A piece of history will be dedicated just before IU plays Navy Saturday night, and it has nothing to do with football.
Another piece of the World War Two battleship the USS Indiana will officially go on display outside Memorial Stadium on the Bloomington campus.
The prow of the ship – the forward-most part of the bow – was purchased earlier this year from the family of Frank Spenger, who had displayed the prow for years outside his seafood restaurant in Berkeley, California. IU Athletic Director Fred Glass says an alumnus saw the prow during a trip to Berkeley and wrote a letter to the editor of the Bloomington Herald-Times asking IU‘s president, Michael McRobbie, to try to bring it back to Indiana.
“Lori, the president‘s wife, read it in the paper and brought it to the president‘s attention,” Glass said. “Through a lot of work from a lot of different people, the local (IU) alumni association in California was able to get it and donate it back to the university.” The prow has since been restored and is on the stadium‘s west concourse along with the Indiana‘s mainmast and two of the ship‘s gun mounts.
The gun mounts and mainmast have been outside the stadium since 1966. “We are Memorial Stadium, and there‘s a certain obligation that goes along with the name to make sure we‘re finding different ways to honor the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces,” said Glass. IU had already scheduled Navy – the Hoosiers lost to the Midshipmen 31-30 in Annapolis last year – before there was talk of obtaining the battleship prow.
But Glass says connecting the prow to the Navy game was a natural once the deal was done. “We‘ve got the Midshipmen in town, but we‘ll also have the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus here.
The Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, Vice Admiral Michael Miller will be here. Both of our United States Senators will be here…. We‘re treating it as a major event.”
Built in 1942, the USS Indiana was part of the invasions of the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands and Iwo Jima in the Pacific Theater. The ship earned nine battle stars during the war, but was decommissioned in 1947, when large battleships were no longer a requirement for warfare.
It was sold for scrap in 1963. The dedication of the prow will be part of a pre-game ceremony that will include the dedication of “the tallest flagpole in college football” according to Glass.
It will take place in the hour or so before the 6:00pm kickoff.