French, U.S. submariners seek to reconfirm ties with Norfolk visit, barbeque
When the French Navy first ventured into Hampton Roads, it turned the tide of the American Revolution. A visit to the submarine Améthyste at Naval Station Norfolk is a little more relaxed.
The plan is for the USS John Warner to host a barbecue so that its crew and the French sailors can get to know each other.
There are tours of the French submarine for the Americans and tours of the Virginia-class John Warner for the French - and not just what most visitors get, but professional and largely secret advice.
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France and the United States are two of only six nations with nuclear submarines, and while NATO exercises can change the practice of cooperation, port visits also play a role.
But plans to add a seventh member - Australia - angered France when the United States announced them the day before Améthyste arrived. The deal will undo a deal France made to develop a new submarine for the Australians.
French submarines visit Norfolk roughly every three years, so the Améthyste's stopover here is a rare opportunity for both sides to get to know each other better.
"It strengthens ties between allies and 1781 shows the importance of allies," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Vandenengel, executive officer of John Warner.
On his way to Norfolk, Améthyste passed the water in which the Battle of the Cape was fought on September 5, 1781, he said.
On that day it took the French Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, the Marquis de Grasse Tilly and a French fleet of 37 ships, including 28 large ships of the line, about 2 1/2 hours to move the combined British fleet of 19 warships off the Chesapeake Bay.
When the two fleets opened fire at 4:15 p.m., it was about control of the bay and particularly the question of whether George Washington could bring the reinforcements and supplies he needed for the impending battle with the British forces at Yorktown .
Control of the bay also meant that when the British fleets returned a few days, this time with reinforcements for Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis and his besieged army, they were unable to enter the bay and get to Yorktown.
Cornwallis never got the extra troops it needed when fighting broke out in late September. After more than two weeks of conflict, the British surrendered on October 17, 1781 and ended the war with a victory for American independence.
Dave Ress, 757-247-4535, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Republican politician and Secretary of the Navy from the United States
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