September 29, 2000

Navy Names New Roll-On/Roll-Off Ship for U.S. Army Hero

Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig has announced that the Navy will honor a U.S. Army soldier awarded the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor, by naming the seventh in the Bob Hope class of large, medium speed, roll-on/roll-off sealift (LMSR) ships after the soldier.

The name Danzig assigned, the USNS Benavidez (T-AKR 306), honors Army Master Sgt. (then Staff Sgt.) Roy Benavidez, born Aug. 5, 1935, in Lindenau, Texas. Benavides distinguished himself in a series of daring and extremely valorous actions while assigned to Detachment B56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam.

On May 2, 1968, Benavidez voluntarily lead the emergency extraction of a 12-man special forces reconnaissance team that met heavy enemy resistance while gathering intelligence in an area controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. During numerous rescue attempts in which he physically carried wounded members to helicopters, he was critically wounded but continued to lead the team and gather survivors into a defensive perimeter. He distributed water and ammunition, administered to the wounded and provided protective fire as team members were picked up. During this rescue operation he safeguarded classified documents carried by the team. Benavidez' gallant choice to join his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to heavy enemy fire and his refusal to be stopped despite severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men.

Benavidez was first awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from Gen. William Westmoreland for his heroism. When the full story of his daring and extremely valorous actions became known, the medal was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Former President Ronald Reagan awarded him with the Army's highest medal in 1981. Retired Master Sgt. Benavidez died Nov. 28, 1998, in San Antonio, Texas.

"Our Bob Hope class of ships are resolute assets that are always quietly there in the background. They are capable of coming forward in a vital way when America calls for reinforcement of its combat needs around the world," said Danzig. "Roy Benavidez personified that same spirit throughout his life, and most powerfully during a single action that saved lives in combat. I am delighted to have the opportunity to preserve his legacy by naming T-AKR 306 the USNS Benavidez."

"Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez was a true American hero, rising from humble origins in South Texas to become an Army legend. Wounded over 40 times as he saved the lives of eight fellow soldiers under heavy fire in Vietnam, he always said he was only doing his duty to his fellow soldiers and to the country he loved. The Navy's recognition of his selfless service is truly an appropriate tribute to Master Sgt. Benavidez's memory, and to the ideals of our nation that he epitomized," said Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera.

The USNS Benavidez is a non-combatant vessel built by Litton-Avondale Industries in New Orleans, La. The launching/christening ceremony is scheduled for next summer. The ship will be crewed by civilian mariners and operated by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C. The LMSR ships are ideal for loading U.S. military combat equipment and combat support equipment needed overseas and for re-supplying military services with necessary equipment and supplies during national crisis. The ship's six-deck interior has a cargo carrying capacity of approximately 390,000 square feet and its roll-on/roll-off design makes it ideal for transporting helicopters, tanks and other wheeled and tracked military vehicles. Two 110-ton single pedestal twin cranes make it possible to load and unload cargo where shoreside infrastructure is limited or non-existent. A commercial helicopter deck enables emergency, daytime landings. The USNS Benavidez is 950 feet in length, has a beam of 106 feet, and displaces approximately 62,000 long tons. The diesel-powered ship will be able to sustain speeds up to 24 knots.

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