Just below the U.S. Navy photo in “The Virginia Pilot” were the words: “The bow of the 563-foot, 7,800-ton destroyer Stump points skyward as the ship sinks into the ocean June 7 after being damaged in a military exercise off the North Carolina coast.”

The USS Stump (DD 978) was a Spruance-class destroyer with more than 300 sailors aboard … we knew that much. Our first impression was that a disaster had taken place, but the rest of the story in “The Pilot” said otherwise. Here’s how the article began.

“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 7, the Navy acknowledged this week.”

At first it was a relief to know that it wasn’t a disaster. On second thought, however, it was indeed a disaster, in a number of ways.

– The sight of a sinking Navy ship brought some sadness to those witnessing the games, said one of the senior officers. And in all honesty, that’s all these target shoots are. Games.

– During their years of service those once proud vessels were home to thousands and thousands of American sailors. Proud American sailors.

– More than thirty Spruance-class destroyers were the handiwork of thousands of Ingals shipbuilders, each as proud of his craft as the sailor is of his.

– The final moments of those ships were nothing more than an undeserved indignity.

Before San Pedro grew into a container port, a large number of retired U.S. Naval vessels were dismantled at Mr. Shapiro’s National Steel facility. Memorabilia from each of those ships were preserved and were prominently displayed in a large ante-room at National Steel. If you had served on one of those ships or had been a part of its construction, the treasures in that ante-room brought back warm memories. There were no final moments for those vessels. They continued to live on.

Mr. Shapiro recycled the steel from all those vessels. The U.S. government now ordains, however, that steel in 7,800-ton chunks should be used for target practice and sent to the bottom of the sea. That’s a disaster in another form … an economic disaster. The price of steel is rising steadily and dramatically ($ 600/ton?) and the cost of newbuilds is almost out-of-sight as a result. A new destroyer, for example, costs well over a billion dollars, but … ho-hum … the taxpayer can afford it.
[Why is it, though, that the taxpayer can’t afford to build (and sell!) profit-making container ships?]