USS Thach decommissioned at Naval Base San Diego: Ceremony held after 29 years of service

Ship named after WWII vet Admiral John S. Thach

SAN DIEGO - The guided-missile frigate USS Thach was decommissioned in a ceremony at Navy Base San Diego Friday.

The Thach is the seventh frigate to be retired this year. The type of vessel is being replaced by the new littoral combat ships, which are designed for combat in coastal waters.

Cmdr. Hans Lynch, Thach's final commanding officer, called it a great ship that served the country well more about 30 years.

"She has gone on 16 deployments, she has fired over a million rounds of various types of ammunition, she has traveled over 600,000 miles," Lynch said at the ceremony. "Her galley has served nearly 6 million meals, and over 4,500 proud Americans have served aboard her."

Lynch said his tour as commanding officer was very rewarding, especially during the ship's final deployment conducting counter-narcotics operations in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility. The sailors seized 379 kilograms of cocaine and more than 1,100 pounds of marijuana, with an estimated street value of more than $10 million, according to the Navy.

"I am grateful for the crew's dedication to the mission," Lynch said. "It is an honor to be the decommissioning commanding officer of a wonderful ship."

"We had fun and we went lots of places and did things that nobody did before," said retired Senior Chief John Kaiser, who was a crewman on the USS Thach's maiden voyage in 1984.

Around 35 of the Thach's Oliver Hazard Perry class of frigates have already been decommissioned, according to the Navy.

The 453-foot-long Thach is named for the late Admiral John S. "Jimmy" Thach, a Navy aviator during World War II.

Leaders in the sea-going service consider the new littoral combat ships to be more versatile since they're of a modular design and can be outfitted to handle various missions.

However, the LCS program has been plagued with manufacturing and maintenance problems. The publication Stars and Stripes reported this week that one of the few to become operational -- the San Diego-based USS Freedom, which is deployed to Asia -- is being repaired in Japan after seawater contamination was discovered in a water-jet hydraulic system.

The 453-foot-long Thach is named for the late Admiral John S. "Jimmy" Thach, a Navy aviator during World War II.

Thach was stationed in San Diego when he invented a dogfighting tactic known as the Thach Weave. The tactic, which involves two or more fighter pilots working together to cross paths two or more times in order to turn the tables
on an enemy attack, allowed Navy pilots to overcome the maneuverability advantage of Japanese aircraft.

Members of Thach's family attended the ceremony. Navy officials said more would have come, but a family member was graduating from the Marine East Coast boot camp at Perris Island, N.C.

Several current and former crew members also were on hand, including those who served on the first crew -- who are called "plank owners."

The USS Thach was most recently chasing drug traffickers in the Pacific Ocean. In its more recent deployment, more than $10 million in narcotics was seized.

The USS Thach is headed to a shipyard in the Pacific Northwest. It could be sold to a foreign country's navy or even be used for target practice.

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