"The Arms of the USS New York"

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by Jorge Rivera
© 2011 The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society
All rights reserved.

The USS New York (LPD 21), the first of three Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD 17-class) ships named for sites of the 9/11 tragedies, was commissioned on November 7, 2009 in New York City.

She is the sixth naval vessel to be named after the state of New York, the previous ship having been decommissioned in 1946. Most naval ships are identified by coats of arms designed for them by The Institute of Heraldry, the heraldic services division of the Armed Forces and other United States government organizations, including the Executive Office of the President. The symbolism of the charges (used in heraldry to describe the elements displayed on the shield) and some detail on the ship and its history follow.

The last USS New York (BB 34) was a battleship from 1911. Following flagship duty in WWI, she transferred to the Pacific, then back to the Atlantic in 1935. She supported the invasion of North Africa in 1942, returned to the Pacific for the bombardment of Iwo Jima, and was used in atomic tests after WWII. She earned one battle star each for Iwo Jima, Okinawa and North Africa.

LPD = Landing Platform Dock
BB = Battleship

USS New York (LPD 21) is the fifth ship of the San Antonio class. The first four ships in the series — the USS San Antonio, USS New Orleans, USS Mesa Verde, and USS Green Bay — are in service. There are four other ships in the class under construction: USS Somerset, USS Anchorage, USS Arlington, and USS San Diego. Arlington and Somerset also carry names connected to September 11: Arlington for the attack on the Pentagon and Somerset for the Pennsylvania County in which United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after being hijacked.

The LPD 17-class ships are designed to transport and deploy all of the necessary combat and support elements of Marine expeditionary units and brigades. The USS New York's motto is "Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget." At 684 feet long, the ship is 111 feet longer than her battleship namesake.

The ship was already being designed when the September 11, 2001, attacks occurred. In September 2002, the Defense Department announced the selection of New York as the ship's name to honor those who died in the terrorist attacks, the state, and the city. The bow stem of USS New York (LPD 21) was constructed with 7.5 metric tons of salvaged steel from the World Trade Center. The Trade Center steel was melted at a mill in Amite, Louisiana.

The keel was laid in August 2004 and 1,200 Louisiana workers stayed to keep building the ship after Hurricane Katrina hit the shipyard in August 2005. The ship was christened at Northrop Grumman's Avondale shipyard on March 1, 2008.

SHIELD: Per chevron (inverted V) enhanced Azure (blue) and Argent (silver), overall two pallets (narrow vertical strips) couped (cut short) and a chevronelle (small chevron) conjoined Metal Gris (steel grey), issuing from base between three mullets (five pointed stars) chevronwise of the first, a phoenix rising Or (gold) from flames Gules (red) charged on the breast with a escutcheon (small shield) of the second charged with two gouttes de sang (drops of blood) in chief between three pallets, of the first, of the fifth and Celeste (light blue); a bordure from the State of New York Seal Proper (shown in its natural colors).

CREST: From a wreath Argent and Azure between two sugar maple branches Proper, seven piles radiating from base Or surmounted by the mountains and lake adapted from the State of New York Coat of Arms Proper.

MOTTO: A scroll Azure doubled and inscribed with "NEVER FORGET" Argent.

SUPPORTERS: A Navy CPO saber and Marine NCO sword Saltirewise (diagonal) points down Proper.

The symbolism behind the charges chosen, per the Institute of Heraldry, is quite involved. For the shield, the dark blue and gold, colors traditionally associated with the Navy, represent the sea and excellence. The red is for sacrifice and valor and the white recalls purity of purpose. The gray chevron and two vertical bars represent the bow of LPD 21 and the Twin Towers, respectively. They are conjoined to emphasize the use of 24 tons of steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center to construct the bow of the USS New York. The phoenix rising personifies the hope and determination of the United States to rebuild and regroup to fight terrorism.

The colors of the bars on the shield on the phoenix's breast honors the New York City Fire department (red), New York City Police Department (dark blue) and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Celeste taken from their patch). Celeste also alludes to coastal waters and the port of New York. The red drops represent blood shed and the ultimate sacrifice made by the men and women of 9/11. The stars commemorate the three battle stars the USS New York battleship earned in World War II. The border of the shield is adapted from the State of New York Seal.

The mountains, lake, and sun rays highlight the State of New York in the crest and are adapted from the State Seal and highlight the beauty and the heritage of New York. The seven rays represent the number of rays on Statue of Liberty's crown. They symbolize the seven seas and continents of the world and also suggest a direct connection to the littoral missions of the USS New York anywhere in the world, past and present. The sugar maple is the state tree of New York.

Supporters are special in heraldry and only very important people or institutions are granted use of them. Supporters are often people or animals in traditional heraldry. However, the naval ships that are granted supporters generally use swords or, in some cases, missiles or tridents. The crossed naval and marine swords supporters of the USS New York symbolize the teamwork of the Navy-Marine war fighting team of the amphibious assault warship. The enlisted swords further highlight the enlisted soldiers and sailors as being the backbone of our Armed Forces.

Jorge Rivera, a man of wide-ranging interests, is an active member of the Heraldry Committee of the NYG&B. He is a mortgage banker and lives in Connecticut.


© 2011 The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. All rights reserved.