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News Release


Release No: 362-97
July 03, 1997


The United States Navy three-masted frigate USS Constitution, better known as "Old Ironsides," will set sail for the first time in more than a century, July 21, 1997. The U.S. Navy's "Operation Sail 200," celebrating the bicentennial of "Old Ironsides," will feature the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat coming under sail off the coast of Massachusetts. USS Constitution will sail with the same six-sail configuration that she normally used for battle.

The historic USS Constitution will sail in formation with two modern U.S. Navy warships and with a fly-over by Navy fighter aircraft. "Operation Sail 200" will highlight the direct correlation of today's U.S. Navy and Marine Corps team, the importance of "forward presence," advanced technology, core values, and the dedication and professionalism of our Sailors and Marines with the rich maritime history of the United States.

USS Constitution, maintained as a national monument at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, Mass., recently completed a four-year overhaul to restore her to original hull strength. In-depth structural tests and evaluations of the ship and a lengthy training program for the crew have prepared USS Constitution for this historic voyage in Massachusetts Bay--the first since 1881.

School-aged children from all 50 states contributed their pennies to buy the sails that will be used during the July sail. The "Old Ironsides Pennies Campaign" led the nationwide effort that was coordinated by the USS Constitution Museum, a private, non-profit educational institution dedicated to preserving the heritage of USS Constitution.

USS Constitution will be towed from Boston to Marblehead, Mass., 17 miles north of Boston, on July 20 to stage the ship near the sail operation area in Massachusetts Bay. During the War of 1812, Marblehead provided USS Constitution a safe haven from two British warships. USS Constitution was last moored in Marblehead in 1931. On Monday, July 21, the ship will be towed to an area of Massachusetts Bay where, at noon, tow lines will be released and her sails will be unfurled for "Operation Sail 200."

The guided missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61), the guided missile frigate USS Halyburton (FFG 40), and the Blue Angels Navy Flight Demonstration Team's F/A-18 Hornets will render honors to USS Constitution in tribute to the core values of "honor, courage and commitment."

USS Constitution will host distinguished visitors and a media pool for embarks on July 21. Other members of the media will have the opportunity to cover this event from USS Ramage and USS Halyburton.

Media representatives interested in covering "Operation Sail 200," or the transits between Boston and Marblehead, should contact Lt. Ed Buclatin, director of media services, Navy Office of Information, at (703) 697-5342, fax (703) 695-5318 or E-mail "chinfo.sail@hq.navy.mil".

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