One of my regular stops every few weeks when I go back “home” to Pascagoula, besides Ed’s Drive-In, is the Old Coast Guard Station, AKA “The Point” where I chronicle the fleet being built at Ingalls, something I’ve done ever since I pedaled my AMF Gold Fever down there as a snot-nosed kid. Over the years I’ve seen Spruances, Kidds, Ticos, Burkes, Sa’ar Vs, Tarawas, Wasps, San Antonios, and the like slide down the ways. I even saw the rusty but still beautiful old Iowa come towed past the point and then ultimately sail on her own back out to sea, and her sister ship Wisconsin do the same thing three years later.
A recent trip to The Point showed USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), the third and final Zumwalt-class destroyer, along the West Bank of the Pascagoula River to receive her armament fit, the 12th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Fort Lauderdale (LPD-28) finishing her outfitting, and PCU USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG 121), a Flight IIA Burke, on the historic old East Bank finishing her days at the yard before she sails to be commissioned at Charleston in May.
As a youth, I was on the ground at Ingalls with my high school JROTC unit to provide the color guard for several christenings and commissionings (USS Cape St. George, Stout, Mitscher, Russell, et, al) then as a young adult helped build several of these vessels including USS Boxer, Stethem, Ramage, Benfold, and so on.
However, I always felt that there was never really a historic Mississippi connection to these vessels, until recently. Even the USS Farragut— who called Pascagoula a hometown for a while— was somehow built in Maine.
While the “invincible” Jacklyn Harold “Jack” Lucas hailed from North Carolina, the youngest Medal of Honor recipient in WWII– who saved the lives of three men on Iwo Jima just six days after his 17th birthday (and enlisted at 14!)– spent most of his adult life, including his twilight years, in South Mississippi.
I even met Mr. Lucas “Call me Jack” at an event in Hattiesburg a few years before his death. He was a total gentleman and a hell of a storyteller.
So it filled my heart with joy to find out that the future USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125), the first Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, has been quietly under construction at Ingalls since 2019.
Lucas was christened this weekend.