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USS Nimitz (CVN 68) History

NIMITZ has answered its country's call many times in response to regional and international crises. In doing so, the aircraft carrier has secured a prominent place in history, just like her namesake, Fleet Admiral Chester W. NIMITZ.

The keel of USS NIMITZ was laid on June 22, 1968 at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia. It was destined to become the largest warship ever. The ship was commissioned May 3, 1975, at Pier 12, Naval Station Norfolk, Va. by the Honorable Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States. Principal guests included: the Honorable James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense; the Honorable J. William Middendorf, II, Secretary of the Navy; Admiral James L. Holloway, III, Chief of Naval Operations and Mrs. James T. NIMITZ-Lay, Ship's Sponsor.

Speaking to a crowd of over 20,000, the President said in his remarks: "Wherever the United States Ship NIMITZ shows her flag, she will be seen as we see her now - a solid symbol of United States strength; United States resolve. Made in America and manned by Americans. Whether its mission is one of defense, diplomacy or humanity, NIMITZ will command awe and admiration from some, caution and circumspection from others and respect from all."

Today's crew stands ready, as did the commissioning crew, to answer their nation's call and take their place in America's maritime heritage.

NIMITZ' first deployment began on July 7, 1976 when it departed Norfolk for the Mediterranean. Included in the task force were the nuclear-powered cruisers USS SOUTH CAROLINA (CGN 37) and USS CALIFORNIA (CGN 36). The deployment marked the first time in 10 years that nuclear-powered ships had deployed to the Mediterranean. In November 1976, NIMITZ was awarded the coveted Battle "E" from Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic Fleet, for being the most efficient and foremost aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Fleet. The ship returned to Norfolk Feb. 7, 1977 after a seven-month deployment.

NIMITZ again sailed toward the Mediterranean Sea Dec. 1, 1977. Following a peaceful deployment, the ship returned home to Norfolk July 20, 1978. During NIMITZ' third cruise to the Mediterranean beginning Sept. 10, 1979, it was dispatched to strengthen the U.S. Naval presence in the crucial Indian Ocean area as tensions heightened over Iran's taking of 52 American hostages. Four months later, Operation "Evening Light" was launched from NIMITZ in an attempt to rescue the hostages. The rescue was aborted in the Iranian Desert when the number of operational helicopters fell below the minimum needed to transport the attack force and hostages out of Iran. During its deployment, the ship operated 144 continuous days at sea. NIMITZ' homecoming on May 26, 1980 was, at the time, the largest given to any carrier battle group returning to the United States since the end of World War II. The ship's crew was greeted by President and Mrs. Carter, members of Congress, military leaders and thousands of families and friends.

On May 15, 1981, NIMITZ departed Norfolk for the final phases of her workup schedule for an upcoming Mediterranean Cruise. On the night of May 25, an EA-6B Prowler crash-landed on the flight deck, killing 14 crewmen and injuring 45 others. The carrier returned to port to repair damaged catapults and returned to sea less than 48 hours later to complete its training schedule. On August 18 and 19, 1981 during its fourth deployment, NIMITZ and USS FORRESTAL conducted an open ocean missile exercise in the Gulf of Sidra near what Libyan leader Khadafi called the "Line of Death." On the morning of August 19, two NIMITZ aircraft from VF-41 were fired upon by Libyan pilots. The NIMITZ pilots returned fire and shot both Libyan aircraft from the sky. Newspapers across the country rallied around the incident against terrorist-backing Libya with front-page headlines reading "U.S. 2 - Libya 0."

On June 14, 1985, two Lebanese Shiite Muslim gunmen hijacked TWA Flight 847, carrying 153 passengers and crew, including many Americans. In response, NIMITZ was ordered to steam at flank speed to the Eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Lebanon, where it remained until August. After another extended deployment, NIMITZ left the Mediterranean on May 21, 1987. It crossed the Atlantic Ocean, rounded the rough waters of Cape Horn, South America, and sailed for the first time in the waters of the Pacific Ocean enroute to its new homeport, Bremerton, Wash. NIMITZ arrived there July 2, 1987.

In September, 1988, the ship operated off the South Korean coast to provide security for the Olympic Games in Seoul. On Oct. 29, 1988 NIMITZ began operating in the North Arabian Sea where it participated in Operation "Earnest Will." This operation called for U.S. Navy ships to protect shipping lanes and escort U.S. registered (re-flagged) Kuwaiti tankers. On Feb. 25, 1991, NIMITZ departed Bremerton for the Western Pacific and eventually the Arabian Gulf, where it relieved USS RANGER, during Operation Desert Storm. The ship returned to Bremerton Aug. 24, 1991. NIMITZ again deployed Feb. 1, 1993 to the Arabian Gulf, relieving USS KITTY HAWK to take its place as part of Operation Southern Watch. The ship returned after a mishap-free deployment in August, 1993.

In November, 1995, NIMITZ commenced her deployment to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf, and to the waters off Taiwan, where once again the presence of carrier forces at sea positively influenced events ashore, calming a volatile standoff between mainland China and Taiwan.

On September 1, 1997, NIMITZ set out on her latest deployment, an around-the-world cruise that would see the great carrier return to her East Coast roots and begin a multi-year overhaul in the Newport News shipyard where she was built.

The around-the-world deployment promised to be an exciting experience with scheduled port visits ranging from the Far East to the Mediterranean Sea; however, NIMITZ was ordered into the Arabian Gulf to support Operation Southern Watch and various United Nation initiatives.  Answering each challenge, NIMITZ served on station in the Arabian Gulf throughout the holidays and returned to a celebrated and long anticipated homecoming on March 1, 1998.

On 26 May 1998, NIMITZ began a mid-life refueling overhaul that enabled her to provide her nation with a second quarter century of service.

NIMITZ rejoined the fleet midway through 2001. Following sea trials, the carrier returned to Newport News Shipbuilding for a post-shakedown availablity period. On September 21, 2001, USS NIMITZ returned to sea bound for her new homeport in San Diego, California, where she arrived on November 13, 2001.

USS NIMITZ began a four-month Post-Shakedown Availability at Naval Air Station, North Island in January 2002. NIMITZ ended her pier-side availability in May 2002 and conducted sea trials, the first step in preparation for her overseas deployment.

On January 29, 2003, the NIMITZ Battle Group successfully completed a Composite Training Unit Exercise and a Joint Task Force Training Exercise and was been certified by Commander Third Fleet as ready for deployment and capable of conducting the full spectrum of naval operations.

On March 3, USS NIMITZ stood out on her 10th overseas deployment, this time in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The NIMITZ returned home to San Diego, Calif, on November 5, 2003 and commenced a 6-month Phased Incremental Availability on February 23, 2004. Finishing the PIA on August 23, 2004, the NIMITZ next participated in the Tailored Ships Training Availability I/II/III and Final Exercise Period, which took the carrier off the coast of southern California. Returning to San Diego on November 20, the carrier stood out again on November 29, to participate in a Composite Training Unit Exercise off southern California. The exercise was finished December 20, and Christmas was spent in port San Diego, Calif.

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