USS America CV-66 (1964-1996)
USS America was the third Navy ship-class-aircraft and the third Kitty Hawk carrier to take the name. She was built in Newport News, Virginia, and received her original commission on January 23, 1965. Her first deployment was a brief visit to the Mediterranean, after which she returned to U.S. waters, and then to Guantanamo for training. A second deployment brought the ship back to the Mediterranean, where she stood on hand in preparation for a violent civil war in Greece, which fortunately never materialized.
Action in the Middle East and Vietnam
In 1967, the America was stationed in the Middle East, keeping an eye on the mounting Arab-Israeli tension that soon erupted into the Six-Day War. When the USS Liberty was attacked by Israeli torpedoes, the America’s crew provided medical assistance to the wounded. Later that year, she returned to Guantanamo again for training exercises that simulated conditions in the Gulf of Tonkin in preparation for her service in Vietnam.
The America spent 112 days deploying aircraft against North Vietnamese fuel supplies and land vehicles to try to prevent them from moving south. She would be deployed to Vietnam twice more over the next four years, fighting at the Gulf of Tonkin and Subic Bay. In March of 1973, she returned to Norfolk. Over the next decade, she would see action in Lebanon and Libya before being called to support Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
After the War
During its final years of commission, The USS America remained in terrible condition. Unlike other ships, it never was serviced by the Navy’s Carrier Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). As a result, one of the America’s flight-deck elevators fell during in the 1990’s with many blueshirts and an S-38 aircraft on it. Moreover, the craft suffered leaks of fuel and steam. Returning to the shipyard during the 1990’s, a large portion of the carrier’s flight-deck catwalks was demolished as it passed through a hurricane.
After decommission on August 9, 1996, the USS America was docked for a few years on the grounds of the Philadelphia Inactive Ship Facility. However, the carrier craft left the Philadelphia yard for its final mission on April 19, 2005. After being towed away from the east coast, the America was ultimately disposed of in a classified SinkEx.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, aircraft carriers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.