U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi will be the principal speaker for a ceremony here June 29 honoring the selfless heroism of a U.S. Navy cook when the Navy's newest Aegis-guided missile destroyer is christened at Northrop Grumman Corporation's Ship Systems sector.
The new ship, designated DDG 91, will be officially christened with the name Pinckney to honor Navy Cook Third Class William Pinckney, (1915-1975), recipient of the Navy Cross for his courageous rescue of a fellow crewmember onboard the USS Enterprise during the Battle of Santa Cruz in 1942.
Pinckney's widow, Mrs. Henrietta Middleton Pinckney, of Beaufort, S.C., has been selected by the Navy as ship's sponsor and will splash the traditional bottle of champagne across the new ship's bow to christen the vessel at the pinnacle of the ceremony. Mrs. Pinckney has selected as her Matron of Honor longtime friend, Mrs.
Judith Adina Hill, of Somerset, N.J.
The U.S. Navy Band from New Orleans, La., will entertain guests before and during the ceremony. Rev. Larry G. Hawkins Sr., pastor of
Union Baptist Church in Pascagoula, will deliver the ceremony's invocation. The Pascagoula High School NJROTC Color Guard will participate in the festivities as well.
In addition to Sen. Cochran, ceremony participants will include Vice Adm. Michael G. Mullen, USN, deputy chief of Naval Operations for
Resources, Requirements and Assessments; Mitchell Waldman, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Ship Programs; Rear Adm. William W.
Cobb Jr., USN, program executive officer for Theater Surface Combatants; James Raymond Bagwell II, son of GM2 James Raymond Bagwell,
the crewmember rescued by DDG 91's namesake; Capt. Philip N. Johnson, USN, supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, Pascagoula; and Dr. Philip A. Dur, corporate vice president, Northrop Grumman Corporation, and president, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems.
In announcing his decision to name DDG 91 Pinckney, former Navy Secretary Richard
Danzig remarked, "He embodied the Navy's value of
selfless service. His willingness to give so much, and sacrifice for an institution which gave him so little, makes these acts for which he
earned the Navy Cross that much more heroic."
When an explosion killed four of the six men at his battle station in an ammunition handling room, Pinckney and the other surviving sailor attempted to exit through a hatch to the hangar deck above. When the other man grasped the scorching hatch, he fell back unconscious. Despite the suffocating smoke, flames and gasoline fumes surrounding him, Pinckney carried the sailor to safety.
"The destroyer DDG 91 will embody the name of William Pinckney very well with tremendous feats that it will accomplish," said Danzig.
"Like Pinckney, this ship will be an individual force, often standing proudly alone for the nation, yet it is also part of an unbeatable
team. And as a warship
, USS Pinckney will be an ambassador for American ideals that William Pinckney, through his single act of
bravery, helped to strengthen as part of the American experience."
Pinckney is the 41st ship in the Arleigh Burke (DDG 51)-class of Aegis-guided missile destroyers, the Navy's most powerful destroyer
fleet. These highly-capable, multimission ships can conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea
control and power projection.
DDG 91 is the 19th Aegis destroyer to be launched and christened of 24 ships under contract to Northrop Grumman Ship Systems. Northrop Grumman's first 16 Aegis destroyers have been delivered to
the Navy and commissioned into fleet service
. Two additional ships now in production in Pascagoula will precede DDG 91 into the fleet. The mission of Pinckney will be to conduct sustained combat operations at sea, providing primary protection for the Navy's aircraft
carriers and battle groups, as well as essential escort to Navy and Marine Corps amphibious forces and auxiliary ships and independent operations as necessary. DDG 91 will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously. The ship contains myriad offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime defense needs well into the 21st century.
The 509.5-ft., 9,300-ton Pinckney has an overall beam of 66.5 ft. and a navigational draft of 31.9 ft. Four gas turbine propulsion
plants will power the ship to speeds above 30 knots. The ship will be operated by a crew of approximately 383 officers and crewmembers.
Construction of Pinckney began on March 13, 2000, and DDG 91's keel was laid on July 16, 2001. Upon completion of outfitting, as well
as dockside and at-sea testing and crew training, DDG 91 will be commissioned USS Pinckney in early 2004, and will be homeported in San Diego, Calif., as a member of Destroyer Squadron 23.
Cmdr. Robert M. Byron, USN, a 1985 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, will be the new ship's commissioning commanding officer.