The U.S. Navy disbanded its Long Beach fleet last week with a short ceremony of speeches, a prayer and a 15-cannon salute.
Capt. Harry E. Selfridge, group commander, ordered the fleet "disestablished" before an audience of about 200 officers and enlisted men and women. Selfridge also left the base a civilian. He retired after a 35-year career.
The ceremony marked the end of the Long Beach fleet as a unit. Most of the ships are being decommissioned or reassigned to other fleets, mainly in San Diego and Everett, Wash., said Lt. Carl Johnson, Navy spokesman. Nine ships will remain stationed in Long Beach until Sept. 30, while four others will stay in Long Beach until 1996.
The Long Beach fleet consisted of 38 ships and 16,000 sailors in 1991, when a federal base-closure commission recommended shutting down the naval station and the Long Beach Naval Hospital. The hospital closed in March. Currently, 7,700 personnel are assigned to the base, Johnson said.
Before last week's ceremony, Navy officials decommissioned the Joseph Hewes, a 25-year-old frigate that served in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1972 during the Vietnam War.
Capt. Isaiah J. Jones will preside as chief commanding officer of the base until it closes in September. After that, the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, which has survived several closure efforts, will oversee the base property until the federal government decides its future use.