The Navy unloaded its first supercarrier Tuesday for 1 cent.
Texas shipbreakers earned a penny from the Navy to dismantle and recycle the remaining hulk that was formerly the aircraft carrier Forrestal, a ship that sailed to wars and crises over 38 years and which suffered one of the Navy’s worst tragedies: a 1967 fire that killed 134 sailors.
Despite its service over 21 deployments, the ship’s legacy is forever tied to the flight deck conflagration that raged for hours after a rocket mounted under wing accidentally fired, slamming into another jet and unleashing a fuel blaze that cooked off bombs. The flames and explosions killed many of the ship’s best firefighters, who had rushed into action. One aviator, then-Lt. Cmdr. John McCain, escaped by sliding down the nose of his A-4 Skyhawk. Because of reflashes, it took 16 hours to declare the fire out.
Named for James Forrestal, former Navy secretary and the first secretary of defense, Forrestal has been part of the Navy’s lexicon ever since. The incident showed the danger of fighting a fuel fire with seawater, as some crew members did, leading the Navy to develop wash-down sprayers for flattops. And it showcased the importance of using foam to extinguish fuel blazes.
Footage from the blaze is still shown to recruits to convey the dangers of shipboard fires.
Forrestal was decommissioned in 1993. It called Newport, R.I., home until 2010, when it was moved to its current Philadelphia location. The ship scrapers, All Star Metals, will tow the 1,067-foot long Forrestal to their recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas, Naval Sea Systems said in a Tuesday news release.
Two other conventionally-powered carriers, ex-Saratoga and ex-Constellation, are also up for scrapping.
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(Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the transaction between the Navy and All Star Metals. The Navy paid All Star Metals 1 cent to scrap the ex-Forrestal.)