The USS John Murtha and the USS Cesar Chavez

I try to adress all things Navy without stepping over that imaginary line that active-duty should not cross. This is a delicate topic, but we have two ships slated to hit the fleet with controversy over their names. CenTexTim, a Texas blogger and military vet, sent me this email:

Hey NavyOne –

I’d be interested in your thoughts regarding the recent brouhaha about the naming of Navy ships.

What initially brought this to my attention was the naming of a San Antonio-class ship after an individual (John Murtha).

I live near San Antonio, and there was a fair amount of local publicity about the USS San Antonio.

USS San Antonio, LPD-17

I always thought the theme of ship names was consistent within a given class, so the discrepancy caught my eye.

The Chavez thing seems to be another break with tradition. (Lewis and Clark class ships being named for explorers.)

It’s not so much the controversy about Chavez and Murtha (although I fail to see what either of them have done to deserve the honor of having an United States warship named after them) as it is the break with long-standing naval tradition.


The positives of naming the vessels after Chavez and Murtha is that both served in the military. Yet despite this fact, each has glaring downsides.

Cesar Chavez, Navy Sailor

Cesar Chavez recounted his time in the Navy as the worst two years of my life, which is nothing to speak of his probable Communist ties.

BLACKFIVE covered the subject:

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California suggested that Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta would be a better choice (than Chavez) for the ship.

Peralta was an immigrant from Mexico that earned his citizenship while in the Marine Corps, and was killed in Iraq in 2004 when he covered a grenade with his body in order to shield his comrades nearby.

The Conservative Hispanic Society even has a Facebook page:

  • Leticia Gutierrez Ablaza No!! He is the reason my dad left Cali and moved us tho Houston. He stopped working as a labor farm worker soon after Ceasar started unoinizing. He said C C was a mafioso who only looked out for his pockets and didn’t care about the people. My dad’s words.
    Cesar Chavez
  • Daniel Cardenas My grandfather worked in the fields in California and he did not much like Cesar Chavez either.
  • Elizabeth Raquel Sanchez Cesar Chavez considered his time in the Navy the worst time of his life! He may be a hero to farm workers, but he is not deserving of this prestigious honor!! This is a disgrace and an outrage!

As for John Murtha:

Mr. Mabus was also wrong to name the amphibious ship LPD-26 after the late Rep. John P. Murtha, breaking with the tradition of naming San Antonio class ships after U.S. cities.

Although Murtha was a Marine, he was criticized by veterans groups for calling the U.S. Marines facing charges for killing 24 Iraqis in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005 “cold blooded killers.”

Almost all the charges were later dropped. When Murtha died in 2010, an extensive federal corruption investigation was underway against him.

His name is not fit to carry our heroes to war.

John Murtha with Code Pink (the folks who vandalized the USMC Recruiting Center in Berkeley, CA)

I am not going to comment more extensively on either gentlemen other than to stress how important a ship’s name is. A friend of mine served aboard the USS Robert Stethem:

Robert Dean Stethem (November 17, 1961 – June 15, 1985) was a United States Navy Seabee diver who was killed by Hezbollah militants during thehijacking of the commercial airliner he was aboard: TWA Flight 847. His Navy rating was Steel Worker Second Class (SW2).

And he told me of running into SeaBees who tried to buy his command ballcap off his head. So naming a ship is a highly personal affair. Neither Murtha nor Chavez appear to be the best choice. What do you think?

USS Robert Stethem, DDG-63

18 thoughts on “The USS John Murtha and the USS Cesar Chavez”

  1. Navy One…another controversial issue…I have to agree…neither of these classless individuals deserves the honor of have a ship named after them. I actually don’t care that we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead; in life, Jack Murtha was the most egregious jackass and representative of a sizable segment of a the 12th Congressional district of Pennsylvania for a number of years…his last years as their representative were not with any honor that I can discern. It may only be an opinion, and it does not say the man didn’t serve with honor as a Marine. His successive years should never have occasioned the unwarranted outburst and accusations against fellow Marines. He was proven wrong on most, if not all counts. And because of the investigations against him, he should never be considered for such an honor.
    And I can’t even speak to the worthiness of Cesar Chavez…if he didn’t like being in the Navy for a marginal two years, why would anyone think him a candidate worthy of naming a vessel after? I am sure there are many more who should be under consideration and certainly not these two…neither of them deserve this sort of honor…k

  2. The creeping political correctness of the military continues. Murtha should have died in a federal prison instead of Congress; the fact he didn’t is a black mark on that body and the Justice Dept. Chavez was a communist who most likely would have preferred to have his name on a Soviet nuclear sub. I’m sure he and his KGB handler are laughing about this honor in the circle of hell devoted to rogues and knaves.

    1. Recalling that Kerry insulted the intelligence of all members of the military during his unsuccessful presidental campaign, I think that it should be the USS Jon Carry Halp Us.

  3. IF they go through with the naming of these ships, the sad thing is none of the officers and sailors will be unable to refuse to serve aboard them. They will have to live with ridicule and loss of dignity by having to serve on board.

  4. I won’t even speak to naming a ship after Chavez, he has done nothing to earn it.

    As for Murtha, everything I have read about his service says it was honorable. He also served as a Congressman and that combination is becoming rarer and rarer. Five years ago I probably would not have had major issues with his selection but after the investigations (and not the first) into his dealings, I know the Navy had to have better choices available.

    Namesakes of ships matter to the crew. I served aboard the CGC Vigilant (WMEC 617), the 12th cutter so named and a namesake of the first Revenue Cutter. It did not define the crew but it was definitely something we were aware of.

  5. What in the world do they think they’re going to achieve by naming ships after people who loathed the military? Do they think more people are going to enlist in the Navy? “Hey, I think the Navy is an evil, war-mongering, imperialist organization that trains young people to be psychopathic baby-killers . . . but, now that they’ve named a ship after Chavez, well, I think I should join.”

    This is a perfect example of the total muddle-headedness that is PC thinking. Those ships should be re-named, and quickly too.

    1. I am torn about the JROTC ruling from the puzzle palace. I spent 3 years in JROTC in high school and recognize there is no military commitment. It serves as a great introduction to the military for participants.

      What bothers me is the ruling from the ultimate military authority, the Pentagon, said it is OK. As many folks have expressed better than I, creeping Sharia begins in the most benign fashion.

      When an organization established to emulate our military accepts a religious dictate that conflicts with uniform policy, it leads me to believe we have stepped onto that slippery slope where it will become a precedent to force our active duty force to do the same. And that I do not support.

  6. Overheard concerning this subject: “Chavez? You got to be *&%^$#@ kidding! Next we will be naming one Mumia or Che *&^%$#@-T-shirt-Guevara-dickhead. How about the Charles Manson?”

  7. What has happened to my military and my Navy? SW2 (DV) Robert Stethem, a true Warrior Hero, should be the gold standard for naming ships of the world’s greatest navy, not communists and corrupt congress critters.

  8. This is what happens in a secular (Godless) country. With no greater being than yourself to honor, you risk thinking of yourself as a God. Those who serve in the House and the Senate (and, presently, the White House) don’t see themselves as servants of the people. They see the people as THEIR servants, who should bask in their glory when honored to be in their presence. They believe the people love them as they love themselves. They believe they are the leaders of the free world, and that anyone who occupies a chair in either body is a nobleman. To those in Washington, the most vile of their political comrades is still much grander than any common tax-paying citizen. And so, when it comes time to name a building or street, or even a military vessel, they think only themselves worthy…not real heroes, as most real heroes are the commoners they so resent.

  9. I’m a Navy veteran myself (1974-78 DT3) so I understand the fine line you must walk being active duty. Let me say it for you. Naming these ships after these guys is a disgrace to the service. Anyone unlucky enough to get a billet on these BGMFs will surely consider them cursed ships. Politically correct brown nosing has no place in naval tradition.

  10. As1stS: You took the words right out of my mouth!
    CMC: SW2 gave all. The others. . .
    Son of Bob: Well said.
    Whoopie: Perfect.

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