A retired Navy radioman who served aboard a history-making World War II combat vessel will see his dream come true this month.
During 1943-45, Stanley J. Morrison, now 93, of Huntingdon Valley, PA, operated communications aboard the USS Biscayne during some of the heaviest navy battles of World War II in both European and Pacific theaters.
Through his generosity, a granite marker inscribed with the words “Dedicated to the men who served on the Command Ship USS Biscayne AGC-18, May 1941 to June 1946” will be unveiled at the new Miami Military Museum on Sunday, Mar. 11, at 11 a.m.
South Florida veterans have been urged to gather outside the museum to honor those who served aboard the USS Biscayne during landings at Sicily, Salerno and Anzio during the Italian campaign, and on Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the Pacific.
Morrison took it upon himself to arrange for the monument, its inscription and installation after having a family friend, Andrew Kelly, decide to locate it near Biscayne Bay. They selected the new Military Museum as the most suitable spot.
“As a command ship, the Biscayne was in the thick of it with admirals and gold braid directing naval forces during key invasions — but we came through all of them,” recalled Morrison from his Pennsylvania home.
“We were strafed, shelled and bombarded from all sides in some of the heaviest of the fighting but came through every major European battle except Normandy,” he added. “We called it the luckiest little ship in the Navy.”
Morrison eventually will get to see his monument installed in Miami because his nephew, Daniel, will accompany Kelly in a trip to Miami from Pennsylvania to preserve the moment on film.
The USS Biscayne, named for Biscayne Bay, was launched as a seaplane tender on May 23 and commissioned July 3, 1941, prior to conversion as an amphibious force flagship on Oct. 10, 1944, earning six battle stars. After the war, it remained in service with the U. S. Coast Guard for more than 20 years.
“This was a special mission for Mr. Morrison to have the ship memorialized,” said Anthony Atwood, the FIU history professor who has guided the new Military Museum to reality.
In March 2010, the structure was moved from the old Richmond Naval Air Base to its new address at 12450 SW 152 St., just east of the Miami Zoo entry and south of the Gold Coast Railroad Museum.
It is now being restored after initial funding from a $2 million voter-approved allocation was later aided by a $118,000 federal subsidy to recondition and move the building from the Air Base to the Zoo Miami grounds, and build a new foundation for the structure.
In the current fiscal year, a $1 million county appropriation is being used to complete the interior that will house a variety of exhibits of memorabilia and artifacts, largely with Florida connections to U.S. military history.
“We want all veterans in the area to join us for the unveiling,” said Atwood, a 26- year reserve officer who hopes “the museum may open sometime in 2013, honoring all who have served their country from Florida.”