Ryan Manion, left, one of the sponsors of the future USS John Basilone (DDG 122), carves her initials into the keel plate with the help of Bath Iron Works welder Tim Johnson, right, during the keel laying ceremony at the shipyard last Friday. Photo courtesy of Bath Iron Works

BATH — Bath Iron Works on Friday celebrated the keel laying of the future USS John Basilone (DDG 122), a ceremony that marks the beginning of the ship’s construction.

John Basilone, the ship’s namesake, was a United States Marine Corps gunnery sergeant who was killed in action during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Born in Buffalo, New York, Basilone earned the Medal of Honor for bravery at the Battle of Guadalcanal and the Navy Cross for heroism at Iwo Jima, after he single-handedly led a Marine tank safely through a minefield while under fire, according to the U.S. Navy. He was the only enlisted Marine in World War II to receive both a Navy Cross and Medal of Honor.

“The keel-laying ceremony is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment that a Bath-built ship is best built — at all stages of construction,” said Ed Kenyon, director of new construction programs at BIW. “We will ensure this ship will be ready to serve our nation, nobly, as John Basilone did during World War II.”

The ship’s sponsors are Ryan Manion and Amy Looney. Manion is president of the foundation named for her brother, Marine Corps 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed in Iraq in 2007. Looney is vice president of the foundation and is the surviving spouse of Lt. Brendan Looney, a close friend of Travis Manion and a Navy SEAL who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

Assisted by Tim Johnson, a BIW welder of 10 years, the sponsors authenticated the keel by striking welding arcs onto the steel plate and etching their initials into the keel plate. The laying of the keel and its authentication signifies the start of hull integration and the precursor to final integration, test and sea trials.

The future USS John Basilone will be the 39th Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer built by the Bath shipyard. The class, at one time, was sidelined in favor of the more advanced — and expensive — Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers.


In the early 2000s, the Navy hoped to build 32 Zumwalt-class destroyers at Bath Iron Works. As the years wore on, the number of ships ordered was slashed as cost-overruns mounted. Ultimately, the Navy ordered just three ships, and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which have been in service since the 1990s, were resurrected with an upgraded design.

Considered the workhorse of the Navy, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are 509 feet long and weigh in at roughly 9,300 tons. Zumwalts cost $4.6 billion each compared to about $1.8 billion for an Arleigh Burke.

While the delivery date of the vessel is unknown, it’s one of 12 ships planned for delivery in the next eight years. The future USS John Basilone is one of five ships currently under construction at BIW.

According to the U.S. Navy, the future USS John Basilone will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously and will contain a combination of offensive and defensive weapon systems.

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