WILMINGTON, N.C. — The U.S. Navy is about to retire the USS Kitty Hawk, and Wilmington wants to bring the aircraft carrier home.
The Kitty Hawk is the Navy’s oldest aircraft carrier in service, commissioned in 1961 and due for decommissioning next year. The nuclear-powered USS George Washington is replacing it.
The way some see it, the change presents North Carolina with an opportunity. Their idea is to bring the ship from its home port in Japan to the waters of Wilmington, to rest near the battleship North Carolina.
The USS North Carolina is a mighty symbol of what can be done. In 1961, the state brought the battleship home, and school children all over the state helped raise money to make it happen.
“As I recall, we asked the children for pennies. Today, we'll ask them for $10 and ask their fathers and mothers for another $25,” said retired Capt. Wilbur Jones.
The challenges run deep.
“To start with, it'll cost about $7 million to tow the ship to Wilmington,” Jones said. “We would have to, of course, maintain it. We would have to refurbish it and make it into a museum so that visitors could visit.”
The Navy must agree to let North Carolina have the Kitty Hawk.
A group of retired military men is behind the effort, and they believe it is the right thing to do.
“It’s birthright is North Carolina, and that's where it ought to come home to,” Jones said.
The group has talked with North Carolina's congressional delegation and the Navy and hopes to bring the ship home in 2010.