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The first KENTUCKY, a confederate transport, was captured by the union Navy in June, 1862; the name KENTUCKY was retained. She was assigned to the Mississippi squadron in support of union forces performing various transport duties on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. KENTUCKY sank in June, 1865, by accident with great loss of life, while operating on the Red River. Among those who died were some thirty paroled confederate soldiers.
The career of the second KENTUCKY (BB-6), a turn-of-the-century battleship, lasted for twenty years. About the size of a World War II destroyer, she was one of the most advanced warships of her day and the first American battleship to make extensive use of electricity and to provide ventilation below decks. Launched in March, 1898 and commissioned in May, 1900, the battleship sailed to Hong Kong in 1901 and became the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet, watching over American interests in the Far East.
Upon her return to the United States in 1904, KENTUCKY was involved in tactics and maneuvers off the Atlantic coast with the North Atlantic Fleet. In the fall of 1906, she transported marines to Havana and offered support to forces ashore during the Cuban insurrection. In 1907 she returned to Hampton Roads, Virginia, to join the "Great White Fleet" of sixteen battleships on a fourteen-month cruise around the globe. The voyage was widely acclaimed for the honor it brought to the United States Navy and for its demonstration to the world of America's strength.
Following the successful cruise, she was decommissioned, though she was recommissioned in June, 1915 as a training vessel. Later that year she sailed to the coast of Mexico to protect American interests during the period following the Mexican Revolution. During World War I, KENTUCKY served as a training ship for thousands of recruits along the Atlantic Coast. She was finally decommissioned in May, 1920. Construction was begun on a third KENTUCKY (BB-66), an lowa-class battleship, but was never completed. Her keel was laid in December, 1944, but construction was suspended in 1947 when the vessel was 70 percent complete.
Technology has dramatically changed the size and capabilities of naval warships since the battleship KENTUCKY was commissioned in 1900, but the mission of the United States Navy has not significantly changed. That mission is to protect the vital interests of the United States of America. KENTUCKY (SSBN 737) is uniquely suited to this task.The submarine USS KENTUCKY (SSBN 737) is the third U.S. Naval vessel to be named in honor of the Bluegrass state, and the twelfth Trident submarine commissioned.
Kentucky Governor William O. Bradley's statement, made after witnessing the launching of the battleship KENTUCKY in 1898, is equally applicable today:
There is no better ship; there could be no better name.