Reservist Tracks Down USS Chattanooga Deck Bell for Memorial

USS Chattanooga (U.S. Navy photo)
USS Chattanooga (U.S. Navy photo)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- The deck bell of the World War I-era USS Chattanooga will become part of a memorial to the five servicemen killed in an attack on the Naval and Marine Reserve Center this summer.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports the ship that was once the flagship of the U.S. fleet was scrapped before World War II but its 200-pound deck bell survived and somehow made its way to Shelbyville, where it remained for 85 years.

Gowan Johnson, a Chattanoogan and petty officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, heard about the bell's existence several years ago and eventually tracked it down to a recently shuttered American Legion post.

In September, Johnson retrieved the 21-inch-tall bronze magnesium bell. Since then, he has been preparing a place for it at the reserve center. Johnson said a cast-iron yoke is being fabricated for the bell, and the shrine will be anchored to a black granite base with a plaque honoring the dead. The emblems of the U.S. Navy and Marines also will be part of the memorial, he said.

"We are thinking that we could toll the bell five times on July 16 when the names are read for the ceremony (on the anniversary of the attack)," Johnson said.

Johnson also has another idea for honoring the fallen servicemen, now that the Navy is commissioning a new class of ships bearing the names of American cities.

"How about another ship called the USS Chattanooga?" Johnson said.

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