Navy Destroyers Named After San Diego Military Heroes

The Arleigh Burke-class of guided-missile destroyers are in San Diego for a very special reason. On Friday, the USS John Finn, USS Ralph Johnson, and USS Rafael Peralta were part of a namesake ceremony at Navy Base San Diego to honor San Diego’s most influential military war heroes.

The three war heroes all have connections to San Diego. John Finn was a long-term resident in San Diego and his heroic acts earned the first Medal of Honor in World War II. Finn was stationed to a machine gun at Kaneohe Naval Air Station in Hawaii during the December 7, 1941 attacks. He courageously fired at Japanese aircraft for over 2 hours even after being shot in the arm and foot as well as suffering several other wounds. Finn died at age 100 in 2010. He served 15 years in the Navy.

Private first class Ralph Johnson was 19 years old when he saved two servicemen by falling on a grenade that landed in his foxhole in Vietnam in 1968. The Camp Pendleton-based Marine, Johnson, was awarded the Medal of Honor and his Charleston, S.C. hometown named a Veterans Administration medical center in his honor in 1991.

Rafael Peralta also died when he covered up a grenade in Fallujah, Iraq on November 15, 2004. The brave 25-year-old was a San Diego native and he was given a Navy Cross, however, his family, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, and other lawmakers have tried to get the award upgraded to a Medal of Honor. This namesake ship will be a wonderful way to remember Peralta for years to come.

The families of the military war heroes were scheduled to attend the Navy Base San Diego ceremony. Lt. General John Toolan is commanding general of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and presided over the ship-naming ceremony on Friday. Unfortunately, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus was detained in Washington, D.C. due to the aftermath of the Navy Yard shootings.

Navy Secretary did share his feelings about the San Diego Navy vessel names. Mabus stated, “Finn, Johnson, and Peralta have all been recognized with some of our nation’s highest awards. I want to ensure their service and sacrifice will be known by today’s sailors and Marines and honored for several decades to come by a new generation of Americans and people from around the world who will come in contact with these ships.”

Photo Credit: Roger Wollstadt