African American Marines honored with ship christening

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USNS Montford PointNamed in honor of African Americans who served in segregated units in the Marine Corps during World War II, the Navy’s first mobile landing platform ship was christened Saturday at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego.

The USNS Montford Point provides 25,000 square feet of space for vehicles, equipment and 380,000 gallons of fuel. The 785-foot ship will reduce the military’s dependency on foreign ports by allowing for the transfer of vehicles and equipment from ship to shore without docking.

The ship “represents a leap ahead in our nation’s ability to project power across the world’s oceans,” Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos said during the christening ceremony.

The name, selected by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, honors the 20,000 African Americans who trained at Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, N.C., from 1942 to 1949 during an era of segregation within the U.S. military. Thirty of the Montford Point Marines attended the christening.

Naming the ship Montford Point, Mabus said, will “give some long overdue recognition to these proud Americans who gave so much in the defense of our nation.”