A train called the City of New Orleans carries passengers across the nation’s heartland between the Crescent City and Chicago, but a new warship named for the same city and built nearby will soon carry hundreds of Marines across the oceans to wherever they’re needed.

On March 10, the Navy will officially commission the USS New Orleans, the fourth U.S. warship to bear the city’s name. This 24,400-ton vessel was built at Northrop NEWS BEAT: Latest USS New Orleans sets sailGrumman Corp.’s Avondale Division, a major shipbuilding facility just upriver from New Orleans. The actual commissioning ceremonies will take place at a site along the downtown New Orleans riverfront called Navy Landing, adjacent to the Aquarium of the Americas. The USS New Orleans will be docked there for several days while the Navy hosts public events, including a ceremony attended by local and national officials and tours of the vessel.

“We think it will be a very positive event for the city. This ship will carry the city’s name around the globe for years to come,” says retired Rear Adm. Tom Rinard, chairman of the vessel’s commissioning committee.

The latest USS New Orleans is the second in the San Antonio-class of vessels known as amphibious transport docks. Its job is to support Marines – carrying soldiers, supplies and fuel, operating helicopters and Osprey transport aircraft from a flight deck and launching air cushion vehicles from doors that open at its stern.

“This ship represents the latest in technology for amphibious warfare,” says Rinard.
The first U.S. Navy vessel to bear the name “New Orleans” was a 3,400-ton cruiser commissioned in 1898 that took part in the Spanish-American War. The Navy built a much larger 10,00-ton cruiser commissioned as the USS New Orleans in 1934. That vessel was in port at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack that ensured the American entry into World War II and later took part in 17 major sea battles across the Pacific Ocean, including the turning point Battle of Midway in 1942 and the invasion of Okinawa in ‘45. In 1968, the Navy commissioned another USS New Orleans, this time an amphibious assault ship that carried helicopters. This vessel served in the Vietnam War and also was used to recover astronauts from NASA’s Apollo space program returning to Earth via ocean splashdowns.

After the commissioning ceremonies this month, the new USS New Orleans will sail for San Diego where it will be based with the Navy’s Pacific fleet.

– Ian McNulty