Bath shipyard marks milestone in construction of new destroyer

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BATH — Bath Iron Works celebrated the keel laying of what will ultimately be the USS Zumwalt on Nov. 17,  marking the second of five ceremonial milestones in the life of the ship.

The vessel, named for the late U.S. Navy Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt, is the first in a line of three DDG-1000 destroyers. The majority of the second and third ships are also to be built at BIW. The Zumwalt is to be christened in 2013 and delivered to the Navy in 2014.

The first ceremonial milestone in a ship’s life is the naming of that vessel, followed by the keel laying, christening, commissioning and decommissioning, according to BIW spokeswoman Dixie Stedman. The vessel will gain its “USS” designation once it is commissioned.

The ship’s namesake, who lived from 1920-2000, is largely regarded as the father of the modern Navy, thanks to the decisive changes he made while serving as the 19th chief of naval operations from 1970-1974, according to information provided by BIW.

Zumwalt served on destroyers throughout World War II in the Pacific, and he earned a Bronze Star for valor at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Zumwalt’s first command was the guided missile destroyer USS Dewey, built at BIW and delivered to the Navy in 1959. He headed littoral operations in Vietnam for his first post as admiral in 1965.

After being appointed the youngest-ever chief of naval operations, Zumwalt led a campaign against sexism and racism in the fleet while striving to improve morale and efficiency.

Zumwalt’s daughters, Ann Zumwalt and Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers, are the ship’s cosponsors. With their brother, retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. James Zumwalt, they authenticated a special plate which will be installed permanently in the vessel.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Ann Phillips, who is director of the Surface Warfare Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, was principal speaker in last week’s ceremony.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Bath Iron Works employee stands atop a section of the hull of the USS Zumwalt, currently under construction, a dignitaries marked the ceremonial laying of the ship’s keel on Nov. 17.Ann Zumwalt, daughter of U.S. Navy Adm. Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, speaks to the assembled crowd before welding her initials into a plaque to be placed on the keel of the ship named for her father.Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers, daughter of U.S. Navy Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, helps Bath Iron Works employee Carl Pepin weld her initials into the plaque to be placed on the keel of the USS Zumwalt.The plaque bearing the initials of the children of U.S. Navy Adm. Elmo R. “Bud” Zumwalt will be placed on the keel of USS Zumwalt, currently in production at BIW.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.