CAMBRIDGE — A battle flag flown over a warship in World War II and brought home to East New Market by a sailor was recently flown over the Capitol.
East New Market native Harry E. Parker Jr. was the executive officer (second highest ranking) on a U.S. Navy Landing Ship Tank (LST) in the Pacific theater of the war when the now aged and torn ensign flew from the ship’s mast.
Parker, who served on the LST-466 and two other warships, one which he commanded, brought the flag back to his hometown at the war’s end.
His son, Harry T. Parker, also a Navy vet, found the flag when prepping the elder Parker’s old homestead for sale.
“We didn’t even know the flag existed until 2015,” said Parker.
With the flag, Parker found a letter that his father drafted to send to the Navy Department in 1949, listing and seeking information on the three ships he had served on. One of the ship’s names was obscured by damage done over time, but the LST-466 and LST-329’s names were visible.
Parker began thinking about the future of the flag, about whether it could be flown over other historical sites.
Parker said he wrote a letter to the White House, inquiring about flying the flag briefly there, and received a warm letter signed by President Obama, “praising veterans and wishing him well” in his endeavors with the battle flag.
Since 2015, the flag has been flown over more than 20 historical sites, including Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the USS Wisconsin battleship during a sailor’s re-enlistment (due to that sailor’s special request). It has also flown over the only remaining LST in existence, the LST-325.
The LST-466’s ensign was notably flown on the memorial over the submerged wreck of the battleship USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor on the 75th anniversary of the infamous Dec. 7, 1941 attack. The flag was being flown at 7:45 a.m., the moment the attack began on that fateful day in 1941. That same day, the flag was also flown over the USS Missouri, the ship where Japanese officials signed surrender documents on Sept. 2, 1941.
The flag was most recently flown over the United States Capitol building through the efforts of the office of U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st.
“The flag has really taken on a life of its own,” said Parker, who hopes to have the flag flown over a battlefield cemetery site in Europe before having it flown one last time where it began its journey, in the South Pacific.
Construction on the LST-466 began Oct. 12, 1942, in Vancouver, Washington, and the 328-foot vessel was launched Nov. 18 of the same year. The ship was commissioned on March 1, 1943, and sent to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater as part of LST Flotilla Seven.
LST vessels beached their bow during amphibious landings, opening large bow doors to disembark armored vehicles and men. During the war, the LST-466 was awarded seven battle stars for major landings during Gen. Douglas McArthur’s southerly advance westward across the South Pacific. An unknown number certainly happened during the time the elder Parker’s served aboard.
The elder Parker grew up in East New Market, and returned to live there on Academy Street. His first wartime duty was serving as navigation officer on an unknown vessel.
Before the war’s end, he was assigned command of his own ship, the LST-329, and was headed from New Orleans to the Pacific through the Gulf of Mexico, where it was struck by a tugboat moving barges. The vessel returned to New Orleans for repairs, where it was located when Japan surrendered.
Parker returned to East New Market, and would go on to open Parker’s International Harvester dealership in Hurlock with his brother Brooks.
“The flag is to honor all veterans of all wars,” said the younger Parker, “Veterans need to know they are appreciated.”
“This flag has had quite a journey,” said Parker’s grandson David Carrier, as he received the flag from Harris. Carrier pointed out the repairs that had been made to the flag aboard the ship during the war.
When the flag’s journey is complete, Parker plans to offer it to the Smithsonian. “I don’t know of any flag that has this type of history,” he said.