Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81)


Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (30 November 1874-24 January 1965).

The first U.S. Navy ship named Winston S. Churchill.

(DDG-81: displacement 9,515; length 510'; beam 66'; draft 32'; speed 30+ knots; complement 312; armament 1 5-inch, 2 Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-156 SM-2MR Standards, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, 2 Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), 4 .50 caliber or 7.62 millimeter machine guns, and 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes, aircraft 2 Sikorsky SH-60F Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mk III Seahawks; class Arleigh Burke)

Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) was laid down on 7 May 1998 at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works; launched on 17 April 1999; co-sponsored by Mrs. Janet L. Cohen, wife of Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, and by Honorary Sponsor for the United Kingdom Lady Mary Soames, daughter of the late Prime Minister and of Baroness Spencer-Churchill; and commissioned on 10 March 2001 at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Cmdr. Michael T. Franken in command.

Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) 2001-Seal


The cross of St. George and the fleur-de-lis are adapted from Churchill’s augmentation on an inescutcheon on his ancestral coat of arms. Red is emblematic of valor and sacrifice. The red cross on the white field refers to the flag of St. George (he became the patron of the Order of the Garter in 1348). The gold lion on the red field recalls Great Britain’s heritage. The lion embodies strength, courage, and determination. The nebuly alludes to the sky or clouds and highlights the desperate British stand against Hitler during the Battle of Britain. The stylized book underscores Churchill’s reputation, not only as a gifted statesman and inspiring war leader, but also a great orator and author who received the Nobel Prize in literature. He unified the British people with his stirring oratory, energy, and resolve.


The trident symbolizes sea prowess and highlights Winston S. Churchill’s vertical launch capabilities; the three tines represent anti-submarine, surface, and air warfare capabilities. The trident is divided per chevron suggesting a “V” emphasizing victory in war, Churchill’s rallying sign, and defense strength in peace. The laurel recalls honor and high achievement; oak, strength and resolve.


In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II made Churchill a Member of The Most Noble Order of the Garter; the premier British Order of chivalry.

Winston S. Churchill is a Flight IIA Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer, the design of which includes a variety of enhanced ships and combat systems. She is the first Arleigh Burke class ship to receive the Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch/62-caliber gun, a modification of the 5-inch/54-caliber gun with higher firing energies to support long-range munitions. The gun retains the functionality of the 5-inch guns, including ability to fire all existing 5-inch rounds. The modified design also improves maintenance procedures and provides enhanced anti-surface and anti-air warfare performance. Modifications include a longer (62-caliber) barrel, an ammunition recognition system, and a digital control system. In addition, the ship has two hangars that enable her to embark a pair of Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawks. Winston S. Churchill deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom I and, in March 2003, fired BGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) against Iraqi military targets from the eastern Mediterranean.

Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) 2001-030323-N-4622F-001
Winston S. Churchill fires a TLAM at Iraqi armed forces from her firing position in the eastern Mediterranean, 23 March 2003. (Fire Controlman 2nd Class David Foley, U.S. Navy Photograph 030323-N-4622F-001, Navy NewsStand)
Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) 2001-030323-N-0874K-002
The fighting continues and the ship launches another of the deadly missiles against her adversaries, 23 March 2003. (Chief Fire Controlman James Krogman, U.S. Navy Photograph 030323-N-0874K-002, Navy NewsStand)

Winston S. Churchill and guided missile destroyer McFaul (DDG-74) collided during pre-deployment training exercises with the Nassau (LHA-4) Expeditionary Strike Group, 83 miles off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla., at 1330 on 22 August 2005. Neither ship reported casualties, but McFaul gouged a 5x10 foot hole on the port side helicopter hangar of Winston S. Churchill, damaged an antenna, and caused a hydraulic leak in a Seahawk, while the impact slightly damaged McFaul’s starboard bow. The repairs cost an estimated $1.1 million for Winston S. Churchill and $250.00 for McFaul. Cmdr. Sean M. Connors of McFaul and Cmdr. Todd W. Leavitt of Winston S. Churchill, the two commanding officers, retained command of their ships, that both returned to Norfolk two days later.

While South Korean guided missile destroyer Wan Geon (DDG.978) patrolled the Gulf of Aden for pirates as part of Combined Task Force 151, Turkish Rear Adm. Sinan Ertugrul in command, she discovered a skiff, at approximately 0730 on 26 September 2010. The boat had lost power and drifted, and appeared dangerously overloaded with 85 people, 10 Somalis and 75 Ethiopians. Wan Geon passed the skiff’s position to Adm. Ertugrul and he directed Winston S. Churchill, operating nearby, to the area.

Winston S. Churchill lowered a team in a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), and the Sailors boarded the skiff, providing food and water to the refugees. The boarders attempted to restart the boat’s engines but discovered that they were inoperable, and the RHIB took the derelict vessel in tow out of the busy maritime corridor and toward the Somali coast. Tragedy ensued at about 0830 the following day, however, when the American Sailors transferred additional humanitarian supplies to the people, but many of them rushed to the side of the boat and their weight capsized the flimsy craft. Winston S. Churchill lowered an additional RHIB and both teams scoured the water for survivors, supported by a Royal Australian Air Force Lockheed AP-3C Orion maritime patrol plane of No. 92 Wing that diverted to their assistance. The destroyer rescued 61 survivors and returned them to Somalia.

Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) 2001-100927-N-3304W-002
The castaways await rescue from their flimsy skiff, 26 September 2010. (Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Christopher Williams, U.S. Navy Photograph 100927-N-3304W-002, Navy NewsStand)
Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) 2001-100927-N-3304W-004
Winston S. Churchill’s RHIBs pull people from the water after their skiff capsizes, 27 September 2010. (Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Christopher Williams, U.S. Navy Photograph 100927-N-3304W-004, Navy NewsStand)
Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) 2001-100927-N-3304W-005
A close up of one of the RHIBs shows Sailors rescuing people desperately floundering in the water, 27 September 2010. (Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Christopher Williams, U.S. Navy Photograph 100927-N-3304W-005, Navy NewsStand)
Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) 2001-100927-N-3304W-003
Winston S. Churchill’s crewmembers feed some of the survivors after they pull them from the water, 27 September 2010. (Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Christopher Williams, U.S. Navy Photograph 100927-N-3304W-003, Navy NewsStand)
Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) 2001-100927-N-3304W-006
Sailors tend to an injured refugee on board the destroyer, 27 September 2010. (Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Christopher Williams, U.S. Navy Photograph 100927-N-3304W-006, Navy NewsStand)

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

10 February 2015

Published: Tue Nov 03 13:25:26 EST 2015