SAN DIEGO - The Navy has a new cargo ship afloat today.
The USS Charles Drew is a 689-foot, Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship built in San Diego and named for Dr. Charles R. Drew, the Los Angeles-area surgeon who helped develop large-scale blood banks during World War II.
''Even though he was not in the military, his name is connected to saving lives in the military," the namesake's daughter Sylvia Drew Ivie, a political aide to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, told the Los Angeles Times. ''Whatever my politics are about the wars the U.S. is engaged in, taking care of people fighting in wars and among our allies was a
very integral part of his story."
The ship, built at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company starting Jan. 31, 2008, was christened and launched Saturday. It will deliver dry cargo and ammunition to U.S. and allied aircraft carriers and destroyers.
''It will provide them with all the supplies they need, from Corn Flakes to missiles, from gasoline to ice cream," Karl Johnson, a spokesman for General Dynamics NASSCO, told The Times. ''It will be crewed by civilian mariners, like a merchant marine fleet."
Because the ship displaces up to 30 feet of water, it had to be launched at high tide.
Drew's oldest daughter, Bebe Drew Price, broke a bottle of champagne against the bow as the ship slid into San Diego Bay.
Charles Drew, who was black and died in 1950, was the director of the first American Red Cross effort to collect and bank blood on a large scale.
When the military issued an order to the Red Cross during World War II that blood be ''typed'' according to the race of the donor, Drew was outraged.
And despite his contributions to blood plasma research, he was denied membership in the American College of Surgeons, The Times reported.
''He would have been just thrilled," Drew Ivie said of the ship being named after him. ''It's extremely gratifying, and it will be a beacon to people of all races and ethnicities that their contributions are appreciated. That we are appreciated."