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The Neglected Treasure State

Well, the Navy has announced the names of the next three Virginia-class submarines. They're being named after states, and SSN-780 through SSN-782 will be the USS Missouri, the USS California, and the USS Mississippi.

All three names were worn by World War II batttleships. The California was mauled at Pearl Harbor, while the Mississippi was transferred from the Atlantic after the attack. Both ships served nobly in the Pacific throughout the war. Afterwards, the California was placed in reserve and eventually scrapped; the Mississippi spent about a decade as a new-gun testbed and training ship before she, too, was sent to the scrap heap.

Both names were revived in the 1970's as nuclear powered cruisers. The Mississippi served for just over 20 years, the California almost 30, before both were decommissioned in the late 1990's.

The Missouri, on the other hand, was the very last battleship built by the United States. Her deck hosted the official surrender of the Japanese empire, and she was the only one of her class (the mighty Iowa-class) that was not retired after the war -- President Truman, that proud Missourian, would not let her go off active duty. She served off Korea, and was retired in 1955. Then, in 1984, she and her three sisters were revived by the Reagan administration and served valiantly once again, the Mighty Mo even taking part in the first Gulf War, before being retired again. In 1993 she became a museum ship, and is now at anchor in Pearl Harbor, near the wreck and memorial of the USS Arizona. The two dreadnoughts serve as bookends for the US involvement in World War II -- the Arizona, destroyed in the Pearl Harbor attack, and the Missouri, where the Japanese signed the instruments of surrender.

(Here are two remarkable photographs of the Missouri. The first is seconds before she was hit by a Kamikaze, the second shows her with the Arizona wreck and memorial.)

And while I am proud to see those noble names revived, I am yet again discouraged. Of the 48 states in the Union by the end of World War II, 47 had been honored with the names of battleships. Since then, Alaska and Hawaii have joined, and been honored with submarines. And several have been honored more than once.

That accounts for 49 states. Who's been getting the shaft for almost a century now? Who's been the Butte of the contempt of Congress and the Navy?


It's even become a staple of fiction. Need the name of a US Navy warship, but don't want to use a real one? Call it the "Montana."

I don't know if it's just some sort of benign neglect, or some kind of odd conspiracy, but I'd really like to see the fine people of Montana get their due, the same recognition and honor that the rest of us states have enjoyed. It's considered bad form to rename a ship once it's been given a name (although it has been done on numerous occasions), so I'd like to see Congress reserve the name of a future submarine (say, SSN-783) for the Big Sky state.

It's only fair.

Author's note: yes, I am repeating myself a bit. I don't care. Montana deserves a ship of its own, dammit.

Update: Dang it, I forgot to give Murdoc credit for this story. Sorry, chum...


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Comments (15)

The Navy needs to re-examin... (Below threshold)

The Navy needs to re-examine its system of naimg ships in general. Montana is another example of the Navy's problems in this regard, but I'm more angry about having our capital ships named after politicans instead of famous battles or warships. We no longer have a Lexington or Saratoga in the fleet. The Yorktown is just a cruiser, and (I think) a mothballed one at that, as its the Ticonderoga. Wasp is just an assault ship, but Hornet, Essex and Ranger are gone. Enterprise will soon be gone.

But we have a USS Jimmy Carter? Gerald Ford? John Stennis? Carl Vinson?

>I don't know if it's just ... (Below threshold)

>I don't know if it's just some sort of benign neglect, or some kind of odd conspiracy

cough electoral college cough

But on another note I strongly disagree with naming anything the USS Missouri.

They retire NFL numbers for a reason.

It's not that I have anything against Missouri... heck if I lived in the state I'd be more vocal.

We're talking history here.

Why is it that I can never ... (Below threshold)

Why is it that I can never send a trackback ping to Wizbang?

Paul - what do you have aga... (Below threshold)

Paul - what do you have against naming anything USS Missouri?

I built a model of the USS Missouri when I was a kid.

It's actually a bit worse t... (Below threshold)
As a native Montanan I agre... (Below threshold)

As a native Montanan I agree with this message whole-heartedly.

According to recent news ar... (Below threshold)

According to recent news articles I am sure California would be proud to NOT have a military ship named after. I propose the name "USS Montana"!

Yes, wouldn't Berkeleyites ... (Below threshold)

Yes, wouldn't Berkeleyites say "Not in My Name" anyway?

Montana holds the record fo... (Below threshold)
Mark L:

Montana holds the record for the number of unbuilt battleships named after the state. Not only was there the Montana-class beloved of WWII naval wargamers (it had 12 16-inch guns in 4 triple turrets), but the last ship scheduled for the West Virginia class of battleships was to be named Montana. (Six others were given names that went to the Iowa-class ships in WWII.) The ships planned, four of which were under construction (afair) were scrapped under the Naval Limitations Treaty of the 1920s.

Ironically every other state has at least had a keel laid, but Montana did not even get that far in the 1920s.

For what it's worth, I thin... (Below threshold)
509th Bob:

For what it's worth, I think that the next class of battleships afer the Missouri class were scheduled to be designated as the Montana Class. But the end of World War II and the dominance of the aircraft carrier cancelled the production of the Montana Class.

Also, I agree with Pro Cynic, the current naming of aircraft carriers is garbage.

Not quite... the BB USS Mo... (Below threshold)

Not quite... the BB USS Montana was the lead ship of the cancelled class of Battleships that would have replaced the Iowa class ships.

Now the USS Jimmy Carter... that's a punchline.

I agree about the naming o... (Below threshold)

I agree about the naming of ships. Previously you could tell a DD from a CG from a CV by its name. For heaven's, if you must name a ship after a politician, wait until he or she has been dead for fifty years. No live admirals either; there are plenty of Medal of Honor winners who deserve it more.

I would hate to be on a shi... (Below threshold)

I would hate to be on a ship named the USS Jimmy Carter

I think retired ships are l... (Below threshold)

I think retired ships are like retired numbers, if they still exist: Intrepid, Hornet, Lexington, Yorktown, Constitution, Missouri, Iowa, New Jersey, et al, should NOT have namesakes.

That said, naming stuff after living politicians bothers me. Even RECENTLY dead ones bothers me.

Just stumbled across this. ... (Below threshold)

Just stumbled across this. Are you saying your upset because Montana has never had a battleship named after it or no U.S. warship named after it?

If it is the battleship issue, I whole heartedly agree. If, however, you are saying that there has never been a warship named after Montana you are wrong.

ACR-13 was laid down and commissioned as the USS Montana, she was renamed the Missoula when the navy decided to have all the cruisers named after cities.






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