5-29 New USS NM Needs a Crest
By JAY MILLER
SANTA FE -- New Mexicans can be proud that a native son will be the first commander of our new namesake attack submarine. Cmdr. Robert Dain will take over the USS New Mexico in August.
Dain was born in Shiprock, where his father was a doctor with the Public Health Service. Later Dain lived in Tijeras and Cedar Crest, east of Albuquerque. He graduated from St. Pius High School in 1982.
Then it was on to Colorado State University where he received a degree in electrical engineering and was recruited into the Navy.
Since there aren't many military opportunities in New Mexico, Dain has spent his career out of state. But he still calls New Mexico his home state and is proud as can be that his first command will be aboard the vessel named after his state.
Dain says that isn't the way the Navy chooses its commanders. The fact that it happened in this case is a coincidence, but a delightful one.
The Navy does like to name ships after previous ships that have had a proud history. It's good for building spirit. In New Mexico's case, that was a plus. The former USS New Mexico was a battleship authorized shortly after our state entered the union.
It was the first of its class of battleship, so subsequent ships were called New Mexico-class battleships. She began her career as the flagship for the Pacific Fleet during the 1920s.
The USS New Mexico's first World War II action was in the Gilbert Islands, followed by the Marshall Islands, the Solomons and the Marianas.
Then came the retaking of the Philippines. The bombardment of Luzon began on January 6, 1945, our state's 33rd birthday. The sky was full of kamikaze planes. A suicide plane hit the New Mexico bridge, killing the commanding officer and 29 others, with 87 injured.
The remaining crew made emergency repairs and her guns remained in action until our troops got ashore on January 9.
After repairs at Pearl Harbor, she headed to Okinawa for the invasion there. This time, the enemy threat was from suicide boats. On May 11, she destroyed eight of them. The following evening, the New Mexico was attacked by two kamikaze planes. One plunged into her. The other hit her with its bomb.
In the resulting fires, 54 men were killed and 119 wounded, but she continued to fight. On May 28, she departed for repairs in the Philippines to be readied for the invasion of Japan. ON August 15, while sailing toward Okinawa, she learned of the war's end.
In recognition of the New Mexico's valiant service, the Navy chose her to be one of the ships in Tokyo Bay to witness Japan's surrender. On September 2, she entered Tokyo Bay amid much fanfare. One of my favorite pictures of her was shot that day with Mount Fuji in the background.
The USS New Mexico's proud history wasn't the only factor that got it selected, however. The New Mexico Council of the Navy League worked two years accumulating hundreds of letters and petitions for the secretary of the Navy.
Now the New Mexico members of the Navy League of the United States have another project. Our ship needs a crest. Every ship has one. They typify the history and character of the vessel and what it's named after.
If you missed out on designing the New Mexico quarter, here's your shot at designing the crest of the USS New Mexico. The league would like to see entries from all over the state. It prefers them in electronic format. Rules are at www.unm.edu/~nrotc/alumnicrest/. Mail can be sent to Ship's Crest Contest, Navy League-New Mexico Council, P.O. Box 91554, Albuquerque, NM 87199.
Students are especially encouraged to enter. Entries must be received by September 1, 2006. They will be submitted to the ship's first crew by September 30. The crew will select the final design.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) email@example.com