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.

Fightin’ Fitz

While in Pascagoula a few days ago, I spotted this familiar old girl in the shallow waters of the muddy Pascagoula River along Ingalls SB’s West Bank.

USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) under repair Ingalls West Bank Pascagoula River July 2019 eger (2)

(Photo: Chris Eger)

Note her Union Jack on the bow, which was only recently raised a couple of weeks ago.

About that…

Commissioned at Bath in 1995, USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) carries the nickname of “Fightin’ Fitz” and recently made international news when, on 17 June 2017, the destroyer was involved in a collision some 50 miles off Japan with the 40,000-ton Philippine-flagged container ship MV ACX Crystal. The encounter damaged the ship, killed seven of her crew were killed– lost in a flooded berthing compartment in the predawn collision– and left a number seriously injured. With her hull open to the sea, swift and effective damage control by her crew saved the vessel.

Fitz has since been in Pascagoula for the past 18 months undergoing a $400~ million repair/refit.

Three weeks ago, at morning colors on June 17, 2019, her crew unveiled a commemorative flag honoring the Sailors who died in a collision in the Sea of Japan two years ago. In addition, the National Ensign and Union Jack were raised on the ship for the first time since November 2017.

From the Navy’s presser:

Designed by current crewmembers, the flag memorializes their seven fallen shipmates. The flag is blue with “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP” emblazoned above the names of the seven Sailors. The motto is a common Navy phrase, but all Fitzgerald Sailors embodied that spirit on June 17, 2017, when they fought significant flooding and structural damage following the collision.

190617-N-BR740-1106 PASCAGOULA, Miss. (June 17, 2019) The crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) unveiled a commemorative flag June 17, 2019, during a remembrance ceremony honoring the Sailors who died in a collision in the Sea of Japan on June 17, 2017. The flag, designed by current crew members, is blue with “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP” emblazoned above the names of the seven Sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Samantha Crane/Released)

“I am proud of this flag and proud of our shipmates who helped design it, as it is a product of respect and professionalism that symbolizes their great service and sacrifice,” said CDR Garrett Miller, Fitzgerald commanding officer, who unfurled the commemorative flag for the first time.

Fitzgerald’s crew designed this flag from scratch as a way to embody those shipmates we lost,” said Cmdr. Scott Wilbur, Fitzgerald’s executive officer. “It will be flown every year on 17 June to honor them and to never forget their sacrifice. The current crew continues to live out that motto while bringing the ship back to the Fleet.”