The USS Saratoga was decommissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1994 and stripped of armaments. The carrier left its base in Rhode Island on August 21 and began the journey around the Florida Keys to Brownsville, Texas, where it arrived yesterday. This is her final destination before the USS Saratoga is scrapped.
The Navy is paying ESCO Marine a penny to scrap the ship, but the recycling company will also profit from the ship’s recycle value, mostly in scrap metal and usable beams and support structures for ship repair. In a few short weeks, the USS Saratoga will be just a memory, as was the original Saratoga before it.
For many sailors, however, the USS Saratoga has many memories. The ship was named after the decisive battle of the American Revolution (fought in New York) and was commissioned in 1956 as only the second aircraft carrier to be built in the Forrestal-class after World War II, later reclassified as an Attack Aircraft Carrier. She was the first carrier to use high-pressure boilers in her operations. The USS Saratoga was actually the second aircraft carrier to bear the name and the sixth U.S. Navy ship to be called the Saratoga.
The USS Saratoga saw 22 deployments from its commission to decommission, from 1955 to 1994. Since then, the ship has been disarmed and used as a training facility and history lesson for a generation of sailors.
The USS Saratoga was off the coast of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, was stationed off Vietnam during most of the Vietnam War, and was in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War in Operation Desert Storm, one of her last operational duties.
The USS Saratoga’s decommission in 1994 had her stored in Newport. Although the carrier was used for training occasionally, the mothballed ship did have its supporters, many of whom hoped to have the USS Saratoga become a museum ship. Those attempts were unsuccessful.
The Times Union chronicles those attempts to see the carrier made into a museum. When the USS Saratoga launched for its final mission to Texas, more than 100 veterans of the boat attended its farewell ceremony.
“It’s a sad day in a way to see a great lady finish her career by being towed off to be scrapped.”
So said Bill Sheridan, a former USS Saratoga crewman and one of the founders of the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation, which tried for years to raise enough funds to have the Navy donate her as a floating museum. The USS Kennedy was chosen instead. Ultimately, the Kennedy won because of its later decommission date and functional reserve status.
So ends the long career of the USS Saratoga, one of the longest-running supercarriers in the U.S. Navy’s fleet.