SECRETARY OF THE NAVY NAMES NEW ROLL ON/ROLL
OFF SHIP FOR U.S. ARMY HERO
(Department of Defense News Release, April 9, 1997)
Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton has named a strategic sealift ship after a U.S.
Army Medal of Honor recipient from World War II.
The name Secretary Dalton assigned, USNS Watson (T-AKR 310), honors U.S. Army Pvt.
George Watson of Birmingham, Ala., who was awarded the nation's highest military award.
While serving with the 2nd Battalion, 29th Quartermaster Regiment, Pvt. Watson
distinguished himself on March 8, 1943, when his ship was sunk by Japanese bombers near
Porloch Harbor, New Guinea. Pvt. Watson remained in the water and helped other soldiers
reach their life rafts. Exhausted by these heroic efforts, Pvt. Watson was unable to get
clear of the turbulence when the ship went down.
By naming this ship after an Army Medal of Honor recipient, the Secretary of the
Navy has created a lasting monument to an American hero. said Secretary of the Army
Togo D. West, Jr. Pvt. Watson gave his life in the defense of our nation; now this
ship will continue that legacy of service. This ship is a fitting reminder of selfless
service by an extraordinary soldier, and of the history of accomplishment and mutual
support shared by our two services.
The new Large Medium Speed Roll
On/Roll Off (LMSR) ship is under construction at National Steel and Shipbuilding Company
in San Diego, Calif. The ship will be operated by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift
Command, Washington, D.C. Watson's roll-on/ roll-off design makes it ideal for
transporting helicopters, tanks, and other wheeled and tracked military vehicles. The ship
will have approximately 390,000 square feet of cargo carrying space. Watson is 950 feet in
length, has a beam of 105 feet and displaces approximately 62,000 tons when fully loaded.
The gas- turbine powered ship will be able to sustain speeds up to 24 knots.
Military Sealift Command's second new LMSR is christened
Military Sealift Command Press Release - July 28, 1997
Large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Watson (T-AKR 310) was christened July
26 at National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego, Calif. Named in honor of Army
Pvt. George Watson, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during
World War II, USNS Watson will become part of the Military Sealift Command's Afloat
Prepositioning Force and used to preposition at sea ammunition, equipment and supplies for
Secretary of the Army Togo D. West was the principal speaker at the christening
ceremony, and his wife, Gail, officially gave the ship its name.
"Pvt. George Watson exemplifies the partnership among soldiers, sailors and
merchant mariners fighting for America. That partnership is as strong today as it was when
Watson gave his life for his comrades," said Rear Adm. William H. Butler, USNR, who
represented Military Sealift Command at the ceremony.
It is very appropriate that Military Sealift Command--whose mission is to provide for
the ocean transportation of equipment, fuel supplies and ammunition to sustain U.S. forces
worldwide during peacetime and in war--has one of its newest ships named in honor of a
person who gave his life saving others during combat at sea. When Watson's ship was
repeatedly attacked by enemy bombers, he helped others to make it to life rafts so that
they might live, until he was so exhausted that he was pulled down by the tow of the
sinking ship. The civilian mariners who crew USNS Watson will put themselves in harm's way
to make sure that U.S. soldiers have what they need to get the job done.
As one of 19 large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships being built or converted at
U.S. shipyards, USNS Watson is the first of seven new gas turbine propulsion LMSRs.
When the LMSR acquisition program is completed, the Navy will have approximately 5
million square feet of additional strategic sealift capacity.
Military Sealift Command takes delivery of USNS Watson
Military Sealift Command Press Release - June 30, 1998
Military Sealift Command took delivery of USNS Watson, the first of 14 new construction
large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships, called LMSRs, in late June. She is the first
ship of the Watson class to be delivered.
Watson, named in honor of Medal of Honor recipient Army Pvt. George Watson, is the
first of seven LMSRs to be built by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego,
Calif. USNS Watson was christened by Gail Berry West, wife of Secretary of the Army Togo
D. West, last July.
Seven more new LMSRs -- the Bob Hope class -- are being built at Avondale Shipyards in
Louisiana. Five converted LMSRs have already been delivered and are operating worldwide.
USNS Watson will be assigned to MSC's Afloat Prepositioning Program which prepositions
on ships equipment and supplies for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and the
Defense Logistics Agency worldwide. Prepositioning improves U.S. capabilities to deploy
forces rapidly in any area of conflict.
Watson is scheduled to be loaded with U.S. Army cargo in September (1998).
USNS Watson will be crewed by 29 merchant mariners from Maersk Lines Limited under
contract to MSC. In addition, up to 50 military personnel can embark to "monitor and
maintain the military equipment on board, ensuring its readiness.
By the year 2001, MSC will have taken delivery of 19 LMSRs as part of the U.S. Navy
Strategic Sealift Acquisition Program. The program is in response to the need for expanded
sealift capability identified in a congressionally mandated study done in the early 1990s.
The 19 LMSRs will provide five million square feet of sealift capacity early in the next
Large, Medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships - T-AKR Description: Military Sealift
Command's newest class of ships - Large, Medium- speed, Roll-on/Roll-off Ships, or LMSR -
will significantly expand the nation's sealift capability in the 1990s and beyond.
Nineteen LMSRs will have been converted or built at U.S. shipyards by the year 2001.
Features: Large, Medium-speed, Roll-on/Roll-off Ships, or LMSRs, can carry an entire
U.S. Army Task Force, including 58 tanks, 48 other track vehicles, plus more than 900
trucks and other wheeled vehicles. The ship carries vehicles and equipment to support
humanitarian missions, as well as combat missions. The new construction vessels have a
cargo carrying capacity of more than 380,000 square feet, equivalent to almost eight
football fields. In addition, LMSRs have a slewing stern ramp and a removable ramp which
services two side ports making it easy to drive vehicles on and off the ship. Interior
ramps between decks ease traffic flow once cargo is loaded aboard ship. Two 110-ton single
pedestal twin cranes make it possible to load and unload cargo where shoreside
infrastructure is limited or nonexistent. A commercial helicopter deck was added for
emergency, daytime landing.
Background: The need for additional military sealift ships was identified in a
Congressionally-mandated study by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the early 1990s. The
Mobility Requirements Study focused on Department of Defense transportation during the
Persian Gulf War. It highlighted the urgent need for greater sealift capacity to transport
military equipment and supplies during wartime and other national contingencies.
In response to the sealift shortfall, an ambitious Strategic Sealift Acquisition
Program was introduced. Plans called for adding 19 LMSRs which will provide five million
square feet of capacity early in the next century.
Watson Loads Army Cargo In Europe
By Lisa Gates
From Sealift, US. Navy Military Sealift Command, August 1998
Less than a month after being delivered to Military
Sealift Command, USNS Watson arrived in Europe to start her first mission--the
redeployment of heavy U.S. Army combat equipment from Europe to the United States.
After the long transit from San Diego, Calf., Watson reached the small German seaport
of Bremerhaven in late July. There, waiting on their pier since April, were more
than 1,700 Army vehicles and 200 shipping containers filled with gear for transfer to the
However, before docking pierside, Watson passed through a lock in the port with enough
room to spare. Her sheer hulking size and gray hull caused a stir among local port
employees and officials who were used to seeing large ships, mostly auto transport
vessels, dock there.
"For a ship as large as she is, she handles really well,
"said Watson's master Capt. George Hynes about the ship's maiden voyage to Germany.
"Her two bow thrusters and tight turning radius make her handle like a dream."
Once Watson's large stern ramp was lowered into place,
members of the Army's 598th Transportation Terminal Group swung into action, getting the
equipment prepared for loading.
For four days, local stevedores drove the various
vehicles--humvees, large trucks and tractor trailers--up the stern ramp and into the
depths of the ship, securing each one with shiny, new lashing equipment.
"You'll never see lashing equipment as shiny as this
again," said Tim Pickering, a marine transportation specialist in the Sealift Program
Office at MSC headquarters, who was on hand to watch the cargo operations.
Port cranes on he dock lifted the shipping containers onto the ship's main deck where
stevedores, driving forklifts, placed them inside one of the ship's many cargo holds.
Once loading operations in Bremerhaven were completed,
Watson cruised to Rotterdam, the Netherlands where another 45 Army helicopters were lifted
aboard and lowered through the cargo hatches on the main deck.
The equipment being loaded--more than 200,000 square feet--belongs to the 2nd Armored
Cavalry Regiment which is returning to the U.S. after 11 months of duty with the NATO-led
Stabilization Force in Bosnia/Herzegovina. The equipment will be off-loaded in
Beaumont, Texas, when the ship arrives in mid-August.
Watson, which is ideally suited for military cargo, was selected for the job due to the
large amount of cargo needing to be moved. Normally to move this huge amount would
have required the use of two Fast Sealift Ships or three commercial chartered vessels.
By selecting Watson -- 950 feet in length and comparable in size to a Nimitz-class
aircraft carrier--for this mission saved the American taxpayer potentially $3 million.
And, besides, it gave MSC the opportunity to showcase on of its newest large,
medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships.
"It is an honor to be the first captain of a
brand-new ship," said Hynes. "It's a rare opportunity these days for a U.S.
merchant mariner to captain a new ship because there are not that many ones being
Watson will be loaded with Army prepositioning cargo in
Charleston, S.C., in September.
New Navy Ship Loads Army Cargo in
Military Sealift Command Press Release - November 6, 1998
USNS Watson, one of the newest and largest ships in the U.S. Navy fleet, docks today at
the Naval Weapons Station Charleston. The large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off
ship, called an LMSR, will prepare to deploy for its official mission at sea -- afloat
prepositioning in the Persian Gulf.
The ship, is named for an African-American World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Pvt.
George Watson. Following USNS Watson's load-out in Charleston, the ship will deploy
in late November and arrive in the Persian Gulf in mid-December.
Operated by Military Sealift Command, afloat prepositioning ships preposition American
military equipment and supplies in ocean-based strategic locations, combat-ready for U.S.
fighting forces, if called.
Mrs. Gail Berry West, the ship's sponsor and wife of Secretary of Veterans Affairs and
former Secretary of the Army Togo West, will visit the ship on Nov. 10 to view loading
USNS Watson, a non-combatant cargo ship, is 950 feet in length and crewed by U.S.
The ship's namesake, Pvt George Watson, a soldier with the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion,
29th Quartermaster Regiment was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1996.
Pvt. Watson saved the lives of fellow soldier who were unable to swim by helping them
reach life rafts after their troop ship was struck by enemy bombers near Porloch Harbor,
New Guinea. Exhausted from his heroic rescue efforts, Pvt. Watson perished when the
sinking ship pulled him beneath the surface.
USNS Watson is emblematic of the proud service of African-Americans to the nation's
defense and security.
General Characteristics: Watson Class
(From the Military Sealift Command Website)
Builder: National Steel and Shipbuilding Co.
Power Plant: 2 GE Marine LM gas turbines; 64,000 hp (7.7 MW); 2 shafts, cp props
Length: 951.4 feet (290 meters)
Beam: 106 feet (32.3 meters)
Displacement : 62,968 tons full load (63,969.2 long tons)
Cargo capacity: 393,000 sq. ft.
Speed: 24 knots (27.6 mph)
Ships: No homeport assigned
USNS Watson (TAKR 310)
USNS Sisler (TAKR 311)
USNS Dahl (TAKR 312)
USNS Red Cloud (TAKR 313)
USNS Charlton (TAKR 314)
USNS Watkins (TAKR 315)
USNS Pomeroy (TAKR 316)
Crew: 26 civilian crew (up to 45); up to 50 active duty