And the Tico slaughter begins

When I was a kid growing up in Pascagoula, I remember the sleek and modern Ticonderoga class of Aegis cruisers leaving the ways at Ingalls like clockwork. They were majestic “billion-dollar” ships– back at a time when that meant something– described at the time as floating computers, something akin to being able to “death blossom” like the fictional craft in The Last Starfighter to defeat an incoming wave of Russian Backfire bombers and their cruise missiles. Literally the most lethal and capable surface warships afloat anywhere in the world.

I went to the launching for the class leader when I was in second grade. When the last of 27 left Ingalls for the fleet, I was in college. While in High School, I was on the NJROTC honor guard at the christening of the Cape. St. George (CG-71) and Port Royal (CG-73), and have the coins to prove it. 

While the five first flight ships of the class (Ticonderoga, Yorktown, Vincennes, Valley Forge, and Thomas S. Gates)– those with older MK 26 twin-armed launchers rather than VLS systems– were decommissioned in 2004/2005 after right at 20 years of service, the other 22 Ticos have continued on their regular deployment and upgrade schedules.

Until now, anyway.

This year, five especially high-mileage ships are set for retirement: San Jacinto (CG-56), Monterey (CG-61), Hué City (CG-66), Anzio (CG-68), Vella Gulf (CG-72), and Port Royal (CG-73), with Vella Gulf being the first to lay off her crew.

Commissioned on 18 September 1993, the Ingalls-built Vella Gulf was decommissioned at Norfolk on 4 August 2022, just a few weeks shy of her 29th year in the fleet.

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) is decommissioned in Norfolk. Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jacob Milham

Ironically, she was decommissioned a week prior to the 80th anniversary of the Guadalcanal campaign’s beginning at the Battle of Savo Island. Of course, the ship was named in commemoration of the August 1943 Battle of Vella Gulf that saw six American destroyers successfully disrupt the Imperial Japanese Navy’s supply lines without taking a single casualty or damage from enemy fire. It was a decisive victory for the United States and a repudiation of the legacy of Savo.

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