The Story of the Bell,
and the Crew
John Vreeland, BMCS USn Ret.
In 1940, i was assigned to the USS Wyoming. Later I was transferred to the USS Rocky Mount precommissioning detail. I was the last person to leave the ship after decommissioning in 1947 at San Francisco Naval Ship Yard. In 1978, I had the first Rocky Mount reunion in San Francisco with 30 in attendance, including Capt. Patton.
I was fortunate to acquire her bell, and plaque while endeavoring to keep the ship's history alive. Here is the story that I wrote about what happened to the bell.
Armed Forces Day
The Week I Gave Away the Bell
On the 23rd day of April, my wife ,Jerry, and I went grocery shopping at the 32nd Street Commissary. I picked up a copy of the naval station base paper, The Signal Bridge. Reading through the paper, I saw an article requesting donations to the surface ship museum in the naval ship yard complex in building 3436. Upon reading the article I decided that the museum would be as safe a place as anywhere for the ship's bell, commissioning plaque, framed picture and miscellaneous memorabilia. There these artifacts could be displayed, preserved and viewed by the public. I contacted Judy Swan of the public relations office and told her about the articles I could donate. Judy Swan then made arrangements for Gina Cassadine 0s3 and Cinnamon Brinkman J.O.3. to pick up the donations at our house on May 13, 1992.
How the ship's bell and commissioning plaque were acquired was no less than a miracle. In 1978 I organized the USS Rocky Mount AGC-3 reunion and held the reunion at the Bahia Hotel on Mission Bay in San Diego. At our Annual Reunion in 1982, Mr. and Mrs Herbert Gamble of Spokane, WA. presented me with a picture of the commissioning plaque that they saw on a marine display in Spokane. Mr. Herbert Gamble served aboard the ship as a communicator during the nine invasions of Japanese held territory. They furnished me with the name and address of Mr. John Powell, who owned the plaque. I immediately contacted Mr. Powell and asked if he would allow me to display the plaque at our reunion in San Diego in 1983. He agreed, and delivered the plaque the 9th of October 1983.
The plaque was displayed at our reunion and Mr. Ed Becker, now deceased, had the plaque professionally mounted. We then had to send the plaque back to Spokane. After six years of negotiating with Mr. Powell, I was able to acquire the plaque by trading it for a large ship's wheel.
The bell likewise was acquired by a miracle. Every year I announce our upcoming reunions in 30 different periodicals. Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds of San Juan Capistrano, CA. saw the announcement. When the reunion announcement appeared, I received many phone calls from vendors offering their services. When Jerry received a call from Mr. Reynolds saying he had the ship's bell, she thought he was just another salesman with a unique approach. Reluctantly she took his number and passed it along to me. I returned the call and sure enough, he had the bell. Jay and Shirley Reynolds had been at the ZI Dell Salvage Yard in Tacoma WA. In 1971, he was looking for a souvenir from his brother's ship, the USS Curtis. What Shirley found was the bell from the USS Rocky Mount AGC-3, complete with the clapper! She purchased the bell for a souvenir.
Jay was a pilot during World War II, and was retiring from Northwest Airlines as their number 2 pilot. Jay said he was coming to San Diego and would bring the bell down. It was a beautiful day when they presented the bell to me at the Coronado Cays in San Diego. The presentation was made aboard their 60 foot cruising yacht in Sept. of 1986.
It goes without saying that without generous people like Mr. Powell and Mr. and Mrs. Reynold, preserving these trophies would have been impossible. As the bell and the plaque travel to various reunion sites, accompanied by a ship's picture in full camouflage during one of the nine invasions, it is with a great sense of inner peace I know that the history of the USS Rocky Mount AGC-3 will live on.
The commissioning plaque and the bell are now on display at the Veterans Museum & Memorial Center in San Diego, California.