The aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, which some once hoped would be turned into a floating museum in Rhode Island, is instead going to be scrapped.
The U.S. Navy announced earlier this month that the decommissioned carrier would be sold to a Texas scrap company for a penny.
“It’s a sad thing, but we knew it was coming,” said Brad Senter, president of the USS Saratoga Association, the alumni group of those who served aboard.
Many people around Saratoga County have a sentimental attachment to the ship, which is named for the crucial Revolutionary War battles fought at Saratoga in 1777, and they had hoped it would live on as a museum.
The ship’s bell from a predecessor carrier, the World War II-era USS Saratoga, is on display at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery and was to be rung during Memorial Day services Monday. The ship’s silver service is on display at the local Adirondack Trust Co. office.
ESCO Marine of Brownsville, Texas, will arrange the towing of the 1,038-foot carrier from its current dock in Newport, Rhode Island, to Texas. The company will keep the proceeds from dismantling the ship and recycling its metal, a process expected to take a year.
Electronics and more-valuable metals like brass and copper have already been taken off the vessel over the past 20 years.
“The price reflects the net price proposed by ESCO Marine, which considered estimated proceeds from the sale of the scrap metal to be generated from dismantling,” the Navy said in its announcement earlier this month.
The ship is expected to be towed from berth in Rhode Island this summer. Senter, who lives in Texas City, Texas, said he plans to meet it when it arrives in Brownsville and hopes to obtain 500 pounds of metal to be minted into commemorative coins.
No viable applications
A local supporter of the ship said its scrapping was probably inevitable, because museum planners never raised the needed money.
“Saving and supporting an aircraft carrier is a monstrous job. It’s sad they couldn’t pull it off,” said Larry Gordon of Wilton, an unofficial historian of the ship.
When the USS Saratoga was on active duty, local people sent letters and gifts to its sailors. The USS Saratoga Association held a reunion in Saratoga Springs in 1998.
Gordon said when the ship was launched from the Brooklyn Naval Yard in 1955, a bottle of Saratoga water was smashed against its bow, instead of the traditional champagne. The USS Saratoga served from 1956 to 1994, when it was decommissioned and stored at the Newport Naval Station.
A foundation formed to try to have the ship turned into a floating museum in Narragansett Bay, but it was never able to raise the needed money. The Navy agreed to donate the Saratoga in 2000, but withdrew the offer 10 years later, citing the ship’s deterioration and lack of progress on museum efforts.
“No viable applications were received, and the vessel was designated for disposal,” the Navy said in its statement.
The USS Saratoga Museum Foundation subsequently switched its focus to the USS John F. Kennedy, a newer retired aircraft carrier the Navy offered to donate. It is also thought that the Kennedy name would draw more visitors to a museum in southern New England.
The foundation’s efforts continue. If the plan is successful, some memorabilia from the USS Saratoga will be put on display, Senter said.
The USS Saratoga was the sixth naval ship to bear the name of the battle — as well as the city and county. It served off the coast of Cuba following the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, was active in the Vietnam War and was stationed in the Mediterranean during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The previous USS Saratoga was also an aircraft carrier that served in World War II, but it sunk during testing of the atomic bomb in the Pacific Ocean in 1946.
“There’s some real history behind the Saratoga,” Gordon said.