Warship Named After Oklahoma Farm Boy Lives Up To Its Legacy
Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series from Scott Thompson on U.S. Navy frigate Paul Carr.
NORFOLK, Virginia -- Wherever it sailed, it carried the name of an Oklahoma farm boy.
The USS Carr's responsibilities changed as the world, itself, changed.
What didn't change is that its crew always rose to the challenges and accomplished their missions.
The Navy frigate USS Carr was launched in 1983, commissioned two years later.
It took the name of a 20-year-old boy from Checotah, Paul Henry Carr.
His death under fire aboard the destroyer escort Samuel Roberts off Samar, The Philippines, in 1944, earned Carr the Silver Star.
And the only ship named for an Oklahoman since the USS Evans left the fleet 40 years ago.
“And I think that even though we're saying goodbye to an old friend, her spirit will always live in us,”
The Carr was decommissioned in a simple, dignified, ceremony in March at Naval Station Norfolk.
Some of the original crew was on-hand.
They're called "plank-owners."
Patrick O'Rourke was the last officer to arrive aboard before the Carr went to sea for the first time.
This is a tough day for him.
“I know how much life existed on that ship for 27 years,” former USS Carr officer Patrick O’Rourke said.
Paul Carr's Oklahoma relatives are here, too, just as they have been since the ship was launched in the midst of the still-heated Cold War.
Over USS Carr's life, her mission and her equipment changed, what didn't change was the quality of the sailors who sailed on board always ready to get the job done no matter what the obstacle was.
“A great honor to be the last commanding officer of a ship to end a whole era of 27 years to think what's behind that,” said USS Carr’s last commander Patrick Kulakowski.
The Carr was originally designed to serve as a convoy escort during a war with the Soviet Union.
It's on-board guided missiles were supposed to shoot down in-coming Soviet missiles or planes.
It could also attack submarines.
Eventually, the Carr's missiles became outdated and were removed.
When I was aboard for a week in 1994, the Carr had shifted to interdiction duty.
On that deployment, its crew spent six months in the Red Sea enforcing a United Nations weapons embargo against Iraq.
Merchant ships were stopped and searched around the clock.
Heading for its decommissioning, the Carr in November stopped at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, and offloaded $114 million worth of drugs it had seized in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific.
One-and-half tons of cocaine and two tons of marijuana kept off American streets.
It was in Mayport that Jeff Rush was allowed on board for the final trip back here to Norfolk.
He's Paul Carr's nephew, and he shot some pictures of that last leg up the Atlantic coast.
It was a bittersweet trip for him.
“So I was riding the ship back into Norfolk as if I, mentally, as if I were Paul Carr coming home and so for me that was the homecoming he never received,” Paul Carr’s nephew Jeff Rush said.
Paul Carr's remains went down in the Pacific with the Sam Roberts.
There was never a funeral back home.
In 1994, some of his surviving shipmates returned to Checotah to dedicate a display in the local museum in his honor.
Now that the ship which bore his name has passed into history, Paul Carr's family is turning its attention to updating that museum display, raising money where they can for a new design.
It's a new mission for a new generation.
“And it's important to us that we do keep it going because it's our family legacy,” Tami Sanders said.
It was a legacy that no other family in the United States could claim.
A Navy warship named for a boy hailing from a hardscrabble Oklahoma farm.
Who found within amazing bravery and dedication during the last terrifying minutes of his life.
“And he was just a small part of a large battle, and yet his story has been told now for almost seven decades,” Mike Rush, Paul Carr’s nephew said.
Where do heroes come from?
Just down the street.
Around the corner.
Paul Carr showed us that.
As did the men and women who served aboard the ship that carried his name, and his country's strength and honor, around the world.
The Carr was towed to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where it's tied-up tonight, waiting for possible sale to a foreign navy.