Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today applauded the Department of the Navy’s decision last week to name an amphibious transport dock ship the USS Portland after Portland, Oregon. When Senator Merkley was alerted to this news by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus last Thursday, he used the opportunity to continue to press for a ship named after Oregon.
In 2011, an active duty Marine from Oregon contacted Senator Merkley and alerted him to the fact that it has been almost one hundred years since a ship was named after the state of Oregon and asked him to champion the cause for a new ship to be named after Oregon. Since then, Senator Merkley has been asking the Department of the Navy to name a ship after the state of Oregon.
The Secretary of the Navy was aware that Oregon is one of a few states without an active duty ship named after it and believes Oregon has gone the longest without such an honor. The Secretary assured Senator Merkley that Oregon is on the short list for a ship to be named after it.
“It is wonderful to have a Navy ship named after Portland,” said Merkley. “I hope that we will soon be able to also celebrate having a ship named after Oregon. I appreciate Secretary Mabus’ recognition that Oregon has gone far too long without a ship named after the state.”
Construction of the USS Portland began in August 2011 in Newport News. VA. According to the Navy, when it is completed and delivered to the Navy in the summer of 2017, it will be the only ship in the current fleet named for a location in Oregon. Landing Platform Dock ships are named for major American cities. Designated LPD 27, the USS Portland will be the third Navy ship to bear the name.
The USS Portland will support amphibious assault, special operations, or expeditionary warfare missions through the first half of the 21st century. It will be used to transport and land Marines, their equipment and supplies using different types of craft, including, the Navy said, “air cushion or conventional landing craft or Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles augmented by helicopters or vertical take-off and landing aircraft.”
Full text of the November 2011 letter to the Secretary of the Navy asking for a ship to be named after Oregon is below:
November 10, 2011
The Honorable Ray Mabus
Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350-1000
Dear Secretary Mabus:
I write to request that the Department of the Navy consider naming one of the authorized Virginia-class submarines after the State of Oregon.
As a coastal state with many active, working ports, Oregon has a long history of maritime service and involvement. Through our nation’s history, thousands of Oregonians have stepped forward to serve America as a sailor or marine. Currently, about 1,000 Oregonians are deployed overseas, serving under the Department of the Navy, and nearly 30,000 members of the Armed Forces have been deployed from Oregon since the start of the Overseas Contingency Operation.
It has almost one hundred years since a since a ship named for the State of Oregon has been in service with the Navy, as a warship. The last ship named for Oregon— the USS Oregon (B-33) — was first commissioned on July 15, 1896, under the command of Captain H.L. Howison as the first United States battleship on the Pacific Coast. The USS Oregon proved her prowess during the Spanish-American War, when she weathered severe wind and sea conditions to sail over 14,000 miles in 66 days before making it to Jupiter Inlet, Florida, ready for battle against Spain. This two month endeavor made clear that the country could not afford to take two months to send warships from one coast to the other each time an emergency arose, thereby leading to the construction of the Panama Canal.
With World War I over, on June 12, 1919, the battleship USS Oregon was decommissioned at Bremerton. Later that year from August 12 to October 4, she recommissioned briefly and was the reviewing ship for President Woodrow Wilson during the arrival of the Pacific Fleet at Seattle. The USS Oregon was declared “incapable of further warlike service” in January 1924 and on March 15, 1956, the ship was dismantled in Japan for scrap metal. Her mast continues to stand today at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon— honoring this “Bulldog of the U.S. Navy” and its heroic fight in many naval battles.
It would be a great honor to the sailors, marines, military servicemembers as well as citizens of Oregon to have one of the newest naval submarines named in their honor. I appreciate your attention to my request. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Liz Cooney on my staff at 202-224-3753.
Jeffrey A. Merkley
United States Senator