USS SARATOGA CV 60
The fifth Saratoga (CV 60) was laid down on December 16, 1952 by the New York Naval Shipyard, New York City, N.Y.; launched on October 8, 1955; sponsored by Mrs. Charles S. Thomas; and commissioned on April 14, 1956, Capt. R. J. Stroh in command.
For the next several months, USS Saratoga conducted various engineering, flight, steering, structural, and gunnery tests. On Aug. 18, she sailed for Guantanamo and her shakedown cruise. On Dec. 19, she reentered the New York Naval Shipyard and remained there until February 28, 1957. Upon completion of yard work, she got underway on a refresher training cruise to the Caribbean before entering Mayport, Florida.
USS Saratoga departed homeport September 3, 1957, for her maiden transatlantic voyage. She sailed into the Norwegian Sea and participated in Operation Strikeback, joint naval maneuvers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries. The aircraft carrier returned briefly to Mayport before entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for repairs.
On February 1, 1958, USS Saratoga departed Mayport for its maiden deployment to the Mediterranean. On July 15, while aircraft from CV 60 and CV 9 flew cover from long range, amphibious units landed 1,800 Marines on the beach near Beirut, Lebanon, to support the Lebanese government and to protect the lives of U.S. citizens. The situation was stabilized within a few days, without untoward incident.
During her August 1959 deployment to the Mediterranean, Attack Squadron 34, flying A-4D Skyhawks and part of Saratoga's air wing, was the first squadron deployed to the Sixth Fleet equipped with Bullpup missiles.
In May 1960 USS Saratoga collided with the German freighter Bernd Leonhartd off the coast of Virginia. The angled deck of the carrier got into the bridge of the freighter. The collision took place at night and the weather was well. Because of the damage she had to steam back to Norfolk. The freighter was heavily damaged.
While deployed with the Sixth Fleet on January 23, 1961, a serious fire broke out in Saratoga's number two machinery space which took seven lives. The fire, believed caused by a ruptured fuel oil line, was brought under control by the crew, and the ship proceeded to Athens, Greece, where a survey of the damage could be made. The carrier continued on its patrol mission with reduced steam generation capability, returning to the U.S. as scheduled to offload its air group before repairs.
During Sara's sixth Mediterranean cruise in 1964 a plane crash-landed on the flight deck and raged into a group of parking aircraft and destroyed six planes. Afterwards the carrier was heavily damaged and had to return to its homeport.
On January 2, 1968, USS Saratoga sailed for Philadelphia and an overhaul and modernization program which was to last 11 months. On Jan. 31, she departed Philadelphia for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, via Hampton Roads and Mayport, for extensive refresher training of the crew and air wing.
On July 9, USS Saratoga departed for her ninth Mediterranean deployment. Underway, a Soviet surface force and a "November"-class submarine passed in close proximity, en route to Cuba. Off the Azores on July 17, she was shadowed by Kipelovo-based Soviet aircraft. They were intercepted, photographed, and escorted while in the vicinity of the carrier. CV 60 operated with Task Group 60.2 of the Sixth Fleet in the eastern Mediterranean during September in a "show of force" in response to the large build-up of Soviet surface units there, the hijacking of a Trans World Airlines plane to Syria and the political coup in Libya. Numerous surveillance and reconnaissance flights were conducted by Carrier Air Wing Three aircraft against Soviet surface units, including the carrier Moskva, operating southeast of Crete. USS Saratoga operated in this area again in October because of the crisis in Lebanon. She returned to Mayport Naval Station January 22, 1969.
On June 24, the first operational "hands off" arrested landing using the AN/SPN-42, Automatic Carrier Landing System (ACLS), on a aircraft carrier was performed by Lt. Dean Smith and Lt. (j.g.) James Sherlock from VF-103, when their F-4 Phantom landed aboard the Saratoga.
On June 11, 1970, the Saratoga departed again for duty with the Sixth Fleet.
From her arrival at Mayport until March 10, 1971, she was in a "cold iron" status. The ship then operated off the Florida coast until June 7 when departed for its eleventh deployment with the Sixth Fleet, via Scotland and the North Sea where it participated in Exercise Magic Sword II. USS Saratoga returned to homeport October 31 for a period of restricted availability and local operations.
On April 11, 1972, USS Saratoga departed Naval Station Mayport en route to Subic Bay, Philippines, and her first deployment to the western Pacific. She arrived on May 8 and headed for Vietnam the following week, arriving at "Yankee Station" on May 18 for her first period on the line. Before year's end, she was on station in the Tonkin Gulf a total of seven times: May 18-June 21; July 1-16; July 28-August 22; September 2-19, Sept. 29-Oct. 21; Nov. 5-Dec. 8; and December 18-31. During the first period, she lost four aircraft and three pilots. On the plus side, on June 21, two of her F-4 Phantoms from VF-31 attacked three MiG 21s over North Vietnam. Dodging four surface to air missiles, one of the F-4s, piloted by Cmdr. Samuel C. Flynn Jr., with radar intercept officer Lt. William H. John, shot down one of the MiG aircraft. This Phantom, Bureau number 157307, was later transferred to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The aircraft was transferred upon its arrival at Dulles International Airport on November 29, 1988. Saratoga's planes attacked targets ranging from enemy troop concentrations in the lower panhandle to petroleum storage areas northeast of Hanoi. On her second line period, she lost an F-4 to enemy fire northeast of Hanoi with the pilot and radar intercept officer missing in action. During this period, her aircraft flew 708 missions against the enemy. On August 6, Lt. Jim Lloyd, flying an A-7 on a bombing mission near Vinh, had his plane shot out from under him by a SAM. He ejected into enemy territory at night. In a daring rescue by helicopters supported by CVW-3 aircraft the following day, he was lifted from the midst of enemy soldiers and returned to USS Saratoga. It was the deepest penetration by U.S. helicopters into enemy territory since 1968.
During a port visit to Singapore in October there was a fire in the boiler-room. Three crewmen were killed, 12 were injured and the carrier was lightly damaged. USS Saratoga departed "Yankee Station" for Subic Bay on January 7, 1973. From there she sailed for the United States, via Singapore and arrived at Mayport on February 13, 1973.
In the beginning of 1975, the Saratoga took part in the Locked Gate-75, a NATO operation meant to contain the influence of the Portuguese Communist Party in Portugal after the Carnation Revolution. Along with several foreign vessels, she entered the Tagus River delta and anchored in front of the Presidential Palace of Belém.
USS Saratoga departed Mayport January 6, 1976, for another Mediterranean cruise. On board her was VS-22 with the first deployment of the S-3A antisubmarine aircraft. CV 60 also took part in operations during the Lebanon crisis.
March 10, 1980 USS Saratoga and embarked airwing CVW-17 departed on their 16th Mediterranean underway period.
On June 21, the ship's CO, Capt. James H. Flatley III, made naval aviation history, when he completed his 1,500th carrier arrested landing. To make the event special, Midshipman James H. Flatley IV, the Captain's son, rode in the back seat.
On Sept. 28, only one month after her return from deployment, USS Saratoga departed Mayport and headed north to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard where she underwent the most extensive industrial overhaul ever performed on any U.S. Navy ship. She was the first ship to go through the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) overhaul that would last 28 months. The carrier conducted sea trials on October 16, 1982, and left Philadelphia with much fanfare February 2, 1983, with her new nickname - "Super Sara".
April 2, 1984 USS Saratoga departed homeport for her 17th Mediterranean deployment.
Saratoga's 18th deployment was anything but ordinary. After departing Mayport August 25, 1985, she steamed toward the Med for what was scheduled to be a routine deployment. But on October 10, the aircraft carreir was called into action. Arab terrorists had found and struck an Italian luxury liner, Achille Lauro. The ship had just departed Alexandria, Egypt, on a pleasure cruise of the Mediterranean. A few hours later, terrorists from the Palestinian Liberation Front hijacked the ship. After tense negotiations and the killing of an American tourist, the hijackers traveled in a battered tugboat to the city of Port Said, Egypt, after Achille Lauro anchored just off the coast. Egyptian authorities made hasty arrangements for the terrorists to depart the country. They boarded an Egypt Air 737 jumbojet at the Al Maza Air Base, northeast of Cairo. On orders from U.S. President Ronald Reagan, seven F-14 Tomcats from the VF-74 "Bedevilers" and VF-103 "Sluggers" were launched from USS Saratoga. Supporting the Tomcats continuously were KA-6D air tankers and E-2C Hawkeye aircraft. Off the coast of Crete, the Tomcats, without the use of running lights, eased up beside and behind the airliner. On command, the F-14's turned on their lights and dipped their wings - an international signal for a forced landing. The E-2C Hawkeye radioed the airliner to follow the F-14s. Realizing they were in a "no-win" situation, the hijackers allowed the pilot to follow the Tomcats to Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Italy. One hour and 15 minutes later, the jumbo jet landed and the hijackers were taken into custody. Seven hours after the fighter jets were scrambled, all the Super Sara's aircraft returned home without a shot fired.
On March 23, 1986, while operating off coast of Libya, aircraft from USS Saratoga, USS Coral Sea and USS America crossed what Libyan strongman Mohammar Khadafi had called the "Line of Death." The very next day at noon, three U.S. Navy warships crossed the same 32° 30' navigational line. Two hours later, Libyan forces fired SA-5 surface-to-air missiles from the coastal town of Surt. The missiles missed their F-14 Tomcat targets and fell harmlessly into the water. Later that afternoon, U.S. aircraft turned back two Libyan MiG-25 fighter planes over the disputed Gulf of Sidra. Soon after, aircraft from the three super carriers fought back in defense. A heavily-armed A-6E Intruder fired Rockeye cluster bombs and a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile at a Libyan missile patrol boat operating on the "Line of Death." Later that night, two A-7E Corsair II jets attacked a key radar installation at Surt. At the conclusion, three Libyan patrol boats and a radar site were destroyed by U.S. Navy aircraft.
Following Saratoga's 19th Mediterranean deployment from June 5 to November 17, 1987, she was overhauled once again at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard at a cost of $280 million.
CV 60 Departed Mayport Naval Station for its 20th deployment on August 7, 1990, just days after Iraqi tanks invaded Kuwait. The aircraft carrier transited the Suez Canal Aug. 22 to take up station in the Red Sea. In the early morning hours of January 17, 1991, Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm. USS Saratoga operated primarily in the Red Sea. Before the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq, she suffered a loss of 21 crewmembers in a ferry boat accident off the coast of Haifa, Israel. During the war, the carrier set what were at the time, several records. She completed 6 transits of the Suez Canal and completed approximately 11,000 aircraft launch and recovery cycles.
On January 17, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, flying an F/A-18C Hornet from VFA-81, aboard USS Saratoga, was shot down by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile, the first U.S. casualty of the Gulf War. He was placed in an MIA status the next day. On May 22, following a U.S. Secretary of the Navy status review board that found "no credible evidence" to suggest he had survived the shootdown, his status was changed to Killed in Action (KIA). On January 11, 2001, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig changed the status of Cmdr. Speicher from KIA to Missing in Action, based on new information. Another Saratoga aircraft shot down was an A-6E Intruder.
On January 18, Lt. Jeffrey Zaun flew as backseater to Lt. Robert Wetzel's A6E in early attacks on Iraqi military targets. The target target was the H3 Airfield in Southwest Iraq. The aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft artillery over the desert. Zaun, at least, ejected from the aircraft and was captured by Iraqi forces.On Jan. 20, a video interview of Zaun was broadcast on Iraqi television. Zaun and six other Allied POWs (including two other Americans) had been paraded through Bagdhad in a propaganda move and coerced into making "peace" statements. Until March 3, no one knew the fate of Robert Wetzel. On that day, both Wetzel and Zaun were released by the Iraqis in a group of six American POWs.
On January 21, an F-14 Tomcat of VF-103 aboard USS Saratoga, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Pilot Lt. Devon Jones and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Lawrence Slade were reported missing. Lt. Jones was recovered the following day, but Lt. Slade was captured as a prisoner of war.
Flying on January 30, all 18 F/A-18s aboard the "Super Sara" delivered 100,000 pounds of MK-83 1,000-lb. bombs on Iraqi position in occupied Kuwait. This was the largest amount of bomb tonnage carried on a single mission.
CV 60 Departed the 5th Fleet AoR March 11. After seven months and 21 days, 11,700 arrested landings, 12,700 sorties flown and 36,382 miles traveled, USS Saratoga returned to homeport March 28.
Saratoga's 21st Mediterranean deployment, which began May 6, 1992, was much more than normal operations in the Mediterranean Sea. Her six-month underway period found her in the Adriatic Sea, providing close-air support for humanitarian relief flights flying into the war-torn former Yugoslavia. Thousands of support missions were flown, but more importantly, not one single piece of ordnance was dropped. On August 27, aircraft from USS Saratoga and USS Independence, both in the Arabian Gulf, began enforcing the no-fly zone south of the 32nd parallel in Iraq under Operation Southern Watch. Any Iraqi warplanes violating that airspace would be shot down. This was to prevent the Iraqis from attacking Shiite Moslem ethnic groups in the marshes of southern Iraq. From the Gulf, the carrier returned to the Mediterranean and was there relieved on October 7 by USS John F. Kennedy.
During the participation in Exercise Display Determination 1992, in the Mediterranean, shortly after midnight of October 1, USS Saratoga accidentally launched two Sea Sparrow missiles, that hit the Turkish destroyer minelayer TCG Muavenet in the bridge, destroying it and the Combat Information Center, killing five, including the commanding officer, and injuring most of the Turkish ship's officers.
"Super Sara", along with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, began her final deployment January 12, 1994, entering the Mediterranean Sea on Jan. 26. The aircraft carrier spent that day, east of Gibraltar, receiving "turnover briefs" from Saratoga's predecessor in the Med, USS America (CV 66). Entering the Adriatic Sea on Feb. 1, CV 60 and CVW-17 launched the first of thousands of sorties in support of U.N. and NATO operations Deny Flight and Provide Promise over Bosnia-Herzegovina. After 44 consecutive days at sea, the ship pulled to Trieste, Italy, for a scheduled port call. Departing Feb. 28, the Saratoga take up station in the southern Adriatic once again, in response to the U.S. Air Force downing of four Bosnian Serb G4 "Super Galeb" training aircraft. The four jets had been flying in defiance of the U.N.-NATO "No Fly Zone" over the former war-torn Yugoslavia. USS Saratoga remained on station until March 10 and then headed for the eastern Mediterranean, for exercises over land and sea with U.S. allies. Finishing up on 18th, she returned to Trieste for another well-deserved period of recreation, then to the Greek island of Crete for bombing exercises at the Avgo-Nisi bombing range. Completing the exercises, CV 60 returned to the Adriatic for five more days of flying in support of Deny Flight and Provide Promise. Departing "Groundhog Station" April 7, the ship transited the Straits of Messina between Sicily and the toe of the "boot" of southern Italy, for a port call at Naples, Italy, before returning to the Adriatic for the fourth time on April 17.
April 28, 1994 A Saratoga-based F/A-18 Hornet from VA-83 crashed in the Adriatic Sea during takeoff from the carrier, killing the pilot. The death was the first among the NATO allies supporting Operation Deny Flight.
USS Saratoga anchored off the resort city of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, May 3, for one week of the most eagerly-awaited port calls of the deployment. After a week of liberty on the sun-drenched Spanish island, it was back to business as the ship participated in the Mediterranean exercise Dynamic Impact. This exercise featured joint maneuvers with several NATO-member navies, as well as the U.S. Air Force. Finishing six days of liberty in Valencia, Spain, the carrier participated in Iles D'Or, or "Islands of Gold", an exercise with the French Navy, lasting until June 9. The Saratoga then headed for the rendezvous point with her relief, USS George Washington (CVN 73). She returned to Mayport June 24.
August 20, USS Saratoga (CV 60) was decommissioned at the Naval Station Mayport.
Saratoga was towed out of the Naval Station Mayport basin on May 22, 1995 and taken to Philadelphia to become part of the Navy's inactive fleet. In 1998, upon the deactivation of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, she was towed to Newport, R.I., departing August 3 and arriving at the Naval Education and Training Center on August 7. She was first placed on donation hold, then her status was changed to disposal as an experimental ship. The Saratoga was returned to donation hold on January 1, 2000. She remains at the Naval Station, Newport, R.I., in this status. There is an active effort to make her a museum ship in North Kingstown.
August 21, 2014 The ex-Saratoga departed under tow Naval Station Newport, R.I., for a 16-day voyage to Esco Marine Inc. ship-recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas.