Another group emerges to try to save USS Ranger from scrapyard

By Ed Friedrich
Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash.

BREMERTON, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — Despite the Navy already selling USS Ranger to a dismantling company, a new, well-funded group has emerged to try saving the retired aircraft carrier.

The Navy announced Dec. 22 that it was paying a penny and the value of the metal for International Shipbreaking to tow the ship away and scrap it. It’s scheduled to depart Puget Sound Naval Shipyard’s mothball fleet on a five-month trip to Brownsville, Texas, within the next two months.

Ranger, decommissioned in 1993 after more than 35 years of service, was put up for donation in 2004. The USS Ranger Foundation raised funds for eight years to convert the ship into a Columbia River museum. It raised $100,000 of the $35 million it budgeted, and Ranger was designated for dismantling.

That didn’t stop an earlier group, Save the USS Ranger CV-61, from starting a petition drive and getting the ship named to the Washington Heritage Register.

Now, just weeks until a tug arrives to tow away the ship, comes Top Gun Super Carrier of Long Beach Inc. The group wants a “stay of execution” to give it time to work out a move to Long Beach, California, said project manager Michael B. Shanahan.

Shanahan envisions a waterfront attraction modeled after the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, where he lives, only better. The huge space would provide a canvas for technology companies, which are among firms that have pledged $14 million to the effort, to create nonstatic displays.

“We’re trying to be an experience and destination point of the city,” Shanahan said. “We’ve seen the success of the Midway in San Diego. We think we can do that and more in Long Beach.”

The City Council has discussed the Ranger, but taken no action, Shanahan said. The group is seeking an emergency donation hold from the Navy to allow time it to pull a plan together.

“We’re trying to convince NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) that this is a cultural icon that deserves not to be scrapped,” Shanahan said.

NAVSEA officials told the other Ranger group that it’s too late to spare the ship, no matter the historical designations or petition signatures it receives. The new group’s money doesn’t change anything.

“We have awarded the contact to scrap the ship, and we’re not entertaining any additional offers,” NAVSEA spokesman Chris Johnson said.

Nonetheless, the groups are uniting, after initial sparring, for a final push.

“We’re working with them because they give us the best chance to save our ship,” said Howard Fisk, a Lacey resident and leader of the older group. “We had the drive. They have the money and a parking space for a boat. Until the day they tow her out of Bremerton, we’re going to keep up our fight.”

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