The Hippo


Aug 24, 2019








The Independence variant of an LCS, the same design as the USS Manchester. Source: Wikimedia.

Anchors aweigh
A brief history of U.S. Navy vessels with Granite State names

By Ryan Lessard

Recently, a 421-foot-long battleship was christened with the name USS Manchester with the help of New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and a bottle of Champagne. But the ship is only the most recent to bear the name of the proud, post-industrial city, or after the state of New Hampshire itself.

Revolutionary design
The newest ship is the 14th Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, to be built. According to Commander Jeremy Gray, the chief staff officer of LCS Squadron 1 in San Diego, these ships are known for their versatility and their ability to fight off swarms of smaller cruisers and get closer to shore than most ships its size.
“The Littoral Combat Ship was conceived to replace a number of legacy platforms in the U.S. Navy, including our minesweepers and our frigates, which were nearing the end of their service life,” Gray said.
Each LCS will be equipped with three different “mission packages,” enabling them do more with less. Gray called its design revolutionary and said the Navy is learning more about the capability of these ships every day.
“It has application in all the areas where we’re currently employing the fleet, be that in the Mediterranean, the Arabian Gulf or the Western Pacific. So it’ll see broad service worldwide,” Gray said.
Granite ships sometimes sink
The history of ships bearing the name of New Hampshire or Manchester begins during the Civil War. New Hampshire Historical Society curator Wes Balla says the first USS New Hampshire was a three-masted wooden sailing ship with at least 74 guns built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the early 19th century. But it didn’t see active service until 1864.
Until then, it was named the USS Alabama. (Fun fact: the new Manchester was built in Alabama.)
“But during the Civil War, because Alabama was a Confederate state, it was renamed New Hampshire in 1863 and refitted as a store ship and depot to supply other U.S. Navy ships blockading the Confederacy,” Balla said.
By then, it already stood out as an antique as the newest ships were steam-powered.
“To be frank, by the latter part of the 19th century it was outmoded,” Balla said.
In the years that followed, it was used for training and ultimately, Balla said, was renamed the Granite State in 1904 in anticipation of the next USS New Hampshire, which was to be a 456-foot-long, steel Connecticut-class battleship in service during the time of World War I. 
While in the possession of the New York state militia for training, the Granite State sunk for the first time at its dock in the Hudson River. It was pulled back up and sank again as it was being towed off the shore of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. Parts of the wreck can still be seen by scuba divers.
The second New Hampshire was used as an escort ship for merchant convoys to defend against German U-boats.
“It was not in any significant engagements,” Balla said.
It was commissioned in 1908 and decommissioned in 1921, just one year before the Granite State met its ultimate fate.
Balla says the historical society has parts of a silver service set gifted to the captain of the second New Hampshire by the state for use in his board room. The set includes a silver punch bowl and cups crafted with a granite base and emblazoned with the state seal.
The current USS New Hampshire is a Virginia-class attack submarine built in Portsmouth and commissioned in 2008. 
The original USS Manchester was a Cleveland-class, 610-foot light cruiser commissioned just after World War II and served mostly in the Korean War. Its commander from 1951 to 1952, Laurence Frost, later went on to be NSA director under the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. The first Manchester was decommissioned in 1956. 

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