USS Saratoga was the second of the Forrestal class aircraft carriers to be launched and build by the New York Naval shipyard. She was commissioned in April of 1956 and operated mainly in the Western Hemisphere until 1957. During that year she was sent to Northern European waters to help in Operation Strikeback. In early 1958 she began the first of more than twenty deployments with the Sixth Fleet into the Mediterranean Sea.
Action in Vietnam and the Mediterranean
After a major overhaul was completed in 1968 just in time for the Saratoga to host President Nixon in 1969, she left to go to the Mediterranean again, which had a marked increase in Soviet presence and unrest of the Arabs. The ship would have two more Sixth Fleet deployments and a single Pacific cruise. The USS Saratoga even took part in combat operations to help stop or even reverse an intense North Vietnamese offensive against the South.
During the rest of the 1970s the Saratoga took multiple trips across the Atlantic to visit the Mediterranean Sea. In later 1980 she even partook in her 16th cruise with the Sixth Fleet and started having a massive SLEP reconstruction. The work was not completed until February of 1973 and the next year she was sent to the Mediterranean Sea for her 17th tour. However, she would not have to worry about not doing anything routine on the next tour as her planes intercepted an airliner that was carrying terrorists who had just hijacked a cruise ship. In 1986 the Saratoga helped with combat operations against Libyan forces at sea and ashore.
In 1990 the Saratoga steamed into the Red Sea in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The first couple of months would see the Saratoga take an active role in Operation Desert Storm. The carrier had two more deployments with the Sixth Fleet to finish her career.
After the War
In 1994 the ship was removed from the Naval Register and was towed into Newport, Rhode Island, where she is still in Navy custody awaiting a final outcome.
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.