REAL SHIPS BEHIND USS NATHAN JAMES


When you watch The Last Ship, it’s hard not to completely believe the story is taking place on a real US Naval Destroyer. The sets are flawless, no attention to detail has been spared, every button, conduit, bolt, screw and rivet has been carefully recreated to ensure a sense of realism that goes far beyond the average TV set. Sometimes though, no matter how good that set is, nothing but the real thing will do.

On those occasions, production on The Last Ship switches to Naval Base San Diego.

The show wouldn’t be possible without the support of the US Navy, and a couple of times a year production takes full advantage and heads south to film on the real deal, an Arleigh Burke-class Guided Missile Destroyer or ‘DDG’.

TNT’s ‘USS Nathan James’ feature from Season One.

DDGs are known as the ‘greyhounds of the sea’, and as these are in active service, with real crews, you can’t guarantee the same DDG will be in port and available for filming every time it’s needed, so a number of different ships have been used over the years. Like the James herself, each of these DDGs has a unique identity and proud history.

DDG-97 USS HALSEY

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dustin Kelling

 

Believe it or not ‘Phase Six’, the pilot of The Last Ship, was made in the fall of 2012 almost a year before filming continued on the rest of the season. And unlike the rest of the show, the entire episode was shot on a real ship. Primary filming took place on USS Halsey and a lot of what we recognise as part of the Nathan James appears to have been inspired by this ship.

PHOTOS © MAREK DOBROWOLSKI & TNT

Each DDG in the fleet has its own designation (for Halsey its DDG 97), unique crest and motto. We know the James’ motto as ‘The Spear of the Navy’, Halsey’s is ‘Hit Hard, Hit Fast, Hit Often’ and if you check out the crests of Nathan James and Halsey below, you’ll see some of the inspiration behind the design.

The Last Ship

The real USS Halsey’s crest & USS Nathan James’ crest created by production

And just like James is the Spear, USS Halsey is ‘The Bull’: you’ll find one on her crest, in fact. It comes from the man who USS Halsey was named for, Fleet Admiral William Frederick “Bull” Halsey Jr. Incidentally, ‘Admiral Halsey’ is also the name of Lt. Danny Green’s service animal, a little nod to the proud history of the ship that first played the James.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT USS HALSEY ON WIKI OR FACEBOOK


DDG-105 USS DEWEY

photo source: http://www.navsource.org/

Another ship used during filming for season one is USS Dewey, whose motto reads ‘Dynamis Ex Cardias’ – ‘The Will to Fight from the Heart’. She was christened in Pascagoula by Deborah Mullen, the wife of Admiral Mike Mullen, and is the 55th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. She is also the first ship commissioned for the City of Seal Beach.

You can find some of these these details on a plaque on the ship, as you can every ship including the Nathan James, which shares a few things in common.

photo credit: Triini Selgis

During production on season one in March 2014, the LA Times visited during filming in San Diego. You can check out some of their photos below or read the full article here.

Photos by Don Bartletti (Los Angeles Times)

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT USS DEWEY ON WIKI & FACEBOOK


 DDG-91 USS PINCKNEY

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason A. Johnston

During season 2, USS Pinckney stepped into Nathan James’ shoes. And it’s not just design that is inspired by the ships, one of the more memorable and emotional scenes from early in the season, is the promotion of Lt. Alisha Granderson. In ‘It’s Not a Rumor’, when handing her a set of lieutenant bars, Chandler explains that they were given to him by the Captain of the USS Pinckney, after he completed a tour of duty in Iraq.

Pinckney’s motto is ‘Proud to Serve’, and while many ships are named after famous admirals, this ship is named after a WWII hero: Cook First Class William Pinckney. Pinckney received a Navy Cross for his courageous rescue of a fellow crew member onboard the USS Enterprise (CV6) during the Battle of Santa Cruz in WWII. You can find out more about William Pinckney here.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT USS PINCKNEY ON WIKI & FACEBOOK.


 DDG-110 USS WILLIAM P LAWRENCE

In April of 2015 filming took place on DDG-110 USS William P Lawrence while it was back in it’s home port of San Diego. DDG-110 is the most recently built DDG The Last Ship has filmed on, and is named after Vice Admiral William P Lawrence, a naval aviator, fighter pilot, test pilot and one of the men who took part in the Mercury Astronaut training program.

Her motto is, ‘Never Give In!’

Photo: John Gibbins (San Diego Union-Tribune)

During filming the San Diego Tribute made a visit to set and filmed behind the scenes, you can watch that video on their website here.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT USS WILLIAM P LAWRENCE ON WIKI.


 DDG-108 USS WAYNE E MEYER

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate/Released)

At the end of last season, production worked onboard USS Wayne E Meyer, including filming that incredibly powerful final scene during ‘Don’t Look Back’ as Chandler leaves the Nathan James behind. And of course she’s the ship that carried Chandler and his crew to find the cure that saved the world. It’s rather fitting then, that the USS Wayne E Meyer’s motto reads ‘One Powerful Legacy’.

Mr Kane and CO DDG-108

DDG 108 is named after Rear Admiral Wayne E. Meyer known as ‘the father of Aegis’ (a combat weapons system used by DDGs). She was christened by sponsor Anna Mae Meyer (wife of Admiral Meyer) and launched on 18 October 2008. Meyer also calls San Diego her home port.

From Steven Kane‘s Twitter (during filming on DDG-108)

Being on an active naval destroyer, life doesn’t stop for it’s crew while the show is filming. In fact real sailors play many of the extras, and day to day duties are still carried out including ‘Colours’, which is the ceremonial raising and lowering of the flag every morning and evening.

Aaron Brooks managed to catch evening colours on DDG 108 last season:

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT USS WAYNE E MEYER ON WIKI & FACEBOOK


DDG-104 USS STERETT

And just last week the cast and crew were back in San Diego filming on another DDG for season 4, USS Sterett. DDG-104 is the fourth ship of the U.S. Navy to be named after Andrew Sterett, a U.S. naval officer who fought in the Quasi-War and the Barbary Wars. Her motto is “Forever Dauntless” and like USS Wayne E Meyer she was built at the Bath Iron Works in Maine and calls Naval Base San Diego her home port.

It’s hard not to be in awe whenever you step on a ship like the USS Sterett and it seems the appreciation doesn’t wear off on the cast & crew. Here’s just a few of the photos they shared last week:

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT USS STERETT ON WIKI & FACEBOOK


PRESS LINKS & SOURCES