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DDG 95 James E. Williams

The Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, James E. Williams, was christened on June 28, 2003 at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula, Miss. Acting Secretary of the Navy Hansford T. Johnson, deliver the ceremony's principal address. Mrs. Elaine W. Williams, widow of the ship's namesake, served as ship's sponsor.

James E. Williams was commissioned on Dec. 11, 2004, at Naval Weapons Station's Wharf Alpha. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham delivered the ceremony's principal address. Elaine Weaver Williams, widow of the ship's namesake, served as ship's sponsor.

The Williams, designated DDG 95, is the 45th Arleigh Burke-class destroyers authorized by Congress. It is the 21st Aegis destroyer to be christened of 28 ships under contract to Northrop Grumman Ship Systems.

Williams is 509.5 feet in length, has an overall beam of 66 feet and a navigational draft of 33 feet. Four gas-turbine engines power the 9,300-ton ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.

DDG 95 James E. Williams is capable of firing surface-to-air missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles from forward and aft vertical launching systems and is configured with port and starboard torpedo tubes, one five-inch gun; and advanced electronic warfare systems. This will be the 16th Flight IIA Arleigh Burke class destroyer to employ an embarked helicopter detachment capable of supporting dual SH-60 helicopters.

Arleigh Burke class destroyers are equipped to operate with battle groups in high-threat environments and conduct a variety of missions, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection, in support of national military strategy. They also provide essential escort capabilities to Navy and Marine Corps amphibious forces, combat logistics ships and convoys.

These multi-mission ships are equipped with the Navy's AEGIS combat weapons system, which combines space-age communication, radar and weapons technologies into a single platform for unlimited flexibility and significant influence while operating "Forward...From the Sea." These destroyers replace older, less capable ships that are being taken out of service as the Navy reduces spending while maintaining quality as part of its overall plan to recapitalize the fleet.

Namesake

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Jim Herdt announced on 26 May 2001 the Navy's decision to name the 45th ship of the Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers, "James E. Williams." DDG 95's name will honor Medal of Honor recipient Boatswain's Mate First Class James Elliot Williams. Former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, who asked MCPON Herdt to make the announcement on his behalf, chose the ship's name.

During the announcement ceremony, held in William's hometown of Darlington, S.C., the MCPON explained the significance of ship naming. "The Navy has a unique way of honoring its heroes, history and ideals. By naming our ships, they become more than just another piece of hardware, they take on a life and spirit all their own," Herdt said. "For more than a hundred years, nearly all U.S. Navy destroyers have been named for American naval leaders and heroes. This is certainly true for the destroyer we are naming today. Until now this ship has been known simply by its hull number -DDG-95," he said. "However as of this moment, this great ship in the making will take on the name of a man who truly meets the definition of an American naval leader and hero, James E. Williams."

South Carolina Senator Ernest F. Hollings, who was unable to attend the ceremony, wrote "this grand gesture pales in comparison to the man himself, a Sailor and American patriot of the highest caliber. Elliott Williams served the U.S. Navy with every ounce of his strength, character and intellect and his heroism in Vietnam rightfully earned him a place in history."

Williams received the Medal of Honor for his service on the Mekong River in Vietnam on Oct. 31, 1966, while serving as boat captain and patrol officer aboard River Patrol Boat (PBR) 105. His boat and another PBR were searching for contraband when crewmembers spotted two speedboats crossing ahead. The speed-boats split up, with Williams pursuing and sinking one. He then turned his boat and went after the second, which hid in an eight foot-wide canal in front of a rice paddy.

Williams knew his boat wouldn't fit in the canal, but after checking a map, he realized he could pass through a wider canal and intercept the enemy craft. However, after exiting that canal, Williams found himself and his crew in a hostile staging area where they came under heavy fire from boats and ashore. Williams and his crew waged battle against multiple enemy boats.

U.S. helicopter support eventually arrived, and PBR 105 moved to another enemy boat staging area. After a fierce battle and more than three hours of fighting, Williams' patrol had accounted for the destruction or loss of 65 enemy boats and more than 1,000 enemy troops.

Williams retired from the Navy in 1967 and returned to South Carolina where he found another way to serve his country. In 1969, he was appointed U.S. Marshal for the District of South Carolina. Although his exploits in Vietnam were legendary, he was quick to admonish anyone who wanted to talk about his awards.

"You gotta stop and think about your shipmates," he said in an interview with the Navy's All Hands Magazine in 1998. "That's what makes you a great person and a great leader - taking care of each other."

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Williams' many awards include the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and the Navy Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device.




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