The U.S. Navy will christen its newest roll-on/roll-off cargo ship the USNS MENDONCA (T-AKR 303), Saturday, April 10, during a 10 a.m. (CDT) ceremony at Avondale Industries Inc. in New Orleans, La.
The ship will be named the USNS Mendonca to honor Army Sgt. Leroy A. Mendonca, (1932-1951), who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for defending a newly-won, vital hilltop position against an assault by a large hostile force near Chick-on, Korea, July 4, 1951. During a nighttime attack, when his platoon was outflanked and subsequently ordered to withdraw, Mendonca voluntarily remained in an exposed position to cover the movement. Although under heavy fire, he held the on-rushing enemy at bay with rifle and grenades until his ammunition was exhausted. He fought on, using his rifle butt and bayonet, until he fell mortally wounded. It is estimated that Mendonca accounted for 37 enemy casualties. He enabled the platoon to assume a defensive position from which they repelled the enemy attack and maintained possession of that vital hilltop. No previous ship has been named USNS Mendonca.
The Under Secretary of the Army Bernard Rosker will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Serving as ship's sponsor is the sister of the ship's namesake, Genevieve Gibbons. In the time-honored Navy tradition, she will break a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally name the ship.
The fourth in the Bob Hope Class of large, medium speed, roll-on/roll-off sealift ships, USNS Mendonca is a non-combatant vessel, crewed by civilian mariners and operated by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C. Its roll-on/roll-off design makes it ideal for transporting helicopters, tanks, and other wheeled and tracked military vehicles. The ship will have approximately 390,000 square feet of cargo-carrying space. USNS Mendonca is 950 feet in length, has a beam of 105.8 feet and displaces approximately 62,000 tons. The diesel-powered ship will be able to sustain speeds up to 24 knots.