The Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park holds a collection of rich history that eagerly awaits to be heard. First opened to the public in 1979, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park has expanded exponentially to become the largest inland naval and military park in the country. Featuring various decommissioned naval vessels, exhibits and displays, the Naval and Military Park beautifully honors those who have served while commemorating a collection of major events in the history of the United States. Prepare to be captivated by some of the details that make the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park stand out from the rest:
1. USS The Sullivans, the USS Croaker and the USS Little Rock all actively served throughout various military conflicts. All three ships served during World War II, while the USS Croaker and the USS Little Rock also served during the Cold War.
• USS The Sullivans: 1943 – 1965 (WWII)
• USS Croaker: 1944 – 1971 (WWII & the Cold War)
• USS Little Rock: 1945 – 1949; 1960 – 1976 (WWII & the Cold War)
2. USS Little Rock hosted many dignitaries and celebrities onboard including Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Kirk Douglass, Robert McNamara (U.S. Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson), Robert F. Kennedy, Harry Truman and King Constantine II of Greece.
3. George Mendonsa, a.k.a. the Kissing Sailor on the Life Magazine cover, served as a Quartermaster on board USS The Sullivans during World War II. As Quartermaster, Mendonsa was responsible for ensuring that a variety of materials and systems were available and functioning on board.
4. USS Croaker was hit with an aerial bomb during World War II. Luckily, it didn’t explode or sink into the ocean, but it did leave a big dent in the submarine. The vessel was immediately repaired after she returned to port.
5. To get the USS Little Rock, the USS Croaker and USS The Sullivans to Buffalo, NY, the ships traveled from the Eastern Seaboard into the St. Lawrence Seaway, into Lake Ontario, through the Welland Canal, into Lake Erie and then into the Buffalo River.
6. USS The Sullivans was named after the five Sullivan Brothers who were killed on USS Juneau on November 13th, 1942. USS The Sullivans was the only ship in the navy to be named after more than one person. Because of this, USS The Sullivans can fly a 5-star gold flag to honor the Sullivan family.
7. The USS Little Rock is the last remaining Cleveland-class cruiser in the world and is now considered a guided missile light cruiser. Many crews from other “sister” ships come aboard to host reunions and other memorials, as it is the closest resemblance to their own ships.
8. All of the landscaping throughout the military park is completed by volunteers. Additionally, there are various groups of volunteers on board the ships who serve as docents (i.e. tour guides), maintenance support and more.
9. During USS Little Rock’s 1945 – 1949 service, a dog mascot named “Hashmark” was present on board.
11. USS Little Rock has a double bridge onboard due to the presence of the admiral. This configuration is very rare in the Navy.
12. The original anchor for the USS Little Rock is on display at the military park and can be viewed near the Vietnam Memorial and the brand new African American Veterans Monument. The other anchor remains attached to the ship, and is located on the starboard side of the vessel.