21 January 1943 – Christening Day
Eleanor Roosevelt is seen here christening USS Yorktown, CV-5, in 1936.
When CV-5 was sunk at the battle of Midway in June 1942, the Navy decided to rename CV-10 from USS Bon Homme Richard to Yorktown.
Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox asked her if she would sponsor the new Yorktown. The First Lady responded in a letter, “I wonder whether I should sponsor the new USS Yorktown inasmuch as the one I sponsored met such a sad fate? I know there are superstitions in the Navy, and would want to be sure that it was wise for me to do this before making any definite promise. Would you please be frank?” She accepted after SecNav Knox allayed her fears and the date of 21 January 1943 was set for the ceremony.
Principal speaker was Admiral Buckmaster, former commanding officer of USS Yorktown, CV-5. He was making remarks to the shipyard workers, “Your efforts to weld together the natural resources of America that go into the construction of such magnificent fighting craft is beyond praise…”
At the instance of the word “praise,” the 27,000 ton aircraft carrier began to shake and began to slip off its stocks, 7 minutes ahead of schedule!!! Eleanor jumped out of her seat and swung the champagne bottle at the hull, only to have it bounce off with a dull thud! Not an auspicious start for a warship, but Eleanor caught the bottle on the rebound and gave it a harder swing, which resulted in a perfect impact and champagne sprayed her, Admiral Buckmaster and the Yorktown as her momentum built taking her into the James River and on into history!