Description: History of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS America (CV-66) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS America (CVA-66, CV-66) was ordered for the U.S. Navy on November 25, 1960. Her keel was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company on January 9, 1961. She was launched on February 1, 1964 and commissioned on January 23, 1965 under the command of Captain Lawrence Heyworth, Jr.
USS America’s first deployment was to the Mediterranean in 1965. She sailed to Livorno, Cannes, Genoa, Toulon, Athens, Istanbul, Beirut, Valletta, Taranto, Palma, and Pollensa Bay, and participating in the international exercise Fairgame IV, which simulated warfare against a country who invaded a NATO ally. Upon returning to the United States and proceeding to Guantanamo Bay for training, she was damaged by Hurricane Inez.
The USS America was deployed again on January 10, 1967, when she relieved the USS Independence at Pollensa Bay. She participated in several more international naval exercises. There were several accidents during training, and five planes were lost by March 1967.
In April, civil war was looming in Greece. USS America stood by as the flagship of Real Admiral Dick H. Guinn, Commander Task Force 65, ready to evacuate American citizens in the event of violence. When tensions cooled off without the need to evacuate, the carrier sailed off to Italy.
By May, tensions in the Middle East were building, and USS America joined the carrier USS Saratoga and TG 60.2 in the Sea of Crete. She conducted training operations and hosted media correspondents. Early in June, she the Task Group was harassed by a Soviet Destroyer that was armed with surface-to-air missiles, and Vice Admiral William I. Martin had to send the ship a warning.
On June 8, Israeli torpedo boats and jet fighters attacked the technical research ship USS Liberty. USS Liberty lost 34 men and had 75 others injured. USS America sent one of her medical officers and two corpsmen to aid the ship, and she took 50 wounded and nine dead aboard. The Arabs charged that the fleet’s aircraft were covering for Israeli ground forces during the Six-Day War, but the media was presented with copies of the flight plans to refute this charge. The media left after the cease-fire came, and the fleet was no longer harassed by Soviet ships.
Following the cease-fire, USS America took part in training exercises and visited various ports along the Mediterranean. She returned to Norfolk Naval Shipyard on October 6, 1967 before participating in more training, drills, exercises, and inspections, including Exercise “Rugby Match.”
The USS America sailed for Vietnam in the spring of 1968, spending 112 days on the line at Yankee Station. The ship’s first MiG kill in the Vietnam War took place on July 10, 1968. When the Yankee Station mission came to a close for her, the carrier initiated 993 “Pollywogs” who had never crossed the Equator on November 9. She sailed back to Jacksonville in January 1969 before heading up to Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a nine-month overhaul. She participated in a number of training operations before returning to Vietnam in the spring of 1970.
USS America spent another 100 days on Yankee Station. While not on the line, she engaged in a number of training and defense exercises. On August 20, 1970, the carrier received President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos and his wife at Manila. After her fifth and final line period, USS America boasted not a single combat loss and only one major landing accident; there were no fatalities.
On her way home, the USS America greeted the United States Ambassador to Australia and celebrated two Thanksgivings as she cross the International Date Line. After a brief stay at Norfolk, the carrier again participated in a number of naval exercises, including National Week X, National Week XI, and Exotic Dancer V.
The USS America headed back to Vietnam in June 1972. A fire broke out in the No. 2 catapult spaces on November 19, 1972, but the damage was quickly brought under control, and the carrier remained on the line. She headed back home on February 17, 1973, having earned five battle stars for her service in the Vietnam War.
The carrier once again resumed training operations and exercises around the world until 1976 when hostilities broke out in Lebanon. USS America stood by to support the evacuation of American citizens after the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon was assassinated on June 13, 1976. She then returned to her usual training exercises and carrier qualifications.
USS America passed through the Suez Canal on October 21, 1981 following the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The Egyptian government provided security for the carrier, and the passage was made without incident.
In January 1983, the USS America relieved the USS Nimitz in support of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force off the coast of Lebanon. After her time there, she again sailed the world carrying out training operations and exercises until she was ordered to Libya in early 1986. She remained there to join in Operation El Dorado Canyon on April 14, 1986. After leaving the area for training exercises and overhaul, USS America would return to evacuate the American Embassy in Lebanon in 1989.
USS America would also serve in Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, peacekeeping efforts over Bosnia, Operation Southern Watch, and several more training exercises before she was decommissioned on August 9, 1996. She was initially going to be sold for scrap, but was instead chosen to serve as a target for firing exercises, and she was sunk on May 14, 2005 off the coast of North Carolina.
Like all other ships built before the 1970s and 1980s, the USS America was constructed using a number of asbestos-containing components. Because asbestos was known for its resistance to heat, fire, water, and corrosion, it was used in virtually all areas of the ship, as well as in the aircraft she carried. Anyone who worked on or around the USS America was put at risk for developing deadly asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma.
USS America workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked on or around the USS America, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.
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