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Scrapyard Looms for 'America's Flagship'

Campaigners are scrambling to save the SS United States
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 10, 2015 9:51 AM CDT
Scrapyard Looms for 'America's Flagship'
In this June 25, 2012 photo, the SS United states ship's exterior is seen in Philadelphia.    (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The SS United States is a gigantic—and still useful—piece of American history that is just weeks away from the scrapyard, warn the owners of the legendary passenger liner. The huge ship, which was considered an amazing technological achievement when it was launched in 1952, is owned by a preservationist group that says it will have "no choice but to negotiate the sale of the ship to a responsible recycler" unless a buyer or donor can start covering the cost of maintenance and mooring, which runs to a hefty $60,000 a month, the New York Times reports. The ship, which set a trans-Atlantic speed record on its maiden voyage that has never been beaten, is now at a Philadelphia dock, reports NPR, which calls the vessel "a symbol of America's postwar strength and pride."

The scrapyard would be a sad fate for the ship, but "we're not crying wolf," the conservancy's director tells the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We've reached a point at which we are compelled to explore this 'negative outcome'" unless something changes before Oct. 31, she says. The firm that designed the 990-foot ship says it has come up with ideas for reuse including turning it into a hotel and spa or using it to house a tech company and its servers, reports the Times, which notes that when the SS United States was built, it was designed to quickly convert into a troopship capable of carrying 15,000 and its propellers were kept a state secret. (The ship involved in the CIA's "strangest mission of the Cold War" is going to be scrapped at an undisclosed location.)

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