I am definitely starting to feel old. In my 9 plus years in the Navy, I had the honor to serve on 3 different aircraft carriers. Of those 2 are still in active service, the USS Nimitz and the USS Kitty Hawk with the 3rd, the USS Midway being decommissioned some 16 years ago. That though is soon going to change as the Kitty Hawk has left Japan on it’s final voyage before being decommissioned.
For many sailors, their first ship holds a special place in their heart, sort of like one’s first love and the Kitty Hawk was my first on many fronts. I made my first deployment in 1985, I crossed the equator for the first time and became a shellback that same year, I made my first visits to Asia and Africa while assigned to the Hawk, and I met my first wife while onboard (ok , so it wasn’t all roses).
Some of the things that happened on the Kitty Hawk while I was stationed on board:
13 Sep 1985: CoMiDEastFor ordered the escort of a Military Sealift Command ship due to ongoing Iranian seizures of merchant ships. On 22 September, two ships were diverted from an anti-submarine warfare exercise with the Kitty Hawk carrier battle group to resume Persian Gulf surveillance operations.
28 Oct–4 Nov 1985: Kitty Hawk conducted anti-submarine warfare exercises in the Gulf of Aden. Two Russian Il-38s reconnoitered the ship and Battle Group Bravo, on the 28th, and contact was gained during the exercise on a Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine.
9 Sep 1986: ABEAA Daniel Dixon was killed on the flight deck, during night flight operations. (He stood up and was hit by an S-3 Viking as it was launching)
3 Jan–29 Jun 1987: While changing home ports from NAS North Island to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Kitty Hawk completed a global circumnavigation, via the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean.
27–29 Jan 1987: Kitty Hawk ended a visit to Subic Bay after only 40 hours, getting underway for the Indian Ocean in response to increased tensions there, generated by the ongoing Persian Gulf War between the Iranians and Iraqis.
31 Mar 1987: A class “Bravo” fire occurred on an oil pipe on Sponson No. 7, starboard side in the hanger bay, while the ship was getting steam up for standing out from her anchorage off Masirah, 0448–0508. Prompt firefighting action by the crew contained the flames, preventing a “major disaster” without casualties.
Apr–May 1987: Following Iranian test-firing of HY-2 Silkworm SSMs, endangering shipping in the Persian Gulf, Kitty Hawk was instructed to extend her operations on station there, being reinforced by additional vessels into a combined battle group.
8–13 Apr 1987: During Kitty Hawk’s visit to Karachi, Pakistan, GEN Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq, President of Pakistan, toured the ship, on the 13th.
13–17 May 1987: Kitty Hawk operated for the first time in the Red Sea, though “restricted air space” limited flight evolutions.
17 May 1987: Kitty Hawk completed her first transit of the Suez Canal (south–north).
17–18 May 1987: Two Exocet AM39 air-to-surface missiles fired by an Iraqi Dassault-Breguet F-1 Mirage hit guided missile frigate Stark (FFG-31) while she was in international waters in the Persian Gulf, at approximately 2109 on the 17th. The attack killed 37 sailors and wounded five more, but heroic efforts by her crew saved the ship. Kitty Hawk was alerted to operate in the eastern Med for possible retaliatory strikes against the Iraqis.
25 Nov 1987: Kitty Hawk entered Drydock No. 5, Philadelphia, beginning the heavy work phase of her $832 million Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). Approved “in concept” on 13 March 1976, SLEP added an additional 15 years to the expected [average] 30 years of operational service for Forrestal and Kitty Hawk-class carriers.
From what I can tell, the future of the decommissioned ship is still up in the air but I do hope that the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier along with her 47 years of faithful service gets a plum retirement gig as a museum somewhere versus the alternative that could have her becoming part of a disposable razor in someone’s medicine cabinet.
Either way, she will be missed.