He sacrificed himself to save fellow Marines — now a Navy destroyer will bear his name

Ship Sponsor Georgeann McRaven ceremoniously breaks a bottle of champagne on the bow during the christening ceremony for the future guided missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson on April 2, 2016. The ship is named for Medal of Honor recipient Ralph Johnson. Also pictured (left to right) are Assistant Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley; Cmdr. Jason Patterson, the ship’s prospective commanding officer; Helen Richards, Ralph Johnson’s sister; and Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias.


By PATRICK OCHS | The Sun Herald (Tribune News Service) | Published: March 10, 2018

The USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) set sail from Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula on Friday. The guided missile destroyer is headed to Charleston, South Carolina, where it will be the latest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer commissioned into the U.S. Navy on March 24.

The ship is named after Medal of Honor recipient Pfc. Ralph Henry Johnson, who was 19 in the midst of the Vietnam War when his 15-man reconnaissance patrol was attacked in Quan Duc Valley on March 5, 1968. With the battle enveloping the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, a hand grenade landed in the fighting hole Johnson shared with fellow Marines, according to Huntington Ingalls Industries. Johnson threw his body over the grenade, absorbing the full impact of the blast. He died instantly and was posthumously honored by President Richard Nixon in 1970.

The USS Ralph Johnson is equipped with the Aegis Baseline 9 combat system, allowing it to use Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability with Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) 5.0 and Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air.

The ship is the 64th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and 30th DDG 51 class destroyer built by HII, according to the Navy.

According to a release, the keel of Ralph Johnson was laid down in the fall of 2014. The ship was launched in Dec. 2015 and christened on April 2, 2016.

Following commissioning, the ship will make her way to homeport in Everett, Washington.

“My team had a key part in building this ship and the 113 and the 107 and the 105,” said Freddie Joe O’Brien, master shipbuilder who has worked at Ingalls for 46 years. “The responsibility and the feeling of pride is much, much different than it was back then.”

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