BATH, MAINE >> A Hawaiian delegation brought a tropical flair to a state known for cold weather as a U.S. Navy destroyer bearing the name of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye was christened today at Bath Iron Works.
There were flowery leis around the necks of dignitaries and a giant one on the warship itself as Irene Hirano Inouye, the senator’s wife and the ship’s sponsor, smashed a bottle of Champagne on the bow of the future USS Daniel Inouye, which is under construction.
The Hawaiian touch was important, she said.
“The traditions of the Navy are very special and historic,” she said before the ceremony. “But to truly make it reflect of Dan’s life, and the people on Hawaii, our team had to find ways to bring a little bit of Hawaii to Maine.”
Her late husband was a Medal of Honor recipient who broke racial barriers in Congress and represented Hawaii in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat for a half-century until his death in 2012. He lost his right arm in combat in World War II in Italy with the mostly Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He died in 2012.
The ship’s motto — “Go For Broke” — was borrowed from the 442nd.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, thanked the ship’s crew for “continuing in the tradition of Sen. Inouye’s service to our country.”
“To the crew, I wish you makani olu olu. I wish you all fair winds. Go for broke, as you serve the country on this incredible new ship,” she told them.
In the Senate, Inouye served as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who served with him, praised Inouye’s valor, spirit and friendship.
Inouye visited Bath Iron Works in 1961, while serving in the U.S. House, for the launching of the USS Leahy, she noted. He was a strong supporter of naval sea power, she said.
Irene Hirano Inouye said her husband felt that a strong military is necessary to ensure peace.
“He was someone who saw the horrors of war firsthand,” she told the crowd. “Dan always believed that the best way to avoid war to have the strongest military that we could.”
Twenty-two protesters were arrested outside the christening on charges of obstructing a public way, police said. The demonstrators numbered about 50 and included members of Maine Veterans for Peace and the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
The Hawaiian tradition will continue when the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer is commissioned into service; its homeport will be Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Displaying more than 9,000 tons (8,165 metric tons), the 510-foot (155-meter) ship can easily top 30 knots while simultaneously waging war with enemy ships, submarines, missiles and aircraft.
Its combat system uses powerful computers and a phased-array radar to track more than 100 targets. It’s also equipped with ballistic missile defense capability.