Navy Commissions U.S.S. Gravely, Newest Burke-Class Destroyer
By Jane Anderson, Suite 101
The U.S. Navy commissioned its latest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the U.S.S. Gravely, on Nov. 20, 2010, in Wilmington, N.C. The ship honors Vice Admiral Samuel Lee Gravely Jr., the first African American to command a Navy warship.
About 4,000 sailors and guests attended the commissioning ceremony, held at the North Carolina State Ports facility. The audience included friends and family of Gravely himself, including veterans who served with him on the U.S.S. Taussig, which he commanded in combat. Gravely died in 2004.
Gravely’s Widow, Alma, Serves as Sponsor of the U.S.S. Gravely
Gravely’s widow, Alma Gravely, served as the ship’s sponsor, a ceremonial position that’s supposed to bestow good luck and protection on the vessel and its personnel. Mrs. Gravely told the crew at the commissioning ceremony that she believes they are ready to serve.
“I have great confidence that you will keep a clean ship, have respect for each other and good morale at sea and on shore at all times,” Mrs. Gravely said. “In keeping with these requests from me, and my husband, I know that you and our wonderful ship are ready today to go to sea. And if in harm’s way will be ready to stay its course.”
The ceremony concluded with the traditional order from Mrs. Gravely to the crew: “Bring our ship to life!” The sailors responded by manning the Gravely’s rails and readying the ship for sea.
Gravely Was African American Pioneer in U.S. Navy
Gravely, born in 1922, not only was the first African American to command a U.S. Naval warship, he was also the first African American commissioned as an officer, the first to serve on board a fighting ship as an officer, the first African American fleet commander, and the first African American to become a flag officer.
He served in World War II on board the U.S.S. PC-1264, a submarine chaser that was one of two ships with a largely African American crew.
Gravely’s first command was the U.S.S. Theodore E. Chandler, and he commanded the U.S.S. Taussig in combat. His medals included the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal.
U.S.S. Gravely Becomes Latest Burke-Class Destroyer
With its commissioning, the U.S.S. Gravely, DDG-107, joins the naval fleet of Arleigh Burke-class guided missle destroyers. The Burke-class ships, currently the Navy’s only active destroyers, first entered service in 1991 and have had the longest production run of any Navy surface combat ship.
The U.S.S. Gravely is the 57th Burke-class destroyer. The ship is designed to conduct a variety of operations in both peacetime and in war, and will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously, the U.S. Navy said.
Cmdr. Douglas Kunzman becomes the first commanding officer of the ship, which has a crew of 276 officers and enlisted personnel. The 9,200-ton, 509-foot-long Gravely was built by Northrop Grumman at the contractor’s Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.