SAN DIEGO - The first mobile landing platform vessel was christened Saturday in San Diego, in honor of about 20,000 black Marines who trained in North Carolina in the 1940s, according to the Navy.
The USNS Montford Point is named after the base where African American Marine recruits were housed from 1942 to 1949, the Navy said. Their service led President Harry S. Truman to desegregate the Marine Corps.
Local veterans of Montford Point, Oscar Culp and George Mitchell, recalled the base last year as swampy and mosquito-infested. Culp, who along with Mitchell, went on to run a furniture store in Oceanside, described the place as "hell."
Marines who trained there served in supportive roles during World War II, but saw combat in Korea, according to montfordpointmarines.com.
"I chose to name the department's new MLP Montford Point as a way to give some long-overdue recognition to these proud Americans who gave so much in the defense of our nation," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. "The courage shown by these Marines helped forge the corps into the most formidable expeditionary force in the world."
Mabus and Maj. Gen. Jim Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, made remarks during the ceremony, which was held at General Dynamics NASSCO.
Alexis "Jackie" Bolden, the wife of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, served as the ship's sponsor.
The 785-foot-long MLPs are designed to act like a pier at sea so the military is less dependent on foreign ports. They can provide 25,000 square feet of space to stow vehicles and equipment, and haul 380,000 gallons of fuel, according to the Navy.
Mabus previously announced the next two ships in the line will be named after former Sen. John Glenn and Lewis "Chesty" Puller, a World War II Marine hero.