Commissioning Parade ~ Shenandoah, VA

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 “The Five Shenandoahs” oil painting consisting of all five ships named Shenandoah after the Shenandoah River, Shenandoah Valley, and later the Shenandoah National Park. 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.

L/R: Unknown, CMDR Frances Hammond Claytor (ship’s Sponsor), Captain Thomas M. McNicholas, Jr., Prospective Commanding Officer (PCO), Unknown, CMDR, SECNAV & SECDEF W. Graham Claytor, Jr.

The next challenge for the Captain: develop the artwork to be used for SHENANDOAH’s official Coat of Arms and establish the ship’s creed; “Fortis Pro Pace”, the Latin translation of Strength for Peace. 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 put the ship’s first Illustrators to work drafting the artwork.

Once complete, the final illustration and camera-ready pre-press artwork was completed by Edward O. Ramstead, the aforementioned artist of the “The Five Shenandoahs” oil painting. SHENANDOAH’s Coat of Arms was now ready for presentation.

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 Shenandoah Valley Council of the Navy League of the United States. 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.

Staunton Leader ~ 5 May 1983

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 Shenandoah Valley Council of the Navy League provided their full support, and were a tremendous asset with this enormous duty.

The News Leader, Staunton, VA ~ 16 December 1983

Shenandoah Pride

The News Leader, Staunton, VA ~ 1 December 1985

… Many Years Later

The connection to and pride of the citizens of the Shenandoah Valley and the crew of USS Shenandoah (AD 44) was nurtured and maintained throughout the ship’s premature service of only 13 years. The following newspaper article chronicles the ongoing efforts of the Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the Navy League as the ship and crew prepare to set sail for one of her last Mediterranean cruises. Citizens from the Valley sent the crew Christmas cards and gifts.

The News Leader, Staunton, VA ~ 28 November 1994


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.

Click on this image to visit the Town of Shenandoah, Virginia!