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Keels laid for ships honoring sea-service legends

Nov. 5, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Ships in the early stages of construction will honor Lt. John Finn, left, and Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis 'Chesty' Puller.
Ships in the early stages of construction will honor Lt. John Finn, left, and Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis 'Chesty' Puller. (Navy/Marine Corps photos)
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Ceremonies over two days at two shipyards marked the beginning of construction for ships that will pay tribute to two legends: The most decorated Marine in history and the first World War II Medal of Honor recipient.

A keel-laying ceremony at General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego on Tuesday marked the first milestone in the life of the mobile landing platform USNS Lewis B. Puller, which is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2015.

MLPs will serve as mobile sea bases, able to store 25,000 square feet worth of vehicles and equipment and 380,000 gallons of JP-5 fuel, according to the Navy. They are designed to partially submerge, allowing easy transfer of materiel from large ships to smaller landing craft. They’ll be manned by about 34 Military Sealift Command civilians.

The Lewis B. Puller is the third and last mobile landing platform under contract — the first, USNS Montford Point, was christened in March.

Marine Lt. Gen. “Chesty” Puller earned five Navy Crosses for his actions in combat across the globe: Korea, Guadalcanal, New Guinea — even Nicaragua, where he led Marines into battle against armed bandits in the 1930s. He served 37 years in the Marines and earned more than 50 decorations.

DDG 113 keel laid

A day earlier, the keel for the future destroyer John Finn was laid at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Miss., at a ceremony attended by ship’s sponsor Laura Stavridis and her husband, retired Adm. James Stavridis.

The ship is the 29th Burke-class destroyer built by Ingalls, according to a Navy release, and the first in the program’s “restart” — an expansion of the class that came following the shrinking of the Zumwalt-class destroyer order from seven to three.

The one-ship contract for the Finn, signed in June 2011, is worth $783.6 million. It’ll be 63rd Burke-class destroyer, one of 13 now under contract, and is set to join the fleet in 2016.

Finn earned the Medal of Honor for his actions Dec. 7, 1941, while a chief petty officer at Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Despite multiple wounds, Finn manned a .50-caliber machine gun “mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp” and fired at incoming Japanese planes, according to his award citation.

After he was ordered to leave his post and seek medical care, Finn “returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes,” the citation says.

Finn was commissioned as an ensign in 1942 and retired as a lieutenant. He died in 2010 at age 100.

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