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Last update: 19 November 2016

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News from Buffalo


Buffalo Naval Park Superintendent John Branning gets to spend some time with
Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal. Guess who had the most fun?

Ryan ONeal in Buffalo        Ali MacGraw with John Branning

Ryan O'Neal tries his hand at gunnery, while Ali MacGraw and John Branning pose nicely.

Mr. MacGraw and Miss O'Neal were in Buffalo co-starring in the play "LOVE LETTERS"
on May 11-22, 2016, a play written by Buffalo Playwright A. R. Gurney.


The Ship's Bells from the USS Croaker SS246 and the USS The Sullivans

The Buffalo and Erie County Naval Park is trying to locate the original ship's bells from the Croaker and the The Sullivans. Here's a note we received from John M. Branning AMCS(AW/SW),USN(Ret) at the Naval Park:

"To any and all former shipmates who served in the USS The Sullivans (DD-537) and USS Croaker (SS-246):

We are looking for any information on whereabouts of these two old warriors ship's bells.  It's time to bring these artifacts home where they belong to be displayed in their original locations.

They can be returned, no questions asked to:  1 Naval Park Cove, Buffalo, New York 14202.

Feel free to contact the Buffalo Naval Park, Buffalo, New York at 716-847-1773, or email me at:

Fair winds and a following sea."

Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus attends 2009 U.S.S. Little Rock Reunion

The following article is from the Buffalo News....

By Jake May

July 19, 2009

Ray Mabus was once a communications officer on the USS Little Rock.

He served aboard the Navy ship for three years from 1970 to 1972.  Standing watch at the bridge of the Little Rock was a common task he would take on late at night.

Some Navy men who knew Mabus during his time on the Little Rock said they never expected him to amount to the man he is today: Mabus was appointed by President Obama last month as Secretary of the Navy.

Mabus joined about 240 Navy members and their families Saturday as they toured the ship, his feet touching its deck for the first time in 13 years. The ship has been stationed in Buffalo since it was decommissioned in 1976.
"This was my ship," Mabus said."The stateroom where I used to work has been turned into a museum, so it made it tough for me to get to some places I once walked everyday.
"But some people these days don't have any daily interaction with the military, not like in my time," continued Mabus, a 60- year-old who boasts he is only 39 with 21 years of experience. "This is a way to do that, this ship that is. It shows the intensity and lethal force this military is capable of."

Upon Mabus' recent appointment, an old Little Rock shipmate wrote him a letter of congratulations. The letter, Mabus said, recalled a night the two sat on watch, chatting about how the military needed better leadership.
" 'Remember all of those nights on watch when we would say this whole thing could be run better?' he wrote," Mabus said." 'Well now you have the chance to do it. Go for it!' And it's true. I guess now I do have a chance to follow through with that."

Mabus spoke at a reunion for the Little Rock's former crew members Saturday at the Adam's Mark Hotel. The group convenes in Buffalo every two years.

Rod Ritterbusch, 66, served as the ship's guided missile operator for four years in the mid-1960s. He said the reunion means sharing fond memories with fellow Navy men.

It's about talking about life, he said, explaining the different stories in detail to others who have served on the same ship.
"It's camaraderie, male bonding," Ritterbusch said, adding:"The Little Rock, it is really a gem. Most ships like this are made into razor blades. I am so glad to see it preserved here in Buffalo."

Mabus said he remembers being on the ship as if it were yesterday. But, he said, time is catching up to all its former crew.
"Four decades have disappeared," Mabus said."Honestly, when I was walking onto the ship I was expecting someone to ask why I wasn't in uniform and that we were shipping off. . . .  Ships like this show the history of this country and what we have done."

Secretary of Navy, other alums return to USS Little Rock

The following article is from the Buffalo News....

By Brett Samuels
The Buffalo News (Tribune News Service)
Published: July 19, 2015

The USS Little Rock has served a range of purposes over its lifetime -- first as a light cruiser toward the end of World War II, then as a guided missile cruiser from 1960-76 and currently, as a historic site at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park.

It also has served as a central meeting place for those who served aboard the ship, which was decommissioned nearly 40 years ago.

One of the Little Rock alums is Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who served as a lieutenant junior grade on the ship in 1971 and 1972 -- and who was in Buffalo on Saturday to tour the ship.

"It's been 45 years but not much has changed," said Mabus, after completing a tour of the ship. "The people that run this and the City of Buffalo have done a magnificent job that we can come back and see this. Not many sailors get that opportunity."

Mabus' visit comes on the heels of Thursday's fatal shooting at Navy and Marine recruiting stations in Chattanooga, Tenn.

In a statement after the shooting, Mabus said, "Though we can never fully prevent attacks like this, we will continue to investigate, review and guard against future vulnerabilities and do everything in our power to safeguard the security of our service members and their families."

On Saturday, the Navy secretary's spokesman said the Naval secretary could not be specific on security measures, adding only that security of personnel is most important.

About 100 ex-crew members of the Little Rock and family members were on hand for the crew's reunion, which takes place in Buffalo every other year. The reunion got under way Wednesday and will conclude Sunday. On Saturday, they gathered on the Little Rock for lunch and a chance to explore their old home. It was a chance for many to catch up with old friends and to swap memories.

"There's no closer camaraderie than being a member of a crew of a ship," said Charles Ritzel, of Utica, who served for 39 years in the Navy and spent two years on the Little Rock while stationed in Italy. "You depend on each other for your very existence."

One of Ritzel's children was born while he was in Italy, and for many, returning to the Little Rock has become a family affair. Many former crew members bring their spouses or children along for the reunion.

Denise Bixby, whose husband, Donald, was an interior communications electrician aboard the ship, said she and the other spouses see their husbands board the ship and they become like kids in a toy store. On Saturday, as former crew members toured the ship, a few carried walking canes with them. They swapped stories with old friends and ducked in and out of corridors of the ship, some of which were accessible only for the reunion -- off limits to the public. The Bixbys have been Little Rock reunion regulars for more than two decades.

The reunion merriment was made more special Saturday. Earlier in the day, before arriving in Buffalo, Mabus and other officials were in Marinette, Wis., near Green Bay, to christen the new USS Little Rock, which will carry on the legacy of the one that sits along Canalside. "I've got the coolest job in government because I get to name every Navy ship," Mabus said with a smile.

John Branning, superintendent of ships at the Naval and Military Park, said there is the hope that the new ship will visit Buffalo when it is commissioned. Next year the reunion will head to Providence, R.I., before returning to Buffalo in 2017.

"To have them here every two years, that's an honor and a privilege," Branning said.

(c) 2015 The Buffalo News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

  News from the Association

Spring Workparties Continue to be a Great Success!

The USS Little Rock Association's annual Spring Workparty has become a "routine" item in the personal lives of many shipmates. This annual event gives crewmembers, their families and lovers of naval ships an opportunity to personally contribute to the upkeep of the historic vessel U.S.S. Little Rock, moored as you know, at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park in Buffalo, NY.

Each year 20-30 or individuals join together in May to clean, scrap, paint and polish the Little Rock from stem to stern. And every year, the fun and the camaraderie significantly contributed to this worthwhile event.

It needs to be noted that typically there are more non-Association volunteers than Association members. This seems a little embarrassing, at least to me. So....  why not mark your calendar  now so as to block some time in May. For planning purposes, we typically hold the Spring Work Party the third week (M-F) in May.

As always, the Naval Park and the Association were extremely grateful for all who could participate.

  News from the Fleet

 More News from the Fleet

Stars and Stripes,  European edition, Sunday, June 8, 2008, by Lisa M. Novak

Navy closes Gaeta elementary school after 45 years

GAETA, Italy - The last day of school is usually a happy time for students and faculty, as they look forward to summer vacation. But Friday at Gaeta Elementary School, the students and faculty were also looking back.

It was, literally, the last day of school for Gaeta, as the classroom doors shut for the last time.

The school closure was one of the final steps in down sizing the U.S. Navy's presence in Gaeta. Some services moved from the hilltop base of Monte Orlando down to smaller, pier-side facilities to support the crew and staff of the 6th Fleet flagship, USS Mount Whitney. Other base facilities, like the school, have been eliminated completely.

Gaeta Elementary, opened in 1970, was originally named the Joshua Barney School. It was renamed in the mid-1980s.

It was slated to close last year, but was granted a one-year reprieve by Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe following a 2006 request from the Navy.

As the final day arrived, faculty, friends and parents of the remaining 18 students gathered to celebrate with music and an awards assembly. It was also a final chance to say good-bye.

"I'll miss the base and my friends," said 9-year-old Victoria Moore, who just finished fourth grade. "It was a lot of fun here."

Friday's events marked a special milestone for Mary Tatta, a teacher of 45 years. She has taught at the school since it opened.

"It was a wonderful time," said Tatta, who is set to retire. "It's bittersweet. There were some rocky bumps along the way, but it was such a pleasure to have worked with the DODDS children. They're the best."

News about LCS 9 "the New USS Little Rock"
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  News from the Past

U.S.S. Cruiser Little Rock Launched

Arkansas Gazette
August 28, 1944

Philadelphia. Pa. Aug. 27 (AP)

The U.S.S. Little Rock, a 10,000-ton light cruiser, slid down the ways into the Delaware River today at the Cramp Shipbuilding Company yards here.

    Mrs. Samuel M. Wassell, wife of a Little Rock councilman, christened the vessel. Congressman Brooks Hays, Arkansas, told the crowd of approximately 5000 workers and guests that"cruisers were the hottest item of naval combat."
"The people of Little Rock are proud to have such a ship as this bear their city's name." said Mr. Hays."Even those of us who know little about the classification of naval vessels know that the cruisers have distinguished themselves in the Pacific was and that this is the outstanding type of combat vessel for that area. The navy men tell us that the cruiser is 'the work horse of the navy," big enough to go into any battle, fast enough to lead any task force.
"Carrying as it has the heaviest load in the Pacific where the greatest battles have taken place the cruisers have added luster to naval history. We hope in the time remaining before our enemies are put down the Little Rock will take her place alongside the Boise, the San Francisco, the helena, and the Chicago, preserving the prestige of the cruisers.
"We are glad to honor the workmen and the company for which they work. I am sure we are all impressed with the spirit of teamwork which produced the results we observe today. In March 1943 the keel was laid, and for 18 months materials for the ship have come from everywhere. The taxes to pay for it will be assessed against men and women of great and little resources. Teamwork from beginning to end did the job.

    So with the war. A glorious victory lies ahead but there is much remaining to be done. Only teamwork can supply the dynamic power yet needed to complete that victory. Every ship launching is a reminder of the power that comes  to a people who work together to achieve."

    McClellan, Fulbright Attend

Other guests included United States Senator John L. McClellan and Congressman and Mrs. J. William Fulbright, Arkansas.

The Little Rock, a vessel of the Cleveland class, will mount 12 six-inch guns in four turrets as a main battery and will have secondary and anti-aircraft battery of guns of smaller calibre.

GAETA, Italy, Nov. 28, 1968 -- As a preview of things to come the year's first bowl game result is in. The Wardroom Tigers rocked 0-1 Division, 38-18, today to win the first Pasta Bowl flag football championship at the home of the Sixth Fleet flagship, USS Little Rock.

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