The Navy will christen the newest Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, William P. Lawrence, April 17, 2010, during a 10 a.m. CDT ceremony at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss.
Designated DDG 110, the new destroyer honors the late 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. He remained a POW from June 1967 until March 1973. He earned the Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership to fellow POWs.
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.
Ross Perot, Texas businessman and former presidential candidate, will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Diane Lawrence, widow of the ship’s namesake and Vice Adm. Lawrence’s daughters, Laurie Lawrence, M.D., and Capt. Wendy Lawrence, USN (Ret.) will serve as sponsors of the ship. In accordance with Navy tradition, they will break a bottle of champagne across the ship’s bow and christen the ship.
William P. Lawrence, the 60th Arleigh Burke class destroyer, will be able to conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection. William P. Lawrence will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously and contains a myriad of offensive and defensive weapons designed to supportmaritime warfare in keeping with “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” which postures the sea services to apply maritime power to protect U.S. vital interests in an increasingly interconnected and uncertain world.
Cmdr. Thomas R. Williams, II, is the prospective commanding officer of the ship and will lead the crew of 276 officers and enlisted personnel. The 9,200-ton William P. Lawrence is being built by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. The ship is 509 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 59 feet, and a navigational draft of 31 feet. Four gas turbine engines will power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.
Additional information on Arleigh Burke class destroyers is available online at http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4200&tid=900&ct=4 .