USS San Jacinto: The Latest Role For America’s First Deployed Navy Combat Ship

The USS San Jacinto, the ship that is partially responsible for arming and guiding our nation’s naval forces in World War II, spent more than 35 years at Newport News, Virginia. That is, until 1986. It is still there. For the next 35 years, the ship would shed its rusty hull to become not only a piece of military history, but the part of history that still lags behind. As America’s wars continued to evolve, the USS San Jacinto fell behind in modern technology.

Forty-five years later, the ship is all that remains. That being said, it’s still there.

The undocked USS San Jacinto floats lazily on the water. Photo credit: Albert Poulin.

As an avid sailor and research enthusiast, I saw the USS San Jacinto as not only a piece of history, but a unique travel experience. I had had several chances to visit historic naval sites on land, but the USS San Jacinto was, for me, as if I had stumbled onto a treasure house. As an historian, photographer, and sailor, I felt compelled to gather as much information as possible about the USS San Jacinto and the local watermen it had once sailed with.

Even though it’s at a considerable disadvantage to a modern ship, the USS San Jacinto, deep in water, is still able to out-power even the largest modern warships. Photo credit: Albert Poulin.

I began traveling to the ship during 2015. Initially, I planned to spend four or five days on the USS San Jacinto. However, I decided to stay onboard as long as possible, full of curiosity and enamored with this lost piece of history. After all, I wasn’t spending a full day in the water. That’s a rarity for a sailor.

A year and a half later, I was able to become a member of a team of researchers who are attempting to paint a precise and vivid picture of the USS San Jacinto. We visited a Naval museum in Norfolk, Virginia, and one in Bangor, Maine, to gather pictures and research.

In the years that I have spent aboard the USS San Jacinto, I have encountered a variety of emotions and moments. What was once a rusting, unusable piece of wood now seems like a beautiful work of art. It has a contemplative and serene feel to it, recalling the emotion and memories that were present around it when it was built.

For most of the last 35 years, the USS San Jacinto, off the coast of San Diego, has remained anchored at the Navy’s historic former wharf. Photo credit: Albert Poulin.

It’s funny how quickly times have changed. Twenty-five years ago, on this very spot on the beach, I stood under a Santa Monica ocean breeze while gazing out over the harbor. After another few minutes of reading the harbor trees, I was stood among sardines, who looked as if they were marking the drop-off of recent fuel deliveries.

Of course, the wars never changed. No matter the times, it’s always been full of excitement and wonder, especially in port.

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