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    Ole Droopy legacy lives on

    Ole Droopy Legacy Lives on

    Photo By Senior Chief Petty Officer Joshua Treadwell | "Ole Droopy" stood sentinel over the sunken remains of the USS Monongahela at Deer...... read more read more

    GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba– U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is steeped in history from the battle of Cuzco Wells during the Spanish-American War, to history in the making, with Joint Task Force Guantanamo. The time between these events is speckled with curiosities, mysteries and history that isn't necessarily worldwide headline material, but is still significant to the naval station's legacy.

    The tale of "Ole Droopy" is a great Guantanamo Bay controversy with allegations of power-mad officers and late-night skullduggery – according to local lore and legend.

    Ole Droopy was a deck gun aboard USS Monongahela, a "barkentine rigged screw sloop" which – in non-naval terms – means it was a war ship with both sails and an engine and "screw," or, propeller.

    In the spring of 1908, the U.S.S. Monongahela caught fire while anchored between South Toro Cay and Grenadillo Point. While the ship was afire, it was towed to the harbor area on the south side of Deer Point, near Officer's Landing.

    "The ship was towed to the harbor because it was easier to try and fight the fire," explained Navy Cmdr. Jeff Johnston, public works officer for the naval station. "The effort was unsuccessful and the ship sank in only about 20 feet of water."

    After the ship sank, one of the deck guns was retrieved from the charred wreckage.

    "During the fire, one of the deck guns became so hot that its barrel partially melted, acquiring a pronounced droop," Johnston explained. "The gun became known as Ole Droopy."

    The gun was placed on Deer Point, directly over the remains of the sunken ship, as a way to honor the memory of the Monongahela. It remained there until 1942 when houses were built on the point preventing base residents from visiting Ole Droopy.

    "In the late 1950s, the Guantanamo Bay chapter of the Navy League, with permission of the base commander, moved Ole Droopy from Deer Point to a 'downtown' location – currently the site of the Prisoner of War, Missing in Action memorial," Johnston said.

    At the time, Ole Droopy rested across the street from the commissary and Navy Exchange, right in the center of everything. The old site is currently the Downtown Lyceum parking lot.

    This is where "GTMO lore" begins, and the line between fact and exaggeration become a bit blurred.

    "The fact is," Johnston began, "in the spring of 1988, the base commander, Navy Capt. John Condon and his public works officer, Navy Capt. John Gallen, decided to build a POW-MIA memorial at the site of Ole Droopy. During this construction, Ole Droopy was removed and taken to the base landfill with the rest of the construction debris. That we know to be true."

    A popular, though unconfirmed, rumor about Ole Droopy is that the base commander and public works officer were not pleased with the undignified look of the warped, downward pointing deck gun. To some young Sailors and Marines, it became the appendage of off-color jokes and references. The new memorial was built in its place as a means of eliminating the relic.

    "The volunteer curator of the lighthouse museum, Ms. Cookie Johnson, recalled that no one knew about the plans to remove the gun until it happened," Johnston said. "According to her, when word spread that it was gone, the historical society secreted out to the landfill to locate Ole Droopy, which was almost entirely buried.

    "They quickly drew up plans to retrieve it from the landfill," he continued. "The high school principal even agreed to place it in the school courtyard – if it could be recovered."

    However, Ms. Johnson claimed that those plans were derailed when an unannounced visit from a "senior officer" came to her door, late one night.

    "As she tells the story," Johnston recounted, "she was standing there in her bathrobe as the officer admonished her to stop trying to retrieve Ole Droopy – lest something happen to her husband's job. Ms. Johnson also related that others who attempted to rescue the gun had similar experiences."

    Currently, the only information available about Ole Droopy's location is a hand drawn "treasure map" from one of the members of the 1988 effort to rescue the deck gun from the landfill.

    "The map shows the approximate position of the disposal site," Johnston explained. "But, that doesn't mean it can be easily located. Since it's buried in a landfill, metal detectors and ground penetrating radar will not be able to distinguish Ole Droopy from all the other metal in the ground. So, finding this piece of GTMO's past isn't like looking for a needle in a haystack, it's like looking for a needle in a stack of needles."

    Ole Droopy may never be seen again, but it's infamous past will live on. Perhaps someday its significance will be realized and it will be resurrected from its grave, but until then, we'll have to settle with legend and lore.

    For more information about Joint Task Force Guantanamo, visit the Web site at www.jtfgtmo.southcom.mil.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.06.2009
    Date Posted: 04.06.2009 16:07
    Story ID: 32083
    Location: GUANTANAMO BAY, CU 

    Web Views: 956
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