Anchors of Progress and Freedom: Honoring the USS Indiana and her Crew

Henke Hall of Champions
IU Bloomington
Bloomington, Indiana
September 7, 2013

Bearing the Safeguard of Considerable Affairs

Today we dedicate the prow of the great warship the USS Indiana as part of the enduring fabric of Memorial Stadium in remembrance of all from Indiana University who served in the cause of freedom and in remembrance of this gallant ship that served with such great distinction in the Second World War and in the years following.

The two towering figures from the great democracies who fought and won this terrible war were British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt. Their close friendship was forged, in part, through their shared affinity for the sea.

Before assuming the roles for which they would be best remembered, FDR served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy for seven years, and Churchill served as First Lord of the Admiralty—twice. Churchill famously signed his early correspondence with Roosevelt initially as “Naval Person” and later as “Former Naval Person”, and both are credited with helping to modernize the navies of their respective countries.

Churchill said of the British and American navies that the ”union of these two great forces …in an honorable cause” constituted what he called “the sheet-anchor of human freedom and progress.”1

Although Churchill was recalling the passage of the Royal Navy to its war stations at the outbreak of World War I when he wrote the following passage, we might imagine the USS Indiana making her way to bolster the U.S. fleet in the Pacific during the critical early months of World War II when the war’s outcome was far from clear.

“We may now picture this great fleet,” Churchill wrote, “with its flotillas and cruisers, steaming slowly out of [harbor], squadron by squadron, scores of gigantic castles of steel wending their way across the misty, shining sea, like giants bowed in ancient thought. We may picture them again as darkness fell, …miles of warships running at high speed and in absolute blackness through narrow straits, bearing with them into the broad waters …the safeguard of considerable affairs.”2

The USS Indiana truly did serve a most honorable cause, and she was indeed one of the anchors of human freedom and progress.

Today, we are honored to dedicate the prow that led the way through those narrow straights and into broad waters as she bore with her the safeguard of considerable affairs.

A Treasured Vestige of Naval History and Tradition

The USS Indiana had a storied history, earning nine battle stars for her service in the Pacific in World War II in what is widely regarded as the greatest naval campaign in history. She participated in many of the major battles and operations that threw back the Imperial Japanese Navy, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea, a decisive naval battle that effectively eliminated Japan’s ability to conduct large-scale carrier actions. During the battle, a Japanese torpedo bomber launched a torpedo at the Indiana, but both the plane and the torpedo were destroyed by gunfire.3

The Indiana also participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima and in the opening phase of the Okinawa operation, providing shore bombardment support. Kamikaze attacks were almost a daily occurrence. The ship once destroyed three aircraft making simultaneous attacks on her.4

All Hoosiers can take pride in the fact that she bore the name of our state, and they can take pride in the installation of her prow, which now joins her mainmast and gun mounts on the west side of Memorial Stadium.

Our stadium itself, as was its predecessor on 10th Street, is a memorial to all the sons and daughters of Indiana who have served their country, whether on land, sea, or in the air. And it is, solemnly, a memorial to those from IU who fought and died in our wars.

The prow of the USS Indiana will forever remind us of the sacrifices that they made.

Indiana University and The U.S. Navy: Proud Partners

I am proud to note that Indiana University and the United States Navy have had a relationship that has been long and productive.

Many IU graduates have served with great distinction in the United States Navy. Famed World War II columnist Ernie Pyle was an IU alumnus and a Navy veteran. Rear Admiral Elaine Wagner, who earned a degree in dental surgery at IU, now serves as chief of the Navy Dental Corps. Retired Rear Admiral Norman Hayes, a graduate of our School of Public and Environmental Affairs, served as director of the Intelligence Headquarters for the United States European Command. And Vice Admiral Adam Robinson, who also recently retired, is an IU School of Medicine graduate who served as the Navy’s 36th Surgeon General.

And, of course, IU’s strong partnership with the Navy has also historically involved our educational mission. During World War II, as a contribution to the national war effort, IU worked vigorously to attract military programs to Bloomington.

In July of 1942, IU established the Naval Training School, and welcomed 200 yeomen to campus for four months of training. Later in 1942, even as the program continued to train Navy yeomen, the Bloomington campus also became home to WAVES—a division of the Navy that consisted entirely of women. WAVES was an acronym for “Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service.”

By 1944, when the Naval Training School was officially closed, more than 5,000 Navy yeomen and WAVES had received training at Indiana University.

IU’s partnership with the Navy continues today through our longstanding relationship with the Crane Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center. Crane is the third largest naval installation in the world,5 it is one of Indiana’s largest employers, and the work that is done there is vital to the defense, protection, and security of Indiana and the nation.

We now have in place between our two institutions an extensive range of collaborations. Those include collaborations in public management and administration, energy and matter, chemistry, physics, and engineering programs on our Indianapolis campus.

In 2011, we formalized an educational partnership with Crane that made possible a wide range of collaborative efforts in such areas as informatics and computing, cybersecurity, technology transfer, kinesiology, optics, and intellectual property research.

And it is our goal to build yet further on all of this in future years.

Special Thanks

Let me extend my deepest appreciation to Secretary Mabus and the representatives of the United States Navy for being with us today. We are proud that these treasured vestiges of Naval history and tradition will now become such an indelible part of Indiana’s oldest and largest state university, which, like the USS Indiana, carries the state’s name.

I also want to thank Senators Coats and Donnelly and Representative Young for joining us today, and for their tireless support for the men and women from the state of Indiana who serve in all branches of the military.

I also want to once again express our deepest gratitude to the veterans of the USS Indiana and to their families. We celebrate your courageous service to our nation and the many sacrifices that you and your colleagues made to protect our freedoms. We cannot begin to convey our gratitude for your service.

I also want to extend Indiana University’s thanks to the family of Frank Spenger. The late Mr. Spenger was a restaurateur in Berkeley, California and a collector of Navy memorabilia. He saved the prow from being scrapped in 1960s, and displayed it for many years in the parking lot of the family seafood restaurant in Berkeley. The Spenger family very generously agreed to donate the prow to IU, and we are deeply grateful. I am very pleased that Mr. Richard E. Moore, president of the Frank Spenger Company, is with us today, representing the family. Would you join me in recognizing him and in expressing our thanks to the Spenger family?

I also want to recognize Mr. Scott Clarke, an IU alumnus whose open letter to me—published last year in the Bloomington Herald-Times—suggested that the USS Indiana’s prow should be installed at Memorial Stadium “as a symbol of the power and might of a great state and nation.”6 I believe Mr. Clarke is also in the audience today. Would you join me in recognizing him?

I also want to particularly commend Kirk White, IU’s Assistant Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and military liaison for my office, for his efforts in helping to secure the prow. Kirk was assisted by members of the San Francisco Bay chapter of the IU Alumni Association, who helped reach out to the Spenger family. Kirk, incidentally, is a Lieutenant Colonel in the National Guard and has served in two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

And finally, I commend the external contractors who prepared the prow for installation in its new home and the staff members of IU’s Physical Plant who managed the refurbishment project.


In 1966, IU’s 12th president, Elvis J. Stahr, who came to IU after serving as Secretary of the Army under President John Kennedy, presided over the dedication of the USS Indiana’s mainmast and gun mounts.

President Stahr said that the presence of the ship’s relics on our campus reminds us “that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, that those who have served in their country's uniform and under her flag in far-flung places on land and sea and in the air have helped ensure that government of, by and for the people shall not perish.”

“They have preserved the opportunity,” he continued, “for us to continue the never-ending work of making our society what its founders knew it could be and dreamed it should be: a land of freedom, …an open society; a place where each individual might have an opportunity to develop and realize the best that is in him (or her)…”7

This too, is part of Indiana University’s aim. In fact, education and democracy share a fundamental set of values. Both are based firmly on the idea that together we can create a brighter future. Both are expressions of optimism that require a belief in possibility.

May the prow of the USS Indiana forever inspire our students and all who visit Memorial Stadium to dedicate themselves to lives of action and service, to do their part to help preserve and enhance this land of freedom, and to make a difference for generations they may never know.

Source Notes

  1. Winston Churchill, “The New Army,” speech delivered at the Corn Exchange, Cambridge, May 19, 1939.
  2. Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, 1911-1918, (Simon and Schuster, 2005), 109.
  3. William H. Garzke, Jr, Robert O. Dulin, Jr., United States Battleships, 1935-1992, (Naval Institute Press, 1995), 82.
  4. Ibid.
  6. Letter to the editor, Herald-Times, April 7, 2012.
  7. Remarks of Elvis J. Stahr, Dedication of the mast of the USS Indiana, delivered May 14, 1966 at halftime of the Cream and Crimson game, IU Archives.