- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - More than 70 years after the USS South Dakota became the most decorated battleship in World War II, a submarine is preparing to carry on its namesake’s legend.

Commander Ron Withrow and some of the new PCU South Dakota’s submarine crew visited the Veterans of Foreign Wars headquarters in Sioux Falls on Wednesday evening to discuss the new vessel. It is the first stop on a statewide tour that will end at Mount Rushmore.

“We’re looking forward to … forging a relationship with the state of South Dakota,” Withrow told the group of veterans.

This will actually be the third Navy vessel named for South Dakota. The original USS South Dakota was built in 1908 and was used during World War I. The second battleship to share the new submarine’s name was launched on June 7, 1941, and went on two tours in the Pacific during World War II. It was placed in reserve on Jan. 31, 1947.

The new submarine is not some decorative vessel. The South Dakota is a Virginia class submarine, an attack submarine that is capable of destroying enemy ships, carrying out intelligence missions and participating in mine warfare, among other duties.

The intention to name a submarine after the famed ship, which is now memorialized in its own park at 12th Street and Kiwanis Avenue, was first announced in 2012. Shipbuilders began construction on the vessel in March 2013 and expect it to be delivered to the Navy by around January 2018, Withrow said.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard lauded the decision to name the submarine after the Mount Rushmore State, the Argus Leader newspaper reported (https://argusne.ws/1R62w3o ).

“This namesake will be more than a fleeting, ceremonial connection between the new submarine and our state,” Daugaard said in a statement. “A commissioning committee has been brought aboard to organize events surrounding the submarine’s keel laying, christening and commissioning. However, and perhaps more importantly, the committee will work to forge a relationship between the state and the submarine for the duration of its service.”

Weighing the equivalent of 65 blue whales, the new South Dakota will boast four torpedo tubes and two Virginia Payload Tubes, Withrow said. Each payload tube can hold six Tomahawk missiles that can hit targets 1,240 miles away, slightly farther than the distance from Sioux Falls to New York City.

The South Dakota will host 130 crew members on board and is capable of spending months underwater.

“The only thing that limits our time underwater is the amount of food we can carry on board,” Withrow said.

One of the crew members who will spend time on the submarine is nuclear technician Petty Officer Isaiah Tuohey. Tuohey, 29, said he had a choice between going to Guam or working on the South Dakota, and he decided on what he deemed the more challenging opportunity, even if it meant traveling across the Midwest in February.

“I knew most guys would probably be like, ‘Ugh, South Dakota,’ but I said, ‘I’m going to do it,’” Tuohey said. “That’s the reason I wanted to be on a submarine, because most people would say, ‘I could never do that.’”

While the new submarine is still a few years off from its maiden voyage, a contest is underway to design its emblem. The contest began on Wednesday and will conclude on Mar. 15. A winner will be selected from four classes of entries: elementary school, middle school, high school and open class. Prizes will be given to the top three entries from each class. Entry forms may be found on the USS South Dakota website.

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com


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