Newest Navy destroyer USS Ted Stevens christened in Mississippi

Newest Navy destroyer USS Ted Stevens christened in Mississippi
Published: Aug. 19, 2023 at 12:24 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2023 at 6:15 PM AKDT
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (KTUU) - Two daughters of the former Sen. Ted Stevens’ and his widow broke three bottles of champagne on the bow of the USS Ted Stevens to christen it Saturday at Ingalls Shipbuilding’s facility in Pascagoula, Miss.

“Today, from Alaska to Mississippi, we are connected, as a community of shipbuilders and sailors and of servants by both the passion of shipbuilders, who have brought us to this point in construction, and also by the late, great Senator Ted Stevens and his passion for service,” Kari Wilkinson, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding, said at the ceremony.

The new Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer is the most powerful warship in the world, its future captain says.

Stevens, a household name to most Alaskans, has an extensive list of accomplishments, causes and establishments that he fought for during his life — including the military and Alaska.

A World War II Army Air Corps veteran, Stevens became known as ‘Mr. Alaska,’ by the Department of the Interior in 1956 because of his “relentless efforts on Alaska statehood,” according to the Ted Stevens Foundation in Anchorage.

In 2000, Stevens was named “Alaskan of the Century,” championing for a variety of issues, including support for the military. Stevens died in a plane crash in 2010 near Dillingham.

“Sen. Stevens worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Alaskans and fellow Americans,” Vice Admiral Jeffrey Hughes, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Development, said. “He had a strong and steady hand in crafting legislation that strengthened the military and his efforts to improve the national security of the United States are still evident today.”

At the ceremony, Vice Admiral Hughes talked about Stevens’ experience as a combat pilot during World War II.

“Then 1st Lt. Stevens, served in the Army Air Corp, and flew missions with the 14th Air Force in support of the Flying Tigers in the China Burma India Theater,” Hughes said. “This entailed dangerous mountain flying over the Himalayas with a significant risk of Japanese aerial attack. For his gallant, valiant service, he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and Two Air medals for exceptional airmanship.”

The centuries-old maritime tradition of christenings is said to bless a ship with good luck and safe travels. A christening is also an display of maritime dominance and strength, Russell Rumbaugh, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Financial Management Comptroller, said.

“We take immense pride in christening this fighting ship entrusted to the world’s finest sailors who will, in the not too distant future, put to sea and carry the name a the heroic American, Sen. Ted Stevens, across the globe to protect and advance our interests and deter conflict — and if necessary, to fight and win,” Vice Admiral Hughes said.

Christening also observes Navy folklore, Sean O’Keefe, Secretary of the Navy, and former staff of Senator Stevens, said.

“Ship christening assures that the vessel will assume the personality and the character of her sponsor,” O’Keefe said. “If so, the DDG 128 will be blessed with the characteristics of three extraordinary women.”

Those women, the co-sponsors of the USS Ted Stevens, are widow Catherine Anne Stevens, daughter Susan Stevens Covich, and youngest daughter Lily Irene Becker. Two of Stevens’ granddaughters and a grandson served as maids, and a grandson as attendant, preserving the family legacy of support for the military for another generation.

For the Stevens family, the day reflected not only the senator’s accomplishments, but his outsized personality too.

“Maybe more importance than his confidence in himself, though, is his confidence in others,” Becker said, talking about her father during the ceremony. “He knew what we could do before we did.”

After breaking a bottle of champagne with the ship’s other co-sponsors, Becker said it was an incredible day.

“We are just overwhelmed, Becker said. “It’s hard to even know what to say. Dad was such a supporter of the Navy. He was a former World War II pilot and I know the ship is going to sail with the spirit of Alaska and the spirit of Ted Stevens.”

The USS Ted Stevens has at least a year and a half to two years of construction before it’s commissioned, according to Capt. Mary Katey Hays.