Monday, December 6, 2010
Remembering the Legacy of the Navy in Charleston
Tomorrow marks the 69th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Obviously, I wasn't alive at the time, but I have heard so many stories through the years from my mother and her brothers and sisters that I have always had a great interest in the era. Three of my mother's brothers served in the military and two of her sisters married sailors. Charleston had a big navy base in those days and I've heard countless stories of life here during that period. My mother was 17 when the U.S. entered the war, so her memories were of USO dances, Big Band music, her brothers bringing servicemen home on leave with them, and war bond rallies. Her memories were full of fun and excitement - a great time for a young girl. But obviously, the war meant something far different for her brothers who participated in the war - and for their mother who worried for her sons and those of her friends. Being the center of a major military installation, Charleston was under threat of attack by German submarines who were at times spotted off shore. In fact, there was even a POW camp just outside the city limits where German soldiers were held. And many homes in the city served as naval offices and quarters, since the numbers of navy personnel exceeded the capacity of the navy base itself. Today, the navy base has become a ghost town, but there are some signs of new life for the facility - a prestigious high school, a film studio, a private shipyard, and a marina for recreational boats are some of the enterprises that are currently found there. But the beautiful old officers' quarters, homes built in the "Panama-style" of architecture, along with the lovely chapel are continuing to decay. My hope is that the city of North Charleston will do for the base what the city of Charleston has done for some of its long-neglected areas and give them a second chance. After all, the navy base was here when the citizens needed it. Let's hope the citizens will now be there for the base.