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Bronze bell from World War II moved to Chilton County

A search of naval records led to John Bottone of Staten Island, New York. Bottone had served on the USS Chilton during the Second World War and continues to organize annual reunions of navy personnel who served aboard the ship. Ironically, when Bottone took possession of the bell, the artifact was placed in storage less than ten miles from where the ship was originally commissioned more than six decades earlier. Although Bottone had originally planned to display the bell in a naval museum, it remained in storage at the family business for the next decade.

In 2014, Clanton resident Billy Singleton became interested in the story of the USS Chilton and the Commissioning Bell while doing research on the history of Chilton County. Believing that the most appropriate home for the bell would be Chilton County, Singleton began an internet search to locate the 90-year-old veteran and keeper of the bell, John Bottone.

During the next twelve months, Singleton and Bottone became close friends through numerous telephone conversations. During these calls, Bottone would reminisce about his experiences aboard the USS Chilton during the Second World War and relate important historical information about the ship.

In an early conversation, Singleton inquired about the possibility of relocating the bell to Chilton County. For the next several months, the telephone conversations became more of an interview by Bottone to ensure that the bell would be properly maintained and displayed.

In October 2015, Bottone agreed “This ship had such a history, and Chilton County is where this bell belongs.” Bottone and Singleton agreed that plans should be made to retrieve the bell before winter weather conditions made scheduling for the trip unpredictable. Because the bell remains property of the United States Navy, permission for transfer of custodianship had to be obtained from the Naval History and Heritage Command.