USS Nimitz (CVN-68)
USS Nimitz has answered its country's call many times in response to regional
and international crises.
In doing so, the aircraft carrier has secured a prominent place in history, just
like her namesake,
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1965).
The keel of USS Nimitz (CVN 68) was laid on June 22, 1968 at Newport News Shipbuilding
and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia. It was destined to become the largest
warship ever. The ship was commissioned May 3, 1975, at Pier 12, Naval Station Norfolk,
Va. by the Honorable Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States. Principal guests
included: the Honorable James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense; the Honorable J.
William Middendorf, II, Secretary of the Navy; Admiral James L. Holloway, III, Chief of
Naval Operations and Mrs. James T. Nimitz-Lay, Ship's Sponsor.
Speaking to a crowd of over 20,000, the President said in his remarks: "Wherever
the United States Ship Nimitz shows her flag, she will be seen as we see her now - a solid
symbol of United States strength; United States resolve. Made in America and manned by
Americans. Whether its mission is one of defense, diplomacy or humanity, Nimitz will
command awe and admiration from some, caution and circumspection from others and respect
Today's crew stands ready, as did the commissioning crew, to answer their nation's call
and take their place in America's maritime heritage.
Nimitz' first deployment began on July 7, 1976 when it departed Norfolk for the
Mediterranean. Included in the task force were the nuclear-powered cruisers USS South
Carolina and USS California. The deployment marked the first time in 10 years that
nuclear-powered ships had deployed to the Mediterranean. In November 1976, Nimitz was
awarded the coveted Battle "E" from Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic Fleet,
for being the most efficient and foremost aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Fleet. The ship
returned to Norfolk Feb. 7, 1977 after a seven-month deployment.
Nimitz again sailed toward the Mediterranean Sea Dec. 1, 1977. Following a peaceful
deployment, the ship returned home to Norfolk July 20, 1978. During Nimitz' third cruise
to the Mediterranean beginning Sept. 10, 1979, it was dispatched to strengthen the U.S.
Naval presence in the crucial Indian Ocean area as tensions heightened over Iran's taking
of 52 American hostages. Four months later, Operation "Evening Light" was
launched from Nimitz in an attempt to rescue the hostages. The rescue was aborted in the
Iranian Desert when the number of operational helicopters fell below the minimum needed to
transport the attack force and hostages out of Iran. During its deployment, the ship
operated 144 continuous days at sea. Nimitz' homecoming on May 26, 1980 was, at the time,
the largest given to any carrier battle group returning to the United States since the end
of World War II. The ship's crew was greeted by President and Mrs. Carter, members of
Congress, military leaders and thousands of families and friends.
On May 15, 1981, Nimitz departed Norfolk for the final phases of her workup schedule for
an upcoming Mediterranean Cruise. On the night of May 25, an EA-6B Prowler crash-landed on
the flight deck, killing 14 crewmen and injuring 45 others. The carrier returned to port
to repair damaged catapults and returned to sea less than 48 hours later to complete its
training schedule. On August 18 and 19, 1981 during its fourth deployment, Nimitz and USS
Forestall conducted an open ocean missile exercise in the Gulf of Sidra near what Libyan
leader Khadafi called the "Line of Death." On the morning of August 19, two
Nimitz aircraft from VF-41 were fired upon by Libyan pilots. The Nimitz pilots returned
fire and shot both Libyan aircraft from the sky. Newspapers across the country rallied
around the incident against terrorist-backing Libya with front-page headlines reading
"U.S. 2 - Libya 0."
On June 14, 1985, two Lebanese Shiite Muslim gunmen hijacked TWA Flight 847, carrying
153 passengers and crew, including many Americans. In response, Nimitz was ordered to
steam at flank speed to the Eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Lebanon, where it
remained until August. After another extended deployment, Nimitz left the Mediterranean on
May 21, 1987. It crossed the Atlantic Ocean, rounded the rough waters of Cape Horn, South
America, and sailed for the first time in the waters of the Pacific Ocean enroute to its
new homeport, Bremerton, Wash. Nimitz arrived there July 2, 1987.
In September, 1988, the ship operated off the South Korean coast to provide security for
the Olympic Games in Seoul. On Oct. 29, 1988 Nimitz began operating in the North Arabian
Sea where it participated in Operation "Earnest Will." This operation called for
U.S. Navy ships to protect shipping lanes and escort U.S. registered (re-flagged) Kuwaiti
tankers. On Feb. 25, 1991, Nimitz departed Bremerton for the Western Pacific and
eventually the Arabian Gulf, where it relieved USS RANGER, during Operation Desert Storm.
The ship returned to Bremerton Aug. 24, 1991. Nimitz again deployed Feb. 1, 1993 to the
Arabian Gulf, relieving USS Kitty Hawk
its place as part of Operation Southern Watch. The ship returned after a mishap-free
deployment in August, 1993.
In November, 1995, Nimitz commenced her deployment to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean,
Arabian Gulf, and to the waters off Taiwan, where once again the presence of carrier
forces at sea positively influenced events ashore, calming a volatile standoff between
mainland China and Taiwan.
On September 1, 1997, Nimitz set out on her latest deployment, an around-the-world
cruise that would see the great carrier return to her East Coast roots and begin a
multi-year overhaul in the Newport News shipyard where she was built.
The around-the-world deployment promised to be an exciting experience with scheduled
port visits ranging from the Far East to the Mediterranean Sea; however, Nimitz was
ordered into the Arabian Gulf to support Operation Southern Watch and various United
Nation initiatives. Answering each challenge, Nimitz served on station in the
Arabian Gulf throughout the holidays and returned to a celebrated and long anticipated
homecoming on March 1, 1998.
On May 26, 1998, Nimitz began a mid-life refueling overhaul that will enable her to
provide her nation with a second quarter century of service.
Mobility, flexibility and combat readiness are the primary characteristics which
highlight Nimitz and her crew. As the lead ship of the world's most powerful and capable
class of warships, Nimitz will long be remembered as our nation's finest instrument of
peace, power projection and platform for diplomacy.
||June 22, 1968
||May 13, 1972
||May 3, 1975
||Two A4W nuclear reactors
|Steam turbine engines
||Four, General Electric
||30 plus knots
||Four, five blades each
||attack aircraft (incl. few tankers KA-6D)
||early warning and control aircraft
SH-3G Sea King or
|Arresting gear cables
|Beam at waterline
|Area of flight deck
||18,211 sq. m
||95,000 tons (with full payload)
||6,000 (incl. airwing)
Sparrow missiles launchers (eight missiles each), four Phalanx CWIS mounts, nine .50-cal gun
mounts (2,000-yard effective range), two M-60 gun mounts (650-yard effective range).
|Meals each day
||18,000 – 20,000
|Distillation plant capacity
||More than 400,000 gallons (15,142 hl) daily
||Over one million pounds (454 t) per year
||Two, over 1,500 heads each week
||Six doctors including a surgeon, 80 beds