The destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) docked at the Flynn Cruiseport on the Reserved Channel on Monday, November 26. Week-long events and festivities ensued – guided tours, press events, and celebrations – leading up to her formal Commissioning on Saturday morning, December 1. This article deals with a South Boston student visit to the Hudner and her Commissioning.
by Rick Winterson
The Commissioning of any U.S. Navy ship is a major event. American fighting ships are the best way of broadcasting America’s military strength rapidly, massively, and completely. South Boston was honored last week by serving as the host port for the U.S. Navy’s newest ship – Commissioned as the “USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116)” after a week-long series of observances. As several sources have pointed out, November 26 through Saturday, December 1, was an unusual and important week in Boston Harbor history. For seven days, the newest and the oldest warships in the nation (and indeed, in the entire world) were docked here – the newly Commissioned USS Hudner in our own Reserved Channel, and the USS Constitution in the Charlestown Navy Yard.
The USS Hudner is the namesake of Captain Thomas Hudner USN, whose bravery in aerial combat over the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean Conflict led to Hudner’s being awarded the Medal of Honor “for exceptionally valiant action and selfless devotion to a shipmate” – Hudner’s wingman, Ensign Jesse Brown. Capt. Hudner was a local resident. Originally from Fall River, he and his family retired to Concord after he served some 30 years in the U.S. Navy. Hudner then worked for another 40 years serving veterans’ causes. He died in December of last year
One of last week’s activities while the USS Hudner was docked at the Flynn Cruiseport was a joint school tour. Last Wednesday morning, approximately 50 students from St. Peter School, South Boston Catholic Academy, and the Oliver Perry School were joined by elected officials from South Boston – City
Councilors Ed Flynn and Michael Flaherty, and state Rep.-elect David Biele. The occasion was a tour arranged by Massport’s Tommy Butler and Massport’s Acting CEO John Pranckevicius. The students presented a commemorative plaque to the Hudner’s Duty Officer, Lt. Nahum Cook, as they gathered on her top deck , over a forecastle (or “fo’keh’sul”) studded with 32 guided missile launch tubes.
Lt. Cook explained everything from the ship’s brass alarm bell to the crowded bridge. The students asked several very perceptive and intelligent questions. It was a very successful tour, which ended with a festive pizza lunch, courtesy of Massport. The week’s events continued with numerous celebrations, accompanied by almost continuous guided tours of the USS Hudner.
The climax of the USS Hudner’s visit occurred on Saturday, December 1, when her formal Commissioning took place. It was certainly an impressive event. Commander Nathan Scherry, his officers and enlisted crew, and the Commissioning Committee are all to be complimented and thanked for putting together an extremely impressive ceremony. Equally noteworthy was the turnout for the Commissioning – several thousand spectators showed up and sat enthralled as the 75-minute ceremony unfolded, beginning at 10 a.m. sharp.
You have certainly heard and read a lot already about the USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), its Commissioning, and the heroism of its namesake, Capt. Thomas Hudner USN. The Commissioning ceremony was made even more poignant by the recent death of Sgt. 1C Eric Emond in Afghanistan and the passing of our much-mourned 41st President, George H. W. Bush. South Boston Online hasn’t got the space to reproduce every sight and sound that occurred as the USS Hudner’s Commission became a fact, but a couple of scenes were particularly impressive.
Congressman Stephen Lynch referred to Capt. Hudner as “a gentleman, a class act – humble, despite his dedication and heroism”. When Steve had finished his remarks, Gov. Baker took the lectern as the event’s Principal Speaker. The Governor used much of his speech to describe the hour between the moment that Hudner crash-landed his own plane to aid his wingman, Jesse Brown, until Brown died on the field of battle. Hudner called in a team to get Brown out of his own badly damaged plane, while Chines Communist troops encircled them. Their efforts were not successful. Brown died, saying to Hudner with his last breath, “Tell Daisy (Brown’s wife) I love her.”
Invoking another U.S. Navy tradition, Mrs. Georgea Hudner and Mrs. Barbara Miller served as the USS Hudner’s Ship Sponsors. Together, they jointly uttered the command, “Bring the ship to life …”. At this point, crew members rushed from inside the Black Falcon Terminal and ran up the gangplanks that were adorned with the ship’s motto, “Above All Others”. After they raced on board, the members of the crew lined the ship’s railings and then rendered an en masse hand salute to the American flag that had been raised as part of the Commissioning. It was a magnificent patriotic display.
Enough said. Bon voyage to the USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), her Commanding Officer Nathan Scherry, and her crew. And Godspeed.