KODIAK - The U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned its oldest vessel Thursday, retiring the cutter Storis with eight rings of a bell and the playing of taps in a gymnasium at the Kodiak Coast Guard Base.
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About 70 Storis crew members wearing dress blues stood at attention during the ceremony to retire the 64-year-old icebreaker. About 200 invited guests also attended.
"In a world where the average naval vessel is considered old at 10 to 15 years of service, the Storis has lived five or six lifetimes,'' said Rear Adm. Arthur E. Brooks, commander of the Coast Guard 17th District, Alaska.
Construction on the Storis began in a Toledo, Ohio, shipyard in July, 1941. After Dec. 7 of that year, the ship builders' work took on a new earnestness, Brooks said.
"The attacks on Pearl Harbor assuredly sharpened the focus of those in the shipyard. Every weld, bolt and detail was assembled with renewed American pride and purpose, undoubtedly contributing to longevity of this great ship,'' Brooks said.
Brooks rattled off a list of statistics from the cutter's 64-year career. Storis crews have boarded 7,500 vessels, saved 250 lives, kept 25 vessels from sinking, assisted 100,000 people and traveled 1.5 million miles.
"And the most impressive statistic - 64 years and five months of commissioned service,'' Brooks said.
The Storis has been patrolling Alaska waters since the late 1950s.
Capt. James M. McCauley, commander of the Storis, thanked Kodiak for the town's hospitality as homeport.
"You have supported our crews and families in many ways and I want to thank you for being our Coast Guard city,'' McCauley said.
The skipper reminded his crew they had served on a historic vessel, one that left him short on words.
"When I attempt to describe working on a 64-year-old ship the word that comes to mind is 'special,''' McCauley said.
"She is distinct, but like any cutter, it's the people that make things happen.''
McCauley's last outing with Storis was a 54-day patrol in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. All 54 days were completed without a single day out of service.
Hallmarks of the Storis' career include sailing the North Atlantic during World War II, when the ship was the command center for a fleet that prevented Nazi Germany from establishing a foothold on Greenland. This was a critical part of the war effort, Brooks said, because weather stations in Greenland helped predict weather patterns in Europe.
Storis' most recent patrols were in Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea conducting fisheries enforcement and search-and-rescue missions.