Where We Live: History, rebirth of ‘Battleship Oregon’

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A park along the Willamette River in downtown Portland pays homage to a historic ship that will soon be reborn. 

Crewmembers at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. (Courtesy to KOIN)

The sturdy white mast topped with an American flag at Tom McCall Waterfront Park was once a part of a mighty battleship called the USS Oregon (BB-3). 

The ship — which was also known as “Battleship Oregon” — was built in the 1890s and it played a large role in the Spanish-American War. In 1898, it steamed from San Francisco, down around the southernmost point of South America, and back up the East Coast. 

It made the journey in a mere 66 days. Battleship Oregon and another ship called “The Brooklyn” were the only ships fast enough at the time to chase down the Spanish cruiser, Cristóbal Colón.   

The USS Oregon. (Courtesy to KOIN)

The ships forced the Cristóbal Colón to surrender off the coast of Cuba, while the USS Oregon’s journey helped establish the need for the Panama Canal. 

Battleship Oregon was decommissioned in 1919 and scrapped in 1942. Its mast has stood in Portland’s waterfront park since 1956. 

Dana Richardson, sponsor of the USS Oregon SSN 793. (Courtesy to KOIN)

But the USS Oregon will soon serve the United States once more, though in a different maritime capacity. 

“The new USS Oregon is a Virginia-class, nuclear-powered fast attack submarine,” said Arlo Gatchel with the USS Oregon Commissioning Committee. 

The vessel — named the “USS Oregon SSN 793” — is currently under construction in Groton, Connecticut and is one of the country’s 14 next-generation nuclear attack subs. It will have a crew of 134. Some of those crewmembers have already attended events in Oregon, including the sub’s naming ceremony in 2014. 

Dave Vrooman (second from right) pictured with other Navy veterans in an undated photo. (Courtesy to KOIN)

Dana Richardson sponsors the ship. She’s an Oregon native who is married to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. 

Meanwhile, the USS Oregon Commissioning Committee is raising funds to pay for commissioning ceremonies since the Navy doesn’t cover those costs. 

Submarine veteran Dave Vrooman is part of that committee. He sent a letter to Senator Ron Wyden in 2008, which started the naming process. 

“It’s like a big sense of pride, that we’re going to have somebody out there protecting us, carrying our name,” said Vrooman. 

The new USS Oregon will be commissioned in the fall of 2020. 

Checks should be made out to Portland Council NLUS. Contributions to the commissioning ceremonies can be sent to: 

USS Oregon Commissioning
Portland, Oregon Council NLUS 
P.O. Box 2985
Portland, OR 97208 

Please identify the point of contact for your company so we may acknowledge your contribution, and keep you informed about the progress of commissioning events.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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