By Holly Quick, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
November is National American Indian Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the history, heritage, and traditions of American Indians and Alaskan Natives. As we reflect on the accomplishments of the original inhabitants, explorers, and settlers of the United States, we remember a few of the many ships the Navy has named in honor of American Indians, their tribes, and the places they’ve lived. Tell us about your experience serving on one of these ships or others whose names honor American Indians and Native Alaskans.
USS Evans (DE 1023)
The destroyer escort vessel USS Evans (DE 1023), commissioned June 14, 1957, is named for Cmdr. Ernest Edwin Evans, a half-Cherokee and one-quarter-Creek Indian who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Remembered for his sacrifice and heroism in Battle off Samar, Evans’ courage and professional skills aided materially in turning back the enemy during a critical phase of the action.
USS James E. Williams (DDG 95)
The guided missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95), commissioned Dec. 11, 2004, is named for Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James E. Williams, a Cherokee from South Carolina and one of the Navy’s most highly decorated veterans. Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions while serving as patrol commander aboard River Patrol Boat 105 during the Vietnam War.
USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE-2)
The Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE-2), launched June 24, 2006, is named for the lead interpreter and guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition. Sacagawea is a Shoshone Indian girl who was an invaluable aide to the explorers and is credited with saving the expedition’s records after they had fallen in the Missouri River when her husband’s boat capsized.
USS Chickasaw (ATF 83)
The fleet ocean tug USS Chickasaw (ATF 83), reclassified May 15, 1944, is named for an Indian tribe now resident in Oklahoma. Cmdr. John Bennett Herrington, a former NASA astronaut and member of the Chickasaw tribe, was the first American Indian in outer space.
USS Platte (AO 24)
The fleet oiler USS Platte (AO 24), commissioned Dec. 1, 1939, is named for a major river in the state of Nebraska that was visited by American Indians as they followed bison herds for hunting periods.
This is not a comprehensive list of every ship named in honor of American Indians. Please share your favorites in the comments below.
Editors Note: Check out this collection of the graphical images currently on display in all of the U.S. Navy’s national museums during each respective heritage month. Our Cultural Expanse aims at highlighting the vital contributions minorities have made to the Navy throughout its culturally rich history. Click the image for more.