The keel of the Arleigh Burke-class USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) was laid, Nov. 16, in Bath, Maine, signifying the beginning of the destroyer's construction.
Expected to be commissioned in Boston in fall 2018, the ship is named for retired Navy Capt. Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., a naval aviator who received the Medal of Honor for displaying uncommon valor during the Korean War Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Hudner was honored for actions taken after his wingman, Ens. Jesse L. Brown, the first African American naval aviator to fly in combat, was shot down. Under extremely adverse conditions, Hudner purposefully crashed his own aircraft in an attempt to save Brown. Then he and a rescue pilot unsuccessfully attempted to free Brown from the wreckage.
"I couldn't bear the thought that he was down there and there was no way to get him out," said Hudner, a native of Fall River, Mass. He added that he couldn't get over having the ship named after him, but that it provided him "a great sense of responsibility and recognition.
His story was chronicled in the recently-released "Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice."
Hudner will be the 66th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to join the Navy, with Cmdr. Nathan Scherry as its first commanding officer.
"I am extremely humbled and grateful for the opportunity to command a new construction ship, and I'm especially proud of being selected to take command of a ship named after one of our nation's heroes" said Scherry. "As the ship's first commanding officer, my primary responsibility will be to build the crew and get everybody ready for operational tasking."
Scherry said Hudner will be one of the nation's most technologically advanced and capable warships. It will be the first of the "technology insertion" destroyers, which means it will gain elements of a next generation of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers known as Flight III. The improvements will include better on board power-generation systems, increased automation, and next generation weapons, sensors and electronics.
"With the improvements and a well-trained, seasoned crew, Hudner will be able to carry out our nation's tasking with unsurpassed honor, courage and commitment," said Scherry.