Ships Named After Presidents
|Franklin Delano Roosevelt||1933-1945||CV-42|
|Dwight D. Eisenhower||1953-1961||CVN-69|
|John F. Kennedy||1961-1963||CV-67|
|James K. Polk||1845-1849||SSBN-645|
|George H.W. Bush||1989-1993||CVN-77|
|John Quincy Adams||1825-1829|
|Ulysses Simpson Grant||1869-1877||SSBN-631|
|William Howard Taft||1909-1913|
|Gerald R. Ford||1974-1977||CVN-78|
|Rutherford B. Hayes||1877-1881|
|George W. Bush||2001-2009|
|Martin Van Buren||1837-1841|
|Chester A. Arthur||1881-1885|
|William Henry Harrison||1841|
|Warren G. Harding||1921-1923|
Twenty of America’s forty-two presidents have had warships named in their honor. A dozen presidents have had submarines named after them, ten presidents have had aircraft carriers named after them, and three have had both submarines and aircraft carriers carry their names.
Early ballistic missile submarines were named after famous Americans. Of the first batch of five George Washington class boomers, three were named after dead presidents. One after Patrick Henry, best remembered for his famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech, and the other after Robert E Lee. Of the five Ethan Allen class, only the Thomas Jefferson was named for a president. Of the nineteen Lafayette-class boats, six were named after presidents, though the Ulysses S. Grant may reflect his generalship rather than his presidency, since several other boats of this class commemorate great generals. Of the twelve Benjamin Franklin-class boats, only SSBN-645 James K Polk was named after a president. Thus in all, of the “41 For Freedom”, 11 Polaris class submarines were named for presidents. SSBN-624, the Woodrow Wilson, commissioned 27 December 1963, nearly four decades after Wilson died on 03 February 1924. As for the other ten, an even greater period had elapsed between the demise of their namesake and their commissioning.
The first American aircraft carrier, CV-1 Langley, was named after aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley. USS Langley (CV-1) commissiond on March 20, 1922, while Samuel Pierpont Langley had died on 27 February 1906. Subsequent carriers were named after famous battles [eg, Lexington]or famous warships [eg, Enterprise].
During World War II the names of individuals were once again assigned to aircraft carriers. The large aircraft carrier (CVB 42) of the Midway class was named Franklin D. Roosevelt soon after the President’s death in the spring of 1945. That name was suggested to then-President Harry S Truman by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal [who would himself later be honored in the naming of our first “supercarrier,” Forrestal (CVA 59)]. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first aircraft carrier to be named for an American statesman; Franklin and Hancock, wartime Essex-class fleet carriers, honored the former Navy ships of those names and not, as many think, the statesmen themselves.
CV-67 John F. Kennedy was named for the 35th President of the United States, who was assassinated on 03 November 1963. The ship’s keel was laid October 22, 1964, at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Virginia. President Kennedy’s nine-year-old daughter, Caroline christened the ship in May 1967
Carl Vinson, a member of the House of Representatives from Georgia, was elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-third Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Thomas W. Hardwick; reelected to the Sixty-fourth and to the twenty-four succeeding Congresses and served from November 3, 1914, to January 3, 1965). He was the chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs from the Seventy-second through Seventy-ninth Congresses. On 18 January 1974 The Navy Secretary officially named the Navy’s fourth nuclear-powered carrier Carl Vinson. The name was chosen in honor of Carl Vinson’s contributions to the national defense during his fifty years in the House of Representatives. Carl Vinson died June 1, 1981, and with Carl Vinson died the Navy’s restriction on not naming ships for living individuals. John C. Stennis [CVN-74] followed suit, although neither ship commissioned during the lifetime of the namesake [Stennis died just days before CVN-74 commissioned].
The dams burst with Ronald Reagan [CVN-76] and George H.W. Bush [CVN-77], and the levees will be washed away by Gerald Ford [CVN-78].
Jimmy Carter, alone of the presidents, has an attack submarine named after him, reflecting his service in the submarine force 1948-1952. Carter helped design nuclear reactors for submarines as a nuclear engineer under the supervision of Admiral Hyman Rickover.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced April 16, 2012 the next Zumwalt-class destroyer will be named the USS Lyndon B. Johnson. The selection of Lyndon B. Johnson, designated DDG 1002, continues the Navy tradition of naming ships after presidents and honors the nation’s 36th president. The USS Lyndon B. Johnson is the 34th ship named by the Navy after a U.S. president, and the first to be neither a submarine nor an aircraft carrier.
Different authorities have different schemes for evaluating presidential greatness. The C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership is one such effort. All of C-SPAN’s top five presidents have had aircraft carriers named after them, and all three presidents to have both carriers and submarines named in their honor are among these top five. Eight of the top eleven presidents have had aircraft carriers named after them, and of the remaining three, two had submarines named in their honor, while only Lyndon Johnson has no warship named in his honor. Of the seven presidents ranked 12 through 18, five leaders of the early Republic had submarines named in their honor, while the two presidents from the end of the 19th Century did not.
Ronald Reagan [CVN-76] ranked 11th on C-SPAN’s list, while George H.W. Bush [CVN-77] ranked 20 out of 41. Gerald Ford [CVN-78] at 23rd is in the bottom half of the class. Ranked 33rd is Ulysses Simpson Grant, but he garnered a submarine because he was a great general, not because he was a bad president