Monday, August 01, 2005

Halsey, McCain Families Celebrate New Destroyer, USS Halsey (DDG 97)

In the photo now nearly 60 years old, Adm. William F. Halsey Jr. is sharing a reflective moment with good friend Vice Adm. John S. McCain aboard the dreadnought Missouri in Tokyo Harbor hours after Japan's surrender Sept. 2, 1945. The two had served together through the good and the bad in the Pacific and were instrumental in defeating the Japanese.
Admiral William F. Halsey and Vice Admiral John S. McCain on board USS Missouri (BB-63) shortly after the conclusion of the surrender ceremonies, 2 September 1945.
It would be the last time they would meet. Four days later, on Sept. 6, 1945, McCain landed in San Diego. He quietly died of a heart attack at his home on A Avenue in Coronado later that day. Halsey flew to San Diego to attend McCain's memorial. Years later, Halsey was so choked up during the commissioning of the first John S. McCain, a destroyer, in 1953 that he could not finish his speech. On Saturday, it was a McCain's turn to honor a Halsey in this back and forth between Navy royalty. This time Sen. John McCain, the admiral's grandson and a career Navy officer, a former prisoner of war and the son of another flag officer, delivered the commissioning address at Coronado Naval Air Station for the Navy's newest ship, the guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) .
Standing next to Halsey's relatives aboard the namesake ship, McCain said his family owed the Halseys a huge debt. McCain said the admiral made sure his grandfather was present at the surrender aboard the Missouri. "It proved to be the perfect closing chapter to a life that was all too short," McCain said. Halsey graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1904 and was awarded the Navy Cross during World War I for escort duty. In February 1942, he led the first counterstrikes of World War II against the Japanese with carrier raids on Gilbert and Marshall islands. Later that year, his task force launched the "Doolittle Raids" on mainland Japan. Although Halsey, one of just five men to hold the rank of fleet admiral, is rightfully known for spectacular air operations, McCain pointed out that Halsey captained 10 destroyers for 20 of his 45 years in uniform. Halsey would be forever known for his slogan: "Hit hard, hit fast, hit often." Halsey was born in 1882 and died in 1959. "He was always a destroyer man," McCain said. And the first Navy ship Halsey (1963-1994) was a guided-missile destroyer later classified as a cruiser.
Anne Halsey-Smith, grand-daughter of the legendary World War II naval commander, said the family specifically wanted McCain to speak at the commissioning. "They were extremely good friends. They had a great admiration for each other," said Halsey-Smith, who lives in La Jolla, of her and the senator's grandfathers. "In going through the memorabilia of my grandfather, I found more photos of my grandfather and Admiral McCain than anyone else. Because of that we thought that Senator McCain would be a wonderful speaker for this excellent event." Halsey-Smith, along with Heidi Cooke-Halsey and Alice "Missy" Spruance Talbot, all granddaughters of Halsey's, were to be the sponsors of the ship. However, Talbot took ill and could not attend. An estimated 5,000 people crowded the dock for the commissioning that culminated in hundreds of white-uniformed sailors, their medals twinkling, running aboard the ship to the tune "Anchors Aweigh" when the order "man our ship and bring her to life" was given.
The 509-foot, 9,300-ton Arleigh Burke-class ship joins the Pacific Fleet and will be based in San Diego. In a way, Halsey and McCain are joined again in the Pacific. In 1994, the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), named after the senator's father and grandfather, was commissioned.
USS John S. McCain (DDG 56)
That ship is based in Yokosuka, Japan. "This makes me very nostalgic," the senator said while signing autographs and posing for photos. "I was thinking about the generation that made the world safe."

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