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Ships 3

USS Saratoga

Scrapping The Grand Old Carrier Saratoga

By James Donahue

At 1,063 feet, the USS Saratoga (CVA 60) measures in length the height of the Empire State Building. Launched in 1955, she was the second "super-carrier" to exist in the world and the fifth ship in the U.S. Navy to bear the name.

This great ship with a total displacement of 78,200 tons, and a crew of over 5,000 was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis plus the Vietnam and Gulf wars. She was decommissioned in 1994 and is now moored at the Navy’s Newport Naval Station waiting a planned scrapping, possibly later this year.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower walked her decks in 1957. He and his cabinet went aboard this new carrier to observe operations. For two days, the Saratoga and 18 other ships demonstrated air, warfare, antisubmarine, bombing and guided missile operations on the open sea.

After participating in joint maneuvers with North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations, Saratoga joined the Sixth Fleet on the Mediterranean. She made eight separate cruises to the Mediterranean during those early years, and spent time in between operating off the coast of Florida.

There were several serious accidents. The worst involved a collision with the German freighter Bernd Loenhardt off the coast of North Carolina in May, 1960. Neither vessel was sunk but the Loenhardt suffered $2.5 million in damage.

In January, 1961, seven sailors died when a fire broke out in the carrier's number two machinery space. The fire was believed caused by a ruptured fuel line.

While deployed to the eastern Mediterranean during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Saratoga was involved in a slight collision with the USS Little Rock when the light cruiser turned across the carrier's bow.

In November, 1978, the Saratoga collided with the Waccamaw, a fleet oiler, while operating with the Sixth Fleet. The incident occurred south of Crete. Both ships sustained minor damage and there were no injuries.

During the Vietnam War, Saratoga lost six aircraft and five pilots. Her aircraft flew over 1,000 sorties against the enemy. In 1976 the carrier participated in operations during the Lebanon crisis.

The carrier got the nickname "Super Sara" in 1983 after going through the most extensive overhaul ever performed on a navy ship. The work performed in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard lasted 28 months.

The carrier was instrumental in the arrest of terrorists involved in the Achille Lauro incident at Cairo, Egypt, in 1985, and the following year was involved in a skirmish with Libya after crossing what Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi called the "Line of Death." Missles were fired at the Saratoga but they missed their target. Three Libyan patrol boats, a radar site and other facilities were destroyed by Navy aircraft.

Another mishap involving a ferry boat resulted in the loss of 21 crew members off the coast of Haifa, Israel, during Operation Desert Storm.

During an inter-governmental naval exercize in the Aegean Sea in 1992, officers on the Saratoga accidentally fired two live missles that struck the Turkish destroyer Muavenet. The commanding officer and four other crew members on the destroyer were killed and most of the other officers were injured. The Saratoga's captain and seven other officers and sailors were disciplined.

After the ship was decommissioned former crew members conducted a campaign to raise money to convert the Saratoga into a national museum at Jacksonville, Florida. The campaign fell short of raising the money needed.