Thursday, December 04, 2008
Into the sunset...
Metaphorically, at any rate!
It's taken me a while to gather my thoughts to write this post...since before Veteran's Day.
35 years ago, the day before Thanksgiving, I boarded the USS Kittyhawk at North Island. At 17, I had Thanksgiving dinner away from home for the first time aboard her, and soon after we departed for points west. I celebrated my 18th birthday aboard her.
I rode her all the way to Mombasa, Kenya visiting Hawaii, Subec Bay, Hong Kong, and Singapore along the way... with some time off the coast of Vietnam along the way. With over 5,000 of us on board, there were places we had to pass up that smaller ships would have been able to visit. We rode out a typhoon off the Phillipines with not only our own aircraft aboard, but more that they flew out to get them out of the islands because they were safer aboard ship! When we left Kenya we were the first carrier to ever sail into the current hotbed of the world's attention, the Persian Gulf. Along the way, I became a "Shellback", and somewhere lost my boyhood as well.
Not all of us that left on that cruise were lucky enough to come home.
The above photo is the Kittyhawk arriving in San Diego for the last time. The photo is from her archive...I don't think they'll mind me using it. The following is a snippet of the press release announcing her arrival:
"As the oldest active-duty warship and last diesel-fuel powered aircraft carrier in the Navy, Kitty Hawk made history during its return to the U.S.: it is the only aircraft carrier to have more than 100,000 launches from one of its waist catapults.
Throughout its lifetime, Kitty Hawk has had 407,511 arrested carrier landings and 448,301 launches."
If anyone would be interested in more of her history, this link has a summary of the service of the first "super" carrier.
My Dad spent a lot of time through the years trying to convince me that I couldn't keep cars as pets; I realize that there is no way we as a nation can afford to keep a fuel-oil carrier sailing one minute longer than necessary. I also know that the sailors serving on the nuclear carrier that replaced her won't miss the fuel oil/jet fuel cocktail (in my day there was also avgas mixed in for flavor) that found it's way into our freshwater through the tank venting...
That photograph is her entering Puget Sound for decommissioning. I shall hope that not every city that wants a carrier for a museum has one yet! I shall hope that perhaps that although most likely she'll never launch another aircraft, that destiny has something else in mind for her besides being scrapped or sunk as a reef.
I have met men who served aboard before me, and ones who have served aboard her since. She is a touchstone in millions of lives at this point, and I shall hope that she finds a way to remain "alive" for each of us!
May the rest of the week be kind, and may your weekends be wonderful!