The Kitty Hawk was launched in May of 1960. Captain William Bringle took command of the vessel after it was commissioned and the Kitty Hawk left Norfolk, Virginia in August, 1961. The carrier stopped briefly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the Secretary of the Brazilian Navy boarded for a demonstration of exercise at sea. In October, it rounded Cape Horn and arrived at Valparaiso Bay. Only two days later it sailed for Callao and entertained the President of Peru.
In June of 1963, the Kitty Hawk returned to San Diego where President John F. Kennedy, along with the top military leaders, boarded. Shortly after Kennedy’s visit, the Kitty Hawk sailed for the Far East. As the Kitty Hawk approached Japan, the crew learned of the president’s assassination.
Action in the Vietnam War
The Kitty Hawk headed to Puget Sound where it underwent alterations. In October, 1965, it headed for Hawaii and then to Subic Bay, P.I. There it prepared for combat operations off of the coast of Vietnam. The Kitty Hawk was then awarded the Navy Unit Commendation, due to the ship’s participation in combat operations against the Communist guerrilla forces in the Republic of Vietnam. The crew flew more than 10,000 sorties while delivering more than 10,700 tons of ordinance against the enemy forces.
After the War
The Kitty Hawk returned to San Diego in 1965, where it was overhauled. It then sailed to Yokosuka, Japan to relieve the Constellation, a flagship for Rear Admiral David C. Richardson. The Kitty Hawk remained at Yankee Station until May, 1967, then returned to the naval shipyard at Long Beach for maintenance and was finally decommissioned in Bremerton, Washington on May 12, 2009.
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.