East Bank buzzing again

As a kid, I grew up in South Pascagoula, in a house, appropriately enough, on Pascagoula Street just south of Ingalls Avenue. This was in the 1970s and 80s, at a time when Ingalls Shipbuilding (then part of Litton) was cranking out the occasional submarine, squadrons of Spruance/Kidd-class destroyers, Ticonderoga-class frigates, early Burke-class DDGs, and Tarawa-class LHAs. Also passing through at about the same time was the old mothballed battlewagons Iowa and Wisconsin.

Six Spruance class destroyers fitting out, circa May 1975. Ships are, from left Paul F. Foster (DD-964); Spruance (DD-963), then running trials; Arthur W. Radford (DD-968); Elliot (DD-967); Hewitt (DD-966) and Kinkaid (DD-965). Ingalls East Bank, Pascagoula

A lot of this work was done on the yard’s historic East Bank, which was only a few blocks from my home, and at about 3:30 p.m. it was a mad dash akin to the start of the Indianapolis 500 as the workers rushed to get out of there. Sometimes, you could even see the pace car.

The last large ship I remember being at the East Bank was the 1960s-vintage USS Inchon (LPH-12/MCS-12) when she came back from the Gulf War in 1991 to get patched up after catching an Iraqi mine with her hull. After that, things slowed down as more work shifted to the West Bank which is several miles outside of town in the swamps of Mary Walker Bayou near Gautier.

There I would venture out to work when I was in my 20s, tasked with helping to bend raw steel to form warships as many Goula boys had done before. To be sure, today there are several Burkes and a couple LHDs on active duty with my initials– alongside many others– burned into out of the way inner bottom bulkheads.

Over the past couple of decades the East Bank became deserted although not completely abandoned by now-Huntington Ingalls Industries, and the old graving docks, deep enough to float a battleship, were great places to catch flounder and redfish.

Now, it seems the historic old yard is being dusted off and put back to work with the facility being repurposed to perform maintenance on DDGs. Of note, the damaged USS FitzGerald (DDG-62) has been at Ingalls for some time getting a rebuild after her collision off Japan.

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