Ingalls launches USS Richard M. McCool Jr., the world’s last amphibious assault ship

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A render of the USS Richard M. McCool Jr. LPD 29 took off from the floating dry dock as Ingalls Shipbuilding launched the latest in its line of amphibious assault transport ships last week. (Courtesy of the US Navy)

PASCAGOULA, Mississippi (Tribune News Service) – With gentle help from tugs, the LPD 29 lifted off from the floating dry dock as Ingalls Shipbuilding launched the latest in its line of amphibious assault transport vessels last week.

The USS Richard M. McCool Jr. (LPD 29) is the 13th San Antonio-class amphibious assault force ship. The launch is one in a series of milestones to bring a ship to life, with the LPD 29 scheduled for delivery to the U.S. Navy later next year.

“LPD-class ships, like all of our programs, are of critical importance to the national security of the United States,” said Ingalls Chairman Kari Wilkinson. “Plus, thousands of Americans, from engineers to electrical engineers, have worked on the LPD 29 over the years.

“Ingalls Shipbuilding is proud to build them and even more proud of the talented people who make up our shipbuilding team. “

Ingalls is the only domestic builder of the San Antonio-class, state-of-the-art ships designed to support American amphibious assaults, special operations and expeditionary warfare missions in the 21st century.

The 684-foot-long ships move 25,000 tons and are used to transport and disembark US Marines, equipment and supplies ashore via airbags or conventional landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles , supported by helicopters or vertical take-off / landing planes such as the MV-22 Balbuzard.

The LPD 29 is the first US Navy ship named in honor of WWII hero Richard M. McCool Jr., who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for “remarkable bravery and fearlessness at the peril of his life beyond the call of duty. ”As the commanding officer of an infantry landing support craft at the Battle of Okinawa in June 1945.

McCool graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1944 and was made a lieutenant in the US Navy. On June 10, 1945, off Okinawa, McCool helped rescue survivors of the sinking destroyer USS William D. Porter. The next day, his own ship was hit and badly damaged by a Japanese kamikaze plane.

Despite severe burns and shrapnel injuries during the attack, McCool continued to lead his crew in the firefighting and rescue efforts.

McCool also served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars and retired from the Navy with the rank of captain in 1974, ending a distinguished 30-year career. He died of natural causes in 2008 at the age of 86.

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