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Adapted From: "Naval Memorial Ceremony: Casting Flowers on the Sea, Originated by Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes, Los Angeles, California." [This non-circulating oversized two-volume scrapbook includes brochures and photos from early ceremonies, and is located in the Navy Department Library's rare book room.]

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Naval Memorial Service

Casting Flowers on the Sea in Honor of the Naval Dead

In 1900, a little woman, Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes, conceived the idea of honoring the Naval Dead by casting flowers on the broad waves of the Pacific. She speaks of it in this way, Memorial Day is dedicated to noble sentiment and to a noble cause. Annually, the government sets aside by proclamation this day that we may honor the patriots who have lost their lives that this country might remain indivisible and that people might remain free and united. But it has been forty years that the men of the land forces have received the unstinted honors of a grateful nation and the men of the sea not accorded a recognizable place in the ceremonies of Memorial Day.

Now and then a lone shaft has been erected and dedicated to the unknown dead, at which time sailors and marines are frequently mentioned. But our sailors and marines are all well known and their names on record at the Navy Department at Washington and on board ship. Many of their graves are beneath the waves, therefore, why not cast flowers upon the might ocean in memory of our sailor-soldier dead? And so it came about.

This was in 1900, when the omission and continued neglect stretched on, so this caused her to send a request to every public school teacher of California whose school was in a coast town, or near a large river, to unite and create for California a memorial service for the naval dead by casting flowers on the waves. Of the one hundred requests, ninety-five replies were received. Many carried out the suggestion.

The following year the matter was called to the attention of the Navy Department and was approved by Admirals Dewey, Sampson and Schley and by all patriotic organizations. Thousands upon thousands gathered at the sea and along river banks to do honor to the men whose souls had gone aloft forever. For fourteen years the present Secretary of the Navy, Hon. Curtis D. Wilber, presided at the naval services where he and Mr. and Mrs. Forbes would arrange to hold this lovely ceremony. Frequently, the Navy Department sent US warships to the Pacific coast to take part in the services. Now the Naval Memorial is an established ceremony and all vessels of the Navy hold services and cast flowers, especially floral anchors, overboard in memory of their companions and friends.

Mrs. Forbes was made an honorary member of the National Naval Association, Hopkin's Squadron, Naval Veterans, the Women's National Naval Auxiliary and many other organizations in recognition of her patriotic work. She has many tokens, but perhaps the most highly praised is a book of autograph letters that include the names of Admiral Dewey and all Rear-Admirals of the Navy from 1900 to about 1910. Also, many captains and lieutenants who have appreciated the effort made to correct on commission [an omission?] and create a distinctive floral ceremony for the splendid men of the Navy.

Published: Thu Apr 16 14:40:44 EDT 2020