(CVA-59: dp. (1)56,000, 1. 1,046', b. 129'4", ew. 252' s. 33 k.; cpl. 4,000+; a. 8 5" 54 eal.; cl. Forrestal)
Forrestal (CVA-59) was launched 11 December 1954 by Newport News Shipbuildingand Drydock Co. Newport News, Va.; sponsored by Mrs. James V Forrestal,widow of Secretary Forrestal; and commissioned 1 October 1955, Captain R.L. Johnson in command.
From her home port, Norfolk, Va., Forrestal spent the first year of her commissioned service in intensive training operations off the Virginia Capes and in the Caribbean. An important assignment was training aviators in theuse of her advanced facilities, a duty on which she often operated out ofMayport, Fla. On 7 November 1956, she put to sea from Mayport to operatein the eastern Atlantic during the Suez Crisis ready to enter the Mediterranean should her great strength be necessary. She returned to Norfolk 12 Decembert o prepare for her first deployment with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean,for which she sailed 15 January 1957.
On this, as on her succeeding tours of duty in the Mediterranean, Forrestalvisited many ports to allow dignitaries and the general public to come aboardand view the tremendous power for peace she represented. For military observers,she staged underway demonstrations to illustrate her capacity to bring airpower to and from the sea in military operations on any scale. She returned to Norfolk 22 July 1957 for exercises off the North Carolina coast in preparation for her first NATO Operation, "Strikeback," in the North Sea.This deployment, between 3 September and 22 October, found her visitingSouthampton England, as well as drilling in the highly important task ofcoordinating United States naval power with that of other NATO nations.
The next year found Forrestal participating in a series of major fleet exercises, as well as taking part in experimental flight operations. During the Lebanon Crisis of summer 1958, the great carrier was again called upon to operate in the eastern Atlantic to back up naval operations in the Mediterranean. She sailed from Norfolk 11 July to embark an air group at Mayport 2 days later, then patrolled the Atlantic until returning to Norfolk 17 July.
On her second tour of duty in the Mediterranean, from 2 September 1958to 12 March 1959, Forrestal again combined a program of training, patrol,and participation in major exercises with ceremonial hospitality and public visiting. Her guest list during this cruise was headed by Secretary of Defense N. H McElroy. Returning to Norfolk, she continued the never ending task of training new aviators, constantly maintaining her readiness for instantreaction to any demand for her services brought on by international events.Visitors during the year included King Hussein of Jordan.
Forrestal again brought her imposing presence to the 6th Fleet between28 January 1960 and 31 August visiting the ports usual to a Mediterranean deployment as well as Split, Yugoslavia. Again she was open for visitorsat many ports, as well as taking part in the patrol and training schedule of the 6th Fleet. Upon her return to the United States, she resumed herschedule of east coast and Caribbean operations for the remainder of the year. 18 Jan–late Feb 1962: The ship accomplished a six-week refresher training cruise off the east coast that extended down into Caribbean waters, focusing upon the Guantánamo Bay area. She also visited Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In addition, Mercury-Atlas 6 [MA-6] launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 0947 on 20 February 1962. LCOL John H. Glenn, Jr., USMC, the 40-year-old astronaut, completed three orbits about the earth in four hours 55 minutes to become the first American to orbit the planet. Glenn flew spacecraft Friendship 7 in her 75,679 mile voyage at a maximum speed of 17,544.1 miles per hour. Describing his re-entry as a “real fireball” Glenn splashed down in the Atlantic some 166 miles east of Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas, about 800 miles southeast of Bermuda. Destroyer Noa (DD-841) recovered the astronaut after he spent 21 minutes in the water, and a helo flew him on to antisubmarine warfare support aircraft carrier Randolph (CVS-15) at 1745. Although Glenn did not land nearby, Forrestal stood ready as one of the potential tracking and measuring stations for the epochal flight.
9–14 Apr 1962: Forrestal combined operations with aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVAN-65) for a presidential cruise. President John F. Kennedy and his entourage arrived on board Enterprise on 14 April. The busy day included sea and air power demonstrations for the President and many distinguished guests, including most of his cabinet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, many congressmen and about 30 foreign ambassadors, all hosted by VADM John M. Taylor, Commander, Second Fleet. About 20 ships participated in the exercise off the Virginia and North Carolina coasts. A “spectacular display” culminating in a mass flyby and recovery by naval aircraft entertained guests. CDR Joseph P. Moorer, commanding officer of VF-62, LCDR Joseph S. Elmer, LT Richard C. Oliver and LT William F. Heiss of that squadron shook hands with President Kennedy on board Enterprise at the conclusion of the demonstration. Forrestal also hosted Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and several senators and congressmen during the cruise.
Mid to late Apr 1962: Following the Presidential Cruise, Forrestal returned to the Caribbean for the Atlantic Fleet exercise LantPhibEx 1-62, and took advantage of the opportunity to visit Port of Spain, Trinidad, where the Carrier Division 4 band entertained crowds.
Jul 1962: The ship visited New York City for Independence Day festivities. During one of the days of her week-long stay, almost 22,000 “curious” visitors swarmed on board.
6–12 Jul 1962: Leaving New York waters, Forrestal participated with Enterprise in LantFlex 2-62, a nuclear strike exercise under the command of RADM Reynold D. Hogle, Commander, Carrier Division 4 and Commander, TF 24. Enterprise launched eight “pre-planned” strikes and six call strikes while operating in the Virginia capes area against targets ranging from the Tidewater area to central Florida.
3 Aug 1962: Forrestal weighed anchor and set sail for another Med deployment. This sail included 12,900 officers and men from commands along the east coast assigned initially to the Second Fleet, manning Enterprise and Forrestal, guided missile heavy cruiser Boston (CAG-1), from which RADM Robert H. Weeks, Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla 10, broke his flag, heavy cruiser Newport News (CA-148), from which VADM John M. Taylor, Commander, Second Fleet, broke his flag, 13 destroyers from Destroyer Squadrons 8 and 14, ammunition ships Shasta (AE-6) and Suribachi (AE-21) and oiler Chukawan (AO-100). This became the last time that A-1 Skyraiders of VA-85 deployed on board Forrestal, and her first deployment with Mach 2.2 capable McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs of VF-74. Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 [Tu-20] Bears would fly the huge journey–hundreds of miles–from their fields near Murmansk in the Kola Peninsula to find the ship as she crossed the Atlantic. Russian electronic specialists operated their sophisticated sensors probing for the carrier’s radar, and when they discovered her they would drop down for a closer look, but Phantom IIs from the ship would intercept the intruders and escort them out of the area. Even during the tensions of the Cold War most of these encounters were professional and the rivals often waved to each other.
13–17 Aug 1962: Forrestal participated in RipTide III, an exercise with allied aircraft carriers in the eastern Atlantic that demonstrated interchangeability, compatibility and reliance with NATO allies including the British, French and Portuguese.
7 Sep 1962: Forrestal participated in Lafayette II, an exercise that involved 14 scheduled conventional strikes coordinated with aircraft from Enterprise against multiple targets to the French Low Level Route in southern France. French air force and naval aircraft opposed them.
6 Oct 1962: NATO chiefs of staff embarked Forrestal for a one-day cruise.
16–17 Feb 1963: Enterprise relieved Forrestal at Pollensa Bay.
2 Mar 1963: Forrestal returned to Norfolk. Russian reconnaissance bombers overflew the carrier en route her return home. Her aircraft flew over 10,300 missions and logged over 23,000 hours in the air during this deployment.
Early-May–Mid-Jun 1963: The ship completed repairs and upkeep at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
9–19 Sep 1963: Forrestal and ships of Task Force 23 visited Boston, Massachusetts, for the annual convention of the East Coast Navy League. The ship moored at the South Boston Naval Annex on the 12th. The next day RADM John J. Hyland, Commander, Carrier Division 4, welcomed more than 400 delegates to the League and their families as they boarded his flagship for a day’s cruise. The carrier stood out of the port on the 16th to return home.
12 Oct 1963: RADM Samuel R. Brown, Jr., one of the ship’s former skippers, relieved RADM Hyland in hanger deck ceremonies.
30 Oct, 21–22 Nov 1963: LT James H. Flatley, III, and LCDR Walter W. “Smokey” Stovall from the Naval Air Test Center at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, and ADJ1 Ed Brennan, a flight engineer from Fleet Tactical Support Squadron (VR) -1, completed 29 touch-and-go landings and 21 full-stop landings and takeoffs in a Lockheed C-130F Hercules (BuNo 149798) on board Forrestal. Flatley and his crew, who also included at times Ted H. Limmer, Jr., a civilian safety test pilot from Lockheed-Marietta, made some minor modifications to the Hercules–which marines loaned to them–by replacing its standard C-130 antiskid braking system with the Hytrol Antiskid Braking System Mk II used in Boeing B-727s and by removing refueling pods from the wings. Crewmembers painted a white center line along the ship’s axial deck from bow to ramp to aid Flatley in guiding the huge aircraft. As they made their first landing on the 30th, surface winds of 25 to 30 knots and the resulting choppy sea caused moderate deck motion with a “noticeable” yaw, which forced Forrestal to increase speed an additional 10 knots to reduce the yaw motion and to stabilize wind direction. “I was up on the captain’s bridge” recalled Lockheed-Georgia Engineering Vice President Arthur E. Flock. “I watched a man on the ship’s bow and that bow must have gone up and down 30 feet. ” Although the Hercules crew encountered 40 to 50 knot winds over the deck, their problems “considerably lessoned” as they landed. The plane’s right wing tip cleared the ship’s island control tower by just under 15 feet as it roared down the flight deck. As Flatley brought the aircraft to a halt crewmembers gathered topside cheered their arrival, and many commented upon the message specially painted on the starboard nose of the fuselage for the occasion: “Look ma, no hook. ” Lieutenant Flatley received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts. From these tests the Navy concluded that Hercules’ could carry 25,000 pounds of cargo and people approximately 2,500 miles and land on board a Forrestal-class or larger carrier, accomplishing their missions with gross weights of up to 121,000 pounds. Analysts also decided, however, that using the huge aircraft for Carrier On-board Delivery (COD) flights would be too risky.
24 Jan 1966: Forrestal sailed from Taranto, Italy, and in company with guided missile destroyer Conyngham (DDG 17) and destroyers Forrest Royal (DD 872), McCaffery (DD 860), Charles R. Ware (DD 865) and Yarnall (DD 541) comprised Task Group 60.2.
2 Feb 1966: Early in the evening Backwash 100, an F-4B Phantom II, (BuNo 152285), LT William H. Brinks and LT Edward E. Weller of VF-74, launched for a routine night intercept training mission while Forrestal steamed in the Tyrrhenian Sea, at 1802. As 100 climbed through 1,500 feet with both engines at full thrust, a “loud explosion” shook the aircraft. The Phantom II immediately began to decelerate, though it finished its climb to 2,200 feet before descending inexorably back to earth. Both men checked their instruments, however, they could not regain control of the F-4B and they ejected, approximately three miles from the ship. A UH-2A crew from HC-2 Detachment 59, LT(JG) Howe, LT Louis R. Grant, AME3 Gary Steele and ATN3 Bill Toth, spotted the survivors within four minutes, thanks largely to the flares and strobe lights which the aircrew deployed fortuitously, and rescued the pilot and radar intercept officer and returned the shaken men to the ship.
5–12 Feb 1966: While Forrestal visited Naples a group of men from the ship attended an audience with Pope Paul VI at Vatican City in Rome.
26–27 Feb 1966: Spanish LGEN Avales, that country’s air defense force commander, visited Forrestal for an underway orientation.
28 Feb–3 Mar 1966: The ship participated in Fairgame IV, a joint exercise with the French, including their aircraft carrier Arromanches (R-95), in the Mediterranean. RADM Leslie J. O’Brien, Jr., Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla 10, transferred over to guided missile frigate MacDonough (DLG-8) on the last day of Fairgame IV, from which he broke his flag until returning to the carrier.
22 Mar 1966: Forrestal put into Taranto for a fleet commander’s conference with the Sixth Fleet. Officers and men from numerous commands arrived on board attack aircraft carrier America (CVA-66).
30–31 Mar 1966: Saratoga relieved Forrestal at Pollensa Bay. The next day the latter passed through the Strait of Gibraltar beginning at 2100 on 31 March into the Atlantic en route her home port. The ship completed a deployment that the Navy extended by an additional two weeks. During this deployment, pilots logged 19,000 flight hours and flew over 11,000 sorties.
11–14 Apr 1966: Forrestal offloaded her ammunition prior to entering Norfolk Naval Shipyard for an overhaul.
15 Apr 1966–27 Jan 1967: Forrestal sailed up the Elizabeth River as tugboats then eased her into her berth to prepare for what the ship’s Command History Report referred to as a “massive facelifting” at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Vice Admiral Charles T. Booth, II, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic Fleet, inspected the ship on 10 June 1966. The admiral took the opportunity to award CDR Joe D. Adkins, the ship’s air operations officer, the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery while flying missions over North Vietnam as the commanding officer of VA-72, embarked in attack aircraft carrier Independence (CVA-62). Forrestal completed about one-third of the overhaul when she floated from drydock on 10 July. Beginning on 1 August sailors and civilian technicians commenced installing the Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS) into the ship’s systems. The NTDS, an automatic combat direction system designed to eliminate human error by doing away with “grease-pencil plotting, ” became the principal system of her Combat Information Center. The speed of modern warfare demanded an increase in plotting and disseminating information and the Navy intended NTDS to provide a comprehensive picture of ships, aircraft and subs. Meanwhile, RADM Harvey P. Lanham, Commander, Carrier Division 2, shifted his flag to Forrestal, which relieved Carrier Division 4 (19 October). The admiral awarded LCDR Richard T. Theriault, Forrestal’s First Lieutenant, with the Bronze Star for his distinguished service in Vietnam, on 28 October. The crew celebrated their gradual return to operational status when they lit-off one of their eight boilers on Halloween, which provided the men their own steam and electrical power after receiving pierside services after seven months. Tragedy struck the men at the shipyard at 1333 on 1 November, however, when a UH-2B (BuNo 152193) from amphibious assault ship Guadalcanal (LPH-7), moored across from Forrestal at Berth 35 at Pier 5, crashed onto the pier between the two ships. The Seasprite entered what investigators determined to be an “uncontrolled flight immediately upon lifting” off from the flight deck of Guadalcanal for a brief test ‘hop’ to NAS Oceana; after barely reaching four to five feet into the air the helo’s rotor blades struck the flight deck and then the aircraft careened over the starboard side of Guadalcanal onto the pier. The Seasprite’s impact threw debris and shards–including lethal metal fragments from the helo’s disintegrating rotor blades–at people working in the vicinity, killing four men: three Navy; LCDR John C. Thoma, AN Joseph A. Anzalone, AN Garry A. Whipp; and one civilian, Mannie McCutcheon of the yard’s riggers and laborers shop, and injured 19 more men. Debris also flew into a railroad car on the pier and at both ships, damaging a pair of boats on the flight deck of Forrestal, and hurtled into nearby buildings with such force that they tore holes into cement block walls. Forrestal’s crew joined other men from across the yard to help their shipmates to provide damage control and to aid victims, and over 100 crewmembers volunteered to donate blood to injured men. Following the catastrophe, the crew held a ‘fast cruise’–which simulates at sea operations while still moored to a pier (10–11 December). Just after the New Year’s the ship stood down the channel for the first time since her overhaul began for post repair trials off the Virginia capes (0800 on 9–15 January 1967). The ship actually completed her trials, which included limited air operations, at 1300 on Saturday 14 January, however, dense fog rolled in and the shipyard refused the carrier permission to moor due to navigational hazards, so the carrier anchored off Pier 12 at the naval station until the next day, when the shipyard allowed her to return. Forrestal sailed from the yard on the 23rd and returned to Norfolk.
6–10 Feb 1967: The carrier reached the ammunition anchorage to load a full complement of ammunition for the first time since her repairs.
14 Feb–16 Mar 1967: The ship completed refresher training in Cuban waters. Forrestal anchored out at NS Guantánamo Bay (17–18 February). She attained her 120,000th arrested landing on the third day of actual refresher training (22 February).
11 Apr–6 May 1967: Forrestal completed a series of exercises in the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range designed to simulate the grueling conditions her men could expect during the Vietnam War, including alpha strikes against major targets. In addition, she took part in Operation Clovehitch III, providing support for ground forces in the all-service exercise.
13 May 1967: While testing her automatic carrier landing system off the Virginia Capes the ship recorded her 124,000th landing using that system, when LT Howard L. Reedy of VA-65 trapped on board.
6 Jun 1967: Embarking CVW-17 the ship sailed at 1630 from Pier 12 at Norfolk for her only western Pacific deployment. Forrestal held drills on most days while sailing into harm’s way and pilots and aircrew studied charts and held briefings during the voyage. Grumman A-6As of VA-65 and Grumman E-2As from VAW-123 embarked as the first Intruders and Hawkeyes, respectively, to deploy on board Forrestal.
13–16 Jun 1967: RADM Lanham and observers from Independence led the ship’s Operational Readiness Inspection.
19–20 Jun 1967: Forrestal’s Command History Report observed that 4,330 pollywogs “fearing for their lives” revolted and held 500 Loyal Shellbacks captive. ” Just after midnight the pollywogs stole many of the shellback’s cards and held a mock initiation during an “illegal ceremony. ” The next day as the ship crossed the equator, however, the shellbacks gained their justice against the “disloyal and scurvy Pollywogs, ” many of the latter sans hair and sporting red tails.
23–25 Jun 1967: While rounding South America en route to Pacific waters Forrestal anchored at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The air wing presented an air show for distinguished visitors including United States Ambassador John W. Tuthill and Brazilian ADM Rademaker, Minister of that Navy, during the morning watch on 23 June, following which the ship anchored in Guanabara Bay, at 1300.
16 Jul 1967: Detachment Charles, a briefing team which flew out from the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon, boarded to brief the men on the war they entered.
18–21 Jul 1967: At 0530 the ship moored to Leyte Pier at NAS Cubi Point, at Subic Bay, Philippines. The wing examined survival gear and conducted survival training, installed additional electronic countermeasures equipment and made final aircraft modifications before entering battle.
22 Jul 1967: Forrestal sailed from Subic Bay into war. RADM Lanham broke his flag from the carrier in command of Task Group 77.6, which also included destroyers Henry W. Tucker (DD-875) and Rupertus (DD-851). Aircraft practiced night operations, coordinated attacks and honed bombing accuracy while en route to Vietnamese waters.
25 Jul 1967: Forrestal arrived at Yankee Station and at 0600 she launched her first strikes in the Vietnam War against an enemy often just a few miles over the horizon from the ship. The Americans created two carrier operating areas to prosecute the war in Southeast Asia. Initially designating the northernmost one in the Gulf of Tonkin as Point Yankee, they redesignated it Yankee Station as the primary operations area from which carriers operated against North Vietnam. Evolving as the war continued, Yankee Station actually consisted of several stations. In April 1966, the Navy moved it northward to 125 miles east of Dong Hoi at 17º30’N, 108º30’E, which reduced the distance aircraft had to fly to reach their targets in North Vietnam, but subsequently reassigned it to its original position in 1968. When the Americans resumed intensive bombing against the north in 1972 they again moved the station northward, and designated it as North, Mid and South, at 19º, 17º and 16º N, respectively. The carrier rearmed from ammunition ship Diamond Head (AE-19) later that evening.
25–29 Jul 1967: The North Vietnamese supplied communist forces fighting in South Vietnam through a variety of well-defended and highly secretive routes collectively known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. To cut these routes pilots flew alpha strikes, reconnaissance, armed reconnaissance and barrier combat air patrol missions against key transportation nodes and supply points supporting the trail, as well as flying radar patrols, from Forrestal as she steamed in the Gulf of Tonkin. Although many of their targets lay within heavily defended areas bristling with North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunners and surface-to-air missiles, CVW-17 flew more than 150 missions over North Vietnam without losing a single aircraft. Their most significant strike became a massive raid against the Thanh Hoa Bridge Railroad Bypass and Ferry Terminals.
29–30 Jul 1967: Forrestal spent barely five days ‘on the line’ when tragedy struck on Saturday. SN K. Dyke of 1st Division fell overboard over the starboard side at 0316. The ship immediately stopped and backed-up 1/3, then maneuvered slowly in the area searching for SN Dyke. At the same time she launched a helo to scour the area, which spotted the man and directed Rupertus to him, which lowered a motor whaleboat to recover the shaken man, the carrier securing from her man overboard orders by 0513. The ship then launched her first strike of the day. Shortly thereafter during the morning watch Forrestal swung her bow into the wind and the crew prepared to launch their second strike as the ship steamed 050° at 27 knots about 150 miles off the North Vietnamese coast, at approximately 19°9’5”N, 107°23’5”E, at 1050; she began an “early launch” of two Douglas KA-3B Skywarrior tankers from Heavy Attack Squadron (VAH) -10 Detachment 59, a Grumman E-2A Hawkeye from VAW-123 and a Grumman EA-1 Tracer. Two of the four aircraft launched when suddenly, a Zuni 5” rocket accidentally fired, probably from Aircraft No. 110, a McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II (BuNo 153061), LCDR James E. Bangert and LT(JG) Lawrence E. McKay from VF-11, and slammed into either Aircraft No. 405 or 416, an A-4E Skyhawk, further aft on the port side waiting to launch, less than two minutes later. [iii] Within five seconds, the fire, fed by a ruptured 400-gallon fuel tank, rapidly enveloped the Skyhawks on either side of the wounded aircraft. Barely two minutes into the unfolding holocaust the first of many high and low level detonations erupted as the heat started to cook-off bombs, rockets and 20 mm rounds. An explosion shattered the windows of Primary Flight Control, almost bowling CDR David B. Lember over. Rockets and shells shot across the deck, and ejection seats fired into the air. Seven major explosions shook the ship during the first four minutes of the horrific crisis, and some 40,000-gallons of JP-5 jet fuel from aircraft on deck spread the inferno. Huge clouds of black smoke billowed upward, blinding crewmembers racing to battle the flames, which engulfed the fantail and spread to below deck on the 01, 02 and 03 levels, touching off ordnance, trapping some men and wreaking havoc with the crew and ship. Survivors attested to bombs that appeared to be growing red from the heat dropping to the flight deck and blasting holes into the ship. More ruptured fuel tanks spewed volatile jet fuel from beneath aircraft onto the deck, feeding the flames. Some of the liquid sloshed down into the hanger deck where it posed a deadly hazard for men stationed there. Huge gusts of fire shot into the air along the flight deck, trapping pilots in their aircraft with no recourse but to escape through the flames or be incinerated in their cockpits. LCDR Fred D. White, waiting to launch in Aircraft No. 405, leapt out of his Skyhawk. Other men came to his aid but as the first bomb exploded it killed the pilot. LCDR Herbert A. Hope of VA-46 (and operations officer of CVW-17) jumped out of the cockpit of his Skyhawk between explosions, rolled off the flight deck and into a safety net. Making his way down below to the hanger deck, he gallantly took command of a firefighting team. “The port quarter of the flight deck where I was” he recalled, “is no longer there. ” LCDR John S. McCain, III, sitting in Aircraft No. 416 preparing to launch, afterward described the horror: “I thought my aircraft exploded” he recounted as the first blast ripped through the aircraft assembled on the flight deck. “Flames were everywhere”. The young pilot climbed out of his Skyhawk, poised perilously on the A-4C and then leapt through the flames and ran for his life. As he did so the naval aviator saw another pilot jump and roll clear of his aircraft but the flames caught his uniform ablaze. LCDR McCain turned back to help the man when a bomb exploded and knocked him off his feet and backward about 10 feet. He never saw his shipmate again. The son of the famed pioneering admiral in naval aviation, LCDR McCain would survive being shot down and held as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese (1967 through 1973) ; he eventually received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart, and went on to a prominent political career. Nearby LT(JG) Lee V. Twyford also ran in to help a couple of men play a hose onto the conflagration as the detonation bowled him over. Climbing to his feet he saw the hose torn and spilling water over the deck, both men struck down saving their ship. Another man stumbled by LT(JG) Twyford. “He had no clothes, he had no skin” explained the lieutenant. Wounded in his ankle and unable to walk, he crawled below to lend a hand among sailors and marines gathering there. A burst of flames which AE3 Bruce Mulligan of VA-106 described as a “fireball” hurtled toward the crewman, who hit the deck and barely survived as it roared over him. Looking around he spotted two men rolling over on fire, and several near him began to tear at their uniforms in fear and pain as their fabric ignited. As he prepared to help his friends a second explosion knocked him down, and the sailor found himself literally by himself. Undaunted, the young (22-year-old) petty officer headed for a fire hose when fragments flew into him. Nonetheless, AE3 Mulligan helped a friend wounded in the leg down to Sick Bay, and returned to help battle the blaze. Twice more he made his way below to rest, at one point noting that he felt “kinda groggy, ” but returned to help his fellows. AE3 Mulligan passed out the second time but a friend brought him topside, where he finally collapsed from exhaustion later that evening, trying to sleep on a life preserver he used as a pillow up on the flight deck, though only resting fitfully. When a chief ran from burning Hanger Bay No. 3 to call for five volunteers, 30 men joined him to attack the raging fires. LT James J. Campbell recoiled for a few moments in stunned dismay as burning torches tumbled toward him, until their screams awoke him to the peril of his shipmates enveloped in flames and he leapt into action to help them. Repeated explosions blew some men overboard, and others made the deadly leap from the flight deck high above the cooling waters below to escape the inferno. Within the first minute the crew had two hoses on deck, and with the crash and salvage officer and chief directing their efforts, already began to ply one of the lines to battle down the flames; mute testimony to their determination to save their ship. Nonetheless, the first bomb explosions hurtled fire and molten fragments into the hose teams, shredding skin and cutting down the men, which temporarily drove back the firefighters moving toward the scene on the flight deck and cost the crew precious minutes as their shipmates bravely advanced into the fray to take their places. Sailors resolutely manned firefighting equipment and played water upon live ordnance to chill it while others braved the flames to disarm bombs and missiles or roll them overboard, and others moved aircraft forward and out of danger. Men frantically jettisoned ordnance from the ‘bomb farm’ located on the ramp outboard of the island, as well as from the hanger bay and on loaded aircraft, as the fire began to move up the starboard side aft through the row of parked North American RA-5C Vigilantes from Reconnaissance Attack Squadron (RVAH) -11. Fear and the urgency of their emergency produced superhuman strength in some men, and survivors recalled seeing 130-pound LT Otis G. Kight single-handedly carry a 250-pound bomb to the edge of the hanger deck and heave it overboard! LT John E. Carpenter of VA-106 escaped from his aircraft only to discover a man lying on the flight deck with severe arterial bleeding. The pilot remained alongside his shipmate applying a tourniquet to staunch the flow of the precious fluid while bombs and rockets exploded around him, until a corpsman arrived and took over his life-saving efforts. Throughout the day the ship’s medical staff appeared in the midst of fire and smoke to sacrificially assist their comrades. HM2 Paul Streetman, one of 38 corpsmen assigned to the carrier, spent over 11 grueling hours on the mangled flight deck tending to his shipmates. Investigators noted that survivors recalled that ADJ3 James G. Smith “seemed to be everywhere”–throwing bombs over the side, manning hoses in the hanger bay, carrying the wounded out of the 03 level, and at one point hauling a man so badly burned that no one wanted to touch him to first aid, an action that probably saved the wounded man’s life. ABH3 Larry W. Cope of V-1 Division jumped up onto a forklift and completely disregarding his own safety persisted in pushing a Vigilante over the side while flames surrounded him. His shipmates watered him down with a constant stream from a hose while ABH3 Cope persevered through his ordeal. “I am most proud” CAPT John K. Beling observed “of the way the crew reacted. ” At 1117 the ship passed over her 1MC that all men trapped aft by the flames should try to make their way forward via the hanger deck and second deck levels. Beginning at noon the radar systems failed for four crucial minutes, though operators assiduously restored them. SN Milton Parker of S-6 Division fought the fires topside for nine hours, and discovered that the heat of the charred deck literally burned the soles off of his shoes, but commented that “my feet are okay because I put on some flight deck shoes and went back in. ” Down in Hanger Bay No. 2, SFC Daniel H. Ringer of R Division joined a team that could not open the hanger bay doors and had to first cool them down, finally going through the side. At one point they applied salt water to a bulkhead only to watch in dismay as the water turned to steam from the intense heat. The chief made his way up to the flight deck and gathered some men to cut their way through with torches. He finally grabbed some sleep by 1100 on Sunday, but he awoke five hours later to note that fire still re-flashed. “The majority of the men were all right” remembered SFC Ringer. “There was no trouble in getting them to fight the fire. Most of them were eager to help in any way they could. ” The heat, however, became unbearable for many men, and without proper protection some suffered frightful burns as fire ignited their uniforms or literally melted material onto their skin. RADM Lanham reached the bridge and gazed down in horror at the carnage below, noting that the firestorm engulfed the aft end of the flight deck and that men fought to halt the inferno from moving forward. A bosun grabbed his arm and pulled him down, mentioning that the Plexiglas would not be safe. “As I dropped down” reflected the admiral, “another explosion shook the ship. A large piece of shrapnel crashed through the plexiglass where my face was. ” CDR John R. Dewenter, Commander, CVW-17, proudly noted that most of his men “chipped right in” and fought alongside Forrestal’s crew. LTJG Francis R. Guinan observed: “No one had better say to me that American youth are lazy. I saw men working today who were not only injured, but thoroughly exhausted and they had to be carried away. They were trying so hard to help, but were actually becoming a burden. ” Different men reacted to the stress in different ways and the fires trapped 13 sailors in compartment 1-217-4-Q port side aft. As they tried to escape via an alternative door blasts and flying objects forced them back within, and some men bravely attempted to rally their shipmates and seek a way out, while others prayed and still others wept or struggled with their fears. The men finally stumbled over aircraft and yellow equipment and escaped from the hatch near the shop on the hanger deck. The smoke became so thick that even with a few flashlights they could not see more then a couple of feet in front of them and some sailors became separated in the confusion. The large number of casualties quickly overwhelmed the ship’s Sick Bay staff, who worked diligently to treat the ghastly wounds which the disaster inflicted. Meanwhile, the stricken ship signaled her attendant destroyers, Henry W. Tucker and Rupertus–the latter acting as her plane guard–to “Close to assist at best speed. ” Rupertus raced in and her men valiantly played hoses onto the fire, staunchly keeping close aboard to Forrestal’s starboard side, although flames lapped out at them and smoke rapidly enveloped the destroyer. Other ships and aircraft came to the rescue. Destroyer George K. MacKenzie (DD-836) steamed eight miles away as one of attack aircraft carrier Oriskany’s (CVA-34) plane guards when a lookout spotted the smoke, which her historian described as rising up “hundreds of feet into the air, ” from the wounded ship, at about 1100. Oriskany and George K. MacKenzie gathered destroyer Samuel N. Moore (DD-747) and all three ships sped to the scene. George K. MacKenzie recovered three men from the water and took another trio on board from Rupertus’ motor whaleboat, before the destroyer took station on Forrestal’s starboard quarter. The destroyer’s busy crew also directed Samuel N. Moore to pick up a further 11 survivors they spotted in the water. For almost an hour and a half George K. MacKenzie’s firefighting parties sprayed the carrier with as many hoses as they could bring to bear. Henry W. Tucker retraced Forrestal’s route searching for survivors floundering in the water. A Kaman UH-2A Seasprite, ENS Leonard M. Eiland, Jr., ADJ3 James O. James, Jr., and AN Albert E. Barrows of HC-1 Detachment Golf embarked in Oriskany–but flying as an additional plane guard for Forrestal–picked up five men from the water in the first hour alone, and later flew other men to sick bays of nearby ships. Helos from attack aircraft carriers Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) and Oriskany and from the Da Nang area of South Vietnam also raced in to help. Firefighters discovered to their horror that they used their available oxygen breathing apparatuses quickly, but helos from the carriers dropped-off additional apparatuses and canisters to enable men to continue the fight. Antisubmarine warfare support aircraft carrier Intrepid (CVS-11), embarking CVW-10, learned of the fire while en route to Yankee Station from Japanese waters, and she arrived alongside of Forrestal later in the day. Men from Intrepid transferred fog-foam to the smoldering carrier by helos, and sent a medical team over to Oriskany to assist her crew with treating casualties. Explosive ordnance disposal sailors carefully defused unexploded bombs. When LT(JG) Robert P. Cates, the ship’s explosive ordnance demolition officer, noted two bombs–a 500 and a 750 pounder–still smoking in the midst of the flight deck, he disregarded the danger, resolutely walked over to them, defused the bombs and worked with other men to jettison them overboard. The sailors and marines who survived brought the flames under control on the flight deck by 1215, although they continued to clear smoke and to cool hot steel on the 02 and 03 levels until they reported all fires under control by 1342, and finally declared the fire defeated at 0400 the next morning, due to additional flare-ups. Crewmembers searched through smoky or flooded compartments below deck for their fallen friends. Some 132 officers and men died in the catastrophe, two disappeared (missing, presumed dead), and another 62 suffered injuries. Sixteen ANM-65 1,000, four M-117 750 and eight Mk-82 500 pound bombs ripped seven frightful holes through the armored flight deck, and scorches from the intense heat marked the flight deck, while melted and twisted debris and wreckage choked the area. Twenty-one aircraft also sustained enough damage from fire, explosions and salt water to be stricken from naval inventory, including: seven Phantom IIs (BuNos 153046, 153054, 153060, 153061, 153066, 153069 and 153912) ; eleven A-4E Skyhawks (149996, 150064, 150068, 150084, 150115, 150118, 150129, 152018, 152024, 152036 and 152040) ; and three Vigilantes (148932, 149282 and 149305). The crew fought back heroically, however, the men compounded errors due to their lack of intensive firefighting training, and on at least one instance a team beat the fire by laying down a protective covering of foam, only to have a second (well intentioned) team follow them up and wash it away with water, with the flames leaping up almost immediately again and cutting the sailors off. The Navy circulated the lessons which the men of Forrestal re-learned at such cost throughout the Fleet, and the flight deck film of the flight operations, subsequently entitled Learn Or Burn, became mandatory viewing for fire fighting trainees for years. Although investigators could not identify the exact chain of events behind the carnage, they revealed potential maintenance issues including concerns in circuitry (stray voltage) associated with LAU-10 rocket launchers and Zunis, as well as the age of the 1,000 pound ‘fat bombs” loaded for the strike, shards from one of which dated it originally to the Korean War in 1953. The fire also revealed that Forrestal required a heavy duty, armored forklift to jettison aircraft more efficiently, particularly heavier types such as Vigilantes. Investigators did, however, absolve LCDR Bangert and LT(JG) McKay of any errors and noted their exemplary service prior to the catastrophe. Henry W. Tucker escorted Forrestal to rendezvous with hospital ship Repose (AH-16) at 2054, allowing the crew to begin transferring their dead and wounded shipmates at 2253. Shortly thereafter destroyer Bausell (DD-845) also reached the carrier to help.
31 Jul–11 Aug 1967: During murky skies laden with monsoon rains Forrestal somberly moored at Subic Bay on the evening of the 31st to make emergency repairs, however, a minor blaze erupted briefly during her navigation and sea and anchor details. As the crew manned the rails and edged the carrier closer in toward Leyte Pier, a fire broke out among a pile of still smoldering mattresses. Some men stepped away from their stations to respond and quickly extinguished the fire without casualties, though with little of the urgency they displayed during the previous disaster. “They’re probably immune to it by now” mused an officer standing on the pier concerning the reactions of the weary crew, as the fire alarm announcement over the 1MC became clearly audible to people waiting ashore. The damage from the main fire proved to be beyond the means of the facilities there to repair, and the ship continued on to the United States to heal from her wounds. Meanwhile, Henry W. Tucker faithfully shepherded Forrestal to the area and then detached to escort attack aircraft carrier Constellation (CVA-64) toward Vietnamese waters, and Intrepid relieved Forrestal’s place on the line at Yankee Station. Skywarriors from VAH-10 Detachment 59 flew back to NAS Whidbey Island in Washington for immediate redeployment, and Grumman A-6A Intruders from VA-65 transferred to VA-196 embarking Constellation. About 450 relatives and friends of men on board Forrestal attended an inter-faith memorial service at the Chapel of the Good Shepherd at NAS Oceana, on 3 August. As the people left the chapel 16 jets from CVW-17 flew overhead to honor their fallen shipmates. The Navy later dedicated its Farrier Fire Fighting School Learning Site at Norfolk for ABC Gerald W. Farrier, who made the ultimate sacrifice for his fellow crewmembers that terrible day. As the fire erupted the chief grabbed a CO2 bottle and courageously rushed past stunned crewmembers toward the burning aircraft, but the initial explosions killed him instantly.
12–13 Sep 1967: Forrestal returned to the United States when she sailed up the St. John’s River and arrived at NS Mayport at 1830. The ship unloaded aircraft and the crews of squadrons based in Florida, before continuing on at 1300 the next day for Virginian waters. CAPT Beling ordered speed increased to an average of 27 knots to enable the carrier to reach home and loved ones as planned.
14 Sep 1967: As the ship hove into sight during the afternoon watch over 3,000 family members and friends gathered on Pier 12 and on board Randolph, Forrestal’s host ship, burst into frenzied cheering to welcome home their loved ones to Norfolk following the tragic deployment.
19 Sep 1967–8 Apr 1968: Forrestal completed extensive repairs at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. She entered Drydock No. 8 (21 September 1967–10 February 1968). While in the yard the crew manned their battle stations for general quarters drills every other Friday morning, and over 1,000 men attended the five-day dual firefighting and damage control course at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Pennsylvania. The ship floated from drydock and shifted to Berths 42 and 43 in front of the drydock to complete repairs.
8–15 Apr 1968: CAPT Robert B. Baldwin sailed the carrier down the Elizabeth River and out into the waters off the Virginia capes for her post repair trials, the ship’s first time at sea in 207 days. RADM John D. Bulkeley, [iv] President of the Board of Inspection and Survey, and his staff inspected the ship for any discrepancies or concerns requiring additional repairs. While accomplishing trials the ship also recorded her first arrested landing since the fire when CDR Robert E. Ferguson, Commander, CVW-17, trapped on board.
23 Apr–22 May 1968: Forrestal completed refresher training in Caribbean waters. The ship loaded and unloaded her wing at Mayport en route on both voyages, and the crew also went ashore for liberty at Montego Bay in Jamaica.
11–27 Jun 1968: The carrier completed a variety of training exercises and pre-deployment work-ups off Jacksonville, Florida. Although the Navy originally scheduled her training through 5 July, the ship suffered problems with a steam turbine, which forced her to terminate her training before scheduled.
1–20 Jul 1968: Forrestal repaired the turbine at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
27 Jul 1968: Forrestal relieved Shangri-La and commenced operations in the Med, her first return to that sea in three years since the summer of 1965.
17 Aug 1968: LT Robert P. Eicher of VA-34 completed the ship’s 130,000th trap in an A-4C Skyhawk one day out from Marseilles, France, where the ship made a brief stop (9–15 August).
1–3 Oct 1968: Forrestal anchored in Argostoli Bay in Greece for a fleet commander’s conference held on board Independence.
20 Nov 1968: VADM David C. Richardson, Commander, Sixth Fleet, and Senator John C. Stennis of Mississippi, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, visited the ship.
3 Jan–13 Jan 1969: Following a visit to Cannes, France (23 December 1968–3 January 1969) Forrestal operated in the Ionian Sea, before anchoring at the Grand Harbor of Valletta on Malta. Poor weather and high winds caused a cancellation of boating and only allowed a single day of general visiting for curious Maltese.
17–22 Feb 1969: The ship operated in the Aegean Sea after visiting Istanbul in Turkey (10–17 February).
1–17 Mar 1969: Operations in the Adriatic Sea through the 11th afforded the crew the unique opportunity of visiting Trieste in northeastern Italy (11–17 March).
15–19 Apr 1969: Although the ship experienced several uneventful visits to harbors during this deployment, she encountered her second burst of poor weather while making port at Marseilles, when the boating conditions so much that Forrestal cancelled general public visitation.
22 Apr 1969: Attack aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CVA-67) relieved Forrestal during the morning at NS Rota, Spain. At 1900 Forrestal weighed anchor and set sail for home.
29 Apr 1969: Forrestal moored to Pier 12 at Norfolk after an uneventful seven day voyage from the Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar and across the Atlantic, completing a nine-month deployment–her longest to the Mediterranean to date.
5–9 May 1969: Following her return the ship spent several days offloading ammunition.
9 May–1 Aug 1969: Forrestal completed a restricted availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
11 Aug–27 Sep 1969: The ship accomplished a combination of exercises and training evolutions designed to ready her for battle, including refresher training, which took her to Caribbean and western Atlantic waters. Forrestal anchored at Guantánamo Bay on 20 August, and again on 13 September. She also stopped by both times on her way southward and again returning to Pier 12, Norfolk, to load and offload aircraft and their crews from the wing and ammunition at Mayport.
13–17 Oct 1969: The carrier conducted a firepower demonstration for 400 guests of various service colleges. She spent the first two days rehearsing and performed the demonstration on the 16th and 17th.
11–12 Dec 1969: The ship passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean overnight, relieving John F. Kennedy at Pollensa Bay the next morning. Forrestal then proceeded to operate in the western Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas.
10–20 Jan 1970: The carrier visited Marsaxlokk at Malta. Occasional foul winter weather plagued this visit and the crew could only complete two of their four planned days of general visiting for the public, and limiting a third day, due to the dangerous boating conditions.
16 Feb–2 Mar 1970: Forrestal operated in the Ionian Sea (16–23 February) and then again visited Trieste (23 February–2 March). CDR Douglas C. Coleman of RVAH-13 made the 150,000th arresting landing on board Forrestal as she steamed in the Ionian Sea, in a Vigilante on 20 February.
10–19 Mar 1970: Heavy weather again restricted boating conditions for visitors and for liberty parties going ashore, when the ship put into Barcelona, Spain, reducing boating visitation from three days to two.
9–15 Apr 1970: After sailing in the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas (2–9 April), Forrestal anchored at Argostoli Bay in Greece. RADM George C. Talley, Jr., relieved RADM William H. House as Commander, Carrier Division 4, during a ceremony on board, on 10 April.
20 Apr–1 May 1970: The ship anchored off Valletta and St. Paul’s Bay, Malta. Crewmembers contributed to a variety of charitable projects to help people whenever they made port, but this particular visit included a hitherto distinctive event. Some men from the carrier displayed their love of romance when they provided the funds and help to hold a wedding celebration, cake, band and a dowry of $380.00 collected from their shipmates, for the marriage of two Maltese at an orphanage at Gozo.
1–23 May 1970: Following her Maltese call the carrier steamed in the Ionian Sea, broken by a call at the Greek capital of Athens (7–18 May). Chief of Naval Operations (Designate) VADM Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., visited the ship to observe flight operations overnight on 22 and 23 May. During his stay the affable admiral also answered questions from the crew and sailors from WFOR-TV, the ship’s television station, interviewed the prospective and outspoken CNO.
23–27 May 1970: Forrestal anchored at Argostoli Bay. Unfortunately, the ship did not hold liberty call for her disappointed crew.
28 May–4 Jun 1970: The ship put into Corfu.
4–21 Jun 1970: After steaming in the Ionian Sea for Operation Dawn Patrol, a joint NATO readiness exercise to prepare for possible East Bloc attacks in the event of a European war, Forrestal anchored in Souda Bay at Crete (4–9 June). The Sixth Fleet intended Forrestal to visit Naples on 16 June, however, civil strife erupted in Jordan, forcing the ship to curtail her visit and rush to the eastern Mediterranean. The carrier patrolled that area and prepared to provide air support to cover evacuations of Americans from Jordan, but the situation calmed and she came about and made for her abbreviated visit to Naples, on the 21st.
28–29 Jun 1970: Forrestal departed the Mediterranean and conducted an underway turnover with Saratoga the next day.
13 Jul–25 Sep 1970: The ship offloaded her ammunition at Norfolk ammunition anchorage through 17 July; she then moored to Pier 5, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, to complete a restricted availability.
30 Sep 1970: Forrestal hosted the change of command ceremony for Commander in Chief Atlantic Command and Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, when ADM Charles K. Duncan relieved ADM Ephraim P. Holmes, at Pier 12 at NS Norfolk. Secretary of the Navy John H. Chaffee, Jr., led the entourage of dignitaries present.
1–9 Oct 1970: The carrier stood out of Norfolk for post repair trials, returning to onload ammunition (5–9 October).
16–30 Oct 1970: Whenever carriers assigned to the Atlantic Fleet completed restricted availabilities at this time, they normally conducted their refresher training and carrier qualifications in Caribbean waters. As an experiment and economy measure, however, Forrestal accomplished her scheduled training and qualifications off the Virginia Capes, broken only be a brief return to Norfolk on 22 October.
30 Nov–7 Dec 1970: While training and working-up, Forrestal witnessed a unique operation when two Air Force pilots, MAJ George Weeks, USAF, an exchange officer assigned to VF-11, and LCOL Clifford Allison, USAF (the radar intercept officer serving from the staff of Commander, Second Fleet) flying with that squadron, landed their F-4B Phantom IIs for what the ship’s Command History Report referred to as an “all-Air Force carrier landing, ” on 5 December.
5–24 Jan 1971: While en route to the Mediterranean, Forrestal onloaded VA-81, VA-83 and RVAH-7, the remaining squadrons of CVW-17, at Mayport on the 7th; she then conducted an operational readiness inspection (13–15 January), and anchored off St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands on the 15th. The carrier then continued onward steaming easterly courses, arriving at NS Rota to relieve Independence on 24 January. Grumman EA-6B Prowlers of Marine Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron (VMAQ) -2 embarked for this initial phase of the deployment. Forrestal steamed through the Strait of Gibraltar in the Mediterranean that night.
29 Jan–3 Feb 1971: The ship made her first visit to a Mediterranean port during this deployment to the Sixth Fleet when she anchored off Valletta’s sea wall. Choppy seas interfered with liberty ashore and visitation by the normally friendly Maltese, however, and forced Forrestal to restrict visitation.
3–8 Feb 1971: While steaming in the Ionian Sea Forrestal received word that Panamanian-flagged ore ship Flamingo lost power and drifted at the mercy of the wind and tide off southern Italy, on 7 February. Sixth Fleet destroyers attempted to take her in tow, however, rough seas prevented them from aiding the stricken ship. Forrestal sent four Sikorsky SH-3D Sea Kings from HS-3 through winds gusting up to 60 knots and over what the ship’s Command History Report described as “extremely heavy seas” to rescue all 20 crewmembers and passengers from Flamingo. The carrier’s crew fed and provided medical attention to the survivors, who they flew on to Naval Air Facility (NAF) Sigonella in Sicily the next day to be transported to reunions with their loved ones.
8–10 Feb 1971: As Forrestal anchored in St. Paul’s Bay at Malta, Secretary of the Navy Chaffee and VADM Isaac C. Kidd, Jr., Commander, Sixth Fleet, paid the ship a visit. The secretary appeared on Forrestal’s WFOR-TV for a question and answer session with the crew and presented medals to the 16 men who participated in the rescue of the people from Flamingo. Secretary Chaffee also gave the crew the exciting news that they could wear civilian clothing while on liberty and to store them on board as a feasibility study for wider circulation. The concept proved so popular amongst sailors that the Sixth Fleet later adopted the policy throughout the Mediterranean. Previously, only officers, chiefs and first class petty officers enjoyed that privilege.
10–22 Feb 1971: The carrier operated in the Ionian Sea, during which she hosted a visit on the 18th by the American ambassador to the Netherlands and the Dutch Foreign Minister Joseph Luns, who later became the Secretary General of NATO.
22 Feb–2 Mar 1971: As Forrestal put into Valletta poor weather restricted visiting.
12–17 Mar 1971: The ship steamed in the Aegean Sea. Former West German Air Force Chief of Staff GEN Johannes Steinhoff, newly-elected as the Chairman of NATO Military Committee, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe [SHAPE], visited for a carrier orientation (12–13 March).
1–3 Apr 1971: Following a brief visit to Athens, Forrestal transited the Strait of Messina and anchored off Naples to off-load a damaged aircraft, however, rough seas precluded the transfer from the carrier to a barge, so Forrestal stood out of the bay into the Tyrrhenian Sea before she could return the next day as the weather calmed to complete the transfer.
28 Apr–17 May 1971: Forrestal participated in Operation Dawn Patrol, a NATO air and sea exercise involving more than 60 ships and submarines and over 300 aircraft from the American, British, Greek, Italian and Turkish forces. Dawn Patrol took the carrier from the western Mediterranean to the Tyrrhenian Seas and back again as the struggle for supremacy between the ‘rival powers’ sea-sawed across the region during the simulated war. A VF-11 Phantom II, LT William G. Pfeiffer and LT(JG) Jake T. Walters, Jr., lost its right main landing gear after bolstering, on 2 May. The crew erected the emergency barricade and LT Pfeiffer landed the Phantom II safely. Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard visited during his tour of American military installations ashore in Europe and ships operating in European waters.
16–22 May 1971: The ship visited Naples. Before Forrestal entered port aircraft performed a “massive” flyover as the height of the 20th anniversary celebration of the establishment of Allied Forces South Europe [AFSOUTH].
25–26 May 1971: Following a transit of the Strait of Messina the carrier anchored at Argostoli. ADM Horacio Rivero, Jr., Commander-in-Chief South, RADM Pierre N. Charbonnet, Jr., Commander, Fleet Air Forces Mediterranean, and RADM George L. Cassell, Deputy Commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe, stayed on board overnight.
11–13 Jun 1971: Following a visit to Corfu (3–11 June) the ship steamed in the Ionian Sea to hold flight operations, during which Belgian MGEN Avi I. Du Monceau, commanding their Tactical Air Force, visited the carrier, on the 12th and 13th.
14 Jun 1971: Forrestal entered the western Mediterranean. Cartoonist Henry K. “Hank” Ketchum, a chief photographic specialist during World War II who created the cartoon character Half Hitch, a naval counterpart to the Army’s Sad Sack, and who went on after the war to develop his more popularly known comic protagonist Dennis the Menace, visited the ship at the behest of ADM Zumwalt to interview sailors concerning changes in their service and lifestyles since 1945.
27–30 Jun 1971: Saratoga relieved Forrestal at Rota, and VMAQ-2 crossdecked over to Saratoga. The ship then immediately sailed for home on the same day. While en route to the United States three days later, RADM Donald D. Engen relieved RADM Talley as Commander, Carrier Division 4. Meanwhile on the same day, Forrestal attempted an evolution she hitherto never before completed when she offloaded most of her ordnance to ammunition ships while still returning from deployment, alleviating the need to spend time at the ammunition anchorage and the back-breaking hours that her men would spend after doing so after completing an exhausting deployment and while needing rest and time with their families.
2 Jul 1971: At about 1300 Forrestal rounded Sewell’s Point in Hampton Roads and moored to Pier 12 at Norfolk.
16 Jul 1971–10 Apr 1972: Shortly after noon the ship stood down the channel to offload her remaining ammunition, and then she entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for an overhaul. Forrestal completed work in drydock (28 August–2 December 1971). Among the many projects which the crew and shipyard workers completed while she remained in drydock, they removed the posts for both rudders to check them for wear, the first time that such work was accomplished since the ship commissioned. She then moored to Pier 5 at the yard, where she remained until 10 April, when ongoing international tensions generated by NATO and Warsaw Pact rivalry over the European balance of power forced her to curtail her work two months earlier than originally scheduled to relieve America, herself ordered to relieve John F. Kennedy, which became overdue to return home.
10 Apr–28 Jun 1972: At various times during this period the ship completed her type training and carrier qualification exercises off the Virginia Capes instead of in Cuban waters, because her accelerated deployment precluded the usual refresher training conducted off Guantánamo Bay. RADM Frederick C. Turner relieved RADM William D. Hauser as Commander, Carrier Division 2, during a ceremony on board, on 18 May. During these trials (16–28 June), the ship also celebrated her first operations with Grumman F-14As when two Tomcats (BuNos 158613 and 158614) completed a number of trials on board Forrestal.
10 Jul–18 Aug 1971: A fire broke out on the 03 Level in Flag Country during the early morning hours. The blaze gutted the flag mess and galley, as well as flag living quarters. Peripheral heat and smoke damage extended considerably after and slightly forward of the main fire area. Firemen from Naval Station Norfolk valiantly backed-up crewmembers who rushed to contain and extinguish the blaze, which they finally controlled by about 1500 during the afternoon watch, however, investigators could not penetrate the heat and smoke adequately for almost two days, so heavily did the blaze engulf the area. Although the ship did not report any casualties, investigators later apprehended and charged YNSN Jeffrey Allison, a yeoman assigned to the staff of Commander, Carrier Division 2, for setting the fire, which gutted spaces, destroyed sophisticated CIC electronics equipment and wiring, and inflicted total damages estimated at $7.5 million. Forrestal steamed under her own power to Norfolk Naval Shipyard for repairs, returning to Pier 12, Norfolk.
29 Sep 1972: Forrestal arrived at Rota during her 10th Mediterranean deployment. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) -531, flying F-4B Phantom IIs, relieved VF-74, which transitioned to F-4Js on board Forrestal. The latter squadron deployed with CVW-8 embarking America.
6 Oct 1972: The ship rendezvoused with attack aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) at Pollensa Bay. Both carriers conducted cross-decking to transfer flag officers and their staffs as Commander, Carrier Division 6 and his staff left Forrestal to embark in Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Commander, Carrier Division 2/Commander, Task Force 60 embarked in Forrestal.
20 Feb 1972: When Forrestal sailed from Istanbul, Turkey, her first visit to that crossroads of the Orient since 1969, she departed without a pair of marines from VMFA-531, who the Turks detained in Istanbul on charges of possession of drugs. The Turks later returned one of the men to U. S. custody, however, the other man remained in the notorious Turkish prison system.
22 Oct 1972: An Olympic Airways NAMC YS-11 airliner crashed after taking off from Athens International Airport during reduced visibility conditions, off the coast of Voula near Athens. Four SH-3D Sea Kings from HS-3 embarking Forrestal, the only helicopter crews in the immediate area qualified for night rescues, flew to the scene and assisted in the rescue of three crewmembers and 16 passengers, however, 37 people (one crewmember and 36 passengers) died during the crash or by drowning–although the Sea King crews did not locate survivors they recovered one of the bodies. Ironically, throughout this period controversy concerning the homeporting of a Sixth Fleet carrier in Athens manifested itself through adverse publicity by the media, and servicemembers on liberty ashore experienced a number of altercations with Greek taxicab drivers during several visits to Athens, though not during a stop at Thessaloniki. One of the reasons that the situation gradually diffused became the practice by Forrestal crewmembers of renting a civilian nightclub (a closed discothèque) near the fleet landing, which offered sailors and marines a reasonable alternative to civilian establishments, of arranging a direct-dial overseas telephone and of improving shore patrol communications system.
8 Nov 1972: A Sea King crew from HS-3 conducted an anti-submarine exercise with Italian guided missile escort cruiser Andrea Doria (C-553).
12–19 Nov 1972: Forrestal participated in National Week 14, a multi-national NATO exercise involving the Sixth Fleet and a number of countries bordering the Mediterranean designed to improved tactics in modern naval warfare, assist NATO commands in training for operations, and to find weaknesses in concepts and communications. A post exercise brief and general board meeting on board the carrier at Souda Bay at Crete concluded the exercise, on the 18th and 19th. In addition, two Sea King crews from HS-3 detached from the carrier to fast combat support ship Seattle (AOE-3) to fly experimental anti-submarine missions from a “non-aviation ship” during the exercise.
20 Nov 1972: As Forrestal prepared to leave Souda Bay a ground accident interrupted her departure. Crewmembers taxied Helo No. 007, a Sea King (BuNo 156499) from HS-3, to a wash rack in close proximity to a hanger, when suddenly the rotor blades struck the hanger door. Flying pieces of 007’s rotor blades killed two men, including HM1 Richard H. Nadeau of the ship’s company, and seriously injured a third sailor.
21–27 Nov 1972: When the ship visited Athens unfavorable media reaction reached its peak due to another confrontation between a Greek taxicab driver and a pair of sailors from Forrestal. The Greek government prosecuted the sailors, despite the efforts of CAPT James B. Linder to return the men to U. S. jurisdiction. The attention this incident received across European media prompted the rapid enforcement of the policies ashore that the crew developed during this deployment. During subsequent visits, including an extended stay over Christmas and New Years to enable the crew and their dependents to enjoy charter flights to loved ones, the crew succeeded in reducing these liberty incidents.
28–30 Nov 1972: Aircraft conducted two days of cross-deck operations with their British counterparts from aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (R-09) in the southeastern Mediterranean.
6–10 Dec 1972: The ship visited Rhodes, however, high seas and a strong tidal current in the Bay of Rhodes prevented normal boating, making it possible only for dependents and their sponsors to disembark the carrier. In addition, AN C. E. Roberts of VAQ-135 leapt into the bay on the 8th. Two helo crews from HS-3 conducted an extensive search but could not recover their shipmate due to the extremely heavy seas, high winds and poor visibility.
18 Feb 1973: Beginning on this date Forrestal participated in National Week 15, conducting the post exercise de brief in Augusta Bay.
28–31 Mar 1973: While preparing to take part in NATO exercises, Forrestal received orders directing her to proceed to Tunisian waters at speed to assist victims of a flood in the Medjerda River Valley of that North African country. The carrier led two other Sixth Fleet ships, a destroyer and an amphibious assault ship, toward Tunis, where Forrestal appeared at first light on the 29th (about 13 hours after receiving the request) ready to assist the beleaguered people of the area. Altogether, helo crews flew about 40 sorties, pulling 729 persons from the rapidly rising waters, moving 27 tons of cargo, lifting 17 doctors to evacuation centers, carrying an emergency appendectomy to the carrier, and evacuating the entire sheep herd–227 sheep–from one flooded village. Sea Kings flying from Forrestal evacuated about 200 people and airlifted four tons of relief supplies to flood victims. In addition, the carrier's bakery provided 1,200 loaves of bread for distribution, and crew members contributed money to buy supplies for homeless children. Many of the ship’s air traffic controllers joined men from the Operations and Air Operations Departments as a detachment ashore at Tunis Airfield, where they worked from the control center directing flights. In addition to the danger the men faced due to the bitter weather, they also exercised considerable skills dealing with Tunisians who desired to remain with their homes and livestock, regardless of the rising flood waters or incessant downpours. As the crisis began to subside on the third day, Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba decorated RADM Turner and CAPT Linder for their efforts on behalf of his countrymen. French, Italian, Libyan and Tunisian disaster relief teams also supported the efforts of Sixth Fleet crews.
14 Apr 1973: The ship anchored at Kithira, accompanied by several Soviet ships. Forrestal conducted flight operations while anchored, an unusual evolution that appeared to greatly interest the Russians.
4–14 Jun 1973: The ship participated in Dawn Patrol NATO exercises.
25–27 Jun 1973: Forrestal stood out of Palma de Mallorca, where she put in for a brief visit (16–24 June), and from where her “early bird” charter flight flew off for home, and steamed westerly courses to Rota. After turning over to her relief, she passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic.
6 Jul 1973: By the time the ship returned to Pier 12 at NS Norfolk, aircraft completed 11,957 recoveries and flew 28,355 total flight hours, accomplishing 13,731 sorties, during this deployment. The carrier steamed underway 148 days, and made port 140 days at anchor.
Aug–2 Nov 1973: The first week of the month found Forrestal in Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a three-month overhaul, during which a major project became replacing the hanger bay sprinkler system and other firefighting equipment with more modern systems. The crisis that erupted in the Middle East due to the Arab attack against the Israelis (known variously as the Yom Kippur, October, Ramadan or Fourth Arab-Israeli War, 6–26 October), precipitated frenzied shipyard activity and crewmembers joined civilan laborers working at what the ship’s Command History Report described as a “feverpitch” for seven days a week for a month. Shipyard workers went into extra shifts and these collective efforts brought Forrestal out of overhaul two months earlier then planned.
26 Nov 1973: Lockheed S-3A Vikings accomplished their first landings on board Forrestal during carrier qualifications as the ship steamed off the Virginia capes. In addition, crewmembers claimed that the ship attained 34-knots during these trials, exceeding her designed speed after years of service and wear.
14 Dec 1973: Tomcats returned to the ship during carrier qualifications on board off the Virginia capes. LCDR Commander Warren B. Christie, Jr., however, ejected from his LTD A-7E when the Corsair II malfunctioned at 22,000 feet. The carrier’s plane guard helo rescued the pilot during his ordeal.
31 Dec 1973–1 Jan 1974: The crew saw the old New Year out and welcomed the new one in with a party in Hanger Bay No. 1, while moored at Pier 12, which many men from ships berthed in company also attended.
7–18 Jan 1974: The ship underwent carrier qualifications off the east coast in preparation for her operational readiness evaluation. Of significance concerns her urgent need to moor at Mayport on the 19th, to investigate Corsair II minor engine problems.
14 Mar 1974: Forrestal relieved Franklin D. Roosevelt in mid-Atlantic waters while en route to the Mediterranean.
20–21 Mar 1974: Forrestal passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and arrived for duty in the Mediterranean, putting into Rota. Extended deployments and long line periods produced a nearly intolerable strain on sailors and marines, fueled by racial tensions endemic throughout the armed forces, and a racial incident flared up on board Forrestal. LTJG Abraham R. Stowe, the ship’s Assistant Electronics Material Officer, recalled that they learned about racial crises on board other ships including attack aircraft carriers Constellation and Kitty Hawk (CVA-63), and then began to experience problems during this deployment. The officer–himself an African American–related how the operations officer announced during an all-officer’s meeting in the operations department that sailors had discovered a burning cross on board. When the men discussed the hateful symbol and how it could insult shipmates, Stowe replied: “…as a black man I’m going to advise this group that when a burning cross is found, a white person might wonder, or possibly construe that as a racial slur. But a black person, there is no question about what the meaning of that is. ” Stowe recommended to his chain of command that they approach what he described as a systemic problem and quickly diffuse it, though they (apparently) did not locate the culprits of the hate crime, and he spent most of the remainder of the cruise on “pins and needles. ” The crew did not experience any additional problems, however, and Stowe noted that most of his shipmates served proudly, and that they returned to a routine of pride and professionalism as quickly as the men could under the trying circumstances.
22 Mar 1974–5 Jun 1975: RADM Brian McCauley arrived in Cairo, Egypt, with a small military planning staff to clear the Suez Canal of wreckage and unexploded ordnance resulting from fighting between the Arabs and Israelis since 1967 (the Six-Day War, War of Attrition and Yom Kippur or October War), which closed the vital artery to international shipping. Operations Nimbus Star directed Navy minesweeping efforts of the canal; Nimbus Moon (water) focused on training and assisting Egyptian mine clearance and salvage operations, and Nimbus Moon (land) directed Army explosive ordnance disposal teams to train and supervise Egyptians ashore. The British and French also participated in the extensive program. The Navy established contingency Task Force 65 on 8 April 1974, the first teams of which began their crucial work from amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima (LPH-2), initially anchored in Port Said harbor. A Sikorsky RH-53D Sea Stallion from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) -12 lifted off from Iwo Jima, picked up a Mk 105 magnetic minesweeping sled from support people ashore, and began sweeping the approaches to Port Said, on the 22nd. Task Force 65 grew proportionately to the magnitude of the problem and tank landing ships Barnstable County (LST-1197) and Boulder (LST-1190), salvage ships Escape (ARS-6) and Opportune (ARS-41) and heavy lift craft Crilley (YHLC-1) and Crandall (YHLC-2) were among vessels that later joined Nimbus Star, and amphibious assault ship Inchon (LPH-12) relieved Iwo Jima in mid-May 1974. Meanwhile, through Operation Nimrod Spar they cleared 10 large ships and a number of smaller vessels such as dredges which the Egyptians scuttled as blockships in 1967. The canal finally reopened to maritime commercial traffic on 5 June 1975. Whenever Forrestal operated in the Mediterranean during this period, her aircraft often received tasking regarding flying reconnaissance, combat air patrol and support missions for Task Force 65.
1 Apr 1974: Forrestal operated in the central Mediterranean to back-up America, which steamed in the eastern Mediterranean to be ready to respond to a Middle East crisis. Israeli and Syrian tanks and artillery dueled and Israeli aircraft bombed Syrian troops along the Golan Heights many times during this tense period.
4 Apr 1974: Helos from HS-3 joined with destroyer Davis (DD-937) to track and make simulated attacks against attack submarine Greenling (SSN-614). The exercises afforded crewmembers the opportunity to evaluate coordinated aircraft tactics.
28 Apr–2 May 1974: Forrestal participated in Dawn Patrol, a two-phase NATO exercise.
11 May–16 Jun 1974: Following a visit to Athens (5–11 May), the ship covertly transited the Mediterranean to take part in Umpire’s Decision (15–27 May), a carrier strike exercise in the eastern Atlantic and western Mediterranean. Passing through the Strait of Gibraltar on the 15th, she conducted what HS-3’s Command History Report emphasized as “special coordinated operations” in the vicinity of the Canary Islands. Aircraft played cat-and-mouse with the men of Tinosa (SSN-606) as they hunted the attack submarine in simulated wartime conditions. An HS-3 helo from the carrier rescued a man overboard from escort ship Patterson (DE-1061) within six minutes after he entered the water, on 30 May. Forrestal passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and returned to the Mediterranean the next day, in time to commence International Week II, a major NATO exercise with four other countries in the western Mediterranean over 4 and 8 June. Forrestal anchored in Soudha Bay on Crete to allow her first group of midshipmen to disembark and a second group to embark, after which she continued on to Corfu for a brief visit (10–16 June). At least once during this period she also operated with America.
17–20 Jun 1974: While the ship participated in Operation Poopdeck, an exercise with the Spaniards, HS-3 crews flew Spanish President Don Carlos A. Navaro, Duke of Calabria, and VADM Daniel J. Murphy, Commander, Sixth Fleet, out to the ship to view the flight operations, on the 19th.
8–9 Jul 1974: An F-4J Phantom II, LT Irwin H. Nelson and LTJG Bruce A. Ridley of VF-74, crashed while conducting operations from Forrestal. Although SH-3D crews from HS-3 searched the area for 40 hours, they failed to locate either of the men. In addition, the harried Sea King crewmembers also assisted a merchant ship afire.
11 Jul 1974: An RA-5C Vigilante (BuNo 156614), LT Wesley N. Rutledge and LTJG Larry S. Parr of RVAH-6, experienced a bomb bay fire that caused a loss of hydraulics, about four minutes after launching from Forrestal. A helo from HS-3 rescued both men after they ejected.
15 Jul–2 Sep 1974: Greek Cypriot National Guardsmen and their officers from the Greek Army seized control of the government of Cyprus. The Americans held America at Rota (the Navy originally scheduled her to return to Norfolk) and Forrestal (initially anticipating a visit to Athens, Greece) in the central Med due to the rapidly deteriorating situation on the island. By the 19th Forrestal steamed southwest of Crete, about a day’s sail from Cypriot waters. The next day Turkish troops began landing at the Kyrenia area of northern Cyprus and their paratroopers stormed down near Nicosia. Fighting continued between rival Greeks, Turks and Cypriots–some of whom supported the Greeks and some fought with the Turks–until they agreed upon a cease fire which took effect at 1700 on 22 July (though violations occurred afterward). The Turks halted their offensive as they took control of the northern third of the island, digging-in along their ‘Atilla Line’ extending from Lefka on the west through Nicosia to Famagusta on the east. Meanwhile on 20 July, a helo flying from Forrestal spotted Douce Folie 2, a small yacht crippled by a recent storm and adrift. The crew suffered in dire straights without fresh water and the helo crew dropped the survivors a container of cold water alongside, which they eagerly retrieved. Through that day and into the next helo crews also participated in a 30-hour search for a downed Sea Stallion flying from Inchon. In addition, the next day the busy SH-3D men of HS-3 also retrieved a man who fell overboard from the carrier. As a result of the Cypriot conflict United States Ambassador Roger Davies requested the evacuation of Americans trapped by the fighting, on the 22nd. Vice Admiral Murphy broke his flag from guided missile light cruiser Little Rock (CLG-4), from which he directed sailors and marines from Task Force 61 for Operation Patience, the U. S. response. People journeyed from the capital of Nicosia to a British installation at Dhekelia in a convoy of private vehicles, where helos from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) -362 operating from Inchon evacuated 466 persons, 384 of them United States citizens, in 22 sorties over only five hours, to amphibious transport dock Coronado (LPD-11) steaming offshore. Coronado carried the evacuees to Beirut, Lebanon, in an 11-hour transit, disembarking her passengers there the next day. Amphibious transport dock Trenton (LPD-14), dock landing ship Spiegel Grove (LSD-32) and tank landing ship Saginaw (LST-1188) also participated in the evacuations. Aircraft flying from Forrestal including Phantoms of VF-11 and VF-74 covered the dangerous operation. Meanwhile, British helos from a task force including aircraft carrier HMS Hermes (R-12), destroyer HMS Devonshire (D-02), frigates HMS Brighton (F-106) and HMS Ryl (F-129) and a tanker and a supply ship rescued at least 1,630 people from beaches around Kyrenia and along the northern coast of the island. British Royal Air Force (RAF) Hercules’ and additional aircraft also flew people out from King’s Field. Hermes carried 219 people–114 Americans and the balance foreign nationals from 19 countries–to a British field at Akrotiri. From there landing craft transferred the people in a little over four hours to Trenton as she anchored offshore. Trenton then moved to a point south of Dhekelia where British helos from Hermes lifted an additional 85 evacuees to her. Accompanied by escort ship Blakely (DE-1072) she then made for Beirut, where the ship offloaded her passengers the next day, on the 25th. Forrestal steamed to the south of Cyprus with guided missile frigate William H. Standley (DLG-31) and escort ships Jesse L. Brown (DE-1098) and Patterson (DE-1061), monitoring the situation as the firmness of the cease-fire remained in doubt among observers. Aircraft carrier Independence, which sailed with CVW-7 from the east coast on the 19th, arrived off the southwest of Crete after a hurried transit to support Forrestal, on 4 August. The ships subsequently came about to depart from the area, however, during mob rioting a sniper shot and killed Ambassador Davies in Nicosia on 19 August. Marines stood to at the embassy to hold back the angry crush and urgent messages recalled Sixth Fleet ships including Forrestal, Independence and Inchon, which returned from their duties across the Mediterranean to again operate off the embattled island. Among some of the ships that participated in these operations were: Independence, Inchon, Coronado, Trenton, Saginaw, Spiegel Grove, guided missile frigates Dahlgren (DLG-12) and William H. Standley, destroyer Richard E. Kraus (DD-849) and escort ships Blakely, Bowen (DE-1079), Jesse L. Brown and Patterson. Altogether, the Americans handled 752 evacuees including 498 United States citizens. The Turkish invasion forced Archbishop Makarios to escape from the island to seek international support during the crisis, and he could not return to resume his obligations until 7 December 1974.
9 Sep 1974: Tropical Storm Elaine threatened to overtake Forrestal and her escorts with winds reaching 70 mph as they returned home across the Atlantic, beginning about 1,000 miles southeast of Norfolk. The ship also rendezvoused with America, which allowed VAW-126 to cross-deck over to the latter during a potentially dangerous evolution.
10 Sep 1974: A boiler explosion ripped through tanker Eliane of Global Bulk Carriers, Inc., of Liberian registry. Forrestal responded to her distress and evacuated two crewmembers to Sick Bay, and sailors took them from there on to the mainland. One man died from his horrendous burns, though the other survived his ordeal. Some crewmembers noted the similarities between the names of the storm and ship.
11 Sep 1974: Forrestal returned from her deployment to Pier 12 at Norfolk. Aircraft completed 8,750 sorties, 16,906 flight hours and 8,121 traps during the deployment.
5–16 Mar 1975: En route to the Mediterranean, Forrestal received a call for assistance from Liberian freighter Freights Queen, which suffered a catastrophic explosion. Searchers discovered one body, a life raft and some debris. During this deployment four EA-6B Prowlers of VAQ-134 also embarked with CVW-17, an important reorganization of the wing.
17 Mar–16 May 1975: The ship relieved Saratoga at Rota on the 17th. Forrestal barely arrived in the Mediterranean, however, when her No. 1 shaft support bearing failed, requiring a hitherto unprecedented decision to bring shipyard workers all the way from Norfolk to replace the bearing and worn shaft while continuing her operations underway. Arrangements and planning took time, and the carrier stopped briefly at Augusta Bay before she anchored at Taranto for a few days to enable workers and crewmembers to bring her back to full duty, on 16 May. In the interim, Forrestal took part in Shabaz 75.
22 May 1975: Forrestal sailed from Taranto and conducted a joint ship attack exercise with Franklin D. Roosevelt. Aircraft flew low level navigation over Sicily and southern Italy during the exercise.
25–28 Jun 1975: Forrestal stood out of Palma de Mallorca for flight operations in the western Mediterranean. Shortly before nightfall on the 25th, Buckeye 511, an A-6E (BuNo 152918), LTJGs Lloyd T. Hunt and Brian L. Cardiff of VA-85, collided in mid-air with Aircraft No. 611, a Grumman EA-6B (BuNo 158814), LCDR Joseph R. Capute, LT William B. Bierbower and LTJG Robert W. McConchie from VAQ-134. Although the crew enjoyed a mostly clear evening, lookouts reported some haze. The aircraft launched by 1855 but flew separate missions–the Prowler crew investigated a shipping contact during their submarine and surface surveillance coordination plan, and the Intruder flew spar bombing and ‘basic airwork practice. ’ As the two aircraft completed their runs and returned to Marshal (Forrestal), they turned into a 30° left bank turn toward the inbound heading and slammed into each other, near 38°40’N, 4°30’E, at 2001. Buckeye 511 rolled three to five times to the left and 611 pitched down and rolled left, at which point the crew ejected. Although searchers rescued the other men they could not recover LTJG Cardiff, and despite an exhaustive search overnight they terminated further efforts and declared the naval aviator “lost at sea” at 1740 on the 26th. The crew held a memorial service for their fallen shipmate two days later as the ship transited the Strait of Messina.
2–18 Jul 1975: Following a visit to Naples (2–6 July) the carrier spent a week operating in Mediterranean waters before she anchored off Bari, Italy, for a four-day visit, and then she moved on to Augusta Bay. While Forrestal anchored briefly there (17–18 July), Commander, Task Force 60 shifted his flag to John F. Kennedy, and Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group 12 broke his flag from Forrestal.
26 Jul–16 Aug 1975: Forrestal extended a stay in Naples (26 July–7 August) as her arrival coincided with Settima Aeromotonautica week, a series of celebrations which the Neapolitans set aside within the Bay of Naples area involving water and motor sports. The ship then participated in National Week exercises with John F. Kennedy. An Intruder experienced a mishap on the 10th, however, both men escaped without serious injuries. A highlight of National Week became a strike force tactics exercise with John F. Kennedy on the 13th.
17 Aug 1975: Another A-6E suffered an accident, though both men escaped.
31 Aug 1975: Aircraft took part in a close air assault exercise over southern Sardinia.
12–13 Sep 1975: Forrestal arrived at Rota, put in for 12-hours and then sailed for home.
22 Sep 1975: By the time Forrestal returned to Pier 12 at Norfolk, aircraft flew 13,433 sorties and 24,946 flight hours and made 12,321 recoveries during the deployment.
27 Oct 1975–1 Feb 1976: The carrier completed a selective restricted availability at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. She spent several days anchored offloading ammunition (27–30 October) and the remainder of the time in the yard.
1–20 Feb 1976: The ship accomplished sea trials.
17–26 Mar 1976: CVW-17 embarked for refresher training off the east coast.
1–8 Jul 1976: Forrestal sailed from Norfolk with Task Force 200 to New York harbor as the host ship for the International Naval Review, to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the United States from the British crown. The carrier arrived on the 3rd and Governor Brendan T. Byrne of New Jersey and Mayor Abraham D. Beame of New York City, visited the ship. From the flight deck the next day President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., rang in the Bicentennial 13 times, symbolizing the original Thirteen Colonies and triggering the simultaneous ringing of bells across America, and then beginning at 1406 he delivered an address as the keynote speaker during ceremonies on board Forrestal honoring the birth of the Republic. The President then reviewed 40 “tall ships” from countries across the globe from the carrier. A huge entourage of distinguished guests also attended including Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller, Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of the Navy J. William Middendorf, III, Chief of Naval Operations ADM James L. Holloway, III, ADM Isaac C. Kidd, Jr., Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, Chairman Emil Mosbacher, Jr., of Operation Sail, Governor Byrne, Mayor Beame, John W. Warner, Administrator of the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, Prince and Princesses Rainier III [Rainier L. H.M. B. Grimaldi], Grace and Caroline [Louise Marguerite] of Monaco, and Crown Prince and Princess Harold and Sonya of Norway.
23–26 Aug 1976: The ship took part in a special shock test, which involved detonating high explosives near her hull to determine if a capital ship can withstand the strain of close quarter battle and remain operational.
1 Oct 1976–24 Jun 1977: The carrier completed a nine-month overhaul at Norfolk, during which many men lived ashore at Dale Hall barracks in Portsmouth, Virginia. Crewmembers worked two daily shifts and civilian workers manned three shifts around-the-clock. The New Year found the ship in Drydock No. 8, which shipyard workers flooded up to the 17-foot level on Forrestal’s hull to test sea valves and hull work they performed, and lit-off the emergency diesels, over 14 and 15 January. Workers pumped-up the drydock the next day due to excessive leaks in some of the ship’s pipes. Forrestal left the drydock and moored starboard side to Pier 5 at the shipyard, on 22 January. The ship sailed to complete sea trials over 15 to 20 June, returning to Pier 5. The next day the carrier left the shipyard en route to the Virginia capes for work slated to include a full power run, testing the anchors and a test of the flight deck wash down system. Forrestal returned to Pier 12, Norfolk, on 24 June.
6 Sep 1977: The ship onloaded over 900 tons of ammunition, the first time that the crew loaded live ordnance on board in over a year, during an underway replenishment with ammunition ship Suribachi (AE-21).
8–19 Sep 1977: Forrestal anchored off Norfolk, and three days later she moored to Pier 12 in preparation to shift her home port to Mayport. The crew spent days laboriously loading automobiles, motorcycles and household goods on board. The ship sailed on 17 September and moored to Pier C-1 at Mayport. Many male dependents up to age eight accompanied the carrier during her shift. Two days later, Jacksonville Beach and the USO rolled out the red carpet and held a “Welcome to Florida” reception and dance for crewmembers.
27 Sep–24 Oct 1977: The ship embarked CVW-17 and sailed from Mayport for refresher training in Caribbean waters. Forrestal anchored off Guantánamo Bay over 1 and 2 October, and then she stood out of the bay to continue operations. After an intense ten days of evaluations with Fleet Training Group sailors, the carrier visited Port-Au-Prince in Haiti (7–10 October). Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as Bébé Doc [Baby Doc], and Ambassador William B. Jones led a delegation including members of the Haitian armed forces chief of staff on board during the visit. Fine weather enabled the crew to complete most of their assignments and for aircraft to fly almost daily missions while underway before and after their visit to the island republic.
12 Nov 1977: Dr. Lynn E. Davis, Deputy Assistant of the Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs) and an entourage of key defense officials completed an orientation tour of the ship.
22 Dec 1977: Forrestal served as the host ship for Saratoga as the latter returned from a deployment to the Mediterranean.
13 Jan–3 Feb 1978: Forrestal stood out of Mayport for a three-week at sea period in the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range of Roosevelt Roods Operating Area to complete the third phase of type commander’s training. The crew accomplished general quarters drills, and an air-to-air missile, ‘downed pilot’ and ship-sinking exercises. Tragedy struck the ship on the evening of 15 January, however, as she steamed about 49 miles off St. Augustine, Florida. A Corsair II of VA-81 crashed on the flight deck, killing two flight deck crewmen, ABH2 Jesse R. Puente and ABH3 Johnny C. Gill, and injuring 10 others. The Corsair II struck a parked Corsair II and a Prowler on the aft portion of the deck packed with aircraft, and careened across the ship in a ball of flames. Crewmembers rapidly extinguished a small fire aft caused by fuel spilled onto the deck during the mishap. The pilot ejected and a helo crew from HS-3, LT Brian K. Young, LTJG Leland S. Kollmorgen, AW3 Lawrence L. Johnson and AW3 Michael E. Meier, recovered the man, who suffered only minor injuries. Sea Kings also flew all night to evacuate their injured shipmates to hospitals ashore, and scoured the sea for possible victims blown overboard. The crew held a memorial service for their fallen friends on 19 January. A man fell overboard on the 25th, but another HS-3 Sea King crew, LT Stephen G. Hawkins, LTJG Frank S. Cina, AW3 Johnson and AW3 Michael D. Kurtz, retrieved the sailor.
4–11 Apr 1978: The carrier deployed from Mayport to the Mediterranean. Forrestal rendezvoused with six other ships southeast of Bermuda to form Task Group 20.6, on 6 April. RADM William F. Clifford, Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group-12, took command of the task group and broke his flag from the carrier. Twice en route to the Mediterranean she suffered mishaps, however; the first a fire that erupted in No. 3 Main Machinery Room, as hot steam lines set freshly painted lagging in No. 3 Main Engine Room smoldering, at 2200 two days later. Fortuitously, the fire occurred just minutes after the crew secured from a general quarters drill, so that many men already were at or near their stations and firefighting equipment, and watchstanders within the space activated an extinguishing system and put out the fire within seconds without casualties. Three days later a fire broke out in a catapult steam trunk in the forward part of the ship at about the 01 level, around midnight just after crewmembers relieved their shipmates for the midwatch. Within the first few minutes as the at-sea brigade responded, men also discovered a second fire erupting in an adjoining storeroom, however, working with area repair lockers, responders defeated both fires within the hour.
14–19 Apr 1978: The ship visited Rota to begin operating with the Sixth Fleet during this deployment, and relieved America. RADM Robert F. Schoultz, Commander, Task Force 60, broke his flag from Forrestal. The admiral’s deployment became an affable one with crewmembers as he previously commanded the ship (1971–1972) and knew her well. Meanwhile, RADM Clifford departed for aircraft carrier Nimitz (CVN-68) to assume his duties as Commander, Task Group-60.2. In addition, a detachment from VA-83 embarking the ship, detached to operate with British Royal Air Force crews flying from their station at Lossiemouth, Scotland, to exchange tactical techniques.
19–29 Apr 1978: Forrestal conducted training exercises in the Western Mediterranean basin and the Tyrrhenian Sea, focusing upon anti-submarine warfare during a specially prepared program entitled “ASW Week. ” Vikings and Sea Kings flying from the ship hunted subs and fired practice torpedoes, passing on data they collected to the ship’s Tactical Support Center. In addition, the carrier opened ‘Seamart, ’ a walk-in and larger supply store for her men then any previous designs, that operated like shore-based servmarts, on the 21st. LTJGs Eric A Hitchcock and John A. Barnet, III, of VF-74 completed the ship’s 227,000th arrested landing, in a Phantom II, as Forrestal steamed in the Mediterranean the next day. Meanwhile, one of Forrestal’s escorts gained sonar contact on a possible submarine. A Sea King from HS-3 quickly attained an active sonar contact and criteria for a hover torpedo attack. A second helo joined their shipmates, and verified via their magnetic anomaly detection gear the submarine’s maneuvers as the latter attempted to escape her hunters. This boat became the first of several more submarines from a number of different countries that the determined helicopter crews tracked during the course of their deployment. As the ship steamed in the Tyrrhenian Sea while conducting night flight operations on the 29th, a Grumman KA-6D tanker from VA-85, crashed, though an HS-3 Sea King, LT William E. Christman, LT Michael N. Lewis, AW3 Brad A. France and AWAN Gary R. Gearhart, recovered the pilot, while a second squadron crew, LTJGs John F. McKean and Julian A. Ferguson, AW1 Grant H. Morrison and AWAN Eugene C. Crowley, III, retrieved the bombardier/navigator.
9–18 May 1978: Following a visit to Naples (30 April–8 May), the ship completed an anti-air warfare exercise in the eastern Mediterranean, principally steaming to the north of Crete and into the Ionian Sea. On the 10th, however, flooding began in an aft pump room and the inrushing water rose to a height of 20 feet before crewmembers could control the influx. In the interim, flooding also spread to adjacent food storage rooms, which destroyed most of Forrestal’s stocks of fresh milk and produce. Divers from the ship’s explosive ordnance disposal team valiantly risked their lives by dropping into the pump room to plug the leak. The flood inflicted total damages estimated at $30,000, though the ship did not report casualties. As the exercise culminated, the carrier integrated into another set of (separate) exercises.
19–29 May 1978: Over 80 ships and submarines from six NATO countries: the Americans, British, French, Greeks, Italians and Turks, tangled in Dawn Patrol, one of the largest NATO exercises that Forrestal participated in to date, stretching across the central and eastern Mediterranean. Forrestal’s aircraft tested their mettle against their counterparts flying aircraft from aircraft carriers Nimitz and French FS Foch (R-99), as well as against Air Force and NATO aircraft, as they protected a Turkish amphibious task group.
30 May–22 Jun 1978: Following a visit to Catania, Sicily (30 May–5 June), Forrestal steamed across the Ionian Sea and made port at Marseilles, France (7–22 June), to conduct an intermediate maintenance availability for some minor repairs. The visit generated media attention, especially among European journalists, however, due to her mooring at the pier rather then anchoring out, as the first U. S. carrier to do so for sometime, and her stay became a cause of concern to environmental and anti-American activists. Nonetheless, 125 French shipyard workers replaced armored covers for jet fuel pipes on the skin of the ship, made structural repairs to the flight deck, repaired about 15 watertight doors and worked on maintaining the ship’s boats.
22–26 Jun 1978: Forrestal took part in an anti-submarine and mine warfare exercise in the western Mediterranean and Ionian Seas, a training evolution that proved costly to the men on board. At 1508 on the 24th, LCDR Thomas P. Anderson, the operations officer of CVW-17, died when his A-7E Corsair II (BuNo 157561), crashed into the sea during a practice bombing mission against Pachino Target, a buoy anchored approximately two miles to the south of Sicily. The pilot flew as a wingman on a two plane daytime dive bombing mission with a section leader. The weather was clear with good visibility, but with no definite horizon due to haze. During his second run LCDR Anderson began a steep dive of almost 60° and continued until below the altitude normally considered optimal for recovering from such descents. The pilot apparently attempted to pull up during the final moments of his plunge, however, his Corsair II slammed into the water tail first about one-quarter of a mile beyond the buoy. A Sea King crew from HS-3, LTJG Thomas J. Henderson, ENS David P. Smouse, AW2 James H. Cox and AWAN Harold R. Rhodes, performed the sad duty of retrieving LCDR Anderson’s body, which rescuers located beneath his life raft in the midst of a slick created by the crash. The next day another pilot from VA-83, also flying a Corsair II, crashed shortly after takeoff during the day. A rescue crew from an SH-3D Sea King from HS-3, LCDR Donald A. Wright, LTJG Russell E. Hall, AW2 Cox and AWAN Gearhart, recovered the man, who suffered only minor injuries in the crash, and returned him to the ship in barely eight minutes. Both crashes occurred while the ship sailed in the Ionian Sea.
5–11 Jul 1978: The ship led a task group of six vessels into Tridente, a joint exercise in the eastern Mediterranean and the northern Ionian Sea with the British, French, Germans, Greeks and Italians, that focused on establishing sea control in the face of simulated opposition forces. The carrier anchored at Augusta Bay to enable RADM Schoultz to depart for John F. Kennedy, while RADM Clifford embarked Forrestal, on the 8th.
12–17 Jul 1978: The ship anchored in the bay at Naples, where folksinger Harry Chapin entertained the crew in the Hanger Bay on the 16th. In addition, RADM William R. Smedberg, IV, relieved RADM Clifford during a ceremony on board.
19–20 Jul 1978: During Operation BuzzardEx, aircraft and ships attempted to intercept and shoot down RIM-8 Talos surface-to-air missiles fired by guided missile cruiser Albany (CG-10). The Talos’ represented enemy aircraft attacking at speeds of Mach 2.
23–31 Jul 1978: Forrestal completed National Week XXV training with southern NATO members, including sea control, power projection and anti-submarine warfare. John F. Kennedy, Albany, two nuclear-powered attack submarines, Lockheed P-3 Orions and French and Italian forces were among the commands which joined Forrestal as they wrestled for control of the western Ionian Sea.
1–14 Aug 1978: Forrestal moored for the first time at a newly-completed deep-draft pier at Valencia, Spain. Over 30,000 visitors toured the ship, but the highlight for the men on board undoubtedly occurred when the Miss America Variety Show, highlighting Miss America 1978, Susan Perkins, and reigning beauty queens Linda Hallstrom from Nebraska, Mary D’Arcy from New Jersey, Kathy Fleming from North Carolina, Catherine Hinson from South Carolina, Lori Smith from Texas and Kristy Deakin from Utah, sang and danced before a crowd packed into the hangar bay, on the 4th.
15–23 Aug 1978: The ship completed training exercises in the western Mediterranean. A Phantom II from VF-74 crashed over 60 nautical miles from Forrestal to the south of France on the 17th. A helo crew from HS-3, LCDR Ormond C. Fowler, Jr., LT Christman, AW2 Robert G. Purinton and AW3 Dante F. Quinquinio, rescued both men, who survived without serious injuries. At about noon on the 21st the general quarters alarm sounded as widespread smoke appeared on the third deck amidships. Shortly thereafter, fire brigade members discovered burning boxes in a fourth deck storeroom. The responders extinguished the blaze within 10 minutes of the initial alarm. During Dasix the next day, aircraft participated in an air defense exercise against French Air Force pilots, flying mock attacks on the French coast, which allowed the men of CVW-17 to practice fighting their way through enemy defenses and the French the experience of attempting to stop them and defend their homeland.
24 Aug–27 Sep 1978: After a brief stop in Palma (24–28 August), the ship left the Mediterranean en route to the Atlantic and the North and Norwegian Seas to take part in the huge NATO exercise Northern Wedding (4–18 September). En route she put into Rota to allow RADM Norman K. Green, Commander, Carrier Group-6, to embark, and for RADM Smedberg to disembark and transfer his flag to guided missile cruiser Harry E. Yarnell (CG-17). Northern Wedding involved over 40,000 men and women, 22 subs and 800 aircraft from nine NATO countries. Planners geared the exercise to simulate allied abilities to reinforce Western Europe in the event of an East Bloc attack. Forrestal and HMS Ark Royal led separate task groups that steamed in a two-carrier formation to gain sea control and deploy their aircraft to support amphibious landings in the Shetland Islands and the Danish Jutland Peninsula. Heavy seas and high winds, however, curtailed flight operations during the first phase of the exercises, but conditions improved just barely enough in the harsh northern climbs to permit the ship and her embarked air wing to support the planned objectives. The professionalism and dedication to completing their tasks which the British and Canadians displayed especially impressed crewmembers, who noted these specific allies’ pride in more than one report. Forrestal conducted sea control, power projection, air support and reconnaissance missions. VADM Wesley L. McDonald, Commander, Second Fleet, gave a news conference to a group of both U. S. and international journalists in the carrier’s ‘War Room’ on the 9th, describing in some detail the significance of the exercise–which NATO normally held every four years–in preparing the allies to resist a Soviet-led attack against the West. After completing the exercise the ship returned to the Mediterranean, pausing in the Spanish port of Malaga (22–27 September).
28 Sep–8 Oct 1978: The carrier participated in Display Determination, a NATO southern region exercise involving eight countries practicing rapid reinforcement and resupply of the alliance’s southern flank during wartime, and the third and final exercise of this deployment. Aircraft flew a large number of sorties principally against their British, Italian and Portuguese counterparts.
11–15 Oct 1978: Forrestal transited the Strait of Gibraltar by steering westerly courses to Rota. The ship put to sea on the 13th to conduct a one-day exercise with Saratoga and her task group, which enabled aircraft to practice mock attacks against the ships and for the latter’s gunners to train in anti-air warfare. SN Williams from the deck department of fast combat support ship Detroit (AOE-4) fell overboard just as the ship completed refueling the carrier that night and the vessels broke away from each other, but a Sea King crew, LT Henderson, LTJG Smouse, AW2 Purinton and AWAN Bryan K. Bailey, retrieved him. Their rescue became especially difficult and challenging due to the lack of a visible horizon for pilot reference and insufficient wind to aid hovering, and in addition, the sailor did not wear reflective tape on his flotation garment and did not use signaling devices. Nonetheless, the helo crew preserved and saved his life. The shaken seaman recovered in the carrier’s sick bay, and a helo returned him the next day to Detroit. The next day Saratoga relieved Forrestal, enabling the latter to begin her voyage home before dawn on the 15th.
15–26 Oct 1978: On her homeward transit, Forrestal steered an extreme northerly course to participate in Operation Windbreak, a special program designed to introduce sailors and their equipment to relatively unfamiliar waters and conditions, and to gauge how well the Russians monitored American ships sailing to and from Mediterranean waters. Forrestal steamed as far north as 62°N, about 150 miles south of Iceland, where seas raging to 34-feet and winds in excess of 70-knots slammed into the ship. The wind chill factor dropped to 0° and drove sailors inside to avoid frostbite and exposure. Guided missile cruiser Harry E. Yarnell (CG-17) and destroyer Arthur W. Radford (DD-968) also joined the carrier for the unique exercise, and VADM McDonald embarked Forrestal during Windbreak.
13 Nov 1978–early 1979: Forrestal completed a four-month extended selected restricted availability at Mayport. In addition to several different shore establishments, destroyer tender Yosemite (AD-19) agreed to take on over 700 “intermediate-level” repairs involving welding and pipe fitting. On the eve of the Gator Bowl contest, Ohio State University football coach Wayne W. “Woody” Hayes, a World War II Navy veteran known for bringing his experiences from the Fleet into his coaching style, led an entourage of 100 team members on board, on 28 December. Sailors noted that Coach Hayes “had a smile and handshake” for shipmates as he “eagerly roamed” the ship. On 28 January 1979, however, hydrogen sulfide fumes overcame four civilian workers from Pepper Industries of Jacksonville, and two sailors, while the workers pumped out a fuel tank. The two men from the ship gallantly rushed to aid the civilians when the fumes overcame them, though all six victims recovered without serious injuries. A spokesman from Forrestal noted that “hydrogen sulfide is not stored in any form aboard ship. ”
12 Apr 1979: The first jets to land on board following her availability roared over the fantail and hooked the arresting cable.
27 Apr–May 1979: Forrestal sailed from Mayport for several weeks of refresher training in Caribbean waters. The carrier and fast combat support ship Savannah (AOE-4) collided while refueling on 9 May. A resistor/capacitor in the 400 cycle power supply to the master gyro on board Savannah failed, which prevented the automated shift of power from 400 cycle to battery power. The gyro failure alarm did not actuate in the pilot house on board the replenishment ship until the collision. Both ships sustained minor damage but no casualties among their crews, and the impact inflicted limited damage on Forrestal’s port side which affected her refueling rigs and hoses. Savannah continued to fulfill her busy schedule and replenished guided missile cruiser Texas (CGN-39) that afternoon, while the carrier continued to match her previous records while under the auspices of the Fleet Training Group inspectors.
4 Jun 1979: Secretary of the Navy W. Graham Claytor, Jr., visited the ship.
1 Jul 1979: AA Melton H. Coleman was murdered and his body thrown overboard, off the coast off Jacksonville. Despite an intensive search rescuers could not retrieve him. In early September investigators sentenced SA Wayne A. Bishop to life imprisonment for conspiracy to commit murder, and charged a second crewmember, Michael K. Nicolson, with conspiracy to commit murder and premeditated murder.
2–16 Aug 1979: RADM Bryan W. Compton, Jr., commanded Forrestal as she participated in CompTuEx 3-79, a Second Fleet readiness exercise. Training included missile, surface, anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare and gunnery exercises. British frigates HMS Alacrity (F-174) and HMS Galatia (F-18) also joined the carrier. Undersecretary of the Navy R. James Woolsey embarked overnight (15–16 August).
21 Sep 1979: Aircraft No 100, an F-4J, LCDR Curry M. Lawler and LTJG Joseph M. Foster from VF-11, struck the ramp, sheering the starboard mainmount, and crashed on the flight deck during nighttime flight operations off the Jacksonville Operating Area at 2123, near 30°56’1”N, 79°34’6”W. Helo searchers picked-up LCDR Lawler and returned him to the ship, where crewmembers treated the pilot for shock in sick bay. LTJG Foster also ejected but the co-pilot landed on the flight deck, where their burning Phantom II pinned him beneath the wreckage before his shipmates could release the man from his harrowing ordeal. The naval aviator suffered fractured ribs and internal injuries which required several weeks of recovery in a hospital.
Nov 1979: During this period the pro-Western Iranian government collapsed, forcing the Shah into exile in the United States. Tensions among opposing groups produced a state of near-anarchy within the troubled land. One of the more radical groups, “Students Following the Imam’s Line, ” blamed America for the discord, and sought to mobilize support for their policies by seizing the U. S. Embassy in Teheran on 4 November 1979. Receiving tacit approval from the Ayatollah R. Khomeini, the extremists continued to hold 52 hostages. The crime outraged Americans and the U. S. government responded by ordering naval forces to the region, tentatively to include Forrestal.
30 Nov 1979: Secretary of the Navy Edward Hidalgo visited the ship to view flight operations and also spoke to crewmembers via the ship’s closed circuit television.
5–6 Dec 1979: While she steamed en route to the Med, Forrestal launched simulated air strikes against Independence as the latter returned from deployment. Forrestal ten conducted a ‘blue-water turnover’ with Independence.
9–13 Dec 1979: The ship visited Rota to accomplish briefings tailored to the Mediterranean and NATO environment, and which enabled RADM Robert F. Dunn, Commander, Carrier Group 10, to break his flag from the carrier.
14–20 Dec 1979: As they prepared for contingencies due to the Iranian crisis, Forrestal and Nimitz participated in MultiPlEx, an exercise incorporating two carrier task forces in combined operations in the Mediterranean. Both carriers operated as adversaries and sent mock air strikes against each other, and in addition, they hunted attack submarines Shark (SSN-591) and Italian Gianfranco Gazzana Priaroggia (S-502).
21 Dec 1979–4 Jan 1980: The ship visited Marseilles. French families flooded the U. S. consulate there with offers to invite sailors and marines into their homes during the Christmas holidays. On New Years, however, Forrestal sailed for Naples to relieve Nimitz, which enabled Nimitz to respond to the Iranian crisis by leading a nuclear-powered battle group comprising guided missile cruisers California (CGN-36) and Texas from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. Their voyage left Forrestal as the only American carrier deployed to the Mediterranean during this time of heightened international tensions.
2 Mar 1981: Forrestal sailed on her 16th Mediterranean deployment and second quarter century of service to the Republic. During a crisis between the Israelis and Syrians the crew maintained a heightened state of readiness as the ship steamed for 53 consecutive days at sea.
18–19 Aug 1981: Libyan strongman CAPT (later COL) Muammar al-Qadhafi, encouraged and supported an ongoing series of terrorist attacks against Westerners during the 1970s and 80s, which heightened friction between the West and the dictator across the region. Forrestal and Nimitz conducted an open ocean missile exercise in the Gulf of Sidra, and aircraft from both ships intercepted potentially threatening Libyan aircraft on a number of occasions. On the 19th newspapers across the nation proudly carried the headlines: “U. S. 2 – Libya 0, ” as two F-14A crews, CDR Hank Kleeman and LT Dave Venlet and LTs Larry Muczynski and Jim Anderson (VF-41), shot down a pair of Libyan Sukhoi Su-22 Fitters. The Libyans threatened Nimitz during a tense encounter in the Gulf of Sidra, and the Tomcat crews splashed them with AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
1981: After departing from the Mediterranean the ship steamed above the Arctic Circle to participate in NATO exercise Ocean Venture ’81, which gave many crewmembers the opportunity to become ‘Bluenoses. ’
1981: Forrestal operated in the Mediterranean in support of the Lebanon Contingency Force of 800 marines at Beirut.
12 Sep 1982: Forrestal transited the Suez Canal for the first time and relieved Ranger in the eastern Indian Ocean, in an urgent surge deployment. Forrestal and her screen turned out to be a temporary reinforcement because a little over a month later Enterprise relieved her. Nonetheless, this became her first time to operate under the command of the Seventh Fleet since her ill-fated cruise in 1967.
16 Nov 1982: The ship returned home for an unusual nighttime arrival.
12–18 Jan 1983: Forrestal shifted her home port to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Pennsylvania, to embark upon a 28-month, $694 million Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) project, designed to extend her life an additional 15 to 20 years. The ship sailed from Mayport on the 12th, supplementing her crew and stores with additional loads including over 1,000 of her crew’s personal automobiles. In addition, crewmembers set up a special area in the aircraft intermediate maintenance department’s jet shop to accommodate crewmember’s small pets. The carrier arrived at Pier 6 at Philadelphia and crewmembers completed the offload they began at Mayport.
28–30 Jan 1983: Forrestal shifted to Drydock No. 5 at Philadelphia. Crewmembers moved ashore to the base while many of their dependents relocated into the city. Two days later the ship began cold iron status as the crew and workers shut down the last of her internal power sources and services.
15–18 Jul 1983: The crew held their first annual Forrestal reunion. Over 400 former crewmembers and their families attended, some of whom flew-in from the West Coast. Shipmates held a memorial service honoring all of those men who gave their lives for freedom during the carrier’s 28-year history.
14–17 Sep 1983: The ship’s ceremonial color guard opened the Miss America Pageant by presenting the colors.
10 Oct 1983: Pennsylvanian Senator Arlen Specter visited the ship.
Nov 1983: Some crewmembers participated as extras in the film George Washington, which CBS aired on national television several months later.
27–29 Jan 1984: Forrestal undocked. Tugs pulled the carrier from the drydock and maneuvered her over to moorings at Pier 6. Two days later Forrestal returned to Drydock No. 5.
7 May 1984: Some 1,200 crewmembers began moving back on board, aft. Supply services started their return and the crew celebrated the opening of the galley with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
18 Jul 1984: Bob Hope and Ann Jillian entertained several thousand crewmembers and shipyard workers with a 45-minute show on the flight deck.
12–15 Sep 1984: The ship’s ceremonial color guard opened each night of the Miss America Pageant, at Atlantic City, New Jersey.
9 Oct 1984: The crew lit-off Boiler 2A, the first time that the ship experienced steam in her boilers in upward of two years.
10 Nov 1984: Forrestal shifted berths to the east side of Pier 6 at Philadelphia.
28 Jan–2 Feb 1985: The ship completed a fast cruise; a series of evolutions simulating getting underway without actually leaving the pier, an important step toward accomplishing her SLEP and becoming ready for sea.
3–15 Feb 1985: Three helicopters from NAS Jacksonville landed on board at 1653 on the 3rd, the first operational aircraft to do so in more than two years, to support Forrestal’s shipyard sea trials. The next day the ship got underway for the trials and for material inspections, her first time at sea under her own steam since arriving in Philadelphia. In addition to accomplishing boiler, evaporator and ship’s service generator testing, the carrier also completed full power trials, before returning to Pier 6.
10–18 Apr 1985: Forrestal transited the Delaware River and accomplished sea trials.
20–23 May 1985: The ship completed SLEP as she sailed from Philadelphia. Dependents, pets and personal vehicles joined crewmembers for the three-day transit to Mayport.
4–14 Jun 1985: Forrestal accomplished aircraft carrier landing system trials. At 0803 on the 5th, a Grumman C-1A from VRC-40 landed to become the first fixed-wing aircraft to recover on board in more than 30-months. The Trader launched seven minutes later. After inspectors certified the arresting gear, several aircraft from NAS Patuxent River in Maryland recovered, the first aircraft piloted by CAPT Carter B. Refo of CVW-6. The initial jet launching from the carrier since November 1982 took off at 1133. Following additional trials, the last test aircraft departed on the 10th. The ship welcomed on board her new air wing as the rest of CVW-6, which recently completed a Mediterranean deployment on board Independence, began to arrive the next morning, joining HS-15.
22–29 Jun 1985: The carrier accomplished cyclic flight operations, a NATO Sea Sparrow missile tracking exercise and electronic countermeasures exercises with EA-6B Prowlers from VAQ-133.
29 Aug–3 Sep 1985: Following a series of drills and exercises in Caribbean waters, the ship returned to sea for carrier qualifications. Hurricane Elena, however, swept eastward across Florida and into the Jacksonville Operating Area on the 31st, forcing Forrestal to move south into the Cape Canaveral Operating Area. Although the carrier suspended flight operations for a day due to the fierce weather, she completed the qualifications before returning to Mayport.
13 Sep–20 Dec 1985: Forrestal completed a post-shipyard availability and selected restricted availability period which brought 800 civilian shipyard workers on board from the Jacksonville area. Together with the crew they put the finishing touches on work accomplished during SLEP, including the installation of three Phalanx 20 mm close-in-weapons systems (CIWS). Some 715 Forrestal sailors gathered in formation on the morning of 27 September to form a 280-foot by 200-foot “30” on the carrier’s flight deck in recognition of Forrestal’s 30th anniversary. Helos from HS-15 flying overhead photographed the event. The crew celebrated the anniversary with a huge picnic ashore at the naval station. RADM Diego E. Hernandez, Commander, Carrier Group 6, broke his flag from the carrier on 4 October. Forrestal completed two days of full power runs, high speed steering trials and demonstrations of her newly-installed CIWS.
17 Mar 1986: A fire erupted from a KA-6D tanker as the crew prepared to launch, though responders defeated the blaze without casualties.
9–30 Apr 1986: The ship participated in FleetEx 2-86, an exercise featuring over 17,000 sailors and marines and 31 vessels including battleship Iowa (BB-61). Tomcats from VF-31 pitted themselves against Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagles flying from Homestead AFB in Florida, and marine Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18 Hornets flying from MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. In addition, they flew low level tactical reconnaissance missions and fighter escort throughout operating areas ranging from Florida to Puerto Rico during the demanding exercises.
14–17 Jun 1986: Forrestal transited the Strait of Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean. Three days later she relieved Enterprise at Augusta Bay. Correspondent Roger Mudd of NBC visited the ship on the 17th. In addition, during this deployment aircraft frequently flew in international airspace of the Tripoli Flight region, the international air traffic control sector for the Libyans.
18 Jun 1986: Just after Forrestal set out from Augusta Bay during the afternoon and first dog watches, Aircraft No. 202, a Tomcat from VF-31 (BuNo 161854), attempted to rendezvous with the ship but departed controlled flight and crashed in the Ionian Sea, at 1824, near 37°8’8”N, 15°44’4”E. Both men ejected, and although the radar intercept officer survived his ordeal with minor injuries, the pilot perished.
25–27 Jun 1986: The ship conducted dual carrier operations with America in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
4–18 Aug 1986: Following Forrestal’s visit to Palermo, Sicily (24 July–3 August), Rear Admiral Raymond P. Ilg relieved RADM Hernandez as Commander, Battle Force Sixth Fleet/Commander, Carrier Group 6, on the 5th. Meanwhile, aircraft flew Alpha strikes in excess of 300 miles against their French counterparts during an exercise off the coast of southern France. French Dassault-Breguet Mirage 2000s proved formidable opponents, however, the Tomcat crews from the ship emerged victorious in the closely-fought scenarios. The ship visited Cannes (8–18 August), where over 10,000 people visited the ship in three days and the liberty ashore became so popular that a VF-31 chronicler noted: “Ten days on the French Riviera speaks for itself. ”
23–28 Aug 1986: The ship took part in Operation Sea Wind, a joint U. S. and Egyptian training exercise that involved aircraft flying a variety of tactical air reconnaissance, low level strike escort and air combat maneuvering sorties against their Egyptian opposite numbers, and practicing joint strikes against Egyptian airfields and port facilities. In addition, Viking and Sea King crews honed their antisubmarine skills against Egyptian submarines. At the commencement of the training, VADM Ali Gad, the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Navy, visited the carrier. As the exercise concluded, CVW-6 aircraft participated in an air show at Wadi El-Natrun, a desert site 50 miles to the northwest of Cairo, where the men demonstrated their bombing, rocketing and strafing capabilities against ground targets.
31 Aug–10 Sep 1986: Four Abu Nidal hijackers attempted to take control of Pan Am Flight No. 73 when the Boeing B-747 commercial airliner landed at Karachi, Pakistan, after a flight from Bombay, India, en route to Frankfurt in Germany and then on to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, on 5 September. At about 0600 the hijackers rushed the aircraft, but the flight crew escaped through the cockpit escape hatch. The thugs demanded that the flight crew return and fly them on to Larnaca on Cyprus, where they would arrange for the release of Palestinian terrorists detained on that island, or they would massacre their hostages. When authorities refused to accede to the terrorist’s demands, the hijackers brutally opened fire upon their helpless hostages and began lobbing grenades into the crowded cabins, murdering at least 20 people including two Americans, Rajesh Kumar and Surendra M. Patel, and wounding dozens more. The Department of Justice later posthumously conferred the 2006 Special Courage Award upon Pan Am flight attendant Neerja Bhanot, who died while trying to save children during the carnage. While visiting Naples, Forrestal issued an emergency recall of crew members to respond to the crisis–especially should she be needed if the hijackers flew on to Cyprus–and stood out to conduct flight operations in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Sadly, the incident ended tragically before the carrier could intervene effectively.
6–13 Oct 1986: Forrestal participated with John F. Kennedy in Operation Display Determination ‘86, which included low-level coordinated strikes and air combat maneuvering training over Turkey.
29–31 Oct 1986: The ship sailed from the Mediterranean and passed through the Strait of Gibraltar.
1 Jan–30 Apr 1987: Forrestal completed a selected restricted availability at Mayport. While there she also served as the host ship for aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (R-07) when the British ship visited the port (4–14 March).
1–5 May 1987: Forrestal conducted sea trials in the Jacksonville Operating Area.
29 Jul 1987: Each year Forrestal crewmembers remember their shipmates who gave their lives during the fire of 1967, however, this year marked the 20th anniversary of the tragedy and the crew held a special memorial service, for which former crewmembers and family members from across the country arrived to pay tribute to their fallen friends and loved ones.
31 Jul–17 Aug 1987: The ship completed advanced phase training evolutions in the Atlantic.
28 Aug–8 Oct 1987: As part of her pre-deployment work-ups, the ship took part in Ocean Safari ’87, which included a six-week cruise in the North Atlantic, highlighted by operations with NATO forces posing as aggressors lurking in Norwegian fjords. The cruise also afforded the crew the opportunity to visit Portsmouth, England (22–26 September), where they hosted a traditional ‘Sunset Parade. ’
29 Dec 1987: Members of the University of South Carolina and the Louisiana State University football teams visited the carrier.
11–25 Jan 1988: The ship participated in FleetEx 1-88 in Puerto Rican waters. The program consisted of launching air strikes against simulated enemy targets, mine exercises, anti-terrorist exercises and teaming up with other navies and the Air Force. Undersecretary of the Navy Dennis R. Shaw visited the ship (21–23 January).
13–16 February 1988: Forrestal sailed up the Mississippi River and visited New Orleans, Louisiana.
7–18 Apr 1988: The carrier took part in Ocean Venture ’88 in the Gulf of Mexico.
25 Apr 1988: Forrestal deployed to the Mediterranean and the North Arabian Sea, steaming directly there via the Suez Canal. During the Persian Gulf War between the Iranians and Iraqis both sides attacked ships steaming in international waters in the Gulf. The Iraqis attacked Iranian economic shipping and oil installations with Exocet equipped Dassault-Breguet Super Etendards on 27 March 1984, which escalated the conflict until the Iranians and Iraqis launched almost constant air, missile, small boat and mine attacks against ships in the region. The Kuwaitis grew increasingly anxious and their oil minister Sheikh Ali Khalifa openly sought aid. The Soviets intervened in early March and offered to protect five Kuwaiti tankers, but the Kuwaitis wisely realized that their oil lifeline reached to the West, not to the Russians, and that the Americans had the strongest naval forces in the Gulf, so they made overtures to Washington, asking the Americans to match the Soviet offer. “It smacked a little bit, ” noted National Security Advisor Frank C. Carlucci, III, “of blackmail. ” Partly to stave off the Russians, partly to avoid an Iraqi or Iranian collapse–enabling the other to dominate the region–and partly to ensure the uninterrupted free trade of the Gulf, the U. S. authorized Operation Private Jewels, later redesignated Earnest Will, designed to maintain freedom of navigation within that body of water. The crisis escalated when the Iranians mined guided missile frigate Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) during the first dog watch on 14 April 1988. Although her crew valiantly saved the ship, the blatant assault incensed President Ronald W. Reagan and his advisors, who authorized Operation Praying Mantis, a “measured response” designed to attain retribution against Iranian crimes. Enterprise spearheaded American strikes against the Iranians during Praying Mantis on 18 April, so that Forrestal arrived during an especially anxious time, which forced her pilots to fly extensive aerial reconnaissance and combat air patrol missions, and for her crew to monitor aircraft and vessels very carefully for potential threats. The ship also deployed for the first time with the Air-Launched Decoy system, which crewmembers made numerous modifications to, passing along their suggestions to evaluators for Fleet-wide introduction.
6 May 1988: The ship steamed past the Rock of Gibraltar on the 6th and completed Open Gate ’88.
8–9 May 1988: As the carrier sailed through Tunisian waters en route to the Indian Ocean, she operated with Tunisian forces in a passing exercise.
13–20 May 1988: Forrestal transited the Suez Canal and entered the Red Sea. Seven days later she relieved Enterprise in the Indian Ocean. The ship fell under the auspices of the Combined Joint Task Force Middle East, though her crew humorously dubbed the ship’s operating area “Beno Station. ” Crewmembers reported that they served laboriously under the “long and humid” summer. Their only break during these difficult operations occurred when the Navy authorized the men a “beer day” in June. In addition, the weapons department utilized the Gator mine system for their first time while sailing in the Indian Ocean, and the operations department provided training services to 22 U. S. and allied vessels.
24 May 1988: Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates visited the ship.
4 Jun 1988: French RADM Guy Labouerie visited Forrestal.
20 Jul 1988: RADM Anthony A. Less, Commander, Combined Joint Task Force Middle East, visited the ship.
24 Jul 1988: Secretary of the Navy William L. Ball visited the carrier.
28–31 Jul 1988: Aircraft carrier Carl Vinson (CVN-70) relieved Forrestal in the North Arabian Sea. As Forrestal sailed en route to the Suez Canal she passed the second milestone of the ship’s 50th consecutive day at sea, which entitled the crew to their second “beer day. ”
6 Aug 1988: The ship passed through the Suez Canal and returned to the Mediterranean.
17–19 Aug 1988: After visiting Naples (11–16 August), the crew’s first time ashore in 108 days, Forrestal took part in National Week ’88 in the central Mediterranean.
31 Aug–22 Sep 1988: Following a visit to Benidorm on the Spanish Costa Blanca (23–27 August), the ship steamed through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea as part of two carrier battle groups to participate in Teamwork ’88. Over 200 ships and submarines, about 500 aircraft and 45,000 people from nine nations took part in the massive series of maritime and amphibious exercises, with Forrestal moving into the Norwegian Sea from the south and aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) sailing easterly courses from American and Canadian waters through the Atlantic around Greenland and the gap between Iceland, the Faeroe Islands and the British Isles, before operating off Vestfjord, Norway. Meanwhile, Forrestal visited Portsmouth (25–26 August). The ship also passed over the Arctic Circle during these operations, which afforded many crewmembers the opportunity to become ‘Bluenoses. ’
17 Jul–11 Aug: The ship took part in advanced phase training in Caribbean waters, with a brief stop in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands (26–31 July). The training taxed sailors and marines in many aspects of ship and air wing combined operations against a full spectrum of wartime threats, and also enabled the crew to operate with ships and aircraft already participating in Unitas 30-89, a series of exercises designed to integrate U. S. and Latin American naval forces.
24 Aug–9 Sep 1989: Forrestal participated in Fleet Exercise 4-89 in the Puerto Rico Operating Area.
9 Oct 1989: As the ship made preparations for deploying a fire erupted in her primary command and control trunk space. The blaze severely damaged electrical cabling in an uptake compartment affecting several navigation, weapons and ship control systems, though the rapid response of firefighters prevented further damage. The ship did not report casualties resulting from the conflagration, which nonetheless delayed her departure. Electricians from the shipyards at Philadelphia and Norfolk lent their expertise to those of Jacksonville Shipyard, Inc., the prime contractor, and accomplished repairs to enable Forrestal to return to sea. In the interim, Commander, Carrier Group 6 shifted his flag to guided missile cruiser Wainwright (CG-28) three days later, and remained there until the carrier arrived in the Mediterranean, when he broke his flag from Forrestal on 12 November.
3 Nov 1989: Forrestal set sail for the Mediterranean. RADM Richard C. Allen, Commander, Carrier Group-6, broke his flag from the carrier in command of the battle group. The ship deployed for the first time with the AGM-84 Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM), and in addition, at one point Forrestal directly supported Donald B. Berry (FF-1085), which enabled the frigate to complete an exercise with the Israelis.
20–25 Nov 1989: The ship participated in Harmonie Sud Est with the French in the Mediterranean, her first such experience of that exercise.
27 Nov–3 Dec 1989: The final two months of the year proved to be a strenuous and exciting time for her crew as Forrestal provided crucial support to U. S. diplomats during the Malta Summit. President George H. W. Bush and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev met just weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall concerning the collapse of the East Bloc and its impact upon global security. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s habit of meeting key world leaders at sea during WWII purportedly served as the inspiration for President Bush to arrange the summit on the strategic island, the scene of fierce fighting during that conflict, and led to some media representatives describing the summit as “Malta to Yalta and Back. ” Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Secretary of State James Baker, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, Senior Director of Soviet, East European Affairs [National Security Council] Dr. Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador to the Soviet Union John F. Matlock, Jr., were among the leaders who also attended the summit. Warships from many fleets joined the proceedings at various times, and American sailors shared the crowded Maltese waters with their East Bloc counterparts. Guided missile cruiser Belknap (CG-26), which received the honor of serving as the host ship for the chief executive, anchored barely 400-yards in Marsaxlokk Bay from Soviet guided missile cruiser Slava (CG-70) for most of the summit. Ships also operated within the Grand Harbor at Valletta. The President arrived on board Forrestal on 1 December, and visited the flight deck, watched aircraft launch and recover, and ate lunch with crewmembers on the mess decks. At 1345 he began a speech to officers and crewmembers assembled in the ship’s hanger bay, including ADM Jonathon T. Howe, Commander-in-Chief, Naval Forces Europe, VADM James D. Williams, Commander, Sixth Fleet, and RADM Allen. The President, a decorated naval aviator from World War II, amused his audience with good natured humor directed at his fellow shipmates. Motioning to the officers nearby, he chided them: “I know that some of you have meals to eat. Frankly, I’d like to get Chairman Gorbachev to get an idea of what U. S. Navy food is like. Maybe not – what I’m trying to do is ease tensions. ” At 1425 Marine I touched down onto the flight deck of Belknap as President Bush arrived on board the cruiser in his helicopter, maintaining a hectic schedule. Stormy weather and choppy seas forced planners to cancel or reschedule subsequent meetings, however, resulting in some journalists referring to the conference as the “Seasick Summit. ” That morning began pleasantly but as the day progressed the weather deteriorated as a storm swept in with winds that peaked at 55-knots by the evening of the 2nd. The foul conditions forced the President to shift his meetings with the General Secretary from Belknap and Slava to Soviet cruise ship Maxim Gorky, moored pierside and a more stable platform as the tempest battered ships in the harbor. The admiral’s barge safely carried the President over to Maxim Gorky, but as the seas became rougher they rendered boating conditions unsafe and compelled the President to remain on board the cruiser, where he chatted amiably with watchstanders on the foc’sle and fantail despite freezing rain and pounding swells that forced Belknap to shift berths by the 3rd. The crew persevered through the morning when the storm began to subside, which enabled them to transport the President over to the cruise ship to complete his meetings with the General Secretary. President Bush publicly expressed American support for the Russian leader’s glasnost [openness] and perestroika [restructuring] policies, and both men acknowledged the lessening of Cold War anxieties. “For 45 years” noted General Secretary Gorbachev, “we have been managing to avoid a big war. This single fact alone says that not everything was bad in the past. ” Aircraft from Forrestal flew airborne early warning and combat air patrols overhead during much of the summit. President Bush also met with Maltese Prime Minister Fenech Adami.
4–6 Dec 1989: Forrestal visited Naples, which became a unique evolution when she required simultaneous usage of a port anchor, 10 mooring lines, two kedge anchors and two mooring buoys to stay in the inner harbor of the crowded port.
13–19 Dec 1989: The ship participated in an amphibious exercise with the Tunisians. Aircraft from the carrier flew 193 sorties and Forrestal coordinated USMC McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier IIs during a crucial phase of the exercise.
11–13 Jan 1990: Forrestal took part in Operation Last Chance in the Mediterranean.
17–21 Jan 1990: The ship participated in exercise Petit Poi in the Mediterranean.
29–31 Jan 1990: Forrestal operated with the British, French and Italians in the western Mediterranean.
10 Feb 1990: The Naples Squadron of the Association of Naval Aviation held their establishment ceremony in the ship’s hanger bay.
7–8 Mar 1990: The ship and her crew trained with the Tunisians.
23–28 Mar 1990: Forrestal took part with Dwight D. Eisenhower in the large NATO exercise National Week 90B in the western Mediterranean. On the final day Dwight D. Eisenhower dropped anchor in Augusta Bay to relieve Forrestal.
10 Apr 1990: AN Tony C. Smith fell overboard from No. 4 Aircraft Elevator near 32°18’N, 70°59’E. The weather was clear. Three helos from HS-15 launched and searched for the man for over four and a half hours before they called-off the search more than two hours after dusk. A sailor spotted AN Smith in the water near a life ring and a smoke float that a shipmate threw into the sea to mark his location for searchers. Although the airman apparently wore his required life vest, eyewitnesses could not ascertain as to whether or not he inflated it.
12 Apr 1990: By the time Forrestal returned to Mayport she anchored at such diverse ports as Marseilles, Valencia, Naples, Cannes, Alexandria, Egypt, Augusta Bay and Haifa, Israel.
14 May–27 Aug 1990: The ship completed a drydocking selected restricted availability at Mayport. Former Forrestal crewmembers held their inaugural meeting of the USS Forrestal Reunion Association on board and ashore at Mayport, overnight (22–23 June). Meanwhile, James M. Doohan, an actor famous for his role as Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on board starship Enterprise (NCC-1701) in the TV series Star Trek, visited the ship on 27 July. The same day that CAPT Robert S. Cole relieved CAPT Louis E. Thomassy, Jr., as commanding officer of Forrestal (2 August), however, Iraqi tanks and troops poured across the borders from Iraq into Kuwait as Saddam Hussein seized the tiny country. The dictator’s troops raped and looted helpless Kuwaitis; sailors on board guided missile frigate Robert G. Bradley (FFG-49), patrolling in the Persian Gulf barely 50 miles offshore, could hear the victims’ pleas for help via their bridge-to-bridge radio, “over and over again, ” but restrictive rules of engagement constrained the crew until the U. S. responded by forming a coalition of 29 nations, that rushed reinforcements to the region during Operation Desert Shield, designed to protect the region from Iraqi aggression. “Saddam Hussein won the toss, “ noted CAPT Lyle G. “Ho Chi” Bien, Commander, CVW-15, detailed to Central Command as the Navy’s senior strike planner, “and elected to receive. ” The Navy augmented the Red Sea Battle Group’s mission to include maritime interception operations to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 51, which imposed an embargo upon ships entering or leaving Iraqi-occupied Kuwaiti and Iraqi ports. The crisis forced the crew and workers to toil at an increased pace to ready Forrestal for contingencies, and to race to complete work six months earlier then they originally planned.
28–31 Aug 1990: The ship completed sea trials and flight deck certification in the Jacksonville Operating Area.
7–11 Sep 1990: Forrestal transited to Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
8 Nov 1990: President Bush announced a decision to double the number of carrier battle groups deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield. The announcement rushed America, CVW-1 embarked, Ranger (CV-61), CVW-2 embarked, and Theodore Roosevelt with CVW-8 to reinforce John F. Kennedy (CV-67), CVW-3 embarked, Midway (CV-41) with CVW-5 and Saratoga, CVW-17 embarked, by 15 January 1991. During these hectic days leading up to the war the Navy twice issued orders to Forrestal to deploy and twice cancelled the orders, which frustrated many crewmembers who worked at an intense pace to prepare themselves and their ship to sail into harm’s way, as well as disrupting family plans for their dependents. Sailors and marines coined the slogan “Will we stay or will we go? ” to describe their situation. Nonetheless, the crew expanded their dedicated selected restricted availability into a second phase to prepare for their impending sail into harm’s way. This work included installing flush deck catapults designed to accommodate F/A-18 Hornets.
16–21 Nov 1990: The ship returned to Mayport.
18–20 Dec 1990: RADM Walter J. Davis, Commander, Carrier Group 6, visited. On the 18th, however, an A-14A Tomcat (BuNo 161862), of VF-31, separated from Catapult No. 4 during the initial part of launching. The weather was calm, with visibility out to seven nautical miles. Both men ejected as the aircraft stopped on the leading edge of the angled flight deck. The pilot landed on the flight deck and suffered scrapes and bruises and a sprained ankle, while the radar intercept officer’s parachute caught on the forward top of the ship’s island and he survived the harrowing trial with minor scrapes and a good sea story.
1 Jan 1991: Forrestal began the year as the ‘east coast ready carrier, ’ a role she fulfilled through the first five months.
12 Jan 1991: Congress voted 52 to 47 in the Senate and 250 to 183 in the House on a joint resolution that gave the President his support for military action against the Iraqis.
16–17 Jan 1991: The Iraqis ignored the UN deadline, and the next day six battle groups, two battleships and a 31-ship amphibious task force steaming in the Red and Arabian Seas and Persian Gulf, comprising over 100 ships and submarines, 75,000 sailors and 85,000 marines afloat and ashore, launched strikes against the disobedient Iraqis. Nine ships and subs fired over 100 R/UGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs), the first combat launchings of the all-weather subsonic cruise missiles, and America, John F. Kennedy and Saratoga in the Red Sea, Midway and Ranger in the Persian Gulf and Theodore Roosevelt en route to the Gulf, launched 228 combat sorties.
21 Jan 1991: The President signed an executive order designating the Arabian Peninsula areas, airspace and adjacent waters as a combat zone.
4–6 Mar 1991: ADM Paul D. Miller, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, visited the ship. Two days later First Lady Barbara P. Bush visited Forrestal.
11 Apr 1991: While turning over his security watch in Forrestal’s marine guard shack a marine of the ship’s security detachment, CPL Jason Pricer, accidentally discharged his weapon and shot himself in the head. Although a life-flight helo transported him from the ship berthed at Mayport to University Trauma Center, emergency staff pronounced him dead there at 2104.
19–27 Apr 1991: Forrestal worked-up for her deployment in the Jacksonville Operating Area. Aircraft flew air combat maneuvering against their British counterparts from aircraft carrier HMS Invincible (R-05).
30 May 1991: Following numerous disappointing rumors, Forrestal finally deployed from Mayport to relieve Theodore Roosevelt, which participated in Desert Shield/Storm/Sabre and Operation Provide Comfort, the latter coalition efforts to aid Kurdish refugees whom the Iraqis viciously attacked in the wake of Gulf War I. Theodore Roosevelt joined other forces including amphibious assault ship Guadalcanal (LPH-7) positioned off Turkey to support an estimated 7,000 American troops helping the Kurds. These operations could become very deadly, as Iraqi gunners previously demonstrated on 7 and 8 May when they fired on a pair of Intruders flying a reconnaissance mission from Theodore Roosevelt over the northern part of the country observing Iraqi atrocities against the Kurds. These became the first confirmed incidents of Iraqi violations of the cease-fire since allied troops began occupying a designated security zone for Kurdish refugees. The Iraqis missed the A-6Es, which completed their mission and returned to the ship. These incidents set the stage for Forrestal’s final entry into battle, and the demanding missions her aircraft completed. CVW-6 embarked between 64 and 69 aircraft for the war, including VF-11 and VF-31 (F-14A Tomcats), VFA-132 and VFA-137 (F/A-18A Hornets), VA-176 (A-6E and KA-6D Intruders), VS-28 (S-3B Vikings), VAW-122 (E-2C Hawkeyes), VAQ-133 and VAQ-142 (EA-6B Prowlers) and HS-15 (SH-3H Sea Kings). Tomcats from VF-31 flew uniquely equipped with the Tactical Air Reconnaissance System (TARPS), which they used to observe a variety of Iraqi and Russian forces and their operations.
8–9 Jun 1991: Forrestal conducted an anti-air warfare and weapons exercise with French aircraft carrier Clemenceau (R-98).
8–21 Jun 1991: A Tomcat crew and their maintainers from VF-11 detached from the ship to participate in the Paris Air Show.
12 Jun 1991: A Tomcat from VF-31 flew a long-range, 2,000 nautical mile round trip TARPS mission to the Gulf of Sollum anchorage to monitor the Libyans.
12–13 Jun 1991: VADM William A. Owens, Commander, Sixth Fleet, visited the ship.
14–15 Jun 1991: The ship began to support Provide Comfort in the eastern Med. Commanders called upon Forrestal to provide air power presence and airborne intelligence support, and to initiate, test and evaluate a wide range of innovative Sixth Fleet battle group tactics and new aircraft carrier roles. In particular, aircraft searched for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction sites and stockpiles, Iraqi troops, surface-to-air missiles, tanks and artillery to destroy or deter them from committing their crimes against Kurdish refugees, and to direct humanitarian aid workers toward the displaced persons. Their most common targets became the military barracks at Dahuk, which housed reservist Republican Guardsmen, T-72 main battle tanks attempting to slip past vigilant pilots, troop encampments in and around Mosul and Irbil, and major roadways and towns throughout northern Iraq. Some VF-31 Tomcats equipped with TARPS also flew many of these missions from Incirlik AB in Turkey. In addition, at one point two Tomcat crews flew a seven-hour TARPS mission to the eastern Mediterranean, where they spotted and photographed a Russian Kara class guided missile cruiser. During this period the ship relieved Theodore Roosevelt of her duties in Provide Comfort, and at various times she operated with a number of U. S. vessels including attack submarine Gato (SSN-615), as well as with French guided missile frigate Jean de Vienne (F-643), Italian guided missile frigate Espero (F-576) and Spanish guided missile frigate Santa Maria (F-81).
19 Jun 1991: A fire broke out in No. 2 Burn Room, which contained an incinerator for burning classified material, as a result of crewmembers accidentally igniting excess material that they improperly brought to the space to destroy. The fire party extinguished the blaze without casualties.
8 Jul 1991: While Forrestal steamed in the eastern Mediterranean to the south of Turkey supporting Provide Comfort a Hawkeye, LCDR John M. Yurchak, LT Vicent C. Bowhers, Jr., and LTJGs Robert A. Forwalder, John S. Lemmon and Terry S. Morris from VAW-122 flying a routine reconnaissance mission suffered a fire in the starboard engine that the crew could not extinguish. All five crewmembers ejected and helos from Forrestal and guided missile cruiser Yorktown (CG-48) recovered them within 10 minutes. The unmanned Hawkeye continued on flying on ‘autopilot’ to the southeast of Cyprus, and since the E-2C presented a hazard to aerial navigation, a Hornet from VFA-132 flying from the carrier shot the aircraft down with 20 mm guns. The Hawkeye crashed roughly half-way between Cyprus and Syria in international waters, about 40 nautical miles from land, in water that measured a depth of approximately 3,000 feet. The fire threatened the lives of the crew and forced them to bail out, especially due to the possibility of the flames igniting a catastrophic explosion. They made a courageous and correct decision to place the aircraft on autopilot to facilitate just the destruction of the aircraft that occurred, and Yorktown recovered a few small pieces of debris that otherwise did not prove hazardous to shipping.
10–13 Jul 1991: BGEN General Anthony C. Zinni, USMC, Chief of Staff, Combined Joint Task Force Provide Comfort, visited the ship overnight on the 10th and 11th, and LGEN John M. Shalikashvilli, USA, commanding the force, visited the next day. French marine MGEN Maurice LePage, commanding French troops serving in the force, visited Forrestal overnight on the 12th and 13th.
17–20 Jul 1991: Aircraft trained at the Greek range at Avgo Nisi in preparation for President Bush’s visit to Athens and Souda Bay (18–20 July). The President met Greek Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, and spoke with U. S. and Greek servicmembers. After flying training runs on the Greek range, aircraft flew presence and combat air patrol overhead during the President’s stay. Forrestal sailed to the south of Crete on the 19th, and at about 1430 an A-6E Intruder from VA-176 crashed into the sea in international waters while on a routine training mission, about two miles northwest of Avgo Nisi. Both men ejected, and searchers rescued LT John W. Musaus the bombardier/navigator, who recovered from his ordeal with left arm and leg injuries at Naval Hospital, NS Rota. Forrestal, Yorktown, guided missile frigate De Wert (FFG-45), Milwaukee (AOR-2) and Greek forces combed an area of 1,600 square miles for almost two days, however, they could not recover the pilot, LT Steven J. Cullen, nor any debris from the downed aircraft.
22 Jul 1991: Tomcats from VF-31 flew a TARPS flight over a trio of Iraqi MiG-23 Floggers sheltering in their hardened bunkers at an airfield on the southern end of Mosul.
7 Aug 1991: An S-3B Viking from VS-28 slid into the ship’s port catwalk at about 1200 while taxing to Catapult No. 3 for a noon launch. One of the men ejected into the water and a helo recovered him, while the other three aircrew escaped from the aircraft onto the flight deck. Forrestal reported that all four men recovered in “good condition. ”
17 Sep 1991: Italian President Francesco Cossiga made an orientation visit to Forrestal.
24 Sep 1991: Aircraft completed their last Provide Comfort missions.
2–15 Oct 1991: The ship participated in anti-air warfare, overland dissimilar air combat training and low level training during Display Determination ‘91. In addition, five aircraft–two Tomcats, two Hornets and a Prowler–detached ashore to the Turkish airfield at Akhisar to fly opposition missions. On the 6th, however, a Hornet, CDR Michael Groothousen, suffered a malfunction which forced the commander to eject. Rescuers recovered him and returned the pilot to the ship within 15 minutes.
19–27 Oct 1991: Six aircraft–two Tomcats and four Hornets–flew ashore to Ramstein AB in Germany, where they pitted their skills against Air Force General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcons in dissimilar air combat training. Maintainers and their equipment left the ship on the 19th to set-up the detachment, while aircraft flew off Forrestal two days later. USAF tankers provided “outstanding” support refueling the aircraft during both legs, which allowed the men to fly 2,000 nautical mile non-stop round trips. Meanwhile, a Tomcat from VF-31 flew over Sollum Anchorage, on 22 October, where they photographed Russian guided missile helicopter cruiser Moskva (CHG-108). Forrestal kept close tabs on Moskva throughout the latter’s deployment, monitoring the Russians as they sailed normally between Sollum and Tartus, Syria. When VF-31 imaged the Russians on this date Moskva conducted helicopter operations over the Gulf of Sollum, and pilots spotted five Kamov Ka-25 Hormones on her deck, three spinning up and two parked with their rotors folded.
6–15 Nov 1991: The ship took part in two exercises with the French, Harmonie Sud Est and Iles D’Or. British and Italian forces joined the carrier for the second exercise. French RADM Bonet D’Oleon, commanding that nation’s forces participating in the exercises, visited Forrestal on the 12th.
2–6 Dec 1991: Russian guided missile aircraft carrier Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov (CVG-113) sailed from the Black Sea via the Dardanelles en route to her new homeport within their Banner Northern Fleet. Nine aircraft–two Tomcats, two Hornets, three Vikings, one Prowler and a Hawkeye–flew over 330 miles from Forrestal south of Marseilles to intercept the elusive ship. Tomcats from VF-31 flew a TARPS mission 3,000 feet over the carrier as they caught up to her in the western Mediterranean about 65 miles north of Jijel, Algeria, at 37°40’N, 5°80’E, on the 6th. Although aircrew did not spot Russian aircraft on the flight deck, their imagery provided analysts extremely rare and detailed views of the new carrier and her weapons and systems. Shortly thereafter America relieved Forrestal after the latter sailed from the Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar for home for the last time.
23 Dec 1991: The ship arrived at Mayport in time for crewmembers approved leave to join their families for the Christmas holidays. During the days following, the ship’s marines stood down their security detachment and departed from the ship after faithfully protecting her since commissioning.
Mid-1991–mid 1992: The crew made advanced preparations to change the ship’s homeport to NAS Pensacola, Fla., and to transition from an operational aircraft carrier to relieve auxiliary aircraft landing training ship Lexington (AVT-16). In addition, the crew integrated over 300 female sailors into the ship’s company for the first time, including 25 chiefs.
20–31 Aug 1992: Hurricane Andrew, the most destructive United States hurricane recorded to date as it blasted its way across southern Florida on 24 August 1992, forced Forrestal to emergency sortie to avoid it.
14 Sep 1992: Forrestal arrived at Philadelphia to begin a 14-month, $157 million complex overhaul and conversion prior to assuming duties as the Navy’s new auxiliary aircraft landing training ship (AVT-59). Her final Command History Report defined these missions as “to lead the Navy in sea-going training strategies, emphasizing Naval Aviation, Surface Force and Reserve training, and to provide an operational platform capable of executing multi-mission tasking in support of national interests. ” The crew made the move with over 400 personal vehicles stored on board.
1 Feb–10 Sep 1993: When Forrestal received orders that the Navy decided to decommission her (thus leaving the Fleet without a dedicated training carrier), crewmembers and workers already removed thousands of feet of redundant cable, removed the shafts to the shipyard, where workers refurbished them in preparation for returning them to the carrier, and they completed many machinery repairs in the main engineering spaces. The Navy directed that crewmembers and workers should be ready to inactivate and decommission the ship by the same day, 30 September, and they did so by the 22nd of that month (holding the actual ceremony at the beginning of the month–see below). In addition, crewmembers assisted a number of other crews with training during this period, including those of America and John F. Kennedy. Sailors also transferred a great deal of equipment to other commands, including sending the ship’s starboard and port anchors and chains to Newport News Shipbuilding for use on board aircraft carrier John C. Stennis (CVN-74), screws and propellers and fire mains to John F. Kennedy, and the TV system to Enterprise, as well as donating their library to combat stores ship USNS Concord (T-AFS-5) and Theodore Roosevelt. Nearly 1,700 crewmembers processed orders detailing them to other commands across the globe, in many instances involving considerable hardship for families, and over 200 more opted to take the “early out” program and discharged. A crewmember died in a service elevator accident in Building No. 620, adjacent to Forrestal at the shipyard, on 28 February. Sailors and workers flooded Drydock No. 5 at Philadelphia on 9 June, and six days later Forrestal shifted berths over to Pier 6E. Throughout July crewmembers also spent over 200 man-hours helping to restore former light cruiser–second line Olympia (IX-40), berthed nearby as a floating memorial at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River. Sailors made extensive hull and structural repairs to return the cruiser’s watertight integrity, which suffered during the intervening years following her removal from active service due to neglect generated by a lack of funds. The volunteers also installed an operational announcing system on board Olympia. The ship’s 50 state flag team and color guard participated in the “Welcome America” picnic at Fort Mifflin on the Delaware on 3 July, and then took part the next day in Philadelphia’s Independence Day parade. On the 29th the crew held their final on board memorial service for their fallen shipmates from 1967 in Hanger Bay No. 1, during which a security-rifle squad from the Security Department fired a 21-gun salute.
The Forrestal was stricken from the Navy List 11 Sep 1993; At the Naval Education and Training Center, Newport, R.I., 14 Sept. 1998 on hold as museum donation.