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||12 July 1951
||14 July 1952
||11 December 1954
||1 October 1955
||11 September 1993
||1,067 ft (325 m)
||129 ft 4 in (39 m)
||37 ft (11.3 m)
||Steam turbines, 4 shafts
||33 knots (61 km/h)
||552 officers, 4988
||8 x 5 inch (127 mm) guns,
Mk29 NATO Sea Sparrow, Mk15 Phalanx CIWS
||F-14, F-4, A-7, A-6,
E-2,S-3B, EA-6B, C-2, SH-3, KC-130 (test flight)
||First in Defense
USS Forrestal (CVA-59) (later CV-59 and AVT-9) was a
United States Navy aircraft carrier, the lead ship of a
new class of "supercarriers", named after
Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal.
Forrestal was launched 11 December 1954 by Newport News
Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, Virginia,
sponsored by Mrs. James V Forrestal, widow of Secretary
Forrestal; and commissioned 1 October 1955, Captain R. L.
Johnson in command.
3 The fire
7 Forrestal and the Big Easy
From her home port, Norfolk, Virginia, 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 the use of her advanced facilities, a duty on which
she often operated out of Mayport, Florida. On 7 November
1956, she put to sea from Mayport to operate in the
eastern Atlantic during the Suez Crisis ready to enter
the Mediterranean should it be necessary. She returned to
Norfolk 12 December to 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, Forrestal visited many ports to allow
dignitaries and the general public to come aboard and
view the power she represented. For military observers,
she staged underway demonstrations to illustrate her
capacity to bring air power 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, Operation
Strikeback in the North Sea. This deployment, between 3
September and 22 October, found her visiting Southampton,
England, as well as drilling in the highly important task
of coordinating 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 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
On her second tour of duty in the Mediterranean, from 2
September 1958 to 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
United States Secretary of Defense N. H. McElroy.
Returning to Norfolk, she continued the never ending task
of training new aviators, constantly maintaining her
readiness for instant reaction to any demand for her
services brought on by international events. Visitors
during the year included King Hussein of Jordan.
Forrestal again went to the 6th Fleet between 28 January
1960 and 31 August, visiting the ports usual to a
Mediterranean deployment as well as Split, then in
Yugoslavia. Again she was open for visitors at 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 her schedule of east coast and
Caribbean operations for the remainder of the year.
Forrestal made history in November 1963 when on the 8th,
21st and 22nd, Lt. James H. Flatley III and his crew
members, Lt. Cmdr. "Smokey" Stovall and
Aviation Machinist's Mate (Jets) 1st Class Ed Brennan,
made 21 full-stop landings and takeoffs in a C-130
Hercules aboard the ship. The tests were conducted 500
miles (900 km) out in the North Atlantic off the coast of
Massachusetts. In so doing, Forrestal and the C-130 set a
record for the largest and heaviest airplane landing on a
Navy aircraft carrier. The Navy was trying to determine
if the big Hercules could serve as a
"Super-COD", a "Carrier On-board
Delivery" aircraft. The problem was there was no
aircraft which could provide resupply to a carrier in mid
ocean. The Hercules was stable, reliable, and had a long
cruising range and high payload.
The tests were more than successful. At 85,000 pounds (38
t), the C-130F came to a complete stop within 267 feet
(81 m), and at the maximum load, the plane used only 745
feet (227 m) for take-off. The Navy concluded that with
the C-130 Hercules, it would be possible to lift 25,000
pounds (11 t) of cargo 2,500 miles (4,000 km) and land it
on a carrier. However, the idea was considered a bit too
risky for routine COD operations. The C-2A Greyhound
program was developed and the first of these planes
became operational in 1965. For his effort, the Navy
awarded Lt. Flatley the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In June 1967, Forrestal departed Norfolk for duty in
waters off Vietnam. In the Gulf of Tonkin on 29 July,
Forrestal had been launching aircraft from her flight
deck. For four days, the planes of Attack Carrier Air
Wing 17 had been launched on, and recovered from, about
150 missions against targets in North Vietnam.
About 10:50 (local time), a missile fired from an F-4
Phantom II and hit an A-4 Skyhawk getting ready to launch
with Lt. Cmdr. John McCain as the pilot. The two A-4s
ahead of his plane were engulfed in flaming jet fuel
JP-5 spewed from them. A bomb dropped to
the deck and rolled about 6 feet (2 m) and came to rest
in a pool of burning fuel.
The fire left 132 Forrestal crewmen dead, 62 more injured
and two missing and presumed dead. The ship returned to
Norfolk for extensive repairs.
Even today the Navy commonly refers to the fire aboard
the Forrestal, and the lessons learned, when teaching
Damage control and Ammuniton safety. Following this fire,
the ship developed the permanent nickname of
Forrestal deployed to Mediterranean waters four time
between 1968 and 1973; she sped to Tunisia for rescue
operations in the flooded Medjerda River Valley near
The ship logged three more Mediterranean deployments
between 1973 and 1975. On 22 July 1974, as a result of a
conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriot forces on
Cyprus, the U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Roger Davies
requested the evacuation of U.S. citizens from that
island nation. In a joint Navy-Marine Corps effort,
HMM-162 from the 6th Fleet amphibious assault ship Inchon
evacuated 466 people, 384 of them U.S. citizens, in only
five hours. Forrestal provided air cover for that
In 1975, Forrestal was selected to be host ship for the
International Naval Review in New York City on the
nation's Bicentennial. On July 4, 1976, on Forrestal's
flight deck, President Gerald Ford rang in the
Bicentennial and reviewed over 40 tall ships from
countries around the world.
Shortly after the review, Forrestal participated in a
special shock test. It involved the detonation of high
explosives near the hull to determine if a capital ship
could withstand the strain of close quarter combat and
still remain operational.
In September 1977, following a nine month overhaul,
Forrestal departed Norfolk and shifted homeport to
Mayport. The carrier left Mayport on 13 January 1978 for
a three-week at-sea period in the Atlantic Fleet Weapons
Range of the Roosevelt Roads Operating Area to complete
the third phase of Type Commander's Training (TYT-3), and
to undergo the Operational Readiness Evaluation (ORE).
Tragedy struck Forrestal on the evening of 15 January as
an A-7 Corsair II from VA-81 crashed on the flight deck,
killing two deck crewmen and injuring 10 others. The
pilot ejected safely and was recovered, suffering only
minor injuries. The plane crashed as the pilot attempted
to land while the aft portion of the flight deck was
crowded with aircraft. The Corsair struck a parked A-7
and an EA-6B before careening across the deck in a ball
of flames. A small fire on the aft portion of the deck,
caused by fuel spilled during the crash, was extinguished
within seconds. At the time of the accident Forrestal was
operating about 49 miles (90 km) off St. Augustine,
Florida. A memorial service for the dead was held on
board on 19 January. The ship returned to Mayport 3
Forrestal left Mayport for the Mediterranean on 4 April
1978. At 2200 on 8 April, just minutes after the ship had
finished a general quarters drill, the crew was called to
G.Q. again, but this time it was not a drill; a fire had
broken out in the Number Three Main Machinery Room.
Freshly painted lagging in Three Main engine room had
been set smoldering by hot steam lines. Watch-standers
within the space activated an extinguishing system and
had the fire out within seconds.
Forrestal recorded her 227,000th arrested landing on 22
April 1978 while in the Mediterranean. Pilot Lt. j.g.
Erick Hitchcock and Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Lt.
j.g. Al Barnet of VF-74 were the crew of the F-4 Phantom
that marked the milestone trap.
From 19 to 29 May 1978, Forrestal participated in Dawn
Patrol, the first of three NATO exercises the ship would
be involved in during the deployment. Dawn Patrol
involved air and ground forces and over 80 ships from six
NATO countries. Forrestal's role during the exercise
included protecting a Turkish amphibious task group and
working with Nimitz (CVN-68) and the French carrier Foch
to defend against simulated "enemy" ships and
During this sea period two separate air crashes on
successive days left one pilot dead and another injured.
On 24 June 1978, Lt. Cmdr. T. P. Anderson, Operations
Officer for Carrier Air Wing Seventeen, was killed when
his A-7E Corsair II crashed into the sea during a
practice bombing mission. On 25 June a pilot from VA-83,
also flying an A-7E, ejected shortly after takeoff,
suffering minor injuries. A rescue crew aboard an SH-3D
Sea King helicopter from HS-3 recovered the pilot and
returned to the ship within eight minutes after the
crash. Both accidents occurred as the ship was operating
in the Ionian Sea, east of Sicily.
From 4 to 19 September 1978, Forrestal participated in
the massive NATO exercise Northern Wedding, which
included over 40,000 men, 22 submarines, and 800 rotary
and fixed-wing aircraft from nine NATO countries.
Northern Wedding, which takes place every four years,
practices NATO's ability to reinforce and resupply Europe
in times of tension or war. During the exercise Forrestal
and the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal headed
separate task groups, steaming in a two-carrier formation
to gain sea control and deploying their aircraft in
support of mock amphibious landings in the Shetland
Islands and Jutland, Denmark.
From 28 September to 10 October, Forrestal participated
in Display Determination, the third and final NATO
exercise of the deployment. The operation, involving
ships, aircraft, and personnel from eight NATO countries,
was designed to practice rapid reinforcement and resupply
of the southern European region in times of tension or
war. Forrestal arrived in Rota on 11 October for the last
overseas port stop of the deployment.
On 13 October 1978, the ship put to sea to conduct a
one-day exercise with a task group of deploying U.S.
ships headed by the aircraft carrier Saratoga (CV-60).
Air Wing Seventeen's planes conducted mock attacks on the
task group to allow the ships to practice anti-air
warfare. Forrestal returned to Rota late in the evening
on the 13th.
Before dawn on 15 October, Forrestal departed Rota and
outchopped from the Sixth Fleet, having been relieved by
Saratoga. On the homeward transit, Forrestal took an
extreme northerly course as part of a special operation
code-named Windbreak. Commander Second Fleet, Vice Adm.
Wesley L. McDonald, embarked in Forrestal for the
exercise. Windbreak was designed to introduce U.S.
sailors and equipment to relatively unfamiliar waters and
conditions, and to gauge Soviet interest in U.S. ships in
transit to and from the Mediterranean. During the
exercise, Forrestal traveled as far north as 62 degrees
latitude, 150 miles (280 km) south of Iceland,
encountering seas to 34 feet (10 m), winds in excess of
70 knots (130 km/h), and a wind chill factor that drove
the temperature as far down as 0 degrees. Also
participating in Windbreak were the guided missile
cruiser Harry E. Yarnell (CG-17) and the destroyer Arthur
W. Radford (DD-968).
Forrestal returned to Mayport on 26 October 1978. On 13
November Forrestal commenced a four-month period of
upkeep and repair known as an Extended Selected
Restricted Availability (ESRA), to be conducted as the
ship was moored alongside the carrier pier in Mayport.
Forrestal ended 1978 as she had started it, moored to the
carrier pier in Mayport.
After completing two more Mediterranean cruises, she
celebrated her silver anniversary in October 1980.
On 2 March 1981, Forrestal began her 16th Mediterranean
deployment and second quarter century of naval service.
During the Syria/Israel missile crisis, Forrestal
maintained a high state of readiness for 53 consecutive
days at sea. In a Gulf of Sidra exercise, two Libyan
aircraft were shot down after firing upon F-14s from
Nimitz over international waters. Forrestal aircraft made
more than 60% of all the intercepts of Libyan planes.
After departing the Mediterranean she operated above the
Arctic Circle as part of NATO Ocean Venture '81.
After a repair period, Forrestal deployed for her 17th
Mediterranean cruise on 8 June 1982, and operated in the
eastern Mediterranean in support of the Lebanon
Contingency Force of 800 U.S. Marines in Beirut. On 12
September 1982, after transiting the Suez Canal for the
first time in her 28-year history, she entered the Indian
Ocean. This marked the first time that Forrestal had
operated with 7th Fleet since the 1967 Vietnam cruise.
Forrestal completed the five and one-half month
deployment with a nighttime arrival at Mayport on
November 16 and immediately began preparing for the
Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). The ship shifted
homeport to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 18 January
1983, and embarked on the 28-month, $550 million SLEP,
designed to extend the life of U.S. aircraft carriers
another 15 to 20 years.
During Forrestal's SLEP the ship was completely emptied
and most major equipment was removed for rework or
replacement. Forrestal's successful SLEP period was
completed on time when the ship left Philadelphia on 20
May 1985. After completing a four-day transit to her
homeport of Mayport, Forrestal immediately began a workup
cycle in preparation for her first deployment in over
Forrestal departed Mayport on 2 June 1986, on her 18th
deployment. During this cruise, Forrestal aircraft
frequently operated in the international airspace of the
Tripoli Flight region, the international air traffic
control sector of Libya. Forrestal also participated in
Operation Sea Wind, a joint U.S.-Egyptian training
exercise and Display Determination, which featured
low-level coordinated strikes and air combat maneuvering
training over Turkey.
In 1987, Forrestal went through yet another period of
pre-deployment workups. This included refresher training,
carrier qualifications, and a six-week deployment to the
North Atlantic to participate in Ocean Safari '87. In
this exercise, Forrestal operated with NATO forces in the
fjords of Norway.
Forrestal and the Big Easy
The ship and crew performed so well in Ocean Safari '87
that the Forrestal's commanding officer, Captain John A.
Pieno Jr., recommended that the ship be granted a special
liberty call in the United States as a reward. Special
liberty calls serve to reward Navy personnel with a trip
to other parts of the U.S. and provides Americans who
would normally never see warships and planes an up close
look at life in the United States Navy. Captain Pieno
being a native of New Orleans, Louisiana decided that New
Orleans, during her Mardi Gras celebration, would be the
perfect location to show off his pride and joy. During
her trip to New Orleans Forrestal broke another record by
becoming the largest ship to sail on the Mississippi
river. Also during her four days in the Big Easy she
accommodated tours for over 40,000 visitors. The tour
included viewings and descriptions of all her aircraft,
damage control demonstrations, and the crowd's favorite,
a ride on one of her four aircraft elevators.
Forrestal departed on her 19th major deployment on 25
April 1988. She steamed directly to the North Arabian Sea
via the Suez Canal in support of America's Earnest Will
operations in the region. She spent 108 consecutive days
at sea before her first liberty port. During the five and
one-half month deployment, Forrestal operated in three
ocean areas and spent only 15 days inport. She returned
on 7 October 1988, and received the Meritorious Unit
Citation for her superior operational performance during
After a brief stand down period followed by local
operations, Forrestal participated in New York City's
Fleet Week in May 1989, and then commenced preparations
for her next deployment.
Forrestal's departure for her 20th major deployment was
delayed when a fire caused major damage to a primary
command and control trunk space. Through the efforts of
the ship's crew and civilian contractors, Forrestal was
able to depart for her deployment on 6 November 1989,
completing the necessary repairs well ahead of
The final two months of 1989 proved exciting. Beyond the
"routine" exercises and training initiatives,
Forrestal's crew became part of history, as they provided
support to President George H. W. Bush during his Malta
Summit. The support included a three-hour Presidential
visit to the ship.
Forrestal participated in numerous exercises during this
deployment including Harmonie Sud, Tunisian Amphibious
and National Week. She returned to Mayport on 12 April
1990, ending a deployment which had included eight port
visits in five different countries.
The year 1991 was a year of anticipation and change for
Forrestal and its crew, as she spent the first five
months maintaining combat readiness as the east coast
ready carrier. Maintaining a hectic and challenging
period of at-sea operations, Forrestal's anticipated
deployment in support of Operation Desert Storm was not
to be, and orders to deploy were cancelled twice during
The call to deploy finally came and Forrestal commenced
the 21st and final operational deployment on 30 May 1991.
No less challenging than the months of maintaining
readiness for combat, Forrestal's deployment was
repeatedly referred to as "transitional."
During the ensuing seven months, Forrestal was called
upon to provide air power presence and airborne
intelligience support for Operation Provide Comfort, and
to initiate, test and evaluate a wide range of innovative
COMSIXTHFLT battle group tactics and new carrier roles.
The year ended with Forrestal making advanced
preparations for a change of homeport to Pensacola,
Florida, and the transition into a new role as the Navy's
training carrier, replacing Lexington. Forrestal arrived
in Philadelphia 14 September 1992 to begin a 14-month,
$157 million complex overhaul prior to assuming the
duties as training carrier. In early 1993, however, the
Navy decided to decommission Forrestal and leave the Navy
without a dedicated training carrier.
Forrestal was decommissioned 11 September 1993 at Pier 6E
in Philadelphia, and was stricken from the Navy List the
same day. Currently, she is on donation hold as a museum
ship and memorial at the Naval Station, Newport, Rhode