The 1,063-foot-long aircraft carrier USS Forrestal was scheduled to arrive early this morning at the jetties marking the entrance to the Port of Brownsville ship channel.
The historic vessel’s final destination is All Star Metals’ ship-recycling facility, where it will be dismantled and sold for scrap.
The first of the Navy’s “supercarriers,” the Forrestal was launched in 1954 from Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. in Virginia and commissioned in 1955. Officially, the vessel is no longer named “USS Forrestal” since being decommissioned and struck from the Naval Vessel Register in 1993.
Last October, the Naval Sea Systems Command announced that All Star Metals was awarded the Navy contract to dismantle the Forrestal, named for James Forrestal, secretary of defense during the Truman administration.
The vessel was the lead ship of the Forrestal-class of carriers, which also included the USS Independence, the USS Ranger and the USS Saratoga, all of which have been decommissioned and designated for dismantling.
The Forrestal departed the Navy’s inactive vessel facility at Philadelphia early on the morning of Feb. 4, under tow by the vessel Lauren Foss, which All Star Metals contracted to do the job.
At least a few veterans who served on the Forrestal were expected to gather to watch its arrival this morning. In recognition of the 3,500 men and women who served aboard the ship, All Star Metals is planning a small, invitation-only event on Feb. 28 for local officials, dignitaries and a few others, including representatives from the USS Forrestal Association.
On March 1, All Star Metals will host an open visitation at its facility from 9 a.m. to noon for community members, veterans and members of the USS Forrestal Association. The vessel itself will be off limits due to Navy restrictions (the vessel remains Navy property until dismantling is complete).
In conjunction with the March 1 visitation, the USS Forrestal Association will hold an off-site event beginning at 1 p.m. For details, visit www.uss-forrestal.com.
The Navy paid a symbolic value of $0.01 to All Star Metals to have the mothballed carrier towed and scrapped. The ship recycler assumes all the risks and costs of towing the vessel, with the aim of recovering the costs and making a profit through sale of the scrap.
On Feb. 5, Sen. John McCain, probably the Forrestal’s most famous veteran, released a statement in which he recalled a catastrophic fire that took place aboard the vessel during the Vietnam War on July 29, 1967. The incident nearly cost the future senator and presidential candidate his life.
The Forrestal had been launching air strikes against the North Vietnamese from the Gulf of Tonkin when a Zuni rocket accidentally fired from an F-4 Phantom, striking McCain’s A-4 Skyhawk and rupturing the plane’s fuel tank.
The resulting fire and explosions killed 134 of his shipmates, injured 161 more, destroyed more than 20 aircraft and badly damaged the carrier to the tune of $72 million. The Forrestal was in dry dock at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for several months while repairs were carried out.
McCain wrote that the Forrestal, which featured the first steam catapult, angled flight deck and optical landing systems, “represented American ingenuity and shipbuilding excellence.”
He noted that during its 38 years of service the Forrestal and its attached air wings took part in missions all over the globe, including “dozens of NATO operations, overseas deployments, patrol missions and strategic port visits around the Atlantic and Sixth Fleets.”
“I will always remember and honor my brave comrades who died in the Forrestal fire,” McCain wrote. “Although the ship is being towed to Brownsville, Texas, to be physically dismembered, her legacy, the bonds forged and memories created among shipmates will live forever. I bid her a final ‘fair winds and following seas.’”
Source: Brownsville herald. 17 February 2014http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/local/article_465ef678-9855-11e3-8b14-001a4bcf6878.html