Naming Ships–The Slippery Slope

This article, which talks about the controversial decision to name LPD-26 for the late Pennsylvania congressman John Murtha, highlights a pet peeve of mine, the breakdown of the Navy’s naming conventions for ships, apparently for political purposes. Naming ships for recent presidents is bad enough. It introduces partisanship where it is not helpful, but the Murtha decision seems a particularly egregious case.

Generally since World War II, the Coast Guard seems to have been doing it right. The last time our ship names reflected politics, seems to have been the 378s named for Secretaries of Treasury. That continued the practice from the pre-war 327s. As politicians, not all of them were people everyone could admire. Apparently someone saw the error in this and the last three 378s were named for Coast Guard heroes.
I was very pleased when the service announced it would name the Fast Response Cutters (FRC) after enlisted hero. 210s have great names, all laudable characteristics to be aspired to, Courageous, Valiant, Resolute, etc. 270’s names come from Famous cutters of the past, good for reminding today’s sailors about those that went before.
We have named vessels for lakes (255s), bays (140 ft WTGB), islands (110 ft WPBs), points (82 ft WPBs), marine life (87 ft WPB),
Always thought the naming of buoy tenders was a bit curious, in that plants aren’t very nautical, but it did continue a tradition. Nothing like being from the Bluebell to make a sailor tough–sort of like a boy named Sue. Naming the 175 WAGLs after light house keepers was a good choice.
Assuming we build the Offshore Patrol Cutters, how might they be named?
  • The Coast Guard could certainly can find another 25+ heroes who could be honored by having a cutter named after them. Can’t see any down side except that it doesn’t immediately distinguish the class members from the FRCs.
  • Naming for famous cutters seems another likely choice.
  • They might also be named after small cities and towns. Perhaps as a thank you to communities with long close Coast Guard association. There is the small possible problem of possible misunderstanding in communications. Names might reprise those of the 75 Coast Guard manned patrol frigates of World war II which were also named after small cities and towns. The Navy is naming the Littoral Combat Ships after small towns too. This could be seen as a conflict or as an expression that the OPCs are also littoral combat ships. Naming would have to be coordinated with the Navy to avoid duplications.

Somewhere this may have already decided but, any thoughts?

30 thoughts on “Naming Ships–The Slippery Slope

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  2. I had some heart burn with some of the light-keepers used as namesakes. History was created for them so they would fit the model. This is another truism of the Coast Guard–interpreting history to fit a public relations purpose.

    Not only were Treasury Secretaries used, but the entire cabinet of Franklin Pierce got a cutter and nearly everyone on the succeeding administration. It was more of good ole boyism. I recently came up the name of a Revenue Boat at Key West named for John Y. Mason — a Navy Secretary and the RCS School of Instruction vessel – J. C. Dobbin was named for another Navy Secretary. Most of the Coast Guard confuses him with Daniel Dobbins, the Great Lakes cutter captain.

    I like the idea of plants, scrubs and flowering plants for AtoN vessels. It is traditional from the Department of Commerce. They are not supposed to be man-o’-wars men. Besides you could tell the type of vessel by its name. Remember the 132’s? All White something. Something comforting about a non-combatant with a bush or flower name. It better fits the humanitarian role.

    Then there were the Indian names and Civil War battles. I think there are already cutters named for small towns (well, islands that became small towns).

    I’ve noted before that I prefer adjectives of action and character for vessel names. Tenacity and Alacrity are two good ones.

  3. Bill, I knew you would have some problems with the specific names used for the Keeper Class but at least the general concept was good.

    You were thinking about the 133 ft WLMs, ie White Sumac, White Holly, White Sage, White Heath, White Lupine, White Pine. Very distinctive names that immediately identified the class. Same for the “Red” class 157 ft WLMs that were also replaced by the keeper class.

    I don’t remember any named for Civil War Battles.

    The Brits named a lot of smaller ships, WWII corvettes and WWI sloops, after flowers or “herbaceous borders,” including “Bluebell.” They also had river gunboats named after insects and even types of flies.

    • I am surprised that the CG, with the Marxist leanings prevent in its members, did not name a cutter after this turd first.

    • Chuck, If they would just name the supply ships after the really unimportant naval storekeepers then the problem would be settled. After all, the Coast Guard is naming cutters after really unimportant female light keepers who were never classified as enlisted people. They were civilian employees and lucky to have jobs in the eras of high context political patronage.

  4. Because I never miss the opportunity to say this I think we should name the lead ship of this class for Frank Newcomb, CO of the Revenue Cutter Hudson during the Spanish American War. We (the CG) have never honored the memory of this man.

  5. “He was a civilian and not entitled to it. No amount of historical revisionism in your ifintile mind will ever change that either.”

    Perhaps you would like to explain how Teddy Roosevelt who was a civilian volunteer was entitled to it. What part of the then Statutes at Large do you not understand? Can you explain the two different classes of people who served in the RCS under navy direction? How did this develop and how had it effected the Coast Guard to the present? Oh yes, I believe you meant to write infantile rather than “ifintile” but I’m not revising your comment.

    Perhaps his lack of entitlement has more to do his being an officer more than a “civilian”. However, this still does not explain why some of the enlisted members of his crew did not receive the medal.

    • Drop Kick Murphy is correct. RCS Officers were no more military than Officers of the US Maritime Service during WW2 (who also received “commissions”, yet did not get military benefits because of their status as civilians). Not until 1915 when the CG was created did they achieve military status.

      Roosevelt had an ARMY commission. Unlike the RCS, the Army has always been a military service by law.

  6. If your reference is to Lt Newcomb he retired a Rear Admiral in the USCG so I would daresay he was military.

  7. “Roosevelt had an ARMY commission. Unlike the RCS, the Army has always been a military service by law.”

    The U. S. Volunteers were commissioned by a State and considered apart from the State Militias. More honorary than actual. Roosevelt was in the U. S. Volunteers that were attached to the regular army. However, the U. S. Volunteers when serving with the regular army, “SEC. 12. That all officers and enlisted men of the Volunteer Army, and of the militia of the States when in the service of the United States, shall be in all respects on the same footing as to pay, allowances, and pensions as that of officers and enlisted men of corresponding grades in the Regular Army.” Other than at that time they were no more than “Kentucky Colonels”. Roosevelt was a colonel in the U. S. Volunteers not the regular army or a State Militia.

    Nevertheless, because he was an officer, his status did not make Roosevelt eligible for the MOH. President William McKinley called for the U. S. Volunteers just as he transferred the cutters to naval service.

    You cannot compare Merchant Marine officers with the RCS. These had different structures and purposes. I see here another example of the lack of historical knowledge in the Coast Guard and one that lines up the navy’s view.

    Perhaps some more study on the part of posters Drop Kick and Ocean Stations will provide enlightenment into the Coast Guard’s past. It is not an easy subject to study but the effort will be worthwhile.

    • I said nothing about Merchant Marine Officers, I stated “Maritime Service”. Come back when you can understand the difference Bill. Until then, you are 100% disqualified to lecture anyone about anything regarding history.

  8. “Maritime Service”

    Just what naval vessels does the Maritime Service serve (and we do not count USNS as naval vessels). These officers are all Coast Guard licensed merchant mariners. Graduates of the various merchant marine academies are not naval officers.

    If they are called to duty in their naval reserve commissions, then yes they will be naval officers. Until then, they are no different than any other officer in the merchant marine. They were and are civilian employees and not entitled to veteran service.

    From the website, “They believed then, and still believe today, they joined a uniformed, armed service! Many of these were cheated out of service and retirement time.” Cheated how? They made their choice.

    On the other hand, the RCS officers under naval direction were considered “naval” — well some where, and that is the ticklish detail and illustrative of the prejudice the navy had for the RCS. If you knew your history you would know this. There were also conflicts in which the RCS served but were not considered naval.

    If the U. S. Maritime Service wants veteran status then let them join the navy — but then there are those pay issues. The navy describes the masters of their USNS ships as civil servants.

  9. “Non-sequiter/non-response.”

    What response do you want? That you are correct? I have seen nothing from you that would repute anything. You have not shown with anything the proof of your statement. This is the way of the anonymous poster.

    U. S. Maritime Service officers carry U. S. Coast Guard approved merchant marine licenses. This does not make them a military corps. Just like all the other tens of thousands of merchant marine officers around the world.

    From the USMS Officer’s Handbook,

    “The Administration of the U. S. Maritime Service is carried on by Merchant Marine officers who desire most to see the personnel of the U. S. Merchant Marine receive the recognition deserved by their splendid and outstanding performance of duty under hazardous and arduous conditions. The U. S. Maritime Service is proud to offer these officers its benefits. It asks only, in return, that its uniform and insignia be worn with pride and that the conduct and bearing of the Officers wearing it be in accordance with the accepted standard for officers.”

    Hmmm. Even Disney knew this

    • Maritime Services Officers, much like RCS Officers had “commissions” and were civilians whether or not they were serving with the Navy or not which is why neither recieved military pensions. The fact you refuse to acknowledge that both were civilians and not military by law this does not make it any less untrue. Go back to pretending you know what you are talking about Bill, nobody with any clue about the CG cares what you think anyway. In the meantime those of us who came before you see you for what you are which is a nobody who is willing lie and to misrepresent anything for any purposes so long as you don’t have to admit you have no clue what you are babbling about.

  10. I have never written the commissioned officers of the RCS were not considered civilians under the Treasury Department. However, this argument has been run over many times. The RCS were considered naval officers and received the pay and positions of naval officers whenever they served with the navy under the law. The U. S. Maritime Marine were always civilians.

    Of course, you may make whatever insinuation you wish because, unlike myself, you hide in that anonymous cloak. So, if I am “blabbling” perhaps you may offer some historical information to counter my remarks. Perhaps some of that “law” you flag about. So far, you have only substantiated the civilian status of the merchant sailors. If you count yourself among those with a “clue” then provide something more than, well, babbling.

    I will agree that I am a nobody. However, I do put my name on my comments and will stand by them because of decades of study. Until you provide some evidence of my so-called misrepresentations, the readers will have to make a decision. Will they pick someone who has demonstrated an understanding of the Coast Guard’s past or will the choose an anonymous someone who only makes accusations and protestations to some knowledge and service that he claims but has failed to present.

    Since you have called me a liar, I will have to say that your continued concealment is an example of cowardice. So, what will it be? Will you come out of that closet and present some information to support your ascertains or will you just hunker and hide? Your choice.

  11. I think that the US Coast Guard should name ships, after Coast Guard heroes such as DC3 Nathan B. Bruckenthal. Famous people who have served honorably in the US Coast Guard such as Fmr Sen Sam Nun, Arnold Palmer. Even name a ship after a city that is named and listed as a Coast Guard city.

  12. I find it ironic that the most expensive carrier in history is named after a president that tried to curtail the Nimitz class because of cost.

    • The last three 378’s were named after CG heros instead of Treasury Secretaries because the CG was no longer in the Treasury Dept. That was when the CG was transfered to the newly created Dept. of Transportation.(1967). As far as buoy tender names it was a Light House Service tradition to name their ships after trees and shrubs. When the Light House Service was transfered to the CG in 1939 the CG just continued the tradition.

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