The United States Navy recently achieved a significant milestone that could further amplify its maritime capabilities, as General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD NASSCO) began the construction of the sixth Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) class vessel on August 8, 2023.

Named the USNS Hector A. Cafferata Jr. (ESB 8) after the distinguished Medal of Honor recipient and Korean War veteran, this sixth ESB vessel is poised to bolster the Navy’s strategic capabilities and support a wide array of critical military operations.

Empowering Expeditionary Warfare: ESB Ships as Cornerstones of Naval Power

The ESB ship class, renowned for its adaptability and versatility, is a cornerstone of the US Navy’s expeditionary warfare capabilities. Similar to the Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD) class, these vessels serve as mobile sea bases that play a pivotal role in facilitating military operations across various phases. Their strategic significance lies in providing essential access infrastructure for deploying forces and supplies, prepositioning equipment, and ensuring sustained operations with flexible distribution.

Tim Roberts, the Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager within the Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships, emphasized the ESB platform’s pivotal role in safeguarding the nation’s warfighting advantage. Speaking at the unveiling ceremony last week, he underscored the multifaceted capabilities of the ship class, capable of addressing a broad spectrum of mission profiles, “while focusing on its core capabilities of aviation facilities, berthing, special operations, equipment staging support, and command and control operations,” Roberts explained.

(Image source: US Navy)

The christening of the USNS Hector A. Cafferata Jr. marks a poignant tribute to the legacy of Medal of Honor recipient Hector A. Cafferata. This vessel not only carries his name but also embodies the values of courage, dedication, and sacrifice that characterize his service to the nation. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro bestowed this honor in July 2023, underscoring the ship’s symbolic significance in honoring those who have displayed exceptional bravery in defense of the United States.

Honoring Medal of Honor Recipient Cafferata

Medal of Honor recipient Hector A. Cafferata Jr. was a distinguished Korean War veteran whose exceptional courage and selflessness in the face of overwhelming odds earned him the nation’s highest military honor. Born October 4, 1929, Cafferata served as a US Marine during the Korean War, joining the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.

His courageous actions occurred during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in 1950, a pivotal and brutal conflict between UN forces and Chinese troops. A large enemy force ambushed Cafferata’s unit, and despite being severely wounded, he valiantly defended his position, holding off waves of attackers and providing critical cover for his fellow Marines.

Hector A. Cafferata Jr.
Hector A. Cafferata Jr., Medal of Honor recipient (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Cafferata’s unwavering determination and heroism during the intense battle saved many lives and turned the tide of the engagement. His actions epitomized the spirit of sacrifice and dedication that the Medal of Honor represents.

In recognition of his exceptional courage and valor, Cafferata received the highest military award from Harry S. Truman on September 21, 1952. The former’s enduring legacy continues to inspire those who hold in high esteem the sacrifices rendered by servicemen and women dedicated to safeguarding freedom and upholding the core American values. Below is an excerpt from his award citation:

“[…] Stouthearted and indomitable, Pvt. Cafferata, by his fortitude, great personal valor, and dauntless perseverance in the face of almost certain death, saved the lives of several of his fellow marines and contributed essentially to the success achieved by his company in maintaining its defensive position against tremendous odds.”

Other Ongoing Naval Projects

GD NASSCO, a renowned shipbuilding company with a rich history of constructing vessels for the US Navy, is concurrently engaged in the construction of other vital naval assets.

Notable among these are the future USNS Robert E. Simanek (ESB 7) and the John Lewis-class Fleet Replenishment Oilers, including USNS Earl Warren (T-AO 207), Robert F. Kennedy (T-AO 208), Lucy Stone (T-209), and Sojourner Truth (T-AO 210). Additionally, contracts have been secured to construct the future Thurgood Marshall (T-AO 211), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (T-ASO 212), and T-AO 213 (yet to be named).

The Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships, a cornerstone of the US Department of Defense’s acquisition framework, will be responsible for orchestrating the development and procurement of a diverse array of naval assets. This includes destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission, and support vessels, as well as boats and other craft. The PEO Ships organization plays a pivotal role in ensuring the US Navy’s operational superiority and its capacity to adeptly address an extensive array of maritime obstacles.


The construction of the USNS Hector A. Cafferata Jr. and its integration into the Expeditionary Sea Base fleet marks a significant step forward for the United States Navy’s expeditionary capabilities. As the Navy continues to enhance its strategic posture, these versatile vessels stand as a testament to the nation’s commitment to maintaining its readiness and responsiveness in an ever-evolving security landscape.