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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, September 19, 2004

USS Chung-Hoon goes on duty

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

The USS Chung-Hoon, the Navy's newest and most technologically advanced ship, came to life yesterday before a crowd of hundreds during a commissioning ceremony at Ford Island.

Upon hearing the order to bring their ship to life, crew members of the USS Chung-Hoon run to their posts aboard their newly commissioned ship. The guided-missile destroyer is named after Rear Adm. Gordon Pai'ea Chung-Hoon, a Honolulu-born war hero.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

The ship is named after Rear Adm. Gordon Pai'ea Chung-Hoon, a war hero born in Honolulu, and the ceremonies featured Hawaiian and Chinese traditions, including hula, chants, a lion dance and choral performances.

The highlight of the ceremony followed Navy tradition, as the crew was called aboard to bring the ship to active duty. Rear Adm. Chung-Hoon's niece, Michelle Punana Chung-Hoon, gave the order: "Sea Warriors, man our ship and bring her to life!"

The Sea Warriors obeyed.

While the band played "Anchors Aweigh," the crew ran to the bridges and boarded the ship, lining the railings as guns blasted and horns blared.

More than 150 of Chung-Hoon's family and friends attended the ceremony.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer will be home-ported at Pearl Harbor, where Chung-Hoon served during World War II, attached to the USS Arizona during the surprise attack by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941.

The USS Chung-Hoon was not officially on active duty until its commissioning yesterday when the crew manned the ship at Pearl Harbor, its home port. It had been christened in Pascagoula, Miss.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

"It is fitting that the ship that carries his name will be home-ported here in the same harbor where the Arizona memorial commemorates his fallen shipmates," said U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, the keynote speaker at the ceremony.

Inouye told guests about Chung-Hoon's accomplishments as commander of the destroyer Sigsbee.

In 1945, a kamikaze crashed into the Sigsbee, killing 23 men and nearly sinking the ship. Despite extensive damage, his ship helped destroy 20 enemy aircraft.

"Despite these harrowing circumstances, through the leadership (of then-Cmdr. Chung-Hoon), the Sigsbee continued to fight, keep its anti-aircraft guns firing on the Japanese aircraft while simultaneously directing damage control efforts to save the ship," Inouye said.

His "conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary leadership" earned Chung-Hoon a Navy Cross and Silver Star, Inouye said.

The USS Chung-Hoon joins five other destroyers stationed at Pearl Harbor and will be one of a dozen Navy surface ships stationed in Hawai'i.

The new ship has the distinction of being having the most advanced weapons technology in the world. It is capable of fighting simultaneous air, surface and subsurface battles.

Welcoming the guests, Gov. Linda Lingle noted: "The presence of the USS Chung-Hoon and the Navy's other vessels in Hawai'i help keep our state secure and prosperous. The aloha state is proud to have you here."

The Chung-Hoon, which was christened in Pascagoula, Miss., was powered up for its journey to Hawai'i, but it was not officially on active duty until the crew manned the ship.

For Fire Controlman 1st Class Rhett Morrison, the ceremony brought to an end several months of preparation. The Chung-Hoon will be his third ship, but it is the first time he has seen the process through from the start.

As the ceremony drew to a close, Morrison said: "This is an end to a beginning."

Petty Officer 2nd Class Winston Grant said he'll reserve judgment on the new ship until he has spent some time on it. "It's been a wild ride and everything's all new. We'll have to get used to it," he said.

But his initial impression was "everything is clean, you have all your knobs and screws and everything — it's really nice."

After the ceremony, guests were invited to tour the USS Chung-Hoon, and hundreds jumped at the opportunity to climb ladders and squeeze down narrow hallways to get a glimpse of the new ship.

Children flocked to the control panels, pressing buttons and flicking switches. "It has good guns on it and it's powerful," raved 8-year-old Adam Akiu.

His father, Dan Akiu, a guest of Computer Science Corp., was happy they attended the ceremony. "It was a proud moment for Hawai'i. It's a small little state and we get to do something right," he said.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8014.