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Queen Beatrix witnesses repeat of 1776 first salute to U.S. flag

November 16 Statia-America Day

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

SINT EUSTATIUS - Queen Beatrix, on a ten-day tour of the Dutch Antilles, witnessed a friendly U.S.-Dutch exchange of navy salutes as a modern-day re-enactment of the historic November 16, 1776 flag incident when the Dutch government through a local commander was the first to de facto recognize the independence of the United States.

This time, the salute to Sint Eustatius and to the Queen came from the guns of the guided-missile frigate USS Stephen W. Groves, answering a salute from the island’s ceremonial cannon. The exchange celebrated the centuries-long ties between the Netherlands and the United States of America. November 16 was declared Dutch-American Heritage Day in the 1980s by U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

The Dutch Antilles island Sint Eustatius, which in the near future will join neighbours Saba and Bonaire as special municipalities in the Netherlands, has its own holiday on November 16th: Statia-America Day. Local residents affectionately call their island Statia.

The 1776 event – widely publicized through the book ‘The First Salute’ by well-known author Barbara Tuchman - occurred when the island’s Commander, Johannes de Graaf, answered the salute of U.S. naval vessel Andrew Doria sailing near the island, which as a free haven played an important role in supplying the American ‘rebels.’

During her visit to the small Caribbean island, Queen Beatrix also attended a service in the Bethel Methodist Church and a cultural event staged by various groups of islanders, who number about 2,300. The monarch also unveiled a replica of the ‘Andrew Dorea’. This model will be on display at fundraising events throughout the United States and the Netherlands over the next year.

In a gesture to further strengthen the ties between Sint Eustatius and the U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Jon Kreitz obtained permission from Queen Beatrix to take the model to the United States where it will be used in the first fundraising events in the Washington, D.C., area, later this year.

The visit to Statia capped the Queen’s tour of the Dutch Antilles (the other islands are Bonaire, Saba, Sint Maarten, and Curaçao. Aruba already enjoys a special status). For her trip back to the larger island of Sint Maarten, the Queen used a Dutch Army helicopter when a scheduling problem prevented the regular airplane from arriving in time. The helicopter experienced problems en route to Sint Maarten but landed without incident.