09.29.06

Schumer, Clinton, Higgins Urge Feds To Extend Deadline To Bring Vintage WWII Ship To Dunkirk

An Extension Until October 2007 Will Give Local Community Coalition The Time It Needs To Raise Enough Funds To Repair The Ship For Relocation To WNYU.S.S. Sphinx Would Serve As A Museum For The Community And Monument To The Large Population Of Veterans In New York State

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congressman Brian Higgins today urged the Maritime Administration (MARAD) to grant an extension to the Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse and Veterans Museum to raise the money necessary to transport the U.S.S Sphinx, a storied landing craft, from Virginia, to its new home in Dunkirk, New York. A community coalition has submitted a fundraising proposal, but needs another year to ensure adequate funding. The ship will become a floating museum for the community and training facility for various U.S. Army, Navy and Coast Guard units. The current deadline is set to expire in this October.

Dunkirk is the perfect home for the U.S.S. Sphinx to honor our veterans, Senator Schumer said. A large population of Landing Ship Tank veterans resides in New York State, and the proposed floating museum would showcase this communitys great respect for the sacrifice of past patriots. The officers and volunteers of the Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse and Veterans Park Museum have made heroic efforts to raise the funds to bring the ship to Dunkirk and, without a doubt, they deserve an extension of this October deadline to finish the job. I have full confidence these veterans will turn a great proposal into a reality.

The U.S.S. Sphinx is not only an important piece of local history and an important potential tourist attraction for Dunkirk, it promises to be a living memorial to those heroes who have fought to defend our country and our freedom. The Sphinx is also represents an important educational opportunity for young people in Western New York to learn about our proud military history and for the next generation of cadets to hone their skills. The community has fought hard to bring this amazing piece of history to Dunkirk and I hope that the Maritime Administration will grant this extension so they can complete their efforts, Senator Clinton said.

"All efforts should be made to get the U.S.S. Sphinx to its new home in Dunkirk. It will be a tremendous addition to the historic lighthouse, and will make this area an even greater destination to visit, drawing veterans and tourists from all over the country," said Rep. Higgins.

In October of 2005, MARAD put a oneyear donation hold on the disposal of the U.S.S. Sphinx, delaying the scheduled disposal date until October 2006, on the grounds that the Journey to Dunkirk group had presented MARAD with a sound fundraising plan. Another yearlong extension would give this groups the time they need to complete their efforts. The U.S.S. Sphinx is one of the last remaining Landing Ship Tanks (LST) vessels, which served the U.S. Navy in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere. President Bush signed the ship over to the Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse and Veterans Park Museum in December of 2002. The officers intend to preserve the U.S.S. Sphinx as a floating museum. In addition, the U.S.S. Sphinx will be used as a training facility for the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Units, U.S. Army Junior ROTC units, and units from the U.S. Coast Guard. The ship will also house the Lancaster Ham Radio Station. In recent months, the museums Board of Directors has held public events featuring its plans for the ship which generated significant media attention and community support for fundraising efforts.

In a personal letter to Sean T Connaughton, the Maritime Administrator for the United States Department of Transportation, Schumer, Clinton and Higgins wrote, Please consider granting another oneyear extension on the disposal of the U.S.S. Sphinx. We are confident that the efforts of the Journey to Dunkirk veterans will succeed if they are given enough time to follow through on their proposal. We appreciate your consideration of their interest and efforts, and look forward to continue working with you on this and other issues that impact the citizens of New York.



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