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Thousands turn out for USS Manchester commissioning

PORTSMOUTH — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen says one of the best parts of sponsoring the USS Manchester was getting the chance to meet the crew.

“It has been an honor and truly the thrill of a lifetime to be the USS Manchester’s sponsor,” Shaheen, D-NH, said during a commissioning ceremony Saturday that drew a crowd of close to 6,000 people.

Shaheen acknowledged the accomplishments of the littoral combat ship’s Cmdr. Emily Bassett

“She is a role model for all of us, especially women and girls throughout New Hampshire,” Shaheen said.

Bassett’s change of command is Sunday. Cmdr. Kurt Braeckel will take control of the ship, which will be ported in San Diego, Calif.

Bassett thanked the family members of the sailors and talked about how the crew of 71 is cross-trained for every situation.

“We can all shoot the guns,” Bassett said.

Admiral Bill Moran said the USS Manchester is joining a winning team and will contribute to keeping America safe.

“We are in serious competition with people that would have another view of the world order,” Moran said.

The USS Manchester is the 12th littoral combat ship in the U.S. Navy’s fleet and the seventh Independence-variance design.

Built in a shipyard in Mobile, Ala., it sits 418 feet long and 103 feet wide. It’s trimaran hull will allow it to operate at greater speeds — up to 40 knots — and in shallower waters than many other ships.

The design also allows it to be equipped with different modules — weapons, sensor packages, both manned and autonomous vehicles — based on its mission. The U.S. Navy wrote in a description of the vessel that it could be deployed for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures, among other uses.

The event was inspiring for veterans in the crowd.

Joseph Butler, 93, served in World War II and lives in Tilton. He called the commissioning of the USS Manchester “wonderful.”

“It’s something I never thought I’d see,” Butler said.

Alvin Mcarthur, 88, of Epping was on the first USS Manchester. In his shirt pocket he had a list of all the places he went aboard it in 1949.

“I’d like to be there,” Mcarthur said of the sailors of the new ship.

The first USS Manchester, a light cruiser that saw action during the Korean War, was commissioned in 1946 and operated primarily in the Pacific. It served three combat tours and earned nine battle stars before it was decommissioned in 1956. On her last tour, the USS Manchester participated in Operation “Glory” to return to Hawaii 50 unidentified American dead from the Korean War.

The Navy announced in 2013 that it would name the USS Manchester, which had previously been referred to as LCS 14, after the Queen city. In prepaparation for the christening, Bassett and other U.S. Navy officials visited the city to understand its history and identity. That trip helped inspire the ship’s seal.

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig pointed out the way the new ship pays tribute to the Queen City.

“The ship’s seal highlights our industrious work ethic – from the golden cogwheel that represents our city’s industrial history to the white lines that represent the Merrimack River to the motto, Labor Vincit, or ’Work Conquers,’ which is also the ship’s motto,” Craig said. “Granite State Manufacturing, a 4th generation manufacturing company, located on Manchester’s west side, built many components used on the ship. And our own Manchester Water Works harvested white oak from the shores of Lake Massabesic and helped mill the trees into lumber which is used in the ship in various ways including the dashboard, a bench, and window sills,”