Patriots Point welcomed back a loved and respected USS YORKTOWN veteran, Lieutenant (Retired) Bill Curran this past week. Lt. Curran served aboard the ship in the early 1950s as the Axillary and Repair Divisions’ Officer in the Damage Control Unit. During his visit, Lt. Curran visited the areas of the ship where he used to frequent most, while experiencing the exhibits that bring the ship to life for today’s Patriots Point guests.
After 60 years, Lt. Curran, returned to the YORKTOWN and met with Patriots Point staff to hear about the YORKTOWN’s new interactive exhibits and programs, sit down with the curator’s office to offer his stories for the museum’s oral history archives, and revisit his old quarters and Damage Control offices aboard the ship. The Damage Control Unit, as well as his quarters, are today relatively untouched and not open to the public. Lt. Curran was given special access during his visit.
“It was an honor to have Lieutenant Curran on board. The return of our ships’ veterans is a cherished luxury here at Patriots Point. We are very fortunate that we can show these American heroes that their vessels are preserved, and now serve to educate and inspire future generations,” said Mac Burdette, Executive Director at Patriots Point. “Everything we do is out of respect for our veterans by sharing their stories and honoring their sacrifices,” he continued.
During Lt. Curran’s interview with the curator’s office, he remembered “it was very exciting, seeing the ship come back to life” after observing the YORKTOWN dry-docked after World War II. He continued, describing his crew as “an incredible, hard working group of young men.” Lt. Curran was also able to look through the 1952-1953 USS YORKTOWN Cruise Book, an artifact that resides in the Museum’s collections. He found himself and his old shipmates within the pages, resurfacing images of faces he had not seen in years and memories long forgotten.
“Talking with our YORKTOWN veterans is incredibly valuable to the preservation of the history of this ship and of their generation,” said Melissa Buchannan, Collections Curator at Patriots Point. “Oral histories offer a glimpse into the past that no manual or book can ever describe. Events from the mundane to the dramatic in the veterans’ own words offer a description unparalleled to text.”
Memories may fade, but above all, Lt. Curran looks back on his Navy experience with respect and admiration. He fondly remembered bailing some of his men out of the brig after a rowdy night, and remembered in awe the sheer force of a typhoon they sailed through off of Japan. Even then, he knew he and his shipmates were making history.
“It was the most fun years of my life—the most exciting,” said Lt. Curran. “It made you feel like you were part of something really important,” he concluded.
Lt. Curran currently resides in New Haven, Connecticut. Click here to visit images from his stay on our Facebook page.