Like all great universities, East Carolina has a rich history. This history, the cornerstone of the university, forms our traditions. While many of these traditions are a regular part of life as a Pirate, over the years some of these traditions have been overlooked and lost their significance to today’s students.
For years, hundreds of students have passed by one such symbol, the Victory Bell. The bell was originally a symbol of victory and pride for East Carolina and was rung after every Pirate victory. Until recently, the bell was located on the west side of Christenbury Memorial Gym, resting atop a brick column with a plaque that honored the students who served in the military during World War II and the Korean Conflict. The site was selected for its proximity to the original athletic facilities. Over the years, the surrounding area has changed and the athletic fields moved to their present location. But the Victory Bell’s location remained unchanged.
William Greene, ECU alum and three-star admiral rings the bell with the end of his cane during a ceremony.
According to John Gill, assistant director ECU Facilities Services Grounds Department, a memorial wall for ECU’s fallen service men and women has been in the works for a few years. “A neat thing came out of it to where we were able to incorporate the Victory Bell and have it be an integral part of the design,” he said.
“It’s in the same location that [the Victory Bell] was placed, but it’s more interactive, where hopefully more students, staff, and faculty will get to share in the heritage of the bell,” added Gill.
According to Steve Duncan, ECU director of military programs, “It will subsequently be rededicated as part of a memorial to all veteran service from East Carolina faculty, staff, and students.”
Prior to coming to East Carolina, the Victory Bell served as a ship’s bell aboard US naval vessels. It was last used on the USS Broome, a naval destroyer christened May 14, 1919, and named for USMC Lt. Col. John Lloyd Broome. In 1922, the ship was decommissioned, but was later re-commissioned in 1930. During World War II, the ship escorted convoys across the Atlantic. In November of 1946, it was sold for scrap.
In the years after WWII, a Veterans Club was formed at ECU and had an active role in campus life.
“During that time, they made a request to the curator of the Navy to have a bell that was on a Navy ship during World War II,” said Duncan.
In a letter dated July 25, 1951, Lt. Commander Edward M. Davis III, curator of the Navy replied, “I am glad to advise you that inasmuch as thirty days has elapsed since the submission of my request to Congress to donate the bell of the USS Broome to the East Carolina Teachers College and no prohibitive resolution has been passed, I am now permitted to make the donation.”
Federal law, however, would not allow for the bell to be given to the club; it had to be given to the university. “They spoke on behalf of the university,” said Duncan. The Veterans Club paid for the transport of the bell from Washington, D.C. to Greenville. The official presentation of the bell was held at a ceremony during Homecoming on October 10, 1953.
As the bell is rededicated, Duncan said he’d like to see it used as a place of reflection and celebration of other victories in life. “We’ll celebrate life as we have reverence for those that give their lives. I would be one to say, let’s start a new era of the Victory Bell!”
Architectural rendering of the new site for the Victory Bell.
Editor's note: This ECU Feature was produced by Marketing and Publications interns Anna Logemann and Joey Dwyer.