That battleship docked along the Delaware River at Penn’s Landing is Philadelphia’s newest naval display. However it is a temporary waterfront attraction. The USS Somerset arrived in Philadelphia earlier this month and is open for public tours in advance of its March 1st commissioning ceremony along the waterfront.
The Navy’s newest amphibious transport dock ship is the third of three vessels built to memorialize the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Somerset is named for the western Pennsylvania county where United Flight 93 crashed as the courageous passengers and crew on board wrestled with terrorists to prevent the plane from traveling onto its intended target in Washington, D.C.
The ship has a direct connection to the crash site in Shanksville, Somerset County as a part of the crane that was used to excavate the crash site was melted down and placed into the bow stern of the new Navy ship.
The March 1st commissioning ceremony in Philadelphia marks a major milestone in the life of the Somerset and completes the cycle from christening and launching to full status as a ship of the United States Navy. Commanding Officer, Captain Thomas Dearborn says “when you hear the words ‘bring my ship to life,’” the Somerset will take its place in America’s historic heritage of the sea.
The 24,900 ton, 684-foot ship can carry 1,200 sailors and can accommodate CH-46 helicopters and an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and has a well deck that can launch and recover landing craft and amphibious vehicles.
Despite its state-of-the art technology, the Somerset name is nothing new for the U.S. Navy. The new warship will be the fifth U.S. Naval vessel to carry the name Somerset. Four previous ships were named Somerset including a side-wheeled ferryboat (1862-1865), a motorboat (1918), a transport (1945) and a patrol escort which was in service from 1944-1955.
Following its formal commissioning the $1.2 billion vessel will set sail for its homeport of San Diego, California.