US Navy relaunches USS Cole

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Navy launches USS Cole

By RENI WINTER THE SUN HERALD PASCAGOULA ó Under the protection of night, and a day earlier than announced, the Navy launched the USS Cole today at Northrop Grumman Ingalls shipbuilding.

The re-launch of the Cole, which is being repaired after being damaged in a terrorist attack just over 11 months ago, had been planned for Saturday morning. The Navy decided to secretly launch the ship for security reasons after the terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

Only Navy sailors and officers, Ingalls employees, Coast Guard and other security personnel were there to watch the ship float on its own for the first time since the attack. The Bulkeley, a partially commissioned sister ship still at Ingalls, supplied an armed security boat that escorted the Cole to its pier.

"I was just tickled pink to see that thing back in the water again," said Navy Supervisor of Shipbuilding public affairs officer Mike Zitko. "Itís was like the ship was saying, 'You may have wounded me, but Iím the determined warrior and I'll be coming back bigger and better than I ever was.' "

The launch process started at about 2 a.m. today and was finished at about 8 a.m., when the ship floated off the dry-dock. Then the freshly painted ship was pushed by a tugboat to Pier 3, where repairs will be completed, Zitko said. "It was very patriotic, with sailors standing on other ships docked at Ingalls, saluting and cheering," he said. "The Bulkely had their crew out there giving her honors."

Restoration of Cole started in March, following the ships return to the United States aboard the Norwegian heavy transport ship Blue Marlin. The ship was moved onto a land level facility in January, near where it was originally built by Ingalls Shipbuilding, now called Northrop Grumman Ship Systems Ingalls Operations.

http://web.sunherald.com/content/biloxi/2001/09/14/pageone/cole_launched.htm

-- Rich Marsh (marshr@airmail.net), September 18, 2001


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