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Cancelling the John C. Stennis


Good article by Reuben Green on the case for renaming the USS John C. Stennis:

Stennis, on the other hand, almost singlehandedly derailed the cultural changes being attempted by then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, as Zumwalt detailed in his memoir, On Watch. Stennis was vehemently opposed to black equality, and spent his entire career, both as a Mississippi prosecutor, judge, and state senator attempting to ensure it did not happen. He ordered congressional subcommittee hearings on “Permissiveness” in the Navy, led by Louisiana Senator Eddie Hebert, in a thinly veiled attempt to thwart Zumwalt’s initiatives. Thurman, Wallace, and Stennis all signed the infamous Southern Manifesto—a document written in 1956 in opposition to racial integration in public places—as did all Southern Democrats from the former Confederate states. 

I would add that in addition to the moral case, there’s an eminently practical reason to change the name. Nobody outside the United States knows who John C. Stennis was (most people inside the U.S. have no idea), and acknowledging the political role that aircraft carriers are intended to play demands an appreciation of how names affect the reaction of foreign audiences. Befuddlement at an obscure name is bad enough; befuddlement followed by a quick google search and a “seriously you name a billions-dollar ship after that guy?” reaction is even worse.

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