Navy ship named for Army MOH winner

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, January 19, 2000) - The Korean War heroism of an Army soldier was memorialized earlier this month when a Navy ship was dedicated in his name.

The fifth in a series of seven Strategic Sealift ships being built by Litton Avondale Industries, T-AKR 304, was christened PILILAAU in ceremonies at the New Orleans shipyard January 8.

The new ship was named in honor of Medal of Honor recipient Pfc. Herbert K. Pilila'au, United States Army. Pfc. Pilila'au, a native of Hawaii, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in defending his platoon's position on Heartbreak Ridge near Pia-ri, Korea, on September 17, 1951.

According to his award citation, under heavy fire from wave after wave of fanatical enemy troops, Pfc. Pilila'au bravely defended his position after voluntarily remaining behind to cover his platoon's withdrawal. After exhausting his ammunition from firing his automatic weapon into the ranks of the assailants, Pfc. Pilila'au engaged the foe in hand-to-hand combat, courageously fighting with his trench knife and bare fists until he was finally overcome and mortally wounded. When the position was subsequently retaken, more than 40 enemy dead were counted in the area he had so valiantly defended. For his heroic devotion to duty, indomitable fighting spirit, and gallant self-sacrifice, Pfc. Pilila'au was awarded the Medal of Honor. His selfless actions reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U. S. Army.

The new ship's sponsors are Mrs. Agnes Kuumaewa Pilila'au Kim, Pilila'au's sister, and Mrs. Polly Ellis, wife of Admiral James O. Ellis, Commander in Chief, U. S. Naval Forces, Europe. The two women christened the ship with the traditional bottles of champagne in Pilila'au's honor.

"This ship will save lives in support of the U. S. Armed Forces, just as Private Pilila'au did on the cold battlefields of Korea so many years ago. I congratulate all who had a hand in its construction. Be proud of that accomplishment and celebrate the legacy of the hero this ship is named for," said the principal speaker at the christening, the Honorable Sean O'Keefe, former Secretary of the Navy.

O'Keefe was appointed as the Secretary of the Navy in July 1992 by President George Bush. He is also a native of New Orleans.

Another speaker went on to thank the Navy and Army "for reminding us about what's really important at a time when heroes are defined by box scores, rushing yards, and won-loss records.

"It's important to continue to remind ourselves of the real stuff from which heroes are made, and in the naming of this ship we are receiving today just that kind of reminder," said Mr. Jerry St. Pe(, chief operating officer of Litton Ship Systems.

"As commander of the Military Traffic Management Command, I can tell you that these ships are crucial to our success," said Major Gen. Kenneth L. Privratsky. "Last summer, another LMSR, Avondale's USNS BOB HOPE, picked up Army cargo and equipment in northern Europe and delivered it to Greece for onward movement to Kosovo.

"That same equipment is in the hands of American soldiers who are today helping preserve the fragile peace in that war-torn region of the world," he said.

Also attending were special guests of honor Mr. Albert K. Pilila'au, Mr. Edward Pilila'au, Mr. Melvin Pilila'au, and Mr. Robert L. Pilila'au Pa'aluhi, Sr., all brothers of the ship's namesake. Other Pilila'au family members and friends were also in attendance.

PILILAAU (T-AKR 304), along with the other BOB HOPE Class Sealift ships, can carry up to 1,000 Army tanks, and other wheeled or tracked vehicles, along with containers and other cargo. They are designed and constructed with more than 387,000 square feet of cargo capacity to provide prepositioning and surge sealift capacity to contingency areas worldwide.

The 950-foot-long, 25,000-ton, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) Sealift ships are among the largest in the Navy fleet. Longer than three football fields, PILILAAU has a beam (width at widest point) of nearly 106 feet, a draft (depth of ship into the water) of 34.6 feet and displaces 62,069 long tons. With 65,160-shaft-horsepower, the ship can cruise at speeds in excess of 24 knots with an endurance standard of 13,000 nautical miles. The new ship will have a crew of 29 and accommodations for 95.

Built utilizing Avondale's modular construction technology, each Sealift ship is made up of more than 430 modules, each ranging in weight from 8 tons to more than 200 tons.

PILILAAU will undergo sea trials later this year with delivery expected at this time next year.

(Editor's note: this article courtesy of Avondale Industries.)