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USS Ranger’s next stop may be scrapyard

The USS Ranger (CV61) operates in the Pacific Ocean in the late 70s. - Courtesy photo
The USS Ranger (CV61) operates in the Pacific Ocean in the late 70s.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The next stop for the USS Ranger (CV-61), a mothballed carrier on Bremerton’s waterfront, could be the scrapyard.

But those who oppose the move are coming together to see to it that another retired historic ship doesn’t end up at a super-sized chop shop.

Most recently, the USS Constellation was designated to be towed out of the inactive Bremerton ship facility for dismantling. The Navy announced on June 13 it had awarded a $3 million contract to a Texas company that will tow it off this summer.

Despite the Ranger’s newest honor of being the only aircraft carrier placed on the Washington Heritage Register of Historic Places, the ship is in danger of being scrapped.

“This whole process of scrapping the Ranger went through a different process than normal” due to another federal agency owning it, said State Architectural Historian Michael Houser.

“Theoretically, the Navy would offer the ship up for sale if somebody wants it. If nobody wants it, they would basically scrap it. In this case, I believe it has gone through all those processes.”

The next step includes adding the USS Ranger to the National Register of Historic Places, Houser noted. In order to do that, the state register approval was part of the process. Unfortunately for those who love the ship, that still isn’t enough to keep it from being demolished.

“Both of those programs are designed to formally document buildings and celebrate the history,” said Houser. “There’s no strings attached to protect against demolition.”

While it will likely be September before anyone knows if the ship has been added to the national registry, petitioners will keep at notifying the public of their intentions.

A similar effort failed in Oregon when the Navy chose to sell the Ranger, according to The Oregonian. The push to send it to the scrapyard ended the USS Ranger’s Foundation’s efforts to keep the ship in Fairview, Oregon as a tourist attraction. Even after raising more than $600,000, the organization wasn’t able to meet the Navy’s requirements.

In September 2012, the ship was removed from the “donation hold and re-designated for dismantling,” states the official U.S. Navy Team Ships website. According to the site, the ship had been available for donation as a museum/memorial since March 2004, but no organization was able to meet the minimum requirements for ship donation.

So far, no one has put in an offer on the ship to purchase it.

A Change.org petition needs just over 8,000 more signatures before being sent to the U.S. Navy, Naval Seas Systems Command, the command that owns the ship. The petition was posted by Rachel Shelton of Connecticut, whose father Capt. S. Martin Shelton served on board the Ranger during Vietnam as an intelligence officer. She also “served” on board for three days when she was a baby.

“I’d say that the support we’ve received since I started the petition inspires the mission every day. Reading through the comments, it’s clear that Ranger has affected many families, not just mine,” said Shelton. “This ship is important to people from all over the world, whether they served on board, have friends or family who served, or maybe they saw it on TV or in a movie.”

The ship was featured in both Top Gun and Star Trek IV, according to the petition website.

With each signature, Shelton hopes to catch the Navy’s attention.

“Tell the Navy you care about this important piece of our history and want it to reconsider plans to turn the ship into a museum so that future generations can learn about its history firsthand,” Shelton wrote on the petition’s homepage. “I started this petition because I truly believe that by working together we can make a difference, and that we simply cannot abandon this ship without at least putting up a good fight and making our voices heard.”

The petition, posted on www.change.org, has gathered 1,682 supporters. It is the same support behind the Save the USS Ranger CV-61 Facebook page as well, with many of its members sharing stories of their days on the Ranger.

Howard Fisk of Lacey was in attendance when the ship made the Washington Historic Register on June 20. The Navy veteran felt that the audience’s presence showcased exactly how much the Vietnam War-era ship is cared for by its former crew. He served on the ship from 1981-83.

“I saw a lot of emotion during our presentation from all in attendance, — myself included. And as a Navy veteran and former Ranger sailor, I felt pride and hopeful for all of our former shipmates that this could be the step towards her being saved for all the future generations to see and appreciate.”

Fisk said he joined the efforts to help when he saw a post by Shelton on Facebook. After seeing similar fates for the USS Forrestal and now the USS Constellation, Fisk said the support to save the Ranger gave him some hope that his beloved ship would not meet the same fate.

Houser noted that he’s never seen a ship as large as the Ranger be saved, but said it doesn’t go unnoticed that former USS Ranger sailors and local veterans are wanting to save the ship.

The continuous support from the public has kept Shelton and others hopeful.

“They all know that Ranger has a lot of life left and deserves a better fate than the scrapyard,” said Shelton. “The recognition that the ship has received, especially the recent honor of being named to the Washington Heritage Register, means so much to the ship’s veterans and we’re so grateful to the council for their support.”

The petition can be found at: http://www.change.org/petitions/u-s-navy-please-save-the-uss-ranger-from-the-scrap-heap

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