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.
# # #