ADMIRAL MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Good morning, Pascagoula. What a great, beautiful southern Mississippi morning and a great Navy day. It is an honor and my privilege to be here today to join you for the christening of this great warship.
Mrs. Lucas, Mrs. Reynolds, matrons of honor, and other members of the Lucas family, Senator Wicker, Congressman Palazzo, Secretary Berger, Congressman Guests, distinguished guests, shipmates, in February of 1945, a 17-year-old Marine waded through enemy waters, flanked only by his fire team, as they moved towards the sound of fire and into the battle for Iwo Jima.
Today, we christen this incredible ship you see behind us, and in the coming year 350 of our nation’s finest sailors will put to sea this destroyer named Jack H. Lucas, for whom the bell nearly tolled on a tiny island made of godforsaken rock, sand, and volcanic ash.
But this was no ordinary man. This was the United States Marine who jumped on not one but two grenades to save the lives of his team. Because he survived, and as the story has been told today, many believed and perhaps he was, indestructible.
So for a ship that aspires to shield our nation and defend freedom, the name Jack H. Lucas is not only fitting but it signifies the bravery and the toughness for which this ship must always strive to emulate.
Today, we not only christen the USS Jack H. Lucas but we celebrate the evolution of the American destroyer and the tenacity of our sailors who, throughout history, have driven these ships into harm’s way.
In times past, it has often been the strength of our fleet that has tipped the scales of conflict against our adversaries. Our role in the world has never been an easy one. It should not be. It has required not only strength but it requires sacrifice. That is the price that we pay for our commitment to our ideals and a vision for a safe and secure world for our children and for their children.
Throughout its history the American destroyer embodies our nation’s strength and willingness to serve. Multi-mission by design, destroyers charge into contested environments to protect convoys or protect capital ships so that we can control the seas and defend the cause of freedom around the world.
A destroyer at flank speed is a not so gentle reminder to every nation that we will bear any burden and support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty. Perhaps there is no finer example of our destroyers’ place in history than that of Leyte Gulf, and if you’d bear with me for just a short story.
At the Battle of Samar during World War II, with their five-inch guns blazing, torpedoes exploding around them, and anti-air flak blotting the skies above them, three American destroyers, along with their escorts – they were outgunned and they were outnumbered – charged into the fray to face a much superior Japanese force.
Resolved to fight rather than run, these American fighting ships stormed into history in what would be remembered as the last stand of the tin can sailors and the United States Navy’s finest hour.
Before the battle began, Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland, he addressed his crew and he said, “This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.” These tin can sailors sacrificed themselves to save the landing forces commanded by General MacArthur, cementing an Allied victory and extinguishing the fires of global combat.
Following the war, our destroyers evolved with the advent of guided missiles, allowing them to take on surface combatant roles previously filled by battleships and cruisers. Throughout the Cold War, our destroyers became America’s keepers of the sea, the greyhounds, and the protectors of free and open oceans around the world.
At the dawn of this century, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer has become the gold standard for modern surface combat. These warships, built around state-of-the-art Aegis combat systems equipment, established themselves as the very fulcrum of our fleet as fierce a friend to our allies and a fear-inspiring foe to all adversaries.
The Arleigh Burke-class, built right here, has reminded relevant – has remained relevant and lethal because we have modernized this platform just as Admiral Wayne E. Meyer, the father of Aegis, intended it to be. With each successive flight of the DDG, we built a little, we tested a little, and we learned a lot. If here today, Admiral Burke and Admiral Meyer would stand proudly in awe of the USS Jack H. Lucas.
Lucas will not only be the most capable and sophisticated surface combatant ever built by man, but it also represents the bridge from the past to the future as we bring in new radar, the Aegis Baseline 10, and a new electric plant onto an already highly capable platform.
Such an evolution, though, would be impossible without the shipbuilders of Huntington Ingalls Industries and the Pascagoula community. The Flight III represents the dedication and the commitment of our sailors and our civilians, the skill and the innovation of our shipyards and industry partners, and the commitment of the American people to keep the seas free and open for all.
From its combat system and galley equipment to the generators that power the destroyer on its critical missions abroad, components from all over the country are brought and assembled from the keel up right here in Pascagoula. When the Jack H. Lucas soon sets sail across the world, you should all beam with pride, knowing you helped bring this ship to life. You have built the finest destroyer in the world.
Our responsibility as a Navy is to field captains and crews capable of commanding and sailing such a fine ship. To her crew, I ask you what does it mean to be a tin can sailor and how do we prove worthy of such a legacy?
In the end, no matter our stations, standing, or background, it takes a couple of seconds of courage to overcome the unforgiving minute – Jack knew that – and to place – and to remember to place ship and to place shipmate before yourselves. Just like Jack Lucas, the legacy of the destroyer is one of selfless sacrifice and the bravery to charge into the breach once more.
I charge Captain Oster, Commander Ross, and Command Master Chief Brockman to make this ship as indestructible as her namesake, and to sail it as boldly as the tin can sailors of World War II. When Admiral Burke christened the first ship of this proud class of destroyers, his namesake, the Arleigh Burke, on July 4th, 1991, he said this: “May this ship do her duty for many years and may she have good luck in all her endeavors.”
For this ship, the first Arleigh Burke Flight III, the USS Jack H. Lucas, I wish all future captains and sailors of this ship the very same. May God bless our country. May God bless all of you, your families, and many voyages to come.
Thank you. (Applause.)
Adm. Mike Gilday
26 March 2022
28 March 2022
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