Morale: Selling Naming Rights for American Warships

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December20, 2006: There's growing popular resistance to naming major U.S. Navy warships after politicians, especially ones that are still alive. A major PR brawl is brewing around the issue of what the next American aircraft carrier should be called. The Secretary of the Navy has the final say on what new warships will be named, but he usually takes what ever hints Congress throws his way. Until the 1980s, few warships were named after people. Instead, they were named after cities, states, great battles, naval or marine heroes or names that have traditionally been used over and over again (like Enterprise or Hornet). Ships were named after dead, and prominent, politicians, until the navy decided to name an aircraft carrier after a living politician (Carl Vinson) in 1975. The reasoning behind this was purely political. The navy wanted more money and, without coming right out and saying it, they were selling naming rights to politicians who had, and would continue to, get lots of money for the navy.

This policy was not popular with many sailors, or voters, for that matter. But these people did not decide how much money the navy got, a few key politicians did. The anger has been growing, and appears to be reaching the confrontation level with the dispute over naming the next American aircraft carrier after former president Gerald Ford. Ironically, Ford does have some background as a brave carrier sailor. During World War II, he served as a navigation officer on the carrier USS Monterey, in the Pacific. Ford even won a medal for valiantly, and at risk to life and limb, securing loose engines and aircraft on the hanger deck, while the ship was being tossed about by a typhoon. Ford could have been killed, the ship could have been sunk, if he had not led the team that secured the loose aircraft. But this does not make Ford the kind of naval hero you name ships after. And this is what a growing number of sailors and civilians are agitated about. One group of veterans (www.cvn78.com), who served on the (decommissioned in 1996) carrier USS America, want the new carrier to be called America. This resonates with a lot of people. Time will tell if it will resonate with the Secretary of the Navy, and his politician buddies in Washington.

 


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