Christening Ceremony -- 21 June 2008

On the day proclaimed by the Governor of Connecticut as "USS New Hampshire Day," the fifth Virginia Class nuclear attack submarine, SSN778, USS New Hampshire was christened by Cheryl McGuinness, who succeeded in smashing the traditional bottle of champagne with her first swing.

Mrs. McGuinness, widow of Tom McGuinness, former Navy F14 pilot and the co-pilot of hijacked American Flight 11 that smashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, is the ship's sponsor. Her name is etched on a plate welded to the New Hampshire's keel.

Introducing her, keynote speaker Admiral Kirkland Donald quoted her book, Beauty Beyond the Ashes and said, "We submariners tend to be superstitious and very careful about who we select because the spirit of the sponsor sets the tone for the boat. We are thrilled Cheryl McGuinness is the sponsor of the New Hampshire. Her unbounded optimism in the face of adversity will live with this crew as they face the dangers of the deep. Tom's spirit lives with them, too."

Mrs. McGuinness who called herself a symbol of the shadow of tragedy, spoke of heroes. Remembering the time "evil attacked our homeland" and "the ordinary people who never came home," she said she is asked "What does a true hero look like today?"
 
"I look for "character and confidence, what people are willing to sacrifice.. how a person spends the time they are given," she said. "A true hero has courage in the face of adversity and points the bow into the storm with unshakable confidence." Beaming and extending her arm to the officers and crew of the New Hampshire in front of her she said, "I think there is more than one hero; there are many."

 
Ship's sponsor Cheryl McGuinness christens New Hampshire.
(Credit: Tim Martin, The Day) Click here for video coverage from New England Cable News.

 
(Credit: Tim Martin, The Day)

Representative Carol Shea Porter (NH-D), who is a member of the Congressional Armed Services Committee called Mrs. McGuinness "an inspiration to Granite Staters" and reminded the audience of the nation's forefathers who understood "the need to work for the common defense." Praising "the best sub ever built and  the best and the brightest who serve under the name of New Hampshire" she teasingly said, "New Hampshire has come to pick up the keys."

John Casey, President of General Dynamics Electric Boat,calling the New Hampshire "an exceptional submarine, exceeding our expectations," said,"This is a proud occasion for those who call New Hampshire home" and recognized Dover native Dick O'Kane, who served aboard the Wahoo and Tang during the Second World War. Commander O'Kane earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, three Navy Crosses, three Silver Stars, the Purple Heart and other decorations.

Mr. Casey highlighted construction firsts in the New Hampshire:

  • First Virginia class sub delivered in four sections instead of 10
  • First Virginia class to have the hull coating applied during construction, a $140 million savings in the construction of the class
  • Fastest Virginia class sub assembled to date: 72 months instead of 86
  • First Virginia class sub to incorporate the new bow design reducing construction costs by $800 million


(Credit: Associated Press)

Mike Petters, President of Newport News-based Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding
 spoke of the historical links between Virginia and New Hampshire, starting with Captain John Smith who established the Jamestown colony and explored the New England seacoast of "Northern Virginia" writing, "The sea there is the strangest I ever saw." He noted:

  • New Hampshire is the first to have her bow section delivered with the sail attached.
  • "Shows how to do shipbuilding right by blending the best at what they do, the ability to learn from each other and by never being satisfied with second best."

Representative Joseph Courtney (CT-D) called New Hampshire "a technical marvel" that transformed the "hodgepodge of steel and cable" he saw at the keel laying in January 2007 into "a living, breathing entity that is home for her crew and defender of the nation."


The New Hampshire (Credit: Tim Martin, The Day)

Vice Admiral Paul Sullivan, Commander NAVSEA Systems said, "We have a great need for this great sub built by a great team... The Navy needs this sub as fast as you can safely deliver it."

Vice Admiral John Donnelly, Commander, Naval Submarine Forces, said, "The New Hampshire will deliver the stealth and the readiness to respond. To the crew, I say, you will soon join the fleet and I look forward to the day when you are ready to fully delpoy all the capabilities of this magnificent ship."

Alison Stiller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy extended the best wishes of Secretary Winter in celebration of the "transformation of cold steel into a combat-ready attack sub." She recalled the other ships bearing the name New Hampshire saying, "We do not know what the future has in sroee for this New Hampshire but know that it will be war unlike any seen by another ship bearing the name and that she will be vital to the nation's defense."

Admiral Donald called New Hampshire "the newest and most technologically advanced sub" in the fleet, the product of 10,000 man hours from a "reservoir of technical expertise that is a national treasure." Noting that he had had a chance to tour the boat, Adm Donald said "She looks great" and complimented the crew as "the best of America's youth," from nearly every state including four from New Hampshire. He congratulated Cmdr. Mike Stevens for "the teamwork you displayed" while reminding the crew that "The Navy reward for a hard job well done is another hard job."

Rev. Kenneth Suibielski, who blessed the ship, included the schoolchildren of Dover who helped win the "New Hampshire" name for SSN778 in his prayer, saying "I know You have a big Divine smile for the 3rd graders from the Garrison School -- the future leaders of our nation." He continued, We pray that New Hampshire and her crew will be champions of peace and defenders of the rights of all people, especially those who have no one else to defend them... Guard the New Hampshire from all harm from the perils of the sea and storm, war and terror. Bring them safely home."

The crew of SSN778 man the side. (Credit: Tim Martin, The Day)

Media coverage of the christening included:

New England Cable News, video
Union Leader, John Clayton, "At USS New Hampshire's christening, a rebirth"

Fosters, "Sub New Hampshire christened in Conn.

Boston Globe, 9/11 pilot's widow helps christen attack sub

Portsmouth Herald Portsmouth widow of 911 pilot christens sub

 

Events


10/19 USS New Hampshire arrived in Portsmouth 11:15 am
Click here for news.


Thru 11/2 Scarecrows of the Port Festival
Downtown merchants present first annual "Scarecrows in the Port" harvest festival, commissioning celebration and welcome to the crew and their families.

10/25/2008 US Navy Commissioning Ceremony, 10 am

10/27/2008 USS New Hampshire departs, 12:20 pm


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