CV 66 | USS AMERICA
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The third AMERICA (CVA-66) was authorized 25 November 1960, 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 Admiral 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. AMERICA was built to a slightly modified design than her predecessors, KITTY HAWK (CVA 63) and CONSTELLATION (CVA 64).
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 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 Naval shipyard for post-shakedown availability (PSA) 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. 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 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 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 was sent to form a presence in the Med during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. 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 guided missiles, the Russian ship constantly cut in and out of the carrier's formation. Shortly afternoon 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 alone, her sister ships soon arrived to dog them for days, harassing the carrier and her escorting destroyers.
On 7 June 1967, the destroyer LLOYD THOMAS (DD 761), 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 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 (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.
At about 1400 local time, on 8 June 1967, the technical research ship 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. Admiral Martin dispatched two destroyers, DAVIS (DD 937) and MASSEY (DD 778), 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 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 by rockets and cannon shells, 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, 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 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. 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 Bourget Airport from 25 May to 5 June. A Fighter Squadron (VF) 33 F-4B Phantom and an Early Warning Squadron (EAW) 122 Grumman E-2A Hawkeye were on dispIay at the airfield throughout the show.
AMERICA next hosted, commencing on 14 June, 49 midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy and Naval Reserve Of ficer 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 Iaid 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 Admiral Geis and Amerzca's commanding officer, Capt. Donald D. Engen hosted the Prefect of Thessaloniki, the Mayor of Thessalomki the American Consul and approximately 75 Greek Army officers and civilians. On 8 July, Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery, USN (Ret.) arrived on board via "COD" (Carrier On-board Delivery) aircraft. Admiral Gallery was visiting as many 6th Fleet ships as possible during his month stay in the Mediterranen to gather material for articles and books.
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 FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CVA 42).
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 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 Ampton 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. 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 Pacifc (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 excercises 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." 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-6 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 Terriers. 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 Amenca'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. 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 her 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 travelled 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, 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 Water-Borne 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 F-4J Phantom from VF-33 downed a MiG-21, 17 miles 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, 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 offload of various "Yankee Station" assets. In addition, a heavy attack squadron, VAH-10, and an electronic countermeasures squadron, VAQ-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 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 traming, 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 depIoyment.
On 10 April 1970, with CVW-9 on board, AMERICA left Norfolk and paused briefly in the Caribbean Sea 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 he 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. Byiade, they were greeted by Vice Admiral 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 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 Korea and 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 AMERICA 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, 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, crewmembers feasted on turkey, beef, lobster tails, Virginia ham, and roast duck.
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 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. At the termination of the exercise Amerzca 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, she was relieved on station by 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, NOB, Norfolk, upon conclusion of the exercises.
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 DAVIS (DD 937) and DEWEY (DD 937), and accompanied by the fleet oiler 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 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 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 ceasefire. "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, 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 FL, 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. 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, FL, from 4 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 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 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 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, Franee, Italy, and West Germany participated. During one phase of this exercise, the carrier's marine detachment embarked in 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 Exereise "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 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, 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 INDEPENDENCE on 28 July. As soon as that attack earrier entered the 6th Fieet 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 "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. She was redesignated as a multimission carrier (CV 66) on 30 June 1975. Her refit allowed her to operate the F-14A Tomcat fighter and S-3A Viking ASW aircraft.
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 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 her 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 earrier resumed local operations out of Norfolk in January 1976 and, in Mareh participated in Exereise "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 Commander, Carrier Group (CarGru) 4, Rear Admiral James B. Lmder, 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.
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 Counsellor 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 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 the country's bicentennial Independence Day, 4 July 1976, at Taranto.
Proceeding back into the eastern Mediterranean on 11 July to conduct a mussile 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 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 3-76" with Spanish Air Force units and United off the coast of Spain, arriving at Palma de Mallorca soon thereafter.
Participating in a NATO exercise, "Tridente," in late June, AMERICA visited Naples beore 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 Benidorm, 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 JOHN F. KENNEDY relieved her at Rota between 28 and 31 August. AMERICA arrived back at Norfolk on 10 September 1986 and after local operations, interspersed with in-port upkeep, entered the 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.
AMERICA received five battle stars for her service in the Vietnam War.
AMERICA never received a SLEP (Service Life Extension Program) modernization and was reported to be in poor condition during her last deployment. She was decommissioned to reserve on 9 August 1996 and laid up at Norfolk. She was moved to Philadelphia in September 1997. On 1 November 1998 she was stricken retroactive to 9 August 1996.
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