This photograph was taken at the christening of the USS Cruiser Biloxi moments before Mrs. Louis Braun (center left) of Biloxi smashed a bottle of champagne against the ship’s bow. The launching occurred on Feb. 23, 1943, at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia.
“I feel highly honored and humbly proud to be the sponsor of a ship in the Navy,” she said as the cruiser slid into the water.
Several years earlier Mississippi Sen. Pat Harrison had sought the naming of a ship for Biloxi, which became the first to be named for a city in Mississippi.
War time restrictions held the ceremonies to a minimum. Standing center right Mrs. Nick Stuart, daughter of Dr. Riley Burnett, president of the Biloxi Camber of Commerce, holds a bouquet of flowers as the cruiser’s maid of honor. Standing on the extreme left are Biloxians Walter H. “Skeet” Hunt and his wife Frances.
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Others identified on the platform, but not in order, are Louis Braun, mayor of Biloxi from 1936 to 1942; Ensign and Mrs Edward Braun, Newport, Rhode Island; Mrs. Louis Blumberg, St. Louis; Col. and Mrs. Edward Brook, Alexandria, Virginia; Col. M.F. Haas; Warren Jackson, Biloxi; Curtis Green, Jackson; and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Lott, Mr. and Mrs. Charles J’eall, all of Washington, D.C.
Commissioned on Aug. 31, 1943, the Biloxi reported to Cruiser Division 13, Pacific Fleet. The ship carried a Navy camera crew for a series of pictures depicting shipboard life. But being a “show ship” did not interfere with her purpose as a fighting ship. The Biloxi completed one of the longest continuous tours and combat duty than any other U.S. warship, never missing a major operation in the Pacific, and thereby earning the nickname “Busy Bee.” She survived the war without losing a single man, despite attacks by four Japanese kamikaze planes on March 27, 1946.
Throughout the Biloxi’s World War II career, the cruiser was in constant danger, even surviving three typhoons. Before its decommission in 1946, the Biloxi was awarded nine battle stars for service. The Biloxi was broken up for scrap in 1962, and as of 1999 its metal superstructure stands in the Guice Memorial Park at the Biloxi small craft harbor. To learn more about the Biloxi and to see the photograph album USS Biloxi, published by the Navy, visit the local history dept. at the Biloxi Public Library.
Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast’s distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and daytime phone number to Flashback, the Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; or call 896-2424; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.