The final voyage of the USS Kitty Hawk: the emblematic aircraft carrier of the United States and key in Vietnam was sold for less than a dollar

The USS KITTTY HAWK is one of the most iconic aircraft carriers in the United States Navy, and was used in the Vietnam War and the Cold War. (MCSN STEPHEN W. ROWE, USN/)

One of the most iconic aircraft carriers in US Navy is on its way to the junkyard after being sold for less than a dollara clear sign that his time of glory passed long ago.

The USS Kitty Hawk was once the greatest symbol of US military might in the Indo-Pacific, used in battles from the Vietnam War to the Persian Gulf and surviving a collision with a Soviet submarine.

But those glory days are in the past. Now the carrier is in the midst of its final voyage to the Texas port where it will be cut up and sold for scrap.

During this last trip he has to go through a journey of more than 25,750 kilometers, from Bremerton Naval Base, Seattle (Pacific Coast) to the Port of Brownville, Texas (Atlantic Coast), and in between you must pass through the Port of Los Angeles (United States) Manzanillo (Mexico), Balboa (Panama), Valparaíso and Punta Arenas (Chile), Montevideo (Uruguay), Salvador (Brazil), Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago) and Brownsville (United States).

Last Sunday the USS Kitty was spotted off the Chilean coast, which indicates that it is almost halfway there until finally the International Shipbreaking Limited of Brownsville, Texas, a maritime company that bought it for less than a dollar from the US Naval Sea Systems Command, eventually scrapped it.

USS Kitty Hawk: the historic US aircraft carrier that survived Vietnam and the Cold War and ended up being sold for scrap for less than a dollar
The USS Kitty Hawk had Japan as a port from 1998 until 2008 when it was retired.

The main reason for this long journey is that the 14.3 meter long and 77 meter wide aircraft carrier, it is too big to pass through the Panama Canal and is forced to slide down the coast of South America and then up to its final destination.

Launched in 1960 and named for the North Carolina area where the Wright brothers first flew a powered aircraft, Kitty Hawk served the US Navy for almost 50 years before he was discharged in 2009.

Kitty Hawk was the last US oil-powered aircraft carrier, a relic of an era before the advent of the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class ships.

Soon all that will be left is a unique and sometimes tumultuous story spanning the Vietnam War and most of the Cold War, as well as social upheaval and transformation at home.

A mutiny on the high seas

From the early 1960s and throughout that decade the Kitty Hawk was a mainstay of the US force off the coast of Vietnam.

Sometimes, his plane flew more than 100 sorties a day over Vietnam from what was called Yankee Stationthe area of ​​the South China Sea where US warships sailed to launch attacks against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.

In those glory years, the ship and its air wing received a Presidential Unit Citation, an award honoring extraordinary heroism for actions in Vietnam from December 1967 to June 1968, highlighting support for U.S. forces. and from South Vietnam during the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive in the spring of 1968.

Kitty Hawk’s last combat in that conflict occurred in 1972, but on this final mission the carrier was the epicenter of a race riot in what the US Congress would later call “a sad chapter in Navy history.”

USS Kitty Hawk: the historic US aircraft carrier that survived Vietnam and the Cold War and ended up being sold for scrap for less than a dollar
In its later years it earned the nickname “Shitty Kitty” for its poor condition and was eventually sold for scrap for less than a dollar.

Race riots broke out on the ship amid rising tensions, after her deployment to Vietnam was extended following a port call in the Philippines.

The reasons for the incident are not clear. Some say it started when black sailors were investigated for a Filipino bar fight the night before deployment. But other versions indicate that everything was unleashed after a black sailor was denied an extra sandwich at lunch but a white one was not.

In any case, the confrontation was violent.

“The fighting quickly spread throughout the ship, with gangs of blacks and whites roaming the decks and attacking each other with fists, chains, wrenches and pipes.”David Cortwright, now director of the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame, wrote in a 1990 article.

The riots and racial tensions aboard the Kitty Hawk certainly reflected the stark racial inequality in American society at the time.

According to a Naval History Command report, black sailors then made up less than 10% of the Kitty Hawk’s crew of 4,500 sailors. And only five of her 348 officers were black.

A Congressional report on the incident on the night of October 12-13, 1972, said that lThe fight left 47 sailors injured, “all but 6 or 7 of them” were white.

And while that congressional investigation led to attempts by the military to address racial inequality, the subcommittee report itself is riddled with damaging language that reveals just how deep racial prejudice ran in the US.

USS Kitty Hawk: the historic US aircraft carrier that survived Vietnam and the Cold War and ended up being sold for scrap for less than a dollar
It was the epicenter of several Hollywood movies.

“The subcommittee is of the position that the mutiny at Kitty Hawk consisted of unprovoked attacks by very few men, most of whom were of below average mental capacity, most of whom had been on board for less than a year, and all of whom were black. This group, as a whole, acted as ‘thugs’, raising questions as to whether they should ever have been accepted into military service in the first place.”, reads the final summary of the report.

Still, the incident, along with others on Navy ships, prompted service leaders to put a new emphasis on programs earlier started by Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., the then chief of naval operations, aimed at improve race relations in the fleet.

According to Navy statistics, this racial inequality continues to this day, as only 17.6% of Navy members are black.

Crossing with the Soviets.

During the height of the Cold War, the Kitty Hawk had a tense crossover with a Soviet nuclear-powered submarine in which the US carrier took a piece of the Russian submersible stuck in its hull.

It happened in March 1984, when a Bravo Battle Group led by Kitty Hawk was a focal point of the naval portion of the annual joint Team Spirit exercises with South Korea.

Operating in open water midway between Japan and South Korea, the Kitty Hawk and her escorts had been playing what one Navy official told the New York Times was a game of “cat and mouse” with the Soviet submarine, later determined to be K-314, a 5,000-ton Victor-class ship with a crew of about 90.

According to a report by the Naval History and Heritage Command, US forces had tracked and “killed,” or simulated their ability to sink, the Soviet submarine 15 times in the days before the collision.

The USS Kitty Hawk off the Chilean coast.

The carrier group then began practicing “deception techniques” to lose their Soviet tracker. Just after 10 p.m. on March 21, 1984, K-314 appeared in the carrier’s path.

“The commander (K-314) ordered the start of an urgent dive to avoid a collision. Shortly after the start of the dive, the submarine felt a strong shock. After a few seconds, a second powerful push. It was clear that the submarine did not have time to reach a safe depth and was hit by some of the American ships. As we later learned, it was the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier.” states the Russian military website Top War.

The 5,000-ton Soviet submarine was humiliated against the 80,000-ton US aircraft carrier and unsurprisingly bore the brunt of the collision.

According to the Navy report on the crash, everyone on Kitty Hawk expected the sub to sink and hoped to spot it on the other side.

“The submarine commander apparently overestimated his distance from the carrier and did not begin to increase his depth until it was too late. So, he left a part of one of his screws (propellers) in the hull of the aircraft carrier”, Carl Schuster, a former US Navy intelligence officer, told CNN

He explained that an aircraft carrier cannot detect a submarine in the vicinity due to the noise of its propellers and the pressure wave it generates in the water.

The final destination of the USS Kitty Hawk will be a junkyard in Texas.

After the crash the K-314 lost power and was towed to the Soviet port of Vladivostok, while the Kitty Hawk continued without problems, taking a Cold War trophy in that piece of Soviet submarine embedded in its hull.

As the Cold War passed, the Kitty Hawk became a vital part of the US Pacific Fleet, finding a home port at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan from 1998 until it was retired in 2008 and replaced by the USS George. Washington.

From then on, his decline began and he ended up earning the nickname “Shitty Kitty”, due to the poor state in which he was.

Very soon this symbol of old sluts will find its final rest among the junk, selling for barely a dollar.


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