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