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Veterans Day event includes flag rededication

Princeton NJ -- This year's Veterans Day observance at Princeton University will include the rededication of a flag that flew on the USS Princeton until it went down during a World War II battle 60 years ago. The ceremony will take place at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, in the University Chapel.

Sailors raise a flag aboard the USS Princeton

Sailors raise a flag aboard the USS Princeton during World War II.

The USS Princeton, an Independence class small carrier, was the fourth of six U.S. Navy ships to bear that name. Built in Camden, N.J., it was launched on Oct. 18, 1942, and commissioned on Feb. 25, 1943.

The carrier's aircraft participated in attacks on Japanese garrisons on islands in the Pacific. Part of a task force charged with preventing land-based Japanese aircraft from attacking Allied ships massing in Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, the ship was hit by an enemy aircraft bomb there on Oct. 24, 1944, that set off a series of explosions and fires. It was evacuated before being torpedoed by the USS Irwin. Ten officers and 98 enlisted men were lost, but 1,361 of the crew members survived.

The ship's flag was presented to the University by charter trustee James Forrestal, a member of the class of 1915, when he was secretary of the Navy in 1944-45. He went on to serve as the nation's first secretary of defense from 1947 to 1949.

The flag had hung in the chapel's Marquand Transept for many years, and later was moved to the crypt. Recently, the 50-by-29-inch, 48-star flag was sent to a restorer in Pennsylvania.

''The idea was not to completely repair the flag, because that would ruin some of the historical provenance of it,'' said Rand Mirante, senior associate director of principal gifts in the development office, who was involved in the restoration project. ''Some of the stains on the flag come from oil and combustion on the ship right before it sank.'' He said the project was made possible by a gift from Frank Slattery, a member of the class of 1959.

The Nov. 11 observance is being organized by Mirante and Kirk Unruh, the recording secretary of the University and a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy Reserve. During the ceremony, Unruh will read a letter from Capt. James (Red) Smith, commanding officer of the current USS Princeton. The restored flag will be displayed on an easel behind protective glass, and later will be hung on the chapel wall facing McCosh Courtyard.

All veterans and other members of the University community are welcome to attend the event, which is intended to honor the memory of veterans in general and, in particular, Princeton alumni, faculty and staff who served and died in the nation's wars. It also will include a presentation of the colors by the Princeton Army ROTC unit; the singing of ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' and ''America the Beautiful'' by Kenneth Grayson, foreman in the University electrical shop; an invocation and benediction by the Rev. Deborah Blanks, associate dean of religious life and of the chapel; and remarks by Gregory Cathcart, a Navy chaplain studying at Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, dean of religious life and of the chapel.