USS FORRESTAL CV 59
The first of the "supercarriers," USS Forrestal (CVA 59) was launched December 11, 1954, by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. Newport News, Va.; sponsored by Mrs. James V. Forrestal, widow of Secretary of Defense Forrestal; and commissioned October 1, 1955, Capt. Roy L. Johnson in command.
The Forrestal represented more than one step in the evolutionary chain of modern carrier aviation. Besides her sheer size and weight, she was the first built with an angled flight deck, which allows simultaneous takeoffs and landings. She also featured four catapults and four deck edge elevators to move aircraft from the hangar bays to the flight deck.
From her homeport, Norfolk, Va., USS Forrestal spent the first year of her commissioned service in intensive training operations off the Virginia Capes and in the Caribbean. Cmdr. Ralph L. Werner made the first arrested landing on January 3, 1956. An important assignment was training aviators in the use of her advanced facilities, a duty on which she often operated out of Mayport, Fla.
January 20, 1956 USS Forrestal collided, in Naval Base Norfolk, with the Mine Countermeasures Ship USS Pinnace (MSO 462). The collision caused slight damage to the MSO.
On November 7, she put to sea from Mayport to operate in the eastern Atlantic during the Suez Crisis ready to enter the Mediterranean should her great strength be necessary. The carrier returned to Norfolk Dec. 12 to prepare for its first deployment with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, for which it sailed January 15, 1957. USS Forrstal returned to homeport July 22, for exercises off the North Carolina coast in preparation for her first NATO operation, Operation Strikeback, in the North Sea. This deployment, between Sept.3-Oct. 22, found her visiting Southampton, England, as well as drilling in the highly important task of coordinating United States naval power with that of other NATO nations.
September 26, During a NATO exercise, in Norweign Sea, an A-3 aircraft crashed while attempting to land aboard the Forrestal.
October 23, During a NATO maneuver, USS Forrestal collided with an oil tanker and had to return to a naval station, cause the sustaining damage.
The next year found the Forrestal participating in a series of major fleet exercises, as well as taking part in experimental flight operations. During the Lebanon Crisis of summer 1958, the supercarrier was again called upon to operate in the eastern Atlantic to back up naval operations in the Mediterranean. It sailed from Norfolk July 11 to embark an air group at Mayport two days later, then patrolled the Atlantic until returning home July 17.
On her second tour of duty in the Mediterranean, from September 2, 1958 to March 12, 1959, USS Forrestal again combined a program of training, patrol, and participation in major exercises with ceremonial, hospitality and public visiting. Returning to Naval Base Norfolk, she continued the never ending task of training new aviators, constantly maintaining her readiness for instant reaction to any demand for her services bro ught on by international events.
She again brought her imposing presence to the 6th Fleet between January 28, and August 31, 1960, visiting the ports usual to a Mediterranean deployment as well as Split, Croatia. Upon the return to the United States, CVA 59 resumed its schedule off the East Coast and Caribbean operations for the remainder of 1960.
March 5, 1962 While enroute from Guantanamo Bay to Norfolk, Virginia, an arresting cable snapped and killed one crew member aboard the Forrestal.
October 3, Airman Irving E. Sheely is killed when he accidentally maneuvers a starter truck into a turning propeller.
USS Forrestal made history in November 1963 when on the 8th, 21st and 22nd, Lt. James H. Flatley III and his crew members, Lt. Cmdr. "Smokey" Stovall and Aviation Machinist's Mate (Jets) 1st Class Ed Brennan, made 21 full-stop landings and takeoffs in a C-130F Hercules aboard the ship. The tests were conducted 500 miles out in the North Atlantic off the coast of Massachusetts. In so doing, the Forrestal and the C-130 set a record for the largest and heaviest airplane landing on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. At 85,000 pounds, the C-130F came to a complete stop within 267 feet, and at the maximum load, the plane used only 745 feet for take-off. The Navy concluded that with the C-130 Hercules, it would be possible to lift 25,000 pounds of cargo 2,500 miles and land it on a carrier. However, the idea was considered a bit too risky for routine COD operations. The C-2A Greyhound program was developed and the first of these planes became operational in 1965.
June 6, 1967 USS Forrestal departed Naval Base Norfolk for duty off the coast of Vietnam.
On July 29, the Forrestal was operating on Yankee Station off the coast of North Vietnam conducting combat operations. This was the fifth such day of operations and at 10:52am the crew was starting the second launch cycle of the day, when suddenly a Zuni rocket accidentally fired from an F-4 Phantom into a parked and armed A-4 Skyhawk. The accidental launch and subsequent impact caused the belly fuel tank and a 1,000 pound bomb on the Skyhawk to fall off, the tank broke open spilling JP5 (jet fuel) onto the flight deck and ignited a fire. Within a minute and a half the bomb was the first to cook-off and explode, this caused a massive chain reaction of explosions that engulfed half the airwings aircraft, and blew huge holes in the steel flight deck. Fed by fuel and bombs from other aircraft that were armed and ready for the coming strike, the fire spread quickly, many pilots and support personnel were trapped and burned alive. Fuel and bombs spilled into the holes in the flight deck igniting fires on decks further into the bowels of the ship. Berthing spaces immediately below the flight deck became death traps for fifty men, while other crewmen were blown overboard by the explosion. Nearby ships hastened to the Forrestal's aid. USS Oriskany, herself a victim of a tragic fire in October 1966, stood by to offer fire-fighting and medical aid to the larger carrier. Nearby escort vessels sprayed water on the burning USS Forrestal and within an hour the fire on the flight deck was under control. The crew heroically fought the fire and carried armed bombs to the side of the ship to throw them overboard for 13 hours. Secondary fires below deck took another 12 hours to contain. Once the fires were under control, the extent of the devastation was apparent. Most tragic was the loss to the crew, 134 had lost their lives, while an additional 64 were injured, this was and still remains the single worst loss of life on a U.S. Navy vessel since the USS Franklin was bombed in WWII. The ship proceeded to Cubi Point, Philippines, for temporary repairs. In only eight days enough repairs were made that she could start the long trip back to Norfolk for permanent repairs. On her way home she was capable of operating aircraft if needed. USS Forrestal would spend seven months in the yards being repaired, she was re-built from the hanger up and forward to aircraft elevator number four, this accounts for about 1/5 the ships length and 5 decks. On April 8, 1968, the Forrestal was once again ready to take her place in the fleet, she was never to return to Vietnam. With over a dozen major detonations from 1,000 and 500 lb bombs and numerous missile, fuel tank, and aircraft explosions no ship has ever survived the pounding USS Forrestal underwent that day, before or since.
July 10, 1972 Because of arson there was a fire aboard the Forrestal while in port. The fire caused heavy damages below the flight deck and many computers were destroyed. The repairs took at least three month.
USS Forrestal logged three more Mediterranean deployments between 1973 and 1975. On July 22, 1974, as a result of a conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriot forces on Cyprus, the U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Roger Davies requested the evacuation of U.S. citizens from that island nation. In a joint Navy-Marine Corps effort, HMM-162 from the Sixth Fleet amphibious assault ship USS Inchon (LPH 12) evacuated 466 people, 384 of them U.S. citizens, in only five hours. CV 59 provided air cover for that operation.
In September 1977, following a nine month overhaul, USS Forrestal departed Norfolk and shifted homeport to Mayport, Fla.
The aircraft carrier departed Mayport on January 13, 1978, for a three-week at-sea period in the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range of the Roosevelt Roads Operating Area to complete the third phase of Type Commander's Training (TYT-3), and to undergo the Operational Readiness Evaluation (ORE). Tragedy struck the Forrestal on the evening of Jan. 15, as an A-7E Corsair II from VA-81 crashed on the flight deck, killing two deck crewmen and injuring 10 others. The pilot ejected safely and was recovered, suffering only minor injuries. The plane crashed as the pilot attempted to land while the aft portion of the flight deck was crowded with aircraft. The Corsair struck a parked A-7 and an EA-6B before careening across the deck in a ball of flames. A small fire on the aft portion of the deck, caused by fuel spilled during the crash, was extinguished within seconds. At the time of the accident USS Forrestal was operating about 49 miles off St. Augustine, Fla. A memorial service for the dead was held on board on Jan. 19. The ship returned to Mayport February 3.
April 4, 1978 USS Forrestal departed homeport for the Mediterranean deployment. At 2200 on April 8, just minutes after the carrier had finished a general quarters drill, the crew was called to G.Q. again, but this time it was not a drill; a fire had broken out in the Number Three Main Machinery Room. Freshly painted lagging in Three Main engine room had been set smoldering by hot steam lines. Watch-standers within the space activated an extinguishing system and had the fire out within seconds. Three days later the crew again was called to respond to another emergency G.Q. At midnight on April 11, fire was discovered in a catapult steam trunk in the forward part of the ship at about the 01 level, and another fire was found in an adjoining storeroom minutes later. The at-sea fire brigade, working with area repair lockers, had the fires out within the hour.
April 22, USS Forrestal recorded her 227,000th arrested landing, while in the Mediterranean Sea. Pilot Lt. j.g. Erick Hitchcock and Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Lt. j.g. Al Barnet of VF-74 were the crew of the F-4 Phantom that marked the milestone trap.
From May 19-29, CV 59 participated in Dawn Patrol, the first of three NATO exercises the ship would be involved in during the deployment. Dawn Patrol involved air and ground forces and over 80 ships from six NATO countries. Forrestal's role during the exercise included protecting a Turkish amphibious task group and working with USS Nimitz and the French carrier Foch to defend against simulated "enemy" ships and aircraft. During this sea period two separate air crashes on successive days left one pilot dead and another injured. On June 24 Lt. Cmdr. T. P. Anderson, Operations Officer for Carrier Air Wing Seventeen, was killed when his A-7E Corsair II crashed into the sea during a practice bombing mission. On next day a pilot from VA-83, also flying an A-7E, ejected shortly after takeoff, suffering minor injuries. A rescue crew aboard an SH-3D Sea King helicopter from HS-3 recovered the pilot and returned to the ship within eight minutes after the crash. Both accidents occurred as the ship was operating in the Ionian Sea, east off the coast of Sicily.
From September 4-19, the Forrestal participated in the massive NATO exercise Northern Wedding, which included over 40,000 men, 22 submarines, and 800 rotary and fixed-wing aircraft from nine NATO countries. Northern Wedding, which takes place every four years, practices NATO's ability to reinforce and resupply Europe in times of tension or war. During the exercise USS Forrestal and the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal headed separate task groups, steaming in a two-carrier formation to gain sea control and deploying their aircraft in support of mock amphibious landings in the Shetland Islands and Jutland, Denmark.
From Sept. 28 to Oct. 10, USS Forrestal participated in Display Determination, the third and final NATO exercise of the underway period. The operation, involving ships, aircraft, and personnel from eight NATO countries, was designed to practice rapid reinforcement and resupply of the southern European region in times of tension or war. CV 59 arrived in Rota, spain, Oct. 11, for the last overseas port stop of the deployment. On 13th, the supercarrier put to sea to conduct a one-day exercise with a task group of deploying U.S. ships headed by USS Saratoga (CV 60). Air Wing Seventeen's planes conducted mock attacks on the task group to allow the ships to practice anti-air warfare. She departed Rota on 15th and outchopped from the Sixth Fleet, having been relieved by the Saratoga. On the homeward transit, USS Forrestal took an extreme northerly course as part of a special operation code-named Windbreak. During the exercise, she traveled as far north as 62 degrees latitude, 150 miles south of Iceland, encountering seas to 34 feet, winds in excess of 70 knots, and a wind chill factor that drove the temperature as far down as 0 degrees. The aircraft carrier returned to Mayport on October 26.
On November 13, USS Forrestal commenced a four-month period of upkeep and repair known as an Extended Selected Restricted Availability (ESRA), to be conducted as the ship was moored alongside the carrier pier in Mayport.
On March 2, 1981, USS Forrestal began her 16th Mediterranean deployment. During the Syria/Israel missile crisis, she maintained a high state of readiness for 53 consecutive days at sea. In a Gulf of Sidra exercise, two Libyan aircraft were shot down after firing upon F-14s from USS Nimitz over international waters. The Forrestal aircraft made more than 60% of all the intercepts of Libyan planes. After departing the Mediterranean she operated above the Arctic Circle as part of NATO Ocean Venture '81.
After a repair period, CV 59 departed for its 17th Mediterranean cruise on June 8, 1982 and operated in the eastern Mediterranean in support of the Lebanon Contingency Force of 800 U.S. Marines in Beirut. On Sept. 12, after transiting the Suez Canal for the first-time in its 28-year history, the carrier entered the Indian Ocean. This marked the first time that it had operated with Seventh Fleet since the 1967 Vietnam cruise. USS Forrestal completed the five-and-a-half month deployment with a nighttime arrival at Mayport on Nov. 16 and immediately began preparing for the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). The ship shifted homeport to Philadelphia, Penn., on January 18, 1983, and embarked on the 28-month, $550 million SLEP, designed to extend the life of U.S. aircraft carriers another 15 to 20 years. During SLEP the ship was completely emptied and most major equipment was removed for rework or replacement.
Forrestal's successful SLEP period was completed on time when shew departed Philadelphia on May 20, 1985. After completing a four-day transit to her homeport of Mayport, Fla., she immediately began a workup cycle in preparation for her first deployment in over four years.
June 2, 1986 USS Forrestal departed Naval Station Mayport for the 18th deployment. During this cruise, her aircraft frequently operated in the international airspace of the Tripoli Flight region, the international air traffic control sector of Libya. The carrier also participated in Operation Sea Wind, a joint U.S.-Egyptian training exercise and Display Determination, which featured low-level coordinated strikes and air combat maneuvering training over Turkey.
In 1987, the Forrestal went through yet another period of pre-deployment workups. This included refresher training, carrier qualifications, and a six-week deployment to the North Atlantic to participate in Ocean Safari '87. In this exercise, she operated with NATO forces in the fjords of Norway.
USS Forrestal departed on her 19th major deployment on April 25, 1988. She steamed directly to the North Arabian Sea via the Suez Canal in support of America's Earnest Will operations in the region. The aircraft carrier spent 108 consecutive days at sea before its first port visit. CV 59 returned to Mayport October 7, after five-and-a-half month underway period, operating in three ocean areas and spending only 15 days inport.
Forrestal's departure for the 20th deployment was delayed when a fire caused major damage to a primary command and control trunk space. Through the efforts of the ship's crew and civilian contractors, she was able to deploy on November 6, 1989, completing the necessary repairs well ahead of projections. Two days later a sailor is fatally injured when a hatch falls on him. During the underway period the ship participated in numerous exercises, including: Harmonie Sud, Tunisian Amphibious and National Week. USS Forrestal returned to homeport on April 12, 1990, after a eight port visits in five different countries.
The year 1991 was a year of anticipation and change for Forrestal and its crew, as she spent the first five months maintaining combat readiness as the east coast ready carrier. Maintaining a hectic and challenging period of at-sea operations, Forrestal's anticipated deployment in support of Operation Desert Storm was not to be, and orders to deploy were cancelled twice during the conflict.
May 30, 1991 USS Forrestal departed for its 21st and final operational deployment. During the ensuing seven months, she was called upon to provide air power presence and airborne intelligience support for Operation Provide Comfort, and to initiate, test and evaluate a wide range of innovative COMSIXTHFLT battle group tactics and new carrier roles.
July 8, An E-2C Hawkeye from VAW-122 was ordered to be shot down after suffering an engine fire that could not be extinguished. All five aircrewmen parachuted from the aircraft and were re-covered within minutes by helicopters from USS Forrestal and USS Yorktown (CG 48). The incident occurred during a routine flight in support of Operation Provide Comfort.
The year ended with aircraft carrier making advanced preparations for its change of homeport to Pensacola, Fla., and the transition into a new role as the Navy's training carrier, replacing USS Lexington (AVT 16). The Forrestal arrived in Philadelphia September 14, 1992, to begin a 14-month, $157 million complex overhaul. In early 1993, however, the U.S. Navy decided to decommission Forrestal and leave the Navy without a dedicated training carrier.
September 11, 1993 USS Forrestal (AVT 59) was officially decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on at Pier 6E in Philadelphia, Pa.
June 18, 2010 The ex-USS Forrestal arrived at the Naval Sea Systems Command’s inactive ships facility at the Philadelphia Naval Ship Yard, after a three-day tow from Naval Station Newport, R.I., for continued safe stowage, pending its final disposal.
February 4, 2014 The ex-USS Forrestal departed Philadelphia, Pa., on its way to a ship dismantling and recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas. The U.S. Navy awarded a $0.01 ship dismantling contract to All Star Metals on Oct. 22, and the company subcontracted with Foss Marine Towing to tow the ship to its final destination. The Navy continues to own the ship until it has been fully dismantled. The contractor takes ownership of the scrap metal as it is produced and sells the scrap to offset its cost of operations.