Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (left) watches as his wife, Martha breaks a bottle of wine over the bow of the destroyer named after him. Courtesy Bath Iron Works

The man who lent his name to Bath Iron Works’ latest warship said he was humbled and honored Saturday as the shipyard christened the destroyer, marking a milestone in the ship’s construction.

Harvey C. Barnum Jr., 83, of Virginia, is a Medal of Honor recipient who fought in Vietnam as a Marine and went on to serve as a deputy assistant secretary in the Navy.

“I’m grateful that I have been selected to be the namesake of this great warship,” Barnum told a crowd of hundreds that included friends, family, shipbuilders, lawmakers and military officials. “I stand here before you today as a grateful American, grateful that I was born, grew up and now still live in the greatest country in the world.”

Barnum’s wife, Martha, performed the tradition of breaking a bottle of sparkling wine over the ship’s bow. U.S. Navy christening ceremonies date back to 1797, when Capt. James Sever smashed a bottle of wine across the bow of the newly constructed USS Constitution to celebrate its launch, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The USS Harvey C. Barnum Jr., BIW’s 40th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, is in drydock and will be launched into the Kennebec River in coming weeks. It will undergo months’ more of construction and be delivered to the Navy next year, according to BIW President Chuck Krugh.

“The future USS Harvey C. Barnum Jr. will be fitting tribute to its namesake’s answering the call of his nation during Vietnam, his bravery in battle, his loyalty to his fellow Marines, and his leadership and service throughout his life,” Krugh said. “Our shipbuilders … have been working not only to build this ship, but also recover schedule lost in the past few years. I’m proud to say that they are doing just that.”


Harvey C. Barnum Jr. address the crowd during the christening of the destroyer named after him at Bath Iron Works Saturday. To his left is BIW President Chuck Krugh. Courtesy Bath Iron Works

BIW shipbuilding lagged in 2020 due to a combination of the coronavirus pandemic and a union strike. Earlier this year, Admiral Mike Gilday, U.S. chief of naval operations, inspected the shipyard and said it’s ramped up production, even ahead of schedule in some phases.

“We know the Navy needs our ships as soon as they can get them,” Krugh said. “We are maximizing our resources so we can launch this ship as soon as possible while making room on the land level for the next one.”

BIW currently has six destroyers under construction.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said Barnum is “among the most distinguished and accomplished public servants alive today.”

Barnum was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on Dec. 18, 1965, when he was a 25-year-old lieutenant on tour for only a few weeks. His unit was on a mission in the Quang Tin province when they were ambushed and separated from the rest of their detachment, according to his Medal of Honor citation. His commander and radio operator were killed. Barnum strapped the radio to his back and led a successful counterattack, exposing himself to gunfire while directing soldiers and using the radio to coordinate helicopter support.

Barnum was awarded the medal in 1967 and the next year returned to fight in Vietnam, earning two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, among other awards.


“May we all be a bit more like him and may the future USS Harvey C. Barnum Jr. carry forth your spirit, Martha, his spirit, and his story, forever,” Del Toro said.

Sen. Susan Collins, a vocal proponent of expanding the Navy’s destroyer fleet as a deterrent against potential threats posed by Russia and China, said the ships are critical to national security.

“I’m working very hard in Washington with the rest of the Maine delegation to support Navy shipbuilding and Bath Iron Works and we’re making great progress,” she said.

Collins and Sen. Angus King, who also attended Saturday’s ceremony, earlier this week voted in favor of the latest version of the annual defense spending bill, which authorizes two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the next fiscal year. BIW competes with the larger Ingalls Shipbuilding of Mississippi to build the vessels. The bill also authorizes $60 million for a multiuse facility at BIW that’s expected to include a parking garage.

Outside the shipyard celebration, Mary Beth Sullivan of Brunswick was one of about 20 people who gathered to protest, holding signs that decried military spending and aggression.

“The money should be going to human needs in our own community,” Sullivan, a social worker, said. “We could be building solar panels or windmills. There’s so many other projects we could be building if only we had a different mindset. There’s so much profit in war.”


Destroyers today cost roughly $2 billion to build.

“There are people who say we shouldn’t spend so much money on defense and we shouldn’t build these ships,” King told the crowd. “The problem is there is evil and aggression in the world. If there’s any doubt of that: Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The whole purpose of building this ship is notifying our adversaries … we have the capacity to punish them if they commit an act of aggression against the United States or its allies.

“We are building these ships so they will never have to be used.”

Gov. Janet Mills also attended Saturday’s ceremony and praised BIW’s 6,500-strong workforce.

“Out of the morning mist of the Kennebec and through the sun, rain, sleet and snow of Maine, the hard-working men and women of Bath Iron Works gave their sweat, blood and muscle to build this mighty warship,” she told the crowd.

Barnum also thanked the shipyard workers.

“I heard the term, ‘Bath built is best built’ a number of times,” he said. “It’s a reality, but you make it a reality. I salute you as a grateful American. Thank you for what you’ve done. Thank you for what you’re going to continue to do.”

Streamers celebrated the end of Saturday’s christening ceremony at Bath Iron Works for the USS Harvey C. Barnum Jr. Courtesy Bath Iron Works

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