Christening & Launch

Bath, Maine, 17 February 1943

Abbot christening bottle

Abbot was launched from Bath Iron Works on a snowy Maine day, christened and sponsored by Grace Abbot Fletcher. Mrs. Fletcher was a great granddaughter of Commodore Joel Abbot. In the photos below, Abbot is seen shortly before launch, during the christening and finally floating in the Kennebec River. The ship was commissioned in Boston two months later.

The ribbon-wrapped Champagne bottle used to christen Abbot (right) was displayed by the Fletcher family at the 2010 crew reunion in Portland, Maine.

Today, destroyers at Bath Iron Works are built in floating drydocks. Ships are “launched” by gently flooding the drydock with Kennebec River water. This is safer and has the advantage of allowing the process to be reversed if anything is amiss.

The launch photographs are from the collections of the Maine Maritime Museum and Bath Iron Works (which is still a going concern and a major builder of U.S. Navy destroyers). These photos are presented in large format so that the amazing details are visible.

Abbot on the launch way

Abbot prepared for launch, decorated stem to stern with colorful signal flags. Note the flag-draped platform for the christening party.

Abbot ready for launch

Abbot shortly before launch. The shoring was released at the moment of launch.

Christening party

Christening party: Capt. Russell Snow Hitchcock, escort; John F. Fletcher, son of Grace Abbot Fletcher; Kristin Fletcher, daughter of Grace Abbot Fletcher; Grace Abbot Fletcher, the sponsor; Priscilla Fletcher, daughter of Grace Abbot Fletcher; Mrs. Eugene C. Fletcher, daughter of Grace Abbot Fletcher; Abbot Fletcher, son of Grace Abbot Fletcher; and Archibald M. Main, executive vice-president of Bath Iron Works.

Moments before christening

Grace Abbot Fletcher christening Abbot. The red, white and blue wrapping around the Champagne bottle is still in possession of the Fletcher family.

Abbot is christened

Grace Abbot Fletcher christening the United States Ship Abbot.

Abbot slides into the river

Abbot sliding into the Kennebec River. Very few of the future Abbot crew were present at the launch; the passengers visible on the ship were probably Bath Iron Works employees.

Abbot afloat

Abbot afloat for the first time. Heavy snow is falling, and the Bath Iron Works house flag flies from the mainmast.

Broadside view of Abbot

Abbot adrift amidst snow and ice in the Kennebec River moments after launch. Note that weapons, including the distinctive 5-inch guns, are not installed.