First U.S. Navy ship named in honor of Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. , born on 18 November 1923 in Derry, N.H., who attended primary and secondary schools in East Derry as well as the Pinkerton Academy., and graduated from the Admiral Farragut Academy in 1941.
Shepard began his naval service in 1944 and later served in the destroyer Cogswell (DD-651) while she was deployed in the Pacific during World War II. He saw combat in the Caroline Islands, Leyte Gulf, Luzon, Okinawa and in the Third Fleet raids on Japan. Afterward, he entered flight training at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, and NAS Pensacola, Fla. and received his Naval Aviator wings in 1947. He was assigned to Fighter Squadron 42 (VF-42) based at NAS Norfolk, Va., and NAS Jacksonville, Fla. and served several tours on board aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea with the squadron.
Shepard returned to Patuxent for a second tour of duty and flight tested the F3H Demon, F8U Crusader, and F-11F Tiger. He was also a project test pilot on the F5D Skylancer and served as an instructor in the Test Pilot School. He later attended the Naval War College at Newport, R.I. and upon graduation in 1957, was assigned to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, as Aircraft Readiness Officer.
In 1959, Shepard was one of 110 pilots selected by their commanding officers as candidates for the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Project Mercury, the first U.S. manned space flight program. Following a series of physical and psychological tests, NASA selected Shepard to crew Mercury.
On 5 May 1961, Shepard piloted the Freedom 7 mission. He was launched by a Redstone rocket in to a 15-minute sub-orbital flight, that carried him to an altitude of 116 miles in to the atmosphere and a splashdown point 302 miles from the Atlantic Missile Range. He thus became the first American to travel into space.
Shepard made his second space flight as commander of Apollo 14 ( 31 January - 9 February 1971), the United States’ third successful lunar landing mission. Shepard piloted the Lunar Module Antares to the most accurate landing of the entire Apollo program.
Following Apollo 14, Shepard returned to his position as Chief of the Astronaut Office in June 1971. He was appointed by President Richard Nixon in July 1971 as a delegate to the 26th United Nations General Assembly and served from September to December 1971. He was promoted to Rear Admiral by President Nixon that same year before retiring from the Navy and NASA on 1 August 1974.
Shepard died of leukemia in Pebble Beach, Calif. on 21 July 1998 at the age of 74. His ashes were scattered by a Navy helicopter over Stillwater Cove, in front of his Pebble Beach home.
(T-AKE-3: displacement 35,400; length 689'; beam 106'; draft 29'; speed 20 knots; complement 124 civilian, 50 active duty; class Lewis and Clark)
Alan Shepard (T-AKE-3) was laid down on 14 February 2006 at San Diego, Calif., by National Steel & Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 6 December 2006; and sponsored by Mrs. Laura Chuchley, daughter of the late Rear Adm. Shepard. The ship entered non-commissioned U.S. Navy service with the Military Sealift Command (MSC) with a primarily civilian crew on 26 July 2007. She serves in the United States Pacific Fleet.
Detailed history pending.
Paul J. Marcello
19 January 2016