in Brazil, Chile and Peru to support U.S. Southern Command objectives for enhanced maritime security and to share methods and training that will build on U.S. and partner nations' interoperability and strong relations.