July 4, 2012
Why should OLYMPIA be a priority? In pursuing the proposed legislation with the suggested title Restoration of U.S. Naval Ships of National Historical Significance, (notionally numbered Sec. 7317) we have been asked by US Senate staff members why the legislation should be a priority, particularly with the federal debt and deficit such overriding concerns at the moment. Our response to this concern follows:
"Todays federal debt and deficit concerns are minor compared to the issues facing this country in 1942. The plan back then was to scrap the OLYMPIA flagship of the American fleet in the battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish American war as she was viewed as an obsolete ship of no practical use while her steel was urgently needed to support the war effort following the Japanese attacks at Pearl Harbor. This was no idle threat as on December 7, 1942 the Navy reclaimed the battleship OREGON also of Spanish American War fame from a museum in Portland Oregon and scrapped her for her steel.
It is no exaggeration to say that 70 years ago our democracy and our country were in mortal peril. Mortal peril not experienced since the time Lincoln. At that time our country had experienced the longest, most widespread, and deepest depression of the 20th century, we had been embroiled in a World War for almost a year. A war where, up to that point, almost all news was bad, where our military was suffering reversal after reversal, civilian life was subject to unprecedented sacrifice and our economy had been thrown into upheaval. Our arsenal of democracy had been mobilized and was in need of, and consuming resources such as steel in such prodigious amounts that rationing and scrap collections were common place. A time when political support for what had been one of our most popular Presidents was declining and he was facing almost certain reversals in the November elections.
Despite the exigencies of that time the OLYMPIA was not scrapped. Why, because our President personally interceded and directed OLYMPIA be saved and he arranged for her dry-docking in 1945 such that she could become a centerpiece of a national naval museum he planned to build. Why would a man with so many pressing concerns act as he did? Because, as a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, as a former Governor of New York, as the cousin of former President Theodore Roosevelt, and as a man who personally lived through the Spanish American War Franklin Roosevelt understood the significance of the OLYMPIA to our national story and her significance as an icon of our national experience.
Franklin Roosevelt interceded to save the OLYMPIA just as 40 years later President Ronald Reagan interceded in 1982 to ensure another national icon; the Statue of Liberty would be saved from a lack of maintenance during another time of limited government resources. What these leaders knew is that certain icons of our national experience are so important that they transcend every day concerns. They did not need opinion polls, position papers or lobbying to prompt them into action. They knew instinctively that OLYMPIA and the Statue of Liberty had to be saved and they took immediate and decisive action. If saving the OLYMPIA was a priority for Franklin Roosevelt during the darkest days of WWII, then giving her the priority she needs now should be an easy decision."
July 2, 2012
Business Plan Phase IIA application Approved: A written response from the owners of the OLYMPIA on the acceptability of our Phase IIA Business Plan submittal was received on July 2, 2012. Submission of a Phase IIA Application was the second step in a four step process for acquisition of the ship. The four step process was developed by Independence Seaport Museum (ISM), the Navy and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission each of which have a legal interest in the ship.
In the review panel comments they indicated that There are a number of areas in which your submission indicates that you have a thorough understanding of the requirements of the transfer process and establishing and running a successful ship museum. First, your submission presents responses to the requirements in an organized manner. Second, MIHP is an established ship-based museum with an existing organizational structure, strong volunteer program and record of past accomplishments in acquiring and acting as a steward for ships and collections. The challenge is making the next step from a primarily volunteer based organization to a professional based organization. Third, the historic association of Mare Island Naval Station and Olympia is a strong asset in your effort and can be further emphasized in the interpretive, marketing and service programs. Finally, it appears MIHP has made strong progress in working with the land owners, Lennar Mare Island and the City of Vallejo, CA, to secure a viable facility and location for the safe and secure permanent mooring site for Olympia.
Major concerns expressed by the review panel included the vulnerability of the OLYMPIA to loss during tow from Philadelphia to Mare Island, and the budget for acquisition and transportation strategy for OLYMPIA artifacts known as the OLYMPIA Core Collection.
Kenneth Zadwick, the president of the MIHPF, commented that: We are excited that our Phase IIA application has been well received and we are confident we can satisfactorily address the major concerns expressed by the review panel. Now we embark on the make or break part of our effort as we reach out to our fellow Americans and, in particular, those who have benefitted from our American story to raise the funds required capitalizing the acquisition. We trust that the fact that the OLYMPIA is not just some monument created to commemorate a great event, but that she is the actual ship from which American sailors fought at peril and through their heroic actions launched our nation into our role as a world power, will resonate with those who appreciate the importance of preserving and displaying for all to see such a unique and important part of our shared heritage.
June 25, 2012
USS DEWEY Presentation: Mare Island Historic Park Foundation (MIHPF) Vice President Bruce Christensen was the Guest Speaker at the Dewey Monument Commemoration Ceremony, an event sponsored by the City of San Francisco, the Navy League of the United States, the MIHPF, the San Francisco Police Department, San Francisco MUNI and Ship Supply. The MIHPF presented the officers and crew of the Guided Missile Destroyer USS DEWEY (DDG-105) with copy of an 1899 publication by the Dewey Reception Committee. This publication documents the celebration that took place in honor of the ships namesake, Admiral George Dewey, when he sailed into New York harbor aboard his flagship, the Protected Cruiser USS OLYMPIA in 1899. That New York celebration was unparalleled in United States history. The MIHPF remarks by Bruce Christensen may be viewed here. The remarks of the Keynote Speaker Rear Admiral Dixon Smith, Commander, Navy Region Southwest, may be viewed here .
June 8, 2012
Acquisition Status: The Mare Island Historic Park Foundation (MIHPF) submitted an expression of interest to acquire the Spanish-American Warship OLYMPIA and bring her back home to the San Francisco Bay Area for display at Mare Island's historic Dry-Dock 1 in August 2011. The Phase I application for OLYMPIA was submitted to the Independence Seaport Museum, the Navy, and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. In November, the MIHPF was invited to move forward in preparing and submitting a Phase II application and in January we, along with other competitors requested a one year extension to the application process to allow more time for fundraising. The extension was approved with the proviso that we must submit a Phase IIa Application by May 1, 2012. The Phase IIa Application was provided before the deadline and included a business plan and a Letter of Intent from both Lennar Mare Island LLC and the City of Vallejo for the lease of Dry Dock 1. The business plan demonstrates that the OLYMPIA will generate sufficient revenue to cover operating expenses. Our challenge now is clear. We must raise the funds necessary to capitalize the acquisition of the ship. Capitalization costs include funds for hull repairs, towing, dredging and site preps and are $20M. $11M of those costs are associated with repair of the deteriorated Hull and Deck of the ship.
June 8, 2012
Proposal to Senator Diane Feinstein: On June 8, 2012 the MIHPF submitted a proposal to Senator Diane Feinstein who sits on the Senate Appropriations committee requesting that she offer an amendment with the suggested title "Restoration of U.S. Naval Ships of National Historical Significance," (notionally numbered Sec. 7317). Because the House has already marked up its defense appropriation bill, we are asking that the amendment be introduced during either the House-Senate conference mark-up or on the floor.
By passing the amendment we will reinstate the U.S. Navy's proper relationship with its most important historical assets and those $11M in needed repairs will be funded; however, the amendment will not require that the US budget be increased by a single dollar. We are simply asking that excess unused funds already appropriated by used for this purpose. This is discussed in detail in our proposal to Senator Feinstein.
What can I do? We now need you to contact your representatives in support of this amendment. To see who to contact, and what to say, see this link.
Interested? If you are interested in assisting with the important task of saving and bringing the OLYMPIA back to Mare Island, contact Dennis Kelly directly at [email protected]. Write to: 107 Lassen Pl, Petaluma, CA 94954 or call 707-778-0915. Learn more about our effort here.