MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. -- A visit to Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is more than just an opportunity to explore historic ships including the USS YORKTOWN, USS LAFFEY and USS CLAMAGORE; it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and walk in the footsteps of heroes who served.
Rev. Harold Syfrett is an example of one such hero.
Syfrett grew up in the quiet town of Orangeburg, SC and was quick to answer the nation's call to service - enlisting in the Navy in April 1942, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In April 1943, Syfrett received his orders to serve as the telephone electrician and Chaplain's assistant aboard the newly-commissioned USS YORKTOWN. As one of the original crewmembers, Syfrett achieved status as a plank owner - with bragging rights to the 'ownership' of one of the planks in the main deck.
Soon after reporting for duty, Syfrett and the "Fighting Lady" were headed to the Pacific Theater to participate in operations during WWII. In August 1943, YORKTOWN aircraft participated in the bombing of Marcus Island. This was just the beginning of a number of bombings of islands as part of a new Allied offensive in the Pacific Theater.
During one particular battle, Syfrett was witness to a bomb that tore through the YORKTOWN and exploded, killing five of his crew members. Despite such harrowing experiences, Syfrett has fond memories of his time aboard the YORKTOWN and continues to serve his beloved ship as a dedicated volunteer nearly 70 years later. Visitors to the YORKTOWN enjoy hearing his stories of bravery and sacrifice - and learning what it was like serving aboard the "Fighting Lady" during one of our nation's most tumultuous times.
Rev. Syfrett also serves as Chaplain of the USS YORKTOWN (CV-10) Association. This week, he will join more than 150 of his crewmates (including who approximately 10 who served during World War II) and their families aboard the YORKTOWN for the 64th annual USS YORKTOWN (CV-10) Association Reunion.
This year's gathering will take place today through Saturday and will feature traditional reunion events, including a general membership meeting, dinner aboard the YORKTOWN, and memorial service for crewmembers who have passed on. In addition, members will once again host a "Meet and Greet" in the USS YORKTOWN Hangar Bay on Saturday, October 13 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. This popular event provides visitors to Patriots Point with a special opportunity to meet and speak with the courageous men who served aboard "The Fighting Lady" during conflicts ranging from WWII through Vietnam.
Posters will be available for members of the public as a keepsake of the event. Each poster includes information about the three stages of upgrades the YORKTOWN went through while in active service, as well as some of the planes who flew from "The Fighting Lady." In addition to sharing their 'sea stories,' some veterans may even bring personal photos from their time aboard the YORKTOWN.
New to this year's reunion is a special ceremony to dedicate the recently-refurbished H-3 helicopter on Friday, October 12 at 10 a.m.
As part of Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum's ongoing efforts to bring the YORKTOWN to life and to enhance the museum's educational opportunities, Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette organized the "Aircraft Naming Committee" and tasked members to research and explore the history of various aircraft as it relates to the Naval Aviators, Naval Flight Officers and maintenance personnel who served as crew with the intent of adding their names to the aircraft.
"This is the highest honor we can give to our veterans and it is an important way to educate our visitors about their history of service and sacrifice," said Burdette. "With the YORKTOWN celebrating her 70th birthday next year, this mission is more important than ever."
In April, the committee announced their selection of honorees.
"Three of the individuals selected (Charles K. Moran, Thomas D. Vincent and James I. Pratt) were lost during a mission while flying from the Yorktown, making the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We want to honor them by placing their names on one side of the H-3 Sea King helicopter," stated Aircraft Naming Committee Chair Mike Sudzina. "In addition, two others distinguished themselves while operating H-3s and other helicopter types both during combat operations and while involved with the Apollo space program including the recovery of Apollo 8. We will recognize the accomplishments and contributions of Dr. Art Schmitt and James B. Dorsey by placing their names on the opposite side of the fuselage."
The ceremony aboard the USS YORKTOWN is open to the public and will take place on the Flight Deck. Regular admission rates apply for both the "Meet and Greet" and the H-3 Dedication Ceremony.