Famous Recycled Ship Names of the US Navy

Alameda Naval Air Station's piers, circa mid-September The ships are (from front to back): USS Saratoga USS Enterprise USS Hornet and USS San Jacinto.

Many ship names such as the Hornet, Wasp and Enterprise have been reused over the past 200 years to keep heritage alive in the US Navy.

Since George Washington and the first Congress established the Continental Navy in 1775, the US fleet has often recycled warships names. This is to keep heritage and history alive, and to make a statement to foes that you may sink a ship, but the navy remains.

Ships named for Presidents and Admirals

Presidents have been a common source of namesakes. There have been USS Dwight D Eisenhower, USS Harry S Truman and others. Some of the more obscure presidents, like Grover Cleveland, have been skipped; others like Washington have had as many as ten US warships named after him.

Admirals you would think would be inspiration for entire fleets of warships. Curiously enough, very few have been immortalized more than once. One notable exception is Civil War Navy scion Admiral David “Damn the Torpedoes Full Speed Ahead” Farragut. Farragut, who never saw a destroyer in his lifetime, has had no less than five of them named for him. Surpassingly, John Paul Jones, thought by many to be the father of the US Navy, only had two ships named in his honor. It should be pointed out, however that his ship, the Bon Homme Richard, has been honored four times by passing its name on to new warships.

Warships named after States, Cities, and Ideals

Geographical places have always been popular both in the Navys eyes and in the eyes of congressional representatives who approve defense budgets. Each of the 50 US states have had at least one battleship, cruiser or submarine named in their honor. Some influential ones, such as Massachusetts and New York, have had as many as eight ships apiece named after them since the Revolution. Likewise, cities are very common on the navy list. Traditionally sail frigates, and then gun cruisers and now attack submarines carry city names. Most large metropolitans in the US have had at least one of these named after them. Some have had multiple ships, such as Boston (seven ships) and Philadelphia (six ships). The country itself has lent its name to a half dozen USS Americas and four ill-fated USS United States (three of which, in a curious twist of fate, never made it out of construction)

With the birth of the republic in 1783, the new country chose a set of idyllic revolutionary names for its warships. These names, such as Enterprise, Independence, Congress, President, Constellation (after the myriad of stars on the flag) and Constitution (the oldest warship afloat) have long been a part of naval history. In fact, more than 30 US warships have used the above names, Enterprise no less than 8 times. Add to these names those of Revolutionary-war era warship names of Boxer, Essex, Hancock and Hornet that have graced another 20+ warships over time.

The most recycled US Warship name

The heavyweight champion title-holder for the most reissued name in the US navy goes to the USS Wasp. The original Wasp in 1775 was a schooner who was blown up to prevent the British from capturing it. The British captured the second Wasp during the War of 1812. The third and fourth also fought in that war but survived. The fifth was lost at sea. The sixth survived fighting for both sides in the civil war. The seventh and eight saw WWI service safely. The ninth was a famous WW2 carrier that was lost to the Japanese. The 10th was an aircraft carrier built to replace number 9 and served for 30 years, and the 11th USS Wasp is an amphibious assault ship built in 1989 and is currently on active duty.

While the US Navy years from now will undoubtedly be very different from that in 1775, surely most of the names will be very familiar.