World War II Navy ship overturns in Lake Erie

A warship that survived Japanese air raids in the Pacific, a typhoon and artillery fire is slowly sinking, far from the scene where it saw combat decades ago: at anchor in Lake Erie in Buffalo, NY

The ship, USS The Sullivans, suffered “a major hull fracture” on Wednesday and began ingesting water at its home, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, for the past several decades, authorities said Thursday.

The fracture occurred aft amidships on the starboard side — in the lower right section of the hull — park chief executive Paul Marzello said at a news conference on Thursday.

The cause of the burglary was unknown. “We have a problem and we don’t know what it is,” he said. The breach causes the ship to tilt backwards and to the right, plunging its side at a sharp angle into the murky waters of the lake.

Mr. Marzello did not immediately respond to a query on Friday.

The park said it worked with marine engineers and members of a shipbuilding company, Bidco Marine Group, as well as city and federal agencies: the fire department, police, Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard.

Work began Thursday morning when Bidco drivers were in the water “to assess the damage,” Mr Marzello said. He said crews were pumping out water at “probably about 13,000 gallons per minute.”

“My optimism says we’re getting better,” he said. “We’re pumping faster now than we’re taking in.”

He suggested that age played a role in the ship’s injury. “The problem is that we have an 80-year-old ship that was supposed to serve about 25 years and she has served us honorably,” he said. “Should she become a museum ship? That was never in the plan. We make it a plan because of what she symbolizes.”

Mayor Byron W. Brown, also speaking at the press conference, said Buffalo is “deeply concerned about the condition” of the ship. “This is an important part of our US Navy heritage,” he said.

Commissioned in 1943, the Sullivans are one of four remaining examples of Fletcher-class destroyers in the world, according to Park.

The ship is 376 feet long, had an armament that included caliber guns and depth charges, and had a crew of 310 sailors.

Named after five brothers who died during the Battle of Guadalcanal, the destroyer left Pearl Harbor in 1944 and served in the Pacific for the remainder of World War II. According to the US Navy, the Sullivans bombed airfields on Iowa Jima, defended against Japanese air raids, searched for submarines, rescued American sailors and Japanese merchant seamen, and supported the invasion of Okinawa.

The ship was also used during the Korean War, assisting carriers as they attacked North Korean supply lines. According to the Navy, the ship received nine battle stars for service in World War II and two for the Korean War.

The ship was the first Navy ship to be named after more than one person, the park said. It was decommissioned in 1965 and donated to Buffalo in 1977, where it has been designated a landmark since 1986.

In 2018, according to local news channel WKBW-TV, the ship began to sink due to a crack in the hull. The park held a fundraiser to pay for the repairs, raising $1 million by the end of 2021.

Repairs for the ship began last summer but halted in October, a delay Mr. Marzello attributed to conditions on the lake.

He said the water needs to be at least 54 degrees for the epoxy fill used in the repairs to adhere to the ship’s steel. Repairs were expected to resume Monday before the new gap developed. The ship is not moored in deep water: when it floats, there is about five feet of water beneath the ship, according to the city’s Department of Public Works.

“We’ll fix the ship,” he said. “She will not perish.”

In addition to The Sullivans, the park is home to three other Navy ships: the USS Little Rock, the USS Croaker, and a PTF-17. Those ships, Mr. Marzello said, “will not be available to visitors until we find out.” World War II Navy ship overturns in Lake Erie

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