Ex-USS Saratoga (CV-60) sits alone now, at Pier 1 at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island. Her sister, the more famous Forrestal (CV-59) has been towed to Philadelphia, and likely the scrapyard. A similar fate probably awaits Sara, as the immense cost of preparation and upkeep for museum ships is too formidable for most, particularly a ship as large as she. Yet, even as she rises and falls with the cold tide, Saratoga retains a regal majesty that only the breakers will be able to erase.

USS Saratoga was once an engineering marvel beyond compare, and when commissioned in 1956 dwarfed her older sisters of the Essex class, and even the late-war Midways. The second of the four Forrestal-class “supercarriers”, her class would set the standard for American carrier design that remains with us to this day. Displacing more than 76,000 tons fully loaded, she could make 34 knots, and handle nearly one hundred aircraft. The photo below shows her alongside Essex, CV-9, and the difference in size is striking, despite fewer than a dozen years between designs.

Saratoga spent most of her career in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and her hospital spaces treated wounded from USS Liberty (AGTR-5) in 1967. Sara did make her way to Yankee Station in May of 1972, where she would support combat operations in Vietnam until January, 1973. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Saratoga projected American power into the Atlantic and Eastern Mediterranean, where she often found herself facing off with units of the Soviet fleet, and maintained the edgy peace of the Cold War. In 1990, Sara headed to the Persian Gulf, where her aircraft flew in support of Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Even toward the end of her life, after 38 years in commission, she remained one of the most powerful and sophisticated warships afloat, but had been surpassed by her newer nuclear sisters. On 30 September 1994, Saratoga was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list. Since then, her hulk has been towed to its present location from Philadelphia, losing her tophamper, and having been extensively stripped as a parts source for units still in commission.

Yet, weather-beaten and forlorn as she is now, some 55 years after her commissioning and nearly 17 years after her crews lowered her ensign for the final time, ex-Saratoga still hints at the power which once roared from her decks. Though she will be gone soon, she is worth remembering for what she was in the prime of her service career.

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Aviation, Foreign Policy, Hard Power, History, Maritime Security, Navy

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  • Aubrey

    Damn, it is always a depressing thing to me when a proud ship is destined for the breakers. Feels like sending her to die alone and unmourned…

    • Byron Audler

      I’d rather see her sunk that to have her picked over like road kill.

  • Byron

    That’s right, you ugly Marine, go ahead and write a piece on my favorite ship of all time. I shed a tear or two the day they hauled her colors down for the last time. She still had a lot of sea miles left in her though, way more than that sorry excuse for a ship, the JFK.

    (By the time I worked on JFK, in 2002 and 2003, she was in terrible shape and had one of the worst crews I’ve ever had to interact with)

  • Surfcaster

    I’ve had my son (now ten) drop bills in the Saratoga Museum donation jar multiple times over the years when at Quonset/RIANG show or other functions we run across these men trying to keep her spirit in steel.

    While I would love to see her keep at Quonset the last year has pretty much determined she won’t and that the Navy is no longer offering her as a museum ship and instead pushing the JFK. The Quonset Saratoga group was pretty much forced to back the effort for the JFK.

    • Louis Schwartz

      Former Tank commander NJARNG, but born in Saratoga Springs.
      I was 8 years old in 1956, and remember see the launching of Sara from the Brooklyn Navy Yard on TV. our Mayor Mallery presented the tea service. Politicians can be forgotten, American victories on the battlefield should never be. Saratoga is fine and gallant name for a ship, and should be perpetuated.


    She’s looks lonely since the FORRESTAL left last year. They did look nice sitting side by side, both previous Mayport ships re-united again in Newport. It was a sad day watching FORRESTAL leave. SARA’s fate will probably, sadly, be the same.

  • Retired Now

    1777 was a year that had many battles in New York against the British. Battles at Saratoga, Ticonderoga, Lake Champlain, etc. were hard fought by Americans to gain freedom.

    Hope that future USN warships can be re-named USS SARATOGA and USS TICONDEROGA, etc. some day so that the next generation of Navy sailors will always recall those famous 1777 battles.

  • Byron

    And maybe after Revolutionary War warships like Wasp, Hornet and of course, the most famous ship of the Pacific wars, Enterprise.

  • Surfcaster

    Thankfully we have a Wasp, we need another Hornet, we need another Saratoga, Ticonderoga, DESPERATELY need another Enterprise. Stop naming carriers after living presidents / politicians please. Regan I’m OK with, TR – that’s good. JFK could have waited a few hulls if needed. But the very day CVN65 rests her oar, next carrier really should have been the next USS Enterprise.

    Anything else is really weak.

  • Paul P

    I hate the fact that we’re naming ships after politicians just to curry favor. No ship should be named after a living person, no matter how much of a “friend” they were to the navy. They’ll always be another chance after they die.

    Repeating ship names so quickly is just plain wrong. No offense to Virginia, but why do they get not one but two lead ships for their state (I know, Norfolk, but isn’t once enough)? What about all of the other states who haven’t had ships named after them for decades? Aren’t they Americans too?

    The Navy should have a solid convention of standards that is fair, equitable and not subject to the whims of political influence or pandering. The ships are owned by the entire country, not just the party in power.

  • Braniff

    A thought–will part of this ship (such as the bell) be offered to the folks in Saratoga, NY? It could help remind citizens of their connection to the Revolutionary battle and the great warship.

  • Don Seward

    How about selling naming rights for ships as naming rights for sport stadiums are sold?
    We could have the USS Wal-Mart, USS Sears, USS Tiffany and USS Target. Just kidding!

  • Mongo

    I was so disappointed that NAVSEA refused to allow AMERICA to be preserved as a Museum, especially with so many willing former crew members and so much money donated to the cause. Now FORRESTAL, SARATOGA, and JFK. (I know, Byron, you despise AMERICA.)

    There are four former CV’s sitting in Bremerton awaiting their sinkex, all of which are slated to be gone by 2014. RANGER is supposed to go to Portland, but we’ll see if that actually happens.

    Remember that as recently as Desert Storm, we had everything from CV-59 to CVN-72 ( including CV-41) available for deployment; CVN-72 had just come on the line. We’re nowhere near that now. 🙁

  • Byron

    No, Mongo, never set foot on America…JFK on the other hand (from 2002 to 2007) was another story.

  • JRS

    First 1200 PSI steam carrier

    She was where history was made:
    Lebanon 1958
    Cuban Missile Crisis 1962
    Liberty incident 1967
    Jordanian crisis 1970
    Viet Nam 1972-73
    Libya 1985/86
    PLO hijacker interception 1985
    Desert Shield/Desert Storm 1990-91
    Former Yugoslavia 1992

    Should have been a museum in Jacksonville…. Lots of loyal shipmates there.

  • Mongo

    My bad, Byron. I meant JFK.

  • Retired Now

    USS AMERICA, CV-66 was secretly taken out in ocean some place and sunk by ____ (unknown weapons). This was a few years ago.

    Anyone ever found an Unclassified, released video of this sinkex?

    New USS AMERICA LHA-6 is to be “launched” (ie placed into the water) sometime next year, late 2012 I think.

  • Rich B.

    Somewhere Captain Ron Rico is shedding a tear.

  • Old Air Force Sarge

    Since I retired from the USAF I’ve seen the Saratoga nearly every week for the past 12 years. When I first got to RI, the family and I were driving around getting a feel for the area. As we crested the hill near NUWC, my heart jumped into my throat, for there, side by side were the USS Iowa, USS Forrestal and USS Saratoga! (A BB and two CVs – holy cow!)

    First the Iowa departed and then later the Forrestal. Now Saratoga sits there (slightly down by the stern and what seems to be an ever increasing list to port) looking lonely, a dim reflection of past glory. In my minds eye, I can still picture her launching and recovering aircraft and steaming proudly in harm’s way.

    I used to think seeing the old planes sitting in the boneyard at Davis-Monthan was sad (hey, I’m retired Air Force). But seeing an old warship tied up neglected and forgotten, that is sadder still.

    Here’s to Saratoga, she’ll live forever in our hearts!

  • sid

    First ship I ever stepped foot aboard (with help) at the ripe old age of five…

  • Michael Dale

    I served on the Sara for over 2 years during the Cuban Missile Crisis era. Made 2 Med. cruises, one in winter and one in summer. She was young in those days, as was I. I feel proud but sad when I see pictures of her rusting away at her berth in RI. There is something just not right about that scene. She and her crews proudly represented this country for many years, She was our right arm. She WAS the USA in many distant lands. There should have been a spot reserved for her in this land of plenty….

  • Sid

    Was onboard from 85-88. Had really hoped she would have been made into a museum, would love to take my son & daughter on a tour.

    Hope they stop using Presidential names and reuse Saratoga on another carrier, she earned it!

    • I totaly agree with you sid. I don’t know if you remember me but i worked in the printshop with the Wiz kid, and Tony Trees. Let’s chat.

      • chuck w

        I was also on the sara with vf 74 from 86 to 89. Enjoyed my time there would have loved to have seen sara made into a museum.

  • Chuck Hale

    Picked her up when she was in the Portsmith yards in 74 under Capt Paige and finished with Adm. Dunn in 76 and did 2 med cruzes as a photographer..Those were the days..PH3 Hale

    • Mike lucas

      Also aboard her during the dry dock days and Med cruise, what a fantastic experience, will remember the flight ops always. What a great ship she was.

  • Jerry Harrison

    I was on Sara from 71-74….oh man..the memories

  • What do you mean “the more famous Forrestal”? Maybe more famously known as the USS ZIPPO. The Saratoga is by far the better known and revered carrier of her class. You’ll find Saratoga sailors in all walks of life and in every city,town and state. Every Sara sailor you meet will tell you how they cherished their time aboard her and how proud they are to have served their country on her. I was only stationed on Sara for 2 years,’78-’80 but count my time aboard as the best and most important period of my life. The lessons I learned while serving aboard were the most influential and positive of my life. And to think that she’s going to be scrapped! Jacksonville should be ashamed for failing to take her in as a museum and over a football team of all things!

  • David S. Pearce

    David Albert Pearce

    Sep 16, 1939 – Apr 11, 2013

    David was born and raised as an only child to Albert and Anna Pearce
    in Philadelphia. He graduated from Germantown High School in 1957 and
    went on to serve in the U.S. Navy on board the USS Saratoga for six
    years. He was a proud and honored veteran.

  • Larry Brassine

    Spent many log days and nights in the Machine shop from 1967 to 1972. Made a trip to Newport to see her one more time. Proud of the Lady.

    • Larry LaChance

      I am hope to see her leave for last time to Brownsville,Tx
      Larry1968 t0 1971

  • Buddy Burke

    Served onboard 1982-85. ABH3 Buddy Burke

  • kilowat

    I was on the Sara 66/67 cruise in VF31 I was looking for photos of the ship when we were off the coast of Jacksonville Fl hurricane had just gone through, white water was coming across the bow 55 ft swells

    • Vince

      Sara 71-7 VF-31

  • Vanlandingham (last name)

    My father was on The USS SARATOGA CVA60. The SARATOGA is the rock of her time and other than what happened at PEARL HARBOR which my wonderful grandfather was involved. The SARATOGA was The Miss America till her end.
    My father worked in MATERIAL. He also was on it thru The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. I love and miss you dad. He passed 12/5/2005 from stomach cancer. I am very proud of his years in the navy and especially on the famous SARATOGA!

  • Santiago

    great ship !

  • joe

    This past year I lost a long time friend. His name was Lewis Watts. He served aboard the a Sara in the early 70’s. He was always ready to remember her with pride and to tell the stories.I will cry for her because he can’t and for him because he wa my friend.