The U.S. Navy will christen its newest roll-on/roll-off cargo ship the USNS Pililaau (T-AKR 304) at Litton-Avondale Industries Inc., New Orleans, La., during a ceremony at 10 a.m. CDT on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2000.
The ship will be named USNS Pililaau to honor Army Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau, (1928-1951), awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for the valiant defense of his position near Pia-ri, Korea, Sept. 17, 1951. While defending a key piece of terrain on "Heartbreak Ridge," his company held back enemy assaults until the unit was ordered to withdraw due to a shortage of ammunition. Voluntarily remaining behind to cover the withdrawal, Pililaau fired his remaining automatic weapons ammunition and grenades into the enemy, then fought hand-to-hand with trench knife and bare fists until he was mortally wounded. When the position was subsequently recaptured, 40 enemy dead were found nearby. No previous ship has been named USNS Pililaau.
Former Secretary of the Navy Sean O'Keefe will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Agnes Kuumaewa Pilila'au Kim, sister of the ship's namesake, and Polly Ellis, wife of Navy Adm. James O. Ellis Jr., commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, will serve as ship's co-sponsors. In the time-honored Navy tradition, Kim and Ellis will break a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally name the ship.
The fifth in the Bob Hope class of large, medium speed, roll-on/roll-off (LMSR) sealift ships, USNS Pililaau is a non-combatant vessel built by Litton-Avondale Industries in New Orleans, La. It will be crewed by civilian mariners and operated by the Navy's Military Sealift Command. LMSR ships are ideal for loading military combat equipment and combat support equipment needed overseas and for resupplying military Services with necessary equipment and supplies during national crisis. The ship's six-deck interior has a cargo carrying capacity of approximately 390,000 square feet and its roll-on/roll-off design makes it ideal for transporting helicopters, tanks and other wheeled and tracked military vehicles.
Two 110-ton single pedestal twin cranes make it possible to load and unload cargo where shoreside infrastructure is limited or non-existent. A commercial helicopter deck enables emergency, daytime landings. USNS Pililaau is 950 feet in length, has a beam of 106 feet, and displaces approximately 62,000 long tons. The diesel-powered ship will be able to sustain speeds up to 24 knots.