A Great Navy Tradition On Display at Bath Iron Works Tomorrow, August 1

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The U.S. military, by its very nature, is full of history and traditions.

Recently, I learned about one of those great historical traditions.

The U.S. Navy has the long and honorable tradition of naming war ships after its fallen heroes.

This tradition dates back to well before World War I. One report has it that it goes back to 1819, even before the Civil War.

The USS Farragut, a guided missile destroyer commissioned in June 2006, was named after a very early hero, Admiral David Farragut, the Civil War hero of “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” fame.

To date, there have been more than 1,000 destroyers named after such heroes—sailors or Marines.

Six destroyers have been named after Medal of Honor recipients.

One of the most recent ones is the DDG-106 USS Stockdale, honoring Medal of Honor recipient Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale, the legendary leader of American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War and one of the most highly decorated officers in our military history.

(Adm. Stockdale was candidate for Vice President of the United States in the 1992 presidential election, on Ross Perot’s independent ticket. The Admiral died in 2005)

Two more destroyers will be named after Medal of Honor recipients—the first destroyers named after our combat heroes from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

As has been the case with many who have gone before them, both the Medal of Honor and this additional honor will have come to these heroes after their deaths.

On March 23, 2007, then-Secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter, announced that the Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer would be the USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109), honoring the late Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Cpl. Dunham was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for heroism in Iraq.

While conducting a reconnaissance mission in Karabilah, Iraq, on April 4, 2004, Cpl. Dunham threw himself on top of a live grenade to save the lives of his fellow Marines. He died of his injuries eight days later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Cpl. Jason Dunham was born in Scio, N.Y., Nov. 10, 1981,

The DDG-109 USS Jason Dunham is the 59th destroyer in her class. She was built by Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, and tomorrow, August 1, Cpl. Dunham’s mother, Debra Dunham, will have the honor of christening the ship named after her son by breaking a bottle of champagne over the hull of the USS Jason Dunham.

Debra Dunham will be joined at the ceremony by her husband, Dan, and their other three children.

According to Mrs. Dunham, the initials of her and her husband were welded into the keel of the destroyer earlier this year.

The USS Jason Dunham will go to sea with several mementos donated by his family, including his dress blue uniform and a baseball bat. She is scheduled for commissioning in 2010

A second Medal of Honor recipient, this time a hero from the Afghanistan war, is being similarly honored.

On May 8, 2008 Secretary Winter announced that the Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer would be named after Lt. Michael Murphy, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Afghanistan.

On June 28, 2005, Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy, while leading a four-man team tasked with finding a key Taliban leader in the mountainous terrain near Asadabad, Afghanistan, came under fire from a much larger enemy force with superior tactical position. “Mortally wounded while exposing himself to enemy fire, Murphy knowingly left his position of cover to get a clear signal in order to communicate with his headquarters. While being shot at repeatedly, Murphy calmly provided his unit’s location and requested immediate support for his element. He returned to his cover position to continue the fight until finally succumbing to his wounds. ”

The DDG-112 USS Michael Murphy will be the 62nd Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and is also being built by Bath Iron Works. She is expected to be commissioned in 2011.

I thought you might like to know…

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

8 Comments

  1. Thank you, Dorian. I'm glad to see that kind of recognition for those young men.

  2. Great post! It is great to see our nations heroes honored in this manner. The sacrifices that these services members and their families have made should humble all Americans. There is never enough that can be done to honor our nations veterans and their families.

  3. JS and WI, thank you for your comments.

  4. Good post

  5. It is amazing how so many Department of the Navy people get so many heroic decorations in what is essentially all land combat arenas.

  6. FT:

    While the U.S. Navy has had its share of large battles at sea, with plenty of casualties and heroism, don't forget that the U.S. Marines for many purposes are considered “part” of the U.S. Navy, and that the Marines traditionally play a large, important and by the nature of their missions, very dangerous and intrepid roles, on land.

    Thanks for your comment

  7. Unfortunately, the Navy has developed a new tradition in ship naming: Politicians, some of them increasingly obscure, such as Vinson and Stennis. Meanwhile names that mean something to sailors, that call to them through history – Lexington, Hornet, Midway just to name a few languish in the dustbin.

    Although there has been eight ships christened USS Enterprise since the Republic's birth, the newest aircraft carrier will be named Barry Goldwater and the Navy will be without the storied tradition of a fighting name. An online petition to Congress to name the newest carrier Enterprise can be found here. Read more and sign on there. Please spread the word.

  8. Lexl:

    Have signed the petition.
    Thanks for bringing it to our attention

    Dorian

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