Retired Capt. H. Wyman Howard, Jr., Anzio’s first commanding officer, fondly remembered how the ship was brought to life three decades ago.
“Four-hundred young men with the average age of 20 years old, 66 percent of whom had never been to sea before, ran onto Anzio and brought her alive,” said Howard during his remarks.
“At the commissioning, I wrote the following letter to Team Anzio: ‘This day marks the most significant milestone in the life of Anzio: she comes alive! …” continued Howard. “Whether you fought at the Anzio beachhead, welded a piece of her steel, supervised her construction, or gave your love and support to us during 20 months of hard work, you are a valued member of Team Anzio. Thank you for all the hours, hard work, and sacrifices you made to make this day a reality.’ “
The event comes just months after the ship’s 30th commissioning anniversary. Hundreds gathered to celebrate the ship’s distinguished history and military service. The ceremony’s presiding officer, Rear Adm. Tom Williams, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Two shared his thoughts about the CG 68 Sailor.
“The operations Anzio Sailors supported when the nation called provided tremendous significance to their lives as well as the legacy of the United States Navy,” said Williams. “Long after we’d safely arrived home to our loved ones, and well beyond the day we will hang up our uniform for the last time, we will have the honor to say we sailed aboard the United States Ship Anzio, and fondly remember those days serving the land and people we love.”
Following Williams’ remarks, Anzio Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Greg J. Piorun, Jr., spoke to the special bond forged aboard the ship over the years.
“This ceremony is a culmination of over 30 years of Anzio answering our nation’s call – from her keel laying Aug. 21, 1989 and commissioning May 2, 1992, to this decommissioning ceremony,” said Piorun.
“We do not have time to even scratch the surface of all the stories and memories that were made by the thousands of Sailors who served in her. We are here today though, to honor all of those stories and memories. I have come to learn throughout my time in command just how strong the Anzio bond is. I’ve not seen anything like it to date and will likely not see anything like it again.”
Anzio was built by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., and commissioned in Norfolk, May 2, 1992.
She is the second ship to bear the name Anzio and honors the Allied Forces beachhead invasion at Anzio and Nettuno, Italy, during World War II. The strategic importance of the Battle of Anzio to the overall Allied effort in Europe, however, is often underestimated. The two German corps engaged on the Anzio front were originally destined for Normandy. The success of the Allied landings on the beaches in France in June 1944 were due largely to the tenacity of the Allied forces at Anzio.
During its 30 years of service, the cruiser has been an important part of America’s national defense strategy.
The Ticonderoga-class, guided-missile cruiser deployed for the first time Oct. 20, 1994, as part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Battle Group. During that deployment the crew participated in operations conducted in the Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf, Adriatic Sea and Black Sea. It would be the first of many Anzio deployments.
Over the years, the Anzio team supported Operation Iraqi Freedom, firing more than a dozen Tomahawk missiles while on station and served as the flagship for Combined Task Force 151 supporting anti-piracy efforts off the horn of Africa. The crew also picked up 10 US Navy Sailors for transport and medical evaluations after being held in Iranian custody having been captured after their two naval boats unintentionally entered Iranian waters.
“From the countless hundreds of thousands of miles traveled to the comradery cemented in foreign port calls, the one thing that holds true is the connections Anzio Sailors made with each other and the bonds that formed during their service together,” added Piorun.
“We are here today to break from the somber nature of this ceremony in order to remember those who have come before us, revitalizing memories, so Anzio lives on.”
After decommissioning, the ship is slated to be towed in November to the Navy’s Inactive Ship’s facility in Philadelphia, Pa., where it will be in a Logistical Support Asset status.