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Warship's namesake, Zumwalt, fought racism, sexism

The Zumwalt-class warship, the largest destroyer built for the Navy, will be christened Saturday by Bud Zumwalt’s daughters.

Assoicated Press

The Zumwalt-class warship, the largest destroyer built for the Navy, will be christened Saturday by Bud Zumwalt’s daughters.

BATH, Maine — Bud Zumwalt took what he learned during the tumultuous 1960s with him when he became the nation's youngest chief of naval operations, earning a reputation as a reformer who fought racism and sexism and worked to improve the lives of sailors.

After retiring, the admiral dedicated his life to ensuring that veterans were compensated for illnesses linked to Agent Orange, an herbicide he had approved in Vietnam and he blamed for the death of his son.

Zumwalt's two daughters will christen a new ship that bears his name on Saturday at Bath Iron Works. Joining them will be his surviving son, who is a retired Marine, and other relatives.

The young leader turned the establishment on its ear, helping to create a modern Navy that embraced equal rights, said Larry Berman, who wrote a book about him.

"Zumwalt came in and smashed that entire system," Berman said. "He thought it was a racist system. He felt it was appalling that the Navy had only three black captains."

Like its namesake, the new ship is modern, innovative and potentially game-changing, with a stealthy shape, composite superstructure, wave-piercing tumblehome hull, electric propulsion and new radar and weaponry. Thanks to unprecedented automation, it will set sail with a crew that's nearly half the size of the complement on existing destroyers.

At 610 feet long and 15,000 tons, it is the largest destroyer built for the Navy.

In World War II, Elmo "Bud" Zumwalt Jr. earned the Bronze Star while serving on a much smaller destroyer during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Warship's namesake, Zumwalt, fought racism, sexism 04/11/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 11, 2014 9:06pm]

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