On 23 April, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the name of the newest San Antonio–class amphibious transport dock ship. The tenth ship of the class, LPD-26, is to be named for recently deceased Representative John P. Murtha (D-PA). Americans are—or should be—well acquainted with Murtha’s national service in the Vietnam War and Congress. However, many citizens know the name with less than a positive reaction. This move—naming the ship after him—strains credibility. What was the Navy thinking?
The service must consider any number of constituencies, not least politicians who dole out the funds to keep the Fleet vibrant and afloat. How these groups rank is subjective and variable, but two important constituencies have been given short shrift: the American and foreign publics.
It is easy to blame politics. The Democrats are in power, and Murtha was a Democrat. But the message intended to be sent to Americans has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with a service that is looking for ways to justify its existence in the midst of a lengthy period of land wars that, some believe, render the Navy an anachronism.