YOKOSUKA, Japan (AP) -- The oldest active ship in the U.S. Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, made its final departure from Japan on Wednesday to be decommissioned after nearly half a century of service.
The Kitty Hawk, with sailors lining its decks, pulled away from Yokosuka port just south of Tokyo to the cheers of hundreds of schoolchildren and the sounds of brass bands.
It flew the "Don't Tread on Me" flag, which designates it as the oldest ship in the Navy.
The Kitty Hawk, the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier in the Navy, is to be replaced later this summer by the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered carrier.
After leaving Japan, the Kitty Hawk will make a stop at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and then travel on to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, to be decommissioned.
The ship, commissioned in 1961 and the only forward-deployed aircraft carrier in the Navy, was assigned to Japan in 1998. It has since made 20 deployments in the western Pacific and participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq.
It was the oldest active ship with the longest total period of active service in the Navy. (H/T - CNN)
I always had a fondness for the Kitty Hawk, because it was the first model aircraft carrier I ever assembled. In grade school and high school, that's how I spent a lot of my free time. (Yeah, I was a nerd.)
Thank you Kitty Hawk, you and your crew have served America with honor.