Portland is about to become captain of its own ship—at least in name. The USS Portland is the first naval warship to be named exclusively after Portland, Oregon, and it’s up to one prominent Argay Terrace resident to get the word out.
Ollie Lund, known as one of the men who brought McDonald’s to the Pacific Northwest, opened the first McDonald’s in the Northwest on the corner of Northeast 122nd Avenue and Glisan Street in 1960. It was the 117th McDonald’s location opened at the time. McDonald’s meant Lund would swap khakis for 15-cent hamburgers permanently.
“When I entered the service, it was at the end of World War II, and I retired in 1965,” explains Lund, who is working with the USS Portland Commission on the Commissioning Ceremony for the USS Portland—or the LPD 27—with a target date of April 21, 2018. “And at that time, I became involved with McDonald’s, and that was one of the aspects of my getting out of service. Recently, I was contacted by Sergio, this Navy captain. He asked me to contact all the rotary clubs in the area to disseminate information [about the USS Portland]. He’s trying to put together money to welcome the Navy and retired people in the community, and I’m pretty familiar with those.”
But why is Portland, Oregon, getting its own ship now? Astoria and Salem, for example, have already had three navy ships named after them.
The USS Portland is the third Navy ship named after a city called Portland. The first ship (CA33) was a cruiser utilized in World War II, but it was named after Portland, Maine. The second Portland-dubbed vessel was an amphibious ship, called a Landing Ship Dock (LSD), jointly named after Maine and Portland that appeared in 1970. That ship was decommissioned in 2003.
“Former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus gets credit for the naming of the third ship: the USS Portland (LPD27),” says Gary Piercy, chair of the USS Portland Commissioning Committee. “There is a rumor that he and his wife had their honeymoon here and liked the city. I’m not sure if I believe that. When the name was announced, both senators from Maine complained to the Secretary of Navy, but he wouldn’t change it to include both cities again. The Navy is recognizing our city for not only being a major seaport, but for contributing to the war effort with our shipyards and industry and [for] our long-running Fleet Week honoring our Navy and Coast Guard sailors each year.”
Fun fact: Unlike Portland, Maine, Portland, Oregon, is considered by the Navy to be a big city. The LPD class of ship is normally named after large urban areas, with LCS (Littoral Combat Ships)—or frigates—being named after smaller places.
The Commissioning Committee wants the USS Portland, the latest naval warship, to be “Portland’s ship,” according to Piercy. And if you think the average Portlander is too liberal to get excited about anything war-related, consider the USS Portland’s prospective duties.
“This is the perfect ship for our city,” says Piercy. “Even though it is a warship, it will undoubtedly be used mostly in humanitarian missions. These are the type of ships that are now helping in Puerto Rico, and they have been involved in most disasters worldwide. Not only can they provide food and water, but they offer transportation with their aircraft when roads are blocked. Yes, it carries guns, but these are defensive weapons for self-protection. Carrying Marines is its primary mission.”
The Commissioning Committee is relying on former service members, like Lund, to deploy as many Portlanders as possible in the Commissioning Ceremony at Port of Portland Terminal 2: a location typically inaccessible to the public.
To attend the ceremony, you will have to be invited to the event by signing up on the ship’s website, but there are limited spaces available. The ship will be docked for a week. This means there will be ample events for the crew, as well as locals, including wine tours; fishing trips; free admission to places like the Oregon Historic Society, Portland Art Museum and OMSI; and admission to various charity events around town.
The rub is this: The Navy is only paying for the actual Commissioning Ceremony held on Saturday morning. Thus, it is Lund’s task to find members of the community to help fund all the collaborative activities that Piercy hopes will rile up local troops and patriots alike. So far, things are looking good.
“Tickets are going fast, and over half are taken already,” says Piercy.
And if you do end up securing a ticket, you can expect to meet Lund himself. When asked if he’ll be attending the ceremony, Lund, now in his eighties, said, “Without a doubt!”
If you’re interested in claiming an invitation or donating to the USS Portland, visit its website at usspdx.org.