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USS St. Louis christening is another chapter in naval history

The initials of Barbara Taylor are engraved into the keep of the new USS St. Louis at a Wisconsin shipyard in 2017,
U.S. Navy

The latest in a long line of military ships called the USS St. Louis goes into service Saturday.

A christening will be held at a shipyard in Wisconsin to launch the ship, which will be able to operate closer to the shore than other military vessels, as well as in the open ocean.

Barbara Taylor will break a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow to send the USS St. Louis on its way. She is the wife of Enterprise Holdings Chairman Andy Taylor.

The family has deep connections to the military. The rental car company's founder Jack Taylor piloted Navy fighter planes from the deck of the USS Enterprise in World War II. The family’s St. Louis-based company is named after that aircraft carrier.

"The combination of my family's military background, the naval heritage of our company, Enterprise, and the enduring spirit of the great city of St. Louis make this incredibly meaningful," she said in a statement.

Taylor is the ship's sponsor, a mostly-ceremonial honor bestowed by the Navy secretary. The person attends several milestones during the ship building process, including etching initials into the keel plate.

Taylor did that during a ceremony in 2017.

(Her comments begin around the 19:45 mark in this video.)

"This is the seventh ship to bear the name St. Louis, and I know that the people of our great city are extremely proud that this distinguished legacy will be continued," Taylor said.

The vessel, officially known in naval circles as Littoral Combat Ship — or LCS - 19 — is the first to bear the St. Louis name since an amphibious cargo ship went out of service in 1991.

Putting the name on another ship also honors the workers who have been building it since the contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin in December 2010, according to U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.

"This christening marks the transition of USS St. Louis being a mere hull number to a ship with a name and a spirit," he said.

The new USS St. Louis will have a core crew of 50 but could handle about 100. It will have a top speed of 40 knots, which equals around 46 miles an hour. The ship will be able to operate in shallow water of about 15 feet deep. Non-LCS Navy ships usually have to operate in at least 20 or 30 feet.

Here's a list of all military vessels that have been in honor of the city:

  • USS St. Louis (1828), a sloop-of-war commissioned in 1828, decommissioned in 1865 and stricken in 1907.
  • USS St. Louis (1861), an ironclad gunboat commissioned in 1862, later renamed Baron de Kalb and sunk in 1863 during the American Civil War.
  • USS St. Louis, a troop transport in commission in 1898, which otherwise served as the civilian passenger liner SS St. Louis (1894) from 1895 to 1918 and from 1919 to 1920 and was in commission again as the troop transport USS Louisville from 1918 to 1919.
  • USS St. Louis (C-20), a protected cruiser in commission from 1906 to 1922.
  • USS St. Louis (CL-49), a light cruiser in commission from 1939 to 1946.
  • USS St. Louis (LKA-116), an amphibious cargo ship in commission from 1969 to 1991.

(List provided by USS Missouri Memorial Association)

Follow Wayne Pratt on Twitter:@WayneRadio

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.