PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Building a state of the art Naval warship is a process that takes years to complete. Ingalls Shipbuilding took the next step Friday in authenticating the keel of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock Richard M. McCool Jr. (LPD 29).
Co-sponsors Shana McCool and Kate Oja, granddaughter’s to the ship’s namesake, declared the keel to be “truly and fairly laid.”
When ships are built, celebrations are necessary all along the phases of development. That’s why Steve Sloan, LPD Program manager, said Friday deserved a celebration.
“We are here today for the keel authentication of the LPD 29, the Richard M. McCool, Jr," Sloan said.
During the keel authentication, a ship’s sponsor signs a steel plate declaring that the keel has been truly and fairly laid. A welder then makes that signature permanent.
“You know, it’s overwhelming. It’s such an honor to be here. He was such a great man and a war hero to many," McCool told WLOX.
Her grandfather was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1945 after the ship he was on was attacked by a kamikaze aircraft. After regaining consciousness, McCool began saving others. He was awarded in 1945 for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” as commanding officer of infantry landing support craft during the Battle of Okinawa.
“Every ship has a legacy infused by the sponsor and the naming of the ship, and I’m so honored that this ship is named for a Medal of Honor hero," Sloan said. "That is the spirit that we need in our sailors and marines who will operate this ship, and they will be greatly inspired by that story.”
Sloan said that sense of pride and honor begins long before the service men and women board the ship.
“The men and women here at Ingalls come to work every day inspired by knowing that the ships that we build enable our military to provide for our defense," he said.
According to Sloan, LPD 29 was originally going to be the last ship in that class to be built. However, the Navy was so impressed by this class of ship, it has ordered 10 additional vessels - all to be built at Ingalls.
While McCool was a highly decorated naval officer and a Medal of Honor recipient, to his family, he was just granddad.
“Every other time I would see him, he would just swoop me up in his arms and say ‘hey there pretty girl’ and give me the greatest hug I’ve ever had," said his granddaughter Shana. "He was such a great man, I wish he could be here today.”