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US Navy names new destroyer, christens amphibious transport ship

Photo: Huntington Ingalls Industries

The US Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer DDG-138 will be named USS J. William Middendorf (DDG 138), the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro announced on Friday.

The future USS J. William Middendorf will honor former Secretary of the Navy and US ambassador, J. William Middendorf II. The name selection follows the tradition of naming destroyers after US naval leaders and heroes.

In 2020, former Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer announced his intention to name a ship after Middendorf, but had not dedicated the name to an assigned hull number. On June 10, Del Toro assigned the name to DDG-138 which was appropriated in the fiscal year 2022 budget.

DDG 128 is part of the Flight III ships being built, starting in FY2016. Flight III is the fourth Flight upgrade in the 30+ year history of the class, building on the legacy of Flight I, II and IIA ships before it.

“I am pleased to honor Secretary Spencer’s previous decision to name a ship after Ambassador J. William Middendorf and I am incredibly proud to announce it here, at the Naval War College, during the commencement of our future leaders,” said Del Toro. “Middendorf’s spirit of innovation and questioning helped champion programs that are still defending our nation today. This namesake ship will continue to inspire that legacy.”

Middendorf was born in 1924, in Baltimore MD. Throughout 1944-1946, while serving in the Navy aboard landing craft support ship, USS LCS(L)(3)-53, he earned his Bachelor of Naval Science. After a discharge from Naval Service he earned an additional B.A. from Harvard University and then an M.B.A. from New York University. In 1969, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands and continued in the position until 1973. He then served as Under Secretary of the Navy with an appointment from President Nixon. On April 8, 1974, Middendorf became the 62nd Secretary of the Navy. During his tenure as Secretary of the Navy, he championed the Trident submarine program, AEGIS Missile system, oversaw the creation of the famed Marine Corps Marathon, and was instrumental in the development of the F/A-18 Hornet. In addition to his career in public service, Middendorf is widely-respected philanthropist and an accomplished author, artist, and composer.

In addition to naming a new destroyer, the service is also christening its newest amphibious transport dock, the future USS Richard M. McCool, Jr. (LPD 29).

The ceremony will take place June 11, at the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Ingalls Division shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The ship is being christened following its launch in January this year.

Future USS Richard M. McCool Jr. (LPD 29) is the 13th ship in its class and the final Flight I ship, with work already underway on the Flight II hulls that will be more affordable ships with reduced capabilities.

The ship is named in honor of Navy veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, retired Capt. Richard Miles McCool, Jr., who was awarded the Medal of Honor for the heroism he displayed June 10 and 11, 1945, in coordinating damage control and rescue operations after a series of Japanese kamikaze aircraft attacks during the Battle of Okinawa. On June 10, 1945, his leadership efforts greatly assisted in evacuating survivors from a sinking destroyer. After his ship was struck by a kamikaze June 11, 1945, then Lt. McCool, Jr., despite suffering from shrapnel wounds and painful burns, led vigorous damage control efforts to save his ship from destruction and personally rescue Sailors trapped in blazing compartments. McCool passed away on March 5, 2008.

San Antonio-class ships can support a variety of amphibious assault, special operations, or expeditionary warfare missions, operating independently or as part of Amphibious Readiness Groups (ARGs), Expeditionary Strike Groups, or joint task forces.