Under Secretary Modly’s Remarks From USS Cleveland Announcement

Below are Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly’s remarks from the announcement of the naming of the future littoral combat ship, USS Cleveland, on behalf of Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, Oct. 8. The announcement was held at the USS Cod submarine in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

Thank you for that kind introduction.

Mayor Jackson, Council President Kelly, Rear Adm. Nunan, Gold Star families, distinguished citizens of the City of Cleveland:

Good afternoon!  As always, it’s great to be back home for me.

When people ask me what it is like serving as the Under Secretary of the Navy, I am quick to respond that it is an honor every minute, of every hour of every day, – but that some days are clearly better than others.

Today is one of those days.  It is a great honor for Robyn and I to spend Columbus Day with each of you on this historic and highly decorated submarine, here on the shores of Lake Erie. Thank you to each of you for being here and for carving time out of your schedules to be with us.

As most of you know, just a few miles west of here is the site where the Battle of Lake Erie was fought and won, where Admiral Perry’s warship first flew that infamous flag that inspired his crew to fight against long odds.

The words “Don’t Give Up the Ship” adorned that flag and while they have been adopted by the U.S. Navy, they are also emblematic of the spirit of this great city.

You have never given up the ship here in Cleveland, and there is always a local pride that extends beyond what I have witnessed in any other community I have visited since I left here to join the Navy in 1979.

As some of you may know, I grew up not far from here, on the east side of the city. My parents, like many of their neighbors, came to Cleveland to escape tyranny and oppression in Eastern Europe, searching for a new beginning in this town.

They, and perhaps some of your forefathers, as well, found that beginning here.

As immigrants to this country, Cleveland provided my parents with a rich opportunity to succeed, just as it had, and just as it continues to do, for many others who came here from many different parts of the world.  It is part of the unique character of Cleveland – and it also helps define who we are as a nation.

And when that nation has called the daughters and sons of this city to defend the very freedoms that make such opportunity possible, Clevelanders have risen proudly to answer the call into service.

Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly announces the naming of the future littoral combat ship, USS Cleveland on behalf of Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Brian Dietrick/Released)
Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly announces the naming of the future littoral combat ship, USS Cleveland on behalf of Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Brian Dietrick/Released)

And they still do, and I have met young Clevelanders in uniform all over the world.

I’ve met them on submarines, and aircraft carriers, and destroyers, and flying helicopters, and jets, and in Marine detachments in the remote parts of Iraq and Afghanistan. Even just last week, I met a Navy Seebee from Twinsburg, Ohio, who was building a new vocational high school building in a poor neighborhood in a very remote part of Micronesia.

Clevelanders are well-represented in our Navy Marine Corps team – and that should make us all very proud – and safe.

It wasn’t really that long ago when Clevelanders of the Greatest Generation lined up to volunteer for service in World War Two. For combat veterans like Emory Crowder, here today, who moved to Cleveland soon after his valorous service in the Pacific as a combat corpsman, it seems like only yesterday. And it looked like only yesterday because Emory is 95 years old but looks like he is about 25.

They lived to serve on warships just like this one. To fight and serve as teams, far away from home. And those who remained at home answered the call.

Cleveland, along with many other cities in the Great Lakes region during World War II, became a foundry of freedom, not just for America, but for our Allies who were struggling just to stay in the fight, all across the globe.

The parents and grandparents from this area worked long shifts in factories that churned out the airplanes, vehicles, munitions and countless parts that turned the tide in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war.

And in every war since then, in Korea, in Vietnam, where Mayor Jackson so courageously served with honor, in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, and all across the world, Clevelanders have always answered their country’s call to serve.

Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly shakes Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s hand at Cleveland City Hall during Cleveland Navy Week. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tamara Vaughn/Released)
Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly shakes Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s hand at Cleveland City Hall during Cleveland Navy Week. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tamara Vaughn/Released)

But sadly, as we all recognize with great service often comes great sacrifice. The mayor and I and many of you were blessed to be part of the Gold Star Families Memorial unveiling last month, at the VA Hospital.

That moment, added to thousands of other expressions of love, all across the nation, prove to the world what kind of dedication this city holds for the families of the fallen, for those with wounds that are both visible and invisible, and for all those who have served under the banner of freedom.

Indeed, Cleveland has always risen with pride, not only for its uniformed service members, but for public servants of every calling: Our police, sheriffs, firefighters, public works employees, caregivers and many other invaluable service professions, far too numerous to name.

It is for all these public and national servants, and every working family working to make a living and a brighter future for their children, that previous secretaries of the Navies have granted three United States warships the honored title of United States Ship Cleveland.

The Secretary of the Navy is empowered by law, by the Congress to name ships of the United States, by an Act of Congress dated March 3, 1819.

This act states that:

“All of the ships, of the Navy of the United States, now building, or hereafter to be built, shall be named by the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President of the United States, according to the following rule, to wit: Those of the first class shall be called after the States of this Union; those of the second class after the rivers; and those of the third class after the principal cities and towns; taking care that no two vessels of the navy shall bear the same name.”

This provision remains the law of the land, and rests in Richard Spencer’s hands. He is my boss and he is the 76th Secretary of the Navy.

The first USS Cleveland, a Protected-class cruiser, was launched on Sept. 28, 1901, served in World War I conducting convoy escort duty, and was decommissioned in 1929.

The second USS Cleveland, which was actually the first of the Cleveland Class light cruisers, was commissioned during World War II in June 1942. We actually have two crew members here today from that ship, Bob Allen and John Jackson, can you guys give a wave?

The Cleveland Class Cruiser represented a vast improvement in gunnery rate of fire, firing 10 rounds per minute, versus only three in the previous class.

This second Cleveland was decommissioned like most of the rest of these cruisers upon completing its combat duties after World War II. And these gentlemen served in both theaters, Pacific and Atlantic theater.

The third USS Cleveland, an amphibious transport ship, which was commissioned in 1967, saw service in Vietnam and in every conflict afterward, until being decommissioned just seven years ago, in September 2011.


An aerial view of the landing personnel dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7) off the coast of Port Hueneme, CA. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Photographer’s Mate Terry Cosgrove/Released)

But it is today, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, that Secretary Spencer has decided that the people of Cleveland have waited long enough for a new fighting ship of the line to be named for this patriotic city.

And this is a great year to do it, because as well all know, the Indians are about to win a World Series and the Browns are going to the playoffs. So this is a momentous year for this.

So this afternoon, we’ll see how much farther we have to go to realize that dream for the Tribe, but today, I have the honor of announcing, on behalf of Secretary Spencer, that one of our newest warships, will become the fourth U.S. Navy ship to be named the United States Ship Cleveland.

The new USS Cleveland will be a littoral combat ship, and it will be constructed by patriotic American hands here in the U.S.

With a shallow draft, high speed, and an open architecture that facilitates modularized weapons and cutting-edge sensor suites, the new USS Cleveland will be able to reach and defend more coastal areas with more agility, mroe networked firepower than any other class of ship in the world.

She will be manned by a diverse group of Sailors. And that’s the most important part about these ships.  It’s the people that man them. They all grew up in different parts, different places in the United States.

They will unite under a common cause – to protect and defend the nation and the Constitution of the United States – and to make the USS Cleveland a ship this city can be proud of.

Proud to know there is a fighting ship named for Cleveland out at sea,

Proud of an American fighting crew boasting this city’s name,

And proud to know that this ship will represent the spirit of Cleveland both in peace – and in the fight if that is what is required of her.

Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly announces the naming of the future littoral combat ship, USS Cleveland, on behalf of Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Brian Dietrick/Released)
Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly announces the naming of the future littoral combat ship, USS Cleveland, on behalf of Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Brian Dietrick/Released)

In closing, I would like to share a story from my recent visit here a few weeks ago for Navy Week. We had some free time on one the mornings of that visit and we decided to go over to the West Side to visit one of Cleveland’s great cultural landmarks, and no I’m not talking about the West-Side Park. I’m talking about the Christmas Story House and Museum.

Now I have seen some great museums in my life, to include the Louvre in Paris, but as great as the Louvre is, you can’t buy a leg lamp there so it is always going to be second place in my book.

At any rate, we were driving across, our motorcade, across the 14th street bridge then an individual wearing a Vietnam veterans hat just ahead of us stepped out of his car, and he saw the motorcade and he stopped and got out of his car and he stood and he saluted us.

I stopped our car in order to meet him and I listened to his story about returning from Vietnam in the early 1970s. His reception back to the states was less than glorious. Protesters greeted him upon his arrival. They cursed at him, spit on him and threw trash on him, but despite the indignities that he was subjected to I didn’t get any sense at all that he was bitter.

He’s still very, very proud of his service, proud that he could escort his best friend’s body back to the United States, and I believe that he realized that although the Vietnam era was a difficult time in U.S. history, his negative experience returning home did not define us as a nation.

Sometimes I suspect in these days we all have the disconcerting belief that we are living through difficult times like that today, but I can tell you with certainty that we are not.

I know this because of what I see every day in this job. Despite the tumult and turmoil we may perceive in the media, we still have smart, dedicated and honorable people who are volunteering to serve in our Armed Forces – and they come from every single type of American family and from every corner and socioeconomic class of this country.  If, God forbid, we ever lose that, then that is when we will know that we are really in trouble as a country. Rest assured because that time is not now – and we should all pray that such a time will never come. Despite whatever differences we may have on politics we are blessed and united by those who serve us, selflessly, all over the world. It is their duty to protect us. It is our obligation to respect them and to honor their service.

I am certain there is a future Sailor somewhere in this city today, who you can influence and encourage to understand that the country is worth fighting for, that service is honorable. And that future Sailor may eventually stand watch on the bridge of the USS Cleveland – and make you proud.

So I ask that when you get the chance to meet someone in our Armed Forces, or from my parochial point of view, someone in the Navy-Marine Corps Team, don’t just thank them for their service – ask them what they do, ask them where they are from, and most importantly, tell them you are from Cleveland and that there is going to be a ship out there at sea one day that is named in your hometown’s honor.

Bless them, and tell them how proud you are to know that there are Sailors who have never set foot here in this city who will be serving on your ship and who will share in the honor of calling themselves “Clevelanders,” too.

Thank you for coming out today to honor the Gold Star families who have given so much, and to whom we can never repay; thank you for honoring all our city public servants and service members, both former and present; and thank you for making this city such a special place, one that proudly defends the greatest country on earth.

Today marks the beginning of a journey of your ship from drawing board to construction and eventually to the sea. In the end, wherever that ship travels the people who come in contact with her will learn what we all know is true, the USS Cleveland Rocks!

Congratulations to the City of Cleveland.

Go Navy. Beat Army.

Thank you for being here.


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Under Secretary Modly’s Remarks From USS Cleveland Announcement