USS INDEPENDENCE CV 62
The fifth Independence (CVA 62) was launched by New York Navy Yard June 6, 1958; sponsored by Mrs. Thomas Gates, wife of the Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned January 10, 1959; Capt. R. Y. McElroy in command.
One of the newest class of "supercarriers" at the time of her commissioning, USS Independence conducted shakedown training in the Caribbean and arrived at her homeport of Norfolk June 30. On Aug. 25, during suitability trials on board the Indy, an A3D Skywarrior, piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Ed Decker, took off at a gross weight of 84,000 pounds - the heaviest aircraft ever to take off from a carrier.
After a training cruise, off the East coast in september, the USS Independence was on the return journey when an aircraft crash-landed on the flight deck. One crewman was killed and some were injured. The aircraft was destroyed.
CVA 62 operated off the Virginia Capes for the next year on training maneuvers, and departed August 4, 1960, for its first cruise to the Mediterranean, ending the deployment March 3, 1961. The remainder of the year was spent in training and readiness operations in the Atlantic Ocean. Because of faulty maneuvers, at Caribbean Sea in March, the carrier collided with USNS Diamond Head (AE 19). USS Independence was not damaged, but two departments of the AE 19 had leaks and went full with water.
On Aug. 4, 1961, she departed again for the Mediterranean Sea to join the US 6th fleet for another cruise and returned Dec. 19, 1961.
USS Independence sailed April 19, 1962, for Sixth Fleet duty in support of President John F. Kennedy's firm stand on Berlin during a reoccurrence of stress in a critical area. She returned to Naval Base Norfolk August 27 and sailed Oct. 11 for the Caribbean Sea. Called on by President Kennedy on Oct. 24 during the Cuban missile crisis, she provided a strong, visible reminder of U.S. determination and resolve while it acted as a key participant in the U.S. naval blockade of Cuba. CVA 62 arrived off the coast of Puerto Rico in response to the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba and took part in the quarantine operations which finally forced withdrawal of those missiles. The aircraft carrier then returned to Norfolk Nov. 25 for readiness exercises along the eastern seaboard, overhaul in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and refresher training out of Guantanamo Bay.
USS Independence departed Norfolk August 6, 1963, to take part in combined readiness exercises in the Bay of Biscay with sea-air units of the United Kingdom and France then entered the Mediterranean Sea Aug. 21 for further duty with the Sixth Fleet. Cruising throughout the Med, she gained much valuable experience during combined NATO exercises, including close air support to Turkish paratroops, reconnaissance, communications, and convoy strike support. President Makarios of Cyprus paid her a visit Oct. 7, after which she joined in bilateral U.S.-Italian exercises in the Adriatic Sea with Italian patrol torpedo boats, and U.S.-French exercises which pitted her aircraft against French interceptors and a surface action with French cruiser Colbert (C 611). The Indy returned to homeport March 4, 1964.
Following training exercises, ranging north to New York and south to Mayport, Fla., USS Independence departed Norfolk Sept. 8, 1964, for NATO Teamwork exercises in the Norwegian Sea and off the coast of France, thence to Gibraltar. The carrier returned to Norfolk Nov. 5 and entered the NNSY for overhaul.
On May 10, 1965, USS Independence deployed for more than seven months, including 100 days in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam, the first Atlantic Fleet carrier to do so. She also was the fifth U.S. aircraft carrier operating off Vietnam. Aircraft from CVW-7 participated in the first major series of coordinated strikes against vital enemy supply lines north of the Hanoi-Haiphong complex, successfully evading the first massive surface-to-air missile barrage in aviation history while attacking assigned targets, and executing, with daring and precision, the first successful attack on an enemy surface-to-air missile installation. The Indy launched more than 7,000 sorties in sustaining an exceptional pace of day and night strike operations against military and logistic supply facilities in North Vietnam. USS Independence returned to homeport December 13. On the way back home in December, the carrier conducted flight operations when the fuel tanks of an aircraft caught fire and detonated. 16 people were injured (14 heavily injured) and the ship was considerably damaged.
During the first half of 1966, she operated off Norfolk, replenishing and training air groups. USS Independence departed Norfolk June 13 for European operations with the Sixth Fleet. She was involved with unit and NATO exercises from July through December and then continued her Sixth Fleet deployment into 1967.
From April 30, 1968 through January 27, 1969, USS Independence (CV 62) was deployed to Mediterranean Sea.
the Indy departed Norfolk Sept. 3 to participate in NATO exercises in the north atlantic, (NORLANT), returning home on October 9.
USS Independence was again deployed to the Mediterranean on June 23, 1970, returning to Norfolk Naval Base January 31, 1971. It was during this cruise the Indy was awarded the Meritoreus Unit Commendation in support of actions against the PLO during the Jordanian crisis.
From October 8-13, 1973, Task Force 60.1 with USS Independence, Task Force 60.2 with USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), and Task Force 61/62 with USS Guadalcanal (LPH 7) were alerted for possible evacuation contingencies in the Middle East. The ships were on alert as a result of the 1973 Yom Kippur war between Arab states and Israel. CV 62 operated off the coast of Crete.
In the summer of 1974, the Independence departed Norfolk for yet another 'Med Cruise', operating with CTF 60.1 and CVW-7. On Sept. 8 Sailors were introduced to the new concept of terrorism when a bomb exploded in the cargo compartment of TWA Flight 841 high above. Steaming to the crash site, the Indy and other ships spent two long days retrieving what little remained of the ill-fated jetliner, her crew, and passengers.
June 20, 1979, Lt. Donna L. Spruill became the first U.S. Navy woman pilot to carrier qualify in a fixed-wing aircraft. Lt. Spruill piloted a C-1A Trader to an arrested landing aboard USS Independence.
On November 19, 1980, USS Independence deployed to the Indian Ocean and was on watch on "Gonzo Station" as United States President Reagan took office and the Iranian hostages were freed. Subsequently completing an Indian Ocean cruise, the aircraft carrier transited the Suez Canal northbound, shortly after USS America (CV 66) had transited southbound, making America the first U.S. Navy carrier (and, thus, Indy the second) to transit the Suez Canal since USS Intrepid (CV 11) in 1967. CV 62 completed a deployment of 204 days, during which the crew saw liberty only three times; 5 days in Mauritius, a week in Perth, Australia, and a short half-day stop in Rota, Spain, before crossing the Atlantic to return to Norfolk on June 10, 1981.
In 1982, USS Independence provided critical support to the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon. On June 25, the greatest concentration of U.S. Navy air power in the Mediterranean Sea resulted when the battle groups of the Forrestal (CV 59) and Independence joined forces with the Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and John F. Kennedy (CV 67).
On October 25, 1983, aircraft from USS Independence's embarked air wing flew missions in support of Operation Urgent Fury, the action to liberate the Caribbean nation of Grenada. Returning to Lebanon that same year, the ship's air wing conducted air strikes against Syrian positions.
On February 17, 1985, USS Independence arrived at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard to undergo a modernization and overhaul program to extend her service life by 15 years. The flight deck was improved to allow the recovery of high-performance aircraft while the ship traveled at slower speeds, and the NATO Sea Sparrow launchers were upgraded. Other improvements improved the ship's fuel consumption. CV 62 completed the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in June 1988. Setting sail Aug. 15 from Norfolk, the ship transited the tip of South America and arrived at her new homeport of San Diego, Calif., Oct. 8.
In August 1990, with Carrier Air Wing Fourteen embarked, USS Independence was sent to deter Iraqi aggression during Operation Desert Shield. Arriving on station in the Gulf of Oman on August 5, she was the first aircraft carrier to enter the Arabian Gulf since 1974. The Indy remained on station for more than 90 days and permanently reestablished a U.S. naval presence in the region. The ship returned to San Diego December 20.
USS Independence changed homeports again on September 11, 1991 to Yokosuka, Japan, embarking Carrier Air Wing Five and becoming the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier and flagship for Commander, Carrier Group Five.
On August 23, 1992, CV 62 entered the Persian Gulf prepared to enforce an Allied ban on Iraqi flights over south Iraq below the 32nd parallel. On Aug. 26 U.S. President George H. W. Bush announced that the United States and its allies had informed Iraq that in 24 hours Allied aircraft would fly surveillance missions in southern Iraq and were prepared to shoot down any Iraqi aircraft flying south of the 32nd parallel. The action was precipitated by Iraqs failure to comply with U.N. Resolution 688 which demanded that the Iraqi government stop the repression of its Shiite population in southern Iraq. Persian Gulf allies began to enforce the ban on Iraqi planes from flying south of the 32nd parallel on 27th in Operation Southern Watch. Any Iraqi planes that violated the ban would be shot down. Twenty Navy aircraft from CVW-5 aboard USS Independence in the Persian Gulf were the first coalition aircraft on station over Iraq as Operation Southern Watch began.
USS Independence became the oldest ship in the U.S. Navy's active fleet, and the first carrier in history to hold that distinction, on June 30, 1995. With this honor, the Indy displayed the Revolution-era First Navy Jack, commonly called the "Don't Tread On Me" flag, from her bow until her decommissioning. The flag was presented to ship's CO Capt. David P. Polatty III in a formal ceremony on July 1. The flag was received from USS Mauna Kea (AE 22) upon her decommissioning.
November 18, 1995 USS Independence and Carrier Air Wing Five team returned to Japan after successfully completing their third deployment to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch.
In March 1996, she was called upon to provide a stabilizing presence during heightened tensions between Taiwan and China.
In 1997, CV 62 made a four-month deployment, covering several major exercises and seven ports of call. Included in these ports of call were two historic port visits. The first was Feb. 28 to the island territory of Guam. The Independence was the first aircraft carrier to pull into Guam in 36 years. The second, two months later, was to Port Klang, Malaysia. USS Independence became the first carrier in the world to make a port visit to Malaysia.
April 3, 1997 An F-18's wheel mount collapsed during a cat shot, the wing tip slamming shut a deck hatch on the legs of a crewman who was taken by a SH-60 helicopter to a hospital in Sydney, Australia. The F-18 involved was damaged and was flown on 1 engine 220km to Williamtown RAAF base where it managed a landing with a wheel collapsing.
Before sailing back to Yokosuka, Japan, the Indy made its last port call of the deployment to Hong Kong in May. It was the last U.S. naval port visit to the territory before its reversion to China on 1 July 1997.
USS Independence was deployed from January 23, through June 5, 1998, to support negotiations between the UN and Iraq and to again participate in Operation Southern Watch in the Persian Gulf.
September 30, 1998 USS Independence (CV 62) was decommissioned in a ceremony at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremeerton, Wash., after 39 years, 9 months and 20 days of active service.
After decommissioning, the carrier remained in mothballs for five and a half years before being struck on March 8, 2004. During the time in mothballs, ex-Independence was said to have been heavily stripped to support the active carrier fleet, especially the Kitty Hawk-class carriers. Her port anchor and both anchor chains were used on the new Nimitz-class carrier USS George H.W. Bush. The recycling of parts and the poor material condition of Independence at the time she was retired made a strong argument against retaining her as a potential museum ship. In April 2004, U.S. Navy officials identified her as one of 24 decommissioned ships available to be sunk as artificial reefs.
As of February 2008, she was scheduled to be dismantled in the next five years along with ex-Constellation.