SPEECH BY SENATOR J. W. FULBRIGHT
COMMISSIONING CEREMONIES FOR U.S.S. LITTLE ROCK
JUNE 3, 1960
Admiral Lyman, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to be here on this memorable occasion. The return to the Fleet of a mighty warship representing Little Rock is an honor to that city and the entire State of Arkansas. The presence here today of Lt. Governor Gordon, Mayor Knoop, and this large delegation from Little Rock indicates the importance of this commissioning to the citizens of Little Rock and Arkansas. In the few short years the U.S.S. LITTLE ROCK was in operation the people of the city took great pride in having their community represented in such a fine manner through the world travels of this warship. I know that I can speak for the citizens of Little Rock when I say that we are proud to have the city represented once more in the most powerful Navy in the world.
The U.S.S. LITTLE ROCK was commissioned too late to participate in any of the historic Naval engagements of World War II, but there are many ways to serve. The officers and men who will man the LITTLE ROCK have reason to be proud of their ship. During the four years the LITTLE ROCK was in commission she visited twenty-eight countries creating goodwill and spreading understanding of our people and purposes in the first critical postwar years. We will never know how many new friends the crew of this ship won for the United States during that crucial period of postwar recovery. We should not overlook, too, the vital role she played in maintaining a semblance of a defense force at a time when great pressure was being exerted to reduce our Navy and other defense forces to skeleton size. The thousands of Navy men who trained aboard her in those years were skilled veterans when trouble erupted in Korea. Without ships like the LITTLE ROCK the mobilization problems in meeting that emergency would have been much more acute. I am sure there are still thousands of men on ships throughout the Fleet who have fond memories of their tour of duty aboard the LITTLE ROCK.
Recommissioning of the LITTLE ROCK as a guided missile cruiser is the culmination of three years of conversion. This is indicative of the time required to bring any new weapon into operational use. Of even more significance, it demonstrates the necessity for continuing research and development to insure that existing weapons systems do not become obsolete. The universal nature of scientific knowledge does not permit us to rest on our defense laurels. The United States has no monopoly on scientific knowledge as the Russians’ space program and ICBM power attest. The new U.S.S. LITTLE ROCK represents a new era of Naval strategy. Rebirth of this ship symbolizes a triumph of new and enlightened Naval leadership. Vision and courage are required to make any major decision, either in personal or public affairs. The decision to make guided missile ships a major Naval weapon took courage. It undoubtedly created great opposition on the part of less progressive Naval officers. The years since that decision, and others which have created the new Navy, have proved the wisdom of these drastic changes in approach.
With the rebirth of the U. S. S. LITTLE ROCK, a similar development is taking place in the city of Little Rock. As this ship represents a triumph for progressive Naval leadership, the changes now taking place in the city of Little Rock represent the triumph of progressive community action. The citizens of Little Rock have reasserted their will to move forward and to create a modern and progressive community. Slums are being cleared, bridges and thruways are being constructed, and the schools are open and operating. Little Rock, along with the entire State of which it is the Capitol City, has made and is making rapid strides toward achieving a better life for all the people.
It is altogether fitting and symbolic that, as the city of Little Rock emerges from a difficult period in its history, this fine ship, bearing the City’s name, also receives a new lease on life.
I hope that all of the officers and men of the U.S.S. LITTLE ROCK will some day have an opportunity to visit the city for which your ship is named. It is a beautiful and friendly city. I especially wish you could be there at this time of the year when it so ably lives up to its name, “The City of Roses”. Those who have not been there will be enlightened - those who have, but have not been there for several years, will be amazed at the progress being made. I assure you that you will receive a cordial and friendly welcome. I know that a visit to Little Rock will instill a greater pride in serving on the City’s namesake.
I again want to say how much I have enjoyed being here for this ceremony. I share the pride of the people of Little Rock in having this modern vessel bear the name of their city to ports throughout the world. The officers and men of this ship are fortunate in having such an experienced and capable commanding officer as Captain Phillips. I wish him and all of the crew -- good luck and good sailing.
(*) The full text of the speech given by Senator Fulbright was graciously provided by the University of Arkansas Libraries.
Credit: J. William Fulbright Papers, series 72, box 18, folder 2. Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.
Efforts to obtain a copy of the speech were initiated by Mrs. Mary Jane Cameron, wife of Wilfred M. Cameron Jr. RDSN, OI Division, 1959 - 1962.