|Ordered:||23 July 1952|
|Laid down:||16 December 1952|
|Launched:||8 October 1955|
|Commissioned:||14 April 1956|
|Fate:||on donation hold|
|Struck:||20 August 1994|
|Displacement:||81,101 tons full, 61,235 tons light, 19,866 tons dead|
|Beam:||130 feet waterline, 252 feet extreme|
|Complement:||552 officers, 4988 men|
|Armament:||four five-inch guns|
She was ordered as a "Large Aircraft Carrier," hull classification symbol CVB-60, and her contract was awarded to the New York Naval Shipyard of New York City on 23 July 1952. She was reclassified as an "Attack Aircraft Carrier" (CVA-60) on 1 October 1952. Her keel was laid down on 16 December 1952. She launched on 8 October 1955 sponsored by Mrs. Charles S. Thomas, and commissioned on 14 April 1956 with Captain R.J. Stroh in command.
For the next several months, Saratoga conducted various engineering, flight, steering, structural, and gunnery tests. On 18 August, she sailed for Guantanamo Bay and her shakedown cruise. On 19 December, she reentered the New York Naval Shipyard and remained there until 28 February 1957. Upon completion of yard work, she got underway on a refresher training cruise to the Caribbean Sea before entering her home port, Mayport, Florida.
On 6 June, President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower and members of his cabinet boarded Saratoga to observe operations on board the giant carrier. For two days, she and eighteen other ships demonstrated air operations, antisubmarine warfare, guided missile operations, and the Navy's latest bombing and strafing techniques. Highlighting the President's visit was the nonstop flight of two F8U Crusaders, spanning the nation in three hours and twenty-eight minutes, from the Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) on the west coast to the flight deck of the Saratoga in the Atlantic.
The carrier departed Mayport on 3 September 1957 for her maiden transatlantic voyage. Saratoga sailed into the Norwegian Sea and participated in Operation "Strikeback," joint naval maneuvers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries. She returned briefly to Mayport before entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for repairs.
On 1 February 1958, Saratoga departed Mayport for the Mediterranean Sea and her first deployment with the Sixth Fleet. From this date through 31 December 1967 she was to spend a part of each year in the Mediterranean on a total of eight cruises. The remainder of the time, she either operated off the coast of Florida or was in port undergoing restricted availability.
While deployed with the Sixth Fleet on 23 January 1961, a serious fire broke out in Saratoga's number two machinery space which took seven lives. The fire, believed caused by a ruptured fuel oil line, was brought under control by the crew, and the ship proceeded to Athens, Greece, where a survey of the damage could be made.
On 2 January 1968, Saratoga sailed for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and an overhaul and modernization program which was to last 11 months. On 31 January 1969, she departed Philadelphia for Guantanamo, via Hampton Roads and Mayport, and extensive refresher training of the crew and air detachments.
On 17 May, Armed Forces Day, she was the host ship for President Richard Nixon during the firepower demonstration conducted by Carrier Air Wing Three in the Virginia Capes area. On 9 July, she departed Mayport for her ninth Mediterranean deployment. Underway, a Soviet surface force and a November class submarine passed in close proximity, en route to Cuba. Off the Azores on 17 July, Saratoga was shadowed by Kipelovo-based Soviet aircraft. They were intercepted, photographed, and escorted while in the vicinity of the carrier. She operated with Task Group 60.2 of the Sixth Fleet in the eastern Mediterranean during September in a "show of force" in response to the large build-up of Soviet surface units there, the hijacking of a Trans World Airlines plane to Syria and the political coup in Libya. Numerous surveillance and reconnaissance flights were conducted by Carrier Wing Three aircraft against Soviet surface units, including the carrier Moskva, operating southeast of Crete. Saratoga operated in this area again in October because of the crisis in Lebanon. She returned to Mayport and the Florida coast from 22 January until 11 June 1970 when she again sailed for duty with the Sixth Fleet.
On 28 September, President Richard Nixon and his party arrived on board. That night, word was received that Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of the United Arab Republic had died; an event that might plunge the entire Middle East into a crisis. The intelligence and communications personnel of the Saratoga were required to supply the President, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretaries of State and Defense with the essential intelligence information to keep them abreast of the deteriorating situation. The Presidential party departed the ship the next evening, and Saratoga continued on patrol in the eastern Mediterranean until she sailed for the United States on 2 November. From her arrival at Mayport until 10 March 1971, she was in a "cold iron" status. She then operated off the Florida coast until 7 June when she departed for her eleventh deployment with the Sixth Fleet, via Scotland and the North Sea where she participated in exercise "Magic Sword II." She returned to Mayport on 31 October for a period of restricted availability and local operations.
On 11 April 1972, Saratoga sailed from Mayport en route to Subic Bay, and her first deployment to the western Pacific. She arrived in Subic Bay on 8 May and departed for Vietnam the following week, arriving at "Yankee Station" on 18 May for her first period on the line. Before year's end, she was on station in the Tonkin Gulf a total of seven times: 18 May to 21 June; 1 July to 16 July; 28 July to 22 August; 2 September to 19 September, 29 September to 21 October; 5 November to 8 December; and 18 December to 31 December. She had been reclassified as a "Multi-purpose Aircraft Carrier" (CV-60) on 30 June 1972.
During the first period, Saratoga lost four aircraft and three pilots. On the plus side, on 21 June, two of her F-4 Phantoms attacked three MiG 21s over North Vietnam. Dodging four surface-to-air missiles, they managed to down one of the MiG aircraft. Saratoga's planes attacked targets ranging from enemy troop concentrations in the lower panhandle to petroleum storage areas northeast of Hanoi. On her second line period, she lost an F-4 to enemy fire northeast of Hanoi with the pilot and radar intercept officer missing in action. During this period, her aircraft flew 708 missions against the enemy.
On 6 August, Lieutenant Jim Lloyd, flying an A-7 Corsair on a bombing mission near Vinh, had his plane shot out from under him by a SAM. He ejected into enemy territory at night. In a daring rescue by helicopters supported by CVW-3 aircraft, he was lifted from the midst of enemy soldiers and returned to the Saratoga. On 10 August, one of the ship's CAP jet fighters splashed a MiG at night using AIM-7 Sparrow missiles.
During the period 2 September to 19 September, Saratoga's aircraft flew over 800 combat strike missions against targets in North Vietnam. On 20 October, her aircraft flew 83 close air support sorties in six hours in support of a force of 250 Territorials beleaguered by the North Vietnamese 48th Regiment. Air support saved the small force, enabled ARVN troops to advance, and killed 102 North Vietnamese soldiers. During her last period on station, Saratoga's aircraft battered targets in the heart of North Vietnam for over a week.
Saratoga departed "Yankee Station" for Subic Bay on 7 January 1973. From there she sailed for the United States via Singapore and arrived at Mayport on 13 February 1973 where she joined the Atlantic Fleet.
During the fall of 1992, the United States, Turkey, and several other NATO members participated in "Exercise Display Determination 1992," a combined forces naval exercise under the overall command of Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda of the United States Navy. The forces of participating nations were assigned to either of two multinational teams. Vice Admiral T. Joseph Lopez of the United States Navy led the "Brown Forces," which included Saratoga. The opposing "Green Forces," including the Turkish destroyer Muavenet, were under the direct control of Admiral Kroon of the Netherlands.
During the "enhanced tactical" phase of the training exercises, the Brown Forces were to attempt an amphibious landing at Saros Bay, Turkey against the resistance offered by the Green Forces. Admiral Boorda ordered the units comprising each force to actively seek and "destroy" each other. Both task force commanders had full authority to engage the enemy when and where they deemed appropriate and to use all warfare assets at their disposal to achieve victory. Needless to say, all confrontations were intended to be simulated attacks.
On 1 October 1992 the Combat Direction Center Officer aboard Saratoga decided to launch a simulated attack on nearby opposition forces utilizing the Sea Sparrow missile system. After securing the approval of Saratoga's Commanding Officer and the Battle Group Commander, the Combat Direction Center Officer implemented the simulated assault plan. Without providing prior notice, officers on Saratoga woke the enlisted Sea Sparrow missile team and directed them to conduct the simulated attack. Certain members of the missile firing team were not told that the exercise was a drill, rather than an actual event.
As the drill progressed, the missile system operator used language to indicate he was preparing to fire a live missile, but due to the absence of standard terminology, the responsible officers failed to appreciate the significance of the terms used and the requests made. Specifically, the Target Acquisition System operator issued the command "arm and tune," terminology the console operators understood to require arming of the missiles in preparation for actual firing. The officers supervising the drill did not realize that "arm and tune" signified a live firing. As a result, shortly after midnight on the morning of 2 October, Saratoga fired two live Sea Sparrow missiles at Muavenet. The missiles struck Muavenet in the bridge, destroying it and the Combat Information Center, killing most of the Turkish ship's officers.
Saratoga was decommissioned at the Naval Station, Mayport, Florida, on 20 August 1994, and stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry the same day. She was towed to Philadelphia in May 1995, then, upon deactivation of the Philadelphia Navy Yard in August 1998, to Newport, Rhode Island. There, she was first placed on donation hold, then her status was changed to "disposal as an experimental ship," and finally she was returned to donation hold on 1 January 2000.
See USS Saratoga for other Navy ships of the same name.