Dragging out that Navy Naming Conventions Soapbox
It’s like the Navy’s naming conventions are done with the Magic 8-ball or Ouija board over the past few years. Or perhaps are just hyper-political and just flat-out done for optics. Maybe it’s a blend of all of the above.
Trump’s Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas B. Modly, in early 2020 announced the next Ford-class supercarrier will be named after USS West Virginia Pearl Harbor hero PO3 Dorie Miller. Now don’t get me wrong, Miller should have a ship named after him– a destroyer (he previously had a Cold War-era Knox-class frigate named after him) as those vessels are named after naval heroes. Carriers should have names of presidents (a tradition established with the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945) or historic ships. Yes, I feel that Nimitz should have gotten a destroyer named after him rather than a flattop and both Carl Vinson and John Stennis should not have had any ships named in their honor, except for possibly to grace the hulls of auxiliaries.
Speaking of Pearl Harbor, Moldy was also responsible for bringing the names of the USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma back to the Navy List for the first time since 1942, with the planned USS Oklahoma (SSN-802) and the USS Arizona (SSN-803). While both are state names, matching the convention for the Virginia class these subs will belong to, I’m not sure if the name “Arizona” should ever be re-issued. After all, would you ever expect to see another HMS Hood?
77th SECNAV Kenneth J. Braithwaite, another of Trump’s guys, got a big win in my book when he returned to traditional “fish” names for fleet submarines (or hunter killers in modern parlance), something the Navy did from 1931 through 1973. Hence, we will soon have USS Barb (SSN 804), Tang (SSN 805), Wahoo (SSN 806), and Silversides (SSN 807), all after the numerous esteemed fleet boats that previously carried those marine creatures’ names, and the country’s next frigate will take the name of one of the country’s original six frigates, USS Constellation. Excellent job. This is how you do it.
Then the “adults” came back to Washington and SECNAV Carlos Del Toro pointed out that the upcoming first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, USS Columbia (SSBN 826), will not honor the previous 10 Columbias in current and past naval service but will specifically the first-named “District of Columbia,” which some have pointed out that is as another step in the plan to turn DC into the 51st state, but, hey…
Now enter two additional decisions from Del Toro’s office this week.
The aging Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) will be renamed USS Robert Smalls (CG 62), to comply with the new push to strip any perceived salutes to the old Confederacy from the modern military. Now, as with Dorie Miller, Smalls is a legitimate naval hero and, as such, should have a destroyer named after him. You know, a nice shiny new one that is ordered but not yet named. One that will serve for another 30 years or so. Instead, Chancellorsville/Smalls is set to retire in a couple of years, scheduled to enter mothballs in FY2026, and by most accounts, is in rather poor material condition.
Besides the terrible disservice to Smalls, the rest of the Ticos are named after battles, with Chancellorsville named after Robert E. Lee’s “perfect battle” near that Virginia town. Therefore, even if only in service for the next few years and arbitrarily stripped of her name in official disgust, why not name her after a more Union-friendly Civil War clash such as USS The Wilderness, which was importantly the first match-up between Lee and Grant (and took place in Virginia) and has never been characterized as a victory for either side? How about the USS Fort Henry, the first ship on the Navy List to honor the final Patriot victory in the Revolutionary War— and also at the time of the action part of Virginia, like the city of Chancellorsville.
Now the biggest of the grumbles.
Also coming from Del Toro this week is the word that the future Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine SSN-808 will be named USS John H. Dalton (SSN 808), after Clinton’s hatchetman SECNAV. You know, the guy who snuffed out the Sprucans before their time, slaughtered the Navy’s cruiser and frigate force, and canceled the scheduled Service Life Extension Program on USS America (CV-66), forcing the mighty carrier to be decommissioned in 1996 and ultimately scuttled at sea rather than keeping her in the line through 2010 as previously planned.
In short, Dalton was a total ass in my book.
The justification for Del Toro naming a sub after Dalton was that he had served briefly (active duty from 1964-69) in submarines and “as Secretary of the Navy, he took strong and principled stands against sexual assault and harassment and oversaw the integration of female Sailors onto combat ships.”
Gonna put that soap box up for now. I’m sure I’ll need to drag it out again.