Crew members of the USS Emmons reunited with their fellow sailors in Hartford on Friday, 60 years after they set sail together for the first time.
“I look forward to this every year,” said Anthony Esposito.
The ship, commissioned Dec. 5, 1941, at Boston Naval Shipyard, was the last naval fighting ship to be commissioned before the U.S. officially entered World War II.
The USS Emonds played a big part in both theaters of the war, but after being sunk by Kamakazes off Okinawa in 1945, the stories were a bit different.
“I remember the first one that came, the first plane that came over,” said Esposito.
Esposito was standing behind a machine gunner as a Japanese plane flew right over his head and hit one of the ship's stacks.
Connecticut’s Armand Jolly, USS Emmons gunner's mate and president of the USS Emmons Association, was on board as well.
“All of a sudden, over the loudspeaker, we heard, 'Abandon ship,'" Jolly recalled.
With face and hands burning and no life jacket, Jolly jumped overboard. At least 60 died in that attack. Thanks to shipmates who pulled him from the water, Jolly wasn’t one of them.
Jolly and Esposito came to face to face at the State Capitol on Friday, along with seven other Emmons friends they could never forget. Their meeting was one of the crew's annual reunions, which began in the 1950s.
"There was a hiatus, to take care of our families and make a living. When the reunions resumed, it was with a different direction in mind," said Ed Hoffman, Emmons quartermaster and secretary of the Emmons Association.
"As we aged, we realized there was something much more important the Emmons had done. When the reunions renewed in the 1970s, it was to keep the memories alive and pay respect and honor the guys who didn't make it back,” said Hoffman.
Back in the same room, it was like no time had passed. Once boys, they're now brothers, together again.
“It brings tears to your eyes,” said Esposito.