MURMANSK, Russia – USS Taylor (FFG 50) departed Murmansk, Russia, after a three-day port visit where they celebrated the close World War II alliance between Russia and the U.S., and honored veterans in both countries on the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II, Sept. 9.
Taylor’s visit to Murmansk marked the first time since the end of World War II that a U.S. Naval warship has visited the port of Murmansk.
“It was an honor to be the first warship to visit the port of Murmansk since 1945 and celebrate our relationship with the Russian people,” said Cmdr. Lyle Hall, Taylor’s commanding officer. “I hope this visit is the start of many more visits for the U.S. Navy to Murmansk.”
During the port visit, the crew of Taylor participated in multiple wreath-laying ceremonies to honor the fallen soldiers and sailors who lost their lives defending the Soviet Union from the forces of Nazi Germany. Additionally, Taylor’s crew hosted a reception and contributed their time to help a local orphanage through a community relations (COMREL) project.
Hall and members of Taylor’s color guard participated alongside members of the Russian Armed Forces in a wreath laying ceremony at the Alyosha World War II monument, erected to pay homage to the fallen soldiers of World War II.
“It was very significant to represent the United States during the wreath laying ceremony,” said Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Henry Wells. “The Russian soldiers were very nice, and I enjoyed talking to them as we prepared for the event.”
After the ceremony, Hall and Sheila Gwaltney, the U.S. Consul General to St. Petersburg, stopped briefly at the Kursk memorial to pay their respects to the Sailors who were lost on the submarine Kursk. Gwaltney and Hall also visited the U.S. Monument at the International World War II Polar Convoy Cemetery. The cemetery was particularly significant for the Taylor Sailors that had the opportunity to participate in the ceremony. Three American merchant marines that perished supporting the polar convoys rest in the cemetery.
“It was a humbling experience to pay tribute to three American Sailors buried in Russia,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Justin Sanders. “It was an eye-opening experience to interact with our friends from Russia; it is something I will always remember.”
Members of Taylor’s crew were hosted by both the Russian navy and the veterans of the polar convoy for an at-sea wreath laying. The wreath laying occurred in the location where the liberty ship S.S. Thomas Donaldson was sunk by a German U-boat just off the shores of Kildin Island, near the entrance to the port of Murmansk.
During World War II, the United States supplied Russia with over 11 billion dollars worth of wartime supplies via the Lend Lease Act of 1941. Nearly one-third of that material was delivered directly into Murmansk via the polar convoy.
Ensign Lynn Bovard and Senior Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) Robert Parker represented the United States as they placed a wreath in the waters over the Thomas Donaldson in honor of those Sailors who lost their lives during the “Murmansk Run.”
“It was an honor to participate in a ceremony paying respect to the service and sacrifice of Sailors from both of our countries,” said Parker. “I have met some of the most wonderful people here in Russia and seen a part of the world that I never thought I would see. I only wish that I could do more to repay the people of Murmansk for their hospitality.”
In addition to the ceremonies and reception, 14 of Taylor’s crew took part in a COMREL at a local orphanage in which they planted trees and played a friendly game of soccer before eating lunch with the children.
“Not a lot of American Sailors have gotten the opportunity to visit Russia,” said Ship’s Serviceman Seaman Carlos Olivagalindo. “It felt great to get to know some of the children and share who we are as Americans with them.”
Olivagalindo also remarked that he will take away a lifetime of memories from the time he spent with the children and the traditional Russian meal they shared with him.
“It really seemed that everyone enjoyed our presence here in Russia,” said Olivagalindo. “We have a lot to share about each other.”
Taylor, an Oliver-Hazard Perry class frigate, is homeported in Mayport, Fla., and is on a scheduled deployment to the 6th Fleet area of responsibility.