For the second time in seven months, area residents gathered along the beaches and jetties on South Padre Island to witness a piece of floating history, as the USS Saratoga made its final journey through the shipping channel early Friday morning.
One of only four Forrestal class supercarriers built by the U.S. Navy in the 1950’s, the Saratoga’s final destination was the Port of Brownsville, where the venerable warship will be cut up and sold for scrap.
Fabian Diaz of Brownsville brought his young son and daughter to see the ship being towed through the channel. “I’ve always been fascinated by these huge ships and thought it would be a fun activity and a learning opportunity for my kids to see the event,” he said. San Benito resident Lorena Mendes came to see the stately ship on it final passage, remarking “one of my friend’s grandfather served on this ship, living abroad for more than a year when he was in the service. I came to honor him and show my respect.”
The Saratoga, commissioned in 1956 served for 37 years and completed 22 deployments. She spent most of her service in the Mediterranean but was also in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. It was decommissioned in 1994 and had since been in storage in Newport, Rhode Island. The ship departed on Aug. 21, with the tugboat Signet Warhorse III accompanying the ship on its trip to Brownsville. Unfortunately, no official ceremonies were held upon its arrival in Brownsville. According to Arnie Tyler of ESCO Marine, Inc., this was due to space limitations, and also that ceremonies were held in Rhode Island before its departure.
Enrique Castro of Matamoras was at the Port of Brownsville to greet the ship upon its arrival and was surprised at the lack of reception for the USS Saratoga’s arrival. “I don’t understand why they have to cut it up – why can’t they turn it into a museum or a tourist destination? It seems like a sad ending for such a historical ship.” In fact, there were several attempts to turn the ship into a museum over the years, but all efforts were unsuccessful. Though there was no formal reception, ESCO said veterans and any members of the public who wish to visit the ship can visit the port to see the storied vessel before it is dismantled