The Navy's newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) was commissioned in a ceremony at Charleston, South Carolina, on March 24. The ship is named in honor of Medal of Honor recipient, Marine Corps Pfc. Ralph Johnson.
In the early hours of March 5, 1968 while under attack from a large enemy force in Vietnam, Johnson smothered a grenade that landed in his foxhole with his body. He was killed instantly, but saved the lives of his fellow ‘Texas Pete’ Reconnaissance Team.
The ship was commissioned in Johnson’s hometown with many of his family at the ceremony. Also in attendance were the surviving members of the ‘Texas Pete’ Recon Marines that fought by his side.
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller, gave the principal address. In his remarks, he thanked the family and friends of Ralph Johnson for raising such a remarkable man willing to sacrifice himself for fellow Marines under adversity of attack. He implored the ship’s crew to bring Johnson’s fighting spirit to the enemy as the ship enters the Fleet.
Ralph Johnson’s sister, Mrs. Helen Richards, said that her brother always put others before himself and told the crew that they are now part of the Johnson family.
The ship’s sponsor, Mrs. Georgeann McRaven, spouse of retired Adm. Bill McRaven, ordered the officers and crew to “Man the ship and bring her to life!” Texas Pete Marine, Pfc. Alex Colvin, Johnson’s best friend in Vietnam, presented the ceremonial long glass the Officer of the Deck, as the first watch was set.
The ship’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Jason Patterson, said his crew embodies the heroic and selfless legacy of its namesake. “This ship is built to bring the fight to the enemy. Just like Pfc. Johnson took care of his fellow ‘Texas Pete’ Marines, this crew takes of each other and the ship named after him will.
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson is a multi-mission surface combatant capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-surface warfare. As a multi-mission platform, it is capable of sustained combat operations supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence.