The Tale of the Bryant’s Bell
A number of crew members wondered where the bell of the USS Bryant could be. The ship had been mothballed and then sold for scrap. Could the bell still exist?
A ship’s bell is, in many ways, the symbol of the ship. It sounds crew watches and time of day. The bell is an essential link in a ship’s emergency alarm system. In the event of a fire, the bell is rung rapidly for at least five seconds, followed by one, two or three rings to indicate the location of a fire – forward, amidships, or aft respectively. The ship’s name is engraved on the bell.
The bell is used to signal the presence of important persons. When the ship’s captain, a flag officer, or other important person arrives or departs, watch standers make an announcement to the ship and ring the bell. This tradition extends to major naval command transitions, often held aboard vessels associated with the command.
U.S. Navy bells are part of the many artifacts removed from decommissioned vessels preserved by the Naval History and Heritage Command. They may be provided on loan to new namesake ships; naval commands with an historical mission or functional connection; and to museums and other institutions that are interpreting specific historical themes and displays of naval history. Bells remain the permanent property of the US Government and the Department of the Navy. They serve to inspire and to remind our naval forces and personnel of their honor, courage, and commitment to the defense of our nation.
A few years ago Dan DeRoch learned that Patrick Boyer, the grandson of Captain High, the first skipper of the Bryant, had seen the Bryant bell in the lobby of the Naval Reserve Center in Mobile, Alabama. Dan decided he and Mona would seek out the Bryant’s bell. Since they were driving to a reunion in the south and would be near Mobile, they decided to visit and see if they could locate the bell. They found the center and inquired about the bell. No one knew anything about it. The bell in the lobby was from a different ship.
Before leaving they were standing alongside a Marine major in front of a painting of a Medal of Honor recipient on Peliliu. Dan remarked that he had been in a destroyer supporting the battle. He also explained their quest. The major recommended to them that they stay overnight and the next day see a chief who had a long service at the center. They did and after talking with the chief, the chief made a call to Washington where it was confirmed that the bell indeed was supposed to be there. He ordered a search of all spaces and the bell was found in an obscure storage space.
He also allowed Dan to take it, on loan, to the reunion where it was a big hit. Dan dutifully
returned it on his way back.
After returning home Dan enlisted help from the local American Legion and whatever political contacts he had to get possession of the bell. After a great deal of paperwork it was so. Dan had a proper support frame fabricated and it has a place of honor at Bourque-Lanigan Post#5, Waterville, Maine, during all ceremonies. A ceremony was held welcoming the bell’s establishment in the post with Senator Susan Collins present for the dedication. Senator Collins and former Governor John Reed were instrumental in getting the Navy to release the bell to the care of the legion post.
It remains on loan–not owned–to the post which dutifully reports its status to the Navy annually.