America Battle Group [CV 66]
The third America (CV-66) was laid down on 1 January 1961 at Newport News, Va., by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Corp.; launched on 1 February 1964; sponsored by Mrs. David L. McDonald, wife of Adm. David L. McDonald, the Chief of Naval Operations, and commissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 23 January 1965, Capt. Lawrence Heyworth, Jr., in command.
After fitting out there until 15 March 1965, America remained in Hampton Roads for operations off the Virginia capes until getting underway on 25 March. She conducted her first catapult launch on 5 April 1965, with Comdr. 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 Naval 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 Adm. J. O. Cobb broke his flag as Commander, Carrier Division (CarDiv) 2.
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, France; Genoa, Italy; Toulon, France; Athens, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; Beirut, Lebanon; Valletta, Malta, Taranto, Italy; Palma, Majorca, Spain; and Pollensa Bay, Spain. She sailed on 1 July 1966 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 NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ally. She arrived at the Naval Operating Base, 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 1966, after which time she proceeded to Guantanamo Bay to carry out training. After Hurricane "Inez" swirled 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 Ling-Temco-Vought A-7A 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 McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom and Vought F-8 Crusader aircraft.
From 28 November to 15 December 1966, America took port in "LANTFLEX 66," gaining experience in the areas of antiair antisubmarine, and carrier strike operations. The ship also participated in a mine drop, missile shoots, and provided air support for am phibious operations. She returned to NOB Norfolk on 15 December, remaining there through the end of the year 1966.
On 10 January 1967, America departed Norfolk for her second Mediterranean cruise and relieved USS Independence (CV-62) 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, Tupelov 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 1967 found America and her consorts, operating as Task Group (TG) 60.1, participating in the United States/United Kingdom Exercise Poker Hand IV with the British aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. America and Hermes provided raid aircraft to test each other's antiaircraft defenses.
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 1967 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) and USS Harry E. Yarnell (DLG-17). 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 6 0.1. 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 Adm. Dick H. Guinn , TF 65, with America as flagship, sailed eastward to standby 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 1967, Rear Adm. Lawrence R. Geis relieved Rear Adm. Guinn as Commander, CarDiv 4 Commander, TF 60, Commander, TF 65, and Commander, TF 502 (NATO). With a new Adm. 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.
By 25 May, 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 Israel and the Arab States 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 Channel and on to the Sea of Crete to join up with the ships of TG 60.2, the carrier USS Saratoga (CVA-60) and her destroyers. The carrier task force, under the command of Rear Adm. 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, Egypt moved 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 their 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 1967, 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 Goralski of NBC News and Bill Gill of ABC News teamed up to present the WAMR "Gill-Goralski Report," a half-hour on the latest developments in the Middle East 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 1967. Armed with surface-to-air guided missiles, the Russian ship constantly cut in and out of the carrier's formation. Shortly afternoon on 7 June, Vice Adm. 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 alone, her sister ships soon arrived to dog them for days, harassing the carrier and her escorting destroyers.
On the morning of 5 June, while America was refueling from the oiler USS Truckee (AO-147), with the CarDiv 4 band and the "rock 'n' roll" combo 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 Quarters drill, 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.
On 7 June 1967, the destroyer USS Lloyd Thomas (DD-764), in company with America, obtained a sonar contact, which was classified as a "possible" submarine. Rear Adm. Geis immediately dispatched Lloyd Thomas and the guided missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG-10) 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 Nine (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 Seven (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 Adm. 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.
At about 1400 local time, on 8 June 1967, the technical research ship USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was attacked by Israeli torpedo boats and jet fighters, approximately 15 miles north of the Sinai port of El Arish, in international waters. She had been in position to assist in communications between United States diplomatic posts in the Mideast and to aid in the evacuation of American dependents from the area if necessary.
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 Skyhawk attack bombers were loaded and launched together with fighter cover. As the planes sped towards Liberty's position, however word was received from Tel Aviv that the attackers had been Israeli and that the attack had been made in error. 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. Adm. Martin dispatched two destroyers, USS Davis (DD-937) and USS Massey (DD-778), with Lt. Comdr. 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 1967, 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 east of Souda Bay Crete, 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. As witnessed and reported by the newsmen on board, these charges were completely false. The 6th Fleet, as with all other American forces, had remained neutral.
On Wednesday morning 7 June 1967, Adm. 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 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 Adm. 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. The oft-repeated words of the Navy Hymn of "those in peril on the sea," echoed across the wind-swept deck, possessing poignant meaning for those who were aware of Liberty's travail.
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. During the crisis, the presence of America and the 6th Fleet had demonstrated once again the power mobility, and flexibility of sea power.
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 Bouret Airport from 25 May to 5 June 1967. A Fighter Squadron Thirty-Three (VF 33) F-4B Phantom and an Early Warning Squadron One Two Two (VAW 122) Grumman E-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 Academy and 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 1967 and arrived at Istanbul, where Rear Adm. 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 canceled 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 Independence Day celebrations aboard ship, Rear Adm. Geis and America's commanding officer, Capt. Donald D. Enen hosted the Prefect of Thessaloniki, the Mayor of Thessaloniki, the American Consul and approximately 75 Greek Army officers and civilians. On 8 July, Rear Adm. Daniel V. Gallery, USN (Ret.), arrived on board via "COD" (Carrier Onboard Delivery) aircraft. Adm. 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).
America moored at Pier 12 Naval Station, Norfolk, on 20 September 1967 and entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 6 October. She remained there, undergoing a restricted availability, into early January 1968. From 6 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 1968. Upon arrival at Guantanamo Bay soon thereafter, the ship conducted extensive drills and exercises and inspections were conducted in almost all shipboard activities. 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 17 February 1968, 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. Enroute 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 Island, near Puerto Rico. A search and rescue exercise (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 Tonkin Gulf, 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 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 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.
America moored at Pier 12 NOB, Norfolk, at 1315, 23 March 1968. Two days later, on the 25th, 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 enroute 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 Madagascar and out into the broad expanse of the Indian Ocean towards the Sunda Strait and Subic Bay, Philippine Islands. From Subic the ship sailed northwest through the South China Sea towards "Yankee Station."
Enroute, on 26 May 1968, the ship participated in Exercise New Boy 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 F4 Phantom from VF-33 downed a MiG-21, 17 miles north west 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, Yokosuka and 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 trans-Pacific 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 November 7th 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 1968 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
Shortly thereafter, 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 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 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 1970, and remained there for approximately one month making last minute preparations for an eight-month deployment.
On 10 April 1970, with CVW-9 on board, America left Norfolk and paused briefly in the Caribbean Sea for an operational readiness inspection (ORI) before proceeding on a voyage that took her across the equator to Rio de Janeiro, around 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 Comdr. Fred M. Backman, commanding officer of VA-165, and his bombardier/navigator, Lt. Comdr. 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, Comdr. 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, Comdr R. N. Livingston, skipper of the "Argonauts" of VA-147, and Lt Comdr. 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 1970, at Manila, Vice Adm. 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. Byiade, they were greeted by Vice Adm. Bardshar and America's commanding officer, Capt. Thomas B. Hayward and were 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 Adm. 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 Korea and subsequently, the Sea of Japan. On 23 September the carrier entered the Tsushima Straits, remained in the Sea of Japan for approx imately 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 Chinese Air Force from Taiwan; 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 1970, 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 November 26, 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 Navy warships - including HMS Ark Royal (R-09), HMS Cleopatra (F-28), and HMS Bacchante (F-69).
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, Mallorca. While enroute, she participated in "PHIBLEX 2-71," in which she covered a mock amphibious landing at Capoteulada, Sicily. After a port visit at Palma, Mallorca, America participated from 16 to 27 August in National Week X, one of the largest exercises conducted in the Mediterranean. During the exercise, on 26 August, an E-2B Hawkeye was flown by VAW-124 nonstop across the Atlantic. The Hawkeye left NAS Norfolk, Va., flew over Newfoundland, Canada, and Lajes, Azores. to reach America in the Med. At the termination of the exercise, America proceeded to Corfu, Greece, her next liberty port. She then visited Athens shortly thereafter.
After conducting routine operations in the eastern Mediterranean and making a port call at Rhodes, Greece, the ship proceeded to the Aegean Sea to 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 1971, she was relieved on station by USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67).
Arriving back at Norfolk on 16 December, America moored at Pier 12, NOB, Norfolk, for post-deployment standdown before unloading ammunition in preparation for availability at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. After the two-month overhaul, the carrier conducted sea trials. Soon thereafter, 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, Naval Station Norfolk, upon conclusion of the exercises.
On 2 June 1972, three days before America was to sail, Adm. 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) and USS Dewey (DD-937), and accompanied by the fleet oiler USS Waccamaw (AO-109), 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 (CVA-43) 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 1972 to return to the line, and soon resumed carrying out strike operations against Communist targets in North Vietnam. On 11 September, VMFA-333 flying off America downed a MiG-21 near Phuc Yen airfield in North Vietnam. This was the only MiG kill for the Navy/Marine Corps during September and brought the grand total of MiGs downed by Navy/Marine Corps pilots to 55 since the war began. On 6 October, bombs from America's 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." On 23 October, the U.S. ended all tactical air sorties into NVN above the 20th parallel and brought to a close Linebacker I operations. This goodwill gesture of terminating the bombing in NVN above the 20th parallel was designed to help promote the peace negotiations being held in Paris France. During May through October, the Navy flew a total of 23,652 tactical air attack sorties into NVN. U.S. tactical air sorties during Linebacker I operations helped stem the flow of supplies into NVN,. thereby limiting the operating capabilities of North Vietnam's invading army.
Carriers involved in Linebacker I operations were America, USS Enterprise (CVAN 65), USS Constallation (CVA 64), USS Coral Sea (CVA 43), USS Hancock (CVA 19), USS Kitty Hawk (CVA 63), USS Midway (CVA 41), USS Saratoga (CVA 60), and USS Oriskany (CVA 34).
On 28 October 1972, America lost a pilot. Cmdr. James W. Hall took off in his A-7C Corsair on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission. Over the target area in Nghe An province, North Vietnam, Cmdr. Hall was heard to radio to his wingman, "Two SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) lifting at 12 o'clock." No other radio messages were heard. The first missile missed his wingman, but the second struck Hall's aircraft. No parachute was observed, and no emergency radio beepers were heard.
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 ...."
On 28 December 1972, 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. America was ordered to depart the Far East for the U.S. This was the initial move in reducing the number of carriers serving in Southeast Asia from six to three by mid-June 1973. She returned to Subic Bay on 17 February 1973 and sailed thence for the United States three days later, on 20 February. The carrier arrived at Mayport Fla., disembarking men from CVW-8 and embarking the teenaged 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 standdown 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. Comdr. Lewis R. Newby and Lt. Comdr. 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 USCG 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, Fla., from 4 to 8 November 1973. 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 Independence at Rota, Spain, on 11 January, she became the flagship for Rear Adm. 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 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 1974, 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, Holland, France, Italy, and West Germany participated. During one phase of this exercise, the carrier's Marine detachment embarked in USS El Paso (LKA-117) 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 Turkey early 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) 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 1974, arriving at Palma, Mallorca, 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, USS Independence (CVA 62), on 28 July. As soon as that attack carrier entered the 6th Fleet operating area, America commenced her homeward voyage, ultimately reaching Pier 12, Naval StationNorfolk, 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 1974. America joined with HMS Ark Royal in providing air support for a NATO task f orce and for an amphibious landing. Throughout the exercise Soviet surface units, as well as Bear and 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 concluded 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 and the tug soon took the disabled craft in tow.
That boat, however, proved to be named Content, so America and her aircraft resumed the search for Ruggentino. One of America's planes located the craft in question soon thereafter, 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 standdown, 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 Adm. James B. Linder, embarked.
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 Hercules on 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 War of 1973.
On 24 May 1976, 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) 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 our nation's bicentennial Independence Day, 4 July 1976, at Taranto.
Proceeding back into the eastern Mediterranean on 11 July 1976 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), the carrier provided support. Relieved of her responsibilities in the eastern Mediterranean on 2 August, America reached Naples soon thereafter, 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 de Mallorca, 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 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, Fla., 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), USS Claude V. Ricketts (DLG-5), USS Dupont (DD- 941 ), and USS Neosho (AO-143). Following her return to Norfolk, America operated locally before she sailed to conduct operations in the Caribbean.
Thence returning to Norfolk on 27 August 1977, 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, Yugoslavia. Visiting this seaport from 22 to 26 November, the carrier transited the Adriatic for a port call at Trieste, staying there from 28 November to 3 December 1977. Returning to operate in the waters of Souda Bay for more exercises, America subsequently departed Crete on 12 December for Palma de Mallorca, where she spent Christmas.
Departing Palma two days later, America proceeded through the Ligurian Sea to 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), and sailed for Norfolk, arriving home on 25 April 1978.
Following post-deployment standdown, 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 and 20 September 1978, and conducted carrier qualifications with CVW between 12 and 20 October. Tragedy marred the last day of operations, when a Grumman S-3A Viking antisubmarine aircraft went over the side upon landing; hung by the safety nets momentarily, then plunged into the sea soon thereafter. Although the pilots, Lt. Comdr. 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 1978 to commence a four-day stay. Returning to Norfolk soon thereafter, the carrier remained in the Norfolk area, alternating periods of time inport 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 to 23 January. The ship visited St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, from 24 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 and 9 March 1979, 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 the 15th, America conducted a "BearEx" with a Lockheed P-3 Orion from Bermuda simulating a Russian Bear reconnaissance aircraft. Such practice proved timely, for the following day, A-7 Corsair II and Grumman F-14A Tomcat aircraft from America intercepted a pair of the long-range Tupelov 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), 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, Yugoslavia, 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 de Mallorca and Barcelona in Spain, Marseilles on the coast of France, Genoa in northern Italy, and Valencia in Spain before heading for Rota. She completed turnover proceedings at Rota on 10 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 Libya as 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 1979, 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 water" turnover with USS Nimitz (CVN-68), America encountered her second pair of Bears. F-14A Tomcats of VF-213 intercepted the two, however, and caused them to turn away to the 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 1979 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 qualification. These, however, involved the first arrested carrier landings of the new McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18 Hornet on that date. This aircraft underwent rigorous testing over the days which followed, with 32 catapult shots and arrested landings being completed 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 to 21 October, after which time she returned to NOB, Norfolk whence she conducted sea trials from 27 to 29 October 1979. 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) and USS Preble (DLG-46), subsequently sailed for the Mediterranean on 14 April 1981, destined, ultimately, for the Indian Ocean.
Reaching Palma de Mallorca on 23 April, America then participated in NATO Exercise Daily Double, with the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA-4), 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 1981, the tense situation in Lebanon prompted a 24-hour "hold" on the evolution. Given the go-ahead soon thereafter, America made the 104½ mile transit on 6 May, in ten hours - the first United States Navy carrier to steam through the Suez Canal since USS Intrepid (CVA-11) had made the passage shortly before the Arab-Israeli "Six-Day War" of 1967. It was also the first "supercarrier" to transit the canal since it had been modified to permit passage of supertankers.
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 1981, 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 USS California rescued the 39 crewmen, disembarking them in good condition in Karachi, Pakistan, soon thereafter.
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 Fifty (VP 50) requested two F-14 Tomcats from America, flying in the vicinity of Pierre Island, near Diego Garcia, assist it by contacting their ship for SAR assistance. California sped to the island and located an individual stranded on Pierre Island. He had been on a treasure-hunting expedition bound from Sri Lanka to 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. Lt. Musselman had been shot down on 10 September 1972 in an A-7 Corsair 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 1981, 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 (CV-43) 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 Sea unhindered.
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 the 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, America continued on across the Mediterranean, reaching Palma de Mallorca 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 1981.
Following a short standdown, 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 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.
America visited Edinburgh, Scotland, from 15 to 21 September and proceeded thence to Portsmouth, England, arriving there on the 23rd. Sailing for the Mediterranean on the 26th, 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 1982.
America departed Norfolk on 8 December 1982, proceeded to the Virginia Capes Operating Area and embarked CVW-1, and set out across the Atlantic. Visiting Palma de Mallorca 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) and USS Savannah (AOR-4), anchored there on 23 January for a five-day port visit to Athens.
Underway on 29 January 1983, 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 thereafter, 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 1983. 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 f or 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 to 20 February and 25 March to 8 April), interspersing these with an in-port period at Ft. Lauderdale from 21 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 1984, 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 (CV-63). Returning to the 6th Fleet on 29 August, America transited the Suez Canal on 2 September bound for Naples.
The carrier visited Monaco from 13 to 22 September 1984 before she participated in one phase of NATO Exercise Display Determination. After stopping briefly to Naples, America returned to sea soon thereafter, and took part in the second phase of Display Determination before visiting Catania. Ultimately reaching Augusta Bay on 27 October, she was relieved by USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) on that date, sailing soon thereafter for the United States.
Arriving at Norfolk on 14 November 1984, America conducted carrier qualifications in the Virginia Capes operating areas from 29 November to 17 December before returning to port on the 18th. 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 1985 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, Fla. (13 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 1985 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 the Naval Station, Norfolk, with local operations in the Virginia Capes operating area.
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 Reagan ordered 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 1986. These evolutions, collectively named Attain Document, were carried out between 24 and 31 January 1986 and between 10 and 15 February by surface ships and aircraft. America, with CVW-1 embarked, and her accompanying battle group departed Norfolk on 10 March 1986, a month earlier than previously scheduled, 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 30° 30' N. - the "Line of Death" proclaimed by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. On 24 March, USS Ticonderoga (CG-47), accompanied by two destroyers, USS Scott (DDG- 995) and USS Caron (DD-970), 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 Thirty-Four (VA 34) fired Harpoon missiles at the craft and sank her in the first use of the Harpoon in combat. Shortly thereafter, when American radars detected the Libyan installation at Sirte activating its target acquisition radars two A-7E Corsairs from USS Saratoga's VA-81 put the site out of action with 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 Benghazi after nightfall.
The following day, 25 March 1986, at 0200, another Nanuchka II-type patrol boat entered international waters and came under attack from Intruders from VA-85 and 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 1986, 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 to 8 April 1986.
In the meantime, intelligence information, 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, indicated that Qaddafi intended to retaliate. Such retaliation occurred soon thereafter.
On 5 April 1986, two days after a bomb exploded on board a Trans World Airways (TWA) flight en route to Athens, from Rome, killing four American citizens, a bomb exploded in the La Belle Discoteque in 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 of means 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 Eldorado 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 and EF-111 planes that soon followed them into the air and began the long 3,000 -mile trip to the target. Later that afternoon, between 1745 and 1820, America launched six Intruders (strike 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 apart, reached their targets on time at 1900. The Hornets from Coral Sea and Corsair IIs from America launched air-to-surface Shrike missiles and HARMs 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 USS Coral Sea and the newly-arrived USS Enterprise (CVN-65), and took part in a "Poop Deck" exercise with Spanish and United States Air Force units off the coast of Spain, arriving at Palma de Mallorca soon thereafter.
Participating in a NATO Exercise Tridente, in late June 1986, 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 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 and 31 August. When America returned from its Mediterranean deployment on 10 September, it marked the first battle group to spend no more than six months overseas as part of the Navy's efforts to reduce deployments. Having deployed to the Sixth Fleet on 10 March 1986, the carrier was relieved by USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) with Carrier Air Wing 3 (CVW-3) embarked. America then went to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 20 November 1986 for an overhaul which lasted until 11 February 1988.
America left the shipyard on 15 February 1988 for sea trials and work-ups in preparation for the next round of intensive operations. In April, after completing a shakedown cruise, America participated in "Fleet Week '88." Sailors and ships were sent to New York City to demonstrate the Navy to the citizens in preparation for the USS Iowa (BB 61) battle group's move to Staten Island in 1989.
In February 1989, America departed for exercises in the Caribbean and the North Atlantic. America again operated in the Vestfjord before making a port visit to Le Harve, France, and returning to Norfolk on 3 April 1989. On 16 April, the VS-30 "Diamondcutters," embarked in America, became the first fleet S-3 squadron to fire a Harpoon anti-ship missile. The launch resulted in a direct hit on the target by a detachment assigned to VS-30 as it participated in Exercise North Star '89.
America departed Norfolk 11 May 1989 for her sixteenth major deployment, to the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean. On 11 August, USS Coral Sea and America departed early from separate port visits when they were diverted to the eastern Mediterranean as a show of force in the wake of the suspected hanging of Marine Corps Lt. Col. William R. Higgins by Middle East terrorists, and threats to other hostages. Lt. Col. Higgins had been kidnapped in February 1988 while a member of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in Lebanon. After operations in the Mediterranean, Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean, America returned home on 10 November 1989.
America spent the first part of 1990 conducting local operations. After a three-and-a-half month shipyard availability, America conducted Refresher Training, Advanced Phase Training and FLEETEX prior to deploying five months early in support of Operation Desert Shieldon 28 December 1990. America transited the Straits of Gibraltar on 9 January 1981, and on 15 January, the America battle group transited the Suez Canal and arrived on station in the Red Sea to participate in Operation Desert Storm . While deployed, the America/CVW-1 team distinguished themselves, on 15 February, as the only carrier and air wing to fight in both the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. On 20 February, America's VS-32 became the first S-3 squadron to engage, bomb and destroy a hostile vessel - an Iraqi gunboat.
On 23 February, aircraft from America destroyed a Silkworm (anti-ship) missile battery after Iraq unsucessfully fired a missile at USS Missouri (BB 63). America departed the Arabian Gulf on 4 March having launched over 3,000 combat sorties, significantly contributing to the liberation of Kuwait.
From 16 through 22 March 1991, America conducted a port visit to Hurghada, Egypt, making the first port call of the deployment after 78 consecutive days at sea. The ship transited the Suez northward on 3 April and five days later went through the Straits of Gibraltar to enter the Atlantic Ocean on her way home, reaching Norfolk on 18 April.
Returning amid a heroes' welcome, the carrier participated in Operation Welcome Home/Fleet Week '91 in New York City from June 6 through 11, 1991, taking part in the largest victory parade since World War II. After an abbreviated in-port period and compressed work-ups, America deployed to the North Atlantic for two months in support of North Star '91, then departed 2 December 1991 for the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf once again, her eighteenth major deployment. She also became the first carrier to earn an unprecedented third campaign star on the Southwest Asia Service Medal when she returned to the Arabian Gulf in early 1992 in support of United Nations sanctions against Iraq, returning home from the extended deployment on 6 June 1992.
America entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in July 1992 for the start of a six-month shipyard availability.
America returned to sea in December 1992 for sea trials. In January and February 1993, the carrier conducted training carrier operations off the coast of Florida for new pilots, and continued with refresher training in February and March. After COMPUTEX, the exercise Ocean Venture and a port visit to St. Thomas, USVI, in April and May, America and her air wing continued workups for deployment. The USS America Joint Task Group departed Norfolk and other east Coast ports 11 August 1993 for another major deployment.
The America Battle Group displayed its versatility in October 1993 when, after several weeks supporting United Nations peacekeeping efforts over Bosnia, orders came on four hours notice to transit the Suez Canal and relieve USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) on Groundhog Station 90 miles north of the equator in the Indian Ocean in support of UN efforts in the beleagured African nation of Somalia. America transited the Suez on 29 October 1993. She was followed, on 1 November by members of her battle group, USS Simpson (FFG 56) and the replenished oiler USS Savannah (AOR 4). The transit took America over 2,500 miles in a week. The turnover with Abraham Lincoln permitted the west coast carrier to return to Alameda, Calif., thereby ending a scheduled six-month deployment on time.
Supporting the U.N humanitarian efforts in Somalia was the Naval Battle Force Somalia, commanded by Rear Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, Commander, Carrier Group Six in America. Other elements of naval battle force Somalia include Simpson , USS New Orleans (LPH 11), USS Denver (LPD 9), USS Comstock (LSD 45), USS Cayuga (LST 1186) and the thirteenth Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Before leaving the Adriatic, the eight squadrons of America's air wing, CVW-1, flew 863 sorties in support of humanitarian efforts in Bosnia.
Before returning to the Mediterranean, CVW-1 aircraft flew missions into southern Iraq from the Red Sea in support of Operation Southern Watch. On 12 December 1993, America passed through the Suez Canal, once again arriving in the Sixth Fleet area of operations and conducted various exercises with allied forces before returning to Norfolk in February 1994. In April 1994, America commenced a four-month availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia.
America departed Norfolk on 28 August 1995 for a routine six-month deployment to the Mediterranean and to the Indian Ocean. This was her 20th and final deployment in her 30-year history. The carrier participated in Operations Deny Flight and Deliberate Force, under the control of the U.N. and NATO from 9 through 30 September, and, visited various ports, including Trieste, Italy, for a five-day port visit, 30 September through 5 October.
America visited the capital city of Valletta, Malta, 23 through 28 January 1996 - the first U.S. Navy carrier to visit this historical port in over 24 years. America and elements of her battle group were operating in the Adriatic Sea in support of the NATO Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina for Operation Joint Endeavor. Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton visited the carrier on 6 February. Speaking of the carrier's role in Joint Endeavor, the Secretary said "I would like you to know I appreciate the sacrifices you've made. You're actually saving lives. You've brought the warring parties to the peace table. Without you, it wouldn't have happened."
America returned to the pier in Norfolk, Va., ending her Mediterranean Sea deployment on 24 February 1996. After more than three decades of proud and historic naval service, America was decommissioned in a ceremony at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, 9 August.
During the ceremony, and as dictated by Navy tradition, America's final commanding officer, Capt. Robert E. Besal, was presented with the ship's commissioning pennant, marking the end of active service. The guest speaker for the ceremony was Adm. Leighton W. Smith, a former America commanding officer and the recent Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe, where he was in charge of all NATO military operations in Bosnia. Following the decommissioning, America was transferred to the Ready Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia.
America received five battle stars for her service in the Vietnam War. The ship was stricken from the Navy List on her decommissioning date with plans for her to be sold for scrapping.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|