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Navy prepares to "storm" Niantic beach

By Jennifer McDermott

Publication: theday.com

Published July 02. 2012 3:00PM   Updated July 02. 2012 5:03PM

East Lyme — Unlike the submarines that move quietly in and out of the area, the Navy's amphibious landing craft will arrive Friday for OpSail in noisy, dramatic fashion.

Capt. Marc W. Denno said the landing craft puts on "quite a show" with its gas turbines, which are essentially jet engines. The USS Carter Hall is sending the landing craft to "storm" the Hole-in-the-Wall Beach as part of the opening ceremonies for OpSail 2012CT.

"It's very loud. It will look like a big, white cloud of water spray approaching the beach. Then the sand will start to kick up," said Denno, commander of the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.

While the submarine force is the "silent service," Denno said it's "their job is to make a statement."

Organizers of the local OpSail held a press conference at the beach Monday to highlight Friday's events in town. The military and tall ships participating in the Parade of Sail to New London Saturday will be anchored off Niantic Friday.

The main event is the storming of the beach at 4 p.m., when a Humvee will drive off the landing craft, onto the beach.

McCook Point Park, overlooking Niantic Bay, is the best place to watch the demonstration since the beach will be closed until the demo concludes. Following the demonstration, spectators can walk down to check out the equipment and talk with the sailors and Marines, said First Selectman Paul Formica. The town also is hosting an OpSail food stroll, starting at 6:30 p.m. downtown, and a dinner for the visiting service members.

The Carter Hall, a cargo variant of the Navy's dock landing ships, will be anchored about a mile offshore. At 609 feet long, it will be the largest vessel at OpSail.

Giving local residents a chance to see another side of the Navy, Denno said, is "a great way to kick off OpSail."

OpSail, from July 6 to 9, commemorates the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the composition of the "Star-Spangled Banner." The Navy, Coast Guard and tall ships will be open for tours Saturday and Sunday in New London. For more information, visit www.OpSail2012CT.org.

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