Death Knell

“Navy to sink museum proposal along with its first supercarrier”

We read that December 8th headline in The Washington Times. The story began like this:

“BALTIMORE (AP) – A group of veterans who served on the nation’s first supercarrier say their decade-long effort to bring the great ship to Baltimore as a floating museum has failed.

“The veterans told the Baltimore Examiner that the Navy will likely sink the USS Forrestal for use as an artificial reef.

“‘We’re up against a brick wall we can’t beat,” said Jack Lawler, a board member of the nonprofit USS Forrestal Museum Inc. “I guess they found it was better to sink Forrestal than to save 50 years of history.’… ”

A little more than 50 years ago we had the good fortune to arrive in Norfolk in time for Mother’s Day, and it seemed as though we were sharing that good fortune with the whole 6th Fleet. No less than 12 other units managed to squeeze into the same spacious wet slip that accommodated us … four abreast and three stem to stern … but before we went ashore we witnessed an astonishing sight.

In recent months we had served with the USS Midway, the USS New Jersey and the USS Wisconsin, three of the world’s largest sea-going vessels, but we were not prepared for what greeted us that day in Norfolk. On our port side was still another spacious wet slip, and into that quarter-mile berth glided one solitary ship, the likes of which none of us had ever seen. This enormous vessel eased into position and took up the entire berth. “It’s the Forrestal”, they announced over the PA system.

The Forrestal. The forerunner of our supercarriers, and for many years, the pride of the US Navy. That breath-taking sight that day in May will never be forgotten.

In our Vol. VII, Art. 39 commentary we expressed our dismay at the sinking of two Spruance-class destroyers in training exercises off the North Carolina coast. We saw the ho-hum announcement:

“NORFOLK – The Navy sank two of its retired Spruance-class destroyers in a day of surface and air warfare training about 275 miles off the North Carolina coast sending the largest destroyers ever built to the dark ocean floor 12,000 feet below. The guided missile destroyers Comte de Grasse and Stump, both 28 years old and once based in Norfolk, were felled June, the Navy acknowledged this week.”

We insist that this is sheer stupidity. A new destroyer costs over $ 1 billion and each supercarrier goes for more than $ 4 billion. (And steel is more than $ 600/ton). But so what! The taxpayers can afford it. The taxpayers are told, however, that they can’t afford the cost of expanding our shipbuilding capabilities so that U.S. workers can build (and sell!) profit-making container ships.