Portland power struggle: Maine senators send SECNAV a what-about-us note


The heavy cruiser Portland, which served during World War II and was named after Portland, Maine. Not Portland, Ore. An upcoming amphib is the opposite, name-wise, drawing the ire of Maine’s U.S. Senate delegation. (Naval History and Heritage Command photo)

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus named seven ships earlier this month, putting out a news release that was remarkable for, if anything, being unremarkable.

All seven ships — two littoral combat ships, three joint high speed vessels, one oceanographic research vessel and one amphib — were named within existing naming protocol for their respective classes. No controversial honoring of former Marines-turned-legislators, no convention-breaking decisions, no “Sense of the Senate” suggestions — just six cities and NASA pioneer Sally Ride.

But Maine’s senators aren’t happy with how the April 12 release reads. Specifically, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King have sent a letter to SECNAV requesting the amphibious transport dock Portland’s name be reconsidered. Sort of.

The release clearly states that “Mabus named the future USS Portland (LPD 27) in honor of Oregon’s most highly populated city. ” That’s not sitting well with the Maine senators, who want their state’s Portland to share the honor.

They have history on their side: The first Portland, a heavy cruiser, was commissioned in 1933 and named for the Maine city alone. The second Portland, an amphibious dock landing ship, shared its name with both cities, as evidenced by this patch.

The last paragraph spells out the senators’ request as clear as possible: “We request that you clarify that the USS Portland will be named in honor of Portland, Maine, as well as Portland, Oregon.  Given the history of both cities and the previous ships given the proud name of USS Portland, we are confident that you will agree that doing so will greatly contribute to the rich and storied history the USS Portland will carry with her as she and her crew defend our nation. ”

Senators have already played a part in the recent naming process.

Update: On Wednesday afternoon, Mabus sent a letter to the two senators describing his thought process in naming the ship after Portland, Ore.

Two ships — ballistic missile sub Maine and joint high speed vessel Millinocket — are named after Maine, but Oregon doesn’t have any ships named after it. In fact, Oregon is the only state in America without a ship currently named after the state or a city in the state.

Delaware also doesn’t have any active ship named after it, but Mabus in November that the next attack submarine would be named the USS Delaware.


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