After nearly 37 years of service, after countless sailors called its humble hull home while carrying out a variety of missions worldwide, the guided-missile cruiser Mobile Bay was decommissioned Thursday during a ceremony at Naval Base San Diego.

Commissioned in 1987, Mobile Bay and its crew, known as “MOBsters,” helped evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1989 and launched 22 Tomahawk missiles in support of Operation Desert Storm, according to the Navy. It launched more Tomahawks in support of the Iraq war in 2003.

Its sailors rescued thousands of displaced people after a volcanic eruption near Subic Bay, Philippines, in 1991 and in 2001 seized 10.5 metric tons of cocaine off the coast of Mexico.

At Thursday’s ceremony, Capt. Brandon Burkett, Mobile Bay’s last commanding officer of the Ticonderoga-class cruiser (CG 53), said it was a privilege to work with the ship’s final crew.

“Those who have gone to sea know that a ship is more than a machine that floats,” Burkett said at the ceremony, according to a Navy release. “When you are away from home for months on end, your ship becomes your home and your protection. We take care of her, and she takes care of us.”

“Simply put, she becomes family,” he added. “It has been an honor to serve with my crew on this exemplary warship.”

The cruiser was named after the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War, when Union forces led by Adm. David Farragut forced a Confederate surrender in a fight that led Farragut to issue the iconic command, “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.”

Union vessels obeyed and rammed the CSS Tennessee at full speed with their prows, leaving the Confederate ship dead in the water.

Mobile Bay’s sponsor, the late Kathryn Jane Maury, helped stand up the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia after her husband, Navy A-6 Intruder pilot Cmdr. Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., was shot down and captured in 1965 during the Vietnam War.

Denton, who retired as a rear admiral and later served as a U.S. senator from Alabama, was famously hauled before the cameras as a propaganda bid by his Vietnamese captors, but defied them to defend U.S. government actions in Vietnam, then blinked in Morse code the word “torture.”

The under-construction destroyer USS Jeremiah Denton honors the Navy Cross recipient’s legacy.

With Mobile Bay’s colors hauled down and the crew disembarked for the last time, the ship will be towed to the Navy’s inactive ship facility in Bremerton, Washington, according to the Navy.

“Everywhere this ship and crew deployed, Mobile Bay sailors served their national well and lived up to the valor enshrined in the Battle of Mobile Bay,” Naval Surface Forces Commander Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener said at Thursday’s ceremony.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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