I saw the following in the Times last night.
January 3, 2007
Filed at 7:31 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Navy will name its next aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford in honor of the president who was buried Wednesday in his home town of Grand Rapids, Mich., officials said.
The Navy had not planned to make the announcement yet, but Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary who served in the Ford administration, divulged the news during his eulogy at the funeral.
”How fitting it would be that the name Gerald R. Ford will patrol the high seas for decades to come in defense of the nation he loved so much,” he said.
Later at the Pentagon the Navy confirmed that it would make an official announcement ”in a few weeks.” It said it was still working on details of the ceremony with members of the Ford family.
Ford served in the Navy during World War II.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press
Given the recent efforts to name CVN-76 after Reagan, SSN-23 after Carter, and CVN-77 after Bush (41), a person could be excused for thinking this makes sense, but permit me to back up a moment. Rather than duplicate the texts that already exist on this topic, permit me to point to a few of them:
- The U.S. Navy, itself: http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq63-1.htm
- Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Navy_ships
- GlobalSecurity.org: Summary and Anglophilic Rant
There is real value to consistency. One can read an account of any U.S. Navy action from World War II, and know immediately what types of ship are engaged by their names. When Truman suggested renaming a carrier after Roosevelt’s death in 1945, I’m sure no one had any idea how that precedent, and the changing classes of ships in service, would lead down a slippery slope to the point where we are now. The naming of the USS Reagan is a perfect example of politics over sanity. While our fortieth president was a true friend to the Navy, he was himself not a sailor, nor even a distinguished member of the armed services. To permit a ship with the hull number of 76, a storied number in American patriotism, to go to sea without a name like Constitution, Liberty, Independence, America, or its kin is wrong.
I feel bad for the many veterans of CV-66, the USS America, who worked so hard to see that ship’s name applied to CVN-78. This coming carrier is the lead ship in its class, and as such its sisters will all bear her name indirectly. Having watched America go to her grave in the service of her own Navy, the desire to see her name live on in the future carriers she has protected with her sinking is a fitting sentiment. Instead, we will have the Ford-class carriers patrolling the seas for decades ahead. The bright side of this is that I think the Navy still has the sense to block any efforts to send a carrier to see as the USS William J. Clinton. That would be a calamity.