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DDG 87 Mason

Constructed at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, MASON is the 37th Aegis Destroyer and the 9th of the Flight IIA variant. MASON is the most capable and technologically advanced warship ever constructed. On 23 June 2001 the MASON (DDG 87), the third ship to bear the name MASON and the 37th Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer, was launched in Bath ME.

USS Mason (DDG-87) was commissioned in April 2003.

Bath Iron Works, a General Dynamics Company, launched the U.S. Navy destroyer down traditional inclined building ways on Saturday, June 23, 2001 - using this age-old method of launching a ship for the last time in its 117-year history. The shipyard opened a new world-class Navy shipbuilding facility on May 5, 2001. Mason (DDG 87) launched at slack high tide, 3:25 p.m. The West Gate on Washington Street in Bath opened to the public at 1 p.m. U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine will christen the ship as Sponsor. DDG 87 is the 21st Arleigh Burke-class Destroyer to be built at BIW.

In July 2003, USS Mason and the Spanish frigate Alvaro de Bazan (F 101) participated in a combined combat systems ship qualification trials (CSSQT), a series of at-sea exercises and tests to verify shipboard systems have been installed correctly, and can be operated and maintained safely and effectively. The CSSQT includes interoperability testing, simulated and live gun firings, and will culminate in standard missile firing exercises.

This was the first combined Aegis CSSQT with an allied Navy. The trials will allow both Mason and Alvaro de Bazan to jointly test their Aegis weapon systems, and command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence systems. In addition to improving interoperability, the CSSQT's objectives are to enhance coalition warfare and identify potential areas for improvements in systems performance.

Previous Ships

USS MASON DDG87 is the third ship to bear the name and is the 37th ship of Arleigh Burke Class of Aegis Guided Missile Destroyers.

The first ship to bear the name MASON was named for John Young Mason, born April 19, 1799 in Greene County, Virginia. Both a political leader and diplomat, he was Secretary of the Navy for Presidents John Tyler and James K. Polk.

The first MASON (DD 191) was laid down by Newport News shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News, Virginia 10 July 1918 and launched 8 March 1919. The ship's sponsor was Miss Mary Mason Williams, great-granddaughter of Secretary Mason. Commissioning was held at Norfolk Navy Yard on 28 February 1920 with Lieutenant Commander Carl F. Holden as the commissioning commanding officer.

As a result of the Washington Treaty of 6 February 1922 limiting naval armament, DD 191 was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard 3 July 1922. After World War II broke out in Europe, MASON was recommissioned 4 December 1939. Under terms of the "Destroyers for Bases" executive agreement between the United States and Great Britain, the MASON became one of 50 ships turned over in exchange for 99 year leases on bases in the western hemisphere. DD 191 was transferred to the British Royal Navy in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 8 October 1940 and renamed the HMS BROADWATER H-81 the next day.

Assigned to the Newfoundland Escort Force in July 1941, the ship patrolled the North Atlantic and guarded convoys against the German submarine "wolfpacks" into the fall of that year. Early in the morning of 17 October 1941 she attacked a U-boat, one of a pack assaulting an American convoy SC-48 south of Iceland. Twenty-four hours later she herself fell victim to torpedoes of U-101 and sank the same day.

The second ship to bear the name MASON was named for Ensign Newton Henry Mason, born on 24 December 1918 in New York City. He enlisted as a seaman in the Naval Reserve on 7 November 1940 and was appointed an aviation cadet on 10 February 1941. He was assigned to Fighting Squadron 3 in September 1941 and died following aerial combat against the Japanese forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 and 9 May 1942. Ensign Mason was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his skill and courage in battle.

The second MASON DE-529 was laid down by the Boston Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts in October 1943 and launched 17 November 1943. The ship was sponsored by Mrs. David Mason, mother of Ensign Mason and commissioned 20 March 1944. Lieutenant Commander William Blackford was the commissioning commanding officer. MASON DE-529 served as convoy escort in the Atlantic through the remainder of World War II.

MASON DE-529 has the distinction of being the only U.S. Navy destroyer to be manned with a predominantly black enlisted crew. This was the first time that black Americans were permitted to be trained and serve in ratings other than cooks and stewards. In late 1943 the Navy announced its plan to place an all black crew with white officers aboard MASON. One hundred and sixty black Sailors were enrolled in all fields of operational and technical training and manned the ship at commissioning.

Although known as "Eleanor's Folly" for Eleanor Roosevelt's introduction of the idea for an all black crew, the MASON served with distinction during World War II. During the worst North Atlantic storm of the century, MASON was serving as escort to a convoy of merchant ships bound for England. During the storm the convoy was forced to break up and MASON was chosen to escort a section of ships to their destiny. With land in sight the MASON's deck split threatening the structural integrity of the ship. Emergency repairs were conducted and MASON returned immediately to assist the remainder of the convoy.

The MASON crew was recommended for commendations from both their captain, Lieutenant Commander Bill Blackford, and the convoy commander, Commander Alfred Lind. The commendations were never rewarded. At the end of the war MASON was assigned as a training ship operating from Miami, Florida until being decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1947. On July 26, 1947 President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, officially desegregating the armed forces.

Through the efforts of the Mason veterans and the author Mary Pat Kelly, the MASON story has been chronicled in the book "Proudly We Served." Their persistence in telling the MASON story paid off in 1994 when President Clinton awarded the long overdue commendation to sixty-seven surviving crewmembers. In 1998, then Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton made official his decision to name an Arleigh Burke Destroyer the USS MASON DDG 87 to mark the contributions of USS MASON DE 529 Sailors to equality and desegregation in our Navy's ranks.




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