OUR OPINION: To the USS North Dakota: Fair winds and following seas
April 11, 1910. On that date 104 years ago, a U.S. Navy warship was commissioned the USS North Dakota. So, today is a special day for North Dakotans -- because this morning, for only the second time in U.S. history, the Navy will commission a shi...
April 11, 1910.
On that date 104 years ago, a U.S. Navy warship was commissioned the USS North Dakota.
So, today is a special day for North Dakotans - because this morning, for only the second time in U.S. history, the Navy will commission a ship bearing the name, North Dakota.
And what a ship!
The boat - as submariners refer to their vessels - is a “fast attack” sub. That means it hunts for ships and other submarines (among its other missions), and its arsenal of both cruise missiles and torpedoes equip it to attack targets on land and sea.
It’s 377 feet long, or just a little longer than the full length - end zone through end zone - of a football field. It carries a crew of 130 sailors.
And because it’s nuclear powered, “it’s going to leave the pier with a full ‘tank of gas,’ and it’s going to operate 33 years without ever refilling,” said Bob Wefald of Bismarck, chairman of the USS North Dakota Committee, in a recent news story.
Speaking of both Wefald and 33 years, North Dakotans should know that being a Navy vessel’s namesake state is not just a one-sided arrangement. The state takes on an obligation in return for the honor.
And Wefald and his committee not only started fulfilling that obligation years ago, but also plan on continuing to do so for decades, not just years.
Wefald, of course, deserves much of the credit for bringing about the naming in the first place. A retired Navy Reserve officer and former North Dakota district judge, Wefald wrote letters to the Navy and the North Dakota congressional delegation for years, lobbying for the Navy to bestow the state’s name upon a ship.
More recently, he and his committee were put in charge of handling many of the events of today’s commissioning.
And in years to come, the committee and the state’s chapter of the Navy League will support the USS North Dakota for as long as the vessel shall serve. That support can be as rich or as poor as the state and its Navy League members decide.
New Mexico, for example, bought New Mexico-style décor for some of the USS New Mexico’s interior spaces. The state also hosts a website that offers souvenirs of the vessel, up-to-date news, letters to and from the captain and crew, reports of the sailors’ visits to New Mexico schools and so on.
North Dakota already has shown the flag. The Legislature, for example, appropriated $300,000 to help pay for the commissioning ceremonies and other areas of civilian support.
And once today’s ceremonies are ended and the vessel gets underway, here’s hoping the generous support continues. That’ll go a long way toward ensuring all’s well aboard USS North Dakota as it goes about its missions and sails beneath the Seven Seas.