While The Big Easy gets all the attention when it comes to Mardi Gras, it should be pointed out that Mobile, Alabama, home to the Bienville-founded French colony around Fort Conde/Fort Louis going back to the 1700s, has vigorously celebrated the tradition for centuries. Rebooted with a new flavor in 1868 during Reconstruction by local legend Joe Cain, Mobile has its own style when it comes to its parades. They even drop a Moon Pie on New Year’s Eve.
With this year’s festivals canceled due to COVID, all the floats ran downtown along Royal and Water Street last Friday in honor of the commissioning of the fifth USS Mobile (LCS-26) over the weekend. The event, hosted at the State Port on Saturday, saw Gov. “Mawmaw Kay” Ivy and Coach (AKA U.S. Senator) Tommy Tuberville stop by to welcome the ship to the Navy.
The first USS Mobile was the captured Confederate blockade runner Tennessee, caught in New Orleans by Farragut in 1862 and recycled to serve in his West Gulf Blockading Squadron as a sidewheel gunboat.
The second USS Mobile was, again, a former enemy vessel, the former HAPAG liner SS Cleveland awarded to the U.S. as Great War reparations and used a troopship to bring Doughboys back from France, eventually returning to HAPAG service in 1926.
The third and most famous USS Mobile was the Cleveland-class light cruiser (CL-63), “Mow ’em down Mobile!” who earned 11 battle stars in the Pacific in WWII only to be exiled to mothballs for 12 years of purgatory in red lead before heading to the scrappers.
The fourth USS Mobile was a Charleston-class amphibious cargo ship (LKA-115), which spent lots of time off Vietnam in her 25-year Cold War career. Decommissioned in 1994, she was struck from the Navy List in 2015 and is still languishing at Philadelphia NISMF, pending disposal.
An Independence-class littoral combat ship, the current USS Mobile was built at Austal only a few hundred yards from where she was commissioned and will, hopefully, go on to help prove the class’s ultimate worth and not be decommissioned in a decade. USS Mobile will homeport at Naval Base San Diego, California, from where she may soon sail into tense West Pac waters.
The ceremony, below: