On the MARHST-L discussion list, Josh Smith pointed out an interesting piece from GlobalSecurity.org on the naming of US Naval ships.
I agree with the author about the need to stop naming ships after living people, and about the value and importance of using specific terms for specific types of vessels. The author points out how SSN 23, named after Jimmy Carter, has two strikes against it: first, it’s named after a living person, and second, it’s named after a distinguished American, rather than a city or state, as is the case with other submarines. But it’s easy to see why the Navy chose to do that, given Carter’s distinguished history as a submariner. And I imagine the Navy uses the naming of vessels after living people as a way of garnering support from those whose support they need.
There is a value, however, in waiting for several years after a person’s death before naming something after them, and also in maintaining some taxonomic control over the types of names in use.
The site has several other interesting entries related to the naming of USN ships, including this summary overview, and another about USS The Sullivans, which was the first Navy vessel to be named after multiple people. I attended the commissioning of another, the USS John S. McCain, in 1994. (This vessel, DDG-56, was named after the current senator’s father and grandfather, both of whom were four-star Admirals; an earlier John S. McCain was named just for the senator’s grandfather.)