BROWNSVILLE, Texas — A World War II carrier that survived attacks from torpedoes, battleships, submarines and kamikazes was unable to avoid a salvage company Thursday, disappointing veterans who wanted the vessel spared.
Sabe Marine Salvage bid $185,000 at auction for the aircraft carrier Cabot, derailing a nonprofit group's plans to convert the once mighty ship into a floating museum.
The head of the Education Council for Space Age Technology, whose highest bid was $180,000, declined to say whether the group might file an objection to the sale.
"This thing has gone on for years," said Stephen O'Neal, chairman of the Miami-based nonprofit group known as ECOSTAT. "It'll still go on for more."
The auction was held by the U.S. Marshals Service, which sold the ship to pay off the debt it had racked up in maintenance and pollution cleanup costs.
O'Neal said the ship, named for explorer John Cabot, is the only survivor of nine small-but-fast light carriers used in World War II.
War correspondent Ernie Pyle filed dispatches from the ship he nicknamed the "Iron Woman." It fought in every Pacific battle of 1944 and 1945; its pilots shot down 252 planes and sank 49 vessels.
The Cabot later was a training carrier, then was used by the Spanish Navy as the SNS Dedalo. In 1989, Spain gave the ship to a group that planned to make it a museum in New Orleans.
The federal government declared the Cabot a national historic landmark and contributed $2 million toward the project, but a lack of private funds sank the plans.
"When you get an obsolete ship, as far as your Navy is concerned, you scrap it," said Bill Anderson, past president of the USS Cabot Assn., a veterans' group, and a pilot on the ship from October 1944 to May 1945. "We've done that with airplanes and ships to the point that we have very few historic ones [left]."