Louisiana’s Amite shipyard melted down 14,000 pounds of steel from the South Tower to form the ship’s bow stem, the first part of a ship that slices the water while carrying sailors and Marines to confront America’s enemies around the world.
The soon-to-be christened USS New York will be commissioned into the U.S. Navy in 2009, but she’s already part of American history because her wave-slicing bow stem is built from steel that once formed a huge beam in New York City’s Twin Towers, before terrorists destroyed the famous landmarks on 9-11-2001.
The ship chosen to carry New York’s name is the fifth built in the San Antonio class of Loading Platform Dock (LPD) amphibious assault ships. In today’s Navy, State names are usually reserved for submarines, but soon after 9/11, Gov. George Pataki petitioned then Navy Secretary Gordon England to honor his state by putting New York’s name on a ship that would help carry America’s war on terror to the enemy.
Given that specific request, the Navy chose “New York” to adorn hull number LPD-21, because she’s a ship designed for an array of expeditionary and special operations, and will deliver up to 800 Marines wherever needed around the world. Two of the New York’s sister ships in the San Antonio class are named for the other sites in the 9-11 attacks: USS Arlington, LPD-24, named for the Pentagon attack; and USS Somerset, LPD-25, named for the crash in Pennsylvania.
The New York, Arlington and Somerset — like the other eight ships in the San Antonio class — will have a crew that numbers 333 sailors, 28 officers, and carry four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or two MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, as well as an array of air-cushion and conventional landing craft.
With those assets, these modern ships can operate far over the horizon, projecting America’s will from up to 600 miles off an adversary’s shores, and attack enemy forces hundreds of miles inland at speeds never before known.
These ships measure 684 feet long, 105 feet wide and displace 24,900 tons when fully loaded. They feature 25,000 more square feet of storage space for multiple vehicles and, because of their diverse capabilities, are replacing four current classes of amphibious ships.
If the USS New York’s bow stem isn’t enough to remind everyone of the ship’s purpose and spirit, its motto, “Never Forget,” surely will. A Navy ship’s motto is emblazoned on its logo and displayed prominently not only around the ship, but also on patches, stationery and memorabilia carrying the ship’s name and hull identification number.
LPD-21 is the sixth ship in the Navy’s history to carry the New York name. The most recent was the USS New York City, SSN-696, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, which served from 1979 to 1997. In an eerie coincidence, the keel of an earlier USS New York, BB-34, was laid 9-11-1911, 90 years to the day before the infamous terrorist attack. When LPD-21 joins the Navy in two years, she will be the longest and widest Navy ship to bear New York’s name, and weigh only a ton less than BB-34, which was a battleship.
Construction began on this latest USS New York when its keel was laid Sept. 10, 2004, one day short of the terrorist attack’s three-year anniversary. On Aug. 4, 2005, the famous bow stem—made from steel once supporting the South Tower—was lifted and mounted into place on the main hull. The ship survived Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005 when it was nearly half-built. The disaster slowed construction and left hundreds of shipyard workers homeless. Many of them took up temporary residence at the shipyard to continue the project. They lifted the completed bow into place in March 2006.
When the ship is christened and launched later this year—probably early November—everyone is sure to note the famous bow stem and its origins. The South Tower was the first building hit and the second to fall on 9/11. After the Navy decided LPD-21 would become the New York, inspectors from the Navy and Amite Foundry and Machine Inc. in Amite, Louisiana, inspected twisted beams from the collapsed buildings, and noted that their high-quality steel would meet specifications for the bow stem.
Many reports say the bow stem carries 24 tons of salvaged Twin Towers steel, but that’s not accurate. The salvaged beams that engineers initially chose weighed 48,750 pounds, and were trucked from the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, to the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Once there, engineers chose 14,000 pounds of the salvaged steel for the project. The Amite Foundry melted the steel on Sept. 10, 2003, and poured it into the bow-stem’s mold.
The bow stem’s creation was marked by Ed Winter of Northrop Grumman’s shipbuilding division: “Symbolically, the World Trade Center will be the first part of the ship slicing through the water,” Winter said. “That’s in honor of the victims and heroes of the 9-11 tragedy.”
Seldom in the Navy’s long history of ships and shipbuilding has one ship so captured the nation’s imagination during its construction. Then again, the steel inside the New York’s bow stem embodies the indomitable spirit and determination of not only New York City, but of the nation.
Louisiana’s Amite shipyard melted down 14,000 pounds of steel from the South Tower to form…
by Ralph Mroz / Jan 1, 2008