The vessel, which was commissioned in 1961 but dismantled in 2009, arrived in Texas, Tuesday, after being torn by a tugboat from Bremerton, Washington, MyRGV reported. ISL hosted a celebration for the arrival of her at Isla Blanca Park, located on South Padre Island as she embarked on the 17-mile canal that leads into the Port of Brownsville following her journey of 16,000 miles. Many of the people present were Navy veterans waiting to catch an opportunity to see the final scene of the vessel on which they served.
Navy Veteran Juan J. Montelago was stationed aboard the ship from 1990 and 1994, and said to MyRGV that the scene is “a tearjerker.”
“It's emotional because that's the ship there that made me who I am,” Montelongo stated. “I was able to be part of a group of people that I loved and to this day I try to keep in touch.”
Veteran Jeff Kyle, of Spokane, Washington, made the journey to Texas to glimpse of the vessel that he was on from 1980 until 1982, according to MyRGV.
“It's a sad day,” said Kyle, who was the flight deck manager on Kitty Hawk. “It was the first ship I worked on. It was a great time.”
The aircraft carrier was involved in the Vietnam War and earned a Presidential Unit Citation in 1969 for her “exceptional performance during the fierce fighting of the enemy's Tet Offensive,” the U.S. Navy noted. A decade later, in 2003, it was announced that the USS Kitty Hawk was active in the Iraq War, before being taken off the scene in 2009. After that she was transferred by the Naval Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Washington, where she remained until making her way to Texas in January, during which she was torn across the southeastern part of South America.
ISL makes up the EMR group and has secured the U.S. Navy contracts to remove the ship as well as its sister ship, the USS John F. Kennedy in the year 2000, MyRGV reported at the time. Contrary to the claims that ISL bought each of the ships for only one penny, the company claimed in a post on Facebook in January that the firm “is providing a recycling service to the US Navy at the lowest cost possible to the US taxpayer (1cent).”
International Shipbreaking Limited's purchase in 2021 of Kitty Hawk dealt a final blow to veterans' wishes to turn the ship an art museum, like the five other museums for aircraft carriers in the United States, USNI News previously published. One of the challenges facing efforts to transform the vessel into a museum was finding a city that could house the super-carrier that didn't already have an existing museum for aircraft carriers, Ryan Szimanski, the director of the executive committee of the Historic Naval Ships Association, said to USNI News at the time.
The USS Kitty Hawk will be the fourth “supercarrier” that International Shipbreaking Limited takes apart to support the Navy as stated by ISL president Chris Green in a press announcement from EMR.
“We take great pride in having been awarded another US Navy ship recycling project,” he said. “I will personally make sure that our recycling operations are as respectful as possible to the men and women who served our country onboard this mighty ship.”
“The Kitty Hawk was not only the last commissioned US Navy conventionally powered aircraft carrier, but it was also the last ship in its class to be decommissioned,” Business Insider noted.
An ISL spokesperson stated that the efforts to tear down the USS Kitty Hawk will start in July, and be completed within an year and a quarter, as per ISL.