The U.S. Navy will christen the Guided Missile Destroyer Higgins (DDG 76) at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, during a 2:30 p.m. (EDT) ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 4, 1997.
The ship is named in honor of Col. William Richard Higgins, U.S. Marine Corps (1945-1990). Higgins was kidnapped by terrorists in Feb. 1988, while serving as the chief, Observer Group Lebanon and the senior United States military observer with the U.S. Truce Supervision Organization in the middle east. After being held captive by terrorists in Lebanon, Higgins was executed. Although the exact date of his death is uncertain, Higgins was officially declared dead on Jul. 6, 1990. The President posthumously awarded Higgins the Presidential Citizens Medal. Higgins, initially trained as an infantry officer, was a highly accomplished Marine. He was a 1967 graduate of Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and received his commission as a second lieutenant through the Navy ROTC program. He served in progressively challenging assignments including two tours in the Republic of Vietnam, plans officer, Service Plans and Policies Division, headquarters, Marine Corps, and later, an appointment as military assistant to the special assistant to the secretary and deputy secretary of Defense.
Higgins is the 26th of 50 Arleigh Burke Class ships authorized by Congress. These multi-mission ships are equipped with the Navy's AEGIS combat weapons system, which combines space-age communication, radar and weapons technologies in a single platform for unlimited flexibility while operating "ForwardFrom the Sea." These new destroyers will replace older, less capable ships that are being taken out of service as the Navy reduces spending while maintaining quality as part of its overall plan to modernize the fleet. Arleigh Burke Class ships are extremely versatile and are designed to operate independently as a multi-threat offensive platform or in support of aircraft carrier and amphibious operations.
The ship is equipped to carry Tomahawk cruise missiles and Standard surface-to-air missiles launched from forward and aft vertical launching systems, two fully automated radar controlled Phalanx close-in weapon systems, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two triple torpedo tubes, one five-inch gun and electronic warfare systems.
Cmdr. James "Red" Smith, U.S. Navy, a native of Chicago, Ill., has been selected as the prospective commanding officer of Higgins which has a crew of 21 officers and 322 enlisted. Higgins will join the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and will be homeported in San Diego, Calif. following commissioning in 1998. The ship was built at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, and is 505 feet in length, has a beam of 66 feet and displaces approximately 8,580 tons fully loaded. Four gas turbines engines power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.
Sen. Charles S. Robb of Virginia will be the ceremony's principal speaker. The ship's sponsor is Lt. Col. Robin L. Higgins, USMC (Ret.), widow of the ship's namesake. In the time-honored Navy tradition, Higgins will break a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally name Higgins.