Like all of the former crewmembers of the aircraft carriers Kitty Hawk and John F. Kennedy, I’m sadden and angry about the U.S. Navy selling the carriers for a penny each to a ship-breaking company.
The sale dashes any hope that the Kitty Hawk will be converted to a floating museum and live on, like some other old carriers.
I understand that converting a ship to a museum is a huge costly affair, and the sale to a ship-breaking company is much less costly than the Navy having to tow and recycle the ships themselves. Still, I and other former sailors feel this is a sad and ignoble end to two proud and historic warships.
I recall in 1961 when my late father, a former WWII Navy UDT frogman, took me to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard to see the commissioning of a new aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk, CVA-63.
I reported aboard the Kitty Hawk in 1970 as a 17-year-old seaman apprentice. I served aboard the Kitty Hawk as the carrier performed combat operations on “Yankee Station” in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War in 1970-1971.
We also made port of calls to Subic Bay in the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Sasebo, Japan and Hong Kong. This was quite an adventure for a young man, and I retain fond memories of my time on the Kitty Hawk. .
USS Kitty Hawk returned to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in 1987 for a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) overhaul. I took my wife and infant daughter to the welcoming ceremony.
In 1987 I was serving as the civilian administrative officer of a Defense Department command in Philadelphia. Our command oversaw many of the contractors who worked on the Kitty Hawk's overhaul. As the admin officer, I oversaw security, safety, public affairs and other support programs for the command.
In my public affairs role, I organized several visits to the Kitty Hawk for our military and civilian personnel. They were the contract administrators, quality assurance inspectors, engineers and others who dealt with the Kitty Hawk's SLEP program.
It was a most interesting and rewarding experience to return to my old ship after all those years.
In 1993 the USS Kennedy came to the Philadelphia Naval Shipboard for a comprehensive overhaul. As I did earlier for the Kitty Hawk, I arranged tours of the aircraft carrier for our Defense Department civilian and military personnel.
I also interviewed the Kennedy’s commanding officer and the commanding officer of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on Inside Government, a public affairs radio program where I served as a producer and on-air host. The two captains discussed the overhaul and the aircraft carrier’s mission and history.
Since the Kennedy was decommissioned, the old warship has docked at the Philadelphia naval base.
The Kitty Hawk and the John F. Kennedy may end up as scrap metal, but the role the aircraft carriers played will live on in history and live on in the memories of her former sailors.
Note: The top photo is of the USS Kitty Hawk at sea. The below photos are of the Kitty Hawk at Pearl Harbor before sailing on the Vietnam in 1970, the Kitty Hawk in Philadelphia in 1987, me visiting the Kitty Hawk in 1987, me aboard the Kitty Hawk in 1971, and the Kennedy at the Philadelphia naval base.