1977-1978 The End of the Rosie
On June 8th, 1977, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT got underway for the last time on her own power. Transiting to Norfolk the last sounding over the IMC of “Now go to your stations all the Special Sea and Anchor Detail” had a chilling ring to it.
As the hangar bays were filled with equipment to be offloaded and the waterline rose ever higher, it was like a death rattle could be heard resounding within her mighty steel hull. On June 26, the ship which was once billed as “the largest, strongest, and fastest” was towed ignominiously up the Elizabeth River to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where torches began to cut at her.
Scheduled for decommissioning on October 1, 1977, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT was struck from the Naval Vessel Register and sold for scrapping in the spring of 1978.
In years when there is no longer even a hulk of what once was the FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, there will always be those of her crew who will remember her and who will say with pride of the highest mark, ‘I SERVED ON THE FDR.”
1977 – Sad Ending:
I served aboard the Roosevelt from October of 1975 until she was turned over to the yards for scrap in 1977. I was the assistant R-Div. Officer and later the R-Div. Officer in the Engineering Dept. As engineers we used to joke that our job was “to keep the pointy end going through the water”. I was on board the night of our collision with a Liberian grain freighter in the Straits of Messina. All of the GQ drills paid off and the repair lockers crews performed flawlessly. Quite a mess with a damaged bow and partially wrecked catwalks on the starboard side. My guys in the HT shop spent several days/nights repairing catwalks while we flew airplanes with the bow of the ship bent! Eventually we pulled into Naples for a couple of weeks for more extensive repairs.
On our last Med cruise rumors were rampant about decommissioning and half way through the Atlantic crossing back to CONUS we were told that not only would she be decommissioned, but she would be sold for scrap. We were all shocked; we had hoped she would be put into mothballs in Portsmouth, VA. or Bremerton, WA.. We decided to do a last high speed run as our steam plant was in excellent shape; far superior to some newer ships like the Saratoga. With all 12 boilers on line we generated more steam than the turbines could use and began lifting safetys in all four engine rooms. So, we took 2 boilers off the line and still broke a high speed run record for the ship. This underlines one of the most frustrating aspects of the decommissioning and scrapping of Rosie; she was in excellent condition from the steam plant to the cats to the JBD’s.
When we left our home port of Mayport with PCS to Norfolk, I was assigned to the engineering group responsible for coordinating the removal of equipment the Navy wanted to keep at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. A lot of people were there for decommissioning, including the current C.O. Captain Rollins (who was promoted from X.O. when we pulled into Portsmouth), the previous C.O. Captian Bourdone, and the C.O. when I came aboard, Captain (promoted to Admiral by then) Easterling. After standdown, when the crew finally left, I was assigned the job of engineering coordinator for Roosevelt at INACTSHIPFAC, Portsmouth to tie up loose ends and then turn over the ship to the scrapper. INACTSHIPFAC kept a full time security and maintenance crew (4-6 men) aboard prior to turning over the ship. Walking through the dark ship with a flashlight, looking at the impossibly large and deep holes which had been cut from the flight deck and hangar deck all the way down to the engineering spaces for removal of turbines, reduction gear, evaporators, generators, et. al. was really erie and sad. I swear, you could still smell the smell of baked bread in the portside main passageway near the forward bakery nearly all the way back to the Engineering Log Room; must have gotten into the paint. But I know I didn’t just imagine that, as others from INACTSHIPFAC who had never been aboard could also smell it!
I spent the last night of her Navy career aboard with the security group; she was anchored at Wiskey Anchorage in the Elizabeth River. The next morning the group from Kearny Shipyards (of Kearny New Jersey) arrived around 0700. I signed several documents as our group was departing. I was the only former crew member aboard and therefore the last crew member to step off the Rosie. I saluted the flag that was no longer there, and walked down the ladder to a waiting boat. Sounds dramatic maybe, but it sure was a sad moment. She was towed away that afternoon but I was not there to see that.
An interesting note; a couple of months later CINCPAC was enquiring of INACTSHIPFAC in Portsmouth and Bremerton looking for a carrier platform for Harriers (possibly a training ship like the Lexington was in Pensacola) and they actually thought we had Roosevelt in mothballs. Talk about a monumental lack of communication! We said to ourselves, we told you so; Roosevelt should not have been scrapped, especially since there were actually Essex class bird farms still in mothballs in Bremerton.
There are a lot of memories I have of my time on Roosevelt; boring and monotonous times on watch in the engineering spaces and on the bridge (CIC watches were more interesting); Christmas on Rosie, the Catholic Chaplin (Father Grosco) who actually looked like the Devil (bald with a goatee) but was a great guy even to Baptists like me, Rev. (Cdr.) Wood the Protestant Chaplin, GQ drills, real fires and a collision at sea, a CAT water break failure that nearly sent the starboard cat through the bow, a bad storm that left fish in the #4 hangar bay, flight ops and the loss of an AV8 Harrier and an A6, good food, bad food, MIDRATS and lousy movies, and a lot of ports of call. It was all work and very little glamour (especially for a Snipe) but it was a way of life and friends that I do miss sometimes.
2001 – Roosevelt Retires
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt(CVA-42) retired recently after a long, distinguished career as a U. S. Navy aircraft carrier. From her entry into the Navy at the New York Navy Yard in 1945 to the end of her career, she served honorably and well. She provided a good home to her officers, her men, her Marines, and her aircraft. Her flight deck was home over the years to a wide variety of birds, propeller-driven and jets, fighters and attack bombers, helicopters and baby AWACs. Now, as she enters her well-earned retirement, she is left with only her memories, and silence.
As she settles into unfamiliar inactivity, she misses the comforting rhythms of her life. No one is standing watch, and her birds have all flown away to other carriers. There is no steam in her boilers, no lights in her compartments or her passageways.
No more will she hear the shrill of the bosun’s pipe, no more “This is a drill, this is a drill. General quarters, general quarters. Forward and up on the starboard side, down and aft on the port side.” No more the excitement of “Fastback, fastback” followed by the exhilaration of watching a Soviet Bear bomber fly by, a Roosevelt F-4 Phantom fighter tucked neatly under each wing like a mother hen with her chicks.
She remembers the cruises, sailing the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Med. She remembers North Atlantic storms, equator crossings (those were fun!), and date line crossings. There were many long days of Flight Ops, her mighty heart pounding, straining to provide the required wind across the flight deck. In her memory she feels the powerful thud of the cats and hears the squall of the arresting cables, feels the controlled crash of her aircraft landing.
She proudly remembers her crews, quiet acts of heroism and bravery, missions accomplished. She grieves over men lost overboard, aircrews that flew away on missions and were never seen again. She recollects Presidential Unit Citations, Meritorious Unit Citations, the Navy “E”.
She also remembers many ports around the world. New York, Philadelphia, Mayport Florida, Barcelona, Athens, Cannes, and many other U. S., Mediterranean, and Asian ports. She remembers parties on the flight deck, the smell of the steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs on the grills. She smiles at the thought of football games on the flight deck and basketball games in the hangar bay.
Work, play, busy days, quiet nights, storms and sunny skies, she has lived them all. Remembering all of the times, good and bad, secure in the knowledge that her younger sisters are carrying on the proud traditions and the duties of defending her country, she settles into her long sleep. Rosey, your sons salute you.
Historical note: FDR was decommissioned in 1977 and sold for scrap.
[©2000,2001 by Gerald L. Busby, Dallas TX USA]
Final bids on Sale No. 16-8005 for EX CV-42 were opened at 1400 hrs. on 14 February 1978. The winning bid was from Union Minerals & Alloy Corp. of New York City in the amount of $2,111,013.37. Rosie Entered the “River Terminal Development Co.” facility, Kearny, NJ for scrapping on 03 May 1978.
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