On January 5, 1960, the TOLEDO entered Long Beach Naval Shipyard to begin inactivation overhaul. TOLEDO completed preparations and was placed out of commission at Long Beach on May 21, 1960, after 14 years of service in the cause of world peace. The TOLEDO was replaced by a light cruiser that carried 6” guns and a more modern missile system. She was moved to San Diego soon thereafter and remained there, in reserve, for the next 14 years. On January 1, 1974, her name was struck from the Navy list, and she was sold to the National Metal and Steel Corporation on October 30, 1974. National Metal and Steel Corporation started the actual dismantling and cutting up of the heavy cruiser USS TOLEDO (CA-133) on April 25, 1975.
The following article by Dan McLean was printed in the Daily Breeze, Torrance, CA dated: May 15, 1975.
"He watches his old ship die slowly"
It's not the first time Leonard Priestley has watched his ship go down. He was in the engine room of the Bismark Sea the night before the invasion of Iwo Jima when three Kamikaze pilots made unexpected landings. The blazing ship was on its way down when Priestly was pulled from the water and aboard another U.S. ship.
This time, though, it's a little different. The USS TOLEDO was home to Priestley for half his 21 years in the Navy. And death is coming slowly for the heavy battle cruiser which survived considerable action as a flagship in the Korean War.
What it took three Japanese men moments to accomplish on the Bismark Sea, it's expected to take a large crew six months with the Toledo.
The 13,000-ton cruiser is being dismantled and scrapped for its valuable metals and equipment. And, while it hurts, Priestley is there.
The cutting torches came out late last month and already the ship, tied to a dock at the National Metal and Steel Corp. on Terminal Island, is showing the effects.
Leonard Priestley sees things First Class Machinist Priestley never saw in the 10-1/2 years. He marvels at the thickness of the metal, something he'd always wondered about. But mostly he just shakes his head. "That's all I can do," he says. "It's a shame, but what are you gonna do?"
Priestley holds no grudge. He understands the value of the scrap metal. What he fails to understand is the lack of value of the Toledo ship.
Monday marked Priestly's second trip to see the Toledo being scrapped and he received permission to go aboard. Armed with a small camera he wandered the deck, pointing out areas and reminiscing.
There were stories about how underfed officers would visit the enlisted men's mess and how little guys named O'Dwyer would find their faces reshaped when they forgot to replace big guys named Pulaski on watch.
Priestley has a piece of planking from the deck of the shp that designates him on of the original crew members. The ship was commissioned in October 1946 and when he left in 1957 there were only two original crew members left.
"I didn't want to get transferred." he says. "During the war (World War II) I had to be boosting my sea bag and hammock all the time. I didn't want to keep moving."
Now 58, Priestley lives near South High School, Torrance, where he works as a maintenance man. But a good deal of his thoughts still are aboard the Toledo.
"They're really cutting it up," he says. "It sure is a shabby looking sight. I'll tell you, compared to what it was when I was here. There isn't much left of the bridge. They really cut this thing up fast, don't they!"
But dismantling of a ship starts from the top. Down below, where Priestley spent so much fo the 10 years, much is still intact. There's no lighting but, armed with a flashlight and guide courtesy of the company, Priestley pays a last visit.
The tour includes the forward and after engine rooms, where Priestley stood watch; the machine shop, where he worked; the bunk compartments, where he slept; and the galley, where electric ovens remain.
The tour touches Priestley and his reaction touches some of the men dismantling the Toledo. "We've done some light cruisers," says one, but this about the biggest ship we've had in here. I've been doing this about 20 years and, after a while, it means nothing.
"I used to wonder. You see names of guys written in places and you wonder who they were; what they did during the war."
"And then you see the ship and how clean it's been kept. Those gun turrets were real clean when it came in. Can you imagine the hours of cleaning that took?"
"Then we just tear 'em down."
Before leaving, Priestley explains to a supervisor that he'd like to return occasionally during the dismantling. Along with permission he's given the promise of a couple of souveniers.
"I was on six ships, Priestley says "but I felt safer on that cruiser than any of the others." He's not about to abandon it yet!
So ends the short but "GALLANT" life of a mighty fine ship the USS TOLEDO (CA-133)
"GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN"
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