USS AMERICA CV 66
The third USS America (CV 66) was laid down on January 1, 1961, at Newport News, Va., by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Corp.; launched on February 1, 1964; sponsored by Mrs. David L. McDonald, wife of Adm. David L. McDonald, the Chief of Naval Operations, and commissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on January 23, 1965, Capt. Lawrence Heyworth, Jr., in command.
After fitting out there until March 15, 1965, USS America remained in Hampton Roads for operations off the Virginia capes until getting underway on March 25. She conducted her first catapult launch on April 5, with Cmdr. Kenneth B. Austin, the carrier's executive officer, piloting a Douglas A-4C Skyhawk. Proceeding thence to the Caribbean, the aircraft carrier conducted shakedown training and concluded it at Guantanamo Bay on June 23.
Entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for post-shakedown availability on July 10, it remained there until August 21. The carrier 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 Sept. 9.
USS America sailed for her first Mediterranean deployment November 30, 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 de Majorca, Spain; and Pollensa Bay, Spain. Early in the deployment, from Feb. 28 to March 10 CV 66 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. The America returned to Norfolk on July 10, remaining there for only a short time before shifting to the NNSY on July 15, for maintenance availability.
USS America operated locally in the Norfolk area from Aug. 29 to Sept. 19, after which time she proceeded to Guantanamo Bay to carry out training. After Hurricane "Inez" swirled through the region, her sailors spent an estimated 1,700 man-hours in helping the naval base at Guantanamo to recover and return to normal operations.
The following month, CV 66 initiated into carrier service the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7A Corsair II, conducting its flight qualifications off the Virginia capes, while it also conducted automatic carrier landing system trials which demonstrated the feasibility of "no hands" landings of McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom and Vought F-8 Crusader aircraft.
From Nov. 28 to Dec. 15, the America took port in LANTFLEX 66, gaining experience in the areas of antiair antisubmarine, and carrier strike operations. The aircratf carrier also participated in a mine drop, missile shoots, and provided air support for am phibious operations. It returned to homeport on 15th, remaining there through the end of the year.
On January 10, 1967, USS America departed Norfolk for her second Mediterranean cruise and relieved USS Independence (CV 62) at Pollensa Bay on Jan. 22. Upon nearing Gibraltar, she received a visit from Soviet long-range reconnaissance aircraft, Tupelov TU-95 Bears on Jan. 18. Two F-4B Phantom jets met the Bears as they approached and escorted them past the ship. Before anchoring at Athens, Greece, on February 4, CV 66 participated with Italian control and reporting centers in an intercept-controller exercise.
The beginning of March found the America and her consorts, operating as Task Group (TG) 60.1, participating in the United States/United Kingdom Exercise Poker Hand IV with the British aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. On April 1, Dawn Clear, a two-day NATO exercise, commenced with TG 60.1 units participating. During the first day, USS America provided raid aircraft against Greek and Turkish "targets." The following day, the exercise continued as Greek aircraft flew raids against TG 60.1 surface units. Following Dawn Clear, the carrier conducted routine training operations in the Ionian Sea.
On April 5, USS America pulled to Valletta, Malta, for a five-day port visit, and then departed for task group operations in the Ionian Sea. She conducted an open sea missile exercise with USS Josephus Daniels (DLG 27) and USS Harry E. Yarnell (DLG 17). The following days saw the threat of civil war in Greece commencing with the military coup that ended parliamentary rule in that country. Although King Constantine II held his throne, the possibility of violence in the streets of Athens loomed as a potential threat to the American citizens suddenly caught up in the turmoil. It seemed that evacuation by ship might be necessary and Commander, 6th Fleet, ordered the formation of a special operations task force.
TF 65, with USS America as flagship, sailed eastward to standby for evacuation, should that step be necessary. Fortunately, violence never materialized in Greece, and the task force was not called upon to act. The aircraft carrier departed Taranto, Italy, May 8 for routine task group operations in the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas, and then arrived in Livorno for a port call.
By May 25, there was evidence that a crisis was brewing in the Middle East. As soon as the America was slated to finish with the last of her "Poop Deck" exercises, she would be heading back to the Sea of Crete. For the next 48 hours CV 66 steamed east and south from the coast of Spain, through Malta Channel and on to the Sea of Crete to join up with the ships of TG 60.2, the carrier USS Saratoga (CV 60) and her destroyers.
On the morning of June 5, 1967, while USS America was refueling from the oiler USS Truckee (AO 147), the word came that the Israelis and the Arabs were at war.
At about 1400 local time, on June 8, the technical research ship USS Liberty (AGTR 5) was attacked by Israeli torpedo boats and jet fighters, approximately 15 miles north of the Sinai port of El Arish, in international waters. She had been in position to assist in communications between United States diplomatic posts in the Mideast and to aid in the evacuation of American dependents from the area if necessary. However, the first word that reached America and the Department of Defense in Washington gave no indication as to the identity of the attackers. In a matter of minutes, F- 4B Phantom interceptors were in the air to ward off any possible attack against task force units. 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 USS America were recalled with their ordnance still in the racks. The attack on USS Liberty had cost the lives of 34 men, with 75 wounded, 15 seriously.
USS America departed Istanbul, Turkey, on June 26 for five days of operations in the Aegean Sea. On July 1, the carrier steamed into the port of Thessaloniki, Greece, for her first visit to that port.
On July 16, CV 66 anchored at Athens for its second visit to that port of the 1967 cruise, and then proceeded to Valletta on July 29. On August 7, the America anchored in the Bay of Naples. After visits to Genoa and Valencia, the ship sailed into Pollensa Bay and commenced the turnover of her 6th Fleet materials to her relief, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt.
USS America returned to homeport on Sept. 20 and entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on Oct. 6. She remained there, undergoing a restricted availability, into early January 1968.
USS America departed Norfolk April 10, 1968, for a scheduled western Pacific deployment.
On May 26, she participated in Exercise New Boy and the next day held carrier qualifications. At 1000, May 30, she arrived at "Yankee Station, and at 0630 the next morning the first aircraft since commissioning to leave her deck in anger was launched against the enemy.
During four line periods, consisting of 112 days on "Yankee Station," America's aircraft pounded at roads and waterways, trucks and waterborne logistics craft (WBLCS), hammered at petroleum storage areas and truck parks and destroyed bridges and cave storage areas in the attempt to impede the flow of men and war materials to the south. On July 10, Lt. Roy Cash, Jr. and Lt. (j.g.) Joseph E. Kain, Jr., in an F4 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. Between line periods, CV 66 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 October 29. En route to homeport, the carrier visited Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. USS America returned to Naval Station Norfolk December 16.
Shortly thereafter, on January 8, 1969, she headed for the Jacksonville Operating Area where she served as the platform for carrier qualifications. On Jan. 24, CV 66 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, November 21-23, 1969, it took part in carrier suitability tests for the Lockheed U- 2R reconnaissance plane.
On January 5, 1970, USS America departed Norfolk to commence a nine week cruise in the Guantanamo Bay operating area. From February 15-21, she participated in Operation Springboard 70, the annual series of training exercises conducted in the Caribbean. At the completion of this testing and training, the America departed the Guantanamo area to arrive at the Jacksonville area on March 1 in order to conduct carrier qualifications. It returned to homeport March 8, and remained there for approximately one month making last minute preparations for an eight-month deployment.
On April 10, USS America departed Norfolk and paused briefly in the Caribbean Sea for an operational readiness inspection (ORI) before proceeding on a voyage that took her across the equator to Rio de Janeiro, around the Cape of Good Hope, across the Indian Ocean, into the Pacific Ocean and finally to Subic Bay in the Philippines.
On May 26, CV 66 began its first day of special operations in the Gulf of Tonkin, when Cmdr. Fred M. Backman, CO 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 VA-147 "Argonauts" , 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".
On September 17, USS America completed her fourth line period and headed for special operations off the coast of Korea and subsequently, the Sea of Japan. On Sept. 23 the carrier entered the Tsushima Straits, remained in the Sea of Japan for approximately five days and exited on 27th through the Tsugaru Strait.
During this period, CV 66 and CVW-9 engaged in three exercises: Blue Sky, with elements of the Chinese Air Force from Taiwan; Commando Tiger, conducted in the Sea of Japan, involving air units of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Air Force; and, after exiting the Tsugara Straits, Autumn Flower, air defense exercises with the Japanese Air Self Defense Force and the United States Fifth Air Force.
On Nov. 7, USS America completed her fifth line period and departed for her last visit to Subic Bay, Philippines. 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.
On the long trip home, the 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. After rounding Cape Horn on Dec. 5, the aircraft carrier headed north, stopped briefly at Rio de Janeiro for fuel, and returned to Norfolk on December 21.
She remained there until January 22, 1971, when the ship entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a three-month restricted availability. The America departed the yard, on schedule, March 22.
USS America departed homeport July 6, 1971, for the Mediterranean deployment. On July 16, she dropped anchor at Rota, Spain, in order to receive her turnover information from the ship she was relieving on station, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. Then she entered the Mediterranean Sea for the third time since her commissioning. Between the time the ship left Rota, until it reached Naples, the carreir participated in three major exercises.
Following a port call at Naples, USS 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. From August 16-27 she participated in National Week X, one of the largest exercises conducted in the Mediterranean. CV 66 then proceeded to Corfu, its next liberty port and after that visited Athens, Greece. After conducting routine operations in the eastern Mediterranean and making a port call at Rhodes the aircratf carrier proceeded to the Aegean Sea to participate in Operation Deep Furrow 71. Proceeding thence to Thessaloniki, Greece, for a port visit the America then participated in National Week XI, in the central Mediterranean. The ship subsequently visited Naples before steamed into the western Mediterranean to participate in exercises with British, Dutch, Italian and French forces in Exercise Ile D'Or, completing its part in the evolutions by Nov. 19. USS America then conducted port visits to Cannes and Barcelona before proceeding to Rota. There, on Dec. 9, it was relieved on station by USS John F. Kennedy. USS America returned to Norfolk Naval Station on December 16.
After the two-month overhaul, the carrier conducted sea trials. Soon thereafter, it embarked on a program of training, accelerated due to the fact that the date of its deployment had been advanced one month, and participated in Exercise Exotic Dancer V.
On June 5, 1972, CV 66 departed again for WestPac. Joining the 7th Fleet later in June, USS America relieved the attack carrier USS Coral Sea on station, and commenced combat operations on July 12. A ruptured main feed pump, however, prompted an early return to Subic Bay on July 25 for repairs. The repair work was delayed for two weeks while needed parts were rushed to Subic Bay. The carrier stood out on August 9 to return to the line, and soon resumed carrying out strike operations against Communist targets in North Vietnam. Completing her line period and stopping over briefly at Subic Bay, USS America steamed to Singapore, departing that port on October 20 to resume operations on "Yankee Station." On Oct. 23, the U.S. ended all tactical air sorties into NVN above the 20th parallel and brought to a close Linebacker I operations. This goodwill gesture of terminating the bombing in NVN above the 20th parallel was designed to help promote the peace negotiations being held in Paris France.
On October 28, Cmdr. James W. Hall took off in his A-7C Corsair on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission. Over the target area in Nghe An province, North Vietnam, he was heard to radio to his wingman, "Two SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) lifting at 12 o'clock." No other radio messages were heard. The first missile missed his wingman, but the second struck Hall's aircraft. No parachute was observed, and no emergency radio beepers were heard.
On Nov. 19, a fire broke out at 1410 on board the America, 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, the carrier remained on the line and continued to meet her commitments.
After an extended line period of 43 days, USS America reached Subic Bay on Dec. 2, where the number two catapult was repaired, and departed the Philippines on 8th 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. She swung into action, and the pace proved hectic until the Christmas cease-fire. On Dec. 28, the ship anchored in Hong Kong harbor, and remained there until January 4, when it 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 USS 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 January 28, 1973, the Vietnam War, at least that stage of it, was at an end. On March 24, USS America returned to Norfolk. 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 May 11 and emerged after that period of repairs and alterations on August 10.
USS 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 August 29, when her COD aircraft (nicknamed "Miss America"), piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Lewis R. Newby and Lt. Cmdr. Ronnie B. Baker, landed on board.
On October 29, CV 66 cleared Hampton Roads for Jacksonville and a period of carrier qualifications. It visited Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., from Nov. 4-8, and then 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 Nov. 21. USS America then steamed south after the Thanksgiving holiday, for Atlantic Fleet readiness exercises, returned via Mayport to Norfolk on Dec. 13, and remained in her homeport until sailing for the Mediterranean deployment on January 3, 1974.
Relieving USS Independence (CV 62) at Rota, Spain, on Jan. 11, she became the flagship for Rear Adm. Frederick C. Turner, Commander, TF 60. USS 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 February 15-19, the aircraft 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 March 1, the America participated in exercise PHIBLEX 9-74. The ship then operated north of Crete on exercises in early April, after which time she put into Athens again on April 9. USS America then participated in NATO exercise, Dawn Patrol, in which units of the navies of the United States, United Kingdom, Portugal, Holland, France, Italy, and West Germany participated. Upon the conclusion of Dawn Patrol, the carrier paid another visit to Athens, proceeding thence on May 19 for a four-day period of exercises, after which time she steamed to Istanbul, arriving there on May 23. Immediately following this port call, the America returned to Athens and sailed thence for Exercise Shahbaz to test the air defense capability of NATO ally Turkey early in June. She then anchored off the island of Rhodes, Greece, on June 6 for a four-day port visit, after which time she returned to Athens to embark Naval Academy midshipmen for their summer training cruise. The carrier then participated in Exercise Flaming Lance, off the coast of Sardinia, during which time USS Leahy (DLG 16) controlled over 1,000 intercepts by America's aircraft. Making her last port call at Athens for the deployment, the ship steamed to Souda Bay on July 1, loading minesweeping equipment that had been used in Operation Nimbus Star, the clearance of the Suez Canal. USS America then proceeded to Corfu, and began the transit out of the eastern Mediterranean on July 6, arriving at Palma, Mallorca, three days later. She anchored off Rota on July 15, for what was scheduled to have been an off-load of the equipment of Commander, TF 60, staff. Clashes between Greek and Turkish forces on Cyprus, however, prompted the Joint Chiefs of Staff to order America to remain at Rota until the arrival of her relief, USS Independence, on July 28. USS America returned to Norfolk August 3.
A little over a month later, she sailed for the North Sea, to participate in a NATO exercise, Northern Merger, departing Norfolk on Sept. 6. The America joined with HMS Ark Royal in providing air support for a NATO task f orce and for an amphibious landing. Throughout the exercise Soviet surface units, as well as "Bear" and "Badger" aircraft, conducted surveillance missions over and near the NATO force. Upon the conclusion of Northern Merger, USS America steamed to Portsmouth, England, arriving there on Sept. 29 for a five-day port visit. The aircraft carrier returned to homeport Oct. 12, to commence preparations for a major overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Entering the yard on Nov. 27, she remained there until September 27, 1975, when got underway to conduct post-overhaul sea trials. USS America departed NNSY Oct. 16 for local operations off the Virginia capes and, after a few weeks departed Hampton Roads for Cuban waters and refresher training. The carrier returned to homeport on Dec. 16.
Following the year-end standdown, USS America resumed local operations out of Norfolk in January 1976 and, in March participated in Exercise Safe Pass '76 with ships of the Canadian, West German, Dutch and British navies. She departed for another underway period in Mediterranean Sea on April 15, 1976. Soon after the arrival in the turnover port of Rota, she participated in a NATO exercise Open Gate, before entering the Mediterranean. CV 66 entered into the eastern Mediterranean on May 3 in support of Operation Fluid Drive, a contingency operation for the evacuation of non-combatants from war-torn Lebanon. For the next three months, the carrier maintained a high state of readiness. In conjunction with Fluid Drive, the ship and her air wing maintained continuous surveillance of the Soviet Mediterranean fleet, which at that point was at its largest since the Yom Kippur War of 1973. On May 24, the aircraft carrier anchored in Rhodes, Greece, to commence its 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. It conducted a port visit to Taranto, Italy, instead, but the deteriorating situation in the eastern Mediterranean required the ship to sail sooner than scheduled.
The assassination of the United States ambassador to Lebanon Francis E. Meloy, and Economic Counselor Robert O. Waring as they were on their way to visit Lebanese President Elias Sarkis on June 13, prompted the evacuation of Americans from that nation a week later, on the 20th. USS America remained on alert while landing craft from the dock landing ship USS Spiegel Grove (LSD 32) transferred the evacuees from the beach to safety. Following the successful evacuation, the carrier proceeded westward and arrived in Taranto, Italy, for a Fourth of July celebration. Proceeding back into the eastern Mediterranean on July 11 to conduct a missile exercise north of Crete, the America continued to maintain responsibility for Fluid Drive. On July 27, as more Americans were evacuated from Lebanon on board USS Portland, the carrier provided support. Relieved of its responsibilities in the eastern Mediterranean on Aug. 2, CV 66 reached Naples, Italy, soon thereafter. After returning to sea on 18th it participated in Exercise National Week XXI with other 6th Fleet units.
USS America then proceeded to Palma de Mallorca, whence she proceeded to participate in Poop Deck 76 with Spanish Air Force units and United States Air Force units based in Spain. Then, following visits to the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Malaga, she took part in the final exercise of her Mediterranean cruise, Exercise Display Determination. HMS Ark Royal teamed with America, and ships from the navies of Italy Greece, Portugal, and Turkey participated as well. The American carrier conducted convoy escort duties, simulated close air support for amphibious operations, and simulated strikes against military targets. The aircratf carrier then proceeded to Rota, where it was relieved by USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. CV 66 returned to Norfolk on October 25, 1976.
On Nov. 6, the carrier proceeded up the Elizabeth River to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where it remained into February. USS America sailed from Hampton Roads on June 10, 1977, for a five-week South Atlantic deployment as a unit of TG 20.4.
On September 29, 1977, USS America departed for the Mediterranean, with CVW-6 embarked, and reached Rota, Spain, on Oct. 9. She then proceeded to the Tyrrhenian Sea, where operated until Oct. 26. Following a port call at Brindisi, Italy, the ship began operations in the Ionian Sea on Nov. 7, and anchored at Souda Bay, Crete, two days later. It operated locally in these waters until Nov.12 , when sailed for Kithira Island, Greece, anchoring there on the 19th. Weighing anchor the following morning, the America sailed for the Adriatic Sea, bound for Dubrovnik, Croatia, from Nov. 22-26. CV 66 transited the Adriatic for a port call at Trieste, Italy, Nov. 28 to Dec 3. Returning to operate in the waters of Souda Bay for more exercises, it subsequently departed Crete on Dec. 12 for Palma de Mallorca, where the ship spent Christmas. Departing Palma two days later, USS America proceeded through the Ligurian Sea to her next port of call, Genoa, Italy, Dec. 30 - Jan. 8. She then sailed to carry out antisubmarine exercises in the Tyrrhenian Sea, upon the conclusion of which she anchored in Golfo di Palma, Sicily. Operations in the western Mediterranean and again in the Tyrrhenian Sea rounded out most of January and the carrier rested briefly at Catania, Italy, before getting underway for Exercise National Week on February 5. She returned to the Tyrrhenian Sea and western Mediterranean for further exercises during March, and then visited Barcelona before she brought the deployment to a close with further exercises in the western Mediterranean. At Rota, USS America was relieved by USS Forrestal (CV 59), and returned to Norfolk on April 25, 1978.
Following post-deployment standdown, the America conducted carrier qualifications off the Virginia capes, and then entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for an availability. Upon the conclusion of that period of repairs and alterations, she conducted post-availability sea trials Sept. 19-20, and conducted carrier qualifications October 12-20. Tragedy marred the last day of operations, when a Grumman S-3A Viking antisubmarine aircraft went over the side upon landing; hung by the safety nets momentarily, then plunged into the sea soon thereafter. Although the pilots, Lt. Cmdr. Ziolowski and Lt. (j.g.) Renshaw ejected clear of the plane, they were not recovered.
USS America subsequently conducted refresher training out of Guantanamo Bay early in November, before she pulled to Ft. Lauderdale Nov. 10 for four-day port call.
The aircraft carrier cleared Norfolk January 5, 1979, for the Caribbean operating areas, and conducted type training there from Jan. 5-23 and then visited St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Jan. 24-29. The America then resumed type training in the waters of the Caribbean and West Indies, before returning to homeport February 12.
USS America departed Naval Station Norfolk March 13 for a Mediterranean. Two days later, on the 15th, the ship conducted a "BearEx" with a Lockheed P-3 Orion from Bermuda simulating a Russian Bear reconnaissance aircraft. Such practice proved timely, for the following day, A-7 Corsair II and Grumman F-14A Tomcat aircraft intercepted a pair of the long-range Tupelov TU-95 planes that were en route to Cuba from their bases in the Soviet Union. The "Bears" never came within visual range of the carrier's battle group. Reaching Rota on March 24, USS America relieved USS Saratoga, and commenced operations in the western Mediterranean on March 29. During this deployment, the ship visited a variety of ports, starting with Naples, Taranto, and Catania. Moving into the Adriatic, the carrier stopped at Split, Croatia, before moving north to Venice and Trieste. In the eastern Mediterranean, she pulled to Alexandria, Egypt and Souda Bay, Crete. Returning west, she visited Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona, Marseilles, Genoa and Valencia before heading for Rota again for a turnover on Sept. 10-11. Highlighting this period were numerous multilateral and unilateral exercises, as in previous Mediterranean deployments. During one phase of National Week XXVII, USS America and her consorts took part in an open sea exercise that took them into the waters of the Gulf of Sidra, claimed by Libya as territorial waters since October 11, 1973. The Libyan government serving notice that any ship or aircraft operating south of the 32° 30' north latitude would be violating its territory, America's battle group maintained an alert, in view of the proximity of Libyan airfields and Soviet-made aircraft operating therefrom. Departing Augusta Bay, Sicily, on July 26, the task group arrived in its exercise area two days later. As planes from CVW-11 maintained nearly continuous fighter cover, the ships conducted their exercise unhindered. Ultimately departing Rota on September 12 to conduct a "blue water" turnover with USS Nimitz, USS America encountered her second pair of Bears. F-14A Tomcats of VF-213 intercepted the two, however, and caused them to turn away to the north, having never sighted a single ship in the carrier's battle group. The aircraft carrier returned to Norfolk September 22, 1979.
The America departed homeport again on Oct. 15 for Mayport, and conducted local operations off the coast of Florida before moving into the Gulf of Mexico to conduct carrier qualifications. Returning north upon completion of those evolutions, she put to sea on Oct. 30 for more CQ. These, however, involved the first arrested carrier landings of the new McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18 Hornet on that date. This aircraft underwent rigorous testing over the days which followed, with 32 catapult shots and arrested landings being completed before the ship returned to Norfolk Nov. 3.
Entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on November 6, USS America underwent repairs and alterations for much of 1980 commencing her post-repair trials on Sept. 23. Among the work performed during the availability was the installation of the NATO Sea Sparrow missile and close-in weapon systems such as the multi-barreled Phalanx machine gun.
CV 66 Returned to the Virginia Capes Operating Area to conduct carrier qualifications in early December. It spent the remainder of the year, undergoing upkeep at Norfolk Naval Station.
USS America operated locally in the Virginia Capes area into January 1981 and, during these operations on Jan. 14, brought on board a Grumman C-1A Trader COD aircraft piloted by USNR. Ens. Brenda Robinson, that became the first black female naval aviator to be carrier qualified.
The America, in company with her consorts USS California (CGN 36) and USS Preble (DLG 46), subsequently sailed for the Mediterranean deployment on April 14, 1981. Reaching Palma de Mallorca on April 23, she then participated in NATO Exercise Daily Double, with the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau, as well as with Greek and Italian navy units on the 28th before she steamed to Port Said, Egypt. Originally scheduled to have commenced her transit of the Suez Canal on May 5, the tense situation in Lebanon prompted a 24-hour "hold" on the evolution. Given the go-ahead soon thereafter, USS America made the 104½ mile transit on May 6, in ten hours, the first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier to steam through the Suez Canal since USS Intrepid (CVA 11) had made the passage shortly before the Arab-Israeli "Six-Day War" of 1967. It was also the first "supercarrier" to transit the canal since it had been modified to permit passage of supertankers. CV 66 Operated in the Indian Ocean, on "Gonzo" Station, for the first time between May 12 - June 3, after which time it visited Singapore. On June 18, the ship departed that port for its second stint on "Gonzo Station." This deployment was to last 35 days. Upon completion of her second northern Arabian Sea line period on August 4, the America shaped a course for Australian waters conducting a "Weapons Week" exercise in the vicinity of Diego Garcia. She pulled to Fremantle on Aug. 25 and remained there for six days, sailing for "Gonzo Station" on the 31st. On October 21, USS America commenced the northbound transit of the Suez Canal. Making the passage of the canal without incident, she continued on across the Mediterranean, reaching Palma de Mallorca on 25th. After a three-day port call, the carrier conducted exercises with Spanish forces, and subsequently sailed for home on Nov. 1, departing the Mediterranean the following day. USS America returned to Norfolk on November 12.
Following a short standdown, she conducted carrier qualifications, before pulled to NNSY on December 14. Emerging from the naval shipyard on April 20, 1982, the CV 66 operated locally off the Virginia Capes. Departing homeport on May 10, the carrier steamed to the Guantanamo Bay Operating Area and returned to Norfolk on 28th. Following further carrier qualifications off the Virginia Capes the ship then steamed south to conduct type training in the West Indies, interspersing these evolutions with a port visit to St. Thomas. Returning home on July 8, the America operated locally July 22-24, before departing on August 22, with CVW-1 embarked, to participate in joint NATO exercises United Effort and Northern Wedding 82. She visited Edinburgh, Scotland, from Sept. 15-21 and proceeded thence to Portsmouth, England, arriving there on the 23rd. Sailing for the Mediterranean on the 26th, the carrier operated briefly with the 6th Fleet, participating in Exercise Display Determination between Sept. 30 and Oct. 8. She then sailed for the United States, and, following her operational readiness evaluation in the Caribbean operating areas, reached Mayport to disembark CVW-1. America returned to Naval station Norfolk on Nov. 4.
USS America departed on December 8, 1982, proceeded to the Virginia Capes Operating Area and set out across the Atlantic Ocean. After port call to Palma de Mallorca Dec. 22-28, she headed for the Lebanese coast, where the carrier was to take up duty in support of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force in strife-torn Lebanon. Relieving USS Nimitz on station on January 2, 1983, the America spent the next 18 days off Lebanon, before Nimitz took over on Jan. 20. Steaming thence to Pireaus, Greece, along with USS Dale (DLG 19) and USS Savannah (AOR 4), she anchored there on 23rd for a five-day port visit to Athens. After a overnight anchorage at Port Said, the America transited the Suez Canal on Jan. 31. On Feb. 9, the aircraft carrier and its accompanying battle group conducted Exercise Beacon Flash 83. Subsequently, on 28th, it conducted a "Weapons Week" exercise in the vicinity of Diego Garcia. Following those evolutions, the ship visited Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 7-12. USS America resumed operations in the Indian Ocean soon thereafter, culminating in "Beacon Flash 83-4," and a subsequent port visit to Masirah Island, Oman. Steaming thence to Mombasa, Kenya, and a five-day port visit, she departed that port for a week of intense flight operations, followed by participation in Beacon Flash 83-5 on April 19. Returning to anchor at Masirah Island again three days later, the carrier and its Battle Group operated in the northern Arabian Sea, en route to the Suez Canal. Transiting that waterway on May 4, it headed for Souda Bay, arriving on 7th. Five days later, the America got underway for Malaga, Spain, for a nine-day port visit. She departed on 23rd and returned to homeport June 2, 1983.
USS America (CV 66) then entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on July 8. For four months, the ship underwent a period of repairs and alterations, emerging from the yard on October 28. She then operated locally off the Virginia Capes with CVW-1 embarked, before she proceeded thence to Mayport, and, ultimately, to Puerto Rican waters for refresher training. Subsequently visiting Nassau, in the Bahamas, for a five-day port visit, the aircraft carrier returned to the east coast of the United States, reaching Mayport on Dec. 8. It then conducted CQ for both east and west coast squadrons before returning to Norfolk December 14.
USS America departed Naval Station Norfolk April 24, 1984, to participate in Exercise Ocean Venture. Visiting Caracas, Venezuela, upon conclusion of that evolution, she headed for the Mediterranean May 9. Reaching Malaga, Spain, on May 21, the carrier commenced its transit of the Mediterranean on 29th and reached Port Said June 3. Transiting the Suez Canal on the following day, the ship passed through the Red Sea and joined the 7th Fleet on June 8, relieving USS Kitty Hawk. Returning to the 6th Fleet on August 29, CV 66 transited the Suez Canal on Sept. 2 and bound for Naples, Italy. It visited Monaco Sept. 13-22, before participated in one phase of NATO Exercise Display Determination. After stopping briefly to Naples, USS America returned to sea soon thereafter, and took part in the second phase of Display Determination before visiting Catania. Ultimately reaching Augusta Bay on October 27, she was relieved by USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on that date. After returning home on November 14, she conducted carrier qualifications in the Virginia Capes operating areas from Nov. 29 to Dec. 17 before returning to Norfolk next day. The carrier remained in an upkeep status until January 18, 1985, when pulled to NNSY for overhaul.
Emerging from the yard on May 13 for sea trials off the Virginia Capes, the America remained at Norfolk until 28th, when she sailed to conduct refresher training. Then, following a port call at Port Everglades June 13-17, she conducted carrier qualifications before returning home on 25th. The ship operated locally out of Norfolk through mid-August.
USS America departed on Aug. 24 to participate in Ocean Safari, a six-week NATO exercise which ultimately took her to Norwegian waters. After visiting Portsmouth, England, upon conclusion of her training, she returned to Norfolk October 9. The aircraft carrier spent the remainder of the year alternating periods of upkeep at the Naval Station Norfolk, with local operations in the Virginia Capes operating area.
USS America departed Norfolk March 10, 1986, a month earlier than previously scheduled, and arrived in the Mediterranean in time to participate in the third phase of Attain Document, a freedom of navigation (FON) exercise in the Gulf of Sidra. The exercise came to a close at 0900 on March 27, three days ahead of schedule and after 48 hours of largely unchallenged use of the Gulf of Sidra by the U.S. Navy. Thence steaming to Augusta Bay, Sicily, CV 66 relieved CV 60 on station, and subsequently visited Livorno, Italy, April 4-8. The ship visited Naples April 28-May 4, and then participated in NATO Exercise Distant Hammer with units of the Italian and Turkish Air Forces, and visited Cannes upon conclusion of the evolution. During June, it operated with USS Coral Sea and the newly-arrived USS Enterprise, and took part in a "Poop Deck" exercise with Spanish and United States Air Force units off the coast of Spain, arriving at Palma de Mallorca soon thereafter. Participating in a NATO Exercise Tridente, in late June, USS America visited Naples before she participated in a National Week exercise. Subsequently visiting Catania and operating in the central and western Mediterranean, she wound up the month of July at Benidorn, Spain, before returning to sea for further operations at sea in that region. Visiting Naples Aug. 11-17, the America spent the rest of underway period in operations in the western and central Mediterranean before USS John F. Kennedy relieved her at Rota in late August. When she returned from its Mediterranean deployment Sept. 10, it marked the first battle group to spend no more than six months overseas as part of the Navy's efforts to reduce deployments. USS America then went to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on Nov. 20.
CV 66 Departed shipyard on February 15, 1988, for sea trials and work-ups in preparation for the next round of intensive operations. In April, after completing a shakedown cruise, the ship participated in Fleet Week '88.
In February 1989, USS America departed for exercises in the Caribbean and the North Atlantic. She again operated in the Vestfjord before making a port visit to Le Harve, France, and returning to homeport April 3. On April 16, the VS-30 "Diamondcutters", became the first fleet S-3 squadron to fire a Harpoon anti-ship missile, during the carrier participation in Exercise North Star '89.
May 11, 1989 USS America departed Naval Station Norfolk for a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.
The America spent the first part of 1990 conducting local operations. After a three-and-a-half month shipyard availability, CV 66 conducted Refresher Training, Advanced Phase Training and FLEETEX prior to deploying five months early in support of Operation Desert Shield on December 28, 1990. The Battle Group transited the Suez Canal Jan. 15 and arrived on station in the Red Sea to participate in Operation Desert Storm. USS America departed the Arabian Gulf March 4, having launched over 3,000 combat sorties, significantly contributing to the liberation of Kuwait. The aircraft carrier visited Hurghada, Egypt, March 12-16, making the first port call of the deployment after 78 consecutive days at sea. It transited the Suez Canal on April 3 and returned to Norfolk April 18.
The America participated in Operation Welcome Home/Fleet Week '91 in New York City June 6-11, 1991, taking part in the largest victory parade since World War II. After a two months operations in the North Atlantic, in support of North Star '91, USS America departed Naval Station Norfolk December 2, for the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf, her eighteenth major deployment. She returned to homeport June 6, 1992. In July she entered the NNSY for a six-month PIA.
In January and February 1993, CV 66 conducted training carrier operations off the coast of Florida and continued with refresher training in February and March. After COMPUTEX, the exercise Ocean Venture and a port visit to St. Thomas in April and May, the carrier continued its workups for deployment.
August 11, 1993 USS America departed Norfolk for a scheduled underway period. The America Battle Group displayed its versatility in October when, after several weeks supporting United Nations peacekeeping efforts over Bosnia, orders came on four hours notice to transit the Suez Canal and relieve USS Abraham Lincoln on Groundhog Station, 90 miles north of the equator in the Indian Ocean, in support of UN efforts in the beleagured African nation of Somalia. Before leaving the Adriatic, aircratf from CVW 1 flew 863 sorties in support of humanitarian efforts in Bosnia. CV 66 returned to homeport February 5, 1994.
August 28, 1995 USS America departed Norfolk Naval Station for a routine six-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. She participated in Operations Deny Flight and Deliberate Force, under the control of the U.N. and NATO from Sept. 9-30, and visited various ports, including Trieste, Italy, Sept. 30-Oct. 5; Valletta, Malta, Jan. 23-28, the first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier to visit this historical port in over 24 years. The America and elements of her battle group were operating in the Adriatic Sea in support of the NATO Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina for Operation Joint Endeavor.
February 21, 1996 Cmdr. Robert A. Buehn, the CO of VS-32, made America’s 319,504th and final arrested landing in her well-traveled history.
February 24, USS America returned to Norfolk ending her 20th and final deployment in her 30-year history.
August 9, USS America (CV 66) was decommissioned in a ceremony at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia. The aircraft carrier will be transferred to the Ready Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia.
May 14, 2005 The America was "laid to rest" after being sunk at sea near the East coast. She was the target of a series of tests designed to test new defense and damage control systems for the CVN 21 program.