Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter has announced the names for the U.S. Navy’s two newest Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers to honor two American heroes famous for their naval service.
DDG hull number 110 will be named the USS William P. Lawrence to honor Vice Adm. William P. Lawrence, who served nearly six years as a prisoner of war (POW) in North Vietnam and later as superintendent of the Naval Academy.
Lawrence was born Jan. 13, 1930, in Nashville, Tenn. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1951. At the Naval Academy, he played three varsity sports and was president and brigade commander, in which capacity he helped establish the Brigade Honor concept. He graduated from the Naval Air Test Center as an honor graduate and in 1958 was the first naval aviator to fly twice the speed of sound.
During the Vietnam War, as commanding officer of Fighter Squadron 143, Lawrence earned the Silver Star for a strike against a heavily defended target in North Vietnam. He completed his mission, but was captured after his aircraft went down and he remained a POW until March 1973. He earned the Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership to fellow POWs. Along with fellow prisoner and naval aviator, Vice Adm. James Stockdale, Lawrence became noted for resistance to his captors. Stockdale remarked that Lawrence, “repeatedly paid the price for being perceived by the enemy as a source of their troubles through his high crime of leadership. He could not be intimidated and never gave up the ship.
In August 1978, he became superintendent of the Naval Academy and subsequently served as commander Third Fleet and chief of naval personnel. Following promotion to rear admiral in 1974, he served as: commander, Light Attack Wing, U. S. Pacific Fleet; director Aviation Programs Division on the staff of the chief of naval operations; assistant deputy chief of naval operations (air warfare); superintendent, U.S. Naval Academy; commander, U. S. Third Fleet in the Pacific; and chief of naval personnel, retiring in 1986.
DDG hull number 111 will be named the USS Spruance to honor Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, whose calm and decisive leadership in command of Task Force 16 at the Battle of Midway contributed to the pivotal American victory.
Spruance was born in Baltimore, on July 3, 1886. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1906.. His career was extensive, including command of five destroyers and the battleship Mississippi.
In the first months of World War II in the Pacific,. Spruance commanded a cruiser division. He led Task Force 16, with two aircraft carriers, during the Battle of Midway. Spruance’s disposition of forces and management of available aircraft proved to be brilliant. His decisions during that action were important to its outcome, which changed the course of the war with Japan.
After the Battle of Midway, he became chief of staff to the commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas and later was deputy commander in chief. In mid-1943, he was given command of the Central Pacific Force, which became the Fifth Fleet in April 1944. While holding that command in 1943-45, with the USS Indianapolis (CA-35) as his usual flagship, Spruance directed the campaigns that captured the Gilberts, Marshalls, Marianas, Iwo Jima and Okinawa and defeated the Japanese fleet in the June 1944 Battle of Philippine Sea.
Spruance held command of the Pacific Fleet in late 1945 and early 1946. He then served as president of the Naval War College until retiring from the Navy in July 1948. In 1952-55, he was ambassador to the Philippines. Spruance died at Pebble Beach, Calif., on Dec. 13, 1969.
The USS William P. Lawrence and the USS Spruance will provide dynamic multi-mission platforms to lead the Navy into the future. Using a gas turbine propulsion system the ship can operate independently or as part of carrier battle groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups, and underway replenishment groups. Combat systems center around the Aegis combat system and the SPY-lD, multi-function phased array radar. The combination of Aegis, the Vertical Launching System, an advanced anti-submarine warfare system, advanced anti-aircraft missiles and Tomahawk, the Arleigh Burke-class continues the revolution at sea.