BATH, Maine (AP) — The future USS Carl M. Levin was christened Saturday by the Michigan senator’s daughters, who simultaneously smashed bottles of sparkling wine against the warship’s bow at Bath Iron Works.
Daughters Erica Levin, Laura Levin and Kate Levin Markel honored their late father, the longtime Armed Services Committee chairman, who died at 87 on July 29 after battling cancer.
Afterward, they waved from the ship’s deck — about 30 feet above the assembly — as a band played “Anchors Aweigh.”
Levin’s nephew, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., said his “Uncle Carl” was “overwhelmed by the honor.”
“I can honestly say, amidst all the accolades he received in fifty years of public service, this one meant most to him, and it truly captures his devotion to our nation,” said the congressman, who was joined at the event by other family members, including Carl Levin’s wife, Barbara, and Levin’s older brother, former U.S. Rep. Sander Levin.
The warship’s namesake served for 36 years in the U.S. Senate and served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, becoming an expert on defense matters. Before that, he was an attorney and member of the Detroit City Council, serving four years as president.
He was universally praised by those who spoke at the event for his work on behalf the military, service members and veterans.
The current chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, called him a “fearless, selfless leader.” Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who counted Levin as a “cherished friend,” called him a “model of integrity, intelligence and commitment.”
Others attending the event included Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Gov. Janet Mills and Maine’s other U.S. senator, Angus King; and Navy officials including the ship’s prospective skipper and crew.
It was a smaller-than-normal ceremony. Because of the pandemic, it was an invitation-only event with several hundred guests instead of a typical gathering of several thousand people. Shipbuilders were encouraged to watch a livestream of the event.
While Levin died before Saturday’s milestone, he had visited the shipyard a couple of times to meet with shipbuilders.
He attended a ceremony that marked construction of the ship in 2019, when he and his daughters donned visors and participated in welding their names on a plate that went on the ship.
Kate Levin Markel told the crowd that her father’s connection to the ship “kept his spirits high through his last days” and that he had even prepared a speech before he passed away. Another sister, Erica Levin, read the address in which Levin thanked shipbuilders and spoke of the “incredible honor” of having a ship bearing his name.
Christening of a Navy warship marks a milestone in construction. More work must be completed before sea trials are conducted and the Navy takes ownership before formal commissioning. The warship will eventually be based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers like the future USS Carl Levin are the workhorse of the U.S. fleet.
The 510-foot-long destroyers can easily top 30 knots while simultaneously waging war with enemy ships, submarines, missiles and aircraft. They’re also built to withstand chemical attacks.