Jul 18, 2006

An offering to Davy Jones and King Neptune 

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Just got these pictures of the 14 July sinking of the USS Belleau Wood today as they made the rounds on the email at work. I hadn't realized that the Belleau Wood had been slated for this treatment, although I recall having heard about it being decommissioned. This seems to be the new Navy thing - sinking old ships to make them reefs… how very environmental of them. I wonder how Flipper here feels about that?

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What's dolphin for "Dude, SWEET!"?

Although, it would look like there's some confusion on the whole reef thing…
In July 2006, the BELLEAU WOOD - which was the first TARAWA - class amphibious assault ship to be decommissioned - was sunk as a target off Hawaii to become an artificial reef.
Votaw said a ship like the Belleau Wood isn't used for an artificial reef because of the depth in the target area and because "it's not going down in one piece. It's going down, hopefully, in a lot of little pieces."
But either way, it seems a good "death" I guess... as opposed to becoming razor blades.

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I was on the Tarawa last year, an even older ship of the same class that is still in service. There were issues with the ship - most of which I think were crew based, quite actually. But unquestionably, there's some really old gear on board that needs to be replaced. The LHA class is old and worn. The LHDs are up and coming... and doing a hell of a job - what do you think is headed to Lebanon right now? That's right - LHD-7, the Iwo Jima… and the 24th MEU. [/shameless Marine Corps plug]

Truth be told, the sea-going life is not for me. While I'm not entirely opposed to it, let me just say that it's not at the top of my list for how I'd like to deploy again. Yet, coming from the deep Naval Services background that I have in my family, I find myself extraordinarily sad when things like this are done.

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Five years ago, I was on base at NAS Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida. This was after it had been shut down as a naval facility. It still operates as a civilian field, and though most of the buildings were vacant, from the outside they didn't look bad. Ironically, quite a few of them were pretty new when the base closed. The barracks for instance, looked better than some of the ones I've seen on bases that are still open. It basically looked like everyone just got up and left on Friday and didn't come back to work on Monday. The place was a ghost town… lots of old stories blowing around in the wind, but nobody there to tell them. For whatever reason, I found it pretty depressing.

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When the USS Oriskany was sunk a couple months ago to become a reef I kinda felt the same way. But she was an old boat, and hadn't been in "reporting status" in decades. The Belleau Wood, on the other hand, was launching missions into Iraq and taking part in the GWOT until last year. That's a pretty quick turnaround from warfighter to missile sponge. Kinda sucks. But like any old sailor, she said "Yes, sir" and did her duty to the end, although hesitantly. The email with the pictures had obviously been forwarded around a bit, and though the last line on it was unattributed, it said it all:
"Sank by the USS Mobile Bay... They fired the first Harpoon at her yesterday and today EOD set off bombs. It only took an hour but she had been taking hits since yesterday from the other ships... she just wouldn't sink.
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