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USS Forrestal, named for Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, was the first ship of the new 56,000-ton aircraft carriers built during the 1950’s. After being built in Newport News, Virginia, the new ship was formally commissioned in October 1955. After her initial shakedown, she was took her first of many voyages to the Mediterranean in January of 1957.

For the next 8 years, she made several more voyages to the Mediterranean, with other cruises in the Atlantic and Caribbean. In June 1967, she went to the Pacific to aid with the Vietnam War effort. This cruise was cut short by a devastating fire on 29 July of that year. Despite the heroic efforts of the crew, 130 men lost their lives.

The repairs took several months. But by the middle of 1968, Forrestal was making her eighth Mediterranean voyage. That sea would be a common destination for her over the next twenty or so years. In 1975, she was reclassified CV-59. In the mid-1980’s, the ship underwent a massive modernization program.

During her lifetime, she participated in flood relief efforts, in confronting Libya, protecting Iraq’s Kurdish population, and she stood standby during the Kuwait war. After her deployment to Kuwait, the ship was re-designated as a training ship carrying a new hull number, ATV-59. The ship was hit by the Navy budget cuts and decommissioned in September 1993.

CV-59 Deployments - Major Events

Add a CV-59 Shellback Initiation Add a CV-59 Deployment - Major Event
Month Year to Month Year Deployment / Event
FEB 1941 - FEB 1941 Towed from Phila. Pa. to Brownsville Tx cut up for scrap 2014
JUL 1952 - Keel Date: 14 JUL 1952
at Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. Newport News VA
DEC 1954 - Launch Date: 11 DEC 1954
OCT 1955 - Commissioned: 1 OCT 1955
MAR 1956 - APR 1956 Guantanamo Bay
JUN 1956 - AUG 1956 Sea Trials
SEP 1956 - OCT 1956 Sea Trials
JAN 1957 - AUG 1957 Mediterranean
SEP 1957 - OCT 1957 North Atlantic
MAR 1958 - OCT 1958 med cruise 3/58
SEP 1958 - MAR 1959 Mediterranean
JAN 1960 - AUG 1960 Mediterranean
JAN 1961 - AUG 1961 Mediterranean
AUG 1961 - MAR 1963 Cuban Missle Blockade
AUG 1962 - MAR 1963 Mediterranean
MAY 1963 - OCT 1963 Cuban Missle Blockade
FEB 1964 - FEB 1964 Caribbean
AUG 1964 - APR 1965 Mediterranean
JAN 1965 - JAN 1967 Mediterranean
AUG 1965 - APR 1966 Mediterranean
JUN 1967 - Shellback Initiation - 19 JUN 1967 - Pacific Ocean
JUL 1967 - Shellback Initiation - 1 JUL 1967 - Atlantic Ocean
JUL 1967 - SEP 1967 West Pac-Viet Nam
JUL 1968 - APR 1969 Mediterranean
JAN 1969 - JAN 1970 Mediterranean-Indian Ocean-Persian Gulf
DEC 1969 - JUN 1970 Mediterranean
MAR 1970 - SEP 1970 Mediterranean
APR 1970 - SEP 1970 Mediterranean
JAN 1971 - JUL 1971 Mediterranean
AUG 1972 - SEP 1973 Fire in upper decks
AUG 1972 - SEP 1973 Mediterranean
SEP 1972 - JUL 1973 Mediterranean
MAR 1974 - SEP 1974 Mediterranean
MAR 1975 - OCT 1975 Mediterranean
JUL 1976 - JUL 1976 INR-OPSAIL July 3-6 1976
JAN 1977 - MAR 1977 Mediterranean
APR 1978 - OCT 1978 Mediterranean
NOV 1979 - MAY 1980 Mediterranean
MAR 1980 - SEP 1981 Blue Nose - Artic Circle
DEC 1980 - SEP 1981 Blue Nose - Artic Circle
JAN 1981 - JAN 1981 North Atlantic-Med-Indian Ocean
MAR 1981 - SEP 1981 North Atlantic
MAR 1981 - SEP 1981 Mediterranean-Indian Ocean
MAR 1981 - SEP 1981 Mediterranean - Blue Nose - Artic Circle
MAR 1981 - SEP 1981 Mediterranean
MAR 1981 - SEP 1981 Blue Nose - Artic Circle
JAN 1982 - NOV 1982 Mediterranean-Indian Ocean-Persian Gulf
JUN 1982 - NOV 1982 Mediterranean - Indian Ocean
JUN 1982 - NOV 1982 Mediterranean-Indian Ocean-Persian Gulf
AUG 1982 - NOV 1982 Mediterranean
AUG 1985 - AUG 1989 Blue Nose - Artic Circle
JAN 1986 - SEP 1987 Mediterranean
JUN 1986 - NOV 1986 Mediterranean
SEP 1987 - OCT 1987 Blue Nose Artic Circle
APR 1988 - OCT 1988 Mediterranean-Indian Ocean-Persian Gulf
OCT 1989 - APR 1990 Mediterranean
JAN 1991 - JAN 1992 Desert Shield
JAN 1991 - DEC 1991 Desert Storm
MAY 1991 - DEC 1991 Desert Storm
MAY 1991 - DEC 1991 Mediterranean
MAY 1991 - DEC 1991 Mediterranean-Indian Ocean-Persian Gulf
MAY 1991 - DEC 1991 Desert Storm
JUN 1991 - DEC 1991 Mediterranean
OCT 1992 - SEP 1993 Regular Overhaul
SEP 1993 - Decommissioned: 11 SEP 1993

CV-59 General Specifications

Class: Forrestal-class aircraft carrier

Named for: James Forrestal

Complement: 552 Officers and 4988 Enlisted

Displacement: 59650 tons

Length: 990 feet

Beam: 129 feet 4 inches

Flank Speed: 33 knots

Final Disposition: To be sunk as an artificial reef


Forrestal (CVA-59) was launched 11 December 1954 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. Newport News Va.; sponsored by Mrs. James V Forrestal widow of Secretary Forrestal; and commissioned 1 October 1955 Captain R. L. Johnson i n command.

From her home port Norfolk Va. Forrestal spent the first year of her commissioned service in intensive training operations off the Virginia Capes and in the Caribbean. An important assignment was training aviators in the use of her advance d facilities a duty on which she often operated out of Mayport Fla. On 7 November 1956 she put to sea from Mayport to operate in the eastern Atlantic during the Suez Crisis ready to enter the Mediterranean should her great strength be necessary. She returned to Norfolk 12 December to prepare for her first deployment with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean for which she sailed 15 January 1957.

On this as on her succeeding tours of duty in the Mediterranean Forrestal visited many ports to allow dignitaries and the general public to come aboard and view the tremendous power for peace she represented. For military observers she sta ged underway demonstrations to illustrate her capacity to bring air power to and from the sea in military operations on any scale. She returned to Norfolk 22 July 1957 for exercises off the North Carolina coast in preparation for her first NATO Opera tion "Strikeback " in the North Sea. This deployment between 3 September and 22 October found her visiting Southampton England as well as drilling in the highly important task of coordinating United States naval power with that of other NATO nat ions.

The next year found Forrestal participating in a series of major fleet exercises as well as taking part in experimental flight operations. During the Lebanon Crisis of summer 1958 the great carrier was again called upon to operate in the ea stern Atlantic to back up naval operations in the Mediterranean. She sailed from Norfolk 11 July to embark an air group at Mayport 2 days later then patrolled the Atlantic until returning to Norfolk 17 July.

On her second tour of duty in the Mediterranean from 2 September 1958 to 12 March 1959 Forrestal again combined a program of training patrol and participation in major exercises with ceremonial hospitality and public visiting. Her guest list during this cruise was headed by Secretary of Defense N. H. McElroy. Returning to Norfolk she continued the never ending task of training new aviators constantly maintaining her readiness for instant reaction to any demand for her services bro ught on by international events. Visitors during the year included King Hussein of Jordan.

Forrestal again brought her imposing presence to the 6th Fleet between 28 January 1960 and 31 August visiting the ports usual to a Mediterranean deployment as well as Split Yugoslavia. Again she was open for visitors at many ports as well as taking part in the patrol and training schedule of the 6th Fleet. Upon her return to the United States she resumed her schedule of east coast and Caribbean operations for the remainder of the year.

[Note: The above USS FORRESTAL (CV-59) history may or may not contain text provided by crew members of the USS FORRESTAL (CV-59) or by other non-crew members and text from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships]