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USS Delaware gets its official commission at Port of Wilmington

The USS Delaware, one of the Navy’s newest nuclear submarines will be officially commissioned Saturday at the Port of Wilmington.

For nearly a century, Delaware had not been used as a name on a US Navy vessel.

Then in 2012, Sen. Tom Carper spearheaded an initiative to change that by co-writing a letter with Sen. Chris Coons and then Congressman John Carney.

Carper describes getting a phone call two years later from the Secretary of the Navy informing him of plans to build new Virginia-class nuclear submarines.

“The first one off the line will be the USS Delaware. We were talking on cell phones, but if I could have crawled through the wire and kissed him. I would have done it,” Carper said.

Completed in 2020 during the pandemic, the vessel was the first ever to be administratively commissioned while on the water.

“We did that commissioning ceremony at sea, submerged, which was the first time that had been done because we couldn’t gather people in person in Delaware for the commissioning ceremony,” Navy Commander Matthew Horton said. “The Secretary of the Navy at the time made a promise that we would come back to Delaware. The Navy honored that promise.”

The invitation only ceremony is Saturday at 11am. It will be livestreamed here.

Mark Arehart is an award-winning reporter/producer. Before returning to Delaware, Arehart was a reporter for WKSU and Ideastream Public Media in Northeast Ohio. He previously hosted Morning Edition and covered the arts scene for Delaware Public Media. He has worked for KNKX in Seattle, Kansas Public Radio, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.