Displayed below are the images of USS Constitution and her people since 1940, as recorded down through the years, arranged in approximate chronological order of the event or person depicted. Undatable, general, images are grouped at the end. Where appropriate, commentary is provided to put the image in context and evaluate its accuracy.



U.S. Navy


Constitution at the Boston Navy Yard in 1947. Since she is fully dressed, it probably is the 4th of July. The ship's upper masts and yards have been removed and her spar deck housed over. (Note the "extra windows" in the transom above the spar deck ports.) On the right is the mastless USS Constellation, the 1853 corvette built, in part, of timbers from the earlier frigate of the same name.


U. S. Navy NH 55902

"Old Ironsides" still in her housed over rig dating from World War II. Note that the topgallant masts are absent and the topmasts sent down; all yards and the bowsprit removed. Her spar deck is completely enclosed, with windows reminiscent of the barracks "house" of the 1890s in the waist. The walkway leading to the gangway amidships actually is attached to the ship's side. (She is moored portside to.) An admiral's flag flies at her truncated mainmast, and possibly a rear admiral's at the mizzen.

Just visible to the left is the port bow of USS Constellation, the 1850s corvette. During this period, the two ships shared a common captain, generally of warrant officer rank.


U.S. Navy

Commander Thomas Coyne, born in Boston on 22 November 1934, skippered the ship from December 1972 until August 1974. During his tenure, the ship began a major restoration, and with her drydocking in 1973, was closed to visitors. A small museum of artifacts formerly displayed in the ship was established on the upper deck of Building 10, adjacent to Drydock 1, by way of compensation. This was the beginning of the USS Constitution Museum.


U.S. Navy

Mr. H. Robert Freneau, Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy, and Commander Tyrone G. Martin, the ship's captain, dedicate the USS Constitution Grove, a 25-30,000-acre reserve of white oak at the Naval Ammunition Deport, Crane, Indiana, on 8 May 1976.


Leading the "Tall Ships" into Boston, 10 July 1976. This was the first time the specially modified 24-pounders were fired underway. Seventy-one minute guns were fired in the course of the parade up harbor, alternating starboard and port.


U. S. Navy

Saluting the arrival in Boston of the Royal Yacht Britannia, bearing Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.


U. S. Navy

Commander Tyrone G. Martin, USN, welcomes Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, aboard Constitution. Appearing between the two is Secretary of the Navy J. William Middendorf, II.

Over Mr. Middendorf’s right shoulder may be seen Prince Philip, and behind the Queen, Rear Admiral Roy D. Snyder, Commandant, FIRST Naval district.



U. S. Navy

Queen Elizabeth II begins her tour of "Old Ironsides," escorted by Secretary of the Navy J. William Middendorf, II, and the commanding officer, Commander Tyrone G. Martin, on 11 July 1976. Proceeding aft on the port side of the spar deck, Her Majesty went below at the aft-most ladder and then to the Captain’s Cabin. There, she signed the guest book and was shown the mirror salvaged from HMS Guerriere in 1812. The party then went forward on the starboard side and returned to the quarterdeck. As the royal couple passed onto the brow, the crew leapt into the shrouds and Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Walter R. Gross roared "Three cheers for the Queen, lads!" Startled expressions, then smiles, followed.


U.S. Navy

Following her visit to Constitution, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip returned to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which had been moored directly astern of "Old Ironsides." Early that evening, following a reception on board, Britannia sailed for Canada.


The Navy Commendation Medal is presented "for meritorious service." Among those of the ship's company known to have been awarded this decoration are Chief Warrant Carpenter Henry E. Killingsworth (1976), Lieutenant Clark Daniel Smith (1994), Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Anthony L. Rossi (1996), and Boatswain's Mate 1st Class William G. Eno (1998).


U.S. Navy

Rear Admiral Ralph R. Hedges, Commandant FIRST Naval District, presents a Meritorious Unit Commendation burgee, symbolic of the ship's first award of the MUC, to Commander Tyrone G. Martin, the ship's captain, on 4 October 1976. Visible immediately behind the flag is Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate Walter R. Gross, the senior enlisted man in the ship.


The Meritorious Service Medal is awarded for "outstanding meritorious service." Among the known recipients among ship's company are Commander Tyrone G. Martin and Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate Walter R. Gross (1978), Commander Robert L. Gillen (1980), Commander Richard B. Amirault (1993), Chief Boatswain's Mate Joseph Wilson (1997), Lieutenant Commander Clair V. Bloom (1998), Commander Christopher A, Melhuish (1999), and Commander William F. Foster (2001). Commander Martin was the first of the ship's captains since Captain Charles Stewart (1813-15) to be decorated.


The Navy Achievement Medal is awarded for "professional achievement in the superior performance of duty." The first known award to a member of ship's company was to Chief Storekeeper Damon B. Heemstra in 1988. Storekeeper 1ts Class Judith Karen Wiggins became the first female crewmember to decorated when she received this medal in 1990. At least thirty-four others also have received it.


Courtesy of Ton W. Freeman, all rights reserved

Portrait of the ship by Tom W. Freeman, done expressly for the commemorative bicentennial poster, entitled "Never Has She Failed Us."


Constitution under sail for the first time in 116 years, 22 July 1997.


The Legion of Merit is awarded for "exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service." Commander Michael Beck received the decoration in 1997 in recognition of his having been the ship's first sailing captain in 116 years.



The Navy became the last of U. S. armed forces in January 1971 to adopt the use of battle streamers in association with the departmental flag when it is displayed on a stand in an office or on parade. They are not flown on the ship. The use of such devices had it origin in antiquity, and each ribbon-like streamer attached to a flag's staff just below the truck denoted that unit's involvement in a particular war, campaign, or battle. Those streamers representing events for which campaign medals have been authorized reflect, in their colors and patterns, those found in the medals' suspension ribbons. For all earlier events, special color combinations and patterns have been devised. All of Constitution's streamers except those representing unit commendations received are of the latter type.

The Quasi-War with France (1798-1801). Constitution's streamer bears one bronze star for "anti-privateering operations."



The Barbary Wars (1801-1805, 1815). The ship's streamer carries two bronze stars for "actions in Tripoli harbor" and "blockade of Tripoli."

The War of 1812. Constitution's streamer bears three bronze stars recalling her victories over HMS Guerriere, Java, and Cyane and Levant, as well as a fourth star for "commerce raiding in the Atlantic." It should be noted that the pattern of the streamer reflects the idea that this war was "the second war of independence, or revolution," as the battle streamer for the original conflict is the same color combination but with only one white stripe.


African Slave Trade Patrol (1820-1861). There are no stars associated with this streamer.


Mexican War (1846-1848). Constitution merits no stars on her streamer, but her convoy duty between Brazil and the United States was officially recognized at the time as a part of the war effort.

Because she was only "in service" in a safe harbor, the ship does not qualify for the Civil War streamer.


Meritorious Unit Commendation. The ship's streamer bears the red numeral "3," denoting her receipt of the commendation in 1976, 1990, and 1997.


Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation. The streamer is identical with that above except for a thin white stripe along its central axis, dividing the red stripe seen above.