The USS Ranger (CV-61) was a Forrestal-class aircraft carrier serving the United States Navy from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. She was commissioned in August 1957 under the command of Captain Charles Booth III. Ranger has the distinction of being the first aircraft carrier to be designed from the keel up with an angled flight deck, enabling the simultaneous launch and recovery of aircraft at sea.
The first Forrestal-class carrier was built at the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company (now Northrop-Grumman). Her keel was laid in August 1954; Ranger was launched thirteen months later.
Considered a "supercarrier," Ranger is 1046 feet long and just under 250 feet across at flight deck level. Eight Babcock and Wilcox boilers provide the steam powering the vessel's four geared turbines. When on active duty, she carried a crew of over 3800 officers and seamen and an air wing of up to 90 aircraft.
Repairs and Upgrades
In early 1964, Ranger underwent repairs for damage that resulted when a U2 spy plane crashed on her deck. Details of the mission were highly classified at the time, and few details are available even today.
Following her first deployment to Vietnam, Ranger entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington at the end of September 1966 for an extensive overhaul requiring ten months. She returned to Bremerton briefly in June of 1968 before continuing to San Francisco for three months of more extensive maintenance and upgrades.
During the summer of 1972, Ranger was laid up due to damage caused by a heavy paint scraper that had been dropped into her reduction gear.
In February 1977, Ranger was again ordered to the Puget Sound Navy Yard for upgrades and refits. These included new Command Information Systems, improved flight equipment and missile defense capabilities, and engine upgrades. The work continued for thirteen months.
During a February 1979 deployment to the Far East, Ranger was forced to go into the yard for repairs following a collision with a Liberian tanker. Initial patching was done at Subic Bay, Philippines; more complete repairs were carried out at NB Yokosuka (Japan).
In the fall of 1983, Ranger returned to the Philippines for repairs due to fire damage.
Ranger was ordered to the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Washington to stand down in July 1993, where she is currently laid up as of this writing.
Ranger reported for duty at NB Norfolk in October 1957, undergoing acceptance trials for the next nine months. Ranger then got underway on a midshipman's training cruise around Cape Horn, arriving at her new home port of Alameda, California in August 1958.
From 1960 to 1973, Ranger was deployed to Vietnam and the South Pacific several times, at first in order to monitor the situation. Following the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, Ranger made seven combat tours of Vietnam; her eighth mission was canceled when a cease-fire was declared in January 1973. She returned that August for withdrawal operations.
In May 1976, the crew of the Ranger provided humanitarian assistance to flood victims in the Philippines. Immediately following these efforts, the carrier was ordered to the East Coast of Africa to monitor possible hostilities between Uganda and Kenya.
In the 1983, Ranger became notable for landing the first military aircraft piloted by an all-female crew.
Ranger appeared in four feature films during her later years: The Final Countdown (1980), Top Gun (1985), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), and Flight of the Intruder (1991).
In early 1991, Ranger took part in Operation Desert Storm. The following year, the carrier participated in a re-enactment of the famous Doolittle Raid of April 1942, in which two vintage World War II B-25 bombers took off and landed on her deck.
Ranger's last deployment was to the Pacific and Indian Ocean from August 1992 to January 1993, during which she participated in joint exercises with a Russian destroyer and provided humanitarian relief to Somalia as part of Operation Restore Hope. She was decommissioned at Bremerton in July 1993, where she is laid up as of this writing while the non-profit USS Ranger Foundation attempts to bring her to Fairview, Oregon as a museum exhibit.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Ranger (CV-61)
Although Ranger escaped battle damage during her thirty-five years of service, there were a number of accidents that may have exacerbated the asbestos hazard that existed aboard vessels built prior to 1980.
The first of these incidents was the crash of a U2 spy plane on the flight deck. As this was a classified mission, few details are available (even the crew was ordered to stay below at the time).
During the summer of 1972, the main reduction gear was damaged as the result of a seaman dropping a paint scraper into the machinery. The seaman responsible was initially accused of deliberate "sabotage in time of war," but during the subsequent court-martial, the incident was ruled an accident. Repairs took over four months.
In February 1979, the Ranger's hull was breached at the bow as the result of a collision at sea.
In November 1983, fire broke out in the No. 4 Machinery Room during a fueling operation in the Indian Ocean, resulting in six casualties and disabling one of the vessel's engines.
While all the military services made use of asbestos in all sorts of facilities and environments, exposure was much more pervasive aboard ship, and as a result studies find significantly more mesothelioma navy victims than in the other service branches. When asbestos-containing material is worn or damaged it can become friable, which means that individual fibers can break off and enter the air, and then can be inhaled or ingested by sailors or repair workers, potentially leading to the development of mesothelioma. The damage caused by asbestos occurs when very small particles are breathed in or swallowed; they invade the lungs and occasionally the stomach, causing scarring in the case of asbestosis and cellular damage in the case of mesothelioma cancer.
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Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).
USS Ranger Foundation. "About [USS Ranger]."
http://www.ussranger.org/about Retrieved 22 December 2010.