PCU California's Commissioning has Historic Ties to Namesake State

Story Number: NNS111024-01Release Date: 10/24/2011 2:46:00 PM
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By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- With Pre-Commissioning Unit California's (SSN 781) commissioning rapidly approaching, the U.S. Navy's newest submarine's historical ties between its namesake state and the history of the Submarine Force remain strong.

The Navy took delivery of California from Huntington Ingalls Industries - Newport News Shipbuilding - eight months earlier than the scheduled contract delivery date. California, the eighth boat of the Virginia-class, will be the most modern and sophisticated attack submarine in the world, providing undersea supremacy well into the 21st century.

Nearly 111 years ago, the U.S. Navy commissioned USS Holland (SS 1), formerly Holland VI, Oct. 12, 1900. When the U.S. Navy purchased Holland VI from John P. Holland in April 1900, it marked the official birth date of the U.S. Submarine Force. Like the submarine predecessors of the past, California's commissioning ties not only a submarine force but also reminds us of our historical ties with its namesake state.

"By 1901, Mare Island Naval Shipyard near Vallejo, Calif., had been contracted by Holland Torpedo Boat Company to build USS Grampus and USS Pike which became the first submarines built on the West Coast," said Bill Huesmann, Director of the Commissioning Support Team. "By World War II, Mare Island would find itself the West Coast's premier submarine homeport, and during peak production would employ over 50,000 Californians."

"In 1957, came the building of Mare Island's first nuclear submarine, USS Sargo and, in 1959, her first ballistic submarine, USS Theodore Roosevelt. By 1965, Mare Island would launch the deep submergence bathyscaphe Trieste II," he added.

Today's U.S. submarines are built by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries - Newport News and ship commissioning ceremonies remain one of the most significant days in the life of a Navy warship. Since the commissioning of the Navy's first captured schooner in 1775, this ceremony remains a powerful moment - it is this point at which warships enter service to the Nation, join the Fleet, and become sovereign U.S. territories anywhere their operations may take them.

California was christened at Huntington Ingalls' Industries Newport News Shipbuilding (formerly Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding), in Newport News, Va., Nov. 6, 2010, with California state officials and California members of the Navy League of the United States Santa Barbara Council, in attendance.

California is scheduled to be commissioned in Norfolk, supported by Navy League of the United States councils within California and locally by Navy League of the United States' Hampton Roads Council.

Once California is commissioned it will become the seventh U.S. Navy ship - and the first submarine - to bear the name of the state of California. The first U.S. warship named California was a screw sloop built in 1867. The most recent was a nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser (CGN 36) that was in service from February 1974 to July 1999. The most famous USS California was the Tennessee-class battleship (BB 44) that was built at Mare Island and was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship was salvaged, reconstructed, and served again for the remainder of World War II before being decommissioned in 1947. The ship's bell is on display in Sacramento, near the California State Capitol.

Retired Rear Adm. Bonnie Potter of the Navy League of the United States' Central Pacific Region has assisted with California's commissioning process. Prior to her retirement from the Navy, she was the first female physician in the Navy Medical Corps to be selected for flag rank. She served as the Commanding Officer of the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., and Chief of the Navy Medical Corps.

"The Navy League of the United States has a long history of partnering with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard in the planning and execution of commissioning ceremonies," said Potter. "As a native of the Golden State, I am honored to be facilitating the involvement of the various organizations within California that are proudly supporting the commissioning of the submarine named for our great state."

The submarine completed its initial sea trials July 2, an aggressive series of operational tests that demonstrate the submarine's capabilities.

The boat's construction began Feb. 15, 2006, and the keel was laid during a ceremony held May 2, 2009.

California is designed to dominate both the littorals and deep oceans and will serve as a valuable asset in supporting the core capabilities of the Maritime Strategy. California will be commissioned Oct. 29 at Naval Station Norfolk. The ceremony, which begins at 11 a.m., will be streamed live on www.navy.mil.

For more news from Commander Submarine Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/Subgru2/.

Donna Willard, sponsor of the Virginia-class submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) California (SSN 781), christens the submarine.
Official U.S. Navy file photo.
November 6, 2010
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