The Association of Washington Generals will participate in celebrating the memory of General Vito Chiechi on August 24, who will become the first Washingtonian to be honored with a 21 Peal Bell Salute in the Capitol rotunda.
General Skip Dreps provides this report based on research he conducted with the National Archives.
The peal of a bell has a long naval/military tradition. This year for example a peal was added to a national service in Hawaii.
“In a new addition to this year's event at the Pearl Harbor Memorial service, the ship's bell from the USS Arizona was to peal while a survivor visited each of the 14 attack sites around the harbor, said National Park Service historian Daniel Martinez.
The peal of a bell has also been used to honor the passing of royalty:
“The bells of St Paul's Cathedral were rung (in 2002) for four hours in a half-muffled full peal yesterday in remembrance of the Queen Mother. It was the first time that this had happened since the death of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965. A full peal had been scheduled as a joyous Eastertide event, but after the Queen Mother's death on Saturday the Dean and Chapter of the cathedral decided that a half-muffled full peal would be rung as a memorial to her. The Queen Mother was a regular visitor to St Paul's, and was patron of the Friends of St Paul's Cathedral for 50 years. Yesterday's full peal of the cathedral's 12 bells began at noon and could be heard across the City of London and beyond.”
In Hartford Connecticut they have celebrated their independence on July 4th for the eighth time this year with a peal salute: “Members of the state chapter of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence will ring a replica of the Liberty Bell Monday in honor of the 13 colonies that separated from England in 1776. The bell will be rung once for each of the original colonies of America.”
Our tradition of military salutes is as follows: “The tradition of firing blank rounds from the gun batteries of both ships and fortifications as a form of salute goes back almost to the earliest days of naval guns. It apparently originated as a sign of good faith; by discharging your guns, you temporarily disarmed yourself and thereby showed yourself to have peaceful intentions. The number of guns varied from situation to situation and country-to-country--for many years, ships would fire up to seven guns and shore fortifications (which could store more powder) would return salutes with up to three guns for each fired by the ship.
The earliest record of an American warship exchanging salutes with a shore installation occurred in October 1776, when the Danish battery at St. Croix saluted a Continental schooner, Virgin Islands. It was not until 1818 that the U.S. Navy issued regulations on this subject, requiring that "an officer appointed to command in chief shall be saluted on hoisting his flag." Those regulations also prescribed a 21-gun salute for the President, conforming to the number of guns that had been established as the royal salute in the British service but also corresponding to the number of states in the Union at the time, 19 for the Vice President, and 17 for cabinet members and governors.
The 1821 revision changed the President's 21 guns to one gun for each state (23 at the time) and added provisions for salutes of 15 guns for major generals, 13 for brigadier generals and commodores on separate service, nine for other commodores, and seven for captains.
An 1823 order provided for a 15-gun salute to the Board of Naval Commissioners visiting a ship as a body. The 1833 Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Navy raised the Vice President's salute to 21 guns, cabinet members' to 19, and the Board of Navy Commissioners to 17. It also provided for salutes of 17 guns for full admirals, 15 for vice admirals, and 13 for rear admirals, notwithstanding that none of these ranks existed at the time in the U.S. Navy. Finally, in 1843, by which time the number of states had reached 26, a new set of regulations returned the President's entitlement to the internationally recognized 21 guns, dropped the Vice President back to 19 and cabinet officers back to 17.”
The echo peal tradition began with this tradition:
“Navy ships on the Potomac passing George Washington's tomb at Mount Vernon pay tribute to the memory of our first president in one of the Navy's oldest ceremonies. Ships of the Navy follow a prescribed and inspiring ceremony; private vessels toll their bells as they pass the channel leading to the Mount Vernon wharf.
Commodore Charles Morris, United States Navy, related the earliest known account of this ceremony. In May of 1801, three men-of-war of the U.S. Navy passed up the Potomac River to the new Navy Yard in the District of Columbia. Commodore Morris, as a young midshipman, was on board the two-year old frigate USS Congress (36 guns, Captain James Sever). In his autobiography he states:
‘The ship was delayed by head winds so that we did not reach Washington till late in May. We passed the frigate United States in the lower part of the Potomac. About 10 o'clock in the morning of a beautifully serene day, we passed Mount Vernon. Every one was on deck to look upon the dwelling where Washington had made his home. Mrs. Washington and others of the family could be distinguished in the portico, which fronts the river.
When opposite the house, by order of Captain Sever, the sails were lowered, the colors displayed half-masted, and a mourning salute of thirteen guns was fired as a mark of respect to the memory of Washington, whose life had so recently closed, and whose tomb was in our view. The general silence on board the ship and around us, except when broken by the cannon's sound, the echo and re-echo of that sound from the near and distant hills, as it died away in the distance, the whole ship's company uncovered and motionless, and the associations connected with the ceremony, seemed to make a deep impression upon all, as they did certainly upon me.
When the salute was finished the sails were again set, the colors hoisted, and we proceeded up the river. The frigate New York had preceded us, without saluting, but we found her grounded on the bar at the entrance of the eastern branch of the Potomac, and the Congress, passing her, was the first ship of war that reached what has since become the Navy Yard at Washington. The frigates New York and United States joined us a few days afterwards.’ ” Thus, the tradition of the peal of the bell and its echo in honor enable respect and good fortune was born in America.
The honor then became official with a Presidential act:
“In 1906 when the yacht Mayflower rendered passing honors with President Theodore Roosevelt embarked, he was much impressed. Finding upon inquiry that the honors were not official, he immediately prompted the issuance of the following order prescribing the ceremony to be observed by all vessels of the United States Navy passing Mount Vernon between sunrise and sunset:
‘Marine guard and band paraded; bell tolled and colors halfmasted at the beginning of the tolling of the bell. When opposite Washington's Tomb, buglers sound taps, marine guard present arms, and officers and men on deck stand at attention and salute. The colors will be mastheaded at the last note of taps which will also be the signal for 'carry on.' (General Order No. 22, June 2, 1906).
Today's orders are the same except that the playing of the national anthem was prescribed in 1913. The tolling of the ship's bell is perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the ceremony, which is observed during daylight hours while the tomb and adjacent areas are abeam.”
The manner of rendering these military honors varies, depending on the size and complement of the ship. Insofar as practicable, it calls for parading the full guard and band, playing the national anthem, half-masting the national ensign, and tolling the bell. As a naval ship passes Mount Vernon, the crew forms up on deck with the tallest sailor nearest the bow and attention is sounded. When opposite the tomb, "hand salute" is signaled. Meanwhile the ship's bell is struck eight times at five-second intervals. As the bell begins to toll, the national ensign is lowered to half-mast.
According to General Dreps:
The Association of Washington Generals (AWG) is the only organization in our nation’s history to combine our military traditions of using the peal of a bell. In our past we have honored our Fallen Washington Generals with a single 21 Peal Bell Salute. The Echo Peal Salute created by Commanding General Bill Sperry to combine our salute and the history Echo TAPS to reflect our highest of historic military honors. It was used to by the Washington Generals to honor each service member killed in Iraq or Afghanistan this year for the first time at the Garden of Remembrance at the Benayora Hall in Seattle. For each service member the peal of the bell and its echo sounded with the reading of each name.
General Skip Dreps rings a bell at the Garden of Remembrance after each of eight names of fallen soldiers are read at the Garden of Remembrance at Benaroya Hall on Memorial Day. (Seattle Times photo)
On August 24, the 21 Echo Bell Salute will be rendered for the first time in our state and nation’s history to honor the memory of AWG Board member Vito Chiechi in the Legislative Building in our State’s Capitol. Deputy Commanding General Roger Flygare will ring the lead bell and AWG Skip Dreps will ring the echo bell.
"It is fitting that this unique honor is bestowed to Vito that combines the tradition of TAPS, a 21-gun salute, and the peal of a ship’s bell to honor a Washington General who was a proud US Navy veteran. AWG is honored to participate in a salute to the life of Washington General and friend, Vito Chiechi, and with each peal and its echo we continue to be reminded of the passing of a great Washingtonian," said Dreps.