D.C. Area Men Honor Those Who Died in Titanic Disaster

The Women's Titanic Memorial in Washington, D.C.Washington, DC — To honor one of the great acts of chivalry in world history, members of the Men’s Titanic Society gather together each year to commemorate the brave men who gave their lives willingly so that women and children might be saved in the tragic sinking of the great ship.

Very few people know of the existence of the Washington D. C. society, nor are they aware that one of several Titanic memorials in the world stands in Southwest Washington where the men have met annually since the late 1970s to pay tribute to the luxury liner’s heroes.

This year marked the 36th gathering of the society that started with local television producer Jimmie Silman, Jr.’s story for the show “Washington Odyssey,” featuring a tour of unknown memorials and monuments across Washington.

Touched by the television segment, Silman told some colleagues about the “hidden” memorial his program had explored and that we should do something to remember those who had died to save others’ lives on the Titanic. Later, on April 15, 1979, Silman and three friends involved in television, Max Schindler, Don Elder and Danny O’Brian, picked daffodils from the NBC grounds, grabbed a bottle of champagne, and headed to the memorial.

They laid flowers at its base, said a few words of tribute to those brave men who died in the disaster, and stood in silence sipping champagne to remember that night. At that moment the Men’s Titanic Society was established and over the next three decades has grown into a small group of dedicated men committed to telling the story of the brave men who perished.

“What keeps our society going is the determination and dedication of the founders to continue the tradition year after year. We hope that long after we are gone, the words of ‘We shall never forget’ will live on for years to come.” 

A black tie affair, the society started its commemoration on the evening of April 14, with a champagne reception followed by dinner from the menu of the last night in Titanic’s first class dining room. They sipped a proper wine from the vineyards of that time while eating the finest filet mignon. A spell-binding narration of the Titanic story makes up the program for the evening.

Following the dinner a bus took them to the memorial. At 12:30 a.m. on April 15, the men lined-up in front of the memorial, laid a wreath of red carnations, and raised their glasses of champagne in individual toasts. Each toast ended with, “To those brave men”, followed by, “Hear! Hear!” from the others. While the sinking of the Titanic stands as a monumental tragedy, the ceremony honors the brave men who willingly sacrificed their lives.

Located just off 4th Street SW on the Washington Channel near Fort McNair, the memorial was designed by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and sculpted from a single piece of red granite by John Horrigan. It was erected in 1931 by the ”Women of America” and unveiled by Helen Herron Taft, widow of President Taft

The beautiful 13-foot memorial of a man draped with a flowing robe, arms outstretched to the world, was originally located along the Potomac River in Rock Creek Park at the foot of New Hampshire Ave, NW. It was removed in 1966 to accommodate the Kennedy Center. The memorial was re-erected without ceremony in 1968 in its current location.