U.S. Navy commissioned the Aegis guided missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) in a ceremony on Saturday. The ship is the
21st Arleigh Burke class destroyer built by Northrop Grumman
James E. Williams honors Petty Officer 1st Class James Eliott
Williams, of Darlington, S.C., one of the most highly decorated
enlisted sailors in the history of the Navy. Williams received the
Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery and leadership in 1966 while
serving as patrol commander of River Patrol Boat 105 on the Mekong
River during the Vietnam War.
On Oct. 31, 1966, Williams was captain of 105 when that boat
and another, assisted by helicopter gunships, engaged scores of enemy
boats on the Mekong. After three hours of heavy fighting, Williams'
patrol had accounted for the destruction or loss of 65 enemy boats and
more than 1,000 enemy troops.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.) delivered the principal
commissioning address. "If you ask me, 'is America strong,' yes, we're
strong," said Graham. "We're strong because we build the best ships,
but the strength of this country is because we have the best people.
Ladies and gentlemen, this ship is going to keep us free."
The ship's sponsor, Elaine Weaver Williams, James Williams'
widow, made a call to "man this ship and bring her to life." In
response, the crew of 365 officers and enlisted personnel took to the
decks of James E. Williams and manned the rails before more than 1,500
Navy Rear Adm. Charles S. Hamilton II, program executive
officer, ships, Naval Sea Systems Command, saluted the strong
Navy-industry teamwork. "The overwhelming success of James E.
Williams' first-ever combined supertrial, requiring 30 percent less
time and 50 percent less manpower than traditional destroyer trials, is
a testament to the quality of this team," said Hamilton. "I could not
be prouder of this team or this magnificent ship."
Aegis destroyers are equipped to conduct a variety of missions,
from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power
projection, in support of national military strategy. These
multi-mission ships provide primary protection for the Navy's aircraft
carriers and battle groups, as well as essential escort to Navy and
U.S. Marine Corps amphibious forces, combat logistics ships and
Philip A. Dur, president, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, also
delivered remarks at the ceremony. "This ship is a fitting guarantor
of our needs for constant access to the sea lanes and secure maritime
domains which envelope our most vital interests," said Dur. "We're
building the 21st century fleet today…we are building on the traditions
of what we are fond of calling 'America's shipyard,' and we are
leveraging the trust we have earned building new ships and repairing
combat-damaged ships, like USS Cole, USS Stark and USS Princeton."
Navy Cmdr. Philip Warren Vance, a 1986 graduate of the U.S.
Naval Academy, now commands USS James E. Williams, as part of the U.S.
Atlantic Fleet, Destroyer Squadron 22.
The 509.5-foot, 9,300-ton James E. Williams has an overall beam
of 66.5 feet, and a navigational draft of 33 feet. Four gas turbine
propulsion plants will power the ship to speeds above 30 knots. DDG 95
is the 45th ship in the Arleigh Burke class of Aegis guided missile
destroyers and the 21st built by Northrop Grumman.