The History of a New Ship
The story behind the construction
of USS NEW YORK (LPD 21)
by Richard H. Wagner
(Originally published by the Navy League of the United
States, New York Council)
USS NEW YORK (LPD 21) is now under construction in
Louisiana. This ship will be special not just because it will bear
the name of a great State and City but because the name for this
ship was selected in order to honor the heroes and victims of the
September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Included
in the ship's stem is 7 tons of steel from the World Trade Center.
The commissioning of this ship will take place in New York
harbor in November 2009.
LPD 21 will be the ninth Navy ship to bear the name NEW
YORK. However, she may be the first ship to be named after both
the State and the City.
The first NEW YORK, a gondola, was launched just as the
United States was beginning in the summer of 1776. She was built
by General Benedict Arnold's troops to counter the British forces
on Lake Champlain and, given the fact that she was built upstate,
her name probably refers to the State rather than the City. NEW
YORK fought at the Battle of Valcor Island on October 13, 1776
and then again two days later near Crown Point. Like the rest of
Arnold's flotilla, she was so badly damaged by these engagements
that she was run aground and burnt. While these battles were
tactical defeats for the Americans, they were strategic victories.
The British had planned to split New York and the colonies in two
by proceeding down the lake from Canada and eventually joining
with British forces coming north from New York City. Arnold's
flotilla delayed the British advance until the approaching winter
made it impractical to continue the campaign until the next year. In
the meantime, the Americans prepared and were able to defeat the
British at the crucial battle of Saratoga.
The next NEW YORK was commissioned in 1800 and was
one of five frigates built by the States for the federal government.
She mounted 36 guns and fought in the undeclared war with France
and in the Barbary Coast War. During the latter conflict, she met
the British fleet off Malta and received a 17-gun salute from Vice
Admiral Horatio Nelson. Unfortunately, those good feelings did
not last and, some 11 years later, the British burned the NEW
YORK at the Washington Navy Yard where she had been placed in
A similar fiery fate awaited the next ship to bear the name
NEW YORK. In 1816, Congress authorized a 74-gun ship of the
line and she was laid down at Norfolk Navy Yard in 1820.
Inasmuch as Navy policy was to name ships of the line after the
states, this ship was named after of the State of New York rather
than the City. Work did not proceed apace on this ship and, by the
time the Civil War broke out, she still had not been completed. To
prevent her from falling into enemy hands, Federal troops burnt the
ship before Confederate forces seized the Navy Yard.
In 1863, work began on a screw frigate to be named
ONTARIO at the New York Navy Yard. However, work was
suspended on this ship shortly after the end of the Civil War. In
May 1869, she was renamed NEW YORK but like her predecessor
little action was taken to complete her. She was sold while still on
the stocks in 1888.
The next NEW YORK broke the string of misfortune that had
beset the last two ships that had borne the name and not only did
she get to sea but she had a long and productive career. Indeed,
she was an important step in the revitalization and modernization
of the Navy that took place at the turn of the 19th century. Although
she had the hull number ACR 2, she is considered the first United
States Navy armored cruiser. (ACR1 was the famous MAINE
which was re-designated as a battleship shortly after her
construction. (BB 00)). The 8,200 ton NEW YORK was faster
than any more powerful ship and capable of overtaking 95% of the
world's merchant fleet and thus was well-suited to be a commerce
raider. However, with her main battery of six eight inch guns, she
was considered capable of operating with battleships. She saw
action in the Spanish American War and, at various times
following that war, she was the flagship of the U.S. Asian Fleet
and the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Because the Navy was planning to use the name NEW YORK
for a new battleship, ACR 2 was renamed SARATOGA in 1911.
Her name was again changed in 1917 to ROCHESTER perhaps
because the name SARATOGA was being considered for a
battlecruiser, which eventually became an aircraft carrier (CV 3).
ROCHESTER participated in World War I escorting convoys and
continued in service until 1933. After decommissioning she was
moored at Subic Bay in the Philippines. Like her ship of the line
predecessor and despite her age, ROCHESTER was scuttled by U.
S. forces to prevent her from falling into the hands of the enemy in
December 1941. (This ship's wooden figurehead bearing the great
seal of the State of New York has been preserved and can be seen
at the INTREPID Sea/Air/Space Museum).
The ship that prompted the first name change of ACR 2 was
the battleship NEW YORK (BB 34). Although built in Brooklyn,
there is no doubt that she was named after the State rather than the
City as all battleships (except U.S.S. KEARSARGE (BB 5)) were
named after States. Commissioned in 1914, NEW YORK served
as the flagship of the American battleship squadron that was
attached to the British Grand Fleet following America's entry into
the First World War. Between the world wars, the Navy's first
operational shipboard radar, the XAF, was installed aboard NEW
YORK. Designed and built by one of tonight’s award winners, the
Naval Research Laboratory, the radar was able to detect ships at
12 miles and aircraft at 85 miles. During World War II, she did
convoy duty and provided gunfire support for the invasions of
North Africa, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. NEW YORK was one of
the target ships in the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll following
the war. Surviving the atomic blasts, she was towed to Pearl
Harbor for study, and then, in 1948, towed out to sea where she
withstood eight hours of bombardment by ships and aircraft before
The last ship to bear the name of either the State or the City
was a Los Angles-class nuclear submarine was launched in June
1977 bearing the name NEW YORK CITY (SSN 696). She served
during the Cold War and until 1997 when she was
With the smoke clouds still hanging over the World Trade Center
site following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Governor of New
York George E. Pataki wrote a letter to then-Secretary of the Navy
Gordon England requesting that the Navy bestow the name “USS
NEW YORK” on a surface warship involved in the War on Terror
in honor of September 11's victims. In his letter, the Governor said
he understood that State names presently are reserved for
submarines but asked for special consideration so the name could
be given to a surface ship. The request was approved 28 August
The decision to name a ship after both the State and the City
was announced on 11 September 2002 at a ceremony at the
Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. Secretary England said: "When
our Sailors and Marines set out to sea on the USS NEW YORK,
this ship will serve as a worldwide deployable symbol of the
spirit of all heroes, past and present, living and fallen, who have
blessed this great city and great state. . .The citizens of America
will never forget what happened in New York on September 11,
will never forget the sacrifices of the brave citizens of this city and
state, and the Navy and Marine Corps will never forget.”
On 10 September 2003, over twenty tons of steel salvaged
from the World Trade Center were melted and poured into the
mold for the bow stem of the NEW YORK at Amite Foundry and
Machine Inc. in Louisiana. "A piece of our city will travel the
world in democracy and freedom," former New York City Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani wrote in a letter read at the ceremony. Dotty
England, wife of the former Secretary and sponsor of the NEW
YORK, said as the steel was poured into the mold: “For all who
will serve on USS NEW YORK, and for all who suffered from the
attacks of 9-11, let us never forget.” “Never forget” will be the
motto of the ship. An additional 21,000 pounds of World Trade
Center steel was put aside and will be made into anchor-handling
Later that year, the Navy announced that it had awarded an
$816.6 million contract to Northrup Grumman Ship Systems to
construct the NEW YORK. The ship would be built at the
company’s Avondale Operation in New Orleans with fabrication
support from three other company facilities located at Passagoula,
Miss., Gulfport, Miss., and Tallulah, La. “We are honored to build
NEW YORK.” commented Dr. Philip A. Dur, then-President of
Northrop Grumman Ship Systems.
One day short of the third anniversary of the attacks, the keel
of the NEW YORK was laid. Secretary England commented that
NEW YORK and her sisters “will take the fight to the terrorists
who threaten the peace and freedom of the world.”
On 1 March 2008, Mrs. English christened NEW YORK at
the shipyard in Avondale, Louisiana.
In the post-Cold War era, protecting America’s interests often
depends upon being able to insert ground forces into world
troublespots in a timely fashion. Consequently, it is a great
advantage to be able to position Marines offshore so that they can
be projected ashore from the sea when the policymakers so
specify. It is for this purpose that the NEW YORK is being built.
As noted by Dr. Dru, this “class of ‘fighting Gators’ will constitute
a significant element of the sea base and the future of expeditionary
NEW YORK will have fixed accommodations for 699
Marines but will be able to accommodate up to 800 Marines on a
surge basis. Not just a transport, NEW YORK will be able to
insert Marines into the action both by air and by sea. She will
have an aircraft hanger and flight deck capable of handling the MV-
22 Osprey as well as helicopters. In addition, she will have the
ability to land Marines by the hovercraft-like LCAC and by more
conventional landing craft or amphibious vehicles.
To accomplish her mission, NEW YORK will be of
substantial size. She will have a length of 684 feet and a full load
displacement of 25,000 tons. With a beam of 105 feet, she will be
able to squeeze through the Panama Canal, thus adding to her
ability to respond quickly to trouble. Her four sequentially
turbocharged marine diesel engines will be able to drive the ship
at more than 22 knots.
Since NEW YORK is not intended to project power through
her own firepower, her armament will be defensive. It will
include two Mk 31 Mod-1 RAM launchers, two Mk 46 Mod 1 30
mm gun systems, and four fifty caliber machine guns.
The ships of the San Antonio-class, including NEW YORK,
are intended to replace four different classes of ships
encompassing some 40 ships currently serving in the active fleet.
They will be a marked improvement over earlier amphibious
assault ships. Their extensive command and control spaces and
“flagship-like” connectivity will enable the ships of this class to
fully support independent split operations or to serve as an integral
part of amphibious ready groups, joint task forces or expeditionary
strike groups. They will also have substantially increased vehicle
lift capacity, a large flight deck, and advanced ship survivability
features that enhance their ability to operate in the unforgiving
littoral environment. To enhance the quality of life for those
aboard, they also feature the sit-up berth, ship services mall, a
fitness center and learning resource center/electronic classroom.
The design team also incorporated hundreds of suggestions and
recommendations from more than 1,000 Sailors and Marines in the
Design for Ownership process.
USS SAN ANTONIO (LPD 17), the first ship of the class
was commissioned in 2005. Four others are under construction
and four more are planned including ships named after the other
locations associated with the September 11 attacks, i.e., Arlingon,
Va. (the Pentagon attack), and Somerset, Pa. (the site of the crash
of Flight 93).
CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR A LARGER VIEW
USS New York at her christening in
USS NEW YORK (CA 2) at a naval
review in New York following the
Spanish American War. (Naval
The lead ship in the class, USS SAN
ANTONIO (LPD 21).
Then-Secretary of the Navy Gordon
England announces the decision to
build USS NEW YORK. (Navy photo).
Re-forging the steel from the World
Trade Center. (Navy photo).
Mrs. Dotty England christens the ship
1 March 2008. (Navy photo).
USS NEW YORK (BB 34) arrives off
of New York to celebrate Navy Day
October 1945 following the end of
World War II. (Photo: