PORTAGE – The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor will host Indiana’s first U.S. Navy vessel commissioning ceremony when the USS Indianapolis littoral combat ship is commissioned on Saturday, Oct. 26, at the facility on Lake Michigan.

"The commissioning ceremony signifies the acceptance for service and the entrance of a ship into the active fleet of the U.S. Navy," according to U.S. Navy spokeswoman Kayla Turnbow.

"As Governor and as a veteran of the United States Navy, it is a great honor to celebrate and commemorate the lives of all who have served on the first three Indianapolis ships,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said. “The USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) will be a proud representation of the spirit of service embodied in the lives those of us who have called Indiana and Indianapolis our home.”

USS Indianapolis (LCS17), a Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship, was built in Marinette, Wisconsin, by Fincantieri Marinette Marine for Lockheed Martin. According to Lockheed Martin, the LCS is an automated combat ship that can "deliver dominance in near-shore environments. The flexible hull design allows for modification to integrate capabilities including over-the-horizon missiles, advanced electronic warfare systems and decoys."

"LCS is a highly maneuverable, lethal and adaptable ship designed to support focused mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare missions," Turnbow said. "The LCS class consists of two variants: the Freedom variant and the Independence variant. Indianapolis is a Freedom variant."

“Commissioning a new Indianapolis ship represents our capital city, our state, as well as all of the previous sailors that have served on Indianapolis,” said Ray Shearer, chairman of the USS Indianapolis Commissioning Committee. “This will truly be an once-in-a-lifetime event that will give the general public an opportunity to see and experience an historic celebration.”

During acceptance trials, LCS 17 underwent a full-power run, maneuverability testing and surface and air detect-to-engage demonstrations of its combat system.

“The honor the United States Navy has bestowed on the Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor is humbling,” Ports of Indiana CEO Vanta Coda II said. “To serve as host and backdrop for the U.S. Navy that created the very protection which allows U.S. commerce to thrive is an indescribable privilege.”

Several dignitaries will be present to witness the occasion, including Jill Donnelly, wife of former Sen. Joe Donnelly, who serves as the ship’s sponsor.

"As the sponsor, Mrs. Donnelly leads the time-honored Navy tradition of giving the order during the ceremony to “man our ship and bring her to life!” At that moment, the commissioning pennant is hoisted and Indianapolis becomes a proud ship of the fleet," Turnbow said.

Columbus, Ohio, native Cmdr. Colin Kane is the ship’s commanding officer.

"The future USS Indianapolis honors more than a city, it pays tribute to the legacy of those who served during the final days of World War II on board USS Indianapolis (CA-35)," Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said at the ship’s christening ceremony. "This ship will continue the proud legacy of service embodied in the name Indianapolis, and is a testament to the true partnership between the Navy and industry."

The future Indianapolis will be homeported in Naval Station Mayport upon her commissioning, Turnbow said.

Anyone interested in attending can visit the USS Indianapolis Commissioning website at ussindianapolislcs17.org.

Continuing the legacy

LCS-17 will be the fourth ship to carry the name of Indiana's capital city, according to U.S. Navy spokeswoman Kayla Turnbow. The first Indianapolis was a steamer built for the U.S. Shipping Board and commissioned directly into the Navy in 1918. After two runs to Europe, the ship was returned to the USSB following the war.

The saga of the second Indianapolis (CA 35), a cruiser, and its crew is well documented by the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), she said. "The loss of the ship was a tragic moment following the completion of a secret mission that directly contributed to the end of World War II.

"After a successful high-speed run to deliver atomic bomb components to Tinian, the decorated Portland-class cruiser continued to Guam," Turnbow said. "Indianapolis was en route from Guam to Leyte when she was torpedoed and sunk by the Japanese submarine I-58, on July 30, 1945."

Only 317 of the 1,196 men on board survived, and the ship's wreckage was located Aug. 19, 2017. Survivors of cruiser met with the crew of the future Indianapolis to screen a documentary about the discovery of the lost ship earlier this year, Turnbow said.

The most recent Indianapolis was a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine, which was commissioned Jan. 5, 1980, and served through the end of the Cold War before being decommissioned in 1998.

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