Off Beat: Namesake city has no place for USS Vancouver

By Andrea Damewood and Tom Vogt

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It’s a notion that gets floated from time to time, and now it has resurfaced.

Let’s bring the decommissioned USS Vancouver here.

The idea came up again recently, Jan Bader, the city’s program and policy manager, said a few days ago.

History and maritime buffs have long dreamed of bringing the 552-foot vessel here for restoration and a resting place.

Otherwise, a 2007 Columbian story reported, the warship “will be eventually sunk as a target if nobody claims her.”

It would be an inglorious end for a ship that served our country for almost 30 years.

The Vancouver (the ship) was not part of the city’s World War II shipyard era.

She was built in the New York Naval Shipyard and commissioned in 1963 as an amphibious warfare transport, a class of ships named after U.S. cities. She visited here once, in 1963.

The Vancouver’s missions bookended the Vietnam War. She helped land the first U.S. combat troops at Da Nang in 1965, and earned 11 battle stars.

The Vancouver also was part of the war’s frantic finish in April 1975, serving as a landing site for helicopters packed with evacuees. Her crew processed 2,200 refugees in three days, according to a Navy website.

The ship was taken out of service in 1992. She’s in storage near San Francisco as a new generation of amphibious transports carry on her role. These ships have a new design element, by the way: It’s the first group of major Navy vessels built using the metric system.

While Bader appreciates the sentiment behind the ship’s advocates, she wonders: “Where would we put it? How are we going to pay for it?”

How would the city -- which hasn’t got money for its parks department, let alone millions lying around for ship restoration -- come up with the cash?

And, where would we park a 552-foot warship?

Well, we’re no help on the cash, but we were thinking about one possible berth in the Columbia River. The USS Vancouver could be anchored at the washed-out section of the Renaissance Trail.

If we spent just enough to restore her weapons systems, there’s no way scofflaws would keep skirting barriers to traipse along the barricaded portions of the trail.

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.