How many ships have been named USS Harrisburg?
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – On Jan. 28, the Navy held a Keel Authentication Ceremony for one of its newest warships, the USS Harrisburg (LPD 30). Once launched and commissioned, it will be the Navy’s 14th San Antonio amphibious class transport dock vessel. (We’ll explain this in more detail later.)
So how many ships named USS Harrisburg in the Navy?
The answer is quite interesting. There has only been one other Navy ship named USS Harrisburg, and during her 35 years at sea she carried that name for just over a year. It was not a warship, although it had guns mounted on it for some time, and in fact it was not even built for the United States Navy.
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According to Naval History and Heritage Commandthe ship began life as an ocean liner named City of Paris. She was a steel-hulled, three-masted schooner built in 1888 at Clydebank, Scotland, for the Inman Line. It was one of the first double-propelled transatlantic liners. In July 1893, she set the record for the Southampton-New York crossing.
That same year, it was transferred to the American register and renamed simply Paris.
When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, the Navy hired the Paris of the American Line and received a new name, USS Yale. She patrolled around Puerto Rico, capturing the Spanish merchant ship Rita, and was shot down by Spanish ships off San Juan. She then ferried troops to and from Puerto Rico for the military. She was paid off 2 September 1898 and returned to the American Line, which changed her name to Paris.
On May 21, 1899, she ran aground off England, in a treacherous set of rocks called the Manacles, off the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. (There are lots of wrecks there, making it a popular dive spot.) It took until July 11 to release her and take her to Belfast, Ireland, for a thorough refit. She left Belfast with new engines, two funnels instead of her original three, and a new name-philadelphia cream.
When the United States entered World War I, the Navy again acquired the ship from the American Line. It was at this time that she was renamed USS Harrisburg. She made four trips to Europe transporting troops and supplies during the war; after the war ended, the USS Harrisburg made six additional voyages to bring “the doughboys” home. She was returned to the American Line in September 1919.
The ship’s career was coming to an end. In 1922, she was sold to the New York-Naples Steamship Company, then scrapped in 1923.
Now on to the new USS Harrisburg (LPD 30). This will be an Amphibious Transport Dock, also known as a Landing Platform/Dock, where the LPD designation comes from. She will be the 14th San Antonio class ship in the fleet.
The primary mission of amphibious transport dock ships is, as their name suggests, transportation. They take the Marines, their equipment, and their vehicles to combat areas. Vehicles, in this case, include aircraft; the ship includes a hangar and a landing deck for VTOL aircraft and helicopters.
They are big ships. They have a length of 684 feet, a beam (width for non-nautical types) of 105 feet, and a draft of 23 feet. (Fairly, by comparison, the largest battleships ever built by the United States, the Iowa class, were 861 feet in length.) Their top speed is “over” 22 knots. They carry a crew of 28 officers and 333 enlisted and can carry a landing force of 66 officers and 633 enlisted.
What used to be called a pin lay is now often called a pin authentication. The reason? Many modern ships do not have a keel in the old sense of a single massive piece of wood or metal extending from bow to stern, serving as the base from which the ship is built. Modern ships are usually modular assemblies, and the authentication ceremony takes place when the first two modules of a ship are put together. Although assembly methods have changed, one important tradition lives on: the ship’s sponsor. It is about a civilian woman who is asked to “sponsor” a ship, bringing good luck to the ship and its sailors. For the USS Harrisburg, the sponsor is Alexandra Curry, wife of Middletown Mayor Jim Curry, who had her initials engraved on the keel plate by welders.