George Ipsara Sirian was orphaned in July 1824 before the age of six during the Greek War of Independence. His mother placed him in a small boat to escape the massacre on the Aegean island of
Psara. From the boat, he witnessed his mother's death. The child was rescued from the water but by whom history does not record, and nothing more is known of the boy's life until May 1827.
The first official U.S. Navy documentation of George Sirian is when he joined the crew of the USS Constitution in May 1827. First with the rank of Boy, and then Ordinary Seaman, he served aboard the frigate until its arrival in the United States at Boston on July 4, 1828. Shortly thereafter, his portrait was painted by the prominent New York artist C. C.
Lt. Robert Randolph, an officer aboard Constitution, took the boy under his wing and the Randolph family is said to have sponsored George's education. George later was taken by Randolph to Gunner
George Marshall, USN, a native of the Greek island of Rhodes who, in 1822, wrote the first practical military gunnery manual for the U.S. Navy. Marshall instructed George in naval gunnery and later became his father-in-law when George married Eleanor Marshall in 1840. Of the couple's seven children, four survived to adulthood, three of them into the 20th century.
On April 20, 1837, while still in his teens, George was appointed Acting Gunner at Gosport (now Portsmouth), Virginia. During 37 successive tours in the Navy he served on 20 different ships and seven shore stations. He is the only man ever to serve on "Old Ironsides" on three separate tours of duty, including the ship's famed around-the-world cruise of 1844-1846. He also served a number of tours of duty at the Gosport Navy Yard, now known as the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
The Civil War was a period of separation and fear for the Sirian family. George was a gunnery instructor at the Naval Academy during a part of that war, when the institution was temporarily relocated to Newport, Rhode Island. His family remained in Portsmouth during alternating periods of the Confederacy and Federal occupation.
George's assignment to the "Asiatic Station" from 1872-1874 including voyages to Japan and Hong Kong. During his years in the Navy he served in every squadron of the U.S. Navy.
George retired in 1880 after one of the longest active duty service careers in Naval history. He died in Portsmouth on December 21, 1891. He had participated in the growth of the U.S. Navy from a small force in the age of sail to the beginnings of its birth as a modern ocean-going battle fleet. His achievements were recognized by his
posthumous induction into the Surface Navy Hall of Fame in 2007, and in the creation of the George Sirian Meritorious Service
Award (see details on the Links page), given annually to an outstanding Chief Petty Officer selected from the worldwide fleet, in ceremonies aboard