U.S.S. America (CV-66)
America was a Kitty Hawk-class super carrier commissioned in 1965. She was decommissioned in 1996 and scuttled 9 years later.
Design and Construction
America was ordered as an Enterprise-class nuclear-powered carrier, but the cost of Enterprise’s construction was massive and it was decided to build America as a modified Kitty Hawk, using conventional boilers. She was laid-down on 1 January 1961 at Newport News and commissioned on 23 January 1965.
The first milestone in America’s career came in October 1966, when she took aboard the Navy’s first operational A-7 Corsair II squadron. During her second deployment, the Six Day War broke out in the Middle East. America, which was on her way out of the Mediterranean, was ordered to stay behind. Three days into the war, on June 8, 1967, Israeli torpedo boats and bombers attacked the American surveillance ship Liberty. America launched fighters immediately, but they were recalled. The ship did not know who was attacking the Liberty, and because the fighters were carrying nuclear weapons, it was feared that a nuclear war could be started if the attackers were Soviet. Once the attack was over, America sent two of her escorting destroyers and a group of helicopters to assist the Liberty. On 10 June, a memorial service was held on America’s flight deck. The ship participated in several training exercises until April 10, 1968, when she sailed from Norfolk, bound for Viet Nam.
America spent 112 days on station, and during this time her F-4 Phantom fighters shot down a North Vietnamese MiG-21 and her attack aircraft earned the ship a Naval Unit Commendation for their performance. She underwent a routine overhaul at Norfolk after her return in January 1969. In November of that year, she conducted tests with a U-2 spy plane to determine whether that aircraft could safely operate from carriers. After a brief deployment to Cuba, America set sail for a second deployment to Viet Nam.
America spent 100 days on Yankee Station. During this time, she suffered no combat losses. She headed back for the U.S. in November 1970. Following deployments to the Atlantic, America was due to sail for the Caribbean in June 1972, but she was diverted to Viet Nam for her third tour.
On 19 November 1972, America’s no. 2 catapult room caught fire, disabling the machine. Despite this damage, the ship remained on station and continued to launch strikes. America returned to Yankee Station in December, and she was on station in February 1973 when the war officially ended.
The carrier returned to the Atlantic Fleet shortly afterwards. Spending much of the 1970’s in the Mediterranean, America escorted evacuation ships after a 1976 crisis in Lebanon forced the withdrawal of American citizens. Consequently, she celebrated the 200th birthday of her namesake country in Taranto, Italy.
The ship was present for a new crisis in the Mediterranean in 1986. After repeated terrorist attacks on American citizens by Libyans, America joined other carriers in strikes on Libyan territory. The carrier supported coalition ground forces in Iraq during the Gulf War and departed on her final deployment in August 1995.
Decommissioning and Fate
America was decommissioned in 1996 and towed to Philadelphia. Despite aggressive efforts to preserve her, America was selected for a unique set of tests in 2005. The ship was towed into the Atlantic and bombarded with explosives that were meant to simulate attacks by torpedoes and cruise missiles. The data collected in these tests was used in the design of the Ford-class carriers. Severely damaged, America was scuttled.
Risk of Asbestos Exposure
America was built at a time when use of asbestos was rampant in ship construction. Asbestos is used as an insulator for steam lines, boilers, and numerous pieces of machinery on a ship. Any damage to this insulation can cause fibrous asbestos to escape into the air, where it can easily enter the lungs.
Asbestos is proven to cause mesothelioma, a malignant cancer of the lungs. Although no cure currently exists for this disease, treatments such as chemotherapy can be used to fight the cancer.
If you or someone you know served on America or worked on her in a shipyard and has contracted mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation. Please fill out the form at the bottom of this page for a free information packet on your legal options.