HERITAGE| Shenandoah



“On 3 March 1819, an act of Congress formally placed the responsibility for assigning names to the Navy’s ships in the hands of the Secretary of the Navy, a prerogative which he still exercises. This act stated that “all of the ships, of the Navy of the United States, now building, or hereafter to be built, shall be named by the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President of the United States, according to the following rule, to wit: those of the first class shall be called after the States of this Union; those of the second class after the rivers; and those of the third class after the principal cities and towns; taking care that no two vessels of the navy shall bear the same name.” The last-cited provision remains in the United States Code today.” — Naval History and Heritage Command



The “first” actions of ship and crew are an important part of U.S. Naval history, and most assuredly worthy of mention. The five SHENANDOAH’s had many firsts, however with regards to the SECNAV’s orders, the duty of “taking care that no two vessels of the navy shall bear the same name” was out of his hands. The first USS SHENANDOAH, and second, CSS SHENANDOAH, were commissioned during the same time in history. This happenstance occurred only once: during the American Civil War.


SECNAV| (AD 44)’s Naming



USS SHENANDOAH (AD 44) was named by the Secretary of the United States Navy (SECNAV) in following with the Congressional Act, and addendum’s of the time. Honors were paid to the Shenandoah Valley and the Shenandoah National Park. The ship was commissioned on 15 August 1983. She was the last Destroyer Tender built by the U.S. Navy.

Each of the five ships named SHENANDOAH had many extraordinary journeys under the stars, and each performing their assigned duties with distinction. SHENANDOAH (AD 44)’s heritage dates back to 1863, and the officers and crew of (AD 44) are proud to share their heritage.



It began for this crew with the keel laying of National Steel and Ship Building Company’s fourth YELLOWSTONE class U.S. Navy Destroyer Tender (AD 44). The YELLOWSTONE (AD 41), ACADIA (AD 42) and CAPE COD (AD 43) became SHENANDOAH’s older sisters.

It continued with the presentation of the “USS Shenandoah (AD 44)” oil painting consisting of all five ships named Shenandoah. Edward O. Ramstead, renowned Illustrator and Painter of Navy and Marine Corps artwork, was commissioned by the Ship’s sponsor to create the painting. The Claytors’ presented the painting to SHENANDOAH’s first Commanding Officer during the Christening and Launching ceremony.


The next challenge for the Captain: develop the artwork to be used for SHENANDOAH’s official Coat of Arms. Consulting with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps heraldry, and researching the initial concepts of integrating Shenandoah’s National Park, valley, bear, mountains, river, foliage and all five ships, Captain McNicholas then took advantage of the artistic talents of the Ship’s first Operations Officer, Lieutenant G. M. Hardy who drew the official Coat of Arms.

Once complete, the final camera-ready illustration and pre-press artwork was completed by Edward O. Ramstead, the aforementioned artist of the “USS Shenandoah (AD 44)” oil painting. SHENANDOAH’s Coat of Arms was now ready for presentation.


USS Shenandoah AD-44 Seal
Coat of Arms

COAT OF ARMS| Symbology

The bear, mountains and river in the shield represent Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley and National Park for which the ship is named.

The green V-shape within the shield symbolizes the fruitful foliage of the valley and the rejuvenating capabilities of USS SHENANDOAH. In addition, the V, along with the five stars designates this the fifth commissioned ship named SHENANDOAH.

The stars also refer to the meaning of the Indian name SHENANDOAH, “Daughter of the Stars.”

The blue in the shield, banner, and encompassing oval represent the Blue Ridge Mountains of the National Park. Blue is also the color of the free flowing water of the SHENANDOAH River and the world’s oceans; water which Navy men and women are sworn to keep flowing free.

The innate strength of the black bear symbolizes the mission of SHENANDOAH, to maintain the ships of the fleet “Strong for Peace”, the translation of the ship’s Latin motto: Fortis Pro Pace.

The forward motion of USS SHENANDOAH, pictured in the crest, symbolizes the mobile capability necessary to carry out the ship’s mission.




News of the fifth U.S. Navy ship named SHENANDOAH quickly reached the Navy League chapter of the Shenandoah Valley. The Captain met with Navy League officials in the valley to confirm the rumors were true, and to their added excitement he announced his plans to not only develop a strong and prosperous relationship with the Shenandoah Valley citizenry, but also with the Shenandoah National Park Superintendent and staff.

— Mag Poff • The Roanoke Times

Captain McNicholas then appointed SHENANDOAH’s first Public Relations Officer, LCDR Donzell, and issued orders to literally shake hands and get to know every Park staff and resident throughout the Shenandoah Valley and Mountainside. She did her job well, and received the Navy Commendation Medal for her work in uniting the officers and crew of SHENANDOAH (AD 44), with the Park and people of the valley. The Navy League provided their full support, and were a tremendous asset with this enormous duty.



SHENANDOAH’s Drill Team


The SHENANDOAH commissioning parade was the first of many parades and Shenandoah town celebrations to unfold during the ship’s history. The first drill team consisted of an Honor Guard, Banner Guard and Flag Team, and was met with overwhelming support from the residents of Shenandoah. The 1-1/2 mile long march was packed with proud and cheering Park staff and Shenandoah citizens, on both sides of the street, through the entire town of Shenandoah, V.A.





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