1966 Vietnam to the End ~ Robert Wendling
From Vietnam to the End:
With preparations complete FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT deployed on her first combat cruise on June 21, 1966. She conducted training exercises in the Puerto Rico operating area and visited St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, from June 27 to 30. Departing the Caribbean July Ist, FDR sailed for the Pacific via the Cape of Good Hope. En route, FDR called at Rio de Janeiro July 8 to 10, having crossed the equator on July 4th and then again July 26th. Arriving at Subic Bay, Philippines August 1st, she made final preparations for operations in the Gulf of Tonkin. For this war cruise Carrier Air Wing One had been altered by the exchange of VF II’s F8’s for VF-32’s “Swordsman’ in F4B Phantom II’s, and VA 15’s venerable Skyraiders were replaced by VA-72 flying A4E Skyhawks. Also VAH- I I was replaced by VAH-10, still flying KA3B Skywarriors.
Underway on August 7th, 1966 the ship commenced her first strikes against enemy targets on August 10. On September 12 she departed the area for a ten-day port visit to Yokosuka, Japan.
September 24,1966 at 9:45 pm I arrived on board. It was a cold and rain soaked night and I was very tired from all the travel time.
Departing Yokosuka September 26, ROOSEVELT sailed for the South China Sea. En route exercises were conducted with Republic of China forces.
Returning to station in the Tonkin Gulf October 2nd, the ship lost a blade on the number I propeller due to a typhoon and very high seas. On October 3rd she was en route to Yokosuka for drydocking. Returning October 19th her aircraft successfully struck enemy targets in North Vietnam. On November 4, while on station, a fire broke out in a supply storeroom and took the lives of eight crewmen. The fire was caused by calcium hypochlorite coming in contact with flammable liquids. The eight crewmen in the storeroom were asphyxiated when they attempted to seek shelter in a compartment adjacent to the storeroom.
On November 13, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT departed station for Subic Bay and remained in port until November 21. Departing Subic Bay November 22, she arrived on station November 24, and commenced air strikes against enemy targets. Christmas night,1966, Bob Hope’s USO show came aboard. On December 27, after 33 days on the line, ROOSEVELT sailed for Subic Bay, where she arrived December 30. Upon her departure from the Tonkin Gulf, Commander SEVENTH Fleet cited FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT for ‘sustained superior performance.’ For her outstanding aviation safety record in 1966, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT was awarded an unprecedented third Admiral Flatley Award.
Departing Subic Bay on January 8, 1967, the ship visited Hong Kong, China, January 10 to 14th and returned to Subic Bay January 17 and 18. Sailing January 18, a suspected casualty to number 1 propeller forced the ship’s return to Subic Bay for inspection. She got underway for Mayport, Flordia, on January 19th. En route she called at Cape Town, South Africa, February 4 to 6th, before ending her first combat deployment at Mayport on February 21.
Departing on April 26,1967 at 8:40am, I was on my way to Service Schools Command, Naval Training Center, San Deigo, California for Temporary Assigned Duty in Class A Machinery Repairman School.
On April 26, in the evening, the ship sailed for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard where she remained until May 15. Returning to Mayport May 18 she conducted training and upkeep until sailing for underway training at Guantanamo Bay,Cuba May 29th. Following underway training she returned to Mayport June 17 and remained in the area conducting carrier qualifications.
On August 3,1967 at 10:00am I returned to permanent duty after graduating from Service School Command as a Machinery Repairman.
On August 24,1967 FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT deployed for the fourteenth time to the Mediterranean Sea. Sailing via the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range, she completed an Operational Readiness inspection September I st. The ship arrived at Pollensa Bay, Mallorca, September 11th and relieved USS AMERICA CVA-66. Departing immediately FDR conducted exercises with other Sixth Fleet units. The ship visited Barcelona, Taranto, Malta, Marseilles, Cannes, Athens, Naples, Valencia, Genoa, and Palma. Completing a NATO exercise in the eastern and central Mediterranean from April 29 to May 10, ROOSEVELT returned to Pollensa Bay, Mallorca on May 9 to be relieved by USS INDEPENDENCE. Sailing upon relief, she returned to Mayport on May 19th.
Effective June 1, 1968, her homeport was changed to Norfolk, Virginia. On June 29, 1968 she entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard at Portsmouth, Virginia, to begin the largest overhaul ever attempted at that facility. Major improvements accomplished during the overhaul included the relocation of the centerline aircraft elevator number one to the starboard side, the installation of support equipment for operation of the F4J, A7B, and A6A aircraft, rehabilitation of berthing spaces, installation of chilled water, air conditioning throughout the ship, and the installation of two large flash-type evaporators which doubled the ship’s fresh water production capacity. With extensive catapult and arresting gear repair, she returned to service a year later with the Navy’s most modern equipment installed. the cost of the overhaul exceeded 46 million dollars.
Leaving Norfolk in July 1969 she got underway for her fifteenth Mediterranean deployment January 2, 1970. On board was Carrier Air Wing 6 Consisting of VF41 and VF84 flying F4J Phantom 11’s, VA15 and VA215 flying A7B Corsair 11’s, VA176 in A6A Intruders, VAQ130 in EKA3B Skywarriors, VAW-121 in EIB’s and VFP-63 flying RF8G photo Crusaders.
On May 12, 1970 at 8:00 I departed FDR for the last time. Never again to see her. I boarded the USS William M. Wood (DD 715) for a return trip across the Atlantic to be discharged at Norfolk Naval Station, Virginia on May 28, 1970.
The FDR returned to Mayport July 27, 1970.
On June 8th, 1977, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT got underway for the last time on her own power. Transiting to Norfolk the last sounding over the IMC of “Now go to your stations all the Special Sea and Anchor Detail” had a chilling ring to it.
As the hangar bays were filled with equipment to be offloaded and the waterline rose ever higher, it was like a death rattle could be heard resounding within her mighty steel hull. On June 26, the ship which was once billed as “the largest, strongest, and fastest” was towed ignominiously up the Elizabeth River to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where torches began to cut at her.
Scheduled for decommissioning on October 1, 1977, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT was then struck from the Naval Vessel Register and sold for scrapping in the spring of 1978.
In years when there is no longer even a hulk of what once was the FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, there will always be those of her crew who will remember her and who will say with pride of the highest mark, ‘I SERVED ON THE FDR.”