Congressman Joe Courtney Remarks at the christening of the Illinois (SSN 786)
As the Congressman of the Submarine Capital of the World, it’s an honor to welcome our guests here today – particularly First Lady Michelle Obama, Governor Rauner, and to all our friends from the state of Illinois: we are proud to host you in Groton on this special day.
The First Lady’s presence is particularly meaningful. Her advocacy for military families has directly benefited Groton’s 10,000 sailors, and it is exciting to have her with us this month as Connecticut kicks off a year-long celebration marking our “Submarine Century.”
100 years ago, on October 18, 1915, the submarine heritage in eastern Connecticut was born. On that day, the submarine tender USS Ozark brought three G-class submarines to the Groton Navy Yard. Other submarines soon followed, and Groton quickly became our nation’s first and finest submarine base.
It almost didn’t happen. In 1912, the Navy wanted to close the yard and sell off the land. That decision was reversed when my predecessor, Congressman Edward Higgins of Norwich, secured funding to keep the base open.
I am of course biased, but I think he had the right idea a hundred years ago. And the ensuing decades of undersea Groton excellence – through two World Wars, the Cold War, and today’s emerging maritime threats — have proven the wisdom of that long ago vision. Indeed, just a few weeks ago the Navy officially unveiled the Undersea Warfighting Development Center, which is a national command center led by a new flag officer, Rear Admiral Jeff Trussler.
This very shipyard is part of that history. Over 200 submarines have been delivered to the US Navy from the spot where we are gathered today, including the legendary USS Nautilus. Back in January, we celebrated the Sixtieth anniversary of that boat’s departure from Groton under nuclear power. It is worth noting that another First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower, was at this very waterfront to launch that amazing vessel.
Mrs. Obama, I speak on behalf of the citizens of Connecticut when I say we are extremely pleased that you are now forever part of Groton’s rich naval history.
To Commander Porter and your crew, our nation could not be more proud of your efforts. You have our complete trust and confidence as you prepare to take charge of this impressive submarine.
Finally, to the men and women of Electric Boat and Newport News shipyards, you have demonstrated that the investment made by Congress and the American taxpayer is worth it. Illinois is the product of countless hours of work by you and thousands of Americans in machine shops all across the country – and your efforts have resulted in a job very well done.
Congratulations to all for writing the USS Illinois chapter of Connecticut’s submarine century.