Haze Gray Photo Feature

Ships of Mare Island

At times since its closure, Mare Island Naval Shipyard has housed a variety of decomissioned US Navy vessels awaiting their final disposition. These have included ships of every description, from aircraft carriers down to frigates and berthing ships. In many cases, Mare Island has been these ships' final port, as many of the vessels have been sunk as targets.

Kirk Rattenne has provided photos of Mare Island's recent visitors, and some other naval vessels seen passing by Mare Island. In the future we will be creating a larger feature about the shipyard itself, its history, and its current state.

The feature is divided into the following sections:
(ship types in parentheses)
Carriers and Amphibs (CV, LPH, LSD)
Cruisers (CG)
Destroyers and Frigates (DDG, FFG)
Auxiliaries (AO, IX)
Other Ships & Craft (LCU, SSBN)
The Shipyard
Passers-By and Visitors (ATF, ARD, BB)
Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet

Carriers and Amphibs

 [THUMBNAIL] The carrier Oriskany (CV 34) was the largest ship at Mare Island in recent years. The carrier, decomissioned in 1976 and stricken from the Naval Vessels Register in 1989, was sold for scrap in 1993 and again in 1995. The second scrapper defaulted and the ship was returned to the Navy in 1997 and moved to Mare Island for storage. She departed Mare Island on May 1999, en route to the MARAD reserve fleet at Beaumont, Texas. Today she is the last of the Essex class carriers owned by the Navy. These photos were taken on 17 September 1998.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of Oriskany. Her mast has been cut down and toppled on deck beside the island, and her starboard elevator is folded up (abaft the island).

 [THUMBNAIL] Close up view of the flight deck galleries and hangar deck, port side, forward. The elevator at the forward end of the angled flight deck at the right edge of the photo.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closer view of the island and toppled mast.

 [THUMBNAIL] A view of Oriskany's stern.

 [THUMBNAIL] The stricken amphibious assault ship Tripoli (LPH 10) at Mare Island on 17 September 1999. Tripoli was decommissioned and stricken in 1995 and leased to the US Army in 1997, reportedly for use in missile tests. She has not been employed in this role, and has remained at Mare Island ever since. Currently she is the only large ship at Mare.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closer view of Tripoli. Like Oriskany, her mast has been cut down and her aircraft elevator is folded up.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closeup of the island and folded port side elevator.

 [THUMBNAIL] Tripoli, port side midships/aft view.

 [THUMBNAIL] Thomaston (LSD 28) was another scrap-default ship moored at Mare Island. Decommissioned in 1984 and stricken in 1992, she was sold in 1995 to the same scrapper as Oriskany. When the scrapper defaulted she was moved to Mare Island, and shortly after this 3 September 1998 photo she went to the Suisun Bay reserve fleet, where she remains.


 [THUMBNAIL] Oklahoma City (CG 5) was the last of the converted guided missile cruisers owned by the Navy. Originally commissioned in 1944 as CL 92, a gun cruiser, she was converted to a gun/missile/flagship configuration and redesignated CLG 5 in 1957-1960. After much service off Vietnam, she became the last CLG to decommission, on 15 December 1979. After a number of years in various reserve and target fleets, she was moored at Mare Island briefly before being towed to the Pacific and sunk as a target, 25 March 1999. These photos were taken 29 October 1998.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closeup of Oklahoma City's bow. The triple 6 inch/47 caliber turret is the sole survivor of four she originally carried. In her gun/missile configuration, a dual 5"/38cal mount was installed just ahead of the bridge; it was removed after she left service.

 [THUMBNAIL] Oklahoma City's superstructure and masts. The large, bulky superstructure marks her as one of the four flagship-equipped CLGs. Many of the missile and gun directors formerly mounted atop the superstructure have been stripped away over the years since her decommissioning.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closeup of Oklahoma City's aft superstructure. The massive directors for her Talos missile battery are still installed. The lower level of the superstructure is the missile magazine and finning space.

 [THUMBNAIL] A more modern cruiser, Sterett (CG 31), was at Mare Island briefly in early 2000. Steret was decommissioned and stricken in 1994, just two years after she completed a major modernization. Since then she has been in MARAD's Suisun Bay reserve fleet, and is currently on "donation hold" for possible preservation. In all of these 3 March 2000 photos, she is moored outboard General Hugh J. Gaffey (IX 507) (see below).

 [THUMBNAIL] Sterett's bow and forward superstructure. The Mk10 Terrier/Standard-ER launcher remains in place.

 [THUMBNAIL] Sterett's superstructure and stacks. Her masts have been entirely stripped away, so any restoration effort will face a major challenge.

 [THUMBNAIL] A view of Sterett's fantail and helo deck. The 5"/54cal gun previously installed aft has been removed.

Destroyers and Frigates

 [THUMBNAIL] A group of partially-scrapped DDGs and FFGs at Mare Island, 12 May 1999. These ships are the former Henry B. Wilson (DDG 7), Towers (DDG 9), Ramsey (FFG 2), and Schofield (FFG 3). Along with Lynde McCormick (DDG 8), these ships were sold for conversion to floating power plants. When the conversion fell through, they were returned to the Navy and moved to Mare Island to await disposal.

 [THUMBNAIL] One of the partially converted FFGs at Mare Island, 19 May 1999. It's not known which of the FFGs this is. Ramsey (FFG 2) was towed away and sunk as a target on 15 June 2000; Schofield met the same fate on 2 November 1999.

 [THUMBNAIL] Stripped hulks Towers (DDG 9) and Lynde McCormick (DDG 8) at Mare Island on 19 May 1999. Towers has since been moved to the MARAD Suisun Bay reserve fleet to await disposal.

 [THUMBNAIL] Lynde McCormick (DDG 8) moored outboard of John Paul Jones (DDG 32), January 2001. Lynde McCormick was painted green during her ill-fated conversion. John Paul Jones was one of four Forrest Sherman (DD 931) class ships converted to DDGs. Although decommissioned in 1982, she survived until sunk as a target 31 January 2001.

 [THUMBNAIL] Tugs moving the hulk of Lynde McCormick (DDG 8) on 20 February 2001, as the ship is towed away for the final time.

 [THUMBNAIL] The fleet tug Sioux (T-ATF 171) takes Lynde McCormick in tow, 20 Feb 2001. The venerable DDG hulk was sunk as a target four days later, 24 Feb 2001.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of Lynde McCormick leaving Mare Island for the last time.

 [THUMBNAIL] A good view showing the completely stripped condition of the former DDG.

 [THUMBNAIL] Sioux and Lynde McCormick head out to sea for the last time.

 [THUMBNAIL] A much more intact DDG, the former John King (DDG 3), at Mare Island in 1998. This destroyer was decommissioned in 1990, stricken in 1993, and sold for scrapping in 1999.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closeup of John King's bow and forward superstructure.

 [THUMBNAIL] Midships view, John King. Her masts and antennas are quite intact.

 [THUMBNAIL] John King's stern and aft superstructure. Most of her armament was midships and aft - an ASROC launcher, a 5"/54cal gun, and a Mk11 Tartar/SM-1MR missile launcher.


 [THUMBNAIL] Hulk of the WWII-era fleet oiler Ashtabula (AO 51) at Mare Island, 30 September 1999. Ashtabula decommissioned in 1982 and was sold for scrapping in 1995. The oiler was only 20% scrapped when the shipbreaker went into default, and she was returned to the Navy 27 September 1999.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closer view of Ashtabula's partially-scrapped bow. The extreme bow is gone, along with part of the main deck forward, most of the forward superstructure, and all masts and kingposts.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of Ashtabula's bow.

 [THUMBNAIL] Ashtabula's aft superstructure, which remained partially intact.

 [THUMBNAIL] Ashtabula was expended in a target exercise on 14 October 2000. The firing exercise took place off San Diego, and included ships from the US Navy (O'Kane (DDG 77), Curts (FFG 38), and Thach (FFG 43)), Royal Navy (Sutherland (F81), Cornwall (F99) and Newcastle (D87)), and French navy (Aconit (F713)). The old oiler is seen here after two hits from Harpoon missiles, each of which has opened a large hole in her starboard side.

 [THUMBNAIL] This view shows a closeup of the oiler's stern, where a Sea Skua missile scored a hit. The missile was equipped with a penetration warhead, so it exploded inside the ship, causing major internal destruction but leaving relatively little external evidence. In all, the oiler was subjected to eight Harpoon missiles, two Standard (SM-2) missiles, three Sea Skua missiles, four bombs from S-3 Vikings, and over 100 rounds of gunfire from 3", 100mm, and 5" guns.

 [THUMBNAIL] Ashtabula was scuttled on October 15th. Despite the terrific pounding she suffered from a force of seven US, British and French ships, Ashtabula remained afloat the next day. She was finally sent to the bottom by demolition charges.

 [THUMBNAIL] Ashtabula takes her final plunge after the SINKEX off San Diego. The frigate in the background is Thach (FFG 43).

 [THUMBNAIL] The barracks hulk, former troopship, General Hugh J. Gaffey (IX 507) at Mare Island, 6 October 1999. Commissioned in 1944 as USS Admiral W.L. Capps (AP 121), she was decommissioned and stricken in 1946. Transferred to the Army, she was renamed General Hugh J. Gaffey, and retained that name when returned to the Navy in 1950. After nearly two decades shuttling troops and their families across the Pacific, she was again stricken in 1969. In 1978 she once again returned to the Naval Vessels Register, as a barracks hulk, designated IX 507. This service lasted until 1993, when she was stricken for the final time. After being sold, partially scrapped, and returned to the Navy, she was finally expended as a target on 16 June 2000.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closeup of Gaffey's bow, now devoid of kingposts and masts.

 [THUMBNAIL] A view of the superstructure, with all funnels, davits, masts, etc. removed.

 [THUMBNAIL] Gaffey's stern.

Other Ships & Craft

 [THUMBNAIL] A group of US Army LCU's moored at Mare Island, 20 May 1999. They are Malvern Hill (LCU 2025), Missionary Ridge (LCU 2028), Monterey (LCU 2030) and Paulus Hook (LCU 2033).

 [THUMBNAIL] Launch of the ballistic missile submarine Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN 658) at Mare Island, 23 October 1965.

 [THUMBNAIL] The sail from Mariano G. Vallehjo at Mare Island in 1998. The submarine was decommissioned and stricken in 1995 and scrapped, but the sail was saved and will become part of a memorial at the shipyard.

Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet

 [THUMBNAIL] A general view of the Suisun Bay reserve fleet in 1998. Many of ships passing through Mare Island are en route to or from the nearby Suisun Bay fleet.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closer view of the Suisun Bay fleet. This view shows a variety of ships, including numerous oilers, a tug, an icebreaker, two LSDs, two Knox (FF 1052) class frigates, a destroyer, a destroyer tender, and the cruiser Oklahoma City.

 [THUMBNAIL] A different view of the fleet in 2000. This is a "nest" composed mostly of fleet oilers.

The Shipyard

 [THUMBNAIL] A general view of the Mare Island yard in 1998. Tripoli is at right.

 [THUMBNAIL] A view of the yard's abandoned shipbuilding ways and one of the drydocks. The cranes are parked on either side of the drydock gate.

 [THUMBNAIL] View looking up one of the shipbuilding ways.

 [THUMBNAIL] Mare Island shops and a crane.

 [THUMBNAIL] One of the large cranes at the shipyard.

Passers-By and Visitors

 [THUMBNAIL] The fleet tug Sioux (T-ATF 171) often tows ships leaving Mare Island. She is seen on 20 February 2001 towing away the hulk of Lynde McCormick (DDG 8).

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of Sioux on 20 February 2001.

 [THUMBNAIL] Recently spotted passing through the area was the floating drydock San Onofre (ARD 30), seen on 20 March 2001. The WWII-era drydock was stricken in 1997 and has been sold to Mexico. She is seen under tow from Suisun Bay to the open sea.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of San Onofre. Docks of this type had ship-like bows to facilitate towing and a minimal superstructure and "bridge". Many of these docks have been employed to support submarines.

 [THUMBNAIL] San Onofre heads off into the haze towards the sea.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another recent passer-by was the battleship Iowa (BB 61), on 21 April 2001. After a long ocean tow from Newport, Rhode Island, the mothballed battleship arrived in the San Francisco Bay area. She will be laid up in the Suisun Bay reserve fleet for a few years, and then will likely become a museum in the San Francisco area.

 [THUMBNAIL] A broadside view of IOWA arriving on 21 April. Note that her mast has been cut down significantly, no doubt to reduce her height for passage under bridges.

 [THUMBNAIL] Passing under the bridge, Iowa heads towards the Suisun Bay reserve fleet. The removed section of her mast can be seen lying on deck near the stern.

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This section of the HG&UW site created and maintained by Andrew Toppan.
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Photos Copyright © 1998-2003, Kirk Rattenne. All Rights Reserved.
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