Hard Luck Tin Can, or The Ever-Sinking The Sullivans

Back in March 2021, we talked about the struggling circa 1943 Fletcher-class destroyer USS The Sullivans (DD-537) that was slowly taking on water as she served as a museum ship in Buffalo, New York.

The call to action raised what, most thought, was more than enough money to fix the problem. Initially, $100,000 was asked for, with over a million brought in along with a $500,000 grant called “Save America’s Treasures” from the National Parks Service. 

Well, the repairs weren’t complete and now the old girl is in rough shape.

Like, really rough shape:

USS The Sullivans DD537, April 13 2022, via United States Coast Guard Sector Buffalo

USS The Sullivans DD537 April 13 2022 via United States Coast Guard Sector Buffalo

The statement from the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park (which is asking for donations):

In November 2021, with the help and support of our community in Buffalo and throughout the country, we officially reached our goal of raising $1 million to help Save the Sullivans and repair the hull. For over a year, we have been working with BIDCO Marine Group to assess the hull and make a plan to preserve and repair USS The Sullivans, incorporating a hull survey they completed in 2018. Divers were in the water last summer and fall to begin work using a Navy-approved two-part epoxy, but once the water temperature dropped below 54 degrees they had to pause for the winter. The plan is still for that work to resume once the temperature increases.

The breach that occurred yesterday appears to be a new issue and we are working diligently to understand the cause and address it as quickly as possible. We will provide additional updates as we learn more from the initial assessments. We appreciate everyone’s support and the offers to help. This is truly the City of Good Neighbors and this historic ship continues to guide us to stick together.

The good news is that there are only about five feet of lake water under her hull this time of year, so she can’t totally submerge, just settle into the mud.

Just as long as she doesn’t turn turtle. Then it’s likely scrap time. 

It seems the best solution for these old girls, long term, is to bring them wholly ashore such as with the submarine USS Drum in Mobile Bay…

USS Drum on shore, April 2022. The Balao-class submarine was moved on land just off Mobile Bay over 20 years ago via a $1.4 million canal/cofferdam project and looks great (Photo by Jeremy Anderson)

…or set them in a dry-dock hybrid cradle such as with USS Kidd (also, like The Sullivans, a Fletcher) in Baton Rouge.

USS KIDD (DD-661) at rest in her cradle in downtown Baton Rouge, LA, USA, where she now serves as a museum — August 2021. This allows her to remain stable as the Mississippi rises and falls over the course of a year. (Photo copyright Hunter Svetanics; used by permission)

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