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Ahhh, the USS Shangri-la a ship near and dear to my heart. I spent two years in "Shang", One as Operations Officer and one as Executive Officer.
Before we go any further do you know how CVA-38 ended up with the name of Shangri-La? If not let me know and I will pass on that bit of navy lore to you. It revolved around a book entitled "Lost Horizons", the B-25 raid on Tokyo in early 1942, and a comment by President Roosevelt in reply to a newsman's question. If you have not heard the background to such a strange name for a ship of the line in the U.S. Navy shout and I will educate you. If you are aware of how the ship got its name you are one of the few who have paid attention to how it happened.
Paul Prohaska is correct concerning my efforts to retain a part of the ship. I deeply desired to get the name from the Stern and see if I could get it placed in the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
After being decommissioned the Shangri-La sat in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and a sad sight it was. As a former XO of the ship I damned near used to cry the few times I passed the shipyard driving north on a highway in Philadelphia that passed the yard. "Shang" was tied up near the highway and her wooden flight deck allowed all sorts of things to grow on that flight deck. It was a sorry sad sight!!
At some point (and I have the dates but it would take a bit of hunting so I hope you'll excuse me if I stay in a general mode for now) the U.S. government sold the ship to the government of Taiwan and it was hauled to Taiwan to be scrapped despite the stories you have heard it was in fact scrapped.
At some point in this situation in the late 80's if my memory is correct I had been trying to get the name which had been on that famous Carrier the USS Enterprise which had been scrapped in Kearny, New Jersey. The head of the scrapping operation at Kearny managed to get the name off the stern of Enterprise and it was in a Little League Ball Park in New Jersey. I approached the Town Fathers in an effort to get them to donate it to the Museum but they now consider it a bit of the town history and were not willing to give it up.
Back to Shangri-La---After I retired from the Navy in 1975 I went to work for Grumman Aerospace marketing E2C Hawkeyes to Japan. Ran the Far East Office based in Tokyo and had an office also in Taiwan run by a Chinese American. I retired from Grumman in 1988 about the time "Shang" was either in Taiwan of on its was there to the ship breaker, I asked my friend who had the Taiwan office to approach the owner of the steel company that had purchased the ship and see if there was some way he could get the steel company to release the stern plate. I eventually got a photo of the stern plate of the ship cut from the ship with the ship's name on it. Tried once more to contact the steel company to no avail.
When all navy ships are decommissioned or scrapped various items unique to the ship go into storage. Things like the ship's bell, the helm, ship's silver if it had any and some other unique items. On the East Coast of the U.S. in many cases these items go into storage at the U.S. Naval Supply Depot at Yorktown, Virginia. I did some investigating and ascertained that the Ship's Bell was at NSD Yorktown. Tried for about three years to get the bell out of storage to no avail. Tried through the Museum at Pensacola but to no avail.
On a trip to Pensacola for some reason I stopped by the Museum and someone who was aware of my interest in the bell allowed that it was out of storage and at Camp David, the Presidential Retreat in Maryland. Why there you might ask so allow me to wander a bit more.
It is germane that you are aware that the ship was funded by contributions during construction during World War Two. The ship's bell was unique in that it was donated to the ship by a shop in the yard who had it made. Unlike most ship's bells this one was not cast of brass but rather of steel.
But now let us return to the Presidential Retreat--Initially the retreat had been named, by Truman, I believe, SHANGRI-LA or CAMP SHANGRI-LA. That name was in place until Eisenhower became President and this name may have meant nothing to him so he re- named the retreat Camp David after his son!!
After being told where the bell was and also the fact that the Officer in charge of Camp David was a Navy LT or LDCR I approached him and after a series of phone calls convinced him I could get the bell restored in Jacksonville and them move it to Pensacola which in fact has happened. Of further interest is that the USS Shangri-La was one of the first carriers to have the canted or angled deck installed and as such a scale model of the ship was made which now is in the Museum at Pensacola and along side it, the last time I visited was the SHANGRI-LA bell!
Editor note: Special thanks to Paul Prohaska for putting me in contact with Fred Carment. This story is from one of his emails.
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