HII’S Ingalls Shipbuilding Authenticates Keel of Destroyer George M. Neal (DDG 131)


PASCAGOULA, Miss. - HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding announced today the keel authentication of the Arleigh Burke-class (DDG 51) guided missile destroyer George M. Neal (DDG 131). The ship’s name honors George M. Neal, a Korean War veteran and an aviation machinist’s mate third class who was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic actions while attempting to rescue a fellow service member.

“Laying the keel of another Flight III DDG is a great way to celebrate the namesake of the ship and our world-class shipbuilders,” Ingalls Shipbuilding DDG-51 Program Manager Ben Barnett said. “Our ship namesake displayed the kind of courage and leadership that inspires us at Ingalls to have the same dedication to our mission. We are so grateful to our ship sponsor for being a part of the life of this ship and for sharing her family’s legacy with us.”

Neal volunteered as crewman to fly in a helicopter deep into North Korean mountains to attempt the rescue of a Marine aviator who had been shot down and was trapped by the enemy. During the rescue attempt, under heavy enemy fire, Neal’s helicopter was disabled and crashed. He assisted his pilot and the rescued aviator in evading enemy forces for nine days before being captured and held as a prisoner of war. Neal was eventually released and returned to the U.S. with more than 320 fellow POWs in 1952.

The ship’s sponsor and daughter of the namesake, Kelley Neal Gray, was in attendance and joined Ingalls Structural Welder Morris Johnson in welding her initials onto a steel plate, signifying the keel of DDG 131 as being “truly and fairly laid.” The plate will remain affixed to the ship throughout its lifetime.

George M. Neal (DDG 131) is the fourth Flight III destroyer to be constructed at Ingalls. Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers incorporate a number of design modifications that collectively provide significantly enhanced capability including the AN/SPY-6(V)1 Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) and the Aegis Baseline 10 Combat System that are designed to keep pace with the threats well into the 21st century.

Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are highly capable, multi-mission ships and can conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection. Guided missile destroyers are the backbone of the U.S. surface fleet and are capable of fighting multiple air, surface and subsurface threats simultaneously.

Ship Sponsor Kelley Neal Gray holds the steel plate that will be welded inside DDG 131. Pictured with Gray are (left to right) U.S. Navy DDG-51 Arleigh Burke- Class Program Manager Capt. Seth Miller and Ingalls DDG- 51 Program Manager Ben Barnett.

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