Image Copyright: PH2(AW) Timothy Smith / Navy
Last week the Navy announced it's retiring an iconic ship, the USS Constellation. The carrier will leave Naval Base Kitsap, Washington and make its way around South America and into harbor in Texas for dismantling by International Shipbreaking. The 1100 foot vessel had a forty year history supporting American forces from Southeast Asia to the Middle East.
After commissioning in October 1961, the Constellation spent most of the 1960s in and around Vietnamese waters supporting the American war effort. Based in the Gulf of Tonkin, the Constellation’s aircraft flew recon missions over Laos and supported combat troops fighting in the jungles and mountains of Vietnam.
In the midst of the racial tensions in the 1960s and early 1970s, the Constellation found herself dealing with dishonorable discharges, rumors of disparate treatment of black sailors, and a three-day sit-in on the mess deck. Over 75 crewmembers were punished because of their conduct during the combat tour and many were dishonorably discharged.
The 1980s marked the beginning of “Connie’s” tours of middle eastern waters. Ronald Reagan dubbed the USS Constellation “America’s Flagship,” because of her impressive speed of 33 knots and lengthy service record. In August 1988, the Constellation experienced a major fire belowdecks that threatened to blow up some of her anti-air armories. The fire caused no fatalities, but major repairs were needed.
Following the attacks on 9/11, the Constellation deployed to Iraq to maintain the No-Fly Zone enforced throughout the county. She launched more than 1,500 sorties and delivered 1.7 million pounds of ordnance in support of the troops on the ground. The end of that deployment marked her 21st deployment.
Ships like these transcend the careers of individual men and women and grow to define American military power abroad. What ships have you served on and where did they take you around the world?
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