By Jeanette Steel, U-T San Diego
The amphibious ship San Diego, the fourth Navy vessel named after the city, has arrived at its new home port.
After nearly five years of construction, the ship, known by its hull number LPD 22, left the Huntington Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., on March 15.
On the way to San Diego Naval Base, the ship traveled through the Panama Canal and made a stop in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The San Diego is a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, a 684-foot warship that transports Marines on missions abroad. The crew size is 360 naval personnel.
It is scheduled to be commissioned May 19 at Navy Pier. The keel was laid May 23, 2007, followed by a June 2010 christening and delivery to the Navy in December 2011.
The $1.3 billion vessel has a challenging reputation to uphold. A prior Navy craft named San Diego achieved fame in World War II, when it engaged the enemy 34 times and never lost a sailor.
In recognition of its service, the World War II-era San Diego, a light cruiser, was chosen to be the first Allied warship to enter Tokyo Bay at the war’s end. Later, it sailed to San Diego, where it has retained a special place in the hearts of maritime and history buffs.
A booster group raised more than $1 million to install a monument to that ship on the San Diego waterfront in 2004.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Navy announced that it would name another ship San Diego – the first namesake vessel to be home-ported in the city.
Besides the World War II cruiser, two other previous ships have borne the name San Diego: an armored cruiser sunk off the coast of New York during World War I and a combat-stores ship commissioned in 1969 and retired in 1997.
Coronado will also get a namesake ship assigned to San Diego Bay.
The Coronado, LCS 4, will be the fourth in a new class of littoral ships, designed to be fast and operate close to shore. The vessel will be commissioned in the spring of 2013 and take a pier at San Diego Naval Base.