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An overhead view of the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) firing all 15 of its guns (nine 16-inch and six 5-inch) during a target exercise near Vieques Island.  Careful observation of the three main turrets shows the barrels in various states of recoil. Photo: US Navy

An overhead view of the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) firing all 15 of its guns (nine 16-inch and six 5-inch) during a target exercise near Vieques Island. Careful observation of the three main turrets shows the barrels in various states of recoil.
Photo: US Navy

A weekly feature honoring the armed forces of the United States and its Allies.

1898, the cruiser Charleston (C 2) captures the island of Guam, its Spanish colonial government unaware that their country is at war with the United States. The island was taken by the United States without incident and the Charleston went down in history as the ship that raised the American flag on Guam.

USS Charleston at Hong Kong, 1898. Credit: US Navy

USS Charleston at Hong Kong, 1898.
Credit: US Navy

An undated photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C 2) manning one of the ship's guns during the Spanish-American War.  U.S. Navy photo

An undated photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C 2) manning one of the ship’s guns during the Spanish-American War.
U.S. Navy photo

Charleston at Manila. US Navy photo

Charleston at Manila.
US Navy photo

The US Navy’s Last Ships

I talk a lot about US Navy’s firsts and there have been A LOT, but with the TNT premiere of The Last Ship on Sunday night, I thought I’d pay homage to Navy’s “lasts!”

  • The LAST SHIP in commission from the War of 1812: USS Constitution. Currently, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat is undergoing restoration, but it’s still open for visitors.
BOSTON (Aug. 29, 2014) USS Constitution sets sail in Boston Harbor during the ship's second and final chief petty officer heritage week underway demonstration of 2014. More than 150 chief petty officer selects and mentors assisted the crew of Constitution with setting the ship's three topsails during the underway to conclude a week of sail training aboard Old Ironsides. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney)

BOSTON (Aug. 29, 2014) USS Constitution sets sail in Boston Harbor during the ship’s second and final chief petty officer heritage week underway demonstration of 2014. More than 150 chief petty officer selects and mentors assisted the crew of Constitution with setting the ship’s three topsails during the underway to conclude a week of sail training aboard Old Ironsides. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney)

  • The LAST SHIP commissioned as a battleship: USS Wisconsin (BB 64). While it’s true USS Missouri (BB 63) was the last battleship in commission, Wisconsin, was not only the last of the four commissioned Iowa-class battlewagons to be commissioned when they were first built, she was the last of the four to be recommissioned for service in the late 80s and early 90s.  She was decommissioned for the final time in 1991 after serving in Desert Storm.
USS Wisconsin (BB-64)  Firing a broadside to port with her 16/50 and 5/38 guns, circa 1988-91.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) Firing a broadside to port with her 16/50 and 5/38 guns, circa 1988-91. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

  • The LAST SHIP to sink at the Battle of Midway: USS Yorktown (CV 5). It might be said that by the time Yorktown participated in the Battle of Midway, she was already on borrowed time having fought so valiantly at Coral Sea only three weeks earlier where she sustained significant damage.  But her crew and shipyard workers at Pearl Harbor returned the ship to sea in time for the pivotal Battle of Midway. Yorktown played a key role in the victory that spelled the beginning of the end of Japanese aggression in the Pacific, but as she was repairing damage from the second battle a Japanese sub launched a salvo of torpedoes at her and the accompanying destroyer USS Hamman, which quickly sank.  Yorktown, struck twice by the subs torpedoes and further damaged as the sinking Hamman’s depth charges ignited, remained stubbornly afloat for another 18 hours before finally rolling over and sinking. Yorktown earned three battle stars for her World War II service; two of them being for the significant part she had played in stopping Japanese expansion and turning the tide of the war at Coral Sea and at Midway.
Anchored in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 30 October 1937.  U.S. Navy Photograph.

Anchored in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 30 October 1937. U.S. Navy Photograph.

  • The LAST SHIP of the Oliver Hazard Perry Class to deploy: USS Kauffman (FFG 59).  She was commissioned in February 1987 and left Norfolk for her last deployment in January 2015. After she returns home from serving and protecting her country, she will become the last of the Oliver Hazard Perry class of ships to retire.
NEW YORK (May 25, 2011) The guided-missile frigate USS Kauffman (FFG 59) transits the Hudson River during Fleet Week 2011 parade of ships. Fleet Week has been New York City's celebration of the sea services since 1984. It is an opportunity for citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see first-hand, the latest capabilities of today's maritime services. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst)

NEW YORK (May 25, 2011) The guided-missile frigate USS Kauffman (FFG 59) transits the Hudson River during Fleet Week 2011 parade of ships. Fleet Week has been New York City’s celebration of the sea services since 1984. It is an opportunity for citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see first-hand, the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst)

  • The LAST SHIP to be named for a Medal of Honor recipient: USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112). Named to honor Lt. Michael Murphy’s heroic actions during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan, the ship recently returned home from its maiden deployment. The ship and crew of more than 300 Sailors conducted goodwill activities with partner nations and various presence operations such as Oceania Maritime Security Initiative in the Pacific Ocean during its seven month deployment.
  • The LAST SHIP to be commissioned in memory of the sacrifice and loss of 9/11: USS Somerset (LPD 25). Joining her sister ships, USS New York (LPD 21) and USS Arlington (LPD 24), Somerset joined the fleet on March 1, 2014.  Her mission is to embark, transport, and land elements of a landing force for a variety of expeditionary warfare missions.
GULF OF MEXICO (Aug. 19, 2013) The Ingalls-built amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Somerset (LPD 25) transits the Gulf of Mexico during builder's sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. by Steve Blount)

GULF OF MEXICO (Aug. 19, 2013) The Ingalls-built amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Somerset (LPD 25) transits the Gulf of Mexico during builder’s sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. by Steve Blount)

  • The LAST SHIP to test the Navy’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D): USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). In August 2014, the X-47B unmanned aircraft conducted its first night time deck handling and taxi tests and completed a series of tests demonstrating its ability to take off, land and fly in the carrier pattern with manned aircraft while maintaining normal flight deck operations.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 17, 2014) The Navy's unmanned X-47B launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The aircraft completed a series of tests demonstrating its ability to operate safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo by  Liz Wolter)

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 17, 2014) The Navy’s unmanned X-47B launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The aircraft completed a series of tests demonstrating its ability to operate safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo by Liz Wolter)

  • The LAST SHIP to have Admiral Chester Nimitz as its Commanding Officer: USS Augusta (CA31). In 1933, long before he became Chief of Naval Operations in 1945, he commanded USS Augusta, the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet.
(CA-31)  Anchored in the Hudson River, off New York City, at the time of the Navy Day Fleet Review, circa late October 1945.  Collection of Warren Beltramini, donated by Beryl Beltramini, 2007.  U.S. Navy Historical Collections Photo.

(CA-31) Anchored in the Hudson River, off New York City, at the time of the Navy Day Fleet Review, circa late October 1945. Collection of Warren Beltramini, donated by Beryl Beltramini, 2007. U.S. Navy Historical Collections Photo.

  • The LAST SHIP to launch U.S. Army bombers: USS Hornet (CV 8). Conceived in January 1942 in the wake of the devastating Japanese surprise attack on Oahu, the Doolittle Raid or the “joint Army-Navy bombing project” was to bomb Japanese industrial centers, to inflict both “material and psychological” damage upon the enemy. In the joint operation, 16 Army B-25 Mitchell Bombers launched April 18, 1942 from the deck of Hornet to conductair raids on Tokyo, Yokosuka, Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagoya, against negligible opposition.
“The Tokyo Raid By US Army B-25 Bombers,” April 1942 by John Charles Roach, Oil Painting on Canvas, WWII. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Gallery 2012-12-8)

“The Tokyo Raid By US Army B-25 Bombers,” April 1942 by John Charles Roach, Oil Painting on Canvas, WWII. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Gallery 2012-12-8)

  • The LAST SHIP to have a treaty signed on its decks: USS Missouri (BB63). Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, signed the Instrument of Surrender as United States Representative, on board USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945 thus marking the formal end of World War II.
General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945. Watching from across the table are Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Representatives of the Allied powers are behind General MacArthur. Photographed from atop Missouri's 16-inch gun turret # 2.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945. Watching from across the table are Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Representatives of the Allied powers are behind General MacArthur. Photographed from atop Missouri’s 16-inch gun turret # 2. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

  • The LAST SHIP to fight in the American Revolution: USS Alliance. On March 10, 1783, more than a month after the Treaty of Paris officially ended the American Revolution, the 36-gun Continental frigate Alliance, commanded by Capt. John Barry, departs Havana with companion ship Due de Lauzun carrying money for Congress. South of Cape Canaveral, Fla., she sights three enemy warships closing in. To protect Due de Lauzen, Barry places Alliance between the vessel and HMS Sybil. After being damaged in battle, Sybil disengages.
USS Alliance

USS Alliance

Crash

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