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USS Wichita crest incorporates city flag, heritage

Scott Bishop, left, district director for Rep. Mike Pompeo, naval commander W. Shockey Snyder, middle, and Mayor Jeff Longwell unveil the crest of the new USS Wichita during a ceremony at the Wichita Art Museum on Saturday.
Scott Bishop, left, district director for Rep. Mike Pompeo, naval commander W. Shockey Snyder, middle, and Mayor Jeff Longwell unveil the crest of the new USS Wichita during a ceremony at the Wichita Art Museum on Saturday. The Wichita Eagle

When it sets sail, the Navy’s USS Wichita LSC-13 will be decorated with a crest that pays homage to its namesake city.

The red, white, blue and gold seal bears not only elements of the Wichita flag but also a buffalo skull commemorating the Wichita Indians, stalks of wheat representing the state’s main crop, and feathers representing Wichita’s Native American heritage. Its motto, “Keeper of the Seas,” pays homage to Wichita’s Keeper of the Plains statue.

The crest was revealed during a ceremony Saturday at the Wichita Art Museum, which was attended not only by the ship’s skipper, Cmdr. W. Shockey Snyder, but also by members of its crew and several dozen local veterans.

As soon as the crest was revealed, people lined up to purchase shirts, ball caps, coins and stickers decorated with it.

Snyder told the crowd of more than 100 people that Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus chose to name new combat ships after cities in America’s heartland because he wanted to maintain a connection between the Navy and mostly landlocked cities.

“That’s why I’m here today,” Snyder said. “I want to start to make this link with the city of Wichita. And I want you to know this will be your ship, too. Starting today. I want you all to take part in the events of the ship’s life, and I want you to be proud of the United States warship that bears your city’s name as it goes forth to do the work of this great nation.”

The ship, which is now under construction at a shipyard in Wisconsin, will be part of the Freedom class of warships. It will have the newest technology in ship building and automation, and will be among the first class of ships to use water jet propulsion instead of traditional propellers and knots, Snyder said. It will be able to sprint at speeds of more than 40 knots.

It will be nearly 400 feet long and will have more horsepower than a much larger destroyer or cruiser, he said. The ship will carry a crew of 50.

The first USS Wichita was a heavy cruiser that served from 1939 to 1947. The second, an auxiliary replenishment oilier, served from 1968 to 1993.

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell told the crowd and crew that they should take pride in the ship.

“I want its crew to know that no matter where you are or where you lay your head at night, Wichita is your home,” he said.

Denise Neil: 316-268-6327, @deniseneil

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