Navel warship sales for its final voyage

June 26, 2008 7:52:32 PM PDT
If you were in the right place at the right time on Thursday, you may have seen a naval warship passing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a noteworthy event, because it is the ship's final voyage. The U.S.S. Horne began its life in San Francisco Bay more than 40 years ago.

In the life of a Navy ship, there will ultimately be a day like this.

"They all get old. Got to do something with them," says a man.

You may have seen her in mothballs, but there is a good chance you never heard of the cruiser once known as U.S.S. Horne. She's one of those ships that, despite four tours in Vietnam, never even impressed historians.

"It didn't do much except follow carriers and rescue pilots and be there in case something did happen," said Kit Bonner, a Maritime historian.

In Richmond, on Thursday, a small crew prepared the Horne for one last voyage that will conclude in the depths off of Hawaii. A departure lacking in pomp and circumstance. In fact, just one man who served aboard Horne showed up see her off.

"It's always sad to see a ship that looked so beautiful at one time, to be in this shape," says retired Commander Jim Barrett.

In San Francisco, Horne is significant as the last ship built at Hunters Point, in 1962. For Barrett, she's more personal, as his last deployment.

"It's a home, it's a family. It just becomes a part of your life," said Barrett.

From some angles, Horne still looks imposing, but not upon closer inspection. Not with guns chopped off and missile launchers vacant, and rust creeping up from the water line.

This is not the most glamorous ending for a warship, but better than some alternatives. It's better than being stripped apart and sold piece by piece. Instead the Horne will be towed out to the Pacific, and will go down in one piece as target practice.

"It's still intact, it's still there. It's gone, but it's still there," said Barrett.

And among sailors, that matters. It's not about she will sink from friendly fire. It's how when Horne does go down, she will do so with a purpose. Based on her history, it's a fitting way to go.

"They're not all U.S.S. Constitutions or Missouris. Most of them are just Hornes," said Bonner.

U.S.S. Horne history
U.S.S. Horne webpage


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