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Apr-12-2011 16:57printcomments

Life Aboard the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War

Blue Water Sailors; no recognition for combat service... we were just there.

For particular reasons the writer of this article elected to withhold his name, but he was kind enough to send us this photo of his time during Vietnam aboard the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk.
The writer of this article elected to withhold his name, but he was kind enough to send us this photo of his time during the Vietnam War aboard the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk.

(WASHINGTON D.C.) - Forward by Editor: Salem-New.com regularly covers military and veteran's issues, but most of it relates to USMC service because that is where the majority of our writers served.

We have substantial interest in health issues relating to Navy Veterans, yet the Blue Water Navy. the Veterans group representing these former sailors, remains very tight with their information. We do not understand their reluctance to work with a news agency that in turns shares their vital information with the public.

One Sailor's Story

During my tour aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) in the years of 1971-1973, I had two combat tours back to back, as my regular ship, the USS Ranger, was put out of action from sabotage.

Ninety five percent of us knew that we had to do our duty as people's lives where in our hand if we did not. However the other 5% were upset and said nothing for a long time. The repercussions from them will come later and very unexpected.

In this time, the ship had earned three battle stars and the Navy Unit Citation for the protection of our comrades on shore and bombing campaigns over North Vietnam. In addition, other ribbons and letters of commendation for the crew.

Every sailor aboard went through hell during that time; 22-hour days for fight quarter crews and others, no good drinking water, (aircraft fuel in the water) salt water to clean up in, and maybe one meal a day.

The reason was that we were at our station launching aircraft every 2-hours. These were known as Alpha Strikes, a term for all aircraft to fly off the ship fully loaded; fuel, bombs, rockets, guns and anything else they could think of.

This went on for 52 days straight without a break or help from the outside.

My Division was undermanned, overworked and people were killed from fatigue and just from making mistakes. Then the worst happened; a mutiny started on the mess deck. I can not explain it, we were all on the same ship and doing the job we were sent there to do?

Many people were injured and there lives threatened by the mutineers and the ship was uneasy from then on. When working on the flight deck, not only did you have to watch out for all hazards, but your own back at the same time!

You Army, Marine, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel were lucky in one way. You had the people that could and would watch your six. We on the Kitty Hawk did have that during this time, and for some of us never again.

For you lucky few, you are considered Combat Veterans. As for us, we are Blue Water Sailors; no recognition for combat service; we were just there.

However, while we were there we kept the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese off your butts at all costs. Day, night, bad weather. Whatever conditions, the men of the U.S. Navy on Carriers, Destroyers, Ammo Ships and all others made sure you had support!!

AS THEY SAY IT DON”T GET NO BETTER THEN THAT!

Therefore, the next time you see a Navy man or women with a combat ribbon make them feel at home. For they too are Combat Vet’s, not fishermen.




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Ben cox January 10, 2019 11:27 am (Pacific time)

Trying to get va benefits for agent orange related illness,prostate cancer and diabetes. Anyone else ?


CVW 11 August 13, 2015 4:11 pm (Pacific time)

So, if this guy was a yellow shirt, he would have known the difference between regular cyclic flight ops and an alpha strike. It simply did not occur more than one time during 70/71 cruise due to the amount of planning and coordination between the carriers online and Air Force and Marine air bases in Thailand and Da Nang and Chu Lai! As far as " many people were killed from fatigue " that's total BS! There was one suicide, two deaths by natural causes, one guy in my squadron was blown over the side during night flight ops because he had his head up his ass and walked behind an A-6 that was turning. He was picked up three hrs later by the plane guard destroyer . This story is full of half truths and BS! If you were indeed on the flight deck you received combat pay and hazardous duty pay in addition to your base pay Stop wallowing in your own self pity and get a life! It happened over fourty years ago Stop wallowing in self pity and get a life


CVW 11 August 11, 2015 4:31 pm (Pacific time)

I served aboard Kitty Hawk Westpac 70-71 as a plane captain in VF 114. Flight ops were staged in two hour segments over twelve hours with launch and recovery about every two hours. Flight deck personnel worked at maximum sixteen hours, two hours pre launch and two hours post launch after final recovery. On rare occasions, flight ops lasted somewhat longer. We also had stand down days where flight ops were suspended for 24 hrs. As for Alpha strikes I can only recall one true Alpha Strike and that occurred after we returned on station after port call in Sasebo.


Joe Osborn November 20, 2014 8:21 am (Pacific time)

I WAS THERE. I AM A BONIFIED VIET NAM VETERAN. 71 - 73 ALL THE ALPHA STRIKES AND HARD TIMES ARE TRUE. WE WERE AND ARE APPRECIATED BY THE 'TRUE' VETS WITH ANY COMMON SENSE. MANY ARE JUST A BUNCH OF 'wannabes' and I feel sorry for the guilt they must feel. I NEED NO PAT ON MY BACK!! MAY OUR GOOD LORD CONTINUE TO BLESS OUR GREAT USA. MOST OF THE BLACK GUYS WERE GREAT GUYS!


Todd Humphreys July 11, 2012 9:10 pm (Pacific time)

My brother was on board the USS Kitty Hawk at the same time the above Sailor was who wrote this article. He never told me what the others were doing who were not invovlved launching aircraft! Did they have to go and be part of the Army on shore? Can anyone help me here?


northwestend April 16, 2011 7:56 am (Pacific time)

What this sailor is tring too get accross is that all Navy Veterans have an up hill fight for thier rights and Veterans of Affairs promesses to vet's. There where more ships off the coast of Vietnam, like the Coral Sea, Constellation and the Hancock. This is just a few, just think of all the others that supported them. And all of them have the same problems if not more. The Sailor wants to look out for our new service people and make sure they get thier due from our Country.


navy brat April 15, 2011 12:06 pm (Pacific time)

In my experience some people seem to think blue water sailors are just whinning about nothing. Hope that this additude can change with more navy people speaking out and I also hope that my experience is not what other blue water navy veterans have had to deal with.


Amanda April 13, 2011 8:50 pm (Pacific time)

Amazed at "Editor's" response. The youg sailor is just reminding everyone, that they are also combat veterans, and need a "pat on the back".Am I missing something? Age alone, does not make a war veteran.

Editor: The comment was a cruel needless attack on the Navy Veteran in this article, it is not what we are looking for in terms of comments.  The same guy is always trying to slide really hateful BS in and we won't have it.  If you had read his comment I'm sure you would agree.  


Anonymous April 13, 2011 5:52 pm (Pacific time)

Pretty sure close to 60,000 deceased Vietnam vets by a combination of combat action and other causes would have liked to have traded places with this...

Editor: Take a hike you little nameless wonder, nobody cares about your lame assertions of being the only person who knows anything about war and combat.  You also just left a comment on the story about Brad Manning stating he should be killed.  Well, you're not wanted here, your opinions are in sync with everything that is wrong with this world.  Have another drink and find other people to bother.

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