Kids, soldiers, and sailors had a blast on May 24 as Fort Hamilton fired off its cannons to welcome Navy ships into New York Harbor for the beginning of Fleet Week.
Nearly 2,000 people attended the 10th annual Salute to Ships event at the base — 1,300 of them children — according to spokesman Bruce Hill. Fort Hamilton greeted them with a magic show and music from the Xaverian High School Band and the Navy Band Northeast before the main event: 21 ships passing under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
“It was a great way to kick off Fleet Week,” Hill said.
The parade of boats started with seven “tall ships” — complete with sails and rigging — from Operation Sail 2012, a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The wind vessels came from Spain, Indonesia, France, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, and the New York City Fire Department, and made the first such international procession since the millenial celebration in 2000, and the sixth since the first Operation Sail cast off in 1964 to coincide with the World’s Fair.
Thirteen warships followed — nine from the United States, four from Great Britain, Canada, Japan, and Finland — with the USS Wasp bringing up the rear. It was the Wasp that fired off the first shots of Fleet Week, prompting the Fort’s own 11-gun salute — much to the thrill of the children in attendance, Hill said.
“The kids loved it. After we finished returning fire, a bunch of them just started chanting ‘U-S-A, U-S-A,’” he said.
Navy spokesman Scott Mishley said the Salute to Ships serves as a reminder of the comraderie between the the different branches of the American Armed Forces.
“Even though it’s Fleet Week, and for the sea services, we’re all military, and so we’re all brothers,” Mishley said.