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http://www.washtimes.com/national/inbeltway.htm (09/26/01)
Letter home

When it was commissioned in Norfolk earlier this year, the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill not only became the only active U.S. warship named after a foreigner, as a show of good will with Britain, it also became the only U.S. military vessel to have a Royal Navy officer permanently assigned on board.

Last month, with much fanfare, the unique naval vessel departed on a goodwill tour of Britain, escorted Aug. 23 into the harbor of Portsmouth, England. Now, that goodwill tour has been postponed, and like all other U.S. Navy ships, the USS Winston S. Churchill remains on high alert.

That said, we reprint a portion of a letter an ensign stationed aboard the Churchill sent to his father. It needs no further introduction:

"Well, we are still out at sea, with little direction as to what our next priority is. The remainder of our port visits, which were to be centered around max liberty and good will to the United Kingdom, have all but been cancelled. We have spent every day since the attacks going back and forth within imaginary boxes drawn in the ocean, standing high-security watches, and trying to make the best of our time

"We have seen the articles and the photographs [of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks], and they are sickening. Being isolated as we are, I don't think we appreciate the full scope of what is happening back home, but we are definitely feeling the effects.

"About two hours ago, the junior officers were called to the bridge to conduct shiphandling drills. We were about to do a 'man overboard' when we got a call from the 'Lutjens,' a German warship that was moored ahead of us on the pier in Plymouth, England. While in port, the Winston S. Churchill and the Lutjens got together for a sports day/cookout on our fantail, and we made some pretty good friends. Now at sea, they called over on bridge-to-bridge, requesting to pass us close up on our port side, to say goodbye.

"We prepared to render them honors on the bridgewing, and the captain told the crew to come topside to wish them farewell. As they were making their approach, our conning officer announced through her binoculars that they were flying an American flag. As they came even closer, we saw that it was flying at half-mast [and] the entire crew of the German ship were manning the rails, in their dress blues. They had made up a sign that was displayed on the side that read 'We Stand By You.'

"Needless to say there was not a dry eye on the bridge as they stayed alongside us for a few minutes and we cut our salutes. It was probably the most powerful thing I have seen in my entire life and more than a few of us fought to retain our composure. The German Navy did an incredible thing for this crew, and it has truly been the highest point in the days since the attacks. After the ship pulled away and we prepared to begin our man-overboard drills, the officer of the deck turned to me and said, 'I'm staying Navy.'
 
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