When you take the ferry boat ride from New York to Station Island you see, off to your right, a mass of ships lying quietly, moored to a huge Navy wharf.
When you take the ferry boat ride from New York to Station Island you see, off to your right, a mass of ships lying quietly, moored to a huge Navy wharf. But those vessels play no role in the bustle of the world's greatest part for these are the ships of the Mothball Fleet, warships whose exploits were once the language of Headlines. But, unless the war which nobody wants should come, they will never hurl another broadside.
Somehow, engines of destruction though they are, there is a kind of nostalgia and a feeling of sorrow....
that comes to you as you see them there...at least that was our reaction and so we went over and made some pictures of those.
They are there placidly enough on this warm Spring day.
Looking at them your eye is caught by the cocoons at first the ingenious "moth balling" technique which was used to steal away their vital parts from the iron ship's great enemy, rust. You see the clever arrangement of plastic and the pipes that carry away the death-dealing moisture.
But then a name catches your eye, and then another and-- particularly if the navy was your service--It comes to you. "Fargo", "Fresno"....yes, that's it.
These are the ships that fought the great sea battles of the Pacific, ships of the Seventh Fleet, of the famous Task Force 58. Here are the battle wagons that gave the Navy what may well have been it most magnificent moments for the War in the Pacific was, for the most part, a naval war and those handcuffed giants wrote its chapters in screaming bomb and shell. Names start to come back to you...Halsey, Kinkaid, Nimitz and Mitcher. Do they mean anything to a new generation of youngsters? Guadalcanal and the Solomons, the Gilbert Islands and the Marshalls. Do they study them in school today:
Here's two escort carriers whose names came from names came from those battles, the Saipan and the Guadalcanal. And there- look.- that old lady is one of the greatest of them all, Big Ben, the Franklin. Dear Lord, what a history she has. Her planes smashed Jap shore guns on Guam and helped break the enemy at Oknrawa, She and the rest of her Task Force knocked 84 Japanese planes out of the sky one October day that year--and 30 of them belonged to the Franklin. And there was more...much more.
Standing right here, using instruments and gear which were NOT SEALED AWAY FROM THE ELEMENTS her Skipper watched his planes take off to strike at the enemy in more engagements than anyone can now remember. More flight deck paint is peeling now, but in short years ago the planes roared off it to sink two battleships, two cruisers and a light cruiser at Leyte. A day in later she got a carrier, two days after that another cruiser and two days later another battleship. War memories..honest: ones--are dirty, too. There was the Kamikaze, the suicide plane that hit her on the 29th of that month. And the following March, the bombs that ripped her flight deck to splinters. Seven hundred and forty three of her crew died.