SECNAV Del Toro: Names Ship after Navy SEAL, Alaska Native

August 7, 2023 2:39 PM
Engineman Seaman Solomon Atkinson smiles for a picture in 1952. US Navy Photo

Future Navajo-class Towing, Salvage and Rescue ship will bear the name USNS Solomon Atkinson (T-ATS-12), in honor of the Alaskan native and Navy SEAL, the Navy announced Monday.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro announced the name of the ship during Founder’s Day for the Metlakatla Indian Community, of which Solomon Atkinson was a part. The Navy names towing, salvage and rescue ships after Native Americans, according to a Navy news release.

“Atkinson’s achievements as a SEAL have left behind an enduring legacy, not just in the Special Warfare Community, but with our nation’s astronauts as well,” Del Toro said in the release. “I am pleased to ensure that his name will extend globally to all who views this great ship.”

Atkinson enlisted in the Navy in 1952 and became a frogman, or what is the equivalent to the Navy SEALs today. He was one of the first sailors to become a Navy SEAL and was a plankowner for SEAL Team 1.

He deployed to Korea and served three tours in Vietnam. He received the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart during his service.

During his time in the Navy, Atkinson trained astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in underwater weightless simulations.

Navajo (T-TATS-6) launched. Bollinger Shipyard Photo

Atkinson’s wife, Joann Atkinson, as well as his two daughters, Michele Gunyah and Maria Hayward, will serve as the ship’s sponsors.

“There exists a long-held Tsimshian tradition, ‘akadi lip a’algyaga sm’ooygit,’ loosely translated ‘a chief never speaks for himself’. Through all of his time as a U.S. Navy UDT and SEAL, as well as a leader of veterans and Native Alaskans, Sol lived this ethos. And, here today, in the shadow of Sol’s death, he holds to it still,” Hayward said in the release.

Future USNS Solomon Atkinson is being built by Austal USA. The shipbuilding company is under contract for five Navajo-class Towing, Salvage and Rescue ships. Solomon Atkinson and USNS Billy Frank Jr. are currently under construction.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
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