Chemung AO-30 - History

Chemung AO-30 - History

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Chemung II
(AO-30: dp. 7,295; 1. 553'; b. 45'; dr. 32'4"; s. 18 k.;
cpl. 304; a. 1 6"; cl. Cimarron)

The second Chemung AO-30 was launched 9 September 1939 as Esso Annapolis by Bethlehem-Sparrows Point Shipyard, Inc., Sparrows Point, Md., under a Maritime Commission contract, sponsored by Miss Howard; acquired by the Navy 5 June 1941, and commissioned 3 July 1941, Commander E. T. Spellman in command.

From 13 July 1941 until the entry of the United States into World War II, Chemung operated between east coast ports and the oil ports of Texas and Louisiana transporting fuel oil.

From 20 December 1941 to 3 January 1942 she issued fuel at Argentia, Newfoundland. Reloading at Norfolk, she steamed to Hvalfjordur, Iceland carrying fuel (19 February-25 March), then operated between Norfolk and the Gulf ports from 1 April to 16 May. Following another tour as fuel station ship at HvalfJordur (30 May-26 June), Chemung departed from New York 20 August with a convoy bound for the United Kingdom. Two days later Ingraham (DD-444) collided with her at night. The destroyer sank almost immediately when the depth charges on her stern exploded. Chemung, although heavily damaged by the explosion and resulting fires, reached Boston 26 August for repairs.

Steaming 1 October 1942 to Beaumont, Tex., to load fuel, Chemung accompanied the North African assault force to sea, remained off the coast during the landings then returned to Norfolk 30 November to resume coastwise fuel runs. From 15 February 1943 to 11 June 1945 Chemung alternated five convoy voyages to United Kingdom ports and five to North Africa with coast-wise and Caribbean cargo duty and station duty at Bermuda and in the Azores.

An assignment to occupation duty in the Far East found Chemung circumnavigating the globe as she cleared Norfolk 18 July 1945, passed through the Panama Canal for service at Okinawa 17 September to 13 October, and returned by way of the Cape of Good Hope to Norfolk 6 December. She operated with the Atlantic Flee serving the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean (12 I November 1948-1 April 1949), until 17 March 1950, when she sailed for San Diego, where she was decommissioned and placed in reserve 3 July 1950.

Recommissioned 1 December 1950, Chemung steamed to the Far East 28 January 1961 for a brief tour refueling forces engaged in the Korean War. During her second tour of duty (7 July 1951-20 April 1952), she supported United Nations troops in Korea, served on the Formosa Patrol, then transported oil from Rac Tanura, Arabia, to Guam. She again sailed from San Pedro 24 June 1962 to support the 7th Fleet off Korea until returning to Mare Island for overhaul on 24 February.

In nine succeeding tours of duty in the western Pacific from her home port at San Diego between 1963 and 1960, Chemung supported many of the 7th Fleet's most notable contributions to the keeping of peace in the Far East. During her 1964-56 tour she provided fuel for the ships carrying out the evacuation of the Tachen Islands. During each of the tours she has served as station tanker at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, fueling the ships of the Taiwan Patrol.

Chemung received two battle stars for World War II service, and four for service in the Korean War.

USS Chemung (AO-30)

USS Chemung (AO-30), a Cimarron-class fleet replenishment oiler serving in the United States Navy, was the second ship named for the Chemung River in New York State.

Chemung was launched 9 September 1939 as Esso Annapolis by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation at Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard, Sparrows Point, Maryland, under a Maritime Commission contract sponsored by Miss Howard acquired by the Navy 5 June 1941 and commissioned 3 July 1941, Commander E. T. Spellman in command.

From 13 July 1941 until the entry of the United States into World War II, Chemung operated between east coast ports and the oil ports of Texas and Louisiana transporting fuel oil.


The second Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) was laid down by the New York Ship Building Corp., Camden, N.J., 27 December 1956 and launched 21 May 1960, sponsored by Mrs. Neil H. McElroy and commissioned 29 April 1961 at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard , Capt. William F. Bringle in command.

Following shakedown in the western Atlantic, Kitty Hawk departed Norfolk 11 August 1961. After a brief stop at Rio de Janeiro, where she embarked the Secretary of the Brazilian Navy for a demonstration of exercise at sea with five Brazilian destroyers, the attack carrier rounded Cape Horn 1 October. She steamed into Valparaiso Bay 13 October and then sailed, two days later, for Peru, arriving Callao 20 October 1961 where she entertained the President of Peru.

Back in San Diego, Adm. George W. Anderson, Chief of Naval Operations, landed on her deck 18 November 1961 to witness antisubmarine demonstrations by USS Henry B. Wilson (DDG-7) and USS Blueback (SS-581), a Terrier missile demonstration by USS Topeka (CLG-8) and air demonstrations by Kitty Hawk.

Kitty Hawk entered San Francisco Naval Shipyard 23 November 1961, for alterations. Following operations out of San Diego, she sailed from San Francisco, 13 September 1962. Kitty Hawk joined the 7th Fleet 7 October 1962, relieving USS Midway (CVA-41) as flagship.

After participating in the Philippine Republic Aviation Week Air Show, Kitty Hawk steamed out of Manila Harbor 30 November 1962, and welcomed Adm. H. D. Felt, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, for a demonstration of modern naval weapons, 3 December. The ship visited Hong Kong early in December and returned to Japan, arriving at Yokosuka 2 January 1963. During the following two months, she visited Kobe, Beppu, and Iwakuni before returning to San Diego 2 April 1963.

On 6 June 1963, President John F. Kennedy, with top civilian and military leaders, boarded Kitty Hawk to witness a carrier task force weapons demonstration off the California coast. Addressing the men of the task group from Kitty Hawk, President Kennedy told them that, as in the past, control of the seas still means security, peace and ultimate victory. He later wrote to President and Madam Chiang Kai-Shek who had witnessed a similar demonstration on board USS Constellation (CVA -64): "I hope you were impressed as I was, on my visit to Kitty Hawk, with the great force for peace or war, which these mighty carriers and their accompanying escorts provide, helping to preserve the freedom of distant nations in all parts of the world."

The 30th of September 1963 saw Kitty Hawk at sea off the California coast for her final exercise as a unit of the FIRST Fleet. Following a series of strike exercises and tactics reaching along the California coast and off Hawaii, Kitty Hawk again sailed for the Far East. On 17 October 1963, she departed her homeport at San Diego for the Far East and her second tour of duty with the SEVENTH Fleet.

Enroute to the western Pacific, Kitty Hawk received her Operational Readiness Inspection in Hawaiian waters. Upon completion, Rear Adm. Duerfeldt, COMFAIRHAWAII said the combination of Kitty Hawk/CAW-11 was "the best weapons system we have observed this year."

While approaching Japan, she learned an assassin had shot President Kennedy. Flags were a t half mast as she entered Sasebo Harbor 25 November 1963, the day of the President's funeral and, as senior ship present, she had the sad honor of firing memorial salutes.

Following initial SEVENTH Fleet port visits to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, and Sasebo, Japan, in November, Kitty Hawk headed south to Taiwan to participate in Exercise Big Dipper. Nationalist Chinese forces combined with SEVENTH Fleet units for the amphibious exercise to demonstrate how American forces can answer the call from a besieged ally. Kitty Hawk aircraft supplied air support and aerial reconnaissance for the assault forces. Adm. Claude V. Ricketts, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, observed Kitty Hawk's operations 3 December for Big Dipper. Aboard with him was Vice Adm. T. H. Moorer, Commander SEVENTH Fleet.

After Big Dipper, Kitty Hawk visited Kobe, Japan, for a four-day goodwill visit. On 23 December, Kitty Hawk moored at Yokosuka, Japan, for a two-week Christmas visit. On 5 January 1964, Kitty Hawk was seaward again for operations. During that at-sea period, she held joint operations with the carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34).

Kitty Hawk returned to Yokosuka 10 February for a two-week upkeep period. Because of inclement weather before entering port, many airplanes due to be launched to nearby NAS Atsugi for maintenance were left on board. But on 12 February, more than 20 planes were catapulted off while the ship was moored in an unusual demonstration of the flexibility of the carrier and her aircraft.

Kitty Hawk visited Hong Kong 20-26 February 1964 and hosted many visitors aboard the ship. More than 300,000 gallons of fresh water was donated to the British government for use in the drought stricken colony.

In late February, Kitty Hawk headed south again to Taiwan &mdash this time to participate in the amphibious Exercise Back Pack. During the exercise, Vice Adm. J. F. D. Bush, Royal Navy, British Naval Attache to Washington, visited and was given a ride in the F-4B Phantom II jet. As in Big Dipper, Kitty Hawk aircraft provided air support and aerial reconnaissance for the SEVENTH Fleet Marines assaulting the beach.

Following Back Pack, Kitty Hawk spent a week at Sasebo followed by an Easter weekend visit to Buckner Bay, Okinawa.

On 6 April 1964, Rear Adm. Thomas Winfield South III was relieved by Rear Adm. William F. Bringle as Commander Carrier Division Seven aboard Kitty Hawk. Adm. Bringle was well known to the old hands aboard Kitty Hawk as he had previously served as her first commanding officer. The ship then visited Hong Kong during the period of 10 April to 17 April.

After departing Hong Kong, Capt. John "L" Butts, Jr. relieved Capt. Horace H. Epes, Jr. as Commanding Officer of Kitty Hawk on 20 April. Kitty Hawk then conducted operations in the South China Sea until she departed that area to arrive at Yokosuka, Japan on 6 May 1964 for a three-day stay. Following this, the ship and air group engaged in joint operations with HMS Victorious on 10 and 11 May 1964.

During the period between 18 May and 10 June, Kitty Hawk was again engaged in special operations in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam. While conducting photo reconnaissance flights over Communist Laotian territory, two Kitty Hawk pilots were downed by ground fire. Cmdr. D.W. Lynn, Executive Officer of VF-111, went down under Communist fire on 7 June, but was rescued and returned to the ship on the 8th. Also at this time, Lt. C.F. Klusmann of the VFP-63 detachment aboard Kitty Hawk was shot down and captured by Communist forces in Laos. After almost three months in his prison camp, Lt. Klusmann managed his escape and was returned to the United States in mid-September.

Kitty Hawk arrived Yokosuka, Japan on 14 June 1964 after 36 continuous days at sea. On 15 June in an impressive Change of Command ceremony aboard Kitty Hawk, Vice Adm. Thomas H. Moorer was relieved by Vice Adm. Roy L. Johnson as Commander Seventh Fleet. Almost two years earlier, in October 1962, Adm. Moorer had assumed command of the Seventh Fleet in a ceremony also held on board Kitty Hawk.

On 29 June 1964, Kitty Hawk departed Yokosuka for operations south of Japan and returned on 5 July to make final preparations for the return trip to the United States. The ship departed Yokosuka on 7 July for her return to the U.S., leaving a day early to avoid a threatening typhoon. Kitty Hawk arrived home at San Diego 20 July 1964 after a deployment that lasted over 9 months. She thus was entitled to fly her "homeward-bound" pennant, over 1,000 feet long, which she earned by being deployed more than nine months.

On 10 August 1964, Kitty Hawk departed San Diego for a three-day trip to Bangor, Wash. While enroute on 12 August, the icebreaker USS Staten Island (AGB 5) towed the Kitty Hawk for several hours off Newport, Ore., to test this capability. Kitty Hawk spent two days at Bangor offloading ammunition and departed on 15 August for the one day trip to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash. During this short inland sea cruise, local dignitaries and their families were invited aboard. On 16 August, an open house was conducted at Bremerton during which approximately 25,000 people streamed aboard. This was the largest crowd to visit Kitty Hawk in a single day.

On 16 August 1964, the eight month overhaul and modification period began with several major modifications being installed in Kitty Hawk. These include the Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS), Integrated Operational Intelligence Center (IOIC), Automatic Handing System (AN/SPN-10), and the Airborne System Support Center (ASSC). On 4 September, she moved into Dry Dock Number 6, the world's largest dry dock, and thus provided the first full capacity load for this dry dock.

Kitty Hawk returned to San Diego in May 1965, following her extensive yard period in Bremerton. She immediately began four weeks of intensive Refresher Training during which time Kitty Hawk achieved the highest rating ever given an aircraft carrier. For five days underway in July, Walt Disney and a Hollywood crew, which included two chimpanzees, were on board to film parts of the movie Lt. Robin Crusoe, USN which starred Dick Van Dyke and Nancy Kwan as well as many of Kitty Hawk's crew. Along with Walt Disney were guests of the Secretary of the Navy, midshipmen, Naval Reservists, and many other observers and visitors who were able to take advantage of the hospitality for which the Kitty Hawk is famous.

On 9 July 1965, she hosted 50 women flyers, all contestants in the cross-country "Powder Puff Derby" flight. That same day, some 300 members of the La Jolla, Calif., Regional Horseless Carriage Club of America came aboard to visit, having parked their old-time cars along the quay wall for the crew to inspect and admire. The flow of visitors continued unabated throughout the summer and fall.

From May until September, Kitty Hawk spent many long weeks at sea conducting exercises and carrier qualifications, including more than 7,000 aircraft launches and landings. On 7 and 8 August 1965, she was in San Francisco which afforded her crew an opportunity to sight-see in that interesting city. On 8 August, she hosted over 5,000 members of the Alameda Naval Air Reserve and their families. For one period of two weeks, she acted as a testing facility for the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Md. During this time, a number of successful computer-controlled "no hands" landings were conducted &mdash a "first" for the ship.

On 20 August 1965, nearly 2,500 members of Kitty Hawk families went to sea for the day. Many displays were set up, and the families watched an underway replenishment from an oiler, USS Chemung (AO-30), as well as an exciting air show from the flight deck of the ship. A month later, on 20 September, Kitty Hawk served as host for the Change of Command ceremony for the Commander Carrier Division One in San Diego. Rear Adm. Maurice F. Weisner relieved Rear Adm. Edward C. Outlaw.

On 19 October 1965, Kitty Hawk departed San Diego, California, for its third western Pacific cruise. On board were 14 guests of the Secretary of the Navy. These guests, representatives of various press media throughout California and Utah, remained on board for six days until our arrival in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

On 26 October, Kitty Hawk began its Operational Readiness Inspection under the control of Fleet Training Group and Commander Fleet Air Hawaii. Results of the week of drills and tests proved Kitty Hawk the "tops". Kitty Hawk attained the highest score of any Pacific Fleet Attack Carrier undergoing this rigorous inspection during the previous two years.

In the early morning hours of 8 November, after four days of rest and relaxation in Hawaii, Kitty Hawk departed for Subic Bay in the Philippines to join the U.S. SEVENTH Fleet. Kitty Hawk's stay in Subic Bay was very short and the time was utilized in replenishing for her upcoming job on Dixie Station, taking part in the battle against Viet Cong insurgents into South Vietnam.

November 26th will always be a day in the history books for Kitty Hawk. It was the first time her aircraft lifted off the Flight Deck for combat operations. On that day, Kitty Hawk aircraft flew 90 attack sorties against the VC, unleashing more than 140 tons of ordnance.

While at Yankee Station on 6 December 1965, a fire swept one of the large main engine room spaces. Despite the seriousness of the fire, Kitty Hawk was able to continue full air operations on schedule.

Kitty Hawk departed Yokosuka, enroute Yankee Station on 9 January 1966 conducting refresher flight operations and nuclear weapons loading exercises enroute. On 11 January, CVW-11 aircraft, under control of CTG 70.4, conducted attacks on a USS Hornet (CVS-12) towed sled in close proximity to a USSR Task Unit near Bashi Channel. RA5C aircraft from RVAH 13 obtained photo coverage on all surface units.

Kitty Hawk aircraft commenced Tiger Hound, Steel Tiger, Blue Tree and in-country operations on 14 January. The Tet (Vietnamese Lunar Holiday) stand-down resulted in increased sortie requirements for CVW-11 on 21 and 23 January but provided a break in routine on 22 January. Concentration of all flight activity in the Steel Tiger/Tiger Hound areas 20-23 January produced high density air coverage with resultant disappearance of targets. Intense interdiction apparently highly effective. Post-Tet in-country operations were handicapped by frequent periods of low ceiling in the I Corp area and by non-availability of Forward Air Controllers. Heavy sortie rates in the Steel Tiger/Tiger Hound areas apparently resulted in reduced vehicular activity as evidenced by the paucity of live targets in Laos. Planning for possible resumption of Rolling Thunder operations was accelerated.

The pace of operations increased sharply with resumption of Rolling Thunder operations on 31 January 1966. The weather in North Vietnam was uniformly bad until 3 February when Rolling Thunder Package III opened for a few hours. Kitty Hawk responded with a 170-sortie day, including 49 attack sorties in NVN.

On 31 January, an F-4 Phantom from VF 114 crashed near Kitty Hawk after complete hydraulic failure due to combat damage. On 1 February, an A1 from VA-115 was shot down in the Steel Tiger area. Crewmembers, both aircraft, recovered uninjured. On 3 February, an RA-5C Vigilante from RVAH 13 was downed by enemy fire off the NVN coast just south of Cape Bouton. A major SAR effort, including excellent shore bombardment by USS Waddell (DDF-24) and the USS Brinkley Bass (DD-887) failed to recover the crew.

Kitty Hawk departed Subic Bay on 10 February 1966 enroute Hong Kong, conducted a Surface-to-Air Missile Exercise on 10 February and a Air-to-Air Missile Exercise on 11 February. On 11 February, Rear Adm. J. F. Reedy, CTF 77, presented 61 Air Medals to pilots and crewmembers of Attack Carrier Air Wing Eleven, Kitty Hawk's embarked Air Wing.

Kitty Hawk arrived Hong Kong 12 February and departed, enroute Yankee Station, on 15 February. The exemplary conduct of Kitty Hawk crewmembers resulted in the following form SOPA (ADMIN) Hong Kong, "During your brief Hong Kong visit from 12 to 15 February, it was most evident to all concerned that Kitty Hawk personnel are a diplomatic force promoting an atmosphere of friendship, mutual respect, and understanding. "Well Done."

Kitty Hawk arrived in Yankee Station 17 February 1966, operating there through 20 February then moved south to Dixie Station from in-country operations from 22 February to 5 March. Extremely low ceilings and visibility throughout the area seriously limited air operations. The majority of Rolling Thunder missions after 17 February was completed by A6A Intruder aircraft from VA 85 using radar system deliveries through the overcast. On 18 February, an Intruder was lost when it failed to complete pullout from a glide bombing attack. There were no survivors. During the period 22 February to 5 March, Kitty Hawk aircraft averaged 100 direct air support sorties per day in support of friendly forces in South Vietnam.

Kitty Hawk returned to Yankee Station 6 March 1966, conducting air operations while enroute. On 5 March, an F4B Phantom from VF 114 was lost after being hit by enemy ground fire during in-country operations. The crew ejected due to loss of hydraulic pressure and control effectiveness. Both pilot and RIO were recovered safely by SAR helicopter. All-weather A6A Intruder aircraft maintained steady pressure on North Vietnamese targets despite overcast skies and inclement weather, both day and night. Kitty Hawk aircraft provided close air support missions in defense of the beleaguered As Hau Special Forces Camp on 10 March. On 11 March, an A1H of VA-115 was lost shortly after catapult launch. The pilot was recovered on board with only minor injuries. On 14 March, Kitty Hawk aircraft and SAR helicopter participated in the daring rescue of two USAF air crewmen after their aircraft had been shot down. Both crewmen were rescued within range of NVN shore batteries, returned to Kitty Hawk, and treated.

Kitty Hawk departed Yankee Station 16 March 1966 and arrived in Subic Bay 17 March for an upkeep period. Kitty Hawk departed 29 March and arrived in Dixie Station on 31 March. On 31 March, Rear Adm. J. F. Reedy, Commander Task Force 77, presented two Distinguished Flying Crosses, 238 Air Medals, and 7 Navy Commendation Medals to pilots and crewmembers of Attack Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN. Aircraft from CVW-11 provided Iin-country and Operation Jackstay support and averaged 100 sorties per day on enemy targets.

During the period 1 April 1966 and 23 May 1966, Kitty Hawk, with Commander Attack Carrier Striking Force, SEVENTH Fleet (CTF 77). Commander Carrier Division FIVE and Attack Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN embarked, continued to support U. S. policy in Southeast Asia with direct combat action against insurgent Communist forces in Vietnam.

On 3 April 1966, Lt. Felix Templeton of VF-114, flying an F4B Phantom, became Kitty Hawk's first triple Centurian by making his 300th arrested landing aboard ship, and on 9 April, Lt. j.g. A. E. Johnson of VA-113, flying an A4C Skyhawk, made the 10,000th landing on Kitty Hawk since commencement of this WESTPAC deployment on 19 October 1965.

Kitty Hawk departed Dixie Station on 11 April 1966 and arrived at Yankee Station on 12 April. Air Wing ELEVEN aircraft delivered an average of 100 tons of ordnance per day on enemy targets while conducting Rolling Thunder, Blue Tree, and Steel Tiger operations. On 12 April, a KA-3B Skywarrior (a tanker) with four crewmembers aboard, enroute Kitty Hawk from NAS Cubi Point, was overdue and missing. Crewmember status was undetermined. On 15 April, a UH2 helicopter from HC 1 Detachment CHARLIE was lost over the side after experiencing control difficulties soon after lift-off. One crewmember was killed and one man killed and four injured on the Kitty Hawk flight deck by flying shrapnel from the helicopter's rotor blades. Also on 15 April, Kitty Hawk aircraft responding to a SAR effort launched for a downed USAF F4C, and silenced one 57MM and two 37MM AAA sites in the vicinity of the downed aircraft.

On 17 April 1966, an A-4C Skyhawk from VA-113 crashed into the sea immediately following launch. The pilot ejected and was recovered safely aboard with no injuries. Also on 17 April, an A-6A Intruder from VA-85 experienced hydraulic failure in flight and crashed at sea. Both the pilot and NFO ejected and were rescued at sea in good condition. An A1H aircraft from VA 115 was also downed on 17 April. Extensive SAR efforts were negative.

Also on 17 April, an attack was carried out against a primary target in North Vietnam, the Hai Doung Railroad and Highway Bridge, located approximately 20 miles east of Hanoi, and resulted in the dropping of the center span and heavy cratering of the eastern bridge abutment and approaches. On 18 April, a flight of two A6As executed a surprise midnight attack on the Uong Bi Thermal Power Plant located approximately 12 miles northeast of the seaport of Haiphong. Making radar system deliveries, the Intruder aircraft placed 26,000 pounds of ordnance on target. On 19 April, Kitty Hawk aircraft struck the Cam Pha Port Facility. The destruction to port facilities caused by this strike was a significant economic blow to North Vietnam.

On 20 April, an A4CSkyhawk from VA 113, while orbiting a downed pilot, was also hit by ground fire. The pilot retired seaward, ejected two miles from Kitty Hawk, and was recovered safely on board after spending approximately one minute in the water. On 21 April, an A-6A Intruder from VA 85 disappeared form radar scopes at weapons release point. His wingman observed a large flash at this time, which could have been weapons detonation. Both crewmembers were missing. On 22 April, an A-6A Intruder was observed to crash in the water while retiring from the target. There were no survivors.

On 26 April, an F-4B Phantom was hit in the vicinity of the starboard engine by enemy ground fire while on a bombing mission. Both pilot and RIO ejected near Kitty Hawk and were recovered aboard in good condition by Kitty Hawk's helicopter.

On 27 April 1966, an A-6A Intruder, while on armed reconnaissance, received numerous small arms hits, one of which severely wounded the pilot. The pilot, with the NFO's assistance, flew his aircraft seaward where they both ejected and were recovered by helicopter. For this action, the NFO, Lt. j.g. B.E. Westin, USNR, received the Navy Cross. On 28 April, an F-4G Phantom was hit by enemy ground fire. Both pilot and RIO ejected at sea and were recovered safely.

During the period 12 through 28 April, Kitty Hawk aircraft participated in a series of strikes aimed at the North Vietnamese lines of communication (LOC). Targets hit included railroads, bridges, highways, and waterborne logistic craft. During this period, over 200 enemy waterborne logistic craft were destroyed. The strikes conducted during this period severely hampered the movement of military supplies south. Operations during this period were distinguished of aggressiveness and reliability in the face of adversity. Aircraft and crew losses were a direct reflection of aggressiveness of CVW-11 pilots in face of increased capabilities of enemy defenses.

Kitty Hawk departed Yankee Station 29 April and arrived Subic Bay 30 April for upkeep. On 1 May 1966, Kitty Hawk, while in Subic Bay, Philippines, celebrated the fifth anniversary of her commissioning with an open house. Kitty Hawk was visited by numerous military personnel, DOD civilian personnel, and dependents from the NAS Cubi Point and Subic Bay area. The Governor of Bataan and several of his officials attended as did the Mayor of Olongapo.

Kitty Hawk departed Subic Bay enroute Yankee Station 6 May, conducted a Surface-to-Air Missile Exercise on 6 May, and arrived in Yankee Station on 8 May. Air Wing aircraft averaged delivery of 110 tons of ordnance per day on enemy targets while conducting Rolling Thunder, Steel Tiger, and Blue Tree operations. On 15 May, an A6A Intruder from VA 85 was lost following fuel exhaustion due to inability to receive fuel from tanker aircraft. Both pilot and NFO ejected and were recovered safely. The pilot, Lt. Cmdr. John Ellison, was rescued by Kitty Hawk's embarked helicopter detachment, HC1 Detachment CHARLIE. This was the 14th rescue made by this detachment this deployment.

On 11 May, Kitty Hawk and USS Pyro (AE-24) set a new ordnance transfer rate record by averaging 237.66 standard tons per hour. On 18 May, an F4B while flying RESCAP for a downed aircraft was hit by small arms fire. The pilot and RIO ejected and were recovered uninjured by helicopter. On 19 May, an A1J suffered engine failure, suddenly and completely, following deck lift-off and crashed into the sea. The pilot was recovered uninjured by a Kitty Hawk helicopter.

On 23 May 1966, Kitty Hawk departed Yankee Station in the South China Sea and commenced the long voyage homeward after completing operations on her third WESTPAC deployment. From 27 November 1965 to 23 May 1966: The ship had conducted 9,223 combat sorties and 1,485 support sorties.

After brief stops in Subic Bay on 24 and 25 May and Yokosuka, Japan, on 29 May through 3 June 1966, Kitty Hawk sailed for the United States and arrived in San Diego on 13 June 1966. At this time she entered a much needed Restricted Availability (RAV) period for maintenance and repairs.

On 25 June 1966, Kitty Hawk's Hangar Bay One was turned into a gala 1,804 seat theater and the world premiere of Walt Disney's LT Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. , portions of which were earlier filmed onboard Kitty Hawk, was held before a host of celebrities. At the same time, in the South China Sea, off the coast of Vietnam, the picture was also premiered onboard Kitty Hawk's sister ship, USS Constellation (CVA-64). This was the first time in naval history that a premiere was held aboard a ship of the line, and the first time in the history of motion pictures that a double premiere was held, one at sea and the other inport.

Kitty Hawk's post-deployment RAV ended 22 August 1966 and Kitty Hawk commenced local operations in the southern California operating area operating in and out of San Diego. An INSERV inspection was conducted during the period 6 to 9 September 1966. Fleet Training Group, San Diego, conducted a Training Readiness Evaluation 12 and 13 September 1966 and the period of 14 to 23 September was spent conducting Fleet Training Group, San Diego, Underway Training Assistance. On 26 and 27 September, COMCARDIV THREE as Chief Inspector, conducted an Administrative Inspection. An overall ship's grade of 93.15 (Excellent) was assigned.

Kitty Hawk was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for exceptionally meritorious service from 26 November 1965 to 14 May 1966 while participating in combat operations against the insurgent Communist guerrilla forces in the Republic of Vietnam. The valiant men of her Carrier Air Wing 11 flew over 10,000 sorties and delivered over 10,700 tons of ordnance against enemy forces. The officers and men of Kitty Hawk displayed undaunted spirit, courage, professionalism and dedication to mai ntain their ship as a fighting unit under the most ardent operating conditions to enable her pilots to destroy vital military targets in North Vietnam despite intense opposition and extremely adverse weather conditions.

On 4 November 1966 Kitty Hawk again deployed to serve the cause of freedom and national security in waters of Southeast Asia. Kitty Hawk arrived at Yokosuka, Japan, 19 November to relieve Constellation as flagship for Rear Adm. David C. Richardson, Commander Task Force 77. On 26 November, Kitty Hawk departed Yokosuka for Yankee Station via Subic Bay, and on 5 December, aircraft from Kitty Hawk began their around-the-clock missions over North Vietnam. About this time Kitty Hawk &mdash already accustomed to celebrities as guests &mdash entertained a number of extremely prominent visitors: William Randolph Hearst, Jr. Bob Considine Dr. Billy Graham and John Steinbeck, among others.

Seventh Fleet carrier aircraft launched their first strikes on 24 April 1967 on MiG bases in North Vietnam with an attack on Kep Airfield, 37 miles northeast of Hanoi. The attack was delivered by A-6 Intruders and A-4 Skyhawks from Kitty Hawk and was followed-up by another A-6 attack the same night. While providing cover for the bombers during the first attack. Lt. Cmdr. Charles E. Southwick and Lt. Hugh Wisely, flying F-4B Phantom IIs of VF-114, each were credited with a probable MiG-17 kill in aerial combat.

The President of the United States presented the Presidential Unit Citation to USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) and Attack Carrier Air Wing Eleven (CVW-11). The Citation reads: " For exceptionally meritorious and heroic service from 23 December 1967 to 1 June 1968 while participating in combat operations in Southeast Asia in support of United States national policy. As a unit of Task Force SEVENTY-SEVEN, USS KITTY HAWK and embarked Attack Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN launched numerous major strikes on significant military targets in North Vietnam, and succeeded in inflicting extensive damage and destruction to sites and installations vital to the enemy's operations. Continuously overcoming formidable enemy defenses and hazardous weather conditions to project aggressive, effective naval air power against the enemy, KITTY HAWK and her embarked air wing accomplished all assigned tasks expeditiously, and contributed substantially to the United States combat air efforts in Southeast Asia. The exceptional professionalism, enthusiasm, and unstinting devotion to duty displayed by the officers and men of USS KITTY HAWK and embarked Attack Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service".

She remained in the Far East supporting the fight for freedom in Southeast Asia until departing Subic Bay 28 May 1967. Steaming via Japan, the carrier reached San Diego 19 June and a week later entered the naval shipyard at Long Beach for maintenance. Kitty Hawk returned to San Diego 25 August 1967.

Kitty Hawk again deployed from San Diego for a western Pacific (WESTPAC) and Vietnam cruise on 18 November 1967, returning home on 28 June 1968. Subsequent deployments were from 30 December 1968 to 4 September 1969 and 6 November 1970 to 17 June 1971.

On this latter WESTPAC deployment, by 31 January 1971, Kitty Hawk, USS Hancock (CVA 19), and USS Ranger (CVA 61), alternating on Yankee Station, flew a total of 3,214 sorties during the month, of which 3,128 deliverect ordnance in Laos. A-6 and A-7 aircraft were particularly effective in attacking truck traffic, the enemy having put a seasonally high number of trucks on the road, averaging close to 1,000 per day.

On Yankee Station on 10 March 1971, Kitty Hawk and Ranger set a record of 233 strike sorties for one day and went on during the ensuing six-day period to mark up a strike effectiveness record that exceeded record performances by TF-77 during the previous three-year period. The carrier returned home 17 June 1971.

Again, on 17 February 1972, Kitty Hawk deployed to the waters off Southeast Asia. By 30 March, Naval Air attack sorties in South Vietnam had dropped from 733 in February to 113 during March. On 23 March 1972, the U.S. canceled further peace negotiations in Paris, France, because of a lack of progress in the talks. This was followed by the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam. This "Easter" or "Spring Offensive" was the result of the long buildup and infiltration of North Vietnamese forces during previous months and presaged some of the most intense fighting of the entire war. The North Vietnamese invasion prompted increased air operations by the carriers in support of South Vietnamese and U.S. forces. The carriers on Yankee Station when North Vietnam invaded on 30 March were Hancock and USS Coral Sea (CVA 43). During the month four carriers had rotated on Yankee Station: they were Kitty Hawk, USS Constellation, Coral Sea and Hancock.

Aircraft from Kitty Hawk, as well as Hancock, Coral Sea, and Constellation, were involved in Operation Freedom Train beginning 5 April 1972. Navy tactical air from these carriers flew sorties against military and logistic targets in the southern part of North Vietnam that were involved in the invasion of South Vietnam. The operating area in North Vietnam was limited initially to between 17° and 19°N. However, special strikes were authorized against targets above the 19th parallel on various occasions. The magnitude of the North Vietnamese offensive indicated that an extended logistics network and increased resupply routes would be required to sustain ground operations by North Vietnam in their invasion of South Vietnam. Most target and geographical restrictions that were placed in effect since October 1968 concerning the bombing in North Vietnam were lifted gradually and the list of authorized targets expanded. Strikes in North Vietnam were against vehicles, lines of communication (roads, waterways, bridges, railroad bridges and railroad tracks), supply targets, air defense targets and industrial/power targets. By the end of April, operations were permitted in North Vietnam throughout the region below 20° 25' N and many special strikes above the 20th parallel had also been authorized.

On 14 April, the Navy averaged 191 sorties per day in South Vietnam, a 97 percent increase over the previous week. Sorties concentrated west and north of Quangtri City with interdiction and direct air support flown in the area. Carriers on Yankee Station were Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Hancock, and Coral Sea.

Two days later, on 16 April, aircraft from Kitty Hawk, Coral Sea, and Constellation flew 57 sorties in the Haiphong area in support of U.S. Air Force B-52 strikes on the Haiphong petroleum products storage area. This operation was known as Freedom Porch.

Operation Linebacker I began 10 May 1972 and consisted of heavy strikes of targets in most of North Vietnam, which evolved and lasted until restrictions on operations above 20°N were imposed 22 October. The operation was an outgrowth of Freedom Train and President Richard M. Nixon's mining declaration which also stated that the U.S. would make a maximum effort to interdict the flow of supplies in North Vietnam. On this first day of Linebacker I, the Navy shifted its attacks from targets in southern North Vietnam to the coastal region embracing Haiphong north to the Chinese border. In all, 173 attack sorties were flown in this region this day, although another 62 were directed into South Vietnam in continuing support of allied forces there.

It was the most intensified air-to-air combat day of the entire war. Navy flyers shot down eight MiGs. An F-4 Phantom II, from VF-96 on board Constellation while engaged in aerial combat over Haiphong, shot down three MiGs for the first triple downing of enemy MiGs by one plane during the war. Lt. Randall H. Cunningham was the pilot and Lt. j.g. William P. Driscoll was the RIO of the F-4. These three MiG downings, coupled with their 19 January and 8 May downing of two MiGs, made Lt. Cunningham and Lt. Driscoll the first MiG aces of the Vietnam War. Three other kills were scored by planes of VF-96 and one by VF-92 off Constellation and one by VF-51 off Coral Sea.

During the five and one-half month period of Linebacker I, the Navy contributed more than 60 percent of the total sorties in North Vietnam, with 60 percent of this effort in the "panhandle", the area between Hanoi and the DMZ. Tactical air operations were most intense during the July-September quarter with 12,865 naval sorties flown. Most attack sorties in NVN fell into two classes-armed reconnaissance and strike. The former was directed usually against targets of opportunity within three main areas &mdash near Hanoi, Haiphong and the Chinese border. Strike operations were preplanned and usually directed at fixed targets. Most types of fixed targets, not associated with armed reconnaissance, required approval by the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, or by the joint Chiefs of Staff, prior to attack. Principal Navy aircraft were the A-7 and A-6, which accounted for roughly 60 and 15 percent of the Navy's attack sorties, respectively. About 25 percent of the Navy's effort was at night. Carriers participating in the initial May-June operations from Yankee Station were Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Coral Sea, Hancock, Midway and USS Saratoga (CVA 60).

On 11 May 1972, Naval aircraft flying from Kitty Hawk, Coral Sea, Midway, and Constellation laid additional mine fields in the remaining ports of significance in North Vietnam &mdash Thanh Hoa, Dong Hoi, Vinh, Hon Gai, Quang Khe and Cam Pha as well as the Haiphong approaches. This early mining was not confined solely to the seven principal ports. Other locations were also seeded early in the campaign, including the Cua Sot, Cap Mui Ron, and the river mouths, Cua Day and Cua Lac Giang, south of Don Son and the Haiphong port complex.

Kitty Hawk, along with Constellation, Coral Sea, Hancock, Midway, Saratoga, Oriskany and USS America (CVA 66), began night operations regularly on 24 May, and during June and July night sorties constituted 30 percent of the total Navy attack effort in North Vietnam, relying primarily on the A-7 Corsair II and A-6 Intruder. About 45 percent of the Navy armed reconnaissance effort was at night during June and July. The A-7 flew about as many night sorties as it did day sorties. The A-6 flew more night than day armed reconnaissance sorties during the summer months. The total number of Navy night sorties during June and Jul were 1.243 and 1,332 respectively. Three to four of the carriers mentioned above were maintained on Yankee Station, on a rotational basis, during the summer months.

There was a dramatic change in North Vietnam's air defense effort during the summer months of 1972. During the earlier periods of April and May, the Navy air effort in North Vietnam involved intensive air-to-air combat and a large number of surface-to-air missile (SAM) firings. In contrast, during June and July there was an increase in Linebacker I Navy attack sorties, but there was a decrease in the number of air-to-air combat incidents and SAM firings. After mid-June, almost all North Vietnamese aircraft sighted or engaged were MiG-21s.

During September the number of Navy tactical air attack sorties decreased from the level flown in August. There were 3,934 Navy tactical air attack sorties flown into North Vietnam down by about 800 from the August total. During July and August, more than 45 percent of the Navy armed reconnaissance sorties were at night. However, in September, only 31 percent of the armed reconnaissance sorties were flown at night. In South Vietnam, the Navy flew 1,708 tactical air attack sorties, a decrease from the level flown in August. About half of the Navy's tactical air sorties were close and direct air support sorties in South Vietnam. Carriers operating on Yankee Station during the month of September were Kitty Hawk, Hancock, Midway, Saratoga, Oriskany and America.

On 23 October 1972, the U.S. ended all tactical air sorties into North Vietnam above the 20th parallel and brought to a close Linebacker I operations. This goodwill gesture of terminating the bombing in North Vietnam above the 20th parallel was designed to help promote the peace negotiations being held in Paris, France. Air operations in South Vietnam followed the general pattern of the ground war. North Vietnam increased their small-scale attacks throughout South Vietnam in an apparent effort to gain territory before a possible cease-fire, while the main objective of Navy and Marine Corps tactical air sorties were close and direct air sorties in support of allied ground troops, with a view toward frustrating the enemy's desire to acquire territory before a cease-fire agreement was signed.

Kitty Hawk returned to San Diego on 28 November 1972. On 23 January 1973, a cease fire in Vietnam went into effect. On April 29, 1973, USS Kitty Hawk was converted from an attack aircraft carrier, or CVA, to a multi-mission aircraft carrier, or CV, at Hunter&rsquos Point Shipyard in San Francisco. Most noticeably, changes to the ship&rsquos jet blast deflectors allowed Kitty Hawk to launch and recover the Navy&rsquos new F-14 Tomcat and this included the moving of aircraft elevator no. 1 outboard by a few feet, making it raise and lower at a slight angle. Kitty Hawk was on deployment again to the western Pacific from 23 November 1973 to 9 July 1974.

Just prior to Kitty Hawk's next WESTPAC deployment on 21 May 1975, the carriers Midway, Coral Sea, Hancock, USS Enterprise (CVAN 65) and USS Okinawa (LPH 3) responded 19 April 1975 to the waters off South Vietnam when North Vietnam overran two-thirds of South Vietnam. Ten days later, Operation Frequent Wind was carried out by U.S. Seventh Fleet forces. Hundreds of U.S. personnel and Vietnamese were evacuated to waiting ships after the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese.

In March 1976, Kitty Hawk underwent a yearlong, $100 million overhaul in Bremerton, Wash. Also, the ship&rsquos original Terrier missile launchers were replaced with NATO Sea Sparrow missiles.

In October 1979, Kitty Hawk and CVW-15 departed San Diego on their last seven-month cruise to the western Pacific together. On 28 October 1979, Kitty Hawk and her escort ships were directed to operate south of the Korean peninsula in response to the assassination of South Korean President Park Chung Hee on 26 October.

On 18 November 1979, USS Midway arrived in the northern part of the Arabian Sea in connection with the continuing hostage crisis in Iran. Militant followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who had come to power following the overthrow of the Shah, seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on 4 November and held 63 U.S. citizens hostage. Spokesmen for the mob demanded that the United States return to Iran the deposed Shah who was in a New York hospital at the time. Kitty Hawk's cruise was extended two and a half months to support contingency operations in the North Arabian Sea during the Iranian hostage crisis. On 21 November, Kitty Hawk and her escort ships were directed to sail to the Indian Ocean to join Midway and her escort ships which were operating in the northern Arabian Sea. Kitty Hawk arrived on station on 3 December, and the two carrier forces provided the U.S. with A-6 Intruder and A-7 Corsair II attack aircraft and F-4 Phantom and the modern F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft, which could respond to a variety of situations if called upon during the Iranian hostage crisis. This was the first time since World War II that the U.S. Navy had two carrier task forces in the Indian Ocean in response to a crisis situation.

Two weeks later, on 21 December 1979, the Defense Department announced a three-ship nuclear-powered carrier battle group from the Sixth Fleet would deploy to the Indian Ocean to relieve the Seventh Fleet carrier battle group led by Kitty Hawk. The Sixth Fleet carrier battle group consisted of the nuclear-powered USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and her nuclear-powered escort ships. However, on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1979, a massive Soviet airlift of 5,000 Russian airborne troops and equipment into the Afghanistan capital of Kabul was conducted. The U.S. protested the large influx of Soviet troops which the Soviet Union claimed were there at the request of the Afghanistan government. On 27 December, a Soviet-backed coup installed a new president in Afghanistan. Two carrier task forces centering around Kitty Hawk and Midway continued contingency operations in the northern Arabian Sea.

Nimitz and her escort ships joined Kitty Hawk and Midway and their escort ships on station in the Arabian Sea on 22 January 1980. The following day Kitty Hawk departed for Subic Bay, R.P., having spent 64 days in operations connected with the Iranian crisis. For their actions in the region, Kitty Hawk and CVW-15 sailors and officers were awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal. Kitty Hawk returned to San Diego in February 1980 and, five months later, was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Naval Air Force Pacific Battle Efficiency 'E' an the best carrier in the Pacific Fleet.

In April 1981, Kitty Hawk left San Diego its 13th deployment to the western PacifIc. Following the cruise, the crew was awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal for rescuing Vietnamese refugees in the South China Sea.

In January 1982, Kitty Hawk returned to Bremerton for another year-long overhaul. The overhaul was completed on schedule in January 1983. Following the comprehensive overhauland a vigorous training period with Carrier Air Wing NINE (CVW.9), Kitty Hawk deployed as the flagship for Battle Group Bravo. During exercise Team Spirit ྐ she was struck by a submerged "Victor"-class Soviet submarine in the Sea of Japan, forcing the submarine to be towed back to her homeport. Kitty Hawk logged over 62, 000 miles on this deployment and remained on station in the North Arabian Sea for more than 60 consecutive days. The ship returned to San Diego on 1 August 1984. Seven months later, in March 1985, Kitty Hawk was awarded its second Battle Efficiency 'E' award as the best carrier in the Pacific Fleet.

In July 1985, Kitty Hawk once again deployed as flagship for Battle Group Bravo, responding to tasking from the California coast to the Gulf of Aden. During the remainder of 1985, Kitty Hawk executed a hallmark cruise, completing her second consecutive fatality-free deployment while accumulating 18,000 flight hours and 7,300 arrested landings. It was also the second consecutive cruise without an accident in the launch and recovery of jet and propeller aircraft, while her catapults and arresting gear were maintained at 100 percent availability.

Kitty Hawk celebrated 25 years of proud service in 1986. She won the Admiral Flatley Award for aviation safety, the COMNAVAIRPAC Battle E for best CV AIMD in the Pacific Fleet, and the CINCPACFLT Annual Price Fighter Award. In the category of food service excellence, Kitty Hawk was the winner of the Dorrie P. Miller award as well as a semifinalist for the 1986 NEY award. Culminating an arduous work-up cycle, Kitty Hawk finished 1986 with 9,661 cat shots and 9,025 arrested landings, bringing the total traps figure to 256,586.

Kitty Hawk began 1987 with a farewell to San Diego. On 3 January, the ship departed her homeport of 25 years and set out on a six-month world cruise. During the world cruise, Kitty Hawk and CVW-9 crewmen again showed their commitment to safety by conducting a third fatality-free deployment. Kitty Hawk spent 106 consecutive days on station in the Indian Ocean and was again was awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Meritorious Unit Citation for its service.

The world cruise ended at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 3 July 1987. Six months later, Kitty Hawk began a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) overhaul. Kitty Hawk emerged from the yards on 29 March 1991, her deck modified to accommodate the F/A-18 Hornet. The overhaul was estimated to have added 20 years of service to the life of the ship. Kitty Hawk commenced sea trials, the first time the 80,000-ton carrier moved under her own power since arriving in Philadelphia 3½ years earlier to begin the SLEP. She departed Philadelphia on 30 July.

With the return of CVW-15 to its decks, Kitty Hawk began its second cruise around 'the Horn' of South America to its original homeport of San Diego on 11 December 1991. On 1 August 1992, Kitty Hawk was appointed as Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific's 'ready carrier.' The ship embarked the Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group FIVE flag staff, the Commander, Destroyer Squadron SEVENTEEN staff and Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN for three months of work-ups before deploying to the western Pacific on 3 November 1992.

While on deployment, Kitty Hawk spent nine days off the coast of Somalia supporting U.S. Marines and coalition forces Involved in Operation Restore Hope. On 16 December 1992, five air traffic controllers from Kitty Hawk were sent aboard USS Leahy (CG 16) to establish approach control services in and out of Mogadishu, Somalia, in support of Operation Restore Hope. Approaching aircraft were picked up from a VAW-114 E-2C Hawkeye, which tracked flights and issued advisories from about 200 miles out. Once the flights were within 50 miles, the Leahy team took over and led them to within visual range of the airport, about 10 miles away.

In response to increasing Iraqi violations of the United Nations sanctions, the ship was subsequently rushed to the Arabian Gulf on on 27 December 1992. Just 17 days later, on 13 January 1993, Kitty Hawk, with 35 of her CVW-15 aircraft. led a joint, coalition offensive strike against missile sites in southern Iraq. The successful strike sent Saddam Hussein a clear message that continued violations of U.N. resolutions would not be tolerated.

Kitty Hawk's battle group was relieved by the USS Nimitz battle group on 18 March 1993 and headed for home, after having operated in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf and participated in Operations Restore Hope and Southern Watch. On 20 September 1993, while in its homeport of San Diego, Kitty Hawk turned its flight deck into a stage to host a live taping of The Nashville Network's (TNN) 10th anniversary "Southern California Spectacular" country music concert. Among the performers were the band Restless Heart and singers Martina McBride, Aaron Tippin, Shenandoah, Larry Stewart, Lari White and Clint Black.

Lady Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, addressed Kitty Hawk's crew during a Veterans' Day observance held on board the carrier 11 November 1993, during an in-port period in San Diego. Lady Thatcher was in the U.S. promoting her book, The Downing Street Years, and wanted to speak to U.S. military personnel, and offer her personal admiration for the burdens and sacrifices made by the military around the world. .

On 14 December 1993, while Kitty Hawk was conducting flight operations ten miles southwest of San Clemente Island when the crew of an airborne search- and-rescue (SAR) helicopter spotted three distress flares. Upon investigating the flares, the helicopter found the 40-foot Silver Eagle taking on water. Of the three passengers on board, one had a serious back injury and could not be moved. Kitty Hawk's Commanding Officer, Capt. William W. Picavance, ordered the carrier to the scene with ship's medical doctors, corpsmen and boat crew standing by. Dispatching three helicopters to Silver Eagle's location, Kitty Hawk was able to retrieve one of the stranded mariners, but rough seas prevented the helicopters from rescuing the remaining two men.

Kitty Hawk then launched a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RIB) crew and corpsman to the sinking boat. Battling 15 to 20 foot seas, the RIB crew tied up alongside the foundering vessel. On-scene rescue swimmers boarded the Silver Eagle and transported the remaining passengers aboard the RIB. The two men were moved to Kitty Hawk, where all the survivors reported in stable condition. The men said they had left Long Beach, Calif., early in the morning of 13 December for a three-day fishing trip. This was Kitty Hawk's second rescue at sea in less than a week. On 7 December, the ship teamed up with a Coast Guard helicopter crew to save a Philippine sailor suffering from severe internal injuries on board a Philippine merchant ship.

Kitty Hawk departed her homeport of San Diego for the 17th time in June 1994 for a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific. Late on the evening of 11 July, as it approached for an arrested landing, an F-14 fighter jet struck the ramp of Kitty Hawk's flight deck and exploded, turning the deck into a sea of flames and wreckage. The jet's pilot, who, along with his radar intercept officer, had ejected seconds after impact landed in the flames. Five Kitty Hawk flight deck personnel immediately advanced into the flames, rescued the pilot and extinguished the fire. The five &mdash Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Aircraft Handling) Leroy Danielly, Aviation Boatswain's Mates (Aircraft Handling) First Class Larry Spradlin and Tim Goode, Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Aircraft Handling) Second Class Jose Dickson and Aviation Electronics Technician Second Class Brandon Liesemeyer &mdash were presented the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism by Secretary of the Navy John Dalton on 15 October 1994 during the carrier's port visit to Yokosuka, Japan.

In the early summer of 1996, Kitty Hawk participated in Exercise Rim of the Pacific ྜ (RIMPAC 96). She then departed San Diego on her next scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific on 11 October 1996. This was the 18th deployment for the 35-year-old carrier and marked the first time that a psychologist had ever been assigned to a combatant. Lt. Helen Napier, Medical Service Corps, from the Naval Hospital, Bremerton, Wash., participated in a precedent setting pilot program developed in response to a request from the carrier's Senior Medical Officer, Capt. Homer Moore, Medical Corps, and the ship's Commanding Officer, Capt. Steven Tomaszeski. Kitty Hawk and her battle group, USS Cowpens (CG 63), USS Antietam (CG 54), USS Reid (FFG 30) and the attack submarine USS Salt Lake City (SSN 716), deployed to the western Pacific, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf. They spent three months in the Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch and U.N. sanctions in the region. During that period, Air Wing Eleven aircraft flew 1,775 sorties, accumulating 4,065 flight hours. Battle group ships conducted Maritime Interception Operations (MIO) in which crew members boarded and searched merchant ships believed to be carrying cargo in violation of U.N. sanctions against Iraq. Kitty hawk and her battle group returned to homeport on 11 April 1997.

On 18 July 1998, USS Independence (CV 62) turned over forward-deployed duties in Yokosuka, Japan, to Kitty Hawk while the two aircraft carriers were in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. By this time, Kitty Hawk had added new computer technology, making it compatible with the Navy's latest advancements in information technology for the 21st century, or IT-21. Upon reaching Japan, Kitty Hawk took on a new air wing. Carrier Air Wing (CVW) FIVE had operated as a forward-deployed unit out of Atsugi Naval Air Station, Japan, since 1973.

Kitty Hawk arrived in her new homeport of Yokosuka, Japan, on 11 August 1998, amid a backdrop of banners, flags and balloons, hundreds of dignitaries, family members and Sailors lining the pier to welcome the crew to their new home. Welcoming remarks were made by Ryohei Olamoto, President, Yokosuka Japan-American Society and Vice Adm. Makoto Yamazaki, Commander-in-Chief, Japanese Self Defense Fleet. Kitty Hawk became the third aircraft carrier to be permanently forward deployed to Japan, after USS Midway (CV 41) and Independence.

The carrier did not remain pierside at Yokosuka long. Kitty Hawk participated in Exercise Foal Eagle ྞ, the largest joint/combined exercise in the world, which began 24 October and ran through 4 November off the coast of Korea. It was during this at-sea period that the carrier lost a petty officer first class on 17 October. He apparently was lost at sea while the ship was conducting routine operations in the Pacific Ocean approximately 345 miles east of Okinawa. Two SH-60 helicopters from HS-14 searched the surrounding waters along with USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), both forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Jarvis (WHEC 725). A memorial service was held for for missing Sailor on 23 October.

On 20 November 1998, having returned from Foal Eagle ྞ, Kitty Hawk received the First Navy Jack during ceremonies in Yokosuka, Japan, designating the 37-year-old aircraft carrier as the oldest ship in the fleet. This distinction allowed her to display the First Navy Jack in place of the Union Jack flown aboard other Navy ships. The First Navy Jack, a flag consisting of 13 horizontal, alternating red and white stripes with a rattlesnake across the center, bears the motto, "Don't Tread On Me." Conceived in 1775 by Commodore Esek Hopkins of the Continental Navy, the flag was first used as a signal among ships to engage the enemy. In 1977, the Secretary of the Navy directed the ship with the longest total period of active service to display the First Navy Jack until decommissioned or transferred to the inactive reserve. At that time, the flag shall be passed to the next ship in line with appropriate honors. Kitty Hawk received the flag from Independence following its decommissioning 30 September in Bremerton, Wash.

Kitty Hawk's next deployment, her 19th and first since arriving in Yokosuka, began on 2 March 1999. The ship and her embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) FIVE, participated in Exercise Tandem Thrust with port visit to Agana, Guam. During her visit to Agana, having just completed Exercise Tandem Thrust, Kitty hawk was visited by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay L. Johnson on 3 April. The CNO delivered the news that Kitty Hawk was being then directed to the Arabian Gulf along with USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) after President Clinton ordered the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) battle group to the Adriatic Sea to support NATO forces in Yugoslavia instead of relieving the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) battle group who were completing a regularly-scheduled deployment to the region. On April 20, Kitty Hawk , Curtis Wilbur and Chancellorsville transited the Strait of Hormuz, relieving the Enterprise's battle group in the Arabian Gulf to participate in Operation Southern Watch, enforce the "no-fly zone' over southern Iraq and conduct Maritime Interception Operations supporting United Nations sanctions.

On 15 June 1999, two aviators were rescued from the waters of the Arabian Gulf after they ejected safely from an F-14 Tomcat. The aircraft was returning to Kitty Hawk when the crew declared a mechanical emergency. Rescue swimmers from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 14 embarked aboard the carrier, and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (Light) (HSL) 51 embarked aboard USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), recovered both crewmen from the water and transported them to Kitty Hawk. Both aviators were uninjured and released after undergoing an extensive medical examination.

Kitty Hawk, Chancellorsville and Curtis Wilbur were relieved by the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) battle group, and departed the Arabian Gulf on 19 July 1999, having launched more than 5,400 sorties during her three months in the Gulf. On her return to Yokosuka, Japan, she made port visits to Perth, Australia, and Phattaya, Thailand, and was back at Yokosuka in late August.

After participating in October in the multi-national Exercises Foal Eagle ྟ and ANNUALEX-11G off the Korea Peninsula and Japan, Kitty Hawk returned to Yokosuka on 10 November 1999. Following a period of an aggressive regiment of repairs, upgrades and personnel training, the carrier returned to sea the morning of 23 February 2000 for 12 days of sea trials.

During her next regularly-scheduled two-month deployment to the western Pacific, Kitty Hawk participated in Exercise Cobra Gold 2000 following a port call to Pattaya, Thailand, on 17 May 2000. The exercise ran from 9 to 23 May and is a regularly scheduled joint/combined U.S.-Thai military exercise designed to ensure regional peace and strengthen the ability of the Royal Thai armed forces to defend Thailand or respond to regional contingencies. In addition to flying from Kitty Hawk, her embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing Five, flew F/A-18 Hornets and F-14 Tomcats from Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, approximately 165 miles northeast of Bangkok. These aircraft were assigned to act as aggressor forces, as well as to conduct local bombing exercises and provide air-to-air training with squadrons from Singapore, Thailand, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marines.

Kitty Hawk and Carrier Air Wing Five again participated in the annual Exercise Foal Eagle in the Sea of Japan. She joined the exercise on 25 October 2000 as the striking arm of Battle Force 7th Fleet. From 7 November to 17 November, the carrier trained with the Japanese Self Defense Force in Exercise Keen Sword. Following the exercise, the battle group returned to Yokosuka on 20 November for the holiday leave and maintenance period during which approximately 118,000 square feet of fresh non-skid was applied on the flight deck, the number three catapult's launch valve was replaced, and one of the ship's boilers received a five-year overhaul.

Following six days of sea trials in mid-February, Kitty Hawk remained in port until the morning of 2 March 2001, when she and her battle group &mdash USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), USS Vincennes (CG 49), USS Gary (FFG 51), USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) &mdash got underway for her next routine, scheduled three-month deployment. During this deployment, the battle group participated in the annual Tandem Thrust exercise beginning on 10 May.

In the wake of the terrorists' attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on 11 September, Kitty Hawk was once again order to sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, getting underway on 1 October after an accelerated sea trials and carrier qualifications period, carried out on short notice following the events of 11 September.

The ship transited more than 6,000 miles in 12 days, and reported on station in the North Arabian Sea, where it served as an afloat forward staging base for U.S. joint forces. While on station, pilots from Carrier Air Wing Five flew more than 600 missions over Afghanistan in support of the United States' war on terrorism, including more than 100 combat sorties.

The carrier's missions received attention at the highest levels. U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, commander in chief, Central Command, visited Kitty Hawk on 23 October, bringing with him a direct order from the Commander-in-Chief. "I told the President that I was coming out here and asked was there anything I needed to do for him," Gen. Franks told the ship's crew, who gathered on the flight deck for his five-minute speech. "The President looked at me and said, 'When you get out there, give them a hug. And that's exactly what this is. I came out here to give you a hug."

"The United States of America owes you a debt," Gen. Franks continued. "You stand tall. You serve where you're told. Without (the Navy), we could not have done what has been done. And without you, we cannot do what we are going to do. Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. We all know who made the beginning on Sept. 11, 2001. And all of you are going to be what makes an end."

The Secretary of the Navy, Gordon R. England, visited Kitty Hawk on 30 October, and expressed appreciation for the crew's service tothe nation during "this critical mission."

The beginning of December brought a close to Kitty Hawk's missions in the North Arabian Sea. After 74 consecutive days at sea, the crew made a port visit to the island of Phuket, Thailand, 13 through 15 December for rest and relaxation. They then continued on to their forward-deployed port of Yokosuka, Japan, arriving 23 December 2001, after 83 days at sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Following an intensive 11-week Ship's Restricted Availability (SRA) period, receiving upgrades to its defensive systems and scheduled maintenance to its flight deck and engineering plant, Kitty Hawk departed Yokosuka 12 March 2002 to begin four days of sea trails in preparation for the ship's scheduled upcoming extended sea period. After a two-day in port period, Kitty Hawk stood out to sea again on 18 March, this time to complete scheduled carrier qualifications (CQ) and integrated battle-group training near Guam, returning to Yokosuka on 1 April. The carrier departed Yokosuka again about three weeks later for another period of underway training.

Battle group ships participating in this underway training period included USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), USS O'Brien (DD 975), USS Vandergrift (FFG 48), USS Cowpens (CG 63), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS John S. McCain (DD 56), and USS Cushing (DD 985). The submarine USS Helena (SSN 725) and replenishment ships USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), USNS Kiska (T-AE 35) and USNS Concord (T-AFS 5) supported the training operations.

During this underway period, Kitty Hawk made port visits to Hong Kong, Singapore and Guam, the latter on 28 May 2002. The ship celebrated its 41st birthday just prior to pulling into Hong Kong, and before pulling into Singapore, the Kitty Hawk/CVW 5 team conducted military maneuvering drills with the Singapore navy and air force. The carrier returned to its forward-deployed port of Yokosuka, Japan, 5 June.

In a rare move, the Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Robert F. Willard, relieved the commanding officer of Kitty Hawk, Capt. Thomas Hejl, on 3 September 2002, citing a loss of confidence in Capt. Hejl's ability to lead his crew and carry out essential missions and taskings. Capt. Hejl was temporarily assigned to the Naval Air Forces, Pacific staff in San Diego. Another Kitty Hawk officer, Lt. Cmdr. Klas Ohman, an F/A-18C Hornet pilot, was selected to will take part in celebrating 100 years of controlled flight by flying a replica of an aircraft the Wright brothers flew in Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Oct. 8, 1902. The event, called "Return to Kitty Hawk," took place from 5 to 8 October at Jockey's Ridge State Park, three miles south of Kitty Hawk, N.C. Lt. Cmdr. Ohman flew a replica of Orville and Wilbur Wright's 1902 glider, the first manned aircraft with yaw, pitch and roll control. Several aviation historians attribute this technology developed by the Wrights to be one of the most significant milestones in aviation history. It was the success of this technology enabled the famous 17 December 1903 flight of the Wright Flyer in Kitty Hawk the first powered flight.

Kitty Hawk left its forward operating port of Yokosuka, Japan, 25 October 2002, for a scheduled underway period in the western Pacific. While at sea, the ship's crew, along with the embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 engaged in combined military exercises with regional allies, and conducted unit-level training. During this seven-week at-sea period, Kitty Hawk and her crew joined other U.S. Navy units and units of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) 1 through 22 November by participating in ANNUALEX 14G. ANNUALEX is a maritime exercise designed to promote teamwork and mutual defense of the waters surrounding Japan. While anchored off Hong Kong, Kitty Hawk was visited by Jackie Chan, a Hong Kong native and inetrnatiional film star. The carrier returned to its port of Yokosuka, Japan, 13 December for the holiday leave and maintenance period.

The Navy's oldest active warship once again got underway for a routine deployment on 23 January 2003. At noon (EST) on 8 February 2003, during this at-sea period, the crews of Kitty Hawk and Carrier Air Wing Five reached a milestone, when the ship's bow catapult team launched an aircraft from carrier's No. 1 catapult for the 150,000th time in the ship's nearly 42 years of service.

The deployment turned out not to be routine for on 12 February the ship was directed to the Arabian Gulf to once again deal with the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The carrier and her embarked air wing, arriving 22 February, spent more than 100 consecutive days underway in support of Operations Southern Watch and Iraqi Freedom. The Kitty Hawk Strike group consisted of USS O'Brien (DD 975), USS Cowpens (CG 63), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS John S. McCain (DD 56), and USS Cushing (DD 985). The replenishment ships USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), and USNS Flint (T-AE 32) provided logistics support.

While operating in the Gulf, the ship lost two officers. Lt. Tom Adams, a recently transferred crew member of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 115, died in a helicopter crash during the opening hours of Iraqi Freedom as he was participating in a military foreign exchange program, and Lt. Nathan White, of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195, was killed in combat actions during a night close-air support mission 2 April 2003.

During Kitty Hawk's participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the air wing flew 5,375 sorties during 11,800 flight hours, and expended 864,860 pounds of ordnance. Approximately 39 million gallons of water were produced, and 9 million gallons of fuel were expended. With the successful conclusion of the naval portion of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Kitty Hawk Strike Group departed the Gulf on 16 April and returned to their forward-deployed port of Yokosuka, Japan, on 6 May 2003.

2004 was an eventful year that involved a series of inspections, exercises, and port visits. On Feb. 19, a new chapter in the book of Kitty Hawk Strike Group&rsquos history began with the first landing of an F/A-18F Super Hornet on board Kitty Hawk&rsquos 4.1-acre flight deck during the ship&rsquos 12th FDNF underway period. The VFA-102 &ldquoDiamondbacks&rdquo introduced the improved F/A-18 E/F &ldquoSuper Hornet&rdquo to the 7th Fleet area of operation, replacing the F-14 Tomcat, after more than 30 years of service.

Kitty Hawk capped off the year with Annual Exercise 2005, which ran from November 9 to 18. ANNUALEX provided Kitty Hawk with the opportunity to increase its military partnership with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Kitty Hawk was one of 61 naval vessels which participated, including: two U.S. submarines 10 other Navy ships and 49 JMSDF ships.

The ship departed Fleet Activities Yokosuka, June 8, 2006, for its 16th FDNF underway period. During the 99-day deployment, the ship took part in Exercise Valiant Shield, a multi-service war game involving three carrier strike groups, 22,000 personnel, and 280 aircraft June 19 to 23. It was the largest military exercise conducted by the United States in Pacific waters since the Vietnam War.

The carrier then pulled into Otaru, Japan, on Hokkaido Island from July 1 to 5 after Valiant Shield. Also during the deployment, the crew made three more port visits: Singapore Fremantle, Australia and Laem Chabang, Thailand.

Dozens of distinguished visitors boarded the carrier during this underway period for tours. Visitors included the U.S. ambassador to Thailand, the Royal Thai army commander in chief, and various officials from Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, and Japan.

The ship returned to Yokosuka September for a short period before departing for its summer deployment.

During this two-month deployment, Kitty Hawk and embarked Carrier Air 5 traveled more than 15,200 nautical miles and launched more than 8,000 aircraft.

After a stop in Sasebo, Japan, the strike group took part in the 18th Annual Exercise, a week-long exercise which had more than 100 American and JMSDF ships training together, between November 9 and 14.

The deployment&rsquos last stop was Hong Kong, from November 23 to 27. Kitty Hawk&rsquos Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Division organized 20 tours of Hong Kong and its surrounding areas, including mainland China, for 702 Sailors.

The ship also hosted Japanese author Hiromi Nakamura who interviewed 41 Kitty Hawk Sailors for a book about Kitty Hawk&rsquos flight deck.

After returning to its homeport on December 10, the ship settled down for the holiday season and the New Year.

Kitty Hawk then went through a four-month maintenance period, during which the ship hosted Vice President Dick Cheney.

The carrier then departed May 23 after completing sea trials and pilot refresher training, known as carrier qualifications.

Kitty Hawk kicked off the summer cruise with Talisman Saber 2007, in which the United States and Australia combined land, sea and air forces. The exercise brought together more than 12,000 Australian and 20,000 U.S. personnel from all branches of the armed services.

The ship made port visits to Brisbane and Sydney, Australia. Then-Prime Minister John Howard and current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Academy Award Winning Actor Russell Crowe made visits to Kitty Hawk while it was moored in Sydney.

Kitty Hawk then participated in Exercise Valiant Shield 2007, one of the largest annual exercises in the Western Pacific. The week-long exercise involved about 30 ships, 280 aircraft and 22,000 U.S. Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines who worked together to build joint combat skills.

The 30 ships involved with Valiant Shield were from three carrier strike groups: Kitty Hawk&rsquos, USS Nimitz&rsquos (CVN 68) and USS John C. Stennis&rsquos (CVN 74). During the exercise, Rear Adm. Rick Wren, commander of the Kitty Hawk strike group and Task Force 70, had command of all three strike groups.

The ship also took part in Malabar, a six-day exercise that took place in the Indian Ocean&rsquos Bay of Bengal, involving more than 20,000 personnel on 28 ships and 150 aircraft from the United States Navy, Indian navy, Royal Australian navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and the Republic of Singapore navy.

The ship returned to Yokosuka September 21. After a short in-port period, Kitty Hawk set out for its final fall deployment October 21.

Kitty Hawk participated in the 19th Annual Exercise, the maritime component of Exercise Keen Sword 2008. The exercise was the largest joint exercise for the Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Kitty Hawk also had a port visit in Muroran, Japan. This was the first time a U.S. Navy ship made a visit to the port.

The carrier pulled to its homeport November 27 after 38 days at sea. Kitty Hawk stayed in port for a 5-month maintenance period before setting out to complete sea trials and carrier qualifications.

Before heading out to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington for decommissioning in 2009, the Kitty Hawk returned to San Diego, California in July 2008 to turnover with the USS George Washington (CVN-73). The USS Kitty Hawk, with a significantly reduced crew and approximately 60 former crew members departed San Diego for her last cruise on August 28, 2008 enroute to Bremerton for her temporary resting place. I say temporary because there is not one of us who would not like to see our Battle Cat become a museum to share forever her almost 48 years of service to our Country.

To find out how you can help keep the USS Kitty Hawk in commission, by turning it into a museum, click on the Museum Fund button

Seconds anyone?

The second "K" on USS Kitty Hawk&rsquos nameplate is upside down. The letter was skewed when welders transferred the small steel letter plates from the fantail to below the flight deck in the 1960s.

The USS Kitty Hawk is the second U.S. Navy warship to be named after the North Carolina site of the Wright brothers&rsquo famous flight. The first was the civilian ship SS Seatrain New York, which was acquired by the Navy, renamed USS Kitty Hawk, and converted into an aircraft transport ship during World War II. It was decommissioned and given back to its original owners in 1946.

The Kitty Hawk was the second-oldest active ship in the Navy. The first is the USS Constitution, a wooden frigate that sailed in both Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. "Old Ironsides" is used for ceremonial, recruiting and tourism purposes today.

Different from the rest

Kitty Hawk nicknames include "Miss Kitty," "Battlecat" and "Chicken Hawk."

Kitty Hawk has a rogue elevator. While most aircraft carrier elevators go straight up and down &mdash including three on Kitty Hawk &mdash the ship&rsquos Aircraft Elevator #1 operates on a 6-degree angle to accommodate the enlarged jet blast deflectors that were required for the F-14 Tomcat.

The ship does have an escalator, which serves as a very long staircase, as it hasn&rsquot run for many years. Kitty Hawk also has a post office and a store, but has neither swimming pool nor bowling alley &mdash two common misconceptions.

Kitty Hawk has a key aboard. It doesn&rsquot start the "ignition" of the ship, but it does unlock the rudders in case the ship loses steering power from the bridge.

Kitty Hawk did six tours in Vietnam between 1963 and 1976 and was the first aircraft carrier ever to be awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. The award, the unit equivalent of the Navy Cross, was presented by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Dec. 20, 1968, to the ship and Carrier Air Wing 11.

Kitty Hawk was the "floating White House" June 7, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy spent the night aboard the ship near southern California.

The Secret 'White Trains' That Carried Nuclear Weapons Around the U.S.

At first glance, the job posting looks like a standard help-wanted ad for a cross-country trucker. Up to three weeks a month on the road in an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, traveling through the contiguous 48 states. Risks include inclement weather, around-the-clock travel, and potentially adverse environmental conditions. But then the fine print: Candidates should have 𠇎xperience in performing high-risk armed tactical security work𠉪nd maneuvering against a hostile adversary.”

The U.S. government is hiring “Nuclear Materials Couriers.” Since the 1950s, this team of federal agents, most of them ex-military, has been tasked with ferrying America’s roughlyਆ,000 nuclear warheads and extensive supply of nuclear materials across the roads and highways of the United States. America’s nuclear facilities are spread out throughout the country, on over 2.4 million acres of federal real estate, overseen by the Department of Energy (DOE)𠅊 labyrinth of a system the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists called “highly scattered and fragmented…with few enforceable rules.”

Some sites are for assembly, some are for active weapons, some are for chemicals, some are for mechanical parts. What this means in practice is that nuclear materials have to move around𠅊 lot.

For as long as the United States has had nuclear weapons, it has struggled with the question of how to transport America’s most destructive technology throughout the country without incident. “It’s the weak link in the chain of nuclear security,” said Dr. Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Today the United States relies almost entirely on million-dollar, Lockheed Martin tractor-trailers, known as Safeguard Transporters (SGTs) and Safe Secure Trailers (SSTs) to move nuclear material. But from the 1950s through the 1980s, the great hope for safe transit was so-called “white trains.”  

These trains looked entirely ordinary, except for a few key details. They featured multiple heavily armored boxcars sandwiched in between “turret cars,” which protruded above the rest of the train. The turrets had slit windows through which armed DOE guards peered out, prepared to shoot if they needed to defend the train. Known in DOE parlance “safe, secure railcars,” or SSRs, the white trains were highly resistant to attack and unauthorized entry. They also offered 𠇊 high degree of cargo protection in event of fire or serious accident,” the DOE assured a wary Congress in 1979.

Though nuclear trains staffed by snipers guarding powerful weapons sounds like something out of an action-adventure film, the trains were far from glamorous. They moved slowly, maxing out at 35 miles per hour𠅊 virtual crawl compared to the average Amtrak train. This meant very long cross-country journeys for their seven-member crews. One of the most common routes for the train took nuclear bombs from Texas to Bangor, Washington, delivering the weapons at a submarine base on the banks of the Puget Sound. Another frequent route took bombs from Texas to Charleston, South Carolina, where a set of submarines sat poised for missions in the Atlantic.

The Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, 1996. It was constructed by the U.S. Army in 1942. (Credit: Remi Benali/Liaison)

The epicenter of nuclear transit was the Pantex Plant, about 17 miles outside of downtown Amarillo, Texas, a maze-like complex of dozens of buildings located on 10,000 acres of land. Amarillo was the final destination for almost all of America’s nuclear trains and the Pantex Plant was the nation’s only assembly point for nuclear weapons, a role it maintains to this day.

The United States built Pantex in 1941 as a World War II munitions base, and in 1951, it was quietly refurbished to serve a new Cold War role. Soon, a growing portion of Amarillo’s 100,000 citizens were employed in bomb assembly and disassembly. “Inside Gravel Gertie bunkers designed to contain explosions and contamination, moonlighting farmers and silent young mechanics bolt together the warheads for Trident missiles and delicately dismantle older weapons,” wrote the Washington Post in 1982.

While the site received materials like uranium and plutonium from around the country, only Pantex had the heavily shielded cells where the bombs’ mechanical parts could be joined to nuclear material. Assemblers of nuclear warheads, clothed in blue overalls, thick gloves, and safety shoes with rubber slipcovers, worked in pairs to attach the nuclear material and the explosives. From these cells, the bombs were taken to bays where workers would add firing components, casings and tails.

Each day trucks and trains rolled in, carrying plutonium from Georgia and Washington, bomb triggers from Colorado, uranium from Tennessee and neutron generators from Florida. They rolled out on white trains, carrying fully assembled nuclear weapons.

These trains quietly snaked along America’s railroads for 30 years, a top-secret project with an impeccable track record. Yet today, every white train sits in a junkyard or a museum. Why did America abandon its nuclear trains, which many Cold War nuclear experts considered to be the safest mode of transport for sensitive weapons material?

A “white train” at the Amarillo Railroad Museum. (Credit: Don Barrett/Flickr Creative Commons/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Derailing the White Trains

Anxieties about nuclear war loomed heavily in the national psyche at the turn of the 1980s, and as a growing roster of cities became involved in U.S. nuclear development, Americans began to express (often very justified) fears about the materials being stealthily moved around amid the backgrounds of their lives.

In his first term in office, President Reagan quadrupled defense spending and suggested that the United States was willing to use nuclear strength against the Soviets if necessary. In March 1982, Time Magazine published a cover featuring a billowing red mushroom cloud and the phrase “Thinking the Unthinkable.”

One American reckoning with the “unthinkable” was Jim Douglass, a Catholic theologian affiliated with a nuclear resistance group called Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. In 1981, Douglass purchased a home in Washington, overlooking the Naval Submarine Base Bangor on the coast of the Puget Sound. Each day Douglass and his wife would look out their front window onto the bay, and again and again they saw the same thing: a white train entering and exiting the heavily secured base.

“It was an awesome sight,” Douglass told People. “You feel the reality of an inconceivable kind of destruction. Anybody who sees this train experiences the evil of nuclear arms, because it looks like what it is carrying — a white night.”

Jim and Shelley Douglass, with the aid of the Ground Zero Center, launched a controversial fight to stop the white trains, what Mr. Douglass called “the most concentrated symbol we have of the hell of nuclear war.” With the aid of a train-buff friend, they determined the most likely route from Amarillo to Washington. They then contacted peace and religious groups on the route, asking them to watch for the train, to organize a prayer vigil or a nonviolent protest when the train appeared, and to inform local newspapers about the train’s arrival.

Actions against the white trains took place throughout the United States, with vigils occurring in more than 300 communities. In Memphis, a white train came inches away from hitting a nun who stood in the middle of the tracks. In Washington, D.C. activists laid a section of railroad in front of the DOE building, and surrounded the track with a blown-up photograph of a white train, a map of its known routes, and a large banner reading, “The Nuclear Train Starts Here.”

The nuclear resistance movement posed serious problems for the DOE. Not only did it generate terrible press, it also directed public attention to what the agency had carefully designed to be a classified process. The DOE wasn’t just worried about angry pacifists, it was worried about someone learning the routes and hijacking a train𠅊 worst case scenario for American nuclear security.

The DOE’s first attempt to thwart protesters involved rerouting the trains. From the DOE command center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, officials issued last minute directives to the engineers to take “the tracks of least resistance.” But as the network of anti-nuclear activists grew, they became increasingly adept at tipping off the community if they saw an unmarked white train plow down their railways. The agency proposed new regulations that would make it illegal to pass information about the routing of the white train, but got little traction.

So the DOE undertook a logical next step: changing the color of the trains. A July 1984 memorandum titled 𠇌olor Change of Safe-Secure Railcars” noted that “the painting of these railcars will not stop dedicated protesters from identifying our special trains. However, it will make tracking our trains more difficult, and we believe, enhances the safety and security…” The DOE painted the trains red, green, grey, and blue, but anti-nuclear activists continued to track the trains with relative ease�ter all, not many commercial trains had turrets for snipers.

The battle against the white trains reached its peak in 1985, when 146 people were arrested over the course of one train’s journey from Amarillo to Bangor. Jim and Shelley Douglass, as well as many of their closest collaborators were charged with trespassing and conspiracy. But surprisingly, a Washington jury returned a not-guilty verdict for the 20 activists who sat on the train tracks and county officials announced they would no longer arrest people for protesting and obstructing the weapons trains.

Public pressure, activist interference, and a growing constellation of nuclear sites in the U.S. triggered the demise of the controversy-ridden trains. Shortly after the Washington lawsuit, the U.S. government began exclusively using Safeguard Transporters for moving nuclear materials. The DOE expressed confidence that a system of trucks would be easier to obscure and would provide a practical solution to reaching the many nuclear sites far away from train tracks.

A special truck for transporting nuclear weapons at the Pantex Plant March, 1996. (Credit: Remi Benali/Liaison)

The Future of Nuclear Rail

While the white trains came to an unceremonious end in 1987, the Department of Energy didn’t abandon all hope for using trains in experimental national security measures. In 1986, President Reagan approved a system for launching intercontinental ballistic missiles from railways, an initiative known as Peacekeeper Rail Garrison. The plan would park 25 trains carrying two missiles apiece at military bases throughout the U.S. In the case of Soviet agitation, the locomotives would move onto the nation’s railroad network, where missiles could be launched from the train.

Though a group of protesters had effectively brought down the white trains, officials appeared confident that the nation’s rail network could provide an effective means of hiding weapons. By the late 1980s, the United States had 120,000 miles of available track, 20,000 locomotives, and 1.2 million railcars. At any given time, there were more than 1,700 trains on the tracks military representatives insisted this would make it almost impossible for the Soviets to track where in the U.S. these 50 missile-laden trains had gone. “Rail-garrison will be the mainstay of our strategic defense well into the 21st century,” predicted one Texas Senator.

The Cold War ended before a single missile could roll onto the tracks. When the Soviet Union similar system, which would move missiles around the tracks of an underground subway system. The Air Force’s rationale remained much the same: if you could keep the missiles moving, you would deter attackers and make it be nearly impossible to pinpoint the weapons’ exact location. Critics have dismissed this proposal as a pie-in-the-sky idea, and even its proponents conceded it would likely take another 50 years to make such a project operational.

Today’s nuclear infrastructure—much of which is focused on decommissioning rather than building weapons—is reliant on Safeguard Transporters and their armed drivers. Much like the rest of the America’s nuclear arsenal, most of the trucks are antiquated about half of the SSTs are over 15 years old. The trucks, which log over three and a half million miles each year, are accompanied by unmarked escort vehicles and their only easily recognizable feature is their U.S. Government license plates.

“I never had a sense there was a fear about moving things,” said Dr. Robert Rosner, former director of the Argonne National Laboratory, who oversaw the lab’s nuclear waste disposal efforts from 2005 to 2009. “The drivers knew what they were doing. They were accompanied by state police. We had confidence in the physical robustness in the transportation itself,” Rosner recalled, pointing to videos showing how the materials respond to a train crash, a truck flipping, and other potential catastrophes.

Transportation of nuclear materials is currently overseen by the Office of Secure Transportation (OST), an agency that has attracted only minimal attention in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union. But a 2017 Los Angeles Times investigation suggested problems may lurk beneath the surface. OST is understaffed, with the average courier working about 75 hours a week. Turnover is extremely high. In 2010, a਍OE investigation found “widespread alcohol problems” within the agency, including incidents that occurred while couriers were on secure transportation missions. The DOE conceded that these episodes “indicate a potential vulnerability in OST’s critical national security mission.”

Major challenges remain for nuclear transportation in America. Plans to “modernize” America’s nuclear arsenal, supported by both the Obama and Trump administrations, means that weapons will be taking more trips than ever on American roads. Beginning in 2010, around one thousand W76 warheads traveled from Bangor, Washington back to Amarillo, Texas, for upgrades to extend the life of the weapon by 30 years𠅊 massive undertaking, entirely dependent on the OST’s fleet of Safeguard Transporters. 

Whether waste or weapons, trains or trucks, the United States has been remarkably fortunate in avoiding major transportation mishaps. Since the days of the white trains, the government has insisted that nuclear materials are being moved across the American landscape in the safest possible way, persisting through crashes, fires, and interfering nuns. Yet public fears endure about whether moving such materials can ever truly be “safe.”

“We’ve been moving this stuff since the Cold War, and we’ve never had a major accident,” said Rosner. 𠇋ut the system depends on secrecy. If we have an accident, that veil will be lifted.”

This photo of USS Chemung AO 30 personalized print is exactly as you see it with the matte printed around it. You will have the choice of two print sizes, either 8″x10″ or 11″x14″. The print will be ready for framing, or you can add an additional matte of your own choosing then you can mount it in a larger frame. Your personalized print will look awesome when you frame it.

We PERSONALIZE your print of the USS Chemung AO 30 with your name, rank and years served and there is NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE for this option. After you place your order you can simply email us or indicate in the notes section of your payment what you would like printed. For example:

United States Navy Sailor
Proudly Served: Your Years Here

This would make a nice gift for yourself or that special Navy veteran you may know, therefore, it would be fantastic for decorating the home or office wall.

The watermark “Great Naval Images” will NOT be on your print.

Media Type Used:

The USS Chemung AO 30 photo is printed on Archival-Safe Acid-Free canvas using a high-resolution printer and should last many years. The unique natural woven texture canvas offers a special and distinctive look that can only be captured on canvas. Most sailors loved his ship. It was his life. Where he had tremendous responsibility and lived with his closest shipmates. As one gets older, the appreciation for the ship and the Navy experience will get stronger. The personalized print shows ownership, accomplishment and an emotion that never goes away. When you walk by the print you will feel the person or the Navy experience in your heart.

We have been in business since 2005 and our reputation for having great products and customer satisfaction is indeed exceptional. You will, therefore, enjoy this product guaranteed.


From 20 December 1941 to 3 January 1942 she issued fuel at NS Argentia, Newfoundland. Reloading at Norfolk, Virginia, she steamed to Hvalfjörður, Iceland carrying fuel (19 February–25 March), then operated between Norfolk and ports in the Gulf of Mexico from 1 April to 16 May. Following another tour as fuel station ship at Hvalfjörður (30 May–26 June), Chemung departed from New York City 20 August with a convoy bound for the United Kingdom. Two days later Ingraham collided with her at night. The destroyer sank almost immediately when the depth charges on her stern exploded. Chemung, although heavily damaged by the explosion and resulting fires, reached Boston, Massachusetts 26 August for repairs.

Steaming 1 October 1942 to Beaumont, Texas, to load fuel, Chemung accompanied the North African assault force to sea, remained off the coast during the landings, then returned to Norfolk 30 November to resume coastwise fuel runs. From 15 February 1943 to 11 June 1945 Chemung alternated five convoy voyages to United Kingdom ports and five to North Africa with coast-wise and Caribbean cargo duty and station duty at Bermuda and in the Azores.

NAVSUPPACT DaNang . the story that will never be told: this story is reprinted from the Navy Supply Corps Newsletter, October 1966.

The complete story of the first year of Naval Support Activity, DaNang will probably never be told because no one has had time to write it. However, some of what has been going on here should be of interest to the Supply Corps Officers as they have played a major role in the remarkable accomplishments in DaNang.

In April 1965, CINCPAC tasked CINPACFLT with the operation of ports, beaches, and depots and with the logistic support of all U.S. and Free World Military Assistance Forces in the I Corps Tactical Zone--stretching from Quang Ngai in the South to the Demilitarized Zone in the North. The performance of this mission was initially assigned in part to Commanding General, III Marine Amphibious Force/Naval Component Commander and Commander, Seventh Fleet. In view of the growing complexity and magnitude of functions, the decision was reached in mid-July to establish the Naval Support Activity, DaNang.

Prior to the arrival of organic NAVSUPPACT personnel, the vital port operations, including the discharge of ships, were performed by CTG 76.4, CAPT K. P. Huff, USNR, who had under his OPCON TG 76.4 (which included APA, LSDs, LSTs, etc.), Cargo Handling Battalion ONE (CDR J. H. Hatfield, SC, USN, who was also a task unit commander), Cargo Handling Battalion TWO (LCDR H. Luoto, SC, USN), Nucleus Port Crew TWO, Beachmaster Unit ONE, Assault Craft Divisions 11 and 12, Mobile Support Unit THREE, and several other organizations which were rapidly deployed to assist in the major combat support task at hand. CAPT Huff was designated to be the first Commanding Officer of the Naval Support Activity and thus was simultaneously responsible for both maintaining the high tempo of TG 76.4 operations, and continuing and expanding the operation of NAVSUPPACT.

In early August, the prospective Supply Officer of NAVSUPPACT, DaNang, CDR R. S. Leventhal, SC, USN and his senior assistant, LCDR W. H. Dickey, SC, USN, arrived at DaNang together with 10 other Supply Corps officers. Thus began what was to prove to be their continuous 18-hour days, 7 days a week, unrelenting schedule that was to result in the establishment of the largest military-manned Navy Supply Department in the world and the largest port operation run by the Navy anywhere.

In short, with the initial input of officers--some of them Ensigns ordered directly from Athens or diverted as they stepped aboard their destroyers--the Supply Officer embarked on the challenging job of setting up the Supply functions for a major base in a combat zone--something which had not been done by the Navy since World War II.

All planning for the Activity turned on one crucial factor: the projected force level build-up. These forces--which included Marines, Air Force, Army and Navy--became the basis upon which facilities construction, Manning, equipment and stock levels were computed. At the time of this writing, the force supported exceeds 70,000 personnel.

Most of this early planning was done in a dusty, 100-degree room in downtown DaNang, where there were more officers than enlisted men, desks were large crates and chairs small crates, typewriters were salvaged items from Japan, pubs and manuals were non-existent, procedures and channels of communications had to be created, when every move that was made, every message sent was on an unprecedented first-time basis.

The major saving factor was that much advance planning guidance had been drawn up by the Navy for a situation similar to this: setting up a large activity as quickly as possible in a combat area--the Advanced Base Functional Component System (ABFC) NAVSANDAINST 4040.31C. However, the big difference was that the AFBC system was based on adequate planning time before establishing the Base--in the DaNang case there were already over 30,000 combatants ashore urgently requiring support.

The task of the NAVSUPPACT pre-establishment group was to create a viable logistic support base within the shortest possible time to keep pace not only with the already existing major force levels but with the increases that already had been programmed.

None of the facilities required were available in DaNang. It was necessary to provide for storage, command and control, defense and security (ashore as well as in the harbor), Public Works shops to maintain and repair what was soon to be a huge population of 850 pieces of transportation equipment and 250 pieces of MHE, small boat repair facilities for 30 yard and service craft and 85 pieces of lighterage such as LCUs, LCM-8s, hundreds of pieces of electronic gear for what was to become a major communication facility, berthing and messing and other personnel support services for what was soon to be NAVSUPPACT's 7,800 military population. Further, NAVSUPPACT had to plan for placing in operation a 400-bed station hospital which was already under construction. In the midst of all this, NAVSUPPACT's mission was broadened to include establishing a Facility (including a subdepot) at Chu Lai which in effect required nearly all the facilities at DaNang to be duplicated at Chu Lai, albeit on a much smaller scale.

The initial general planning for this truly gigantic undertaking was done by the COMSERVPAC Staff. Using their broad out

Behind the beginning of DaNang

In March of 1965, LT Harvey Nix, SC, USN, was assigned as Officer in Charge of DaNang Supply Annex, HEDSUPPACT Saigon. The DaNang Annex started its operational mission a week in advance of the 1 June target. Because of the growing number of enclaves along the coast, the growing number of Marine Corps Personnel in I Corps, HEDSUPPACT Saigon bowed out and a new naval command, the U.S. Naval Support Activity, DaNang took over. Transfer of Annex assets to the new Support Activity took place on 20 August and on 15 September they assumed the task of I Corps Area support. line, combined with an on-site study by BUDOCKS facilities planning experts, the ABFC requirements were passed to COMSERVPAC for review. COMSERVPAC in turn passed them to CNO who issues the necessary directives for assembly and shipment of the many shiploads of construction material, pre-fab buildings, equipment and supplies that were eventually to make up the Activity. NAVSUPPACT requested components be tailored to meet local conditions, established assembly and shipment priorities and in general kept the state-side Navy informed of what was needed quickest as the Bureaus, inventory control points and stock points--particularly NSC Oakland and CBC Port Hueneme--all worked at forced draft to help NAVSUPPACT DaNang assume it's many-sided mission in the shortest time possible.

Another major problem was to set-up an effective Freight Terminal operation to handle the steadily increasing tonnages arriving at DaNang--and all hands were aware that by mid-September the Northeast Monsoons would start which would last until January. Working with CDR Hatfield and LCDR C. V. Bosco, Jr., SC, USN, who had relieved LCDR Luoto as Commanding Officer of CHB-2, the Supply Officer integrated the incoming drafts of bluejackets with the personnel from CHB-2 so that an organic offloading capability could be built and CHB-1 could be released to return to the Atlantic Fleet in mid-October. It must be emphasized that offloading at DaNang for the first year was all by lighterage as there were no deep draft piers. Except for LSTs which could beach, all cargo had to be discharged into lighters and transported to the beach where it was offloaded again and loaded onto trucks.

The Freight Terminal Division of the Supply Department had grown to 21 officers and 1,000 enlisted men by 20 June 1966. In addition to the task of offloading cargo, it also controls intra-I Corps ocean shipments. As the force levels at Chu Lai (to the South) and Hue/Phu Bai (to the North) increased, requirements grew for cargo for both locations all material for these enclaves must be transshipped through the port of DaNang. In the case of Chu Lai, shipments are made by LSTs which on arrival are discharged by officers and men of NAVSUPPACT, DaNang's Freight Terminal Department stationed at NAVSUPPFAC, Chu Lai. Shipments to Hue/Phu Bai are made by LCUs.

Times have changed from those August days of a year ago. Recognizing its expanding role, NAVSUPPACT DaNang has been under the command of RADM T. R. Weschler, USN, since early February 1966 (and now reports to the recently established COMNAVFORV) and is now we established but still growing organization. The few Supply Corps officers who initially started the operation have been augmented to a total strength of over 65, with more enroute--there are over 1,800 sailors in the Supply Department nearly 20 different rates work at the Supply Department's many tasks: SKs in the warehouses and on the piers, BTs and MMs at the Fuel Farm, EOs at the offloading sites, BMs on the hatch teams, plus the many other rates that make an all military-manned Supply Department go.

The thousands of requisitions cut by DaNang have been translated into material by the Supply System and whole shiploads of food, general cargo, construction material and POL arrive almost daily. Reefer ships arrive approximately every two weeks and NAVSUPPACT's reefer barges shuttle chill and freeze regularly to Chu Lai. The Material Division strains to keep ahead of the material which pours in by sea and air. New warehouses at the Base Supply Depot are filled as soon as the Seabees complete them. USAF, USA and USMC trucks wait in line at the depot night and day, seven days a week, drawing all classes of material. From a balance of zero in August, NAVSUPPACT now has over 45,000 line items in stock, worth over $22 million. Monthly line item issues are steadily climbing, reaching 30,000 in June. This is one of NAVSUPPACT's most important missions and effectiveness is gratifyingly high.

At this time, many of NAVSUPPACT's ABFCs have been received. But ships still arrive at DaNang and discharge entire warehouse complexes, POL tanks, reefer plant, galleys, laundries, dispensaries, telephone exchanges, communications stations and a myriad of other vital items. Nearly 700,000 square feet of covered storage, 200,000 cubic feet of reefer storage are now in operation, along with 5 galleys, a complete hospital, thousands of barrels of POL tankage, and many other facilities all provided as a result of the initial planning. Where formerly the sun burned down on deserted sand dunes, its rays are now reflected from the roofs of a major supply depot, a 400-bed hospital, a large cantonment area and many other facilities, all ordered from the dusty, sweltering room last August.

The port is now a giant, effective operation. As many as ten ships are offloaded in the stream simultaneously. Tonnage increases can be seen from the chart printed on [in the original story], which shows astonishing growth of the port and the outstanding performance by bluejacket stevedore and pier teams who work 12-on and 12-off in all types of weather ranging from the heavy monsoon rains in the fall and winter to the torrid heat of the spring and summer when the temperatures in the holds of the ships frequently are over 120 degrees.

Looking back, the experience gained from association with this remarkable command during its initial phases is difficult to retell. Impressive indeed for its officers and men has been its rapid growth, larger and faster than anything since World War II. For those young Supply Corps officers lucky enough to be members of the Navy-Marine Team here during this period, a chance to make decisions and contributions as breathtakingly large as they have made here will probably never come again. For those officers, who, night after night patiently reworked planning estimates and messages, now stand in awe when contemplating what they have helped create.

As they leave, they know they have had a chance of a lifetime, for they will use the lessons learned here and elsewhere and the information disseminated by them may well affect naval operations for years to come, for they have helped to write "the book." Not only have they worked with Navy and Marine personnel, but they have had the privilege of working closely with Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, State Department, and Vietnamese people in many phases of the operation.

At the heart of the work at all times has been the sailor in the ships' holds, at the offload sites, in the warehouses, at the fuel farms and in the galleys, keeping NAVSUPPACT's Supply Department responsive to the geometrically increasing logistic support requirements.

Chemung AO-30 - History


On 5 February 1960, BENNER entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for overhaul.

The overhaul period was completed on 2 June 1960, and BENNER commenced her underway training on 13 June 1960.

The training lasted six weeks and was followed by a midshipman cruise off the Southern California coast.

BENNER participated In the Annual Pacific Festival held in San Francisco 9-19 September 1960. The festival included a Fleet Review before CINCPACFLT, ADM John H. SIDES, USN.

On 27 September, BENNER, in company with USS PROVIDENCE and USS LARSON, departed on a West-Pac cruise, stopping in Pearl Harbor 3-5 October, and arriving in Yokosuka, Japan, 15 October, for a two-week voyage repair period.

Underway again on 31 October, BENNER, PROVIDENCE, and LARSON joined Task Group

77.6 for operations including Operation Treble Clef held off the coast of Japan during the first half of November. Ports visited included Kobe and Sasebo, Japan, and Buckner Bay, Okinawa. The ship spent Christmas Holidays in Sasebo from 19-27 December.

Upon leaving Sasebo, BENNER proceeded to Hong Kong. En route BENNER rescued a man overboard from the USS CHEMUNG (AO-30). The recovery was accomplished in three and one-half minutes despite the raging state of the sea. After leaving Hong Kong, BENNER operated with TG 77.7 and with elements of the British Far Eastern Fleet off the coast of troubled LAOS prior to arriving in Subic Bay,

Philippine Islands for a two-week tender availability from 18-31 January. Upon departing from Subic Bay, BENNER joined TG 77.6 and proceeded to Sasebo arriving 18 February 1961.

Upon completion of her scheduled deployment, BENNER returned to Long Beach on 31 March 1961. On 12 May 1961, during routine operations off the Southern California Coast, BENNER participated in an emergency rescue of six men and the recovery of their boat in heavy seas.

BENNER visited Monterey, California, on 4 July 1962, as celebrant of COMMODORE SLOAT DAY.

Early in August BENNER underwent an inspection by the Pacific Board of Inspection and Survey.

On 19 October 1961, CDR E. M. WILMARTH relieved CDR J. B. DRACHNIK as Commanding

BENNER participated in the National Space Program, Operation BIOS I, (Biological Investigation of Outer Space), during the period of 5-24 November 1961, and was awarded the Pacific Missile Range Plaque of Appreciation.

During January 1962, BENNER participated in the First Fleet AAW exercise, "AIR GUN" and in February visited San Francisco, California, with CRUDESFLOT 3 during that city's GOLDEN FLEET FESTIVAL.

In March, BENNER sailed with the USS LARSON (DD 830) as a special task group to conduct cold-weather training in the Bering Sea, north of the Aleutian Island.

Late in May, the first Combat Units in Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla Three to be certified as Expert Combat Units were named aboard the BENNER. The Experts units were the crews of mounts 51 and 53 with their associated ammunition handling crews.

BENNER entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, Long Beach, California, on 15 June 1962, to commence an eight-month DD 711 Class Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) MK II overhaul after which she will be configured primarily for antisubmarine warfare.

On 13 August 1962, BENNER transferred to the Little Beaver Squadron, DESRON 23, which the former CNO, ADM Arleigh Burke, led to fame in decisive battles around Guadalcanal during WW II. Also during August, BENNER's varsity softball team compiled a record of 17 straight victories to bring home the Eleventh Naval District National League Softball Championship Trophy.

The "R" was dropped from DDR (Radar Picket Destroyer) designation on 15 November, when BENNER officially became General Purpose Destroyer (DD) as a result of the FRAM Overhaul.

Chemung AO-30 - History

The FY 1940 ships were launched at about the same time as the first Gleaves were placed in commission. When the latter showed that the design was top heavy, the new Gleaves of DesRon 13 were modified, retaining ten torpedo tubes but landing their No. 3 5-inch mounts while increasing their .50 caliber machine gun armament to twelve guns.

Before the United States joined World War II, DesRon 13 operated on the North Atlantic neutrality patrol. It continued operating in the Atlantic in 1942 and sustained two disasters.

World War II operations of destroyers
originally attached to Squadron 13

  • Before dawn on 18 February, with a convoy en route to Argentia, Newfoundland, Wilkes, Truxtun and storeship Pollux (AKS 2) grouded on Newfoundland&rsquos south coast. Wilkes succeeded in backing clear the other two were lost with heavy casualties.
  • Off Nova Scotia in heavy fog on the night of 22 August in a convoy from New York to the United Kingdom, the British transport Atwatea struck Buck, nearly severing her fantail. Ingraham, steaming to investigate, collided with the oiler Chemung (AO 30) and sank almost immediately, as her depth charges exploded. Only 11 men survived.

The other nine ships were present in November for Operation &ldquoTorch,&rdquo the invasion of North Africa. With Bristol as flagship, with Woolsey and Edison, with Tillman, Boyle and Rowan, screened transports and Wilkes, Swanson and Ludlow, with Murphy attached provided control and fire supprt. On D-day, the 8th, after a gun duel between Massachusetts and Jean Bart, six Vichy French detroyers sortied and Wilkes, Swanson, Bristol and Boyle engaged. Gunfire from Wilkes drove Milan aground before the action subsided. Ludlow was hit by a 6.1-inch shell. Off Casablanca on the 16th, Woolsey, Swanson and Quick sank U-173.

DesRon 13 at Sicily, July 1943.

In 1943, Buck returned in December and in 1943, the squadron moved to the western Mediterranean. There with Roe replacing Ingraham for Operation &ldquoHusky,&rdquo the invasion of Sicily in July, DesRon 13 formed the destroyer screen for RAdm. R. L. Conolly&rsquos Task Force 86, cruisers Brooklyn and Birmingham and the &ldquoJoss&rdquo force tasked with seizing the port of Licata. In heavy weather the night before the landings, while maneuvering to avoid a minefield off Porto Empedocle, Swanson and Roe collided. In the morning, Woolsey and Nicholson provided fire support and smoke screens using 5-inch white phosphorous projectiles that hid landing craft from shore batteries. Licata was secured by the end of the day.

In September 1943, the remaining ships of the squadron less Wilkes and Swanson participated with DesRon 7 in Operation &ldquoAvalanche,&rdquo the invasion of Italy at Salerno south of Naples. Unlike Sicily, the Army insisted that tactical surprise precluded preliminary bombardment&mdasha mistake.

DesDiv 25 at Salerno, September 1943.

Operating with the Southern Attack Force landing at Paestum on D-day, the 9th, DesDiv 25 became immersed in a desperate struggle to prevent German defenders from pushing troops back into the sea. After following cruiser Philadelphia through a minefield to maneuver within as little as a mile of the beach, Edison exchanged point blank fire with Tiger tanks, knocking out twelve. She departed the area with her 5-inch ammunition exhausted and her gun barrels glowing white hot.

The squadron lost two more ships in October. On the 9th off Salerno, U-616 torpedoed and sank Buck with heavy loss of life. On the 12th off Cape Bougaroun, Algeria, U-371 torpedoed and sank Bristol, which was escorting a convoy. Some vengeance came, however: on 16 December 1943, Woolsey and Trippe sortied from Mers-el-Kébir, Algeria to sink U-73 as did destroyers from DesRon 10 and DesRon 7 on 14 May 1944 to sink U-616.

DesDiv 25 at Anzio, January 1944.

In January 1944, DesDiv 26&mdashWilkes, Nicholson and Swanson&mdashwent to the Pacific, where it formed Destroyer Division 24 with Grayson, the lone remnant of DesDiv 22.

Throughout 1944, DesDiv 25&mdashWoolsey, Ludlow and Edison&mdashremained in the Mediterranean, where they operated again with DesRon 7 in Operation &ldquoShingle&rdquo off Nettuno, Italy in January. After the landing on 23 January, troops faced a stalemate. Edison distinguished herself by providing fire support for inland positions near Littoria on the 28th, but it took three months before the offensive toward Rome got under way.

DesDiv 25 operated with DesRon 16 in operation &ldquoAnvil&rdquo off southern France in August. Woolsey, Ludlow and Edison thus became three of only five US Navy destroyers (with DesRon 16&rsquos Parker and Boyle) to complete a &ldquocircuit&rdquo of all five major landings in North Africa and the Mediterranean. Flagship Woolsey was later awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for her performance in shore bombardment and fire support&mdasha distinction shared only by DesRon 7&rsquos Hilary P. Jones.

In early 1945, the three destroyers of Division 25 left the Mediterranean Sea for the last time. In the summer, they went to the Pacific to convoy occupation troops to Japan.

Troop Convoy AT-20: USS Ingraham, DD-444 sinks. USS Buck DD-420, oiler Chemung damaged, troopship SS Awatea disappears.

Navy Logs, USS Chemung Court of Inquiry fill Record Gaps stories received in 2011 tell of survior's life challenges

Copyright 2012 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.

Part I Background :. Convoy AT-20, a fast (15-knot) convoy with a heavy troop load and priority supplies, left Halifax, Nova Scotia for Greenock, Scotland during the 04-08 watch on August 22, 1942. In a five-minute period in heavy fog on the 20-24 watch that same day, two modern U.S. destroyers were rammed. One (the USS Buck DD-420) had her stern almost sliced off and eventually lost both propellers. Her after steering engine compartment personnel became casualties. The other destroyer (USS Ingraham DD-444) blew up and sank. Only 11 survivors were recovered. Transport SS Awatea with 5000 Canadian troopers bound for England disappeared but later turned up back in Halifax. A U.S. Navy tanker (USS Chemung AO30) was left on fire in her forward bos'n stores hold. No enemy action was involved. What occurred during this event was first recounted in my book, "Joining The War At Sea 1939-1945." I was a just-graduated Navy Ensign and Convoy AT-20 was my first experience at sea in World War II. My book was published in late 1998 and has now seen several edtions. More details on this tragedy have since been adduced from ship logs and from the report of the Court of Inquiry examining the collision role played by the Navy tanker, USS Chemung. Book buyers are invited to download this page as some of this narrative has exapanded beyond the scope of the book.

(Note: For those not accustomed to naval time, 0400 is 4 a.m. in the morning, 1200 is noon, 2000 is 8 p.m. and 2400 is 12 p.m or midnight. Watch officers shortened their initial time entry for each watch period by leaving off two zeroes.)

The battleship USS New York and the light cruiser USS Philadelphia provided the Ocean Escort for Convoy AT-20. Embarked in Philadelphia was CTF 37, Rear Admiral Lyal Davidson, commanding the entire operation. Captain John Heffernan USN, as ComDesRon 13, led a destroyer screen consisting of a full destroyer squadron of nine of the newest U.S. destroyers. Heffernan had his flag on the USS Buck, DD420. USS Woolsey DD437, USS Ludlow DD438, USS Edison DD439, USS Wilkes DD441, USS Nicholson DD442, USS Swanson DD443, USS Ingraham DD444 and USS Bristol DD453 completed the ASW screen. Buck was a one stacker of the Sims class. The rest were Benson-Livermore two stackers with elevated foc'sle decks. Davidson's Task Force had been assembled to make sure that neither Germany's subs nor its surface forces could interfere with AT-20's passage. Chapter Four of the published book addressed the events of the night of August 22, 1942. An important addition to this Appendix is the cruising disposition of Convoy AT-20 on the night of August 22, 1942. It is Exhibit 6 of the Court of Inquiry Record and was furnished to me by Robert McBrayer. In the 12-ship convoy with New York and Philadelphia were just ten other ships. These ships bore vital resources. Heavy in troop transports, AT-20 was conveying approximately 50,000 soldiers to the British Isles. Its tanker conveyed vital oil and aviation gasoline and its supply ships bore essential components for infrastructure in a massive manpower buildup for Britain. Few convoys merited a battleship and cruiser. Earlier convoys would have been wonderstruck at a screen escort of nine new destroyers.

Part II-Official Navy Records on Convoy AT-20 : In 1985, I visited the National Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC to re-acquaint myself with the logs of the USS Edison, DD439, on which I served from July 1942 to October 1944. Many of Edison's logs were written in my hand. My notes taken during that visit furnished the basis for some of the events covered in my story. That story is now available in book form. In its summary of the sinking of the USS Ingraham, DD444, a screening destroyer assigned to Convoy AT-20, one naval website mis-identified the ship that struck her. Understandable! Fog was the first enemy encountered after the convoy's departure from Halifax. Fog hides facts. Then, I received e-mail feedback from the book Some e-mails addressed the very same matter in which that one website erred, specifically, in mis-identifying the ship that struck the Ingraham causing her to explode and sink. As a result, I went into greater detail on the website, in an Appendix D (see "Self Inflicted Wounds" in the left column) to the original draft version on the web. Up to this point, there was substantial agreement as to what had occurred in terms of damage and losses on that fateful night but there was little public information as to why two collisions occurred in this powerful convoy. I was drawn back into this tragic episode and felt that further insight might come from examining a number of ship's logs for the 2000-2400 watch of August 22, 1942, and for as many subsequent watch periods as seemed fruitful.

In company with David Shonerd, Captain USN (Ret), my Naval Academy roommate for our Plebe Year (1939-40), on the 13 th of November 2000, he as my driver, guide and overnight host, I visited the new National Archives in College Park, Maryland. David had telephoned the Archives that morning. The ship's logs that we needed had been pulled from the stacks and were ready for examination. I consulted the logs of the USS Philadelphia CL41, the USS Buck DD420, the USS Bristol DD453 and the USS Chemung AO30. This examination provided important details on the two collisions that occurred in Convoy AT-20 during its first night out of Halifax.

It did not take long to find what we were looking for, watch log information identifying specific vessels in specific incidents. In the paragraphs with quote marks that follow, I have transcribed ship's logs for selected watch periods. I might note here that David and I were not typical of the many doing research that day in November 2000. We were both about to be 80 years old. One of us had participated in the World War II event that we were examining. The other was a warship and wartime qualified watch officer who served in the Pacific during most of World War II. Rapid focus on the key paragraphs of the 1942 logs was achieved. I am indebted to Dave Shonerd not only for the physical transport and Archives arrangements but also for helping to pinpoint so quickly the essential log entries related to the loss of the USS Ingraham and the damage to the USS Buck.

( An important additon to official Navy Records of Convoy AT-20) : Those who read these lines need to know that on March 5, 2001, I, Franklyn E. Dailey Jr., received from Robert McBrayer, a U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail pack containing excerpts from the copy of the report of the Chemung's Court of Inquiry , which met first on August 28, 1942, to examine the causes for the loss and damage incurred in Convoy AT-20. The next paragraph is substantially more complete based on those Court of Inquiry excerpts, one important element of which was the complete cruising disposition of the entire convoy and ASW screen. In my original write-up, I had the convoy in three columns when actually four columns existed, though Column 1 still remains the troubled column. Captain Robert McBrayer USNR (Ret) served on the USS Chemung from 7/55 to 7/57. Chemung was in service in the Pacific during this period. McBrayer's experiences include many rough weather refuelings including one when the oil hose parted while pumping to a carrier. He recalls, "The Chemung was hit several times by carriers while refueling them. The Bonhomme Richard was particularly a problem. She hit us almost every time she came alongside. Our gun tubs showed it. We took to putting heavy fenders over each time." Captain McBrayer is involved with the Chemung reunion group, helping with their newsletter and their get togethers. He reports that Chemung plankowner George Bird , one of the witnesses before the Court of Inquiry convened on August 28, 1942, is still active in the group, with wife Karen Bird also taking an active part. There are 274 on Chemung's mailing list and Captain McBrayer states that interest in Chemung's WW II record remains high.)

For a better understanding of transcribed mateial, let me lay out how Convoy AT-20 would have appeared on August 22, 1942 to an aircraft flying overhead. For the convoy cruising disposition, and other details in this Appendix, I am indebted as noted above to Robert McBrayer and excerpts he forwarded to me from the Court of Inquiry Record. His copy of the Court of Inquiry Record had been made available by George and Karen Bird. George was serving on the Chemung in Convoy AT-20 and was injured in the collision which occurred when the Ingraham steamed into the path of Column 1 of the convoy. (On January 22, 2011, the website author was able to add the story of Seaman 2/c Robert Francis McLaughlin USN , on watch in the Chemung's radio shack, who received major injuries in the collision. This story is added to the Chemung story below as Part III-Survivors Stories from USS Chemung received in 2011 .)

Steaming on base courses a bit south of east at 14.5 knots, AT-20 was formed in four ship columns. Column 1 would be on the port or north flank of the eastbound convoy, Column 2 would be next to the right (south), Column 3 next right and Column 4 on the starboard or south flank. ( the number of a ship in the convoy will be preceded by # ) The lead ship in Column 1 was the cruiser, USS Philadelphia aka #11, the lead ship in Column 2 was the SS Letitia aka #21, the lead ship in Column 3 was the USS New York aka #31, the convoy guide, and the lead ship in Column 4 was U.S.A.T. Siboney aka #41. The columns were to maintain spacing between columns of 1000 yards. Each column contained three ships. The distance to be maintained between ships in column was 600 yards. Behind Philadelphia in Column 1 came the SS Awatea #12 with the Navy oiler USS Chemung #13 next astern. Behind Letitia in Column 2 was SS Strathmore #22 followed by SS Duchess of Bedford #23. Behind New York in Column 3 came MV Winchester Castle #32 followed by SS Ormonde #33. Behind Siboney in Column 4 came SS Reina del Pacifico #42, then a 'reefer' (a refrigerator ship, AF-11) Polaris #43 in that order. Carrying the Screen Commander, the destroyer USS Buck aka #2 had an assigned screen station in an arc from dead ahead of the convoy to about relative 320 degrees from the convoy base course. USS Ingraham aka #4 was next on the port side to about 270 degrees relative to the lead flank of the convoy ships. USS Bristol, #6, had the port quarter. Matching Buck's position on the port bow, was USS Ludlow on the starboard bow as #3, next behind her was USS Woolsey #5 and on the starboard quarter was my ship, USS Edison #7. This screen patrolled from 4000 to 6000 yards from the nearest convoy ships. The remaining destroyers were ahead 7 miles with USS Wilkes #15 patrolling dead ahead on either side of the base course, USS Swanson #16 broad on the port bow of the convoy and USS Nicholson #17 broad on the starboard bow. It is understandable that the Buck and Philly would wish to maintain best visual contact for use of visual signals, especially flag hoists and blinker. Convoy ceased zigzagging at 1938 in preparation for night steaming, sunset was at 1955 and at 2035 the fog towing spars were ordered streamed for all convoy ships by flag hoist. Buck's report of an unidentifed ship on her port side steaming south sent the convoy into a ship's turn 45 degrees to starboard. When that ship identified herself as USCG Menemsha, and had passed the convoy close to port, a second emergency ship's turn of 45 degrees back to the base course of 110 degrees true was executed. Admiral Davidson noted in the Court of Inquiry Record that ship #21, Letitia, not only failed to execute the two emergency turns three minutes apart but appeared to be on a base course which brought her closer to Philadelphia and away from New York. The failure of Letitia to respond to proper course instructions given by flag hoist prompted Admiral Davidson to send the Buck on its mission to correct Letitia's actions. This put in motion the chain of events, which in an under-evaluated fog condition, led to the disasters of the evening.

During the 20-24 watch on August 22, 1942, Convoy AT-20 sailed into fog conditions which were shallow vertically, but horizontally were tantalizingly, dense and light, moment to moment! Fog became the master of the evening. The Philadelphia's 16-20 log notes that she streamed her towed spar astern (referred to in the Court of Inquiry Record as a "fog buoy.") with 400 yards of line. This was a fog-induced measure to provide the next ship in line a visual object on which to keep station. Let me introduce a personal observation about the fog of that evening. From Edison's position abaft the right beam of the convoy, no other ships were visible. Understandable, as we were 5000 yards out from the convoy. We encountered a wreathy swirling treacherous fog right down on the water. We could occasionally see the moon up above so vertical visibility was better than horizontal visibility. I now have an Navy pilot's experience in fog and I believe that all persons interrogated by the Court of Inquiry answered the visibility estimate question with honest but flawed responses. Most erred in reporting visibility at one or two or three thousand yards. One witness stated "one quarter to three quarters of a mile." Instead of the inference of uncertainty in distance from such a report, if it had been understood as "now one quarter and then moments later three quarters" the report would have been more realistic. But the interrogator never pressed the witness on how he arrived at his estimate and what he meant by it. On Edison's bridge, we used a handheld device whose tradename I believe was a Statimeter, to deduce an estimate of distance to nearby ships. One had to enter the other ship's masthead height into the device, bracket that masthead in the arms of the device by capturing it from its top to the waterline, and read out the distance to that ship on another point of the device. That night a masthead might have been seen but the waterline below it obscured. No Inquiry witness mentioned use of anything but seaman's eye in the estimates they gave. In fog, keeping station on a towing spar ahead, there would be a tendency to "inch up" to give the helmsman and OOD the best look at the spar. In column to column spacing the tendency would be to close in a bit to keep the next ship over in sight. I believe that some of the witnesses certainly did see some ships at greater distances when the fog in that direction would momentarily break, but they might easily miss a ship close aboard wreathed in fog. Only the Philadelphia bridge or flag bridge personnel might have had better visibility estimates because the Inquiry Record has a number of references to a "radar plot" on Philadelphia. We (on a destroyer) had no such plot. Nor did the other ships present. In Column 1, for activities behind the Philadelphia, conning officers and OODs had no time to react due to these conditions yet the two destroyers sent on convoy intervention missions into Column 1 of AT-20 acted as though they fully believed their own estimates of visibility. Case in point: The USS Buck attempted to penetrate Column 1 in a crossing situation and testimony reveals that she momentarily slowed her engines to avoid hitting Philadelphia's towing spar. That spar would have been 400 yards behind Philly and the next ship in line was to keep station 600 yards behind Philly. I am sure that Buck knew this, but, because of a false sense of security about visibility, and not seeing Awatea, assumed Awatea was in fact not 200 yards behind that spar but even further back. The Inquiry Record shows that Buck almost made it. Awatea sliced into Buck's starboard side behind Gun 4 almost at right angles as Buck attempted to accelerate past Philly's towing spar on her port side. The Inquiry Court noted that had Awatea turned to port (toward Buck's stern, as the General Prudential Rule would advise), Buck might have made it across Awatea's path. We are dealing with seconds now in this re-creation and making assumptions that Awatea's conning officer had a full appreciation for Buck's prior movements which he did not have ! When Ingraham came into Column 1, on a mission to offer aid to the Buck/Awatea collision event, although the ship to ship final aspects to each other were quite different from the Buck/Awatea event, the misjudgments due to erratic estimates of visibility led to sudden sightings at distances so close that only emergency mitigation maneuvers could be attempted. These desperate final and unsuccessful efforts to avoid collision had their origins in the same fog problems that Buck and Awatea just minutes earlier had failed to resolve . And again in the final minute or two, if either ship had a prior plot of the movements of the other before sighting , there was a chance that the collision might have been avoided. Chemung had moved slightly to port out of her lane to port to avoid the Buck/Awatea collision. Ingraham was hit abaft midships by Chemung at an acute angle with the ships passing port to port on opposite courses. The consequences proved disastrous. One officer, Ensign Melvin Brown USN, my Naval Academy classmate, who was in the Mark 37 Director, and 10 enlisted ratings, survived the collision, and subsequent explosion of Ingraham's armed depth charges as she sank.

The aspect that I wished the Inquiry interrogator had pressed a little harder was Ingraham's speed in her convoy entry maneuver, and whether it related to any TBS orders from CTF 37. I relieved Ensign R. F. Hofer USN on Edison as JOOD underway at midnight and he told me in our 2330-2400 discussion that Ingraham has been directed to "close the convoy at high speed." A member of the destroyer Swanson (DD-443) bridge crew has stated on a web page that the TF Commander, using the TBS, advised the Ingraham to use caution in approaching a ship column in the convory. The lowest estimate given in the Inquiry Record of Ingraham's speed entering that convoy was 20 knots and many gave estimates of 25 knots. I believe that is too high. Ships approaching on opposite or near opposite courses leave an impression of higher speeds due to the relative motions. The Inquiry Record of Admiral Davidson's TBS orders, and the same orders as understood by the Ingraham watch officer on the bridge, leave us with the Ingraham's actual speed about as wreathy as that fog.

From the log of the USS Philadelphia , CL41

Log approved by Paul S. Hendren, Commanding Officer date is August 22, 1942.

"20-24 Steaming as before. 2002 USS Edison cast off. 2015 Changed course to 115 deg. (T) Changed speed to 13.5 knots. 2020 Changed course to 110 deg. (T), changed speed to 15.5 knots. 2030 Changed speed to 14.6 knots. Strange ship entered formation, bearing 270 deg. Relative, distant 1000 yards, passed well clear. 2055 Streamed towing spar, 400 yards line. 2100 Ship sighted at 2005 identified as USCG Menemcoe. (Log should have identified her as the Coast Guard manned USS Menemsha, according to Pieter Graf of The Netherlands, who did extensive research in 2008 to enable this correction.) 2230 Destroyer assumed to be #2 (USS Buck) sighted passing astern from port quarter. 2233 Collision astern, presumed to be between #2 (USS Buck) and #12 (SS Awatea). 2235 Destroyer sighted bearing 250 deg. Relative, on opposite course. 2238 Violent explosion on port quarter. 2238 General Quarters, all hands in life jackets. 2238 Emergency turn to starboard to course 155 Deg. (T) 2250 Changed course to 110 deg. (T) 2310 Radar contact bearing 034 deg. Relative. 2334 Secured from General Quarters, set Condition of readiness " II Mike" set material condition "Baker Plus."

(1) The "emergency turn" noted above was 45 degrees starboard. U.S. convoys used the British Mersigs signal book when steaming with mixed nationality convoys and escorts. The 45-degree emergency turn to starboard was signaled at night with flares and was executed immediately. It was a "ship's turn" with all ships turning at once.

(2) There have been some questions raised in earlier queries concerning the time of the events on the 20-24 watch on August 22, 1942. I discovered in Philadelphia's next watch period entry, the 00-04 mid-watch, that her clocks were set ahead one hour to Zone +2 time on that ship. All ships were not necessarily keeping the same local time and even when they were, clocks used as reference by log writing officers varied.

(3) The watch stander on the Philadelphia was recording Philadephia's actions and observations on his watch. CTF 37, aboard Philadelphia, gave the USS Buck an order over the TBS to "drop back" to enter the convoy. Buck's log shows that her mission on that fateful evening was to give the Letitia, leading Column 2 in the convoy, a message about where CTF 37 wanted her to keep station. Very likely a bull horn (loud voice) or a gun to shoot across a written message would be used to pass the information. Radio silence was being observed to deny German U-boats low frequency radio signals that the latter might intercept to locate convoys. The Navy vessels had TBS transmitters for voice communication with each other on higher radio carrier frequencies around 70 megacycles. These shorter radio waves were assumed to be line of sight and would not give location away. (Lack of discipline in the form of unnecessary chit chat in some convoys revealed that TBS transmissions could actually carry beyond the horizon.) The merchant ships did not have TBS equipment and relied on low frequency radio, which would bounce through the atmosphere in sky waves and in ground waves. The USS Chemung had TBY, a battery powered version of the TBS. So, to maintain radio silence, messages to and from merchant ships relied on MERSIGS visual flag signals in good visibility and flares for emergency turns at night. In fog, the only option for a vital message, if radio silence was to be maintained was to have a messenger ship go alongside, as the Buck was assigned to do, for passing information to the SS Letitia. (Why the Buck did not drop back astern of convoy and come forward between columns to accomplish her message mission, but rather chose to double back down the port side of the convoy and attempt to enter the convoy behind Philadelphia and then pull up alongside Letitia was questioned without resolve in Court of Inquiry excerpts available to me on March 15, 2001. It is possible the Buck had a break in the fog that closed in just as she attempted her maneuver.) The papers I do have from the Inquiry Record do clarify a point on what CTF 37 wanted Letitia to do. Apparently Letitia was not holding her assigned position as ship 21 in the convoy directly between 11, the Philadelphia and 31, the New York. RAdm Davidson wanted to clarify to Letitia what her assigned position was and to tell her to go there.

(4) Except for rare breaks, fog obscured the transit path of AT-20. The Philly had launched a towing spar with 400 yards of line behind her.. She saw ships only at close range and even then only in "patches" where the fog would have lifted. The Philly watch stander noted the second destroyer, five minutes later on "opposite course," proceeding, as the Buck had, down Philly's port side similar to the route the Buck had taken just before her. The Buck had been noted crossing astern after which a first collision occurred. The second destroyer barely made it down the port side, and was not noted in the Philly log entry as having crossed astern. Philly's last visual sighting of this second destroyer, noted to be on an opposite course, was followed by a "violent explosion." Fog did not obscure the flash of that explosion but did obscure the ships involved. That violent explosion was the Ingraham DD444, and though the writer of the log on the Philly ventured no collision explanation to go along with the explosion, we know from other records that it was the oiler, USS Chemung, that hit that second destroyer, the USS Ingraham. Following this collision, Ingraham exploded. These collisions were no fault of the ships in convoy. Those ships did not even have the knowledge that destroyers would be moving about in the paths of the convoy ships. For their part, the destroyers involved had orders to "deliver a message" (Buck) or to investigate a collision in the convoy (Ingraham), but could see little. The destroyers involved could not even be sure that the towing spars being used in the fog would keep ships in the convoy perfectly lined up. Current or wind could cause the second ship in column to be offset from the line of the one ahead and such an offset would become greater the further back a ship was.

From the log of the USS Buck DD420

L.R. Miller, Lieut. Comdr. USN Commanding, approved this entry.

Steaming as before. 2005 formation base course changed to 110 deg., true, 135 deg. PSC 2025 Sighted strange ship on starboard bow, this ship proceeded to investigate. Convoy executed emergency turn to starboard. Ship identified as friendly, USCGS Menemcoe. (Note: The Indian name of this Coast Guard ship sounded different to the watch stander on the Philly.) This ship proceeded to overtake convoy at 20 kts 190 RPM. (Note: "this ship" is the Buck, not the stranger.) 2150 Passed close by Column 3 of convoy, leaving USS New York to starboard. 2210 Prior to reaching screening station, while still only 3000 yards ahead of convoy, this ship was ordered by CTF37 to deliver a message to the SS Letitia, stationed in main body. This ship reversed course to port, steaming at 10 kts, 90 RPM. Contact maintained with main body by radar. (Note: No ships had short wave radar such as SG. The best any U.S. destroyer in this convoy had was air search radar, the SC. It was worse than useless for penetrating the main body of a convoy in fog.)This ship on opposite and parallel course to convoy, sighted USS Philadelphia. Captain at the conn: This ship turned to port in order to pass astern of the Philadelphia, after which proposed plan was to parallel the convoy and deliver message to Letitia from between columns 1. and 2. 2222 Maneuvering on various courses and various speeds as necessary to pass close astern of Philadelphia 2225 This ship was rammed on starboard side of fantail just aft of gun #5 by the bow of the SS Awatea. Ship just astern of Philadelphia. Collision took place at 90 degree angle, the bow of the SS Awatea piercing two thirds of the way through this ship at point of collision this ship showing turns for 20 kts, 190 RPM 2226 Explosions felt below stern of this ship as a depth charge which had shaken loose exploded. (Note: A lanyard was attached to the safety fork and to a fixed portion of the mount so that when the charge rolled off into the water, the safety fork was withdrawn and the charge exploded a few seconds after rolling off into the water. This was a violation of safety orders. The Court of Inquiry Record also reveals that the #4 and $5 projectors on Ingraham racks had their depth charge safety forks removed at dusk and were therefore "live" if they rolled off or were knocked off that ship. Again, a violation of instructions.) 2229 All engines stop. Stern of this ship clear of transport. Fantail reported damaged such that any use of engines might prove fatal to stern of ship and men trapped there. (Note: Men were in after crew's compartment.) Reported that port shaft was intact and that port engine might still be used. Damage control party investigating damages and commencing rescue work. Wounded men taken to ward room as soon as extracted ship's doctor in charge of caring for wounded personnel. After compartments reported flooded. Watertight integrity reported to have been investigated and found to be satisfactory. Ship adrift and darkened top side as rescue work proceeding on stern."

This log was signed by C.R. Barton Lieut. (jg) D-V (G) USNR

Barton added a correction:

"Correction: this speed being made just prior to collision. When collision was seen to be unavoidable, all engines were stopped upon stern becoming free of transport, the port engine was given 1/3 ahead, then standard, and responded to take stern somewhat clear of depth charge explosion."

"00-04 condition Affirm set rescue and repair work in progress. 0211 USS Edison arrived at scene standing by 0235 Rescue work in damaged compartments completed following named men missing, Rowse, Louis Glennwood, 372-23-21, SC 3/c, USN Dungan, Raymond Lee, 272-43-99, Sea 1/c, USN Evans, Roy, 311-36-50, Sea 2/c, USN Davis, Arthur Edward, 283-64-91, Sea 2/c USNR Duro, Howard Arthur, 646-18-49, Sea 2/c, USNR Nemeth, Wendell 633-88-33, A.S., USNR. 0310 Commenced maneuvering various speeds on port engine using varying amounts of rudder to bring the ship to heading 310 deg.t. 0345 Commenced lying to port engine racing, propeller believed lost no way on ship. Set condition of readiness two mike on gun and torpedo. On batteries.

Robert K. Irwin, Lieutenant, US Navy"

Lying to as before. 0427 secured main engines 0530 sighted USS Chemung standing by to receive tow line from her .0630 USS Chemung maneuvering alongside starboard motor whaleboat lowered to transfer medical supplies to that ship and assist in passing tow line. 0740 starboard motor whaleboat hoisted and secured. 0750 Tow line from Chemung, consisting of 600 feet of mooring wire in place, that ship commencing to steam ahead slowly."

Underway as before 0924 tow line parted, lying to waiting to receive another line 1100 tow line secured consisting of 120 fathoms of 10 inch manila and 15 fathoms of anchor chain 1135 tow line parted, lying to, waiting to receive another line."

From the log of the USS Bristol DD453: Approving these entries,

C.O. LCDR Chester Clark Wood USN

Nav. LCDR Morton Sunderland USN

Bristol's log shows that she passed through the boom at Halifax NS on the 04-08 watch on August 22, 1942 and proceeded to join the screen of Convoy AT-20 which was in the process of forming up for transit to Greenock, Scotland. Transcription from this log begins for the evening watches of August 22, 1942.

"18-20 Steaming as before 1850 Swanson (Note: USS Swanson DD443) laying depth charges. This ship (Note: meaning Bristol) drawing ahead in screen. (Note: Likely covering part of Swanson's sector.) 1940 Screening vessels returning to normal stations 1940 Sunset. Darken ship"

Steaming as before. 2040 USS Ingraham reported to be resuming station. USS Bristol moved to regular station on port quarter of convoy. 2142 USS Swanson passed about 2000 yards on our port beam resuming station. 2225 Observed explosion on starboard beam, distance about 4000 yards 2226 On orders from SOPA (Note: Senior Officer Present Afloat, CTF 37) USS Bristol stood over to investigate. Picked up two officers and nine enlisted men from USS Ingraham which ship had just sunk."

"00-04 Standing by USS Chemung and continuing search of area for other possible survivors. List of survivors from USS Ingraham picked up: Owen, Roy, Ens USNR Brown, Melvin Ens USNR (Note Mel Brown was a June 19, 1942 graduate of the US Naval Academy and classmate of the author. He was commissioned an Ensign USN) Scaffe, Charles PCBM USN 261-69-57 Cooper, Priest G. Jr. Cox. USN 311-26-71 Anderson, Ray M. Cox. USN 371-59-76 Woody, Coleman E. S 2/c USN 355-69-50 Wilhelm, Luther Leonard S 1/c 266-39-37 Allen, Frank Edward, F 1/c USN, # unknown Corcoran, Thomas Phillips S 2/c USNR # 642-03-40 Kennedy, Leon L., F 1/c USN #256-36-75 Cooper, Ernest Charles S 2/c USNR #614-06-92.

0215 Joined USS Buck DD420, badly damaged by collision. Circling Buck and Chemung as protective screen. Boilers #1 & 4 in use. Ship darkened, condition of readiness three, material conditions "Baker." Medical care being given to men rescued."

"04-08 Steaming as before. Screening USS Buck and USS Chemung. Screened ships lying to, this ship circling at 12 knots. USS Chemung passing tow line to USS Buck. All survivors under medical care."

"8-12 Steaming as before. USS Chemung has USS Buck in tow on course 310 deg. T. 0928 Tow line parted. Began steaming in circle screening both ships. 1015 USS Buck again in tow. Began patrolling at 12 knots area 45 deg either side of tow of USS Chemung distance about 400 yards. Base course 270 deg. T."

"12-16 Steaming as before. Patrolling station ahead of Chemung and Buck in semicircle of 4000 yard radius beam to beam. 1427 Heavy rain squall with reduced visibility 1500 Squall passed over. Chemung estimated to be on course 260 deg. PGC speed 5 knots."

From the log of the USS Chemung AO-30 :

Log page approved by J.J. Twomey

"20-24 Steaming as before. 2235 Collision with destroyer.

Major injuries. Commander John J. Twomey USN Ensign Neal McEwen Craig Jr. USNR Holland, John - Service number unknown RM 3/c USN McLaughlin, Robert F. #642-05-58 S 2/c USNR Minor injuries: Lieut. Ray E. Wingler USNR Dehm, Francis A. 403-57-29 S 2/c USNR Hymmel, Walter M. 328-49-10 FC 1/c USN Sokolowski, John A. 311-93-79 S 2/c USNR White, Ralph Iron Jr. 614-09-17, S 2/c USNR."

The log entry immediately above is the total mention in Chemung's logs of a collision that left Chemung on fire forward, with flames visible for miles as the fog cleared. I surmise that Commanding Officer Twomey's major injuries may have incapacitated him, possibly requiring his Executive Officer to take over. Such a change of command could have influenced the pace of Chemung's immediate damage actions and also kept the CO from supervising some of the later record keeping. In the story "Joining The War At Sea 1939-1945", I recount how the Chemung asked Edison to come alongside and put Chemung's fire out. Had their CO not been injured, I doubt that Chemung would have asked a destroyer to put her fire out when her own equipment and training were so much more extensive. With understandable delay due to their skipper's injuries, Chemung's crew did then deal effectively with the damage and with the subsequent fire.)

Another interesting event which preceded the events above by not more than half an hour was recorded in Admiral Davidson's testimony to the Court of Inquiry. He directed the Edison in the inner screen on the starboard flank of the convoy to come alongside the Philadelphia, take aboard meningitis serum, and deliver it to to the U.S. Army Transport Siboney, convoy ship #41. The fog had not yet intervened and that transfer proceeded without incident. That transfer also occurred without the knowledge of Ensign Dailey who was completely unaware of it until he read the Inquiry Record sent him by Robert McBrayer on March 5, 2001.

Epilogue : Ingraham was lost while escorting Convoy AT-20. Within 15 months, torpedoes coursing through the Mediterranean Sea had sunk the USS Buck, the USS Bristol and the SS Awatea. Only my ship, and the Chemung, of this mini-convoy back to Halifax, on August 23, 1942, managed to survive World War II. The other damaged ship from AT-20, SS Awatea was lost at sea off Tunisia. So, in the episode of AT-20 that began on August 22, 1942, shared by the SS Awatea, the USS Buck DD-420, the USS Ingraham DD-444, the USS Edison DD-439, and the USS Chemung AO-30, only the last two named, survived the war.

Part III-Survivor Stories from USS Chemung AO-30 received in 2011.

Here is the first, received 01/17/2011, reproduced verbatim:

I have wondered for many years what happened to my father's legs in the North Atlantic. You have answered my questions.

My father was born in 1922, Robert Francis McLaughlin. In August of 1942 (the 22nd to be exact), he lost his legs in a ship collision in naval convoy in the North Atlantic. He was a radioman on the Chemung. I thought he was 19 when it occurred but I find he was just 20 when the accident occurred. I thought it was a great battle with a German ship that took his legs. He wouldn't talk about it. I was 14 when he died and we never had any of the deeper discussions that might have occurred if he had been with us longer. The only thing I remember him saying is that the other ship sunk. It makes sense to me now.

Thank-you for answering many of my questions. I am looking to buy your book and get more information about that fateful day.

Anne Marie (McLaughlin) Harris"

The e-mail above leads, directly, to a remarkable discovery. As the expression goes, we can "put two and two together," after 69 years! In the compilation of the injury summary contained in the 08/22/1942 log of the USS Chemung, we find (above, see Chemung log excerpt) one of the names after "major injuries," "McLaughlin, Robert F. #642-05-58 S 2/c USNR." It was forwarded to me and included in Captain Robert McBrayer USNR's material forwarded to me after he, McBrayer commanded the USS Chemung, from 1955-57. He had the benefit of the ship's history of the USS Chemung, including passages from her log on the night of August 22, 1942. This log was approved by Commander Twomey, Chemung's Commanding Officer, himself among the "major injuries" noted. This will come as discovery by Anne Marie Harris, who received from her father, and that reluctantly, only that he was on duty in the Chemung's radio shack when the collision occurred. I have learned from Anne Marie that her Dad mentioned "a barrel rolling around." He had left the radio shack to find out what had occurred, and while out on deck encountered a 'barrel' that had come loose, and that barrel injured one leg above the knee , the other below the knee, resulting in amputation, prostheses, and crutches for the rest of his life. ( Entered 01/23/2011, based on input from Robert McBrayer, George and Sue Bird, and Anne Marie Harris. )

Robert Francis McLaughlin was born in 1922. He was in the Navy, serving in the 'radio gang' of the USS Chemung AO-30, when that ship collided with the destroyer, USS Ingraham DD-444, while both were in Convoy AT-20, eastbound from Halifax, NS, to Greenock Scotland, during the 20-24 watch on August 22, 1942. McLaughlin sustained major injuries in the collision, eventually losing parts of both legs, one above the knee, the other below the knee. It is not known when he was actually discharged from the Navy but rehab at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington DC very likely took place, since he married, and then raised a family of three children while living in a Maryland suburb adjacent to the District of Columbia. One of those children is now Anne Marie Mclaughlin Harris, an ER nurse, who has a brother, Robert Francis Harris, whose twin sister has passed. It is known that her father, despite his injury, with prostheses and crutches, held a responsible position with the U.S. Navy's civilian personnel division located in the Pentagon. He passed in 1966 and is buried at Arlington. ( Entered 01/28/2011, based on information from Anne Marie Harris. )

Navy ID for Robert F. McLaughlin issued just days before USS Chemung AO-30 sustained a major collision in Convoy AT-20 (received under postmark 08/12/2011, entered here 09/24/2011)

Anne Marie Harris' husband, Richard A. Harris, served in the U.S. Air Force during the Viet Nam conflict. The couple have four children, Laura Jean and Robert, twins, age 40, Sean Michael 38 and Heather Michelle 36. Anne Marie's father, Robert Francis McLaughlin married Mary Elizabeth Goodwin in Hartford Ct. in 1949. ( 01/30/2011, based on information from Anne Marie Harris. )

More discovery is contained in an e-mail dtd 09/19/2011 rec'd 09/20/2011 from Brian Rice:

"Sorry Frank it took so long to get this together. My dad Thomas W. Rice was in the Navy during WW2. One of the ships he was on was the USS Chemung. He was a gunner's mate. He was born in Fargo N.D. April 24, 1923. He passed away Oct 15, 2009.

My father didn't talk about the war much. I talked with him a few times when I was a kid. He told me about a collision in the Atlantic where the Chemung collided with a destroyer or cruiser on a foggy night and sank. I think it took the rear end off. The ship was on fire and he aided a medical Dr. with the amputation of a crew member's leg or legs and he dumped them overboard.

I have some pictures and I will forward them to you. Brian Rice" (He forwarded the three below/Author)

Navy ID and photo if Gunner's Mate Tom Rice

Tom Rice and shipmates from USS Chemung AO-30 in 1942 Rice is third from right

Watch the video: Chemung County Historical Society. Path Through History. WSKG (August 2022).