ARLINGTON, Va. – The future guided-missile destroyer DDG-140 will be named after Medal of Honor recipient retired Navy Capt. Thomas Gunning Kelley, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro announced on Wednesday.
The Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyer will honor Kelley, who received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Vietnam War.
Del Toro announced the naming of the ship during his speech at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium on Wednesday. Although Kelley could not attend, Del Toro had him on the phone when he announced the name.
“May we all, and especially the future men and women assigned to the ship, always be inspired by Kelley’s brilliant leadership, bold initiative and resolute determination,” Del Toro said when announcing the name.
According to the citation, in 1969 then-Lt. Kelley was in command of eight river assault craft that were extracting a company of U.S. Army infantry troops in Kien Hoa Province when the Army’s troop transport malfunctioned and the boats came under fire from North Vietnamese forces.
“After issuing orders for the crippled troop carrier to raise its ramp manually, and for the remaining boats to form a protective cordon around the disabled craft, [Kelley], realizing the extreme danger to his column and its inability to clear the ambush site until the crippled unit was repaired, boldly maneuvered the monitor in which he was embarked to the exposed side of the protective cordon in direct line with the enemy’s fire, and ordered the monitor to commence firing,” reads the citation.
During the fighting, Kelley suffered severe head injuries from shrapnel from an enemy rocket, but was able to direct the column to safety.
Del Toro told reporters after his speech that he called Kelley on Tuesday to tell him his decision to name the future ship in his honor.
Del Toro told reporters that he received thousands of requests for ship names, but Kelley’s story stood out to him.
“In review of the many candidates that were before me, it was obvious that Capt. Kelley stood up above, not that his was more important than others, but his stood above him, and above the call of duty and what he did, and it was time to name a ship after him,” Del Toro said.
Kelley left the service in 1990 and served as the secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services from 2003 to 2011.
This is the third ship Del Toro has named in a month’s time. In December, Del Toro named future LHA-9 after the Battle of Fallujah and future survey ship after Titanic finder Robert Ballard.
Del Toro said that he has four submarines and a few towing ships that he plans to name in the coming months.
He may also rename USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) and USNS Maury (T-AGS-66) later this year. Both ships received recommendations for renaming by the commission examining military installations and assets with names associated with the Confederacy.