This is a stunning time-lapse video of the launch of a new Arleigh Burke-class Navy destroyer, the Ralph Johnson (DDG 114). The complexities and the skills involved in such an operation are clearly seen in this video, and they are matched by the efficiency with which they are accomplished. The video has an eerily beautiful quality to it as you watch the passage of time from day to night and back to day again. Watch the strange ballet of the cranes as they keep changing positions against the night sky. Then, with the dawn, you’ll see the launch and the tugs and spotter boats moving around her like worker bees.
This destroyer is named after PFC Ralph Henry Johnson, a Recon Marine. He was born in Charleston, SC, on January 11, 1949. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve at Oakland, CA, on March 23, 1967. He was discharged from the Reserves so that he could enlist in the regular Marine Corps on July 2, 1967. When he arrived in Vietnam in January 1968, he was 19 years old. On March 5, 1968, he served with Alpha Co., 1st Recon Batallion, 1st Marine Division.
His 15 man reconnaissance team was manning a position on Hill 146 overlooking the Quan Duc Valley during Operation Rock when they were attacked by combined North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces. When a grenade suddenly fell into his three-man fighting hole he shouted a warning and dove onto the grenade. His body absorbed the majority of the fierce force of the explosion. He was killed instantly. For his action that day he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on April 10, 1970. The medal’s citation read, in part:
“His prompt and heroic act saved the life of one Marine at the cost of his own and undoubtedly prevented the enemy from penetrating his sector of the patrol’s perimeter.”
Johnson had only been in country for a little over two months at the time of this event. Twenty three years after his death, Charleston’s VA hospital was renamed as the Ralph Henry Johnson Veterans Hospital. Now countless Navy sailors will have the honor of sailing aboard the Ralph Johnson (DDG 114). As you finish the video remember the hero for whom this new ship is named.
The Veterans Site honors the memory of PFC Ralph Henry Johnson.
Semper Fi, good Recon Marine. Ooorah!
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.