- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — A group of veterans who served on the nation’s first supercarrier say their decade-long effort to bring the great ship to Baltimore as a floating museum has failed.

The veterans told the Baltimore Examiner that the Navy likely will sink the USS Forrestal for use as an artificial reef.

“We’re up against a brick wall we can’t beat,” said Jack Lawler, a board member of the nonprofit USS Forrestal Museum Inc. “I guess they found it was better to sink Forrestal than to save 50 years of history.”

Launched in December 1954, the Forrestal served in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and off the coast of Vietnam. It was the first carrier built to accommodate modern aircraft and became the model for the carriers currently in service.

During its service in Vietnam, an onboard fire took the lives of 140 sailors. Among the survivors of that fire was John McCain, a lieutenant commander who would become a U.S. senator from Arizona and Republican presidential candidate.

The ship was decommissioned in 1993, and the nonprofit group was created consisting of former officers and crew members and other supporters.

Touting Maryland’s rich maritime history, the group had proposed anchoring the Forrestal at sites such as Locust Point, Port Covington, near the Bay Bridge, Fort McHenry and, most recently, Baltimore County’s Sparrows Point peninsula, which won the support of activists lobbying against a planned liquid natural gas plant there.

The Navy donates ships to cities, states and nonprofit groups that submit applications and funding plans, but a Naval official told the Baltimore Examiner in October that the Forrestal was removed from the official donation-approved list because of apparent lack of interest.

“Given that the ship had been decommissioned since 1993 and that the Navy can’t continue to retain the ship indefinitely in Newport, Rhode Island, we cannot support putting the ship back on donation hold,” said Katie Dunnigan, a spokeswoman for the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Officials told the Examiner that some of the applications submitted had technical problems.

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