NEW ORLEANS – With the boom of cannons, the Navy commissioned the USS New Orleans before thousands of onlookers Saturday, marking the first time since at least World War II a Navy ship has been built and commissioned in its namesake city.
“May God bless and guide this warship and all who sail on her,” the secretary of the Navy, Donald Winter, said before hundreds of sailors in crisp, white uniforms ran onto the ship to set the traditional first watch and to salute those in the celebratory crowd below.
The $1.3 billion USS New Orleans is a transport ship that can embark a landing force of up to 800 Marines. It is the fourth ship to bear the New Orleans name. The last one was an amphibious assault vessel that served during the Vietnam War and in Operation Desert Storm. It was decommissioned in 1997 and is slated to be sunk for gunnery practice.
It took about five years to build this ship, including a months-long interruption in construction because of Hurricane Katrina. The work was completed Monday.