USS Forrestal (CV-59)

USS Forrestal (CV-59)

The supercarrier USS "Forrestal" (CV-59), formerly AVT-59 and CVA-59, was named after former Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal and was the lead ship of her class of aircraft carriers. The other carriers of her class were the USS|Saratoga|CV-60|3, USS|Ranger|CV-61|6 and USS|Independence|CV-62|6. She was the largest aircraft carrier since "Shinano" of World War II vintage, and the first to specifically support jet aircraft. The ship was affectionately called "The FID", because James Forrestal was the first ever Secretary of Defense, FID standing for "First In Defense". This is also the slogan on the ship's insignia and patch. She was also informally known in the fleet as the "Zippo" and "Forrest Fire" because of a number of highly publicized fires onboard.

"Forrestal" was launched 11 December 1954 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, Virginia, sponsored by Josephine Forrestal, widow of Secretary Forrestal; and commissioned 1 October 1955, Captain R. L. Johnson in command.

"Forrestal" was the first American aircraft carrier to be constructed with an angled flight deck, steam catapult, and landing signal lights, as opposed to having them installed after launching.David Hobbs, 2007, "HMAS "Melbourne" (II) - 25 Years On", p 6]


From her home port, Norfolk, Virginia, "Forrestal" spent the first year of 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. During this time 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 Sea 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 "show the flag" and take on board dignitaries and the general public. 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 July.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 typical of 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" deployed to the Mediterranean again on 3 August 1962 to 2 March 1963 as flagship for Commander Carrier Division Four.


"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 whether the big Hercules could serve as a "Super-COD", or "Carrier Onboard Delivery" aircraft. The problem was there was no aircraft which could replenish a carrier in mid ocean. The Hercules was stable and reliable, and had a long cruising range and high payload.

The tests were more than successful. At 85,000 pounds (38.6 t), the KC-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 statute miles (4,000 km) and land it on a carrier. However, the idea was considered too risky for routine COD operations. The aircraft was also too large to fit on the carrier's elevators or in its hangars, severely hampering operations. The C-2 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. The Hercules used, BuNo 149798, was retired to the National Museum of Naval Aviation at NAS Pensacola, Florida, in May, 2003.

1967 Fire

In July 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 flew about 150 missions against targets in North Vietnam from the ship. On July 29, 1967, during preparation for another strike, a Zuni rocket misfired, knocking off an external tank on another aircraft. Fuel from the leaking tank caught fire creating a massive conflagration that burned for hours, killing 134, injuring 161, destroying 21 aircraft and costing the Navy $72 million.US Navy. Damage control museum. [ USS Forrestal (CVA 59)] .]


"Forrestal" was deployed to Mediterranean waters four times between 1968 and 1973. She also sped to Tunisia for rescue operations in the flooded Medjerda River Valley near Tunis.

The ship logged three more Mediterranean deployments between 1973 and 1975. On 22 July 1974, as a result of ongoing 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" (LPH-12) evacuated 466 people, 384 of them U.S. citizens, in only five hours. "Forrestal" provided air cover for that operation.

In October 1968, a routine night launch of an E-2A from VAW-123 led the way for all launches aboard Forrestal. The crew members were LCDR Paul Martin Wright (Operations Officer), LCDR James Leo Delaney (Maintenance Officer), LTJG Howard Booth Rutledge (Personnel Officer), LTJG Frank J. Frederick (Asst. Maintenance Officer), and AT1 David E. Carpenter (Avionics Dept). The flight was routine. All aircraft recovered as usual until the VAW-123 E-2A, which was the last plane to recover. The aircraft boltered and went off the angled deck and into the water, nose first. When it hit the water, the aircraft flipped over onto its back, breaking its radar dome off and sank within minutes. The dome floated and was recovered. Immediately, helicopters moved into the area for search and rescue operations. AT1 David E. Carpenter and LTJG Frank J. Frederick were rescued without serious injury. Lost at sea were LCDR Wright, LCDR Delaney, and LTJG Rutledge.

On 10 July 1972, while moored at Pier 12, Norfolk, the Forrestal was once again the scene of a catastrophic fire in an O-3 level computer room (just under the flight deck) which was set by a crewmember. A hole was cut in the flight deck in order to reach the fire from above and hundreds of gallons of water were pumped into the space. This ruined all of the computer equipment and the ship took on an exaggerated list, prompting concern that she might capsize. The ship returned to the yards at Portsmouth and three months later was at last able to relieve the USS Kennedy, which had to serve an extended Mediterranean deployment while the Forrestal was being repaired. Electrician's Mate Robert Horan, who was aboard at the time, recalls in a memoir " [The fire did] over seven million dollars in damage. The news [ed] the flight deck glowing red. We went back to Portsmouth for repairs and I believe we got most of the CIC and electronics equipment that was supposed to go onboard the Nimitz, then under construction."cite web | last = Horan| first = Robert | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = | title = The 70's | format = | work = | publisher = USS Forrestal Association | accessdate = 2007-07-28]


On 30 June 1975, "Forrestal" was reclassified a "Multi-purpose Aircraft Carrier", CV-59. Also in 1975 "Forrestal" was selected to be host ship for the International Naval Review in New York City on the nation's Bicentennial. On 4 July 1976, on "Forrestal"’s flight deck, President Gerald Ford rang in the Bicentennial and reviewed over 40 tall ships from countries around the world.Naval Historical Center. [ USS Forrestal (CV-59)] .]

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 her homeport to Mayport. The carrier left Mayport on Friday, 13 January 1978 for a three-week at-sea period in the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility (AFWTF) 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 was operating without communication gear due to an onboard malfunction, and as he was making his approach, he saw that the "ball" was lit, a signal that indicates it is permissible to land. The pilot ejected safely after seeing that the deck was covered with parked and moving aircraft, by which time it was impossible to pull up.Fact|date=March 2008 He 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 and when a plane was being "respotted" (moved) to another portion of the ship's deck. The Corsair struck a parked A-7 and an EA-6B before careering 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 February.

"Forrestal" left Mayport for the Mediterranean on 4 April 1978. At 22:00 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.

Three days later the crew again was called to respond to another emergency G.Q. At midnight on 11 April, fire was discovered in a catapult steam trunk in the forward part of the ship at about the 01 level, and another fire was found in an adjoining storeroom minutes later. The at-sea fire brigade, working with area repair lockers, had the fires out within the hour.

On 10 May 1978, flooding which began in a pump room in the aft portion of the ship rose to a height of 20 feet before it was controlled and spread into food storage rooms, destroying most of the ship's stocks of fresh milk and produce. Divers from the ship's Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team dropped into the pump room to plug the leak. Total damage from the flooding was estimated at $30,000.

From 19 May to 29 May 1978, "Forrestal" participated in Operation 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 aircraft.

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 September 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 took place every four years, practiced 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, Spain 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 four years.

"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 in port. She returned on 7 October 1988, and received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for her superior operational performance during the deployment.

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. Also in 1989, she won the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award for the Atlantic Fleet.

"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 projections. The October 9, 1989 fire caused around $2.5.million in damage and injured 11 sailors. ["Navy points to arson in carrier fire". Pacific Stars And Stripes. Tokyo, Japan. Sunday, January 21, 1990. Page 1.]

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. After a post deployment stand down, "Forrestal" completed a drydocking selected restricted availability at Mayport from 14 May 199027 August 1990.US Navy. [ DANFS - Forrestal] .]

From September to November 1990, "Forrestal" underwent repairs at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Repairs included work on the catapult system, hull and other changes to accommodate the F/A-18 Hornet. ["Forrestal Work to Help Keep Shipyard Busy Facility Faces Lean Season" "Virginian-Pilot." September 5, 1990 in LOCAL section, page D4.] "Forrestal" returned to Mayport 21 November 1990.

Once source reports that in 1990,when "Forrestal" took part in Operation Pokeweed in which SEAL Team Six was deployed off the coast of Panama to apprehend Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. [ Naval Special Warfare Development Group] -] However, the ship's history does not show that "Forrestal" was operating near Panama in 1990.

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 canceled twice during the conflict.

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 intelligence support for Operation Provide Comfort, and to initiate, test and evaluate a wide range of innovative Sixth Fleet 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 was redesignated AVT-59 and arrived in Pensacola at the start of February. The ship and crew returned to New Orleans for a visit in May, 1992. "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.

Decommissioning and fate

"Forrestal" was decommissioned 11 September 1993 at Pier 6E in Philadelphia, and was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day. After being stricken, ex-"Forrestal" was heavily stripped to support the rest of the carrier fleet. In 1999, the USS "Forrestal" Museum Inc. began a campaign to obtain the ship from the Navy via donation, for use as a museum, to be located in Baltimore, but this plan was not successful. The Navy removed the ship from donation hold in 2004 and redesignated it for disposal. According to the NVR, her final status is "donated for use as fishing reef." In 2007, the ship is currently being environmentally prepared for sinking as an artificial reef. Due to elements of the "Forrestal" design having led directly to current aircraft carrier design, the ship will be donated to a State and sunk in a deep water reef, for fishery propagation, so that it is inaccessible to divers. The date for the sinking has not yet been announced.cite news| url=| last = Peterson| first = Zachary M.| title = Navy sink list includes Forrestal, destroyers| publisher = NavyTimes| date = 2008-02-26| accessdate = 2008-09-07]

ee also

* List of aircraft carriers
* List of aircraft carriers of the United States Navy



Further reading

* Freeman, Gregory A. "Sailors to the End: The Deadly Fire on the USS Forrestal and the Heroes Who Fought It". New York: William Morrow, 2002. ISBN 0-06-621267-7, ISBN 0-06-093690-8.

External links

* [ USS "Forrestal" Museum homepage]
* [ USS "Forrestal" Association homepage]
* [ Navy photographs of "Forrestal" (CVA-59)]
* [ "USS Forrestal" webpage]
* [ Memorial to the men who died in the Forrestal fire]
* [ Sailors to the End author Gregory A. Freeman's homepage]
* [ CV-59 Personnel Roster at]

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