Gage leaves James River Reserve Fleet

Published : Thursday, 23 Jul 2009, 12:07 PM EDT


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The USS Gage departed the James River Reserve Fleet Thursday, headed to Esco Marine, Inc., in Brownsville, Texas, for recycling.


According to the Department of the Navy's Naval Historical Center, the attack transport USS Gage was commissioned in November, 1944. During World War II, the Gage participated in the initial assault on Okinawa in April, 1945, landing men and supplies for five days despite nearly continuous alerts of Japanese suicide attacks.


She was decommissioned in Norfolk in February, 1947, and transferred to the Maritime Administration Reserve Fleet in September, 1958.


Esco Marine, Inc. was awarded a contract to recycle the Gage on July 3rd.


The Gage is the 81st ship to leave the James River Reserve Fleet since January 1, 2001. 


UPDATE 07-07-2009




Two more "ghost fleet" ships to leave the James

By Scott Harper - The Virginia-Pilot  July 7, 2009


Two more relic ships soon will be leaving the James River Reserve Fleet, nicknamed “the ghost fleet,” on their way to a Texas scrap yard.


The U.S. Maritime Administration, which manages the aging fleet off Fort Eustis in Newport News, has announced disposal contracts for the two vessels worth nearly $900,000.


The contracts break a trend in which ship recyclers were paying the government for old vessels so they could strip the hulls and sell the steel for big money to countries such as China and India.


But with steel prices crashing under the global recession, the government again is paying salvage yards to recycle such ships. The more famous of the two headed to Texas is the Gage, a former attack transport ship launched in 1944 that received a battle star for service during World War II.


Attempts had been made in recent years to preserve the Gage as a museum piece, given its history in Pacific operations at Guadalcanal, Okinawa, the Philippines and New Guinea, among others.


But in the end, no deal could be struck. So the veteran hulk will be salvaged at Esco Marine Inc., 
in Brownsville, Tex., along with the other ghost ship, the Ortolon.


Built in 1969, the Ortolon was a submarine rescue ship. It still holds more than 27 tons of waste oils, but is classified as one of the least likely vessels in the James River fleet to spring a leak, according to a 2002 inventory.


The Gage, by contrast, is considered a more likely leaker, though it carries little if any waste fuel, but remains loaded with lead, asbestos and other toxic materials, according to the inventory.


Government officials, community leaders and environmentalists have been concerned for years about a possible spill from the ghost fleet, fearing its potential to contaminate the historic James River, nearby Jamestown and other sensitive areas along the shoreline.


U.S. Sen. Mark Warner once called the ghost fleet “a ticking time bomb” and urged its quick demise.


Since 2001, the Maritime Administration has stepped up its ship-removal program, sending 78 rusting vessels anchored  in the James to salvage yards or converting them to artificial reefs.


When the Gage and the Ortolon leave Virginia waters within the next 30 days, the ghost fleet will stand at less than 30 ships – its lowest count ever, according to officials and historians.


Esco Marine will be paid $564,910 to scrap the Gage and $325,090 to recycle Ortolon, according to government figures.


NOTE: Parts of the Gage live on - in the USS Slater:

SA Radar Antenna
SA consol in CIC
Mess benches
5 Lockers Not yet installed
MK 14 gunsights
TAJ Radio Transmitter
TDE Radio Transmitter
Some Bunk Frames
Sickbay Autoclave
VD Radar repeater on bridge
Radio Amplifiers
1MC Speakers

four sky lookout chairs on the flying bridge.

and more...



Update 8-13-2008


As you may know, the effort to save the Gage hit a dead-end late last year. Last week I discovered the following document:


I have exchanged a few emails with MARAD and have learned that a full documentation (including photos of all decks) is now complete and the Gage will be “removed from the fleet” soon. They have offered to arrange for me and any interested APA sailors to view (at very close proximity) the Gage as she is moved. They don’t know the date yet but I will let you know as soon as I find out. 


Somewhere, I have contact information for many of the APA associations and I was going to inform them of this. Given the age of the WWII guys, there may not be many that can make this but there could be a few.

 We have the Lowndes reunion in San Francisco in about 7 weeks. A few of these guys may be willing to go. As you know, this is in the James River at Norfolk, VA.


David Brinkman (Webmaster for the APA 154 USS Lowndes website)



Update: 9-16-06:

Terrible news for the Gage. It looks like the Navy will tow her back out to sea in October and sink her. Peter just went to D.C. to discuss National Registry eligibility issues for the Gage. He was expecting to meet with two MARAD people but instead they were placed in a large conference room with all the MARAD heads and an “attack dog” attorney. 


They demanded a full business plan with detailed funding already lined up, a site already established, and a Coast Guard approved mooring plan for the site. Basically, they made it impossible. The only hope now is an act of Congress. Peter did a great job saving the Gage until now but we just didn’t have the time and never really got any significant interest behind the project. 

I’ll let you know if there are any last minute developments or opportunities.


David Brinkman (Webmaster for the APA 154 USS Lowndes website)


Picture below from 2004:


The Campaign to Save the USS Gage APA-168
The Sole Surviving Originally Configured World War II Attack Transport

Like many issues, if you talk to three people, you will get 4 opinions.  One thing is certain, over the next few years, most the James River Fleet needs to be disposed of one way or another.  At the left are a collection of articles and websites related to the situation.  

One ship the Gage APA 168 is slated to be sunk in target practice in 2004. There is a group that has formed to look into the possibility of restoring her. This is an endeavor that is worthy of consideration.  This group is NOT saying it is definite, they are currently asking for the time to determine if it is feasible.

I have a number of pictures of the Gage sent to me taken during a salvage trip in April 2000.  I have posted about 50 of them here: USS Gage in 2000

Russ- July 16, 2004


April 2004 update:

Ladies and gentlemen;

As the representative and co-founder of the new "PACIFIC NORTHWEST SHIPS FOR VICTORY PROJECT" and northwest representative for the national "APA HISTORICAL PRESERVATION PROJECT", both organizations subsidiaries of the international "SHIPS FOR VICTORY FOUNDATION", I am pleased to announce that, as of 23 April, 2004, the USS GAGE APA-168 is no longer a target vessel of the Naval SINKX 2004.

In a public notice on that date, MARAD(Martime Administration,((the ship disposition agency of the Naval Department))) released the USS GAGE to the APA
Historical Preservation Project organization and had the ship returned to the James River, Virginia NDRF(National Defense Reserve Fleet).

Those of us in the "FOUNDATION" and "PROJECT's" have decided that, due to the extreme logistics involved in bringing the GAGE back to the Portland, OR, area
where she was built, we would have her preserved by a yard and preservation organizations in the Norfolk, VA, area. This will be a possible 5 year project, taking an estimated ten million dollars.

After restoration and preservation, the ship would be located in a suitable venue on the east coast. Suggestions have been Washington D.C., Norfolk, VA, or the Navy Amphibious Fleet base. Wherever she goes, she will be a fine museum, dedicated to those who sailed aboard her during WW2.

                      c/o  Michael Skillern
                      POB 820744
                      Vancouver, WA


09-06-03 update: from Bill Carney:

Many of you know of the effort to save the USS Gage, the last of original Attack Transport.

This class of the famed Liberty ships was involved in WW II, Korea, and Viet Nam as well as many rescue efforts over the years.

This ship is an extremely important piece of history and the government intends to sink it for target practice next year.

Please, if you haven't already, take a moment and go to the following site and sign the online petition to save this vital historical ship. It doesn't cost anything, and gives our children the opportunity to see and feel what our fathers felt and fought for.

Thank you for your time Bill Carney