USS Orleck Naval Museum Board – Time is Running Out – Salvage Yard in the Ship’s Future

The 71-year-old ship needs support now – both financially and with volunteers. As of now, there are only three weeks for the members of the museum board to make a decision on the two options they have at their disposal – try to amass enough capital to keep the ship afloat or sell it to a salvage yard. The fate of the USS Orleck, at this time, is unknown.

The USS Orleck was where 1st Class Gene Haynes, Sonarman, now retired, lived and breathed for three years. He served on the ship during the Korean War. He has been all over the world while aboard the vessel, and now, for the first time since 1955, he sees the ship; he has come to Lake Charles. Haynes had an unusual feeling as he approached his former home on the high seas; it was a feeling of pride that brought back a lot of warm memories. He deeply wants to save the Orleck, so his children and grandchildren are able to visit one day because they’re interested in seeing what their Paw Paw did when he was a young man.

There’s a possibility that, unfortunately, may never happen. The Orleck is in a fight for its life; not like its fight for survival during the Cold War, Korea, and Vietnam, but it’s the fight with finances that may sink it.

It has been noted by the President of the USS Orleck Naval Museum Board, Mark Boudreaux that a lot of people are no longer interested in going to museums, even less so to museum ships. It’s sad that there isn’t more interest. I’m not sure, but I think it’s just a sign of the times; a sign of today’s culture.

In the five years since arriving at Lake Charles, the ship has hosted about 100,000 visitors. But that alone is not enough income to keep up repairs and insurance.

USS Orleck (DD-886) in heavy seas, in the 1950s
USS Orleck (DD-886) in heavy seas, in the 1950s

It’s always been the wish of the board members to move the Orleck to the casino lakefront at the Isle of Capri, but the latest news is that the casino is being sold to new buyers.  At one point, one potential buyer of the casino did have plans for the ship. The board members had continuous talks with a potential buyer, Mr. David Farrell, who had a substantial sum of money in his budget for the USS Orleck Museum.

Positive feelings about the future ran high until August when it was announced the Isle of Capri Casino was going to be sold to a different buyer, Laguna Development Corporation. The corporation’s chief of sales and marketing, Skip Sayre, told the board members that before any decisions were made concerning anything in the community, their own business must come first.

The museum board members were told that the new buyers were just not sure if it will be part of the business strategy that they intended to implement at that site; it was not an immediate item among their priorities. As was said many times, it was just too early to make any commitments to anything until the licensing process was completed.

As the opportunity for an operating location at the lakefront was becoming remote; there is still another option on the table. We have the offer to purchase the ship and for us to take all of the artifacts from the ship and send them to Corpus Christi for the USS Lexington. Then, after everything important is off the ship, it would go to a scrap yard and get cleaned up. The specific proposal we have right now is to make a dive reef out of it. The USS Orleck would be sunk off the coast of Texas, as agreed by the purchaser.

If the museum board of the USS Orleck waits to find out what is going to happen on the lakefront, it could squander the opportunity of the present offer. Time is running out, and the decision must be made quickly, within the next few weeks. In the meantime, supporters are working feverishly to save the ship by raising more money, while veterans and former occupants of the USS Orleck are hopeful that this part of US history doesn’t meet a watery grave, KPLC 7 News reported.

For additional information, go to the USS Orleck’s website. On the site, you can find more information on how to volunteer, about the ship’s history, and where to donate.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE