The U.S. Navy will officially christen its newest roll-on/roll-off cargo ship in honor of a U.S. Army Medal of Honor recipient on Saturday, June 20, 1998, during a 10 a.m. ceremony at Avondale Shipyard, in New Orleans, La.
- The ship will be named in honor of U.S. Army Sgt. William W. Seay (1948-1968), a native of Brewton, Ala., who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry in action at the cost of his own life in Vietnam on Aug. 25, 1968. Sgt. Seay distinguished himself while serving as a driver with the 62nd Transportation Company on a resupply mission near Ap Hi, Republic of Vietnam. The convoy, with which he was traveling, was carrying critically needed ammunition and supplies, was ambushed by a reinforced battalion of the North Vietnamese Army. As the main elements of the convoy entered the ambush killing zone, they were struck by intense rocket, machinegun and automatic weapon fire from the well-concealed and entrenched enemy force. When the convoy was forced to stop, Sgt. Seay dismounted and took a defensive position behind the wheels of a vehicle loaded with high-explosive ammunition. As the violent North Vietnamese assault approached to within 10 meters of the road, Sgt. Seay opened fire, killing two of the enemy. He then spotted a sniper in a tree and killed him. When an enemy grenade was thrown under an ammunition trailer, he left his protective cover, picked up the grenade, and
- threw it back to the North Vietnamese position, killing four more of the enemy and saving the lives of the men around him. Another enemy grenade landed approximately three meters from Sgt. Seay's position. Again Sgt. Seay left his cover and threw the grenade back upon the assaulting enemy. After returning to his position he was wounded in the right wrist; however, he continued giving encouragement and direction to fellow soldiers. After moving to the cover of a shallow ditch, he detected three enemy soldiers who had penetrated the position and were preparing to fire on his comrades. Although weak from loss of blood and with his right hand immobilized, Sgt. Seay stood up and fired his rifle with his left hand, killing all three and saving the lives of the men in his location. As a result of his heroic action, Sgt. Seay was mortally wounded by a sniper's bullet.
Gen. Walter Kross, commander in chief, U.S. Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is the ceremony's principal speaker. Serving as ship's sponsor is Mrs. Pauline W. Harrison, mother of the ship's namesake.
The new large medium speed roll-on/roll-off (LMSR) ship was constructed at Avondale Industries Inc., New Orleans, La. The ship will be operated by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C. USNS Seay's roll on/roll-off design will enable the U.S. Navy to forward deploy U.S. Army helicopters, tanks, trucks, and other military vehicles. USNS Seay is 950 feet in length, has a beam of 105 feet, displaces approximately 62,000 tons when fully loaded and has approximately 380,000 square feet of cargo carrying space. The diesel-powered ship will be able to sustain speeds up to 24 knots.
A total of 19 LMSRs, both existing ship conversions and new construction, are planned to be delivered by U.S. shipyards by the year 2001 under the Strategic Sealift Program being managed by the Naval Sea Systems Command. This fleet is intended to satisfy the nation's need for increased sealift readiness and capacity to provide rapid delivery of urgently needed support and equipment to a theater of operations during crisis.