Saipan Loves New York
The following account of Saipan’s 1982 July 4th Weekend in New York was written by Navy journalist IS2 Ric Nicholas.
If one tries to think of the perfect way to spend a Fourth of July weekend, New York City always seems to pop right to the top of the list for places to be. The crew of USS Saipan (LHA-2) got a bird’s eye view of the “big apple” this Fourth of July as the 40,000 ton amphibious assault ship moored to pier 92 on the West side of Manhattan, Friday morning July 2nd.
A participant in New York’s Harborfest ’82, Saipan hosted well over 25,000 guests during three days of general visiting, 3-5 July.
With helicopters, landing craft, medical exhibits, and Marine Corps equipment on static display, New Yorkers who toured Saipan left with a better understanding of today’s modern amphibious warfare arsenal and its’ capabilities.
After arriving the morning of July 2nd, “bunnies” from New York City’s playboy club came onboard for a tour and special “raffle.” During the transit from norfolk to New York, Saipan sailors bought raffle tickets for the bunnies to draw upon arrival in New York. $275.00 was raised from the raffle with the proceeds going to the Navy Relief Society. All prizes were donated by the New York Playboy Club, with top prize being an all expense paid dinner at the club.
July 3rd was a big day for Saipan runners as a group of 25 participated in the “Pepsi Challenge 10 kilometer run.” out of a field of nearly 5,000 runners, Lieutenant Steve Frisk of the Amphibious Group Two staff embarked in Saipan finished 40th and Yeoman Seaman David Lukasavage of Saipan’s engineering department finished in the top 100.
Also on the 3rd of July, a group from saipan attended the afternoon matinee of the broadway play, “Woman of the Year,” starring Raquel Welch. As if the play wasn’t enough to impress sal pan sailors, the trip backstage after the show was enough to give a few heart failure. Raquel, in all her glory, took time between shows to meet with Saipan Sailors and pose for a few photos.
On July 4th Saipan’s honor and color guard drill team took to the streets of New York City and gave New Yorkers a look at a crack navy marching unit. The 36-man unit participated in the City’s Fourth of July parade. RADM William A. Kearns, Jr., Commander Amphibious Group Two and Captain John W. Renard, Commanding Officer of Saipan were invited to the reviewing stand for that event.
Winding up a very eventful and enjoyable weekend Saipan Crewmembers took to the ballpark Monday night July 5th. Before a crowd of over 40,000, Saipan’s color guard marched onto the Field for the national anthem, as the sports announcer declared it “Saipan night at Shea Stadium.”
Captain Renard threw in the first pitch of the game and hundreds of Saipan Sailors settled back and watched the world champion Los Angeles Dodgers and the New york mets go at it for nine innings. The game was followed by a spectacular fireworks show which rivaled Macey’s show from the night before.
While waiting in line for a broadway show, a Saipan crewmember was overheard in earnest conversation with a veteran sailor of World War II. The old salt was telling the young sailor from Saipan about his days in the ” gator navy” aboard an old Infantry Landing Craft (lci). When the Saipan sailor told the old salt that Saipan could carry four of its modern day replacement, the LCU, internally, the old salt could only smile , shake his head and reply, “Wow.”
New York City impressed Saipan and likewise Saipan impressed New york city. The memories of the 1982 fourth of july weekend will linger in the minds of Saipan sailors for years to come.
Some will never experience the flashy lifestyle, the hustle and bustle and culture of New York City. But one thing is for certain … Saipan loved new york.
© Copyright 2017 BelleAire Press, LLC
Works by Dr. Connors
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