February 2004

 

USS ENGLAND FACES THE BREAKERS
By Dennis O'Brien

This will no doubt come as terribly sad news to you all. I know that it is terribly sad for me. Last September the contract for scrapping our ship, USS ENGLAND, was awarded to International Shipbreaking Limited, Brownsville, TX. This is verified via NAVSEA Shipbuilding Support Office (http://www.nvr.navy.mil/nvrships/details/CG22.htm ). She is apparently there now.

This news came to me via Ken Deshaies of the USS LEAHY (http://www.ussleahy.com/Leahy.html) web site from Scott Kowerduck who provided the picture below of what appears to be our ship ( larger version can be viewed by clicking the picture). Thank you to both of you!


The picture was taken on 14 January 2004 from the AMFELS Yard,
across the ship channel, from a height of 140 feet above the water.

This picture hit me hard. Our proud ship could have served one more time as a target rather than suffer the indignity of the breakers. It is a sad place for the legacy of Ensign John Charles England, USS ENGLAND DE-635 and our own beloved ship to rest. Perhaps it will cause us to work harder to return that legacy to the sea. However, for now I imagine we'll just mourn her passing.

USS ENGLAND was my home for about three and a half years during a time when I was young and invariably foolish, perhaps more so than most, or maybe not. I hated it though I should not have. It showed, though I wish it had not. I was a rebellious child then, as some of you will remember, and did not know that later this ship would have so many memories, good and bad, that would mean so much to me when I finally did grow up.

I would guess most if not all of us share similar feelings here and about our pasts way back when we were young, rambunctious warriors of the sea. We were part of a Navy far different than the one of today. I like to think of us nearly as pirates! We were a rowdy bunch and this is something about which we are still very proud! We share the legacy and the memories, the experience, the sadness, the exuberance and this ship! These are complicated thoughts and feelings. I'll make no attempt here to describe them. I think we can't explain them to others and with each other there is no need. We all just know it. We save our speech for things that will make us laugh and trade knowing glances to communicate the rest. If we were together today, tearful eyes would share those glances. I wish we could. It would be easier.

I remember visiting ENGLAND in the reserve fleet in May of 2000. She was next to HALSEY and I was leaving her for what seems now to be the last time. I had a moment where I was alone on her quarterdeck. I said good-bye to her. She, along with the other CGs rocked gently and moaned dolefully. She was sad, I thought, and she missed all of us. She was sad to be left alone again.

Tonight I sit sipping bourbon and typing this one article newsletter looking at pictures of our ship in her glory thinking about her and all of us. It is sad! God knows I feel it. However, we're also lucky and can be happy with her memory. USS ENGLAND gave us experiences we'd have never had without her. These were both good and bad but they helped shape us each into what we are and live as today. We're still here and the ENGLAND legacy rests with us! For most of us if not all of us USS ENGLAND gave us a lot for which to be thankful. We'll share that in knowing glances in Charleston in 2005.

"There'll always be an ENGLAND in the United States Navy."
 
                                               CNO Admiral E. J. King 1944