Home » Budget Industry » Navy Names Destroyers for Former Vietnam POW, Alaska Senator


Navy Names Destroyers for Former Vietnam POW, Alaska Senator

Jeremiah Denton and Ted Stevens

The Navy is naming two upcoming destroyers after a long-time U.S. senator and Vietnam-era naval aviator and POW, the service announced this week.

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer announced the future ship names over the weekend, citing how both Adm. Jeremiah Denton and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) supported the Navy during the course of their long careers serving the nation.

Denton, a 1947 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, served for 30 years as an aviator and one term – 1981 to 1987 – as U.S. senator from Alabama. Some of the operational tactics Denton developed, such as dispersing carrier fleets to make their radar signatures harder to spot by the enemy, are still used today, as USNI News reported when he died in 2014.

“Admiral Denton’s legacy is an inspiration to all who wear our nation’s uniform,” Spencer said in a statement announcing the future ship name. “His heroic actions during a defining period in our history have left an indelible mark on our Navy and Marine Corps team and our nation. His service is a shining example for our sailors and Marines, and this ship will continue his legacy for decades to come.”

However, Denton’s actions as a POW are part of military lore. For nearly eight years he was held by North Vietnam after his A-6 Intruder was shot down on July 18, 1965. He routinely resisted his captors, including defying a North Vietnamese attempt to use him for propaganda.

On May 2, 1966, North Vietnamese forces allowed a Japanese television crew to interview Denton about his treatment.

“I get adequate food and adequate clothing and medical care when I require it,” Denton said when asked how he was being treated.

At the same time, though, Denton repeatedly blinked the word “Torture” in Morse code, which U.S. Navy intelligence officials later spotted, confirming the North Vietnamese were abusing prisoners.

Stevens, who served as U.S. senator from Alaska from 1968 to 2009, served as an Army Air Corps pilot during WWII and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions flying behind enemy lines to support units fighting the Japanese in China. Stevens left the Senate with the distinction of having been the longest-serving Republican senator at the time, according to the Navy.

“Senator Stevens was a staunch supporter of a strong Navy and Marine Corps team who served our nation with distinction as a pilot during World War II, and later as a senator of Alaska,” Spencer said in a statement announcing the future ship name. “I am pleased that his legacy of service and dedication to national security will live on in the future USS Ted Stevens.”

Stevens had been on deck for a ship-naming since the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act was passed in 2013.

“It is the Sense of the Senate that the next available capital warship of the U.S. Navy be named the USS Ted Stevens to recognize the public service achievements, military service sacrifice, and undaunted heroism and courage of the long-serving United States senator for Alaska,” reads section 8119 of the NDAA.

Previously, the Navy has named ships for other senators who supported shipbuilding programs, including the future USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118), named for Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), and the future USS Carl M. Levin (DDG-120) for Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Both ships are being built by Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine.

Both the future USS Jeremiah Denton (DDG-129) and the future USS Ted Stevens (DDG-128) will be built at the Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, Miss., according to the Navy.

  • Deserttrek

    Thanks for the info.

  • Sir Bateman

    Call me naive, but I actually had some hope that with Mabus out and Spencer in that ship naming might actually return to some level of normalcy, at least in comparison to the Mabus years. Looks like I thought wrong. I guess Spencer figured that if a Democrat administration is going to name nondescript Democrat Senators after DDGs that two can play that game.

    At any rate, USN ship naming conventions, if you can even call it as such, are irrevocably broken. Some type of major reform that depoliticizes the entire process is desperately needed.

    • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

      RADM Denton earned this honor. I assume you have no complaints about him.

      • Sir Bateman

        It goes without saying that naming a DDG after RADM Jeremiah Denton is more than justified. Naming a DDG after Ted Stevens, Carl Levin and even Daniel Inouye is ridiculous, to say nothing of some other individuals that have had USN ships named after them as of late.

        • Duane

          You apparently don’t realize that Sen. Inouye was also a highly decorated wounded war hero of World War Two, recipient of a Distinguished Service Cross that was later upgraded to Medal of Honor.

          Sen. Stevens also earned a Distinguished Flying Cross in the USAAF for his service flying unarmed C-47s over the hump to supply US and allied Chinese forces during WW Two. That was pretty dangerous duty.

          • Sir Bateman

            Actually I was aware that Senator Inouye was a MOH recipient. However, he never served in either the USN or the USMC. I assume you’re aware that at least historically that USN Destroyers, Destroyer Escorts and Frigates were named after distinguished USN & USMC personnel?

          • Duane

            Since we don’t have the equivalent of Navy ships in the Air Force or Army or Marines to be named after bona fide war heroes, and naval warships represent all of us, not just sailors, it is fine to name naval ships after war heroes from other services.

          • Sir Bateman

            You are aware though that the historical precedent up until fairly recently was to limit the naming of DDs, DDGs etc. after distinguished USN & USMC personnel?

            If the USAF and the US Army want to honor their distinguished personnel there’s weapon systems and installations unique to their particular branch that they can choose from.

          • Duane

            The historical precedent, as I state above, is to name US Navy ships after anybody, any place, any thing, or any event, or no thing at all (like the old S-class submarines) that the Navy and Congress want to name them after. And that goes back for the entire history of the US Navy.

          • Sir Bateman

            But you are aware that virtually every single destroyer, destroyer escort, frigate etc. from DD-1 until well into the Burke class without exception were named for notable USN & USMC personnel and a handful of SecNavs right?

          • publius_maximus_III

            Dad’s WW-II Tin Can was name for a Marine Brigadier General.

          • Centaurus

            And with that, we have all the species and genera of fish. Swordfish, Sturgeon etc. I guess we won’t hear names for life that won’t move like mollusks.Or rocks, but there was a USS Feldspar ! A concrete barge.

          • Pat Patterson

            Navy ships do not represent either the Army or Air Force!

          • Duane

            Navy ships represent the United States of America. Plenty of Navy ships have been named after non-Navy persons or battles that were not naval battles (necessarily, or even at all) – i.e., Ticonderoga, Bunker Hill, or Cowpens. Various Presidents (Washington, Lincoln, Truman, Eisenhower) and members of Congress (Mendel Rivers, John Stennis, Gabby Giffords,etc.) who never served in the Navy. . Not to mention cities, states, and even fish, for gods sakes!

          • Blain Shinno

            Gabby Giffords claim to fame? Are we really honoring someone for being a victim?

          • Duane

            She was shot, nearly killed, and permanently disabled for doing her job as a serving Congressperson.

          • Blain Shinno

            So was Steve Scalise. Is that the bar we are setting? Get shot working for the government and you get a ship named after you. What about law enforcement officers? Or is being politically connected a prerequisite?

          • Duane

            So perhaps Steve Scalise will get a ship named after him some day. It is not a bad standard to use.

          • Blain Shinno

            Hilarious. Kind of like a participation medal for politicians. This is what happens when you no longer have standards.

          • Centaurus

            There will NEVER be a USS Trump.

          • Sir Bateman

            Okay…???

          • Centaurus

            I just wanted to make clear Future History.

          • Sir Bateman

            ¯_(ツ)_/¯

          • Centaurus

            :-|{}>

          • Duane

            Perhaps not … not before the USS Nixon gets commissioned, anyway, should we ever get around to naming a ship after a disgraced President.

          • David B. Brown

            Just wait for the USS Obama!!

          • publius_maximus_III

            Alright, bring back smokescreens!

          • Duane

            Obama will certainly get a ship named in his honor – likely one of the Ford class CVNs.

          • muzzleloader

            A Ford class CVN named after Obama? Poleeeze!
            How about getting back to naming CVN’s with names befitting.
            How about Lexington, Yorktown, Hornet, Saratoga, Midway?
            These are names of naval history.
            The Nimitz class might as well be called the politician class.
            I am ready for a break from that.
            Let’s get back to naval legacy.

          • Duane

            Write your Congressman and Senators … they determine the naming conventions whenever they so direct the Navy.

            But yes, of course, a CVN will be named after Obama – bet on it.

          • muzzleloader

            Bet on it, uhh, no. Just what did he do to deserve a warship named after him? Because he was a democrat? I suppose you would love to see a warship named after HRC too?

          • Duane

            Obama was twice elected President, to your everlasting disgust. HRC was never elected to President, just married to one, so unlikely she will ever get a ship named after her. Just as your beloved Trump, who is more likely to be frogmarched out of the White House in handcuffs as the Russian bought and paid for traitor that he is than he will ever see a US Navy ship named after him.

            More likely Trump will see a Russian navy ship named after him.

          • muzzleloader

            Again, I have never in any online site, seen anyone who is obsessed with DJT as you are. Do you have a dartboard with Trump’s face on it?
            I would not be surprised.
            If USNI ran an article on cake decorating, you would somehow bring Trump up, lol.

          • Centaurus

            Escorted in it’s CSG by the Haldeman, Plumbers, Erlichman and USS John Mitchell. And let’s throw in the USS Bebe Rebozo as a supply ship

          • wilkinak

            That’s big assumption. Lots of ships named after presidents, both good and bad.

            USS Jimmy Carter? Yes he was in the Navy, but he was a lousy president. Gerald Ford was average. The recently departed George Bush was a good guy, but good or bad president depending on your POV.

            I don’t know that a USS Bill Clinton is likely, but I wouldn’t rule it out. (I always figured it should be a sub tender, given the stories I’ve heard about the activities that occurred onboard. 😉 )

          • Centaurus

            Ok folks, “I” will not be authorizing any USS Trump, Obama, Clinton or any such contentious presidential names for a big navy air base. Yell all you want. @ this point we’re just going down a list of 45 names. We may as well name it USS You’re About to Die !

          • muzzleloader

            You hope.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            For what it’s worth, and this is my personal opinion about it, naming a Navy warship for an actual Medal of Honor winner regardless of their military branch makes far more sense than naming them for politicians. I agree with your points about the switch over from Mabus to Spencer, but I fear the SecNav positions when it comes to naming ships might be in the same kind of the vicious cycle that permeates other aspects of politics. Because “they” named a ship for this person, “we” will name a ship for that one, and on and on. And that’s been going on long before Mabus became SecNav.

          • Sir Bateman

            I really can’t disagree with any of that. That’s why I said in my OP that the process of naming USN ships is irrevocably broken and in desperate need of de-politicization and reform.

            As I’ve said before if it were up to me I’d turn USN ship naming over to some sort of body made up of USN & USMC senior noncoms, officers, retired or active, and possibly some author/academic types that have been published by the Naval Institute Press. That is, people who have some appreciation and understanding for USN traditions and precedent.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            That’s a great idea!

          • wilkinak

            That sounds great in theory, not sure how well it would actually work out. Many of the traditions and precedents are long gone. Just look at the uniform mess.

        • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

          Like the USNS Harvey Milk?

          • Sir Bateman

            Amongst others.

          • publius_maximus_III

            Affectionately known as the USS Vaseline.

          • Centaurus

            Oh man, that’s really cheap. We’re all “bigger” than that. But I wish idda thought ‘o that. : |

          • Duane

            Nice strawman ya got there.

            All US Navy ships, if named after persons, are persons who served with distinction in Federal service roles – i,e, military members, Congressmen with significant military contributions (such as longtime defense committee chairs) or martyrs (Gabby Giffords), and Presidents.

            Sorry, no mayors or city councilmen or dogcatchers unless they already qualify under one of the above.

            So no, there won’t be a USS Rush Limbaugh either.

            And depending upon how the Mueller report goes, quite possibly there will never be a USS Donald Trump, as there has never been a USS Richard Nixon.

          • muzzleloader

            USS Rush Limbaugh?
            USS Trump? Well it sure is easy to see what you are thinking about lol

          • Centaurus

            I believe Harvey Milk did in fact serve in the navy, yes…USS Kittiwake rank of Lieutenant, so ya learn something new, every day.

          • publius_maximus_III

            USS Bill D. Wall?

        • Blain Shinno

          There are so many more deserving Americans than those three political hacks. How about John F. Lehman or James Lyons? Or how about going down the list of Navy Cross and Medal of Honor recipients from the Global War on Terrorism and naming Burkes after real heroes?

          • Duane

            You obviously cannot read, or did not do any research on these guys. These “hacks” were all decorated World War Two veterans, including one Medal of Honor, several Distinguished Flying Cross, Navy Cross, Silver Stars, etc.

            Most likely these gentlemen and others referenced in this post are far more decorated veterans in actual wartime service than you or me or anyone else here commenting at USNI.

          • Blain Shinno

            Obviously I can. I am from Hawaii and am very familiar with Senator Inouye who was credibly accused of rape. Inouye, Levin, Stevens are not having ships named after them because they are heroes. They are having ships named after them because they were politicians. Inouye and Steven had questionable ethics.

            Did any of them distinguish themselves by doing anything for the Navy or Marines that was out of the ordinary? Other than voting to fund the DOD, or favoring one weapon system or another which coincidentally happened to be manufactured by a campaign contributor.

            I have a a high bar for naming warships after politicians.

          • Duane

            Your hero Trump was also credibly accused of rape, and admitted to massive instances of sexual assault, bragged of it, paid off his victims, etc. all attested to by his own attorney with complete verification from multiple other sources.

          • Blain Shinno

            I think its laughable for you to say Trump is my hero when I mentioned northing about him. Maybe you are unaware that Ted Stevens was a Republican. I have also expressed opposition on this site to naming a carrier after Gerald Ford.

            You illustrate what happen when you politicize ship naming. Our sailors deserve to serve on ships named after people of great accomplishment, not political hacks.

          • Duane

            The only hacks here are you and the guys who comment like you about these decorated war heroes who are the opposite of hacks.

          • Blain Shinno

            So why does Inouye and Stevens have destroyers named after them and not other “heroes”? You didn’t address that. They were deemed more deserving than the little guy – the nameless, faceless guy who served quietly and did heroic deeds in the service of their country – because they were politically connected.

            Inouye and Stevens excelled at one thing in the Senate. PORK.

            I’d rather recognize a sailor or marine whose heroic deed was long forgotten. Or a Navy or Marine leader who made an extraordinary contribution to the service like John Lehman or James Lyons.

          • Centaurus

            Testified in open court, too. From fixer to rat real fast. What’s wrong with that picture ?

          • Duane

            Only hoodlums talk about “rats”. That Trump and his supporters call an attorney who tells the truth, and has proof to back himself up, only shows the inherent hooliganism of Trump and the Trumpkins. A criminal conspiracy, soon to be fully laid out for the public in the Mueller report and Congressional testimony.

          • muzzleloader

            Man o man, Trump truly lives in your head 24/7.
            In this discussion of ship naming, where no one is remotely thinking about DJT, YOU bring him up! Wow.

          • Centaurus

            Yeah, those two kinda remind me of some kind of bad ’30s story being played out before our eyes. We sure have to do better than this…I mean naming ships, that is.

    • VFRdilbert

      I have already had people ask me if I would support naming a future aircraft carrier for Trump. I hope it never comes to serious consideration after the horrible things he has said about milpers AND his record as a draft-dodger.

  • Duane

    The guy you call a clown was essential in passing civil rights and voting rights legislation to finally, after an unconscionable delay of nearly a century after enactment of the Civil War amendments to the Constitution, ended Jim Crow in America. He also led the way to enacting the most popular benefit program for retired people – everybody in the nation, if one lives long enough – ever enacted, next to Social Security, that is.

    • Blain Shinno

      He actually was more a virulent racist than a clown. I really don’t know what’s worse. Naming a submarine after a failed presidents just because he was once a sub officer, or naming a destroyer after a failed president who was also a racist.

  • Ed L

    Nice

  • Sir Bateman

    So you do stipulate that ship naming precedent vis-a-vis USN destroyers and other like vessels has been changed as of late; nice.

    That said, I don’t know if I’d equate naming destroyers after non USN & USMC personnel as being up there with some of the major civil rights advances that have taken place over the course of the history of the United State, buy hey we’re all entitled to our opinions. Besides not all changes are good, I think even you’d agree with that.

    • Duane

      There’s nothing special or unique about naming destroyers as compared to naming other warships like cruisers, frigates, carriers, amphibs, submarines, etc.

      There is no “naming convention” that is required of the Navy or that requires your personal approval beyond whatever Congress declares, which changes from time to time.

      • Sir Bateman

        Again Duane, try telling me something that I don’t know. Suffice it to say I’m fuly aware that SecNavs and to some extent Congress can name any USN vessel whatever they want. Heck, I suppose Secretary Spencer could name the next DDG after Hannibal Lecter if he were so inclined.

        And again I’m fully aware that there’s nothing on the books that binds SecNavs to some sort of clearly delineated naming guideline for naming USN vessels, whether it be DDGs, CVNs or even tugboats. However, as a matter of precedent and tradition for over a hundred years and up until fairly recently the naming of USN destroyers was limited to notable USN & USMC personnel and SecNavs.

        Again just another friendly FYI, if you’re uncomfortable with the phrase “naming conventions” take it up with USNI, they published an article on this site with that exact phrase in the title.

        The bottom line Duane is that you and I have a mere difference of opinion on a nontechnical, rather esoteric topic. You either approve or are indifferent to the change in historical precedent governing the naming of USN destroyers. I dislike this change.

  • Scott

    Well deserved.

  • Duane

    He’s not my “beloved” … he was our President who did what a lot of Americans believe was the best thing in office since Abraham Lincoln lead us to victory in the Civil War over the slaveholding traitors of the southern states.

  • Rick Slater

    Actually, as I recall, there is a convention that regulates the names used with Navy ships. Admittedly, as we have seen, it can be ignored legally. Naming a ship after Denton – absolutely. Naming a ship after ANY politician of EITHER party – no. People rightly criticized the political use of ship names during the Obama Administration; I’m equally opposed, whether there is a (R) or (D) in back of the president’s name.

  • RobM1981

    Yes, this is always a hot button here at USNI, and for good reason.

    The vast, vast majority of the public don’t even notice this. It’s completely off of their radar, and for good reason. They presume that “The Navy,” some kind of nebulous group of sailors, deal with this. The role of congress never enters their mind. DOD, etc. don’t enter their mind either. They just presume that sailors name their own ships.

    Say what you want about Rickover, but his “fish don’t vote” quote is both prescient and repugnant.

    Stevens’ service is admirable, but it is with the Army. Unfortunately, the Army doesn’t get to name a lot of things. New Forts are never opened, these days. Instead, all we see are base closures. I can understand the Army’s problem…

    …but that’s their problem.

    Ships should not be named after any politician who did not serve *admirably* in a naval uniform. The only exception to this should be POTUS, who are technically COMINCH for all services. Having a carrier named after Ike is “meh.” He, himself, would likely agree. He’d rather an Army base, I’m sure – and he should have one. Fort Eisenhower would be an appropriate honor, for this very great leader.

    None of this matters. As is said below, the system has been subordinated to politicians, and it will never recover from that.

    Expect to see a USS Pelosi, right next to a USS Schumer

    • Centaurus

      We had an America, United States and so on, as carrier names.
      “What is in a name ?”

  • KenofSoCal

    Time for a USS Fluckey.

  • Jeff

    Ship’s names are important and should inspire sailors and marines with concrete examples of honor and sacrifice in defense of the country. These ideals have a real world impact when the SHTF. Case in point: When the USS Samuel B. Roberts was struck by a mine in the Persian Gulf, the CO said, as told in ‘The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors’, that his crew was inspired by the legacy of the Samuel B. Roberts that was lost in the Battle of Samar in WWII. These sailors had been told the story during indoctrination and the CO had placed a plaque in a p-way with all the names of the sailors lost on that ship. He noticed that, as the sailors were fighting to save their ship, many would reach out and touch the plaque as they passed it in the p-way. They were inspired by the legacy of the ones who had come before.

    Now I’m going to politic a minute for a ship name that is long overdue. As we’re naming ships for politicians, some deserving and some not, we are not naming ships for some inspiring Navy and Marine Corps leaders who are more deserving. The US Navy should never go without a destroyer in the fleet named Ernest E. Evans. Why? 1) He was a destroyer CO, 2) He was a man of initiative when action was needed to save others even when the odds were impossibly against him, 3) He didn’t hesitate to throw himself, his ship, and his crew into the gap when, in all probability, no survival could be expected, 4) He was a Medal of Honor recipient, 5) He was a Native American who endured prejudice but he never let it keep him from achieving his goals. He was one of the most inspiring leaders of WWII even if the inspiration was limited to one crew of one tin can. In his death he has inspired all destroyer sailors who know his story. Yet we’ve built some 80 Arleigh Burke class destroyers without naming one for him. The last ship that carried his name was a destroyer escort that was built in 1955. Am I the only one that thinks he is deserving of having a destroyer named in his honor? His is a name that will inspire sailors to extraordinary action when it is needed most. Every time this subject comes up I get angry that he and so many other deserving Navy and Marine Corps servicemen are not getting ships named for them so some politician can have his or her legacy.

    • VFRdilbert

      Man, I can’t like this post as many times as I would like. E. E. Evans is SO right for a tin-can! It befuddles me why a ship hasn’t been named for him.

    • Donald Carey

      Good post but there is one glaring error: There is no such thing as a Native American (anthropologists use Amerindian). Evans would have most likely preferred to be known as a Cherokee (he was half Cherokee, one quarter Creek). All humans in the Americas are either immigrants or descendants of them – the Amerindians came from Siberia – DNA tests have proven it.
      p.s. In polls among the various Indian Nations, Native American is not the most favored name.

  • Dean_V

    The Navy should name a destroyer for World War II submarine legend Eugene Fluckey. Two ships are named for contemporaries: Lawson P. “Red” Ramage (DDG-61) and Richard H. O’Kane (DDG-77).

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    I still have a problem with naming ships after politicians; not just democrat politicians, all politicians.

    • Duane

      You’re forgetting that in our history as a nation, going all the way back to its founding, many of our politicians are ex-military heroes. Starting with George Washington. Indeed, most of our Presidents in the 19th century were ex military heroes, generals, etc. Most recently Presidents Eisenhower and Bush 41. Alas, we seem to be getting away from that standard, give that so few Americans ever serve in uniform.

      • muzzleloader

        And yet you are championing a CVN being named after BHO? A little contradictory.

        • Duane

          I don’t advocate ship names. I just state facts. Facts that you apparently hate a lot.

          • muzzleloader

            Again I will state that I am all for getting away from naming warships after politicians, period, regardless of party.

          • Adrian Snare

            When are we ever going to STOP WAR and start peace ?

          • Donald Carey

            Unfortunately, while the U.S. can do a lot of things unilaterally, stopping war isn’t one of them.

          • Adrian Snare

            The keyword is ‘unilaterally’ . Once the conservatives are removed from power, we can then LEAD the “peace” charge . A more powerful UN for one .. For two – a basic national change in attitude. All three, very difficult .

          • Donald Carey

            Dream on, the U.S. will NEVER lead countries like China and Russia into becoming peaceful. As for the U.N. and a one-world government, one thing insuring freedom is there being choices, including the kind of government one wants to live under. One World = ZERO CHOICES.

  • Centaurus

    Shame,shame, shame…to think in the modern times………………….–> O:
    Now shoo…

  • Centaurus

    Really, you’re blinding me.

  • Duane

    Your point is?

  • Denton actually blink SOS with his eyes during the interview will Japanese television while a pow. What bravery. Just got him promoted to Admiral and also got him the Medal of Honor. He had to be the bravest sailor of all the Vietnam War. Thank you for the article

  • VFRdilbert

    I would nominate VADM James “Jimmy” Dolye, USN as a candidate for a ship name. As the Surface Baron, Doyle kept the monies flowing to the AEGIS program even in the aftermath of the Vincennes incident. The man had vision and guts.