The U.S. Navy will officially name its newest roll-on/roll-off cargo ship in honor of a U.S. Army Medal of Honor recipient during a 10 a.m. (PDT) ceremony, Saturday, Oct. 25, 1997, at National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., San Diego, Calif.
The ship will be named USNS Soderman (T-AKR 299) in honor of Pfc. William A. Soderman, USA (1912-1980), a native of West Haven, Conn. Pfc. Soderman was assigned to Company K, 9th Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division during World War II. On Dec. 17, 1944, Pfc. Soderman defended a key road junction near Rocherath, Belgium. Under severe artillery barrage, mortar and machine gun fire, he remained at his post and successfully held off German counteroffenses by disabling three enemy tanks with a bazooka at point blank range before being wounded. Distinguishing himself by conspicuous gallantry and unfaltering courage against overwhelming odds, above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy, President Harry S Truman presented Pfc. Soderman the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on Oct. 12, 1945.
Soderman is the fifth ship to undergo conversion from a commercial container vessel to a Large, Medium Speed, Roll On/Roll Off (LMSR) sealift ship. It will be operated by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C.
After undergoing conversion to meet Army and Navy requirements, Soderman's roll on/roll off design will make it ideal for transporting helicopters, tanks and other wheeled and tracked military vehicles. Soderman is 906 feet in length, has a beam of 106 feet, displaces approximately 55,000 tons when fully loaded and has over 302,000 square feet of cargo carrying space. One 47,000 horsepower slow speed diesel enables the ship to sustain speeds up to 24 knots.
Lt. Gen. George Crocker, USA, commanding general, I Corps and Fort Lewis, Wash.,will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Serving as ship's sponsor is Mrs. Virginia Soderman, widow of the ship's namesake.