A FLETCHER class potential historic vessel bites the dust

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A FLETCHER class potential historic vessel bites the dust

Postby Malcom » Thu Apr 12, 2012 6:22 am

The New York Times published today a follow-up article to one from 2008 about the fate of a FLETCHER class destroyer on museum 'hold' in Mexico. Ex- JOHN ROGERS, which was the focus of a Mobile, Alabama museum group has been scrapped. The following is today's update and a link to the 2008 article is at the end of the excerpt. Let's hope TUSK and CUTLASS do not meet a similar fate - TAJ.


Built in Texas in 1942 and commissioned in early 1943, the John Rodgers was one of 175 Fletcher-class destroyers that served mostly in the Pacific during World War II. In just a few years the John Rodgers amassed quite a combat résumé, participating in a dozen major battles in the western Pacific, including Guam, Leyte Gulf, Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

After more than two decades of retirement, the ship was given to Mexico in 1968 and rechristened Cuitláhuac. The ship served an additional 33 years interdicting drug traffickers and enforcing Mexico’s maritime borders, and eventually became the last Fletcher-class destroyer still on active duty.

The Mexican Navy decommissioned Cuitláhuac in 2001, and that is when the problems began. The ship was well known to American veterans because of its extraordinary longevity and its prolific role in the Pacific war, so there was much discussion on veterans’ Web sites that a preservation group would step forward to repatriate the ship as a museum.
However, any group trying to save an old warship faces daunting obstacles, and the John Rodgers was no exception: it was laced with asbestos, toxic lubricants, solvents, fuels and lead-based paint, all of which must be removed before preservationists can work. Dangerous equipment was wedged into small dark spaces, serious rust damage weakened the hull, small leaks and other structural problems abounded. The required permits and licenses alone would discourage even the saltiest potential ship owners.

Then there was its erstwhile savior, an American nonprofit company with virtually no assets or maritime expertise but a persuasive patriotism-laced Web site.
Fees, penalties and liens began to pile up, and eventually anyone contemplating saving the ship would have needed more than $2 million and a lot of legal work just to get a clear title. Towing the ship to the United States would be another dangerous and expensive challenge — in the 1960s and ’70s, several retired Fletchers grounded or sank while being towed.
This week the captain of the port of Lázaro Cárdenas, Miguel Ángel Martínez Hernández, revealed that the ship was dismantled in 2010 and 2011, and that its scrap steel was sent to a smelter in the northern city of Monterrey.

Now only four Fletcher-class destroyers — which were 376 feet long and carried a crew of about 310 — remain: three are floating museums in Boston, Buffalo and Baton Rouge, La., and one is a museum in Athens honoring the Greek Navy.
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