In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the U.S. Navy had no formal procedure for naming ships. It wasn’t until 1819 that Congress passed an act stating “all of the ships, of the Navy of the United States, now building, or hereafter to be built, shall be named by the Secretary of the Navy.” The secretary has fulfilled this role ever since, even though the passage expressly assigning authority for designating ship names was omitted when the U.S. Code was revised in 1925.
In addition to recommendations from Congress and the president, the secretary traditionally has been guided by a rather loose set of naming conventions—cruisers were to be named for battles, attack submarines for U.S. cities, destroyers for Navy and Marine heroes, and so forth. Controversy has erupted whenever the choice of a name strayed too far from those conventions, was seemingly swayed by politics, or deemed inappropriate for various reasons. Read More