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Fate of Forrestal unclear as it heads south

Jun. 16, 2010 - 07:45AM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 16, 2010 - 07:45AM  |  
Crew members fight a series of fires and explosions on the Forrestal's after flight deck, in the Gulf of Tonkin on July 29, 1967. The Navy has not decided what to do with the decommissioned carrier.
Crew members fight a series of fires and explosions on the Forrestal's after flight deck, in the Gulf of Tonkin on July 29, 1967. The Navy has not decided what to do with the decommissioned carrier. (NAVY)
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The aircraft carrier Forrestal is underway for the first time in nearly 12 years.

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The aircraft carrier Forrestal is underway for the first time in nearly 12 years.

The decommissioned carrier was towed from Naval Station Newport's Pier One on Tuesday and is scheduled to arrive at the Naval Sea Systems Command's inactive ships facility in Philadelphia on Friday.

The Navy has said the ship will be disposed of, but exactly how the Navy will get rid of the 55-year old ship has yet to be decided.

But a 2009 request for information by the Inactive Ship's Program office outlined two options: sink the ship as a reef, or sell it for scrap.

The reef option seems to be fading at the moment most likely because of the cost. Four years ago, the Navy sunk the former carrier Oriskany off the coast of Pensacola, Fla., as a reef and diving attraction in 2006 after spending $12 million to clean the ship of hazardous materials.

The Forrestal was the Navy's first supercarrier and was laid down in Newport News, Va., in 1952 and was commissioned Sept. 29, 1955. Forrestal, for former Navy secretary and first Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, served in active status for more than 38 years. It was decommissioned Sept. 11, 1993 and was offered up for museum donation.

Though several organizations attempted to get the ship, the Navy deemed none of the efforts were viable and removed the ship from "donation hold" in 1999 a year after she was berthed in Newport, R.I., for storage.

The ship was the scene of a terrible fire on July 29, 1967. The ship was operating off the coast of Vietnam when a Zuni rocket accidentally fired while on the flight deck and ignited a fire.

The fire caused a massive chain reaction on the ship's stern as numerous armed bombs cooked off. When the fires were extinguished by the heroic action of the crew, 134 sailors had lost their lives, and another 64 were injured — the largest loss of life on a U.S. aircraft carrier since World War II.

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