The crew called her "Sara" and USS Saratoga (CV-60) was ordered as a "Large Aircraft Carrier", the fifth ship in the United States Navy (USN) to carry that battle name. Originally ordered with the identifier of "CVB-60", Saratoga became the second of four-strong Forrestal-class aircraft carriers reclassified as "Attack Aircraft Carrier" - "CVA-60", this on October 1st, 1952. She was ordered on July 23rd, 1952 and saw her keel was laid down on December 16th of that year by New York Naval Shipyard in New York City, New York. She was officially launched on October 8th, 1955 and formally commissioned on April 14th, 1956. Her class included lead ship USS Forrestal (CV-59), USS Independence (CV-62, and USS Ranger (CV-70. All were conventionally-powered vessels.
Her machinery included 8 x Babcock and Wilcox boilers feeding 4 x geared turbines developing 280,000 horsepower to 4 x shafts. This allowed the vessel to make headway at 35 knots in ideal conditions. Her dimensions included a running length of 1,063 feet, a beam of 252 feet, and a draught of 37 feet. Her complete crew complement numbered 5,540 personnel. Air search and surface search radars provided the needed situational awareness apart from her accompanying fleet of ships that surrounded the carrier.
For its first few months, Saratoga conducted various flights, steering, high speed runs, and gunnery tests. In August of 1956, she sailed for Guantanamo, Cuba for her shakedown cruise, returning to her homeport of Mayport, Florida - having passed all of the required bench marks and test specifications. On June 6th, 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and members of his cabinet boarded Saratoga to observe operations onboard the ship. To show the speed of delivery inherent in the modern USN air wing, an operation was conducted featuring nonstop flight of two Vought F8U Crusader fighters arriving in three hours and twenty-eight minutes from the West Coast, having launched from USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31).
Saratoga departed Mayport for the Mediterranean and her first deployment was with the Sixth Fleet. On July 15th, 1958, amphibious units landed 1,800 U.S. Marines on the beach near Beirut, Lebanon to support the Lebanese government while aircraft from USS Saratoga and USS Essex (CV-9) flew air cover. The actions of the Marines on the ground supported by two carrier air wings flying numerous sorties led to no loss of American lives and resolution to the situation within a matter of days. During this action, Attack Squadron 34, flying Douglas A-4D Skyhawk fighters from Saratoga's air wing, was the first squadron deployed to the Sixth Fleet equipped with "Bullpup" missiles.
During September, Saratoga was in Mediterranean waters to show the flag in response to a Soviet fleet operating in the area. Tensions increased when a Trans-World Airlines plane heading to Syria was hijacked. Saratoga countered with numerous surveillance and reconnaissance flights conducted by Carrier Wing Three against Soviet surface units in the area.
In May of 1972, Saratoga sailed from Mayport en route to Vietnam, arriving at "Yankee Station" for May 18th - this marked her first deployment in an active combat zone. Her air arm lost four aircraft and three pilots to enemy aircraft and ground-based Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems and flak cannon fire. In June of 1972, Saratoga was re-classified as a "Multi-Purpose Aircraft Carrier" which changed her designation to "CV-60". During a seventeen day period in September of 1972, Saratoga air wings flew over 800 combat sorties against targets in North Vietnam. In November her aircraft flew 83 Close-Air Support (CAS) sorties over the span of six hours in support of a force of 250 ARVN troops cut-off by the North Vietnamese. Saratoga departed "Yankee Station" for the United States and arrived at Mayport in February of 1973.
Another Mediterranean deployment met the ship in 1980. In September, she was given an overhaul and returned to Mediterranean waters for April 1984. Grumman F-14 Tomcats from her decks trailed a hijacked Egypt Air 737 airliner which held terrorists wanted in the connection of the Achille Lauro luxury liner hijacking. No missiles were fired and the hijackers were taken into customer by Italian authorities. In 1985, during its time in the Indian Ocean, Saratoga's air wing confronted several belligerent Libyan vessels with success. During June of 1987, Saratoga underwent an overhaul.
In January of 1991, Operation Desert Shield became "Operation Desert Storm". Aircraft from USS Saratoga flew against Iraq in the first step to knock out Saddam Hussein's invasion force and drive its elements out of U.S. ally (and oil-rich) Kuwait. Sara's aircraft dropped more than four million pounds of ordnance on enemy targets in both Kuwait and Iraq territories. With her work done, and Hussein's military neutered, Saratoga departed the Gulf region on March 11th, 1991. After seven months and 21 days, 11,700 arrested landings, 12,700 sorties flown, and having traveled a record 36,382 miles - Saratoga's return home was greeted by family and grateful citizens to a hero's welcome.
Saratoga, the Navy's oldest active duty carrier, sailed to the rendezvous point with her relief, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73). She then arrived pier-side for the last time in Sara's 38-year career at Naval Station Mayport in Florida on June 24th, 1994. Saratoga was decommissioned and stricken from the Navy List on August 20th, 1994 and remained at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island waiting her fate to become a floating museum or scrap.
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