SAN DIEGO - A name is more than what appears on its surface, because a name holds a legacy. A legacy that all that carry that name, past and present walk with pride because of the hardships and accomplishments done by those that came before.
Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) celebrated its 30th birthday Sept. 21 by inviting several of its past Sailors to tour her spaces yet again. They relived memories, told stories, exchanged laughter, and bonded with their fellow shipmates.
The namesake of Bunker Hill originated at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17th, 1775, during the Siege of Boston at the beginning stages of the Revolutionary War. The battle of Bunker Hill was located in Charlestown, Massachusetts, where both the Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill would give advantage for either the colonial troops or British troops in controlling the Boston Harbor. On June 17th, 1775, 1,000 troops led by William Prescott fended off the British assault, of 2,200 troops, three times before finally, on the third assault, the British arrived at the redoubts due to colonists being low on ammo. This caused both sides to go to hand-to-hand combat where the British were able to use larger numbers to force a colonial retreat to Cambridge. This could be seen as a loss, but in the grand scheme of things this showed the tenacity of colonists by causing major losses to the British side. Colonist muskets shot down 1,000 men, killing more than 200 and wounding more than 800. Whereas the losses for the colonists were more than 100 were killed and 300 wounded, causing the British to re-evaluate their strategy against the colonists. This battle showed that the inexperienced colonists would be able to fight against a large British military force through pure determination and deterrence.
That namesake of patriotic dedication followed on to the first ship to hold the name, USS Bunker Hill (CV 17). CV 17 was laid down Sept. 15th, 1941 at the Bethlehem Steel Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. The carrier was then launched Dec. 7, 1942 a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and was finally commissioned May 24th, 1943. CV 17 was an Essex-class aircraft carrier that carried 36 fighters, 36 dive bombers, 18 torpedo planes, and an enhanced anti-aircraft armament. She partook in battles during WWII such as, operations in Rabaul, air cover for the invasion of Tarawa, support for the invasion of Kwajalein, as well as joining American carriers for the massive raid on Truk. She was operating near the Marianas and partook in the Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 19th, 1944, where the carrier was struck by a Japanese bomb, killing two and wounding 80 Sailors. CV 17 stayed operational and contributed to an allied victory where the Japanese lost three carriers and around 600 aircraft. While Near Okinawa on May 11th, 1945, the carrier was hit by a pair of A6M Zero kamikazes, causing explosions and gasoline fires killing 346 Sailors. Damage control parties were able to bring the fires under control and save the ship, but badly damaged the carrier causing it to head back to Bremerton, Washington for repairs. She was decommissioned on Jan. 9th, 1947, holding her head high with two tough years of battles that helped aid in the Allied victory of WWII.
The namesake was used again 35 years later on Jan. 15th, 1982, with an order to build CG 52. The keel was laid on January 11th, 1984, and built by Litton-Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation at Pascagoula, Mississippi. It was later launched March 11th, 1984, and commissioned on Sept. 20th, 1986. Bunker Hill was the first Ticonderoga-class cruiser to be equipped with the Mark 41 Vertical launching system which improved its firepower and flexibility by being able to fire tomahawk missiles. In 1984, Bunker Hill was sent on its first deployment with Battle Group Sierra holding the position of Anti-Air Warfare Coordinator. August 1988, Bunker Hill switched homeport from San Diego to Yokosuka, Japan to join the Midway Carrier Battle Group. While Bunker Hill was deployed for four months, she received the Meritorious Unit Commendation and her first Battle Efficiency Award. November 1996, Bunker Hill Supported Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm as the Multinational Air Warfare Commander, as well as being the first ship to ever to launch a tomahawk cruise missile against Iraqi targets. In an eight-year span of time, Bunker Hill provided assistance in Operation Southern Watch, completed a second port change from Yokosuka, Japan back to San Diego, and then returned to support Operation Southern Watch with the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group. In the 2000’s, Bunker Hill deployed four times to 5th fleet and 7th Fleet areas of responsibilities to support the Global War On Terror in addition to the humanitarian missions in Haiti.
It is a legacy of two ships and Sailors who continuously fought on. A legacy of determination and deterrence as the sword of the fleet and the namesake of a battle against the British, out manned and out gunned. Bunker Hill is not just a name, but those that came before held their heads high with pride and that is passed down to continue to fight.