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USS America (CV-66)

USS America (CV-66)

The USS America (CV-66) was a Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier serving the United States Navy from Vietnam though the Balkans action in 1996. As launched, America carried a crew compliment of 502 officers and 4,684 seamen, and an air wing of nearly 80 aircraft.


Initially designed as a nuclear-powered Enterprise-class vessel, the USS America was eventually constructed as Kitty Hawk-class carrier with conventional steam turbines. Construction began at the Newport News Shipbuilding Company near Norfolk Virginia in January of 1961. Construction took over four years to complete, and America was finally commissioned under the command of Captain Lawrence Heyworth Jr. in January of 1965.

Repairs and Upgrades

America underwent several maintenance periods over the course of her three decades of service, as well as repairs for damage incurred during her second Mediterranean deployment.

The carrier received maintenance at the Norfolk Navy Yard in September 1967 and throughout most of 1969. Between November 1974 and the end of September 1975, America underwent an extensive overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Another maintenance period lasted from October 1976 until February 1977. She underwent two more yard periods at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in 1982 and 1987.

Wartime Service

After shakedown trials in the Atlantic off the southern U.S. coast, America was deployed to the Mediterranean in December 1965, where her crew engaged in a joint exercise with the French Navy designated as "Fairgame." She returned to port in July of 1966. Her second Mediterranean deployment in 1967 was eventful. During NATO exercises, America lost five aircraft and suffered two casualties as the result of training accidents. Other events that put the vessel and her crew on high alert included a military coup in Greece and the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

The America returned to Norfolk in September 1967. Following a maintenance period, America and her crew trained in the Caribbean for several months in preparation for deployment to the Far East and Vietnam, then sailed for the Gulf of Tonkin in March 1968.

America and her crew spent six months on combat duty in the Gulf of Tonkin, with periodic visits to ports along the Asiatic coast. The carrier departed for home in October of 1968.

America's second Vietnam deployment commenced in April 1970 and lasted until November. Another Mediterranean deployment began in July of 1971, during which the crew participated in a number of war games and battle simulations. Her third Vietnam deployment commenced in June 1972, and she remained in Asian waters until returning to the Atlantic coast in February 1973.

America departed for the Mediterranean once again in January 1974. Her crew spent the time on routine patrols and NATO battle exercises. America paid a short visit to her home port of Norfolk before being ordered to the North Sea in the fall of 1974 to take part in a joint NATO exercise, Northern Merger.

Following a major overhaul that lasted though most of 1975, the carrier spent time close to home and in the Caribbean before returning to the Mediterranean in April 1976, taking part in joint battle exercises Safe Pass 76, Open Gate and Fluid Drive. America returned to Norfolk in October 1976. For the next few years, the carrier alternated between local waters, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean before she was ordered to the Indian Ocean in 1981.

America was involved in combat operations off the Libyan coast in 1986. In 1990, America was ordered to the Persian Gulf to support NATO forces during the first Iraq invasion as part of Battle Force Zulu.

America's last deployment was to the Mediterranean and Red Sea from August 1993 until August 1995, participating in Operations Deny Flight, Deliberate Force and Joint Endeavor. America was decommissioned in August 1996 and scuttled off the coast of North Carolina in 2005 after serving as a test target.

Asbestos Risk on the USS America (CV-66)

The use of asbestos in the construction of marine vessels was mandated by Congress in the 1930s after a fire at sea raised public concerns about the safety of American ships. Because asbestos is completely fire-proof, it was used as insulation throughout all ships constructed between the 1930s and the early 1980s. Unfortunately this use meant that sailors, shipbuilders, dock workers, and many others were exposed to asbestos fibers in the air, which is known to cause mesothelioma. While many in the US Armed Forces suffered asbestos exposure during the Second World War, mesothelioma navy cases are significantly more common.

Although much research has been done in attempting to develop new treatments, there is no mesothelioma cure. Naval personnel who served on America, shipyard workers who labored on her construction, repairs, and refits, as well as members of their families who may have been exposed to asbestos fibers carried home on work clothes and uniforms, are all tragically at risk of developing this deadly disease. America was built and served in the asbestos era and it is very likely that anyone serving aboard or working on her refits was potentially exposed.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should know that there are mesothelioma clinics which can provide treatment and support. For more information about asbestos, mesothelioma, and your medical and legal options, you may be interested in receiving our free mesothelioma information kit. Just fill in the form on this page and we will rush you a free copy.

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari


N/A. "America." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Retrieved 29 November 2010