The USS Independence is now on its way to the scrapyard, ending an important era in the history of U.S. Navy aircraft carrier operations.
I served on both the Ranger and Constellation, which also appear in this story of how the old-line "oil burner" diesel ships are finally phased out of active service.
Only two fossil-fueled carriers will remain. Still in Bremerton is the USS Kitty Hawk, which the Navy is holding in reserve until the new USS Gerald R. Ford joins the fleet. A Wilmington, North Carolina, group is lobbying to place the ship, decommissioned since 2009, as a floating museum alongside the battleship North Carolina. The USS John F. Kennedy was decommissioned in 2007 and is mothballed in Philadelphia. The Navy placed it on donation hold for use as a museum or memorial.
Those are the last two carriers that are good candidates to become museum ships because nuclear-powered ships that followed will get too torn up during removal of their reactors. The Independence wasn't in shape to become a tourist ship because many of its parts were stripped to support the active fleet, and it's been in the mothball fleet for nearly two decades with minimal upkeep.
The Independence, commissioned Jan. 10, 1959, was the fourth and final Forrestal-class carrier. The ship made one tour off Vietnam in 1965, carried out airstrikes against Syrian forces during the Lebanese Civil War and enforced the no-fly zone over southern Iraq as part of Operation Southern Watch. In 1998, it was decommissioned in Bremerton, where it remained until Saturday.