The 282 Ship's Bell today

The ship's bell from USS TUNNY (SS 282) now resides in the courtyard of the Francis Hammond Middle School in Alexandria, VA.

Francis Hammond Middle School

The bell rests high on a pedestal and is backed by another ship's wheel.

And what better place than surrounded by a school named for a U.S. Navy Corpsman. Francis Colton Hammond was well remembered by his hometown of Alexandria. His name lives on not only as a U.S. Naval vessel, but also as a school, a street, a Marine Barracks and a medical clinic at Camp Pendleton, California.

Hammond was killed on a Korean battlefield in 1953 while giving medical treatment to wounded Marines, according to Kris Clark, the school's present principal. "Although he was wounded himself he refused to leave his men. He then suffered a second fatal wound," she explained.

The school was named in his honor at its dedication in 1956. It was then a high school. TUNNY's bell was acquired from the Department of the Navy by Mary Alice Fizer, a teacher at Hammond at that time, who served as the faculty sponsor for the Class of 1963. It was rung for the first time at their graduation ceremony. "When this was a high school it was rung at special occasions and for special honors awarded to students, and at graduations," Clark explained. "There is an inscription behind the bell which reads "The Bell Never Rings of Itself."

THE BELL IS actually on loan from the Curator for the Department of The Navy in Washington, D.C. "We have to take a picture of the bell every year and send it to the Navy to prove we still have it and it is being displayed properly," she said. The Receipt For Relics Loaned, signed by Fizer, specifically states, "I hereby agree to display with dignity and to maintain it in good physical condition. When it has served its purpose, I will notify the Curator and request disposition instructions from him."

"In 1964, it was stolen by some students from George Washington and dumped in the river. After it was recovered, and identified through Navy records, we placed it in the enclosed courtyard to keep it safe," Clark said.

The bell rests peacefully in the courtyard within the shade of a caring tree.

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Billy Weed, Jr.

The Connection Newspapers, 'The Bell Never Rings of Itself', By Chuck Hagee, December 3, 2003