New warship Milwaukee takes icy plunge

CREATED Dec 18, 2013

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MARINETTE - The newest ship named Milwaukee was a little reluctant to jump into an icy Menominee River Wednesday, as it fended off nine blows from a champagne bottle before accepting its fate and jumping in the water.

Ship sponsor Sylvia Panetta broke a ceremonial bottle of bubbly across Milwaukee's bow on the tenth try, christening the ship as the fifth to bear the name of the largest city in Wisconsin.

The 378-foot long littoral combat ship was built at Marinette Marine over the last two years, the latest in a class of fast combat vessels built for battle in shallow water.

Marinette Marine president Chuck Goddard has watched at least three dozen christening ceremonies and said they never get old.

"You know she's safely in the water, she's settled out and she's where she belongs," Goddard said. "Ships belong in the water, not on the land."

The ceremony drew top officials from the Navy and Defense Department, elected officials and members of the tight-knit shipbuilding community.

For a handful of sailors who served on the Vietnam-era ship named Milwaukee, christening was a moment they could not miss.

Ed Rothacker served on Milwaukee in the early 1970s. He traveled to Marinette from Ohio to wish the next ship and her sailors well.

"The name goes on and we're excited for these guys to start their own trip, their own memories," Rothacker said.

Milwaukee will remain in Marinette for the next 18 months as construction and testing continue.

Commissioning could come as early as summer, 2015.