Schenectady County

Bell from ‘Skinny-T’ comes home (with photo gallery)

The bell from the Navy ship named after Schenectady County will go on display locally, after nearly

The bell from the Navy ship named after Schenectady County will go on display locally, after nearly 18 years in a crate.

Military personnel from the New York Air National Guard 109th Air Wing retrieved the USS Schenectady’s bell from the Naval Historical Command in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and transported it to the Stratton Air National Guard Base.

The ship was named Schenectady after Kimberlee (Duto) Shartrand wrote the secretary of the Navy in 1968 asking that a ship be named in honor of Schenectady County. The letter was part of a fourth-grade class assignment at Schenectady’s old Franklin Elementary School.

“Today, we end a voyage that started in 1968,” said Lt Cdr. Mark Junco, commanding officer for the Navy Operational Support Center in Glenville, during a brief ceremony to greet the bell’s arrival.

The USS Schenectady, a Newport-class tank landing ship, had a storied history and served in the Vietnam War during the battle to recapture Quang Tri province in June 1972.

“She became the first ship in her class to return fire in a combat situation,” he said.

The ship was affectionately known by her crew as “Skinny-T,” according to Junco.

“I guess the name was a little too long for some sailors,” he said.

The 561-foot long, 8,500-ton ship was also featured in the 1980 box office dud “Raise the Titanic.”

The ship was decommissioned in December 1993 and historical artifacts removed. It was then set adrift for use in target practice and sunk in November 2004 as part of an exercise.

The bell is a little scratched up. “She needs some TLC and we’ve got the sailors that can do that,” Junco said.

The idea to retrieve the bell came about through Chet Watson, president of the Upper Hudson Council of the Navy League and himself a former lieutenant commander in the Navy. In the early 2000s, he found out that the ship had been deactivated and inquired about getting some of the memorabilia to display locally. The Navy was happy to turn over the items as long as they were kept in a secure place. Junco grabbed the initiative when he was assigned to the operations center.

Bells have a special place aboard ship and were used to tell time in the old days, according to Watson.

“It would ring every half hour,” he said. In addition, at each of the four-hour duty watch shifts, it would chime eight bells.

A special base has been constructed by STS Steel Inc. to display the bell at the Navy Operational Support Center.

“I have a lot of respect for the military,” said STS President Glenn Tabolt. “I’m glad I could help.”

Shawn Pugsley of Glenville, who works at the operational center, was among those who assisted in unloading the bell from the plane.

“I think it’s great that we were able to bring back a piece of history,” he said. “It’s nice to see it’s out so the public can view it instead of being in a crate in storage.”

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