Stars & Stripes Forever is just one of the patriotic tunes a Navy band played at the christening of the USS North Dakota submarine November 2 in Groton, Connecticut. More than four thousand people were on hand at General Dynamic s Electric Boat Company on a beautiful fall day to witness the event. The site was reached by walking through a gigantic building where vessels are constructed. Freshly painted fencing and red, white and blue bunting lined the route. A catered picnic lunch of hamburgers, chicken and pork sandwiches, chips, brownies and beverages were available with Teddy Roosevelt among those handing out the treats.
The Christening Program cover featured a photo of the submarine with the Theodore Roosevelt quotation “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick: You Will Go Far.” The slogan was truly appropriate for the boat that will travel nearly soundlessly through the oceans to protect our country.
Among the VIPs speaking were North Dakota’s US Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple, and elected officlals from Connecticut and Rhode Island. We heard from five U.S. Senators and two Governors. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Allison Stiller, spoke.
A speakers platform was built on top of the submarine, which rested in the water. The 132 crew members, led by Commanding Officer Doug Gordon, stood during the ceremony in their Dress Blue uniforms including white gloves. A VIP section was close by. The crowd was seated in white chairs on the pier and viewed the ceremony on many television screens. We could walk to the edge of the pier and see the submarine.
The event was extremely well organized, festive and patriotic. It was exciting to participate!
The Commander of Submarine Forces, Vice Admiral Michael J. Connor, was the main speaker.
Katie Fowler christened the boat. Her husband Jeff is a native North Dakotan and career Naval officer, who retired as a vice admiral.
Over 100 current and former North Dakotans were on hand for the celebration. We enjoyed a classy reception the evening before the christening and joined in a USS North Dakota Crew Party the night of the christening.
If you are thinking you’d like to experience a very special event like this, you still have the opportunity. The USS North Dakota’s Commissioning will take place May 31 and Robert Wefald, who chairs the USS North Dakota Committee, expects many more North Dakotans will be on hand for that occasion. Participants will likely be able to tour the USS North Dakota at that time. More details will be available in a few weeks at www.usnd.com or by calling 1-800-833-8787.
Many folks attending the christening continued on a tour that included the Nautilus Submarine Force Museum, Mystic Seaport, Old Mistick Village, and the Museum of America and the Sea. The group continued on to view tour the unexpectedly interesting U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London.
In Newport , Rhode Island, we toured the fabulous Vanderbilt mansion know as “The Breakers,” and viewed the rows of gigantic homes built overlooking the ocean.
Newport is a delightful and historic city. Don’t miss dining at America’s oldest tavern, The White Horse Tavern, established in 1673.
We savored the seafood at a New England Lobster Boil at the charming Canfield House.
From submarines to seafood, you would truly enjoy New England!