USS America (CV-66)
The third USS "America" (CV-66), formerly CVA-66, was a "Kitty Hawk" class
supercarrierof the United States Navythat served from 1965 to 1996.
Construction and shakedown
Originally ordered as an "Enterprise"-class nuclear carrier, the ballooning costs of USS|Enterprise|CVN-65|2 during construction caused the cancellation of the nuclear CVAN-66 and her reordering as a conventionally-powered "Kitty Hawk"-class carrier.Fact|date=November 2007 She was laid down on 1 January 1961 at
Newport News, Virginia, by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Corp.; launched on 1 February 1964, sponsored by Mrs. David L. McDonald, wife of Admiral David L. McDonald, the Chief of Naval Operations; and commissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyardon 23 January 1965, Captain Lawrence Heyworth, Jr., in command. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. [http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/a8/america-iii.htm America III] .]
After fitting out there until 15 March 1965, "America" remained in
Hampton Roadsfor operations off the Virginia Capesuntil getting underway on 25 March. She conducted her first catapultlaunch on 5 April 1965, with Cmdr. Kenneth B. Austin, the carrier's executive officer, piloting a Douglas A-4C Skyhawk. Proceeding thence to the Caribbean, the carrier conducted shakedown training and concluded it at Guantanamo Bay on 23 June.
Entering the Norfolk shipyard for post-shakedown availability on 10 July, she remained there until 21 August. She next operated locally through late August and then proceeded to the operating areas off the Virginia Capes and to
Bermuda, arriving back at Norfolk on 9 September. On 25 September, Rear Admiral J. O. Cobbbroke his flag as Commander, Carrier Division 2.
First deployment (1965-1966)
"America" sailed for her first Mediterranean deployment late in 1965. New Year's Day, 1966, found her at
Livorno, Italy. Over the ensuing weeks, the ship visited Cannes, Genoa, Toulon, Athens, Istanbul, Beirut, Valletta, Taranto, Palma, and Pollensa Bayin Spain. She sailed on 1 July for the United States. Early in the deployment, from 28 February to 10 March "America" participated in a joint Franco-American exercise " Fairgame IV", which simulated conventional warfare against a country attempting to invade a NATOally. She arrived at NOB, Norfolk, on 10 July, remaining there for only a short time before shifting to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 15 July for availability.
"America" operated locally in the Norfolk area from 29 August to 19 September, after which time she proceeded to Guantanamo Bay to carry out training. After
Hurricane Inezswirled through the region, her sailors spent an estimated 1,700 man-hours in helping the naval base at Guantanamo to recover and return to normal operations.
The following month, "America" initiated into carrier service the
A-7 Corsair II, conducting its flight qualifications off the Virginia Capes, while she also conducted automatic carrier landing system trials which demonstrated the feasibility of "no hands" landings of F-4 Phantomand F-8 Crusaderaircraft.
From 28 November to 15 December, "America" took part in "
LANTFLEX 66", gaining experience in the areas of anti-air, antisubmarine, and carrier strike operations. The ship also participated in a mine drop, missile shoots, and provided air support for amphibious operations. She returned to NOB Norfolk on 15 December, remaining there through the end of the year 1966.
econd deployment (1967)
On 10 January 1967, "America" departed Norfolk for her second Mediterranean cruise and relieved USS|Independence|CV-62|6 at Pollensa Bay on 22 January. While crossing the Atlantic, "America" conducted: carrier qualifications for her SH-3A crews, missile shoots in the mid-Atlantic, day and night air operations and various other exercises. Upon nearing
Gibraltar, she received a visit from Soviet long-range reconnaissance aircraft, Tupolev Tu-95"Bears" on 18 January. Two F-4B Phantom jets met the "Bears" as they approached and escorted them past the ship.
Before anchoring at Athens, on 4 February, "America" participated with Italian control and reporting centers in an intercept-controller exercise. Shortly afterwards, "America" again met with Italian forces in an exercise involving raids upon an attack carrier by fast patrol boats.
The beginning of March found "America" and her consorts, operating as
Task Group 60.1, participating in the United States/United Kingdom Exercise " Poker Hand IV" with the British aircraft carrier HMS|Hermes|R12|6. "America" and "Hermes" provided raid aircraft to test each other's antiaircraft defenses.
Training is not without accidents. On March 4, 1967, two Phantom jets collided in midair 20 miles from the America, both pilots ejected safely. On March 15, 1967 on the way to Taranto a plane and pilot were lost when the catapult malfunctioned and tore the front landing gear off the plane, the planes aux fuel tank ruptured and the plane went over the side. An airman was burned in the catwalk and the RA ejected safely but the pilot went down with the plane. Since leaving Norfolk the America had lost 5 planes.Fact|date=May 2008
On 1 April, "
Dawn Clear", a two-day NATO exercise, commenced with TG 60.1 units participating. During the first day "America" provided raid aircraft against Greek and Turkish "targets." The following day, the exercise continued as Greek aircraft flew raids against TG 60.1 surface units. Following "Dawn Clear", the ship conducted routine training operations in the Ionian Sea.
"America" anchored at Valletta at 1000 on 5 April for a five-day visit. Weighing anchor on 10 April the carrier departed Malta to sail for task group operations in the Ionian Sea. She conducted an open sea missile exercise with the
guided missile destroyers USS|Josephus Daniels|DLG-27|2 and USS|Harry E. Yarnell|DLG-17|2. Other operational aspects of the at-sea period consisted of routine day/night flight operations and a major underway replenishment with other units of TG 60.1.
The following days saw the threat of civil war in Greece commencing with the military coup that ended parliamentary rule in that country. Although King Constantine II held his throne, the possibility of violence in the streets of Athens loomed as a potential threat to the American citizens suddenly caught up in the turmoil. It seemed that evacuation by ship might be necessary and Commander,
6th Fleet, ordered the formation of a special operations task force. Under the command of Rear Admiral Dick H. Guinn, TF 65, with "America" as flagship, sailed eastward to stand by for evacuation, should that step be necessary. Fortunately, violence never materialized in Greece, and the task force was not called upon to act. On 29 April, Rear Admiral Lawrence R. Geisrelieved Rear Admiral Guinn as Commander, CarDiv 4 Commander, TF 60, Commander, TF 65, and Commander, TF 502 (NATO). With a new admiral on board, and the Greek political crisis behind her, "America" sailed into Taranto Harbor, Italy, on the first day of May for eight days of relaxation. During three days of general visiting in Taranto, "America" hosted 1,675 visitors who came aboard to tour the hangar and flight decks. "America" departed Taranto on 8 May for routine task group operations in the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas, she followed these with a port visit to Livorno.
Crisis in the Middle East
By 25 May 1967, there was evidence that a crisis was brewing in the
Middle East. "America's" crew, from reading the ship's paper, the "Daily Eagle", could see that tensions between Israeland the Arabstates had been rising fast. As soon as the ship was slated to finish with the last of her " Poop Deck" exercises, she would be heading back to the Sea of Crete.
For the next 48 hours "America" steamed east and south from the coast of Spain, through
Malta Channeland on to the Sea of Crete to join up with the ships of TG 60.2, the carrier USS|Saratoga|CVA-60|2 and her destroyers. The carrier task force, under the command of Rear Admiral Geis, prepared for any contingency.
For the next week the officers and men of "America" listened to the nightly news report over WAMR-TV, the carrier's closed circuit television station, and read every bit of news in the "Daily Eagle". Headlines told of a worsening situation. First,
Egyptmoved troops into the Gaza Strip, demanding that the United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Force be withdrawn. Then, Israel beefed up her forces and, in turn, each of the other Arab countries put her armed forces on alert. As war clouds darkened, the United Arab Republic closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping.
During this time, the carrier conducted normal training operations off the island of Crete and held two major underway replenishment operations. On 5 June, seven American newsmen from the wire services, the three major American television networks and several individual newspapers across the country flew on board. These seven were soon joined by others, 29 in all including media representatives from England, Greece, and West Germany.
Their presence was evident everywhere on board the carrier. They lined the signal bridge and the
flight deck, their cameras recording the cycle of flight operations, refuelings, and the tempo of shipboard routine. At night, Robert Goralskiof NBC Newsand Bill Gillof ABC Newsteamed up to present the WAMR "Gill-Goralski Report", a half-hour on the latest developments in the Mideast and around the world.
"America's" presence was soon noted, and the carrier soon attracted other, less welcome, visitors. A Soviet destroyer had joined up on the morning of 2 June; armed with
surface-to-air missiles, the Russian ship constantly cut in and out of the carrier's formation. Shortly after noon on 7 June, Vice Admiral William I. Martin, Commander 6th Fleet, sent the Soviet ship a message, in Russian and English: "Your actions for the past five days have interfered with our operations. By positioning your ship in the midst of our formation and shadowing our every move you are denying us the freedom of maneuver on the high seas that has been traditionally recognized by seafaring nations for centuries."
"In a few minutes", the message continued "the task force will commence maneuvering at high speeds and various courses. Your present position will be dangerous to your ship as well as the ships of this force. I request you clear our formation without delay and discontinue your interference and unsafe practices." Although that particular Soviet guided missile destroyer left "America", her sister ships soon arrived to follow the carrier and her escorting destroyers for days.
The Six Day War
On the morning of 5 June 1967, while "America" was refueling from the oiler USS|Truckee|AO-147|6, with the CarDiv 4 band and the
rock'n'rollcombo of "Truckee" playing against one another the word came that the Israelis and the Arabs were at war. That afternoon the bosun's pipe called the crew to a general quartersdrill, and the excitement of the moment was evident as all hands rushed to their battle stations. When general quarters was secured, the word was passed over the 1-MC, the ship-wide general announcement system, to set condition three, an advanced state of defensive readiness.Fact|date=July 2007
On 7 June, the destroyer USS|Lloyd Thomas|DD-764|2, in company with "America", obtained a sonar contact, which was classified as a "possible" submarine. Rear Admiral Geis immediately dispatched "Lloyd Thomas" and the guided missile destroyer USS|Sampson|DDG-10|2 to investigate the contact. "Sampson" obtained contact quickly and coordinated with "Lloyd Thomas" in tracking the possible submarine.
"America" launched one of her antisubmarine helicopters, a Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 9, and gained sonar contact. At midnight, the contact was reclassified as a "probable" submarine. At that time, no known or friendly submarines were reported to be in the area of the contact. The destroyers maintained good sonar contact through the night.
At 0530 on 8 June, a Lockheed SP-2H Neptune antisubmarine patrol plane of Patrol Squadron (VP) 7, coordinating with the destroyers and helicopters, obtained a
magnetic anomaly detector(MAD) confirmation over the contact. The MAD equipment allows an ASW aircraft to confirm that a contact detected in the sea by other means is actually a very large metal object.
Rear Admiral Geis announced the "probable" submarine's presence at noon. The newsmen, still embarked, dashed off stories to their home offices. Other events, however, would soon over-shadow the story about a 'probable' sub lurking near an American carrier task force.
Attack on the USS "Liberty"
At about 1400 local time, on 8 June 1967, the technical research ship USS|Liberty|AGTR-5|2 was attacked by Israeli
torpedo boats and jet fighters, approximately 15 miles (24 km) north of the Sinai port of El Arish, in international waters.
However, the first word that reached "America" and the Department of Defense in Washington gave no indication as to the identity of the attackers. "America's" flight deck came alive. In a matter of minutes, F-4B Phantom interceptors were in the air to ward off any possible attack against task force units. At the same time, bombs and rockets moved from the magazines deep within the ship to the flight deck. Four Douglas
A-4 Skyhawkattack bombers were loaded and launched together with fighter cover. The planes outbound from "America" were recalled with their ordnance still in the racks.
The attack on "Liberty" had cost the lives of 34 men, with 75 wounded, 15 seriously. Admiral Martin dispatched two destroyers, USS|Davis|DD-937|2 and USS|Massey|DD-778|2, with Lt. Cmdr. Peter A. Flynn, MC, USN, one of "America's" junior medical officers, and two corpsmen from the carrier on board. The destroyers rendezvoused with "Liberty" at 0600 on 9 June, and the medical personnel, including a second doctor from one of the destroyers, were transferred immediately to the damaged research ship.
At 1030, two helicopters from "America" rendezvoused with "Liberty" and began transferring the more seriously wounded to the carrier. An hour later, about 350 miles (560 km) east of
Souda BayCrete, "America" rendezvoused with "Liberty". The carrier's crew lined every topside vantage point, silent, watching the helicopters bring 50 wounded and nine dead from "Liberty" to "America". As "Liberty" drew alongside, listing, her sides perforated with rockets and cannon shell, nearly 2,000 of the carrier's crew were on the flight deck and, spontaneously moved by the sight, gave the battered "Liberty" and her brave crew a tremendous cheer.
"America's" medical team worked around the clock removing
shrapnel, and treating various wounds and burns. Doctors Gordon, Flynn and Lt. Donald P. Griffith, MC, worked for more than 12 hours in the operating room, while other doctors, Lt. George A. Lucier and Lt. Frank N. Federico made continuous rounds in the wards to aid and comfort the wounded. Their jobs were not finished that day, for the next week and more, the "Liberty's" wounded required constant attention.
Since the fighting had started between the Israelis and the Arabs, a weary quiet had settled over the carrier's flight deck. Ready, the ship waited for any possible situation, but the planes never left the decks.
However, as the Israeli forces moved to speedy victory in the
Six-Day War, the Arabs charged that 6th Fleet aircraft were providing air cover for Israeli ground forces. The newsmen on board reported that these charges were false.
On Wednesday morning 7 June, Admiral Martin issued a statement to the press: "It would have been impossible for any aircraft from the 6th Fleet to have flown the support missions alleged by various Middle Eastern spokesmen . . . No aircraft of the 6th Fleet have been within a hundred miles (160 km) of the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, specifically Israel and the UAR. Furthermore, no 6th Fleet aircraft has entered the territorial airspace of any Middle Eastern or North African nation during the current period of tension."
The admiral gave members of the press copies of both "America's" and "Saratoga's" flight plans for the days in question and a rundown of the task force's position at all times during the conflict. He pointed out that a check of the carriers' ordnance inventory would refute the charges, that both the number of pilots and aircraft embarked had changed only with the return of personnel and planes from the
Paris Air Show.
"America" conducted a memorial service on 10 June, on the carrier's flight deck.
As Israeli forces advanced towards the Suez Canal and the Jordan River, and appeals for a cease-fire came, the tension relaxed aboard ship. The crew took time out for an 11-bout boxing smoker in the hangar bay. With a running commentary by the Gill-Goralski team, nearly 2,000 crew members crowded around the ring while others watched the action over closed circuit television. "America" continued on station for several more days, but the tension seemed to have gone. The newsmen left, the uninvited Soviet guests called no more, and regular flight operations resumed.
On a lighter note, during the same period, other activities were happening aboard ship, and in Paris, France. Two squadrons of CVW-6 participated in the 27th Paris Air Show held at the French capital's
Le Bourget Airportfrom 25 May to 5 June. A Fighter Squadron (VF) 33 F-4B Phantom II and an Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 122 GrummanE-2A Hawkeye were on display at the airfield throughout the show.
"America" next hosted, commencing on 14 June, 49 midshipmen from the
United States Naval Academyand Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps(NROTC) units across the country. For six weeks the "middies", under the watchful eyes of the ship's officers, filled junior officer billets in all of the departments in the ship. In late July, the second group of 41 "middies" arrived for their six-week cruise.
"America" transited the Dardanelles on 21 June and arrived at Istanbul, where Rear Admiral Geis laid a wreath at the foot of the grave of the Unknown Soldier as a tribute to the Turkish war dead. Three days later, however, a group of angry demonstrators burned the wreath. Then, approximately 600 students with 1,500 spectators and sympathizers, participated in an anti-American/6th Fleet protest march, culminating in speeches in the area of the fleet landing. Liberty for the crew was cancelled for most of the afternoon-however, by early evening the situation had quieted down enough so that liberty could be resumed. All was peaceful for the remainder of the visit.
"America" departed Istanbul on 26 June for five days of operations in the Aegean Sea. On 1 July, the carrier steamed into the port of
Thessaloniki, Greece for her first visit to that port. For Fourth of July celebrations aboard ship, Rear Admiral Geis and "America's" commanding officer, Capt. Donald D. Engen hosted the Perfect of Thessaloniki, the Mayor of Thessaloniki, the American Consul and approximately 75 Greek Army officers and civilians. On 8 July, Rear Admiral Daniel V. GalleryUSN (Ret.) arrived on board via "COD" ( Carrier Onboard Delivery) aircraft. Admiral Gallery was visiting as many 6th Fleet ships as possible during his month stay in the Mediterranean to gather material for articles and books. He also departed by COD, on 9 July.
On 16 July, "America" anchored at Athens for her second visit to that port of the 1967 cruise, before she proceeded thence to Valletta on 29 July. On 7 August, "America" anchored in the Bay of Naples. After visits to Genoa and Valencia, the carrier sailed into Pollensa Bay and commenced the turnover of her 6th Fleet materials to her relief, the attack carrier USS|Franklin D. Roosevelt|CVA-42|2.
"America" moored at Pier 12 Naval Station, Norfolk, on 20 September and entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 6 October. She remained there, undergoing a restricted availability, into early January 1968. From 6 January to 8 January, the ship steamed for three days of sea trials in the Virginia Capes operating area. After a four-day ammunition onload at anchorage X-ray in Hampton Bay and a brief stay at Pier 12, NOB, Norfolk, "America" departed for a month-long cruise to the Caribbean for the naval technical proficiency inspection (NTPI), refresher training with the Fleet Training Group, Guantanamo Bay, and type training in the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range (AFWR) before she could proceed to the Jacksonville Operating area for carrier qualifications.
"America" departed Norfolk on 16 January, arriving at Guantanamo Bay for extensive drills, exercises and inspections. General quarters was a daily routine as the ship strove to reach the peak of proficiency required in its upcoming combat deployment to the western Pacific (WestPac).
On 1 February, "America" departed the Guantanamo area, bound for the AFWR. The next day, 2 February, representatives from the AFWR came on board to brief "America" representatives and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 6 pilots on forthcoming operations. The training consisted of invaluable and highly successful exercises in environmental tracking, antimissile defense, airborne jamming against radars, emergency aircraft recovery, and simulated PT boat attacks.
With this phase of her combat training completed, "America" departed the AFWR on 9 February for carrier qualifications in the Jacksonville operating area, and held them from the 12th through the 15th.
On the 17th, "America" moored at berths 23 and 24 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard to prepare for final type training, prior to her upcoming WestPac deployment. On 7 March, "America" again put to sea, back to the AFWR for further type training and Exercise "
Rugby Match". En route to the Caribbean, the ship held various exercises in weapons loading, electronic countermeasures (ECM), and general quarters. On 10 March, "America" flew off the first of eight simulated air strikes. "America's" CVW flew "attack" sorties against "enemy" positions on Vieques, Puerto Rico. A search and rescueexercise (SAREX) was conducted to test the ship and air wing response to the distress call of a downed aviator. She also held several missile defense exercises to test the ship's reflexes against a surface threat.
"America's" planes flew photographic reconnaissance sorties over Vieques, and "found" simulated targets on film. Communications exercises simulated conditions in
Gulf of Tonkin, as a high volume of message traffic similar to that to be experienced in southeast Asia was generated by Commander, CarDiv 2, who was embarked in the ship. On 13 March and 14 March, the weapons department also flexed their muscles by firing two Terrier missiles.
Exercise "Rugby Match", a major Atlantic Fleet exercise involving approximately eighty ships was held in the AFWR from 7 March to 29 March. "America" and Commander, CarDiv 2 (as commander, Task Group (TG)) 26.1, participated from the 18th to the 20th.
As the "Blue" Force attack carrier, "America" and her air wing pilots provided close air support (CAS), photo reconnaissance and
combat air patrol(CAP) sorties for Task Force (TF) 22, the "Blue" amphibious landing force, during a landing on the island of Vieques. Prior to America's main participation during this period, CVW-6 flew an aerial mining mission in the amphibious operating area on the 15th. D-Day was 19 March. On return from their missions as CAS and CAP, several aircraft tested the antiaircraft defenses of the task force by flying raids against "America".
Bound for Vietnam
"America" moored at Pier 12 NOB, Norfolk, at 1315, 23 March. Two days later, on 25 March, she put to sea again for a dependents' cruise. Then, on the dark, rainy afternoon of 10 April, "America" stood out of Hampton Roads, bound for "Yankee Station", a half-a-world away. The next day, the ship's complement of men and machines was brought up to full strength as "America" recovered the remainder of CVW-6's aircraft off the coast of the Carolinas. En route, she conducted one last major training exercise.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was the next stop en route to southeast Asia, "America"'s first to that city and continent. Now with her course set almost due east, "America" sailed through waters she had never traveled before. Across the southern Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope, past Madagascarand out into the broad expanse of the Indian Oceantowards the Sunda Strait and Subic Bay, Philippine Islands. From Subic the ship sailed northwest through the South China Seatowards " Yankee Station." En route, on 26 May, the ship participated in exercise "NEWBOY" and the next day held carrier qualifications. At 1000, 30 May, she arrived at "Yankee Station, and at 0630 the next morning the first aircraft since commissioning to leave her deck in anger was launched against the enemy.
During four line periods, consisting of 112 days on "Yankee Station", "America's" aircraft pounded at roads and waterways, trucks and waterborne logistics craft (WBLCS), hammered at petroleum storage areas and truck parks and destroyed bridges and cave storage areas in the attempt to impede the flow of men and war materials to the south. On 10 July 1968, Lt. Roy Cash, Jr. (pilot) and Lt. (j.g.) Joseph E. Kain, Jr. (radar intercept officer), in an FT "Phantom" from VF-33 downed a MiG-21 'Fishbed', 17 miles (27 km) northwest of Vinh,
North Vietnam, for the ship's first MiG "kill" in the Vietnam War. America and her embarked air wing, CVW-6, would later be awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for their work during that time.
Between line periods, America visited
Hong Kong, Yokosukaand Subic Bay. With "America's" mission on "Yankee Station" nearing completion, she launched the last of her attack aircraft at 1030 on 29 October. The next day, she set sail for Subic Bay and the of offload of various "Yankee Station" assets. In addition, a heavy attack squadron, VAH-10, and an electronic countermeasures squadron, VA-130, departed the ship on 3 November as they began a transpacific movement of their entire detachments to Alameda, and 144 aviators along with several members of the ship's company departed for the United States on the "Magic Carpet" flight.
The days the ship spent en route to Australia,
New Zealand, Brazil, and Norfolk were, of necessity, more relaxed than those of her six months of combat. Nine hundred ninety-three "Pollywogs" were initiated into the realm of Neptunus Rex on the morning of 7 November as the ship again crossed the Equator. On 9 November, a flight deck "cookout" was sponsored by the supply department as the entire crew enjoyed char- broiled steaks and basked in the equatorial sun. After mooring at 1330 on 16 December at Pier 12, Norfolk, her "round-the-world" cruise completed, post-deployment and holiday leave began, continuing through the first day of the year 1969.
On 8 January 1969 she headed for the Jacksonville operating area where she served as the platform for carrier qualifications. On 24 January, "America" arrived at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard to begin a nine-month overhaul. Upon completion of the overhaul, the carrier conducted post-repair trials and operated locally off the Virginia Capes. During one period of local operations, between 21 November and 23 November 1969, "America" took part in carrier suitability tests for the
Lockheed U-2R reconnaissance plane.
On 5 January 1970, the carrier departed the Norfolk area to commence a nine week cruise in the Guantanamo Bay operating area. From 15 February to 21 February, "America" participated in Operation "SPRINGBOARD 70", the annual series of training exercises conducted in the Caribbean. The program was established to take advantage of good weather and the extensive modern training facilities, including targets of all kinds, which are available in order to achieve maximum training during the period. This exercise included submarine operations, air operations, and participation by the Marine Corps. At the completion of this testing and training, America departed the Guantanamo area to arrive at the Jacksonville area on 1 March in order to conduct carrier qualification landings with the various squadrons stationed in and around the Jacksonville/Cecil Field area.
"America" arrived at NOB, Norfolk, on 8 March, and remained there for approximately one month making last minute preparations for an eight-month deployment.
econd Vietnam deployment
On 10 April 1970, with CVW-9 on board, "America" left Norfolk and paused briefly in the Caribbean for an operational readiness inspection before proceeding on a voyage that took her across the equator to Rio de Janeiro, round the Cape of Good Hope, across the Indian Ocean, into the Pacific Ocean and finally to Subic Bay in the Philippines.
On 26 May, "America" began its first day of special operations in the Gulf of Tonkin, when Cmdr. Fred M. Backman, commanding officer of VA-165, and his bombardier/navigator, Lt. Cmdr. Jack Hawley, in a Grumman A-6C "Intruder" flew the ship's first combat sortie of the 1970 WestPac cruise. On the same day, the Navy's newest light attack aircraft, the A-7E Corsair II received its first taste of combat. At 1201, Lt. (j.g.) Dave Lichterman, of VA-146, was catapulted from the deck in the first A- 7E ever to be launched in combat. He and his flight leader, Cmdr. Wayne L. Stephens, the squadron's commanding officer, subsequently delivered their ordnance with devastating accuracy using the A-7E's digital weapons computer. Shortly after 1300, Cmdr R. N. Livingston, skipper of the "Argonauts" of VA-147, and Lt Cmdr. Tom Gravely rolled in on an enemy supply route to deliver the first bombs in combat in an A-7E, reportedly "all on target".
For five line periods, consisting of 100 days on "Yankee Station", America's aircraft pounded at roads and waterways, trucks and waterborne logistic craft (WBLC), hammered at petroleum storage areas and truck parks in an attempt to impede the flow of men and war materials to the south.
On 20 August, at
Manila, Vice Admiral Frederic A. Bardshar, Commander, Attack Carrier Striking Force, 7th Fleet, hosted the President of the Philippines, Ferdinand E. Marcos, on board America. President Marcos was given a 21-gun salute as he and Mrs. Marcos arrived on board from their Presidential yacht to visit the ship. Accompanied by American Ambassador and Mrs. Henry A. Byroade, they were greeted by Vice Admiral Bardshar and "America's" commanding officer, Capt. Thomas B. Haywardand were s subsequently escorted to the ship's hangar deck where the carrier division band and the ship's marine detachment rendered honors. Following their arrival, the visiting party dined with Vice Admiral Bardshar and Capt. Hayward, and were later given a brief tour of the ship.
On 17 September, "America" completed her fourth line period and headed for special operations off the coast of
Koreaand subsequently, the Sea of Japan. On 23 September the carrier entered the Tsushima Straits, remained in the Sea of Japan for approximately five days and exited on 27 September through the Tsugaru Strait.
During this period, "America" and CVW-9 engaged in three exercises: "Blue Sky", with elements of the
Republic of ChinaAir Force; "Commando Tiger", conducted in the Sea of Japan, involving air units of the Republic of Korea(ROK) Air Force (ROKAF); and, after exiting the Tsugara Straits, "Autumn Flower", air defense exercises with the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) and the United States Fifth Air Force.
On 7 November, "America" completed her fifth line period and departed for her last visit to Subic Bay. Through five line periods, the carrier had flown off 10,600 sorties (7,615 combat plus combat support), 2,626 actual combat sorties, completed 10,804 carrier landings, expended 11,190 tons of ordnance, moved 425,996 pounds of cargo, handled 6,890 packages and transferred 469,027 pounds of mail. She had accomplished this without a single combat loss and only one major landing accident with fortunately, no fatalities. Considering sustained combat operations in prevailing immoderate weather and highly successful 7th Fleet exercises without one day's loss in operations due to any material casualty, "America" left the Pacific Ocean justifiably proud of her accomplishments.
On the long trip home, "America" welcomed approximately 500 more "pollywogs" into the realm of "Neptunis Rex". The day before the carrier arrived at
Sydney, Australia, for a three day rest and recreation visit, United States ambassador to Australia and his wife, the Honorable and Mrs. Walter L. Rice, flew on board to accompany the ship into Sydney.
With so much to be thankful for, "America" celebrated two Thanksgivings. At exactly 2329 on 26 November, America crossed the
International Date Line. Moments later it became Thanksgiving Day again. On both days, crew-members feasted on turkey, beef, lobster tails, Virginia ham and roast duckling.
After rounding Cape Horn on 5 December 1970, "America" headed north, stopped briefly at Rio de Janeiro for fuel, and arrived at Pier 12, NOB Norfolk, on 21 December. She remained there until 22 January 1971, when the ship entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a three month restricted availability. She departed the yard, on schedule, on 22 March. Over the ensuing weeks, the ship operated locally in the Virginia Capes operating areas. She then carried out exercises in Puerto Rican waters, with United States Navy as well as
Royal Navywarships-including HMS|Ark Royal|R09|6, HMS|Cleopatra|F28|6, and HMS|Bacchante|F69|6.
After a return to Norfolk, "America" stood out of Hampton Roads on 6 July 1971 for the Mediterranean. On 16 July 1971, America dropped anchor at Rota, Spain, in order to receive her turnover information from the ship she was relieving on station, USS "Franklin D. Roosevelt". "America" then entered the Mediterranean for the third time since her commissioning. Between the time the ship left Rota, until she reached
Naples, she participated in three major exercises.
Following a port call at Naples, "America" proceeded on a course toward Palma,
Majorca. While en route, she participated in "PHIBLEX 2-71", in which she covered a mock amphibious landing at Capoteulada, Sicily. After a port visit at Palma, Majorca, "America" participated from 16 August to 27 August in "National Week X", one of the largest exercises conducted in the Mediterranean. At the termination of the exercise, America proceeded to Corfu, Greece, her next liberty port. She then visited Athens shortly afterwards.
After conducting routine operations in the eastern Mediterranean and making a port call at Rhodes, Greece, the ship proceeded to the
Aegean Seato participate in Operation "Deep Furrow 71", "America" and CVW-8 providing close air support for almost the entire exercise.
Proceeding thence to Thessaloniki, Greece, for a port visit "America" then participated in "National Week XI", in the central Mediterranean. The carrier subsequently visited Naples before she steamed into the western Mediterranean to participate in exercises with British, Dutch, Italian and French forces in Exercise "Ile D'Or", completing her part in the evolutions by 19 November. America then conducted port visits to Cannes and Barcelona before proceeding to Rota. There, on 9 December, she was relieved on station by USS|John F. Kennedy|CV-67|6.
Arriving back at Norfolk on 16 December, "America" moored at Pier 12, NOB, Norfolk, for post-deployment stand down before unloading ammunition in preparation for availability at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. After the two-month overhaul, the carrier conducted sea trials. Soon afterwards America embarked on a program of training, accelerated due to the fact that the date of her deployment had been advanced one month, and participated in Exercise "Exotic Dancer V." She returned to Pier 12, NOB Norfolk, upon conclusion of the exercises.
Third deployment to Vietnam
On 2 June 1972, three days before "America" was to sail Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, the Chief of Naval Operations, visited the ship and explained the reason why her orders had been changed sending her to the Gulf of Tonkin instead of the Mediterranean. Sailing on 5 June, "America" crossed the equator on 12 June and held the usual initiation of "pollywogs" into the realm of Neptune.
Escorted by USS|Davis|DD-937|2 and USS|Dewey|DD-349|2, and accompanied by the fleet oiler USS|Waccamaw|AO-109|2, "America" proceeded toward southeast Asia, and rounded Cape Horn on 21 June. Joining the 7th Fleet later in June, "America" relieved the attack carrier USS|Coral Sea|CV-43|6 on station, and commenced combat operations on 12 July. A ruptured main feed pump, however, prompted an early return to Subic Bay on 25 July for repairs, the ship arriving in the Philippines during a time of natural devastation-floods and landslides.
The repair work was delayed for two weeks while needed parts were rushed to Subic Bay. "America" stood out on 9 August to return to the line, and soon resumed carrying out strike operations against communist targets in North Vietnam. On 6 October, bombs from her planes dropped the Thanh Hoa Bridge, a major objective since the bombing of the North had begun years before.
Completing her line period and stopping over briefly at Subic Bay, "America" steamed to
Singapore, departing that port on 20 October to resume operations on "Yankee Station." Less than a month later, a fire broke out on board "America", at 1410 on 19 November 1972, in the number two catapult spaces. The ship went to general quarters as smoke began to fill the 03 level, and damage control parties soon had the blaze extinguished. Clean-up and repair work ensued, and despite not having the services of one of her catapults, "America" remained on the line and continued to meet her commitments.
After an extended line period of 43 days, "America" reached Subic Bay on 2 December, where the number two catapult was repaired, and departed the Philippines on 8 December to return to "Yankee Station". A week before Christmas, "America" learned that the breakdown of peace talks in Paris had led to a resumption of bombing of targets in North Vietnam. "America" swung into action, and the pace proved hectic until the Christmas cease-fire. "Christmas away from home is never good", "America's" historian wrote, "but the men of "America" made the best of it with homemade decorations." There were services to celebrate the season, "and carolers were noted strolling through the passageways ...."
"America" received five
battle stars for her service in the Vietnam War.
Cessation of hostilities
On 28 December, the carrier anchored in Hong Kong harbor, and remained there until 4 January 1973, when she stood out for the Philippines and the period of rest and repairs at Subic Bay that would precede the ship's return to the line. All hands avidly followed the progress of the peace talks as "America" returned to "Yankee Station", and resumed operations. After two weeks on the line, the ship learned that peace had been secured and that an agreement was to be signed in Paris. At 0800 on 28 January 1973, the Vietnam War-at least that stage of it-was at an end. Rumors swept the ship that her deployment would be shortened because of the cessation of hostilities, and hope ran high as the ship moored at Subic Bay on 3 February.
America did return to "Yankee Station" one last time, but her time on station proved short, as she returned to Subic Bay on 17 February and sailed thence for the United States three days later, on 20 February 1973. The carrier arrived at Mayport Florida, disembarking men from CVW-8 and embarking the teen-aged sons of some of the ship's company officers and men, thus allowing them to ride the ship back to Norfolk with their fathers, something thoroughly enjoyed by all who took part.
On 24 March 1973, "America" arrived back at NOB, Norfolk, mooring at Pier 12 and bringing to a close her sixth major deployment since commissioning. She immediately began preparations for a 30-day stand down and the restricted availability to follow at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. She entered the yard on 11 May and emerged after that period of repairs and alterations on 10 August.
"America" conducted local operations out of Norfolk into October, and during this period the ship celebrated a significant milestone in the life of a carrier: she logged her 100,000th landing on 29 August 1973, when her COD aircraft (nicknamed "Miss America"), piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Lewis R. Newby and Lt. Cmdr. Ronnie B. Baker, landed on board. Cake-cuttings on the hangar deck and in the wardroom celebrated the occasion.
On 29 October, "America" cleared Hampton Roads for Jacksonville and a period of carrier qualifications. She was conducting routine training operations on 1 November 1973 when she went to the assistance of the crippled sailing
schooner"Harry W. Adams" of Nova Scotia. The 147-foot schooner, her engine disabled and without power for her pumps, was taking on water. Helicopters from "America" sped to the scene, and the ship provided rescue specialists and underwater demolition experts to assist in the effort. The ship's captain and his crew of nine all escaped serious injury, although the carrier's helicopters brought three of the crew on board for medical examinations and a warm meal. America stood by until the late afternoon, when the Coast Guard cutter "PORT ROBERTS" arrived to assist "Harry W. Adams" into port at Jacksonville.
After concluding her operations in the Jacksonville area "America" paid a port call at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, from 4 November to 8 November. She proceeded thence to sea for exercises of various kinds to hone the skills of the ship-air wing team and, following her operational readiness inspection off Mayport, proceeded back to Norfolk, mooring at Pier 12, NOB, on 21 November.
"America" then steamed south after the Thanksgiving holiday, for Atlantic Fleet readiness exercises, returned via Mayport to Norfolk on 13 December, and remained in her home port until sailing for the Mediterranean on 3 January 1974.
Relieving USS "Independence" at Rota, Spain, on 11 January, she became the flagship for Rear Admiral Frederick C. Turner, Commander, TF 60. "America" commenced operations in the western Mediterranean that day and, over the next few weeks; divided her time between at-sea periods and port visits to Toulon,
Barcelona, and Valencia. From 15 February to 19 February, the carrier participated in Exercise "National Week XVI", and upon the conclusion of that evolution anchored in Souda Bay, Crete. She proceeded thence for a port call at Athens.
Standing out of the waters of that Greek port on 1 March, "America" participated in "PHIBLEX 9-74", in which the ship's air wing, CVW, practiced supporting an amphibious landing. The carrier then operated north of Crete on exercises in early April, after which time she put into Athens on 9 April.
"America" then participated in NATO exercise, "Dawn Patrol", in which units of the navies of the United States, United Kingdom, Portugal, the Netherlands, France, Italy, and
West Germanyparticipated. During one phase of this exercise, the carrier's marine detachment embarked in USS|El Paso|LKA-117|6 and stormed ashore from that amphibious ship while "America's" planes provided close air support.
Upon the conclusion of Dawn Patrol, the carrier paid another visit to Athens, proceeding thence on 19 May for a four-day period of exercises, after which time she steamed to Istanbul, arriving there on 23 May.
Immediately following this port call, the ship returned to Athens and sailed thence for Exercise "SHAHBAZ" to test the air defense capability of NATO ally
Turkeyearly in June. America then anchored off the island of Rhodes, Greece, on 6 June for a four-day port visit, after which time she returned to Athens to embark Naval Academy midshipmen for their summer training cruise. America then participated in Exercise "Flaming Lance", off the coast of Sardinia, during which time USS|Leahy|DLG-16|2 controlled over 1,000 intercepts by "America's" aircraft.
Making her last port call at Athens for the deployment, the carrier steamed to Souda Bay on 1 July, loading minesweeping equipment that had been used in
Operation Nimbus Star, the clearance of the Suez Canal. "America" then proceeded to Corfu, and began the transit out of the eastern Mediterranean on 6 July, arriving at Palma, Majorca, three days later.
"America" anchored off Rota on 15 July, for what was scheduled to have been an off-load of the equipment of Commander, TF 60, staff. Clashes between Greek and Turkish forces on Cyprus, however, prompted the Joint Chiefs of Staff to order "America" to remain at Rota until the arrival of her relief, "Independence", on 28 July. As soon as that attack carrier entered the 6th Fleet operating area, "America" commenced her homeward voyage, ultimately reaching Pier 12, NOB Norfolk, on 3 August.
A little over a month later, "America" sailed for the
North Sea, to participate in a NATO exercise, "Northern Merger", departing Norfolk on 6 September. "America" joined with HMS "Ark Royal" in providing air support for a NATO task force and for an amphibious landing. Throughout the exercise Soviet surface units, as well as Tu-95 'Bear' and Tu-16 'Badger' aircraft, conducted surveillance missions over and near the NATO force.
Upon the conclusion of "Northern Merger", America steamed to
Portsmouth, England, arriving there on 29 September to commence a five-day port visit. The carrier proceeded thence back to the United States, reaching Pier 12, NOB, Norfolk on 12 October, to commence preparations for a major overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Entering the yard on 27 November 1974, "America" remained there until 27 September 1975, when the ship got underway to conduct post-overhaul sea trials.
"America" departed Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 16 October 1975 for local operations off the Virginia Capes and, after a few weeks alongside her familiar berth, Pier 12, NOB, Norfolk, departed Hampton Roads for Cuban waters and refresher training.
While steaming north of Cuba and preparing for the operational readiness inspection that concludes refresher training, "America" picked up distress calls, immediately deploying helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to search for a disabled motorized sailboat, "Ruggentino". One of the carrier's helicopters located a boat in distress and guided a tug to the scene which took the disabled craft in tow. The boat, however, was the "CONTENT", so "America" and her aircraft resumed the search for "Ruggentino". One of her planes soon located 'Ruggentino", and the ship dispatched a motor whaleboat to assist. "America" sailors soon had the boat pumped out and headed for port. This effort, two successful search-and-rescue missions in one night under adverse weather conditions earned the ship a "well done."
"America" completed her schedule of training in Cuban waters and then returned north, arriving back at Norfolk on 16 December 1975. Following the year-end stand down, the carrier resumed local operations out of Norfolk in January 1976 and, in March participated in Exercise "Safe Pass '76" with ships of the Canadian, West German, Dutch and British navies. She ultimately sailed for the Mediterranean on 15 April 1976 with CVW-6 and Commander, Carrier Group (CarGru) 4, Rear Admiral James B. Linder, embarked.
Crisis in Lebanon
Soon after her arrival in the turnover port of Rota, "America" participated in a NATO exercise, "Open Gate", before entering the Mediterranean. Passing the
Pillars of Herculeson 3 May, the ship entered into the eastern Mediterranean in support of Operation "Fluid Drive", a contingency operation for the evacuation of non-combatants from war-torn Lebanon. For the next three months, the carrier maintained a high state of readiness. In conjunction with "Fluid Drive", the ship and her air wing maintained continuous surveillance of the Soviet Mediterranean fleet, which at that point was at its largest since the Yom Kippur Warof 1973.
On 24 May, "America" anchored in Rhodes, Greece, to commence her first liberty of the deployment-but violent anti-American demonstrations prevented the carrier's crew from going ashore, and the ship stood out two days later. "America" conducted a port visit to Taranto Italy, instead, but the deteriorating situation in the eastern Mediterranean required the ship to sail sooner than scheduled.
The assassination of the United States ambassador to Lebanon Francis E. Meloy, and Economic Counselor Robert O. Waring as they were on their way to visit Lebanese President Elias Sarkis on 13 June 1976 prompted the evacuation of Americans from that nation a week later, on the 20th. America remained on alert while landing craft from the dock landing ship USS|Spiegel Grove|LSD-32|2 transferred the evacuees from the beach to safety. Following the successful evacuation, the carrier proceeded westward for a few days of liberty in Italian ports celebrating the country's bicentennial Independence Day, 4 July 1976, at Taranto.
Proceeding back into the eastern Mediterranean on 11 July to conduct a missile exercise north of Crete, the ship continued to maintain responsibility for "Fluid Drive." On 27 July, as more Americans were evacuated from Lebanon on board USS|Portland|LSD-37|2, the carrier provided support. Relieved of her responsibilities in the eastern Mediterranean on 2 August, "America" reached Naples soon afterwards, and remained in port for two weeks. The carrier returned to sea on 18 August and participated in Exercise "National Week XXI" with other 6th Fleet units.
Upon the termination of "National Week XXI", "America" proceeded to Palma, whence she proceeded to participate in "Poop Deck 76" with Spanish Air Force units and United States Air Force units based in Spain. Then, following visits to the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Malaga, America took part in the final exercise of her Mediterranean cruise, Exercise "Display Determination." HMS|Ark Royal|R09|6 teamed with "America", and ships from the navies of Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Turkey participated as well. The American carrier conducted convoy escort duties, simulated close air support for amphibious operations, and simulated strikes against military targets. Upon conclusion of "Display Determination", the carrier proceeded to Rota, where she was relieved by USS "Franklin D. Roosevelt". "America" ultimately reached Norfolk on 25 October 1976.
On 6 November, the carrier proceeded up the Elizabeth River to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where she remained into February 1977. America then operated locally out of Norfolk into the spring of 1977 until sailing for the Mayport, Florida, operating area on 3 May. Following her participation in Exercise "Solid Shield 77", a joint service amphibious training exercise, the carrier returned to Norfolk on 4 May.
"America" sailed from Hampton Roads on 10 June 1977 for a five-week South Atlantic deployment as a unit of TG 20.4. Other ships in company included USS|South Carolina|CGN-37|2, USS|Claude V. Ricketts|DDG-5|2, USS|Dupont|DD-941|2, and USS|Neosho|AO-143|2. Following her return to Norfolk, "America" operated locally before she sailed to conduct operations in the Caribbean.
Thence returning to Norfolk on 27 August, "America" sailed for the Mediterranean on 29 September, with CVW-6 embarked, and reached Rota on 9 October. Departing that port on 14 October the carrier proceeded to the Tyrrhenian Sea, where she operated until 26 October. Following a port call at Brindisi, Italy, "America" began operations in the Ionian Sea on 7 November, and anchored at Souda Bay, Crete, two days later. She operated locally in these waters until 12 November, when she sailed for
Kithira Island, Greece, anchoring there on the 19th.
Weighing anchor the following morning, "America" sailed for the Adriatic Sea, bound for
Dubrovnik, Croatia. Visiting this seaport from 22 November to 26 November, the carrier transited the Adriatic for a port call at Trieste, staying there from 28 November to 3 December. Returning to operate in the waters of Souda Bay for more exercises, "America" subsequently departed Crete on 12 December for Palma, where she spent Christmas.
Departing Palma two days later, "America" proceeded through the
Ligurian Seato her next port of call, Genoa, which she reached on 30 December. She remained there until 8 January 1978, when she sailed to carry out antisubmarine exercises in the Tyrrhenian Sea, upon the conclusion of which she anchored in Golfo di Palma, Sicily. Operations in the western Mediterranean and again in the Tyrrhenian Sea rounded out most of January 1978, and the ship rested briefly at Catania, Italy, before getting underway for Exercise "National Week" on 5 February.
She returned to the Tyrrhenian Sea and western Mediterranean for further exercises during March, and then visited Barcelona before she brought the deployment to a close with further exercises in the western Mediterranean. At Rota, she was relieved by USS|Forrestal|CV-59|2, and sailed for Norfolk, arriving home on 25 April 1978.
Following post-deployment stand down, "America" conducted carrier qualifications off the Virginia Capes, and then entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for an availability. Upon the conclusion of that period of repairs and alterations, the carrier conducted post-availability sea trials on 19 September and 20 September 1978, and conducted carrier qualifications with CVW between 12 October and 20 October. Tragedy marred the last day of operations, when a Grumman
S-3 Vikingantisubmarine aircraft went over the side upon landing; hung on the safety nets momentarily, then plunged into the sea. Although the pilots, Lt. Cmdr. Ziolowski and Lt. (j.g.) Renshaw ejected clear of the plane, they were not recovered.
"America" subsequently conducted refresher training out of Guantanamo Bay early in November, before she called at Ft. Lauderdale on 10 November to commence a four-day stay. Returning to Norfolk soon afterwards, the carrier remained in the Norfolk area, alternating periods of time in port alongside Pier 12 with type training and exercises off the Virginia Capes.
The carrier cleared Norfolk on 5 January 1979 for the Caribbean operating areas, and conducted type training there from 5 January to 23 January after which time the ship visited St. Thomas, in the
U.S. Virgin Islands, from 24 January to 29 January. "America" then resumed type training in the waters of the Caribbean and West Indies, concluding those evolutions on 12 February to return to Norfolk.
After bringing CVW-11 on board off the Virginia Capes on 8 March and 9 March, "America" spent the next two days moored at Pier 12, making final preparations for her departure for the Mediterranean. The carrier sailed on 13 March. Two days later, on 15 March, "America" conducted a "BEAREX" with a Lockheed
P-3 Orionfrom Bermuda simulating a Russian "Bear" reconnaissance aircraft. Such practice proved timely, for the following day, A-7 and Grumman F-14 "Tomcat" aircraft from "America" intercepted a pair of the long-range Tupolev Tu-95 Bear D planes that were en route to Cuba from their bases in the Soviet Union. The "Bears" never came within visual range of the carrier's battle group.
Reaching Rota on 24 March, "America" relieved USS|Saratoga|CV-60|2 and commenced operations in the western Mediterranean on 29 March. During this deployment, the ship visited a variety of ports, starting with Naples, Taranto, and Catania. Moving into the Adriatic, the carrier stopped at
Split, Croatia, before moving north to Venice and Trieste. In the eastern Mediterranean, America called at Alexandria, Egypt, at Souda Bay, Crete. Returning west, she visited Palma and Barcelona in Spain, Marseilleon the coast of France, Genoa in northern Italy and Valencia in Spain before heading for Rota. She completed turnover proceedings at Rota on 10 September and 11 September 1979, and got underway immediately to commence the homeward voyage.
Highlighting this period were numerous multilateral and unilateral exercises, as in previous Mediterranean deployments. During one phase of "National Week XXVII", "America" and her consorts took part in an open sea exercise that took them into the waters of the
Gulf of Sidra(Sirte) - claimed by Libyaas territorial waters since 11 October 1973. The Libyan government serving notice that any ship or aircraft operating south of the 32-30 north latitude would be violating its territory, "America's" battle group maintained an alert, in view of the proximity of Libyan airfields and Soviet-made aircraft operating therefrom. Departing Augusta Bay, Sicily, on 26 July, the task group arrived in its exercise area on the 28th. As planes from CVW-11 maintained nearly continuous fighter cover, the ships conducted their exercise unhindered.
Ultimately departing Rota on 12 September 1979 to conduct a
blue waterturnover with USS|Nimitz|CVN-68|2, "America" encountered her second pair of "Bears". F-14 "Tomcats" of VF-213 intercepted the two, however, and caused them to turn away to th e north, having never sighted a single ship in the carrier's battle group. Reaching Norfolk on 22 September, "America" stood down after her 6th Fleet deployment.
The carrier departed Norfolk again on 15 October for Mayport, and conducted local operations off the coast of Florida before moving into the Gulf of Mexico to conduct carrier qualifications. Returning north upon completion of those evolutions, "America" put to sea on 30 October for more carrier qualifications-these, however, involved the first arrested carrier landings of the new McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18 "Hornet." This aircraft underwent rigorous testing over the days which followed, before "America" returned to Norfolk on 3 November.
Entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 6 November 1979, "America" underwent repairs and alterations for much of 1980 commencing her post-repair trials on 23 September 1980. Among the work performed during the availability was the installation of the NATO "
Sea Sparrow" missile and close-in weapon systems such as the multi-barreled "Phalanx" machine gun.
The ship carried out a second period of post-repair trials from 16 October to 21 October, after which time she returned to NOB, Norfolk whence she conducted sea trials from 27 October to 29 October. Subsequently conducting refresher training out of Guantanamo Bay, "America" returned to the Virginia Capes operating area to conduct carrier qualifications in early December. She spent the remainder of the year 1980, undergoing upkeep at NOB, Norfolk.
"America" operated locally in the Virginia Capes area into January 1981 and, during these operations on 14 January 1981, brought on board a Grumman C-1A "Trader" COD aircraft piloted by Ens. Brenda Robinson, USNR. Ens. Robinson became the first black female naval aviator to be carrier qualified. The ship later conducted carrier qualifications for CVW-11.
On 29 January 1981, as "America" was returning to NOB, Norfolk, she received a message from a Greek motor vessel, "Aikaterini", in distress. "America", diverted to the scene to render assistance until the Coast Guard could arrive, sent helicopters from her embarked HS-12 with damage control equipment, members of the ship's fire department, and damage control assistance to the stricken ship.
Returning to Pier 12, NOB, Norfolk on 2 February, "America" proceeded thence for carrier qualifications off the Virginia Capes, and thence to the Caribbean for type training. Returning to Norfolk on 19 March, "America" - in company with her consorts USS|California|CGN-36|2 and USS|Preble|DDG-46|2 subsequently sailed for the Mediterranean on 14 April 1981, destined, ultimately, for the Indian Ocean.
Reaching Palma on 23 April, "America" then participated in NATO exercise "Daily Double", with the amphibious assault ship USS|Nassau|LHA-4|2, as well as with Greek and Italian Navy units on the 28th before she steamed to
Port Said, Egypt.
Originally scheduled to have commenced her transit of the Suez Canal on 5 May, the tense situation in Lebanon prompted a 24-hour "hold" on the evolution. Given the go-ahead soon after, "America" made the 104.5 mile (168 km) transit on 6 May, in ten hours - the first United States Navy carrier to steam through the Suez Canal since USS|Intrepid|CV-11|2 had made the passage shortly before the Arab-Israeli "Six-Day War" of 1967. It was also the first "super-carrier" to transit the canal since it had been modified to permit passage of super-tankers.
"America" operated in the Indian Ocean, on "Gonzo" Station, for the first time between 12 May and 3 June, after which time she visited Singapore. On 18 June, the carrier departed that port for her second stint on "Gonzo Station." This deployment was to last 35 days.
On 15 July, "America" was requested to provide search and rescue (SAR) aircraft to assist in locating a merchant ship in distress in the northern Arabian Sea. The Greek merchantman "Irene Sincerity" was reportedly afire. "America's" planes located the ship and "California" rescued the 39 crewmen and disembarked them in good condition in
Upon completion of her second northern Arabian Sea line period on 4 August, America shaped a course for Australian waters conducting a "Weapons Week" exercise in the vicinity of
Diego Garcia. During "Weapons Week", a Lockheed P-3 "Orion" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 50 requested two F-14 "Tomcats" from America, flying in the vicinity of Pierre Island, near Diego Garcia, to assist in contacting their ship for SAR assistance. USS "California" sped to the island and located an individual stranded on Pierre Island, he had been on a treasure-hunting expedition bound from Sri Lankato Mauritius. The cruiser took the man to Diego Garcia.
Departing the Diego Garcia operating area on 15 August, "America" conducted a unique burial-at-sea on the 18th, when the remains of the late Lt. Stephen O. Musselman were consigned to the ocean. Musselman had been shot down on 10 September 1972 in an A-7 Corsair II from "America", over North Vietnam, and his remains had been returned by the Vietnamese government on 8 July 1981. Lt. Musselman's widow requested that these remains be consigned to the last ship he had served in and buried thence.
"America" anchored at Fremantle on 25 August, and remained there for six days, sailing for "Gonzo Station" on the 31st. During her third line period, the ship spent 34 days on station. On 23 September, a fire broke out in a steam trunk line that carries steam from the main engineering spaces to the flight deck catapult system, at about 1745. Soon after "America's" fire party arrived on the scene to isolate the fire, smoke began filling the areas adjacent to the crew berthing areas, so Capt. James F. Dorsey, Jr., ordered general quarters sounded.
"America's" firefighters soon managed to quell the blaze, and the ship secured from battle stations at 2316. The carrier resumed normal flight operations the next morning at sunrise, and remained on station until relieved by USS "Coral Sea" on 16 October. Two days later, while "America" steamed toward the
Bab el Mandeb Strait, the ship went to general quarters, in view of threats issued by the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. The ship passed without incident, and continued her journey through the Red Seaunhindered.
On 21 October 1981, "America" commenced the northbound transit of the Suez Canal. This transit, unlike the comparatively light-hearted one of 6 May, proved more tense. As a result of the unsettled conditions in Egypt following 6 October 1981 assassination of President
Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian government accorded "America's" passage through the Suez Canal the utmost security considerations. The Egyptian Navy provided a patrol vessel to escort the carrier, while an Egyptian Air Force helicopter conducted reconnaissance flight over both banks of the waterway. Egyptian Army units patrolled the adjacent canal roads. Additionally, liaison officers on board the carrier maintained constant touch with the security forces by radio.
Making the passage of the canal without incident (except for the loss of the ship's anchor in the canal), "America" continued on across the Mediterranean, reaching Palma on 25 October. After a three-day port call, the carrier conducted exercises with Spanish forces, and subsequently sailed for home on 1 November, departing the Mediterranean the following day. She arrived at Norfolk on 12 November.
Following a short stand down, "America" conducted carrier qualifications in the Virginia Capes operating area, before she moored at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 14 December. Emerging from the naval shipyard on 20 April 1982, "America" operated locally off the Virginia Capes. Departing Norfolk on 10 May, the ship steamed to the Guantanamo Bay operating area and returning to her home port on 28 May.
Following further carrier qualifications off the Virginia Capes the carrier then steamed south to conduct type training in the West Indies, interspersing these evolutions with a port visit to St. Thomas. Returning to Norfolk on 8 July, "America" operated locally between 22 July and 24 July, before she sailed on 22 August, with CVW-1 embarked, to participate in joint NATO exercises "United Effort" and "Northern Wedding 82."
Edinburgh, Scotland, from 15 September to 21 September and proceeded thence to Portsmouth, England, arriving there on 23 September. Sailing for the Mediterranean on 26 September, the carrier operated briefly with the 6th Fleet, participating in exercise "Display Determination" between 30 September and 8 October. She then sailed for the United States, and, following her operational readiness evaluation in the Caribbean operating areas, reached Mayport to disembark CVW-1. "America" returned to Norfolk on 4 November.
Returning to Lebanon
"America" departed Norfolk on 8 December, proceeded to the Virginia Capes operating area and embarked CVW-1, and set out across the Atlantic. Visiting Palma on 22 December America remained there through the Christmas holiday, weighing anchor on 28 December to sail for the Lebanese coast, where she was to take up duty in support of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force in strife-torn Lebanon. Relieving USS "Nimitz" on station on 2 January 1983, "America" spent the next 18 days off Lebanon, before "Nimitz" took over on 20 January. Steaming thence to
Pireaus, Greece, "America", along with USS|Dale|DLG-19|2 and USS|Savannah|AOR-4|2, anchored there on 23 January for a five day port visit to Athens.
Underway on 29 January, the carrier transited the Sea of Crete en route to an overnight anchorage at Port Said. Transiting the Suez Canal on 31 January, "America" reached the Red Sea the same day and reported for duty with the 7th Fleet on 4 February. On 9 February, the carrier and her accompanying battle group conducted exercise "Beacon Flash 83." Subsequently, on 28 February, America and her consorts conducted a "Weapons Week" exercise in the vicinity of Diego Garcia. Following those evolutions, the carrier visited
Colombo, Sri Lanka, anchoring on 7 March. Weighing anchor on 12 March, "America" resumed operations in the Indian Ocean soon afterwards, culminating in "Beacon Flash 83-4", and a subsequent port visit to Masirah Island, Oman.
Steaming thence to
Mombasa, Kenya, and a five-day port visit "America" departed that port for a week of intense flight operations, followed by participation in "Beacon Flash 85" on 19 April. Returning to anchor at Masirah Island again three days later, the carrier and her battle group operated in the northern Arabian Sea, en route to the Suez Canal. Transiting that waterway on 4 May, "America" headed for Souda Bay, reaching an anchorage there on 7 May. Five days later, the carrier got underway for Malaga, Spain, reaching her destination on 14 May for a nine-day port visit. The ship subsequently departed Malaga on 23 May, and reached Norfolk on 2 June 1983.
"America" then entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 8 July. For four months, the ship underwent a period of repairs and alterations, emerging from the yard on 28 October 1983. She then operated locally off the Virginia Capes with CVW-1 embarked, before she proceeded thence to Mayport, and, ultimately, to Puerto Rican waters for refresher training. Subsequently visiting Nassau, in the
Bahamas, for a five-day port visit, "America" returned to the East Coast of the United States, reaching Mayport on 8 December. She then conducted carrier qualifications for both East and West Coast squadrons en route to her home port reaching Norfolk on 14 December 1983.
The carrier operated locally from Norfolk into February 1984 alternating periods of upkeep in port with carrier qualifications and exercises. She then conducted two periods of type training (6 February to 20 February and 25 March to 8 April), interspersing these with an in-port period at Ft. Lauderdale from 21 February to 24 February and then calling at St. Thomas upon conclusion of the second period of training. Returning to Norfolk on 22 March, "America" spent the next month preparing for her next deployment, and got underway to participate in exercise "Ocean Venture" on 24 April. Visiting
Caracas, Venezuela, upon conclusion of that evolution, "America" departed on 9 May for the Mediterranean.
Reaching Malaga, Spain, on 21 May, the carrier commenced her transit of the Mediterranean on 29 May and reached Port Said on 3 June. Transiting the Suez Canal on the following day she passed through the Red Sea and joined the 7th Fleet on 8 June, relieving USS "Kitty Hawk". Returning to the 6th Fleet on 29 August, "America" transited the Suez Canal on 2 September bound for Naples.
The carrier visited
Monacofrom 13 September to 22 September before she participated in one phase of NATO exercise, "Display Determination." After stopping briefly to Naples, "America" returned to sea soon afterwards, and took part in the second phase of "Display Determination" before visiting Catania. She reached Augusta Bayon 27 October where she was relieved by USS|Dwight D. Eisenhower|CVN-69|6 and sailed for the United States.
Arriving at Norfolk on 14 November, "America" conducted carrier qualifications in the Virginia Capes operating areas from 29 November to 17 December before returning to port on 18 December. The ship remained in an upkeep status until 18 January 1985 when she shifted to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for overhaul.
Emerging from the yard on 13 May for sea trials off the Virginia Capes, "America" remained at Norfolk until 28 May, when she sailed to conduct refresher training. Then, following a port call at Port Everglades, Florida (13 June to 17 June), "America" conducted carrier qualifications before returning to Norfolk on 25 June. The ship operated locally out of Norfolk through mid-August.
"America" sailed on 24 August to participate in "Ocean Safari", a six-week NATO exercise which ultimately took her to Norwegian waters. After visiting Portsmouth, England, upon conclusion of her training, America returned to Norfolk on 9 October. She spent the remainder of the year 1985 alternating periods of upkeep at NOB, Norfolk, with local operations in the Virginia Capes operating area.
Crisis in Libya
As the new year, 1986, began, tensions in the Mediterranean basin would result in "America's" sailing to deploy with the 6th Fleet one month earlier than planned. On 7 January 1986, President
Ronald Reaganordered all American citizens out of Libya, and broke off all remaining ties between the two nations. At the same time, the President directed the dispatch of a second carrier battle group to the Mediterranean, and directed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to look into military operations against Libya, a country strongly suspected of fomenting terrorist activity.
Operations near Libya began at the end of January. These evolutions, collectively named "Attain Document", were carried out between 24 January and 31 January 1986 and between 10 February and 15 February, by surface ships and aircraft. "America", with CVW-1 embarked, and her accompanying battle group departed Norfolk on 10 March 1986, and arrived in the Mediterranean in time to participate in the third phase of "Attain Document", a freedom of navigation (FON) exercise in the Gulf of Sidra.
Late on 23 March, American planes flew south of latitude 32-30 N. - the "Line of Death" proclaimed by Libyan leader
Muammar al-Gaddafi. On 24 March, USS|Ticonderoga|CG-47|2, accompanied by two destroyers, USS|Scott|DDG-995|2 and USS|Caron|DD-970|2, moved south of the "Line", covered by fighter aircraft, at 0600.
A Libyan missile installation near Surt (Sirte) launched two Soviet-made SA-5 "Gammon" surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) at 0752, toward F-14A "Tomcats" of "America"'s VF-102. Later that afternoon, the installation at Surt (Sirte) fired additional SAMs at American planes, but, like the first pair, went wide of their mark. About 1430, a Libyan missile-equipped Combattante II G-type patrol craft sortied from Misratah, Libya, and approached "Ticonderoga" and her consorts. Two Grumman A-6E Intruders from "America"
's Attack Squadron (VA) 34 fired AGM-84 Harpoonmissiles at the craft and sank her in the first use of the Harpoon in combat. Shortly afterwards, when American radars detected the Libyan installation at Sirte activating its target acquisition radars, two A-7 Corsairs from "Saratoga"'s VA-81 put the site out of action with AGM-88 HARMs (high-speed anti-radiation missiles).
One hour after the first patrol boat had sortied, a Soviet-built Nanuchka-type patrol craft began heading out into the Gulf of Sidra. Intruders from VA-34 and "Saratoga's" VA-85 attacked with Rockeye
cluster bombs, but the craft sought refuge alongside a neutral merchant ship, and avoided destruction. Damaged, she returned to the port of Benghaziafter nightfall.
The following day, 25 March, at 0200, another Nanuchka-II-type patrol boat entered International waters and came under attack from Intruders from VA-85 and USS "Coral Sea's" VA-55; the latter utilized Rockeyes in the attack, the former then sank the craft with a Harpoon. The same squadrons then attacked and damaged a second Nanuchka-II, forcing her to put into Benghazi.
"Attain Document III" came to a close at 0900 on 27 March, three days ahead of schedule and after 48 hours of largely unchallenged use of the Gulf of Sidra by the United States Navy. Thence steaming to Augusta Bay, Sicily, "America" relieved USS "Saratoga" on station, and subsequently visited Livorno, Italy, from 4 April to 8 April 1986.
In the meantime, however, in the wake of the strikes designed to let Col. Qaddafi know that the United States had not only the desire but the capability to respond effectively to terrorism, intelligence information indicated that Qaddafi intended to retaliate.
On 5 April 1986, two days after a bomb exploded on board a
Trans World Airlines(TWA) flight en route to Athens from Rome, killing four American citizens, a bomb exploded in the La Belle Discotequein West Berlin, killing two American servicemen and a Turkish civilian. Another 222 people were wounded in the bombing — 78 Americans among them. Col. Qaddafi threatened to escalate the violence against Americans, civilian and military, throughout the world.
Repeated efforts by the United States to persuade the Libyan leader to forsake terrorism as an instrument of policy, including an attempt to persuade other western nations to isolate Libya peacefully, failed. Rumors of retaliation by the United States were soon followed by Qaddafi's threat to take all foreigners in Libya hostage, to use them as a shield to protect his military installations. In light of that threat, and of the failure to gain peaceful sanctions against Libya, and citing "incontrovertible evidence" of Libyan complicity in the recent terrorist acts, President Reagan directed that attacks on terrorist-related targets in Libya be carried out.
Operation El Dorado Canyon
"See main article on
Operation El Dorado Canyon"
Operation "El Dorado Canyon" commenced early on the afternoon of 14 April 1986, as tanker aircraft took off from bases in England to support the Air Force North American F-111F "Aardvark" and EF-111 "Raven" planes that soon followed them into the air and began the 3,000 mile (5,000 km) trip to the target. Later that afternoon, between 1745 and 1820, "America" launched six
A-6 Intruderstrike aircraft from VA-34 and six A-7E Corsair IIs (strike support); "Coral Sea" launched her strike/strike support aircraft, eight A-6Es from VA-55 and six F/A-18 Hornets between 1750 and 1820. Both carriers launched additional aircraft to support the strike to provide a combat air patrol (CAP) and other functions.
"In a spectacular feat of mission planning and execution", the Navy and Air Force planes, based 3,000 miles (5,000 km) apart, reached their targets on time at 1900. The Hornets from "Coral Sea" and Corsair IIs from "America" launched air-to-surface Shrike and HARM missiles against Libyan SAM sites at Benghazi and Tripoli. Moments later, VA-34's "Intruders", roaring in at low-level in the blackness, dropped their Mk. 82 bombs with near surgical precision on the Benghazi military barracks, reckoned to be an alternate command and control facility for terrorist activities and a billeting area for Qaddafi's elite Jamahiriyah Guard, as well as a warehouse for components for MiG aircraft. VA-34's attack heavily damaged the warehouse, destroying four crated MiGs and damaging a fifth.
Following that counter-terrorist strike, "America" visited Naples between 28 April and 4 May, and then participated in NATO Exercise "Distant Hammer" with units of the Italian and Turkish Air Forces, and visited Cannes upon conclusion of the evolution. During June, the carrier operated with "Coral Sea" and the newly arrived USS|Enterprise|CVN-65|6, and took part in a "poopdeck" exercise with Spanish and United States Air Force units off the coast of Spain, arriving at Palma soon after.
Participating in a NATO exercise, "Tridente", in late June, "America" visited Naples before she participated in a "National Week" exercise. Subsequently visiting Catania and operating in the central and western Mediterranean, the carrier wound up the month of July at Benidorn, Spain, before returning to sea for further operations at sea in that region. Visiting Naples between 11 August and 17 August, "America" spent the rest of her deployment in operations in the western and central Mediterranean before USS "John F. Kennedy" relieved her at Rota between 28 August and 31 August. "America" arrived back at Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 20 November 1986 for an overhaul which lasted until 11 February 1988. She spent the remainder of that year operating along the East Coast and in the Caribbean.
She later evacuated the American Embassy in Lebanon in 1989, and served during
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Stormin 1990 and 1991. "America" also Participated in Operation Deny Flightin the mid-1990s.
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm
On 2 August 1990, the day "America" departed the Norfolk Naval Shipyard following a four-month Selected Restricted Availability,
Iraqinvaded Kuwait. As the international community geared toward possible military action against Iraq, "America" and CVW-1 rushed toward a much accelerated deployment schedule.
On 28 December, just over four months after her SRA and having completed a five-month training cycle into two months, "America" deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation
Desert Shieldwith Captain J.J. Mazach in command. At that time, the combined Command, Control, Communication, Cryptology, and Intelligence (C4I) package installed aboard "America" included systems such as the Navy Tactical Command System Afloat (NTCSA), the Contingency Tactical Action Planning System (CTAPS) and Advance Tracking Prototype. Although these systems were not unique to the fleet, it was the first time they had been integrated into one comprehensive package. Coupled with the disseminated capabilities of the Naval Tactical Data System(NTDS), "America"'s C4I package allowed intelligence and operations information to be meshed together into one single tactical picture. Utilizing digital data links between other ships, "America" had intelligence processing capabilities unparalleled by any other ship in the fleet.
On 9 January 1991 the "America" Battle Group transited the Straits of Gibraltar and sailed into the Mediterranean. Less than a week later, on 15-16 January, she passed through the
Suez Canaland into the Red Sea on the U.N.-imposed deadline for Iraq's unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait. The "America" joined the USS|Saratoga|CV-60|2 and USS|John F. Kennedy|CV-67|2 Battle Groups to form Battle Force Red Sea. At 0200 hours (Saudi time) on 17 January, Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm. "America" 's embarked airwing, CVW-1, initially provided Combat Air Patrol coverage over the battle force. On the second day of the war, "America" launched its first air strikes, targeting and destroying an ammunition depot north of Baghdad. In the next day's darkness, CVW-1 flew its first night strike of the war against an oil production facility. Strikes of up to five hours into Iraq against bridges, mobile Scudsites, oil production facilities and Iraqi Republican Guardunits continued for three weeks, when the focus of the air war changed.
On 14 February "America" entered the
Persian Gulfto become the fourth carrier of Battle Force Zulu. Joining USS|Midway|CV-41|2, USS|Ranger|CV-61|2 and USS|Theodore Roosevelt|CVN-71|2 strikes were flown into the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO), with attacks on Iraqi military forces in Kuwait proper, as well as targets in eastern Iraq. This would make "America" the only carrier to operate on both sides of the Arabian Peninsula during Desert Storm. The focus of the war changed again on 24 February with the beginning of the ground assault into Iraq and Kuwait. "America" aircraft provided air support for coalition troops by attacking Iraqi troop, tank and artillery sites in Kuwait, including the highway of death. One hundred hours later, Kuwait was successfully liberated and a cease-fire was ordered. CVW-1's aircraft were credited with destroying close to 387 armored vehicles and tanks in the KTO.
"America" departed the Persian Gulf on 4 March, with CVW-1 having conducted 3,008 combat sorties, dropped over 2,000 tons of ordnance and suffered no aircraft losses during the war. The Red Sea coastal town of Hurghada, Egypt would be "America"
's only port visit from 16-22 March, following 78 consecutive days at sea.
After passing through the Suez Canal and exiting the Mediterranean, "America" reached Norfolk on 18 April. She and CVW-1 earned a
Navy Unit Commendation, a third for "America", for service during Desert Storm. After a short stay at home, and participating in New York City's Operation Welcome Home/ Fleet Weekfestivities, "America" and CVW-1 once again headed for the Northern Atlantic to participate in NATO Exercise North Star. Departing Norfolk in August for eight weeks, she became the first carrier to conduct flight operations within Havesfjord, Norway. Less then two months later "America" departed on 2 December for her second deployment of the year. This uneventful six-month deployment would see "America" return to the Persian Gulf, and thus become the first carrier to redeploy to the region following the Gulf War. Exercises would also place her in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, as well as the Mediterranean, before returning to Norfolk in June 1992.
"America" and her Joint Task Group departed Norfolk and other east Coast ports 11 August 1993 for another major Mediterranean deployment. After several weeks supporting
United Nationspeacekeeping efforts over Bosnia, America transited the Suez on 29 October 1993 to relieve USS "Abraham Lincoln" (CVN 72) in the Indian Oceanin support of UN humanitarian efforts in Somalia. "America" covered over 2,500 miles in a week. Before returning to the Mediterranean, CVW-1aircraft flew missions into southern Iraq from the Red Sea in support of Operation Southern Watch. On 12 December 1993, "America" transited the Suez before returning to Norfolk in February 1994. [http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/ships/carriers/histories/cv66-america/cv66-america.html U.S. Navy - A Brief History of Aircraft Carriers - USS "America" (CV 66) ] ]
On 28 August 1995, "America" departed Norfolk on her 20th and final deployment in her 30-year history for a routine six-months to the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. The carrier participated in
Operation Deny Flightand Operation Deliberate Force, under the control of the U.N. and NATO. America visited the capital city of Valletta, Malta, in January 1996 — the first U.S. Navy carrier to visit this historical port in over 24 years. "America", operating from the Adriatic Sea, supported the NATO Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina for Operation Joint Endeavor before returning to Norfolk, Va 24 February 1996.
Originally scheduled to undergo Navy SLEP in the late 1990s, CV-66 fell victim to budget cuts and was retired early by the U.S. Navy.
She was decommissioned in a ceremony at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va on 9 August 1996. "America"'s final commanding officer was Capt. Robert E. Besal. The guest speaker for the ceremony was Adm. Leighton W. Smith, a former "America" commanding officer. Following the decommissioning "America" was stricken from the Navy Vessel Register and was transferred to the Ready Reserve Fleet at the
Inactive Ship Maintenance Facilityin Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Though already decommissioned, she was awarded the 1995 Battenberg Cupin recognition of her crew's achievements in her last full year in service.
Post decommissioning service
"America" was planned to be sold for scrapping. However, she was chosen to be a live-fire test and evaluation platform in 2005, to aid the design of future aircraft carriers. There was some objection to a ship being named for the nation being deliberately sunk at sea, and a committee of her former crew members and other supporters attempted to save the ship for use as a
museum ship. Their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. In a letter to them, Vice Chief of Naval OperationsAdm. John B. Nathman explained:
"America will make one final and vital contribution to our national defense, this time as a live-fire test and evaluation platform. America's legacy will serve as a footprint in the design of future carriers — ships that will protect the sons, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of America veterans. We will conduct a variety of comprehensive tests above and below the waterline collecting data for use by naval architects and engineers in creating the nation's future carrier fleet. It is essential we make those ships as highly survivable as possible. When that mission is complete, the America will slip quietly beneath the sea. I know America has a very special place in your hearts, not only for the name, but also for your service aboard her. I ask that you understand why we selected this ship for this one last crucial mission and make note of the critical nature of her final service."On 25 February, 2005 a ceremony to salute the USS "America" and her crew was held at the ship's pier in Philadelphia, attended by former crew members and various dignitaries. She departed the Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility on 19 April 2005 to conduct the aforementioned tests. The experiments lasted approximately four weeks. The Navy battered "America" with explosives, both underwater and above the surface, watching from afar and through monitoring devices placed on the vessel. These explosions were designed to simulate attacks by
torpedoes, cruise missilesand perhaps a small boat suicide attack like the one that damaged the destroyer USS|Cole|DDG-67|2 in Yemen in 2000.
After the completion of the tests, "America" was sunk in a controlled
scuttlingon 14 May 2005 at approximately 1130, although the sinking was not publicized until six days later. At the time, no warship of that size had ever been sunk, and effects were closely monitored; theoretically the tests would reveal data about how supercarriers respond to battle damage. The ship rests 16,860 ft. below the Atlantic Ocean surface, roughly 250 miles off the North Carolinacoast.
In response to a
Freedom of Information Actrequest from former USS "America" veterans at [http://www.CVN78.com CVN78.com] , the U.S. Navy released the exact location where USS "America" was sunk: coord|33|09|09|N|71|39|07|W, around 250 miles (400 km) southeast of Cape Hatteras. The wreck lies in 2,810 fathoms (5,139 metres or 16,860 feet). [ [http://www.cvn78.com/documents/foia_cv66_final_posit3.jpgSINKEX Report at CVN78.com] ]
"America" in fiction
Tom Clancy's novel " The Hunt for Red October", "America" is recalled from the South Atlantic Ocean to reinforce the "Kennedy" and help monitor the Soviet surface fleet.
*In Tom Clancy's novel "
Red Storm Rising", USS "America" is sent as part of the Task Force to liberate Icelandfrom Sovietoccupation. During the battle, a Soviet Attack Submarine is able to penetrate the carrier's Anti-Submarine defenses and severely damage her before being sunk by USS|Caron|DD-970|2. The ship survives and is later escorted home by USS|Reuben James|FFG-57|2.
Microprose's computer game" F-19 Stealth Fighter", "America" is used as a take-off point in the game's Libyan missions.
*"America" makes a brief appearance in
David Poyer's novel "The Med".
List of aircraft carriers
List of aircraft carriers of the United States Navy
* [http://cvn78.com// USS America Veterans attempt to have next carrier named USS America ]
* [http://www.ussamerica.org/ USS "America" Carrier Veterans Association]
* [http://www.ussamerica-museumfoundation.org "USS America" virtual museum]
* [http://www.united-states-navy.com/cvn/cv66.htm united-states-navy.com: "USS America"]
* [http://www.maritimequest.com/warship_directory/us_navy_pages/aircraft_carriers/america_cva_66/uss_america_cva_66.htm Maritimequest USS "America" (CVA-66) Photo Gallery]
* [http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=Navy+Yard,+Philadelphia,+PA&layer=&sll=39.885405,-75.179202&sspn=0.003594,0.006915&ie=UTF8&z=18&ll=39.885537,-75.179358&spn=0.003593,0.006915&t=k&om=1 Aerial photo of "America" docked at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia]
* [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7081234/ Navy plans to sink "America" -
* [http://cvn78.com/page26/page26.html CVN78.COM FoIA Response: Exact Sinking Location Released]
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