Connecticut's Congressman Christopher Shays receives
award from Glacier Society Chairman Ben Koether
(Pictured R to L)

Glacier Society Honors Congressman Shays

After Award Ceremony, U.S. Rep Shays is Shipshape

by Don Casciato, Westport News, April 11, 2001

BRIDGEPORT, Conn., April 11, 2001 -- U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-4), who played a key role in bringing the USS/USCGC Glacier to the Glacier Society in Bridgeport, was honored last Friday at a ceremony in his office. In recognition of Mr. Shays' support, Westporter Ben Koether, chairman of the Glacier Society, presented him with a special plaque and lifetime membership award.

Mr. Shays was instrumental in the passage of recent historic federal legislation that paved the way to transfer ownership of the icebreaker to the society for restoration, said Mr. Koether. "This never would have taken place if it hadn't been for your leadership." Mr. Shays said: "I've never known men so attached to a ship. This is a motivated group of sailors. If I ever run for president, this is one of the motivated power groups I want with me."

Besides the presentation to Mr. Shays, the event was part reunion as some veterans who had served on the Glacier shared memories and briefed the congressman about navy life in cold climates. On the lighter side, the Glacier veterans told of playing football atop the ice and watching penguins.

However, there still are some big challenges for the Glacier - some more daunting than breaking ice - the society hopes to raise $5 million for work on repair of the vessel. Eventually the society wants to establish a $20 million trust fund to keep the ship afloat into the future. Although the idea to build the ship was conceived in the 1940s, the Glacier was built in the early 1950s by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. When commissioned in 1955, she was the world's largest and most powerful icebreaker, capable of breaking ice up to 20 feet thick. The ship, described in a press packet distributed at the ceremony as "An Icebreaker for Connecticut," is 310 feet long with a beam of 74 feet and a full load displacement of 8,915 tons. Her diesel electric power plant generates 21,000 shaft horsepower. The armature shafts of the two deck high motors (the largest ever installed on a ship) are actually the propeller shaft with no reduction gears.

Also known as the "Mighty G" from 1955-66, it served the U.S. Navy. But in 1966, the U.S. Coast Guard assumed total responsibility of icebreaking missions and all Navy assets were transferred to the Coast Guard. As "Big Red," the Glacier flew the colors of the U.S. Coast Guard until 1987. At that time, Glacier was transferred to the inactive reserve fleet to make room for a new generation of icebreakers. During her 32 years of service, Glacier made 29 trips to the Antarctic and 10 to the Arctic, sailing 944,050 miles.

At a 1997 Glacier reunion, the fate of the vessel was discussed in great detail. The late Jim Tinch, a former chief signalman on the ship and then president of the Glacier Association issued an order to Mr. Koether (navigator from 1959 to 1961) to "Save the Glacier." Although ordered in jest, Mr. Koether took the order to heart and the Glacier Society was born. An informal organization was formed in early 1998. By summer, (through the cooperation of the MARAD Facility) a preliminary survey visit was completed. The visit energized the group, according to Mr. Koether, who also is chairman and founder of a Connecticut-based company, FAST, Inc. So in November, the Glacier Society was incorporated in Connecticut. In April 1999, the IRS granted a 501(c)3 education foundation status to the society.

The U.S. Navy has provided the society with the exhibition model of the Glacier on long-term loan. The detailed nine-foot model has been on exhibit at the society's headquarters in Stratford.

Besides Mr. Shays, U.S. Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman, both Democrats, also assisted in bringing the vessel to Connecticut. They worked on the 2001 Defense Authorization Bill which included a provision authorizing the Secretary of Transportation to transfer title of the former USS Glacier to the Glacier Society. President Clinton signed the Legislation in October 2000.

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