USS Ranger (CV-61)

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The supercarrier USS Ranger (CV-61) at sea in 1983.

The USS Ranger (CV/CVA-61) is one of four Forrestal-class supercarriers built for the US Navy in the 1950s. Although all four ships of the class were completed with angled decks, Ranger had the distinction of being the first US carrier built from the very beginning as an angled deck ship.

Commissioned in 1957, she served extensively in the Pacific, especially the Vietnam War, for which she earned 13 battle stars. Near the end of her career she also served in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. In 1976, the Ranger was In the 1990s, the Ranger became a museum ship after its 1993 decommissioning.

History[edit | edit source]

USS Ranger was laid down August 2, 1954 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, Va.; launched September 29, 1956; sponsored by Mrs. Arthur Radford, wife of Admiral Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and commissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard August 10, 1957, Capt. Charles T. Booth II, in command.

Ranger joined the Atlantic Fleet October 3, 1957. Just prior to sailing October 4 for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for shakedown, she received the men and planes of Attack Squadron 85. She conducted air operations, individual ship exercises, and final acceptance trials along the eastern seaboard and in the Caribbean Sea until June 20, 1958. She then departed Norfolk, Va., with 200 Naval Reserve officer candidates for a two-month cruise that took the carrier around Cape Horn. She arrived at her new homeport, Alameda, Calif., on August 20 and joined the Pacific Fleet.

The carrier spent the remainder of 1958 in pilot qualification training for Air Group 14 and fleet exercises along the California coast. Departing January 3, 1959 for final training in Hawaiian waters until February 17, she next sailed as the flagship of Rear Adm. H. H. Caldwell, ComCarDiv 2, to join the Seventh Fleet. Air operations off Okinawa were followed by maneuvers with SEATO naval units out of Subic Bay. A special weapons warfare exercise and a patrol along the southern seaboard of Japan followed. During this first WestPac deployment, Ranger launched more than 7,000 sorties in support of Seventh Fleet operations. She returned to San Francisco Bay July 27.

During the next six months, Ranger kept herself in a high state of readiness through participation in exercises and coastal fleet operations. With Carrier Air Group 9 embarked, she departed Alameda February 6, 1960 for a second WestPac deployment and returned to Alameda 30 August. From August 11, 1961 through March 8, 1962, Ranger deployed to the Far East a third time.

The next seven months were filled with intensive training along the western seaboard in preparation for operations in the troubled waters of Southeast Asia. Ranger departed Alameda on November 9, 1962 for brief operations off Hawaii, and then proceeded, via Okinawa, to the Philippines. She steamed to the South China Sea May 1, 1963 to support possible Laotian operations. When the political situation in Laos relaxed May 4, she resumed her operations schedule with the Seventh Fleet.

Arriving at Alameda from the Far East June 14, 1963, she underwent overhaul in the San Francisco Naval Shipyard August 7 1963 through February 10, 1964. Refresher training out of Alameda commenced March 25, interrupted by an operational cruise to Hawaii from June 19, to July 10.

Ranger again sailed for the Far East August 6, 1964. This deployment came on the heels of the unprovoked assault against destroyer USS Maddox on the night of August 2 and, two nights later, against both destroyers Maddox and USS Turner Joy, by North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats. In retaliation for this aggression on the high seas by North Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson, on August 5, directed the Navy to strike bases used by the North Vietnamese naval craft. As Ranger steamed from the western seaboard, some 60 attack sorties rose from the decks of USS Ticonderoga and USS Constellation.

Ranger made only an eight-hour stop in Pearl Harbor August 10, 1964, then hurried on to Subic Bay, and then to Yokosuka, Japan. In the latter port on October 17, 1964, she became flagship of Rear Adm. Miller who commanded Fast Carrier Task Force 77. In the following months, she helped the Seventh Fleet continue its role of steady watchfulness to keep open the sealanes for the Allies and stop Communist infiltration by sea.

On February 7, 1965, in retaliation for a damaging Viet Cong attack on installations around Pleiku, a fighter bomber strike, launched from Ranger, Coral Sea, and Hancock, blasted the military barracks and staging areas near Dong Hoi in the southern sector of North Vietnam.

Gen. William Westmoreland, commanding the Military Advisory Command in Vietnam, visited Ranger on March 9, 1965 to confer with Rear Adm. Miller. Ranger continued air strikes on enemy inland targets until 13 April when a fuel line broke, ignited and engulfed her No. 1 main machinery room in flames. The fire was extinguished in little over an hour. There was one fatality. Ranger put into Subic Bay April 15 and sailed on the 20th for Alameda, arriving home on May 6. She entered the San Francisco Naval Shipyard May 13, 1965 and remained there under overhaul until September 30.

Following refresher training, Ranger departed Alameda on December 10, 1965 to rejoin the Seventh Fleet. She and her embarked Carrier Air Wing 14 received the Navy Unit Commendation for exceptionally meritorious service during combat operations in Southeast Asia from January 10 to August 6, 1966.

Ranger departed the Gulf of Tonkin August 6 for Subic Bay, and steamed via Yokosuka for Alameda, arriving on the 25th. She stood out of San Francisco Bay September 28 and entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard two days later for overhaul. The carrier departed Puget Sound May 30, 1967 for training out of San Diego and Alameda. On July 21, 1967, she logged her 88,000th carrier landing.

From June until November, Ranger underwent a long and intensive period of training designed to make her fully combat ready. Attack Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW-2) embarked on September 15, 1967, with the new A-7 Corsair II jet attack plane and the UH-2C Seasprite turboprop rescue helicopter, making Ranger the first carrier to deploy with these powerful new aircraft. From carrier refresher training for CVW-2, Ranger proceeded to fleet exercise Moon Festival. From October 9 to October 16, 1967, the carrier and her air wing participated in every aspect of a major fleet combat operation.

Her efficiency honed to a fine edge, Ranger departed Alameda November 4, 1967 for WestPac. Arriving Yokosuka November 21, she relieved USS Constellation and sailed for the Philippines on the 24th. After arriving at Subic Bay on November 29, she made final preparations for combat operations in the Tonkin Gulf. Commander, Carrier Division 3, embarked on 30 November as Commander, TG 77.7; and Ranger departed Subic Bay on December 1 for Yankee Station.

Arriving on station December 3, 1967, Ranger commenced another period of sustained combat operations against North Vietnam. During the next 5 months, her planes hit a wide variety of targets, including ferries, bridges, airfields and military installations. Truck parks, rail facilities, antiaircraft guns and SAM sites were also treated to doses of Air Wing 2's firepower. Bob Hope's "Christmas Show" came to Ranger in Tonkin Gulf on 21 December. Another welcome break in the intense pace of operations came with a call at Yokosuka during the first week of April 1968. Returning to Yankee Station on 11 April 1968, Ranger again struck objectives in North Vietnam.

After five months of intensive operations, Ranger called at Hong Kong 5 May 1968 and then steamed for home. There followed a shipyard availability at Puget Sound that ended with Ranger's departure 29 July for San Francisco. Three months of leave, upkeep and training culminated in another WestPac deployment October 26, 1968 through May 17, 1969. She departed Alameda on yet another WestPac deployment in December 1969 and remained so employed until May 18, 1970 at which time she returned to Alameda, arriving June 1, 1970.

Ranger spent the rest of the summer engaged in operations off the west coast, departing for her sixth WestPac cruise September 20, 1970. On March 10, 1971, Ranger, along with Kitty Hawk, set a record of 233 strike sorties for one day in action against North Vietnam. During April, the three carriers assigned to Task Force 77 - Ranger, Kitty Hawk, and Hancock - provided a constant two-carrier posture on Yankee Station. Hours of employment remained unchanged with one carrier on daylight hours and one on the noon to midnight schedule. Strike emphasis was placed on the interdiction of major Laotian entry corridors to South Vietnam. She returned to Alameda June 7, 1971 and remained in port for the rest of 1971 and the first five months of 1972 undergoing regular overhaul.

On May 27, 1972 she returned to west coast operation until November 16, when she embarked upon her seventh WestPac deployment. On December 18, 1972 Linebacker II operations were initiated when negotiations in the Paris peace talks stalemated. Participating carriers were Ranger, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), USS Saratoga (CV 60), USS Oriskany (CV 34), and USS America (CV 66).

The Linebacker II operations ended on December 29 when the North Vietnamese returned to the peace table. These operations involved the resumed bombing of North Vietnam above the 20th parallel and was an intensified version of Linebacker I. The reseeding of the mine fields was resumed and concentrated strikes were carried out against surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft artillery sites, enemy army barracks, petroleum storage areas, Haiphong naval and shipyard areas, and railroad and truck stations. Navy tactical air attack sorties under Linebacker II were centered in the coastal areas around Hanoi and Haiphong. There were 505 Navy sorties in this area during Linebacker II. Between 18th and 22nd of December the Navy conducted 119 Linebacker II strikes in North Vietnam. Bad weather was the main limiting factor on the number of tactical air strikes flown during Linebacker II.

On January 27, 1973, the Vietnam cease-fire, announced four days earlier, came into effect and Oriskany, America, Enterprise and Ranger, on Yankee Station, cancelled all combat sorties into North and South Vietnam. During the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict (starting in 1961 and ending on January 2, 1973) the Navy lost 726 fixed-wing aircraft and 13 helicopters to hostile action. The Marine Corps lost 193 fixed-wing aircraft and 270 helicopters to enemy action during the same period. Operation Homecoming, the repatriation of U.S. POWs between January 27, and April 1, 1973, began and North Vietnam and the Viet Cong released 591 POWs. Of the 591 POWs released during Operation Homecoming, 145 were Navy personnel, all but one of whom were Naval Aviation personnel.

Ranger returned to Alameda in August 1973 and remained in that area through 7 May 1974 when she deployed again to the western Pacific, returning to homeport on October 18. On May 28, 1976, while on deployment, helicopters crews from HS-4 aboard Ranger, detachments from HC-3 on USS Camden (AOE 2), USS Mars (AFS 1) and USS White Plains (AFS 4), and helicopters from NAS Cubi Point, Republic of the Philippines, assisted in Philippine disaster relief efforts in the flood ravaged areas of central Luzon. Over 1,900 people were evacuated; more than 370,000 pounds of relief supplies and 9,340 gallons of fuel were provided by Navy and Air Force helicopters. As a side note, before the relief operations the Ranger was trapped in port Subic Bay, Philippines, by the typhoon and 3 days were spent trying to keep the carrier off the docks. That happened becausethe storm made a sudden course change and the Ranger was not able to get enough boilers on line in time to leave port. The typhoon eventually damaged the docks and one of the 3 tugs that were trying to keep the Ranger off suffered a failure and explosion in the tug's engine room that Ranger's damage control team responded to.

July 4 was spent in port Singapore and the Ranger had just departed the harbor by a few hours when the carrier got the call to proceed to Kenya in response to a threat of military action in Kenya by Ugandan forces. The battle group proceeded at best speed out running the Soviet shadow and even her own supply group. That brought along that the carrier conducted an UNREP from a US Merchant Marine super tanker while heading for the coast of Kenya. On July 12, 1976, Ranger and her escort ships of Task Force 77.7 entered the Indian Ocean and were assigned to operate off the coast of Kenya.

Ranger entered the history books on March 21, 1983 when an an all-woman flight crew flying a C-1A Trader from VRC-40 "Truckin' Traders" landed aboard the carrier. The aircraft was commanded by Lt. Elizabeth M. Toedt and the crew included Lt.(j.g.) Cheryl A. Martin, Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Gina Greterman and Aviation Machinist's Mate Airman Robin Banks.

On July 24, 1987, Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron 131 (VAQ 131) began the first Pacific Fleet deployment of the EA-6B Prowler equipped with HARM missiles, deployed in Ranger. On August 3, 1989, Ranger rescued 39 Vietnamese refugees, adrift for 10 days on a barge in heavy seas and monsoon rains in the South China Sea, about 80 miles from NAS Cubi Point, R.P. SH-3s Sea Kings from HS-14 assisted. An A-6 Intruder from VA-145 spotted the barge, which had apparently broken loose from its mooring near a small island off the coast of Vietnam with 10 men on board. Twenty-nine other refugees from a sinking refugee boat climbed aboard the barge when it drifted out to sea. After examination by medical personnel, all were flown to NAS Cubi Point for further processing.

President George H.W. Bush addressed the nation on January 16, 1991 at 9 p.m. EST and announced that the libration of Kuwait from Iraq, Operation Desert Storm, had begun. The Navy launched 228 sorties from Ranger and USS Midway (CV-41) in the Persian Gulf, from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) enroute to the Gulf, and from USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), USS Saratoga (CV-60), and USS America (CV-66) in the Red Sea. In addition, the Navy launched more than 100 Tomahawk missiles from nine ships in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf.

On February 6, 1991, an F-14A Tomcat from VF-1, off Ranger, piloted by Lt. Stuart Broce, with Cmdr. Ron McElraft as Radar Intercept Officer, downed an Iraqi MI-8 Hip helicopter with an AIM-9M Sidewinder missile. At 9 p.m. EST on February 27, President Bush declared Kuwait had been liberated and Operation Desert Storm would end at midnight.

On April 21, 1992, in harmony with other World War II 50th Anniversary festivities, Ranger participated in the commemorative re-enactment of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan. Two World War lI-era B-25 bombers were craned on board and over 1,500 guests (including national, local and military media) were embarked to witness the two vintage warbirds thunder down Ranger's flight deck and take off. In June, Ranger made an historic port visit to Vancouver, British Columbia in conjunction with her final phase of pre-deployment workups.

Fully combat ready, Ranger began her 21st and final western Pacific and Indian Ocean deployment on August 1, 1992. On August 18, she entered Yokosuka, Japan, for a six-day port visit and upkeep. Ranger entered the Arabian Gulf on September 14, by transiting the Straits of Hormuz. The next day, Ranger relieved USS Independence in an unusual close aboard ceremony and along with her embarked Air Wing, Carrier Air Wing Two, immediately began flying patrol missions in support of the United Nations' declared "No Fly" zone in southern Iraq: Operation Southern Watch.

While in the Arabian Gulf, former Cold War adversaries became at-sea partners as Ranger, British and French naval forces joined with the Russian guided missile destroyer Admiral Vinograov for an exercise involving communication, maneuvering and signaling drills. During joint operations, a Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter landed aboard Ranger. It was the first such landing on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.

Ranger left the Gulf on December 4, 1992 and steamed at high speed to the coast of Somalia. Ranger played a significant role in the massive relief effort for starving Somalis in Operation Restore Hope. The Ranger/CVW-2 team provided photo and visual reconnaissance, airborne air traffic control, logistics support and on-call close air support for Navy and Marine amphibious forces. Throughout Operations Southern Watch and Restore Hope, Ranger took 63 digital photographs which were sent by International Marine Satellite to the Navy Office of Information within hours of being taken. This was the first time digital pictures were successfully transmitted from a ship at sea.

On December 19, 1992, Ranger was relieved on station by USS Kitty Hawk and began her last long journey homeward to San Diego. Ranger would be decommissioned on July 10, 1993. In 1995, the US Navy announced that the USS Ranger would be turned into a museum ship. The Ranger museum would be opened to the public on August 2, 1999.

Sister Ships[edit | edit source]

Its sister ships Forrestal (CV-59), Saratoga (CV-60), and Independence (CV-62) would all meet different fates. The Forrestal would be transferred to the Canadian Forces Maritime Command where it became HMCS Warrior, Saratoga was refitted into being the US Navy's new training carrier (replacing the Essex-class USS Lexington (AVT-16)), and Independence would be sunk as an artificial reef in 2005 along with Kitty Hawk-class carrier USS America (CV-66).