Tag Archives: mothballs

42,000 ton ‘o cruisers

Here we see the USS Des Moines (CA-134) and her sister ship USS Newport News (CA-148), laid up as part of the Bicentennial Exhibit at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, August 1976.

National Archives Photo K-117046

The two retired bruisers, the largest and most capable heavy heavy cruisers ever fielded by the U.S. Navy (with the exception of the Alaska-class “large cruisers”) Newport News had put in lots of heavy work on the gun line off Vietnam and was only decommissioned 27 June 1975, some 14 months prior to the above image. Des Moines, on the other hand, had been on red lead row since 6 July 1961.

The third, and unpictured, ship of the class, USS Salem (CA-139), had preceded her two sisters to early retirement and had been decommissioned on 30 January 1959 after less than a decade of service. Notably, she portrayed the German pocket battleship KMS Admiral Graf Spee (which she actually outweighed by 5,000 tons!) in the 1956 film The Battle of the River Plate.

How about a chubby German BM on Salem’s quarter deck?

Ironically, the low-mileage Salem would go on to become a museum ship in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1994 while both Des Moines and Newport News were disposed of and slowly scrapped, with CA-159 only fully dismantled in 2007.

Of light cruisers and baby flattops

Here we see an aerial photo of the Pacific Reserve Fleet, San Francisco unit, in early 1958, some 60 years ago.

Located at Hunter’s Point (San Francisco Naval Shipyard), the most recognizable vessel in the collection of cargo ships, light/escort carriers, and light cruisers is the USS Bataan (CVL-29) with her pennant number on her deck. Directly behind her should be The Mighty Moo, 12 battlestar-recipient USS Cowpens (CVL-25), which had been in mothballs since 1947. The bows on these cruisers-hulled light carriers are a dead ringer for the greyhounds they are moored among.

Among the escort carriers listed at San Francisco at the time were the Commencement Bay-class USS Rendova (CVE-114) who was completed too late for WWII but was home to F4U Corsairs of VMF-212 off Korea for 1,700 sorties as well as fellow classmates and Korean War vets USS Bairoko (CVE-115), USS Badoeng Strait (CVE-116), and USS Sicily (CVE-118).

Many of the escort carriers in U.S. inventory during the mid-to-late 1950s were reclassified as auxiliary aircraft ferries (ACV), helicopter carriers (CVHE), aviation cargo ships (AKV), or aircraft transport (AVT) with some administratively transferred to the Military Sea Transportation Service on paper before they were removed from Naval custody, although they were not given any modifications to operate as such.

Among the light cruisers at San Fran at the time were USS Astoria CL-90, Birmingham CL-62, Vincennes CL-64, Springfield CL-66, Topeka CL-67, Vicksburg CL-86, Duluth CL-87, Miami CL-89, Oklahoma City CL-91, Amsterdam CL-101, and Atlanta CL-104, a Cleveland-class light cruisers completed late in the war. Two anti-aircraft cruisers are also seen middle left of the photo. Moored on red lead row at Hunters Point in 1958 were USS Oakland (CL-95) and USS Tucson (CL-98).

By 1962, virtually the entire assemblage you see above (save for Atlanta, who went on to be destroyed in 1965 as a weapons effects test ship and Tuscon, which was a test hulk until 1971) was stricken from Navy List and subsequently sold for scrap, the days of 1945-era all-gun cruisers and abbreviated flattops in the rearview for a Navy that was increasingly all-jet and missile. Oakland’s mast and nameplate are preserved just a few miles from where this image was taken at the Port of Oakland’s shoreline park.

Battle Cat headed to the scrapper, and likely a park in South Texas

Blast from the past, first, from a decade ago:

Sailors man the rails aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) as the ship leaves San Diego, Aug. 28 2007. Kitty Hawk is making its final voyage after 47 years of service to Bremerton, Wash., where it will prepare to decommission early next year. Approximately 1,600 Sailors are making the deployment, along with nearly 70 former Kitty Hawk Sailors, including a few dozen of the ship's original crew, known as plankowners. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lily Daniels/Released)

Sailors man the rails aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) as the ship leaves San Diego, Aug. 28 2007. Kitty Hawk is making its final voyage after 47 years of service to Bremerton, Wash., where it will prepare to decommission early next year. Approximately 1,600 Sailors are making the deployment, along with nearly 70 former Kitty Hawk Sailors, including a few dozen of the ship’s original crew, known as plank owners. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lily Daniels/Released)

Now, from the Kitsap Sun:

The Kitty Hawk (CV 63) will be disposed of by dismantling, according to Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman Colleen O’Rourke.

O’Rourke cited an annual report to Congress that outlines the Navy’s five-year shipbuilding plans. In this fiscal year’s edition, released in April 2016, the Kitty Hawk was listed as one of the Navy’s inactive ships slated for scrapping.

The Navy has not yet determined when the Kitty Hawk will depart its berthing in Bremerton, where the ship will go to be dismantled or what company will be awarded the contract, O’Rourke said.

Laid down in 1956, Kitty Hawk became the oldest active warship in the Navy (besides Constitution) in 1998 and held that title for a decade until she was officially decommissioned on 12 May 2009 after almost 50-years in the fleet. Between her launch date and now, 57.4 years have passed.

Kitty Hawk is currently held in Maintenance Category B receiving the highest degree of maintenance and preservation to a retired ship, though with USS Ford entering the fleet, she will likely be downgraded to Category C or X in coming months as the big new carrier moves through a 10-month shakedown and goes through working up for her first deployment. She recently has been used to help train ship-less carrier crews on the West Coast.

Though plans have been floated to look into reactivating “Shitty Kitty” the CNO has downplayed that and she now will most likely head to Texas, where all the conventional carriers in the past few years have gone.

As a result the city of Laguna Vista is set to unveil the Rio Grande Valley’s first ever Aircraft Carrier Memorial. As noted by the Brownsville Herald the memorial will include bollards, or posts that secured the ships, from the USS Independence, USS Ranger, and USS Constellation.

Kitty Hawk will no doubt join the collection in good time.

That’s a lot of haze gray muscle on red lead row

Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, October 1995, right as the site closed. As you can tell, it was a popular Inactive Ships location for some real WWII/Cold War heavyweights chilling in the City of Brotherly Love’s mothballs area

Photo via the USS Wisconsin Museum

Note the battleships USS Iowa (BB-61), and USS Wisconsin (BB-64) at the DD wharf to the far left; naval auxiliaries USS Sylvania (AFS-2), USS Milwaukee (AOR-2) and USS Savannah (AOR-4) at Pier 5; the supercarriers USS Forrestal (CV-59) and USS Saratoga (CV-60); at Pier 4; the mini-flattops to the right are the amphibious assault ships USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) and USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7) at Pier 2. In the back pool is the heavy cruiser USS Des Moines (CA-134) and numerous destroyers and frigates including what looks like at least five Knox-class fast frigates.

Of the above, notably, Wisconsin was the last keel laid for a U.S. completed battleship. She was begun at the same yard on 25 January 1941, meaning her Naval service involving Philadelphia was Alpha and Omega cyclical.

The ‘Battle Cat’ still serves

Sailors from the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) recently conducted damage control and medical training during three damage control “rodeo” events held aboard the decommissioned carrier ex-USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) over the past three months, showing that even ships on red lead row can still tap in when needed.

Laid down in 1956, Kitty Hawk became the oldest active warship in the Navy (besides Constitution) in 1998 and held that title for a decade until she was officially decommissioned on 12 May 2009 after almost 50-years in the fleet. Still, her hangar deck is and other passageways are similar enough to the Nimitz-class to work for DC training.

BREMERTON, Washington (May 17, 2017) Sailors assigned to USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) muster for a damage control rodeo prior to going aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). The damage control rodeo was held on Kitty Hawk to provide a shipboard environment, adequate space and hands-on training while John C. Stennis conducts a planned incremental availability (PIA) at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, during which the ship is undergoing scheduled maintenance and upgrades. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole C. Pielop / Released)

From the Navy’s presser:

John C. Stennis’ damage control and medical departments were unable to hold the “rodeos” on their own ship due to maintenance work being conducted during its planned incremental availability (PIA), but still wanted to give their fellow Sailors the most realistic experience possible.

Enter ex-Kitty Hawk, the Navy’s last conventional-powered aircraft carrier, held at Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility Bremerton, and just a quick walk away from John C. Stennis. Though Kitty Hawk was decommissioned in 2009, it remains largely intact and shares many basic similarities to modern Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, making it an ideal location for this type of training.

Kitty Hawk is officially to be held in Maintenance Category B receiving the highest degree of maintenance and preservation to a retired ship, though with USS Ford entering the fleet, she will likely be downgraded to Category C or X in coming months as the big new carrier moves through a 10-month shakedown and goes through working up for her first deployment.

Though plans have been floated to look into reactivating “Shitty Kitty” the CNO has downplayed that and it is more likely she would be held for museum donation and, should that fall through, scrapped.