What has happened?
Over the past several years, the USS Ranger Foundation worked to save an important historical naval asset and bring it to the Pacific Northwest as the keystone of a community heritage project. Everyone involved was fully aware that making something this big happen would take a significant effort by all and would involve overcoming many challenges.
Last summer, the USS Ranger Foundation submitted a Phase II Donation Application. As you know, the Navy decided not to proceed with the donation of ex-USS Ranger to the Foundation. The Navy has since issued a ship-demolition RFP that includes Ranger.
What do we do next?
The Navy's decision may have appeared to be an end to the effort. We did not believe it should be. In response to the Navy's decision we reached out to our community and all those involved with the project to determine where to go from here.
The USS Ranger Foundation Board of Directors, at its most recent meeting, decided to continue investigating the possibility of having one of the two decommissioned Tarawa-class ships transferred to donation hold when it is released from Reserve-B status. Our preference is ex-USS Tarawa (LHA-1), the lead ship of the class. The Foundation's intention at that time would be to prepare and submit a donation request based on the Fairview site which held so much promise as a future home for Ranger.
What would this mean for Rangermen?
The Ranger herself, fourth in a long and distinguished line, may not be physically preserved. Her memory and accomplishments, and the memory and accomplishments of all who served in her, are not lost, and will not be lost. The intent of the Foundation is to provide a focal point for those memories in the form of a Ranger Ready Room, and similar ready rooms dedicated to other supercarriers that so ably carried the charge of preserving and protecting our nation during the second half of the Twentieth Century.
What did we accomplish?
The efforts of the Foundation defined and focused a widely-felt need for such a ship-based memorial. A well-thought out proposal for a naval and community heritage site was developed. Widespread enthusiasm and support for such a project arose. Much effort was put into addressing the technical and logistical aspects attendant on a ship donation by the Navy. In the end, the challenges posed by the combination of ship size and barriers along the route to the inland site were not met to the satisfaction of the Navy.
The purpose behind the urge to preserve Ranger remains, and remains valid. It goes beyond the desire simply to preserve a vessel, and to the desire to commemorate what makes a vessel worth preserving. That purpose is the desire to acknowledge and honor and carry forward what those who served in her and fought in her and her sister ships through the years cherished and believed in: The freedoms and principles that are the foundations of this country, the freedoms and principles that inspire those who serve and strive to preserve and protect them for all.
There is substantial local and regional support for a community heritage project that includes an important historical naval asset as its centerpiece. The offer of land and riverfront as a site for the ship by Columbia-Edgewater, LLC was a significant show of support for the Ranger effort; that support still exists. Our many volunteers demonstrated a level of energy and enthusiasm that was an incalculable asset to the project; we believe that energy and enthusiasm still exists within the community.
With the assistance of the staffs of Senators Wyden and Merkley and Representative Blumenauer of Oregon, we worked during the winter to identify other Navy ships that would be suitable as the centerpiece for a community and naval heritage center. We believe we have found such a possibility in the ships of the Tarawa class.
Tarawa was the first of five ships in a new class of general-purpose amphibious assault ships, and combined in one ship type the functions previously performed by four different types: the amphibious assault ship (LPH), the amphibious transport dock (LPD), the amphibious cargo ship (LKA), and the dock landing ship (LSD). She was capable of landing elements of a Marine Corps battalion landing team and their supporting equipment by landing craft, by helicopters, or by a combination of both. USS Tarawa (LHA-1) is a United States Navy amphibious assault ship, the lead ship of her class, and the second ship to be named for the Battle of Tarawa during World War II. The first Tarawa was the USS Tarawa (CV-40). Tarawa was decommissioned 31 March 2009, at Naval Base San Diego. (Wikipedia)
One ship of this class remains in active service today, USS Pelilieu (LHA-5). Two, ex-USS Saipan (LHA-2) and ex-USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3), have been scrapped. Two, ex-USS Tarawa (LHA-1) and ex-USS Nassau (LHA-4), are in Reserve-B status after being decommissioned. Tarawa is in Hawaii, and Nassau is in Texas.
We take this opportunity to thank everyone for their contributions of time, treasure and commitment. We look forward to continued support from those who responded so positively to the idea of welcoming Ranger to our community. Such support is a large part of making such a significant project viable. We must now wait for the change in status, but will alert everyone when those changes happen. Until then, we continue to look for opportunities and will inform our supporters as they arise.
David Todd, Captain, USN (Ret)
President, USS Ranger Foundation