The Navy will commission the newest Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, Stockdale, during an 11:00 a.m. PST ceremony on Saturday, April 18, 2009, in Port Hueneme, Calif.
Designated DDG 106, the new destroyer honors Medal of Honor recipient Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale (1923-2005), the legendary leader of American prisoners of war (POWs) during the Vietnam War.
Stockdale was the highest-ranking naval officer ever held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. His plane was shot down Sept. 9, 1965, while flying combat missions over North Vietnam. Stockdale spent more than seven years in captivity at prisons in North Vietnam, including time at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” Four of those years were spent in solitary confinement. While imprisoned, Stockdale is credited with organizing a set of rules to govern the behavior of fellow prisoners of war and for helping to develop a code for prisoners to communicate with each other that included tapping on cell walls. In recognition of his leadership and sacrifice he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1976.
Stockdale received 26 combat medals and awards, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Distinguished Service Medals, two Purple Hearts and four Silver Stars. He was also named to the Aircraft Carrier Hall of Fame, National Aviation Hall of Fame, and was an honorary member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Timothy Keating, will deliver the ceremony’s principal address. Sybil Stockdale will serve as sponsor of the ship named for her late husband. The ceremony will be highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when she gives the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”
Stockdale is the 56th of 62 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The ship will be able to conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection. Stockdale will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously and contains a myriad of offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime warfare in keeping with “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” the new maritime strategy that postures the sea services to apply maritime power to protect U.S. vital interests in an increasingly interconnected and uncertain world.
Cmdr. Fred W. Kacher, of Oakton, Va., will become the first commanding officer of the ship and will lead the crew of 276 officers and enlisted personnel. The 9,200-ton Stockdale was built by Bath Iron Works, a General Dynamics Company. The ship is 509 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 59 feet, and a navigational draft of 31 feet. Four gas turbine engines will power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.