The USS Somerset (LPD 25) is named in honor of the courageous passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93. Their actions prevented terrorist hijackers from reaching their presumed destination of the White House only to have the hijacked jet crash near Shanksville in Somerset County, Pa., Sept. 11, 2001. The ship name Somerset has a proud tradition in the U.S. Navy and LPD 25, with the distinction of honoring the hero’s of Flight 93, is a proud Navy warship.
Current USS Somerset
USS Somerset (LPD 25) Somerset's keel was laid down on December 11, 2009, and was launched on April 14, 2012. Somerset was s christened during a 10 a.m. CST ceremony at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Avondale, LA. Mrs. Mary Jo Myers, the wife of Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, served as sponsor of the ship. Cmdr. Stephen C. Hayes was the prospective commanding officer.
1st USS Somerset
The first USS Somerset, a wooden-hulled, side-wheel ferryboat built at Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1862, was purchased by the Navy at Washington, D. C., on 4 March 1862 and commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 3 April 1862 with Lt. Earl English as the commanding officer.
Somerset was assigned to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron and sailed on 1 May 1862 for waters off the coast of Cuba to seek blockade runners. On 4 May she captured screw steamer Circassian flying British colors between Havana and Matanzas about 10 miles off the Cuban coast. Lt. English placed a prize crew on the steamer and towed her to Key West for adjudication. In the next few months she participated in blockade duty, a reconnaissance expedition to Way Key where she engaged Confederate troops, shelled a Confederate fort near the lighthouse in St. Mark's River, captured the blockade running schooner Curlew and destroyed the salt works at the end of the Fernandia Railroad.
Because of the shoal waters she patrolled, Somerset often sent boat parties into action. Somerset and her boats spent much of the next two and one-half years in operations in St. George's Sound blockading the Apalachicola River. Up the Apalachicola the Confederates were building screw gunboat Chattahoochee and ironclad center wheel steamer Muscogee. In May 1864 a party of Confederate sailors from Chattahoochee attempted to capture Union side wheeler Adela which was also blockading the Apalachicola. Launches from Somerset discovered the Confederate expedition, drove them off, and captured their boats and supplies.
Somerset spent most of the final year of the war guarding lest the Southern warships attempt to break the blockade. From time to time, an expedition to gain intelligence or a foray against Southern salt works would enliven her routine blockade duty. Her last real action came in the closing weeks of the war when, on 30 March 1865, she joined the Sunflower in destroying salt works on St. Joseph's Bayou.
After peace returned, Somerset was sold at public auction on 12 July 1865 to the Union Ferry Co. Documented on 14 February 1866, the rejuvenated Somerset began a career as a New York ferryboat which lasted until she was retired in 1914. For a more detailed history of the first USS Somerset see http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/s14/somerset-i.htm.
2nd USS Somerset
The second USS Somerset was a wooden motorboat built in 1917 at Oriole, Md., by J. S. Muir-was acquired by the Navy on 10 April 1918 under free lease from the Conservation Commission of Maryland. Designated Id. No. 2162, Somerset served on section patrol duty in the Chesapeake Bay area. After the armistice was signed, she was returned to her owner on 26 November 1918.
3rd USS Somerset
The third USS Somerset (AK-212) (ex-MC hull 2166) was laid down on 9 October 1944 by the Leathern D. Smith Shipbuilding Co., Sturgeon Bay, Wise., launched on 21 January 1945, acquired by the Navy from the Maritime Commission on 20 September 1945 and commissioned the same day.
Somerset was acquired for Navy use as a cargo ship but, due to the cessation of hostilities with Japan, she saw no naval service. She was returned to the Maritime Commission on 2 November 1945 and struck from the Navy list on 5 December 1945.
4th USS Somerset
The fourth USS Somerset (PCE-892) was laid down on 28 October 1942 by Willamette Iron & Steel Corp., Portland, Oreg., launched on 1 May 1943 and commissioned on 8 July 1944 with Lt. Comdr. John F. Allen USNR as the commanding officer.
Somerset conducted shakedown training from 25 July to 27 August. Somerset sailed to the Aleutian Islands for duty as a patrol ship and served from 2 September 1944 to 1 June 1945. Somerset was converted into a weather ship on 20 August. Using Guam as a base of operations, Somerset provided open ocean weather services between Guam, Kwajalein, and the Philippine Islands until August 1947. On the 13th, she sailed for the gulf coast, via Pearl Harbor, San Diego, and the Panama Canal.
Somerset arrived in New Orleans on 22 October 1947, was assigned to the 8th Naval District as a Naval Reserve training ship and served in that capacity until 1955. In March 1955, she was placed out of commission, in reserve, with the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
For a more detailed history of the fourth USS Somerset see http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/s14/somerset-iv.htm.