USS SARATOGA CV-60
The fifth Saratoga "Super Sara" (CVA-60) was named after the Battle of Saratoga during the American Revolutionary War. Her history began when the contract was awarded to the New York Naval Shipyard in July 1952 and she was first laid down on December 16, 1952. Sara was launched on 8 October 1955; sponsored by Mrs. Charles S. Thomas; and commissioned on April 14, 1956, with Capt. R. J. Stroh in command. It was one of four Forrestal class of supercarriers to be build that employed new high pressure 1200 PSI boilers.
Her mascot was "The Fighting Cock" and most of her assignments were in the Mediterranean, the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm near the end of her active service. As of 2013, she is scheduled for disposal after many unsuccessful efforts to preserve the ship as a museum. Her long proud history is as follows:
For the next several months after being commissioned, Saratoga conducted engineering, flight, steering, structural, and gunnery tests.
On August 18, 1956, she sailed for her shakedown cruise to Guantanamo. On December 19, she reentered the New York Naval Shipyard and remained there until February 28, 1957. Upon completion of yard work, she got underway on a refresher training cruise to the Caribbean before entering her home port, Mayport, Fla.
On June 6, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and members of his cabinet boarded Saratoga to observe operations on board Saratoga. For two days, she and eighteen other ships demonstrated air operations, antisubmarine warfare, guided missile operations, and the Navy's latest bombing and strafing techniques. Highlighting the President's visit was the nonstop flight of two F8U Crusaders, spanning the nation in three hours and twenty-eight minutes, from USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) on the west coast to the flight deck of the Saratoga in the Atlantic.
The carrier departed Mayport on September 3, 1957 for her maiden transatlantic voyage. Saratoga sailed into the Norwegian Sea and participated in Operation 'Strikeback', joint naval maneuvers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries . She returned briefly to Mayport before entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for repairs.
On February 1, 1958, Saratoga departed Mayport for the Mediterranean and her first deployment with the Sixth Fleet. On July 15, 1958, while aircraft from Saratoga and USS Essex (CV 9) flew cover from long range, amphibious units landed 1,800 Marines on the beach near Beirut, Lebanon, to support the Lebanese government and to protect the lives of U.S. citizens. The situation was stabilized within a few days, without untoward incident.
During her August 1959 deployment to the Mediterranean, Attack Squadron 34, flying A-4D Skyhawks and part of Saratoga's air wing, was the first squadron deployed to the Sixth Fleet equipped with Bullpup missiles.
During the night of May 25, 1960, she collided with the Bernd Leonhardt (a German Freighter) off the coarst of North Carolina. Sara sustained little damage, but the superstructure and bridge of the freighter received substantial damage.
During a Sixth Fleet deployment on January 23, 1961, a large fire occurred in the "Number 2" machinery area that resulted in the loss of life for seven crew members. The fire, believed caused by a ruptured fuel oil line, was brought under control by the crew, and the ship proceeded to Athens where a survey of the damage was done Sara continued on patrol missions, yet had reduced steam generation ability before returning to USA for scheduled repairs.
A long and extensive period occurred in the shipyard during the second half of 1964, and then Super Sara arrived in the Mediterranean just before Christmas. She visited several ports during the next 6 months such as Naples, Athens, Cannes, Valencia, Spain, Istanbul, and Malta.
Sara served in the Mediterranean again during many month of 1966 that were substantially routine and uneventful.
From June to December 1967, another Mediterranean cruise occurred and it was more challenging. Immediately upon entering the Mediterran Sea, Sara was deployed to the eastern Mediterranean during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, where her medical facility treated survivors of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Later, she was involved in a near collision with a Russian destroyer which cut across her bow during flight operations. On the return voyage in early December, she spent several days in a substantial Atlantic storm, which caused heavy damage to external catwalks on the flight deck, garbage chute and boat sponsons. She returned to Mayport on December 6.
On January 2, 1968, Saratoga sailed for Philadelphia for an overhaul and modernization program which was scheduled to last 11 months. On January 31, she departed Philadelphia for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, via Hampton Roads and Mayport, for extensive crew and air wing refresher training.
On May 17, 1968, Armed Forces Day, she was the host ship to President Richard M. Nixon during the firepower demonstration conducted by Carrier Air Wing Three in the Virginia Capes area.
On July 9, 1968, she departed Mayport for her 9th Mediterranean deployment. While Underway, a Soviet surface force and a "November"-class submarine passed in close proximity, en route to Cuba.
On July 17, 1968, (off the Azores) Sara was shadowed by Kipelovo-based Soviet aircraft. They were intercepted, photographed, and escorted while in the vicinity. Sara operated with Task Group 60.2 of the Sixth Fleet in the eastern Mediterranean during September in a "show of force" in response to the large build-up of Soviet surface units there, the hijacking of a Trans World Airlines plane to Syria and the political coup in Libya. Numerous surveillance and reconnaissance flights were conducted by Carrier Wing Three aircraft against Soviet surface units, including the carrier Moskva, operating southeast of Crete. Saratoga operated in this area again in October because of the Lebanon crisis .
Super Sara returned to Mayport and the Florida coast on January 22, 1969.
On June 24, 1969, the first operational "hands off" arrested landing using the AN/SPN-42, Automatic Carrier Landing System (ACLS), on a carrier was performed by Lt. Dean Smith and LTJG James Sherlock of Fighter Squadron 103 when their F-4 Phantom landed aboard Saratoga.
On June 11, 1970 Saratoga sailed again for duty with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.
On September 28, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon and his party arrived on board. That night, word was received that Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of the United Arab Republic had died; an event that could plunge the Middle East into a crisis. The intelligence and communications personnel of Saratoga were required to supply the President, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretaries of State and Defense with the essential intelligence information to keep them abreast of the deteriorating situation. The Presidential party departed the next evening, and Saratoga continued on patrol in the eastern Mediterranean until she sailed for the United States on November 2nd.
Beginning her arrival at Mayport until March 10, 1971, she was in "cold iron" status. She then operated off the Florida coast until June 7 when she departed for her eleventh deployment with the Sixth Fleet, via Scotland and the North Sea where she participated in Exercise Magic Sword II.
Sara returned to Mayport on October 31, 1971 for a period of restricted availability and local operations.
On April 11, 1972, Saratoga sailed from Mayport en route to Subic Bay, P.I., and her first deployment to the western Pacific. She arrived in Subic Bay on May 8 and departed for Vietnam the following week, arriving at "Yankee Station" on May 18 for her first period on the line. Before year's end, she was on station in the Tonkin Gulf a total of seven times: May 18 to June 21; July 1-16; July 28 to August 22; September 2-19, September 29 to October 21; November 5 to December 8; and December 18-31. During the first period, Saratoga lost four aircraft and three pilots. On the plus side, on June 21, two of her F-4 Phantoms from VF-31 attacked three MiG 21s over North Vietnam. Dodging four surface to air missiles, one of the F-4s, piloted by Cmdr. Samuel C. Flynn Jr., with radar intercept officer Lt. William H. John, shot down one of the MiG aircraft. This Phantom, Bureau number 157307, was later transferred to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The aircraft was transferred upon its arrival at Dulles International Airport on November 29, 1988.
Saratoga's planes attacked targets ranging from enemy troop concentrations in the lower panhandle to petroleum storage areas northeast of Hanoi. On her second line period, she lost an F-4 to enemy fire northeast of Hanoi with the pilot and radar intercept officer missing in action. During this period, her aircraft flew 708 missions against the enemy.
On June 30, 1972, Sara was reclassified from CVA-60 to be a Multi-purpose Aircraft Carrier "CV-60".
On July 10, 1972 the F4-J piloted by LT Robert Irving Randall and LT Frederick J Masterson was hit by AAA fire. They ejected over enemy territory and were listed as POW.
On August 6, 1972, Lt. Jim Lloyd of VA-105, flying an A-7 Corsair on a bombing mission near Vinh, had his plane shot out from under him by a SAM (Surface to Air Missile.) He ejected into enemy territory at night. In a daring rescue by helicopters supported by CVW-3 aircraft the following day, he was lifted from the midst of enemy soldiers and returned to Saratoga. It was the deepest penetration by U.S. helicopters into enemy territory since 1968.
From September 2-19, 1972 Saratoga aircraft flew over 800
combat strike missions against North Vietnam targets . On October 20, her
aircraft flew 83 close air support sorties in six hours in support of a force of
250 Territorials beleaguered by the North Vietnamese 48th Regiment. Air support
saved the small force, enabled ARVN troops to advance, and killed 102 North
Vietnamese soldiers. During her last period on station, Saratoga's
aircraft battered targets in the heart of North Vietnam for over a week.
Two pilots in an A6 on were lost on
September 6 when they were hit by enemy fire. Two good parachutes were seen, but
the pilots went down in a heavily populated area and were likely captured. On
September 8, another F4 was hit. CDR Richard P. Bordone and LT Joseph H.
Findley ejected into the ocean where they were rescued by one of Saratoga's
CVW-3 helos. More tense moments occurred
on September 13 as an A7 Corsair bomber was hit. Lt Gregory H. Averett ejected
safely into the ocean and he was also rescued by a helo. On September 18,
one of the ship's F4-J Phantoms, piloted by LTJG Richard G. Hamilton with RIO LTJG
Anderson C. Blake was hit by enemy ground AAA fire while attacking fuel supply
depots northeast of Hanoi. They managed to return and safely land the heavily
damaged F4 during night operations on Saratoga.
On January 21, 1975, Saratoga, on a Mediterranean deployment, was released from a response alert for possible evacuation of U.S. citizens from Cyprus during a period of strife on that island.
On November 21, 1978, Sara collided with the USNS Waccamaw (T-AO-109) while operating with the 6th Fleet during a refueling operation, 50 miles (80 km) south of Crete, suffering minor damage, but no crew injuries
In March of 1980, Saratoga and embarked airwing CVW-17 departed on their 16th Mediterranean deployment. Highlights of the deployment included major exercises with the USS Forrestal (CV 59) battle group, and visits by the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Thomas C. Crow. Then-commanding officer, Capt. James H. Flatley III, made naval aviation history on June 21, 1980 when he completed his 1,500th carrier arrested landing. To make the event special, Midshipman James H. Flatley IV, the Captain's son, rode in the back seat.
On September 28, 1980, only one month after her return from deployment, Saratoga departed Mayport and headed north to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard where she underwent the most extensive industrial overhaul ever performed on any Navy ship. Saratoga was the first ship to go through the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) overhaul that would last 28 months. She conducted sea trials on October 16, 1982, and left Philadelphia with much fanfare on February 2, 1983 with her new nickname — "Super Sara."
Saratoga departed the Mayport Basin yet again for her 17th Mediterranean deployment on April 2, 1984.
Saratoga's 18th deployment was anything but ordinary. After departing Mayport in August 1985, Saratoga steamed toward the Mediterranean for what was scheduled to be a routine deployment. But on October 10, Saratoga was called into action. Arab terrorists had found and struck an Italian luxury liner, Achille Lauro. The ship had just departed Alexandria, Egypt, on a pleasure cruise of the Mediterranean. A few hours later, terrorists from the Palestinian Liberation Front hijacked the ship. After tense negotiations and the killing of an American tourist, the hijackers traveled in a battered tugboat to the city of Port Said, Egypt, after Achille Lauro anchored just off the coast. Egyptian authorities made hasty arrangements for the terrorists to depart the country. They boarded an Egypt Air 737 jumbojet at the Al Maza Air Base, northeast of Cairo.
On orders from President Ronald Reagan, seven F-14 Tomcats from the
VF-74 "Bedevilers" and VF-103 "Sluggers" were launched from Saratoga.
Supporting the Tomcats continuously were VA-85 KA-6D air tankers and
VAW-125 E-2C Hawkeye aircraft. Off the coast of Crete, the F-14s, without
the use of running lights, eased up beside and behind the airliner. On command,
the Tomcats turned on their lights and dipped their wings — an
international signal for a forced landing. The E-2C Hawkeye radioed the
airliner to follow the F-14s. Realizing they were in a "no-win" situation, the
hijackers allowed the pilot to follow the Tomcats to Naval Air Station,
A heavily-armed A-6E Intruder fired Rockeye cluster bombs and a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile at a Libyan missile patrol boat operating on the "Line of Death." Later that night, two A-7E Corsair II jets attacked a key radar installation at Surt. At the conclusion, three Libyan patrol boats and a radar site were destroyed by Navy aircraft.
Following Saratoga's 19th Mediterranean deployment in June 1987, she was overhauled once again at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard at a cost of $280 million.
Saratoga departed Mayport for her 20th deployment on August 7, 1990, just days after Iraqi tanks invaded Kuwait. Saratoga and Carrier Air Wing 17 rapidly crossed the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and transited the Suez Canal on August 22, to take up station in the Red Sea.
On September 22, 1987, an F-14A-70-GR Tomcat, BuNo 162707, of VF-74 out of NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia, operating from the USS Saratoga, accidentally shot down a USAF RF-4C-22-MC Phantom II, 69-0381, 'ZR' tailcode, of the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, out of Zweibrücken Air Base, West Germany, at 1550 hours EDT over the Mediterranean during a NATO exercise, DISPLAY DETERMINATION. Both RF-4C crew ejected, pilot Capt Michael Ross of Portsmouth, Ohio, and WSO 1st Lt Randy Sprouse of Sumter, South Carolina, both of the 38th TRS, and were rescued by a helicopter from the Saratoga within 30 minutes, suffering numerous injuries. A Navy spokesman said that the F-14 downed the RF-4C with an air-to-air missile, but did not know whether it was a Phoenix, a Sparrow or a Sidewinder. This was likely due to insufficient information being relayed to the spokesman. When told by the Saratoga's Admiral that they had been shot down, Sprouse remarks "I thought we were supposed to be on the same side?" to which the Admiral replies "We're sorry about this, but most of the time we are." The Tomcat pilot, LTJG Timothy Dorsey, was duly disciplined and permanently removed from flying status. However, in February 2012 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recommended Dorsey's promotion to Rear Admiral.
In the early morning hours of January 17, 1991, Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm. Aircraft from Saratoga flew against Iraq in the first step to knock out the Arab nation's military power and drive it from conquered Kuwait. CVW-17 aircraft dropped more than four million pounds of ordnance on enemy targets. However, on January 17, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, flying an F/A-18C Hornet of VFA-81 aboard Saratoga, was shot down by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile, the first U.S. casualty of the Gulf War. He was placed in an MIA status the next day. On May 22, 1991, following a Secretary of the Navy status review board that found "no credible evidence" to suggest he had survived the shootdown, his status was changed to Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered (KIA/BNR). On January 11, 2001, Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig changed the status of Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher from KIA/BNR to Missing in Action (MIA), based on new information.
On January 21, 1991, an F-14 Tomcat of VF-103 aboard Saratoga, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Pilot Lt. Devon Jones and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Lawrence Slade were reported missing. Lt. Jones was recovered the following day, but Lt. Slade was captured as a prisoner of war.
Flying on January 30, 1991, all 18 F/A-18s aboard Saratoga delivered 100,000 pounds of MK-83 1,000-lb. bombs on Iraqi position in occupied Kuwait. This was the largest amount of bomb tonnage carried on a single mission.
Saratoga departed the Gulf March 11, 1991. After seven months and 21 days, 11,700 arrested landings, 12,700 sorties flown, 36,382 miles traveled and a record six Suez Canal transits, Saratoga returned home March 28 to a hero's welcome.
Saratoga's 21st Mediterranean deployment, which began May 6, 1992, was much more than normal operations in the Med. Her six month deployment found her in the Adriatic Sea, providing close-air support for humanitarian relief flights flying into the war-torn former Yugoslavia. Thousands of support missions were flown, but more importantly, not one single piece of ordnance was dropped — proving that U.S. military presence is a powerful deterrent. On August 27, aircraft from Saratoga and USS Independence (CV 62), both in the Arabian Gulf, began enforcing the no-fly zone south of the 32nd parallel in Iraq under Operation Southern Watch. Any Iraqi warplanes violating that airspace would be shot down. This was to prevent the Iraqis from attacking Shiite Moslem ethnic groups in the marshes of southern Iraq. From the Gulf, Saratoga returned to the Mediterranean and was there relieved on October 7 by USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67).
"Super Sara," along with Carrier Air Wing 17 (CVW-17), began her final deployment January 12, 1994, entering the Mediterranean Sea January 26 after a choppy Atlantic Ocean crossing. Ship and air wing spent that day, east of Gibraltar, receiving "turnover briefs" from Saratoga's predecessor in the Mediterranean, USS America (CV 66). As America ended her deployment, setting sail for home, Saratoga headed east for the area where the crew would come to call "Groundhog Station" in the Adriatic Sea.
On September 30, 1992, the Combat Direction Center Tactical Action Officer (TAO) aboard Saratoga decided to launch a simulated attack on nearby opposition forces utilizing the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile system. After securing the approval of Saratoga's Commanding Officer and the Battle Group Commander, Rear Admiral Philip Dur, the Combat Direction Center Officer implemented the simulated assault plan. Without providing prior notice, officers on Saratoga woke the enlisted Sea Sparrow missile team and directed them to conduct the simulated attack. Certain members of the missile firing team were not told that the exercise was a drill, rather than an actual event.
As the drill progressed, the missile system operator used language to indicate he was preparing to fire a live missile, but due to the absence of standard terminology, the responsible officers failed to appreciate the significance of the terms used and the requests made. Specifically, the Target Acquisition System operator issued the command "arm and tune", terminology the console operators understood to require arming of the missiles in preparation for actual firing. The officers supervising the drill did not realize that "arm and tune" signified a live firing. As a result, shortly after midnight on the morning of 1 October, Saratoga fired two live Sea Sparrow missiles at Muavenet. The missiles struck Muavenet in the bridge, destroying it and the Combat Information Center, killing five, including the commanding officer, and injuring most of the Turkish ship's officers. Navy officials recommended that the captain of the aircraft carrier Saratoga and seven other officers and sailors be disciplined for the missile firing, which recommendation was followed through.
Entering the Adriatic on February 1 1994, Saratoga and CVW-17 launched the first of thousands of sorties in support of U.N. and NATO operations Deny Flight and Provide Promise over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Actress Halle Berry, star of films Boomerang, Jungle Fever and The Last Boy Scout, spent an afternoon with Sailors on station in the Adriatic Sea aboard Saratoga February 3. Then, after 44 consecutive days at sea, Saratoga visited the northern Italian city of Trieste for some eagerly awaited liberty.
The ship departed Trieste February 28, 1994, taking up station in the southern Adriatic once again, in response to the U.S. Air Force downing of four Bosnian Serb Super Galeb attack aircraft The four jets had been flying in defiance of the U.N.-NATO "No Fly Zone" over the former war-torn Yugoslavia.
Saratoga remained on station until March 10. Departing for the eastern Mediterranean, ship and air wing participated in exercises over land and sea with U.S. allies in that part of the world. Finishing up on March 18, Saratoga returned to Trieste for another well-deserved period of recreation, then to the Greek island of Crete for bombing exercises at the Avgo-Nisi bombing range.
Completing the exercises, the Saratoga/CVW17 team returned to the Adriatic for five more days of flying in support of Deny Flight and Provide Promise. Departing "Groundhog Station" 7 April , Saratoga transited the Straits of Messina between Sicily and the toe of the "boot" of southern Italy, for a port call at Naples, Italy, before returning to the Adriatic for the fourth time on April 17.
Saratoga anchored off the resort city of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, May 3, 1994, for one week of the most eagerly-awaited port calls of the deployment. After a week of liberty on the sun-drenched Spanish island, it was back to business as Saratoga participated in the Mediterranean exercise Dynamic Impact. This exercise featured joint maneuvers with several NATO-member navies, as well as the U.S. Air Force.
Finishing six days of liberty in Valencia, Spain, Saratoga participated in Iles D'Or, or "Islands of Gold," -- an exercise with the French Navy, lasting until June 9. Saratoga, the Navy's oldest active duty carrier, hen headed for the rendezvous point with her relief, the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73), the Navy's newest carrier at the time.
Saratoga arrived pierside at Naval Station, Mayport, Fla., early in the morning of June 24, 1994. With the end of the 164-day deployment — the last in the carrier's 38-year career — Saratoga's crew prepared to deactivate the ship, offloading material and closing out each of the ship's more than 3,500 spaces.
Saratoga was decommissioned at the Naval Station, Mayport, Fla., August 20, 1994, and was stricken from the Navy List the same day. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Boorda was the keynote speaker at the decommissioning.
Efforts in 1994–95 to establish the ship as a museum in Jacksonville, Florida failed to raise even half of the start up costs. Jacksonville civic leaders attempted the funds, but the fundraising campaign, "Save Our Sara", fell short of the $3 million goal. Efforts were abandoned when startup costs increased from $4.5 million to $6.8 million. Officials had wanted to place the ship in downtown Jacksonville, on the St. Johns River along the Southbank Riverwalk. The Jacksonville USS Saratoga Museum Foundation, Inc ceased operating in the summer of 1995
Saratoga was towed out of the Naval Station Mayport basin on May 22, 1995 and taken to Philadelphia to become part of the Navy's inactive fleet.
In August 1998, upon the deactivation of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, she was towed to Newport, R.I., departing August 3rd and arriving at the Naval Education and Training Center on August 7, 1998. She was first placed on donation hold, then her status was changed to disposal as an experimental ship. While a hulk at Newport, Sara, was extensively stripped to support the active carrier fleet
Saratoga was returned to donation hold on January 1, 2000, yet years later it lost its donation status. There was an active effort to make her a museum ship in Quonset Point in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. In April 2010 the Saratoga was removed from donation hold and scheduled to be disposed
As of April 2013, Super Sara is in unmaintained condition awaiting sale for scrap. The Saratoga will probably be scrapped at Brownsville, Texas
Saratoga received one battle star for service in the Vietnamese conflict.