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Montana launch ship's bell tour for new Navy submarine

| April 2, 2021 7:00 AM

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A ship's bell for the new USS Montana nuclear submarine was unveiled at the Capitol this week, marking the beginning of a nearly yearlong series of presentations throughout the state.

USS Montana Committee Chair Bill Whitsitt displayed the Oro y Plata ship bell, a replica of the bell for the first USS Montana, a cruiser that escorted World War I convoys, the Independent Record reported. Whitsitt said the sound of the bell was a reminder of the missions the crew members will take on behalf of this country.

Various state officials and others lined up to ring the bell on Wednesday during a celebration of the new USS Montana. It is the first Navy vessel to be named after the state since 1908.

The USS Montana Committee is an organization created by a group of Montana residents who support the submarine that was endorsed by the governor and Legislature in 2017.

Capt. Michael Delaney, commanding officer of USS Montana, said the nuclear-powered submarine has five Montana residents among its 135-member crew.

Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte said Delaney was an “excellent choice” to be the submarine's first commander.

“In case your crew doesn’t already know it, this submarine will always embark with the support of all of Montana and any sailor who boards her will be an honorary Montanan,” Gianforte said. “May God keep her, Capt. Delaney, and your crew safe.”

Gianforte was joined by Republicans Sen. Mark Blasdel and Rep. Matt Rosendale. Submarine veterans were among those who attended.

The USS Montana was launched March 3 into the James River at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding division in Virginia, company officials said. The $2.6 billion submarine is scheduled to be commissioned in 2022.

The 377-foot (115-meter) long vessel is a nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine that will replace the Navy’s Los Angeles-class submarines as they are retired.

The first USS Montana was commissioned in July 1908. It served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, landed Marines during unrest in Haiti in 1914 and escorted World War I convoys. It was decommissioned in 1921.