Updated at 5:23 p.m. Aug. 16, 2016:
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced Tuesday at Camp Pendleton that a future warship will be named after Marine Corps World War II hero John Basilone, who already has a roadway named after him at the sprawling base in northern San Diego County.
“It is a great honor to name this ship in recognition of John Basilone,” Mabus said. “I have no doubt that all who serve aboard her will carry on the legacy of service and commitment exemplified by this Marine Corps hero.”
The Buffalo native earned the Medal of Honor for valor during fighting on the island of Guadalcanal, a battle that helped turn the tide of the war in the Pacific.
In October 1942, the gunnery sergeant and fellow Marines staved off numerous charges by Japanese troops aiming for Henderson Field, the primary objective of the two sides. By keeping control of the airfield, U.S. Marine and Navy airmen were able to choke off the flow of supplies to Japanese forces, who abandoned the island in early 1943.
Following a stateside tour to promote the sale of war bonds, Basilone returned to action in the Pacific and was killed in February 1945 on the island of Iwo Jima. He was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously, becoming the only enlisted Marine to win the two medals in World War II.
DDG 122, expected to enter service in six years, will be the second destroyer named for Basilone. The first was decommissioned almost 40 years ago, according to the Navy.
The Basilone is the sixth destroyer that Mabus has named for a Medal of Honor recipient. Others honored longtime San Diego County resident John Finn, plus Ralph Johnson, Thomas Hudner, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii and Harvey C. Barnum Jr.
Mabus also named a vessel called an expeditionary sea base, being built in San Diego, for Woody Williams, who earned the nation’s highest military award on Iwo Jima.
After the Camp Pendleton ceremony, Mabus went to San Francisco to officially announce the naming of a Military Sealift Command oiler after gay rights activist Harvey Milk.
A Navy diving instructor in San Diego, Milk went on to become the first openly gay public official in California in 1977 when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk and then-San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were murdered by a fellow city official the following year.
Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, called the action “thrilling for the LGBTQ community because it’s yet another prestigious honor for one of our heroes.”
She was part of a delegation of San Diego political, and gay and lesbian, leaders who attended the event on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.
“Harvey Milk was a political force, who rallied people to take pride in their identity, empower themselves to have a voice in our democracy, and fight for freedom and equality for all in our society,” said Councilman Todd Gloria, who also attended the naming ceremony.
“Beyond his service to his country as an elected official and as a veteran, Harvey inspired those in the gay community and beyond to demand their rights and participate in politics in order to prove that America’s diversity can be its greatest asset,” Gloria said.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and LGBT community leader Nicole Murray- Ramirez also attended the event.
—City News Service