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Navy Names Ship in Honor of WWII Hero, John Duncan Bulkeley

Navy Names Ship in Honor of WWII Hero, John Duncan Bulkeley

By Rudi Williams, American Forces Press Service.

New York, New York -- (AFPS) December 10, 2001 -- They called him the "Sea Wolf" for his daring World War II exploits in Europe and the Pacific. He's a Navy legend and the recipient of the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross and several other medals for heroism.

The Navy and the nation immortalized his name on Dec. 8 with the commissioning of the USS Bulkeley, the newest Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. The ship is named in honor of Vice Adm. John Duncan Bulkeley who died in April 1996 at age 84. He served on active duty for more than 55 years.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other distinguished persons received the red carpet treatment when the USS Bulkeley was commissioned on Dec. 8 at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Pier 88, in New York City.

Photo by Rudi Williams

Keynote speaker Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, New York City officials considered canceling the commissioning ceremony out of concern for the protection of the ship, her crew and the audience.

"But it's easy to imagine what John Bulkeley would have said about that...," Wolfowitz said. "Pass up a chance to see a ship of the United States Navy come to life in defiance of those who want to take life and freedom away? Move this ceremony? 'Not on your life!' he would surely say.

"There is no more fitting place to commission this ship, here within the shadow of Lady Liberty and within walking distance of 'Ground Zero,'" he said. "In doing so, we can help to honor the tough old 'Sea Wolf,' who repeatedly showed throughout his career that he was not afraid to stand up to anyone who threatened our freedom."

In citing some of Bulkeley's wartime exploits, Wolfowitz said in the first weeks of World War II, with most of the Pacific fleet wiped out and nothing but bad news coming from the Pacific, then Lt. Bulkeley and his men changed all that when they sank a Japanese cruiser.

"And they kept up the fight," the deputy secretary said. "With little to no spare parts, ammunition or food, their motor torpedo boats repeatedly and unhesitatingly attacked Japanese ships in the Philippines. (They sustained) their operations for four months and seven days with almost no support except their own ingenuity and daring."

With Corregidor Island under siege in Manila Bay and Japanese forces closing in, Bulkeley's PT boat spirited Gen. Douglas MacArthur, his family and the president of the Philippines through 600 miles of seas infested with enemy warships, Wolfowitz noted.

"By MacArthur's own reckoning, they snatched him, the commander of the U.S. Forces, 'out of the jaws of death,'" he said. "That heroic action in the Pacific earned the young sailor the Medal of Honor, the admiration of our nation, and a ticker tape parade here in his hometown, right down Broadway. A crowd of more than a million people turned out to honor Lieutenant Bulkeley and his crew."

Bulkeley continued his exploits as commander of the destroyer USS Endicott in the European theater. "A month after D-Day, with only one of Endicott's guns working, he attacked two German corvettes at point-blank range and sank them both," Wolfowitz told the huge audience. "Afterwards he said, 'as long as we had even one gun left, I was going to attack. That's what's expected of a United States Navy officer and warship.'"

Then in 1963, Bulkeley took that same toughness to Cuba, where he faced off with Fidel Castro while commanding Guantanamo Naval Base. "He cut the water line that Castro had turned off, and vowed that we would never again depend on Cuba as a water source," Wolfowitz said. "To this day, we don't."

Not only was Bulkeley a combat hero, he was a hero for sailors and Marines. In one example, he insisted that emergency escape breathing devices be installed on every ship in the fleet.

"He lived to see the difference it made when the frigate USS Stark came under Iraqi missile attack in the Persian Gulf in 1987," the secretary said. "Thirty-seven sailors perished in that tragedy, but many more would have died from the smoke and flames were it not for the breathing devices that John Bulkeley had put on board.

"There is no doubt that this man helped save countless lives -- it is a legacy that extends to the sailors and Marines who will man the USS Bulkeley today," Wolfowitz noted.

Wolfowitz pointed out that the USS Bulkeley's commander, Cmdr. Carlos Del Toro left communist Cuba as a child, came to this country, attended the Naval Academy, and rose through the ranks to take command of the Navy's newest destroyer.

"That story is in itself a testament to the promise of our nation and to Carlos Del Toro's own tough, fighting spirit," Wolfowitz said.

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani traced the city's maritime tradition from the American Revolution to the present day. He said the Navy's first steamship was built there in 1814. The Monitor, which arguably became the most famous Union Navy ship of the Civil War, was built in Brooklyn in 1862. During World War II, Staten Island was home to a major destroyer shipyard. The Brooklyn Navy Yard produced many battleships, aircraft carriers and cruisers, he said.

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the mission of the just-commissioned USS Bulkeley is crucial to the ongoing protection of civilization. The ceremony was held at the city's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum at Pier 88.

Photo by Rudi Williams

"Many of the great ships of the 20th century made their maiden voyage through the waters of New York Harbor," Giuliani said.

"Today, one of the great ships of the 21st century will begin that same voyage. When the USS Bulkeley sets sail down the Hudson River, passing the Statue of Liberty, before the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, she will be sailing through one of our nation's most historic waters. Like each of the Navy ships that sailed before her, she sails to protect our way of life, and our foundation of liberty and justice," the mayor said.

Related Site of Interest:

  • Remarks as Prepared by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at the Commissioning of USS Bulkeley, New York, New York, Dec. 8, 2001

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).