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The Naval History of Alabama

Aug. 17, 2018
While there are no longer any active naval installations in the state, Alabama's presence in U.S. naval history goes back for centuries. During the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, Rear Adm. David G. Farragut exclaimed, "Damn the torpedoes! Four bells! Captain Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!" Farragut's words have been popularly paraphrased as, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" Over time, at least 34 ships have been named for cities, people, and places in Alabama. Four ships, the first being a side-wheel steamer commissioned in 1819, were named after the state itself. USS Alabama (SSBN 731), an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine commissioned in 1985, is the most recent vessel to be named after the state. She has even made an appearance in Hollywood, providing the setting for the 1995 film "Crimson Tide," starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman. There's no doubt that Alabamians are proud of their namesake ships. In 1965, the battleship USS Alabama (BB 60) opened as a museum in Mobile, Ala., as a tribute to the men and women who served during World War II. In 1985, the museum ship was registered as a national historic landmark. Alabamians can also be proud of their Alabama-born Navy veterans like Kathryn P. Hire and Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr. Hire served as a Navy captain and NASA astronaut. In 1993, she became the first female in the U.S. military to be assigned to a combat aircrew. Then, in 1998 and 2010, she participated two space flights that orbited the Earth a total of 473 times, covering 12 million miles. Born in Mobile, Ala., Denton served more than 30 years in the U.S. Navy before returning to his home state to be elected as a U.S. senator in 1980. During his active duty service, Denton was among the nearly 600 U.S. prisoners during the Vietnam War. He was held prisoner by the North Vietnamese for seven years and seven months.