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THE USS ORISKANY - MEMORIES OF VIETNAM

Hi, my name is Larry Matthews. Amazingly, it has now been 39 years since the Vietnam Cease Fire on January 28, 1973. Several years ago, when the quarter century mark came around it stirred a lot of feelings in me. Early in 1998 I published two articles in THE TIMES OF YUBA-SUTTER, a local newspaper. These two articles follow and show the feelings that I, as a U.S. Navy Sailor, still have about the war.

I have also included sections that represent other areas of memories I have about the USS ORISKANY (CVA-34) during her last Vietnam War cruise. These memories are still so clear and important to me. I hope you will E-mail me by clicking on my address near the bottom of this page. Let me know your feelings and memories if you are a Vietnam Veteran of if you are a family member of a Vietnam Veteran.

Since January of 1998, when this web page was originally established it has received over 30,000 contacts and I have heard from many of my old shipmates and many others who still have pride in those members of the "Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club" who sailed off of Yankee Station.

Also, I have most recently received e-mails from many others who have reviewed this web site due to the sinking of our beloved ship as an artificial reef. They all expressed an affection for the ship and the sailors who sailed aboard her. I greatly appreciate each and every e-mail that I have received.

This web site is dedicated to those 58,000 Vietnam Veterans who did not return home alive. Don't forget the veterans and their families who made the ultimate sacrifice!

USS ORISKANY in Subic Bay in February 1973; Right after the cease fire.

SECTIONS:

1. THE TRAGEDY OF PETER CHAN. (With update - April 21, 2002)

2. JANUARY 28, 1973 - THE END OF THE VIETNAM WAR.

3. "97.3 FM - THIS IS KRIS!"

4. ORISKANY'S HOLLYWOOD CONNECTIONS.

5. ORISKANY CRUISE STATISTICS - 1972 THROUGH 1973.

6. FINAL HISTORICAL NOTES.

7. ORISKANY'S 30 YEAR ODYSSEY TO SINKING.

8. ORISKANY - REST IN PEACE - MAY 17, 2006

9. THE ORISKANY MUSEUM AND BATTLEFIELD

10. CAPTAIN JOHN C. BARROW

A GREAT E-MAIL:

I received the following E-mail and attachment on May 21, 2006. I wanted to share it with all ORISKANY shipmates:

"My name is Brian Whitcomb, a Scuba diver from Brisbane Down-Under and have been following the sinking of the "Oriskany" for the last couple of days. It seems like everyone is dying to dive this marvelous old Flat-Top, and with good reason. That's when I did a little research via Google and came across your very touching website dedicated to the Ship and its crew.

I took the liberty of borrowing your "toast" and added a fitting image of how we divers will view her new resting place. I'm sure we divers will show our greatest respect to what was once your 'home'.

Reading your Website puts some flesh and bones onto what they now blandly call an "Artificial Reef". I know she meant a lot more to you and your shipmates.

Please accept this Image Tribute to the Oriskany Veterans -"

Thanks Brian. What a wonderful tribute to the memory of the ship and the sailors who served aboard her. By the way, I do not know who the author of the "Toast" is. It certainly was not me. But I always found it a very fitting tribute to all Vietnam Veterans.

The Sun has finally set on the USS ORISKANY - May 17, 2006.


1. THE TRAGEDY OF PETER CHAN

THE TIMES OF YUBA-SUTTER - March 20, 1998:

I never met, nor to my knowledge, did I ever see Peter Chan. However, the circumstances of his death and the coincidence which occured later have left an indelible memory in my mind.

September 25, 1972 was a typical day aboard the American Aircraft Carrier ORISKANY. We were off the coast of Vietnam launching air strikes at the North Vietnamese. Along with us were two destroyer escorts.

I had only been aboard the ORISKANY for about a month. I had flown to the Philippines in early August and had been assigned to the Captain's Office, as part of X Division. The year before I had been assigned to an Ammunition Ship, the USS MAUNA KEA and had spent four months, in the combat zone off of North Vietnam. Aboard MAUNA KEA I had been assigned to 3rd Division.

Peter Chan was a Seaman Apprentice in Third Division. He was a fellow Californian, as he had grown up in San Francisco. He was 20 years old.

There is a rule aboard U.S. Navy ships that, when anything is thrown overboard, the sailor takes the trash or other item to the back end of the ship, known as the "fantail" and properly throws it off. The breaking of this rule was to start a chain of events that was to lead to the death of Peter Chan.

As far as I know there was never any determination of who threw the cleaning solvent off the side of the carrier. But the solvent was thrown and some of it was blown back and hit Peter Chan. Peter saw who dumped the liquid and ran after him.

At the time, Peter and the solvent thrower were located in an area just below the flight deck known as the "hangar bay". It is the place where the planes are brought down by elevator from the flight deck so they can be repaired and maintained. Another section of the ORISKANY hangar bay was the scene of a horrible fire in October of 1966 which resulted in the deaths of 44 sailors.

When maintenance tests are performed, a jet's tail is turned toward the outside - or ocean side - of the hangar bay so that when the engine is turned on for testing the jet flame can do no damage to the ship. There is usually a space of several feet between the end of the engine and the edge of the deck.

The following events are hearsay to me but I believe they are fundamentally true. When Peter took off after the man who threw the solvent, the man ran in front of a jet fighere that had it's engine turned on for testing. Peter, for some reason, ran behind the jet. There are some reports that Peter may have been partially blinded by the solvent.

The jet's engine blew Peter Chan off of the carrier into the Tonkin Gulf. A fall from the hangar bay to the sea is a long one, but it can be survivable.

I was in the Captain's Office when I heard the "man overboad" emergency call over the 1MC, or ship's loudspeaker system. When this occurs, the ship immediately does a "180" - complete turn around to get back to the original place where the man went overboard. Additionally, the two destroyer escorts make immediate headway toward the area.

I understand that someone on the destroyers saw Peter in the water and saw him wave. But then he disappeared.

It was never determined what happened to him in the water. Sharks often follow Navy Ships. Possibly the blast of the jet engine was just too much for him. Or possibly the fall may have been fatal.

We had a memorial ceremony for Peter. A sailor from my office, Ronnie McFarland, sang. Ronnie was previously one of the Edwin Hawkins Singers and did a wonderful job.

In December of that year, just before Christmas, I was in Subic Bay, a major naval base in the Philippines. It was during the time of the Christmas Bombing that eventually lead to the North Vietnamese signing the peace treaty the next month.

I was at the Sampaguita Club on base when I ran into friend of my from the USS MAUNA KEA. His name was Michael, and he and I had served together for seven months the previous year. We decided to have a few drinks together and talk over old times.

Later in the evening, Michael indicated to me that he had a friend aboard ORISKANY with whom he had grown up with in San Francisco. Did I know a Peter Chan?

It is still inconceivable to me that, of the 3,500 sailors stationed aboard the ORISKANY, that the one man Michael grew up with - and asked me about - was the one and only man who was killed during the entire time I served aboard the ship. And I had to be the one to tell my former shipmate that his lifelong friend was dead.

Peter Chan's name appears on both the national Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington D.C. and the California Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Sacramento. It also remains in my mind as a reminder of how fragile life is - and how little time we really have on earth.

(I want to thank Damiel Delaney and John Castelvetro for their input in April 2000. They also were both aboard ORISKANY that day and they knew Peter Chan. They helped correct a few errors and misunderstandings that appeared in the original story. Thanks guys!)

UPDATE: AN E-MAIL REGARDING PETER CHAN.

On April 21, 2002 I received the following E-Mail from Michael Cross. I have edited the E-mail for the most vital aspects of it and I think it speaks for itself.

"Larry, Thank you for your prompt reply. You do indeed have the details of Peter's death correct. I mainly want to chime in my eyewitness account of that day. I served on the USS ORISKANY during the 1972 and 1974 transpacs. I was assigned to the Air Wing Squadron VF-194. My duty at the time of Peter's death was flight deck trouble shooting. When I came across your website, I had major goosebumps reading your account of a day I will never forget. I have to say that before I read your site, I did not even know Peter's name, his story or even the date that it happened.

On that day I was looking toward the aft end of the hangar and I saw an F-8 with an intake screen attached to the nose of the air inlet. I stepped back, looked to my left and saw a sailor walk directly behind the F-8. After watching him go overboard I ran back to the fantail, that was at the time closed for recovery. I went directly to the aft rail and looked to the aft starboard side and saw Peter on the crest of two waves, waving a hand in the air.

As you know, during launch/recovery ops, there is always a recovery helo in the air. The helo was over the area as soon as possible but I don't think they ever had a chance of a successful rescue.

I vividly recall an A-7 right above my head as I was trying to save the life of a shipmate.

I didn't know his name and I was never asked about the details of that day, but after reading your account I now have some closure. Thank you Larry for taking the effort to make some kind of sense to the tragedy we all suffered through."

Mike Cross

ANOTHER E-MAIL REGARDING PETER CHAN.

I received an e-mail on July 5, 2003 from Rick Sindars from Port Angeles, Washington. Rick says that he was right with Peter Chan when they were both hit with cleaning solvent. Rick says he dove back down to the chow hall and rinsed his eyes out. He said that that solvent in his eyes was the most painful experience of his life. He says that he does not feel that Peter was running after anyone, he was probably "running blindly in pain". Rick also says, "Peter Chan was really well liked by everyone who knew him. He had a really special spirit about him. And I'm sure that he was dearly missed by his lived ones. He really made an impression on those who really knew him. He was a very special person."

THE LATEST E-MAIL REGARDING PETER CHAN.

April 9, 2009.

Hello,

I'm late getting here to give you my input of the tragic accident that took the life of Peter Chan. That name came to memory right off. Because I was the hangar bay 2 PO. The claims are accurate.

As the aircraft was started up for testing in bay 3, a "blue shirt" removed a bucket of cleaning solvent off the deck near the port wing of the aircraft and walked to the edge of the deck elevator door opening forward of the opening to the starboard sponson and threw the solvent over the side not realizing there were guys on the sponson at the time.

With the plane turning up and the noise from the flight deck, most likely Peter didn't realize there was a jet turning up beyond the opening from the sponson as he intended to run out on to the hangar deck. In that very moment he was blown over the side.

One of the blue shirts standing by as a safety man saw it happen and had the director do an emergency shut down.

Those members were the first on scene and saw Peter sinking..speculation is that he may have hit his head on the side of the ship and was knocked out.

This struck all of us who worked on the hangar deck and flight deck. It made us aware of the possibilities that tragic accidents could happen to anyone of us at anytime.

After all these years may Peter rest in peace.

T. D. Thornton USNRet


2. JANUARY 28, 1973 - THE END OF THE VIETNAM WAR

USS RANGER, USS ENTERPRISE, USS AMERICA and USS ORISKANY

(The RANGER was decommissioned in July '93. Her future fate is unknown. The ENTERPRISE is still in commission. The AMERICA was decommissioned in Aug '96 and was sunk as a target ship in the Atlantic Ocean on May 14, 2005. See below for the ORISKANY's fate.)

THE TIMES OF YUBA-SUTTER - January 30, 1998:

How vividly I recall that one special day - January 28, 1973 - and the events that occured a quarter of a century ago this month.

Yes, January 28th was to be a special day. It was the day that President Nixon had promised would bring us "peace with honor".

This was to be the day of "cease fire" for the Vietnam War.

Back in 1964, when I as only 13, our involvement in the Vietnam War had really began. Troops were embarked en masse for the first time since the Korean War. In some vague way, I began to worry about the draft.

However, my worries only extended to a future time, some five years hence, when I would turn 18. Therefore, I really didn't worry all that much because everyone knew that this war wouldn't last very long. After all, the United States would surely make short work of the Communists and we would win. We always had won wars. We had never lost.

But then, on this special day of January 28th, what was I doing on the deck of the USS ORISKANY, an American Aircraft Carrier stationed in the Tonkin Gulf off the coast of Vietnam? And especially when I wasn't just 19 but 22! We had been bogged down in this quagmire called Vietnam for more than eight years!

We had started out with high hopes. But as the war progressed and more and more American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen had died, that mood had changed. During the period between 1968 and 1973, America had grown weary of the war and distrustful of it's government. Some 58,000 American servicemen had died between 1962 and 1973, and that does not include the many thousands who were wounded, both physically and mentally. Nor does it count the 200,000 Communist Chinese, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong dead, nor the number of South Vietnamese Army dead and the untold millions of civilian casualties on both sides.

I'm sure that many of us were mulling this over in our minds on that date when, just after noon, the aircraft carriers, USS ENTERPRISE, USS AMERICA and the USS RANGER joined the USS ORISKANY in the Tonkin Gulf to form a "V" for Victory display to herald the cease fire, and supposedly, the end of the war. The ENTERPRISE took the lead, and the ORISKANY fell in behind with AMERICA on our right and RANGER on our left.

I still have snapshots of the carriers participating in the display, but my favorite picture of the day was given to me a few months later by my friend, John Colony. He had been stationed aboard the RANGER. The RANGER had launched some F-4 Phantom jets during the display and their pilots had taken pictures of the event. The original negative that I obtained shows the carriers just after they broke formation. It is shared here in public, in this web site, for the very first time in over 28 years.

What a target we would have made! Four carriers - the pride of the Pacific 7th Fleet - carrying more than 15,000 American Sailors and Marines. That was probably the best target the Communists, and their MIGS, had all during the war.

A front on view of the carriers on that historic day. USS AMERICA, USS ENTERPRISE, USS ORISKANY (behind) and USS RANGER.

The euphoria we felt that day was unbelievable.! Here we were, at the very end (supposely) of a conflict that had caused so much misery and death. And we were finishing it with honor! We had kept the peace and saved South Vietnam! And we were now getting out!

It wasn't until two years later - in the Spring of 1975 - when Saigon and South Vietnam fell to the Communist forces that we realized just what a complete failure our policies and our efforts had really been. We had sacrificed 58,000 American lives and spent billions of dollars, and for what?

Looking back, the tragedy that resulted from Vietnam hit many of us very personally, even from 7,000 miles away. Does anyone remember the names and faces of those from the northern Sacramento Valley who died there? Does anyone remember the 13 from Marysville? The 9 from Yuba City? The one from Olivehurst? The 2 from Live Oak? The 3 from Gridley? The one from Biggs? The 11 from Oroville?

And of course there were thousands of others as well. These were just the ones I knew about from my own section of the United States.

We had gotten into the Vietnam War to aid an ally and to prevent a blood bath and the toppling of other governments in that region of the planet. We can look back now and see where our fears were at least partially correct. Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are all under the control of totalitarian/Communist governments, and hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result.

Did a Vietnamese blood bath occur after the fall of Saigon? It depends upon how you look at it, I suppose. But we do know that thousands of Vietnamese Boat people died in the late 1970's trying to escape the prison that Vietnam had become.

The real bloodbath - that undeniably did occur - was in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. The Khmer Rouge may have murdered up to two million of their fellow Cambodians in their fanatical efforts toward "agrarian reform" - in their own equally twisted versions of Nazi extermination camps.

Whether the American involvment in Vietnam was correct or not is probably irrelevant at this time. It is sufficient to say that, if anything was learned from the conflict that will save American lives in the future, then we must admit that we did achieve some sort of positive result from those eight years of blood conflict. The low casualty rate we suffered in "Operation Desert Storm" is quite possibly a direct result of lessons learned in Southeast Asia.

Were there any winners in Vietnam? The North Vietnamese feel that they won by being able to reunite the two Vietnams. However, I question what they really achieved. Since 1975, the Vietnamese have been in combat with the Chinese and Khmer Rouge, resulting in additional casualties, and their lifestyle has remained primative.

They suffer from high unemployment, poverty and many shortages. So, what have they won - the right to live in the Stone Age? In America, this was that claimed so many thousands of lives, and that divided the United States like no other occurance since the Civil War, also caused many to degrade the Veterans who served there. This, to me, was one of the most heartbreaking results of the war. These men and women were doing the same thing as those we traditionally have honored - the men and women who served in the World Wars and in Korea. They were simply serving their country and abiding by our government's - not necessarily their own personal - foreign policy to the best of their abilities.

Today, there are still many thousands of physically and mentally wounded veterans who, in their hearts and minds, cannot ever stop fighting the Vietnam War. Their war experiences left indelible impressions on their phyches, and now they have their own personal battles to either win or lose. I wish them well!

But they and all Vietnam Veterans should be proud of their service. They should also be honored by their courage, for their dedication and for their love of the United States. They poved their love for America by placing themselves "in harm's way" and many - far too many - did not return.

Yes, a quarter of a century has passed since January 28, 1973 - that bright, clear and euphoric day I spent aboard the USS ORISKANY in the waters of the Tonkin Gulf, some 7,000 miles away from home. I, like many of my shipmates and thousands of others who served in Vietnam, have now returned home, become "adjusted", picked up the pieces and gone on with our lives.

But I have only to shut my eyes for a moment, and the memories come flooding back to me - the memories of the joy and relieve I felt on that very special day of so many, many years ago.

(Photo by: Gordon "Howdy" Doody)


3. "97.3 FM - THIS IS KRIS!"

During the year I served aboard ORISKANY I had the pleasure of doing a daily Radio Program on the ship's radio station, KRIS. These shows were produced every day we were underway and I have great memories of these times. The shows served as a great stress reliever from the environment of where we were and what we were doing.

Some KRIS DJ's from '72/'73:

Clockwise from top left: Myself, Mike De Faussel, Don Stimson and "Jive Time Duke"(I believe his real name was Wayne W. Duke).

The fun thing about doing Armed Forces Radio on ORISKANY was that you didn't have to worry about FCC regulations. You never worried if your language was quite appropriate nor did you worry about some of the raunchiness of the songs you played. You only had to worry about offending Captain Barrow! (I only came close one time to getting into a little trouble...)

Over the years I have had several shipmates e-mail me and state that they remember my show. What a memory! All I remember is that it was a blast and what great music we got to play. Everything from "Brandy You're A Fine Girl" by Looking Glass to "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John. We even sneaked in "My Ding-A-Ling" by Chuck Berry (how CLASSY was that?)

I recently stumbled across a KRIS RADIO program schedule from January 2, 1973. I will list the live shows that may bring back some memories for you "O" folks:

0700 - GEORGE THOMANN - Format: Middle of the Road.

0800 - DON STIMSON - Format: Top 40.

0900 - FURIA LATINA - Format: Latin.

1200 - BROTHER BLAKELEY - Format: Soul.

1500 - LARRY MATTHEWS - Format: Top 40/Oldies.

1600 - MIKE DEFAUSELL - Format: Top 40.

1700 - 'JIVE TIME' DUKE - Format: Soul.

1800 - CHRIS WHITMAN - Format: Jazz.

2000 - ROD STOUDER - Format: Top 40.

2100 - MIKE STUBBLEFIELD - Format: R&B.

2200 - DWIGHT HALL - Format: Hard Rock.

2300 - RON CAMP - Format: Middle of the Road.

As you can tell, all live shows by ORISKANY personnel were one hour per day. Fill-in recorded shows were Jim Pewter, Finch Bandwagon, Soul Story and Rock Genesis - all provided by Armed Forces Radio and Television Service.

4. ORISKANY'S HOLLYWOOD CONNECTIONS.

THE BRIDGES AT TOKO RI. 1954. With William Holden, Grace Kelley, Fredrick March and Mickey Rooney - ALL CARRIER SCENES FILMED ABOARD THE ORISKANY. BEAUTIFUL COLOR PHOTOGRAPHY.

CAPRICORN ONE. 1978. Elliott Gould, James Brolin, Hal Holbrook, Karen Black, O.J. Simpson - A BRIEF MENTION AND VIEW OF THE ORISKANY AS THE PICKUP CARRIER OF THE SPACE CAPSULE.

MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY. 1954. Van Johnson, Walter Pidgeon, Keenan Wynn, Frank Lovejoy - KOREAN WAR FILM SHOT ABOARD ORISKANY. BEAUTIFULLY SHOT IN TECHNICOLOR AND VERY SIMILAR TO "BRIDGES AT TOKO RI".

USS FORRESTAL: SITUATION CRITICAL. 1999. John McCain and other FORRESTAL personnel are interviewed in this documenary of the USS FORRESTAL fire. THE ORISKANY IS SHOWN STEAMING TO THE AID OF FORRESTAL.

5. ORISKANY CRUISE STATISTICS - Period of June 5, 1972 to February 24, 1973.

Days Deployed: 298

Days Underway: 223

Days on the line off of Vietnam: 170

Arrested Landings: 14,052

Launches: 13,932

Strike Sorties Flown: 8,057

Support Sorties Flown: 4,174

Underway Replenishments: 86

Vertical Replenishments: 8

Bombs Dropped: Total - 47,292 (45,730 MK82's and 1,562 MK83's)

Personnel Movements: Transferred - 651 (Enlisted: 598, Officer: 53). Received - 678 (Enlisted: 620, Officer: 58)

VD CASES (I just HAD to include this!): 1,459

6. FINAL HISTORICAL NOTES

On October 26, 1967 former Presidental Candidate, John McCain flew off of the USS ORISKANY on his 23rd bombing mission of the Vietnam War. He was shot down that day and was a Prisoner of War until January of 1973. He had volunteered for duty aboard the ORISKANY (a risky assignment due to the high loss of aircrews at that time) after he had miraculously survived the USS FORRESTAL fire on July 29, 1967. The initial explosion was almost directly below his fighter jet. For more information on the FORRESTAL fire and the ORISKANY fire a year earlier, click on LARRY'S WEB SITES below and check in at LOST AMERICAN AIRCRAFT CARRIERS.

The USS ORISKANY in Subic Bay just after the fire in October 1966. The USS BRYCE CANYON (AD-36) sits alongside providing initial repairs. (Photo provided by MA3 Bruce A. Campbell.)

The ORISKANY was the most utilized Aircraft Carrier during the Vietnam War. As an example, at the end of the cruise of 1967, ORISKANY had flown an unprecidented 181 strikes in the high threat areas of Hanoi and Haiphong. ORISKANY pilots had participated in the first raids on Haiphong's shipyards, the Cam Pha port and the Phuc Yen MIG Base. The ORISKANY had sustained the highest losses of any carrier: 38 out of 70 planes were lost. 52 were damaged. One out of every four pilots had been captured or killed.

7. ORISKANY'S 30 YEAR ODYSSEY TO SINKING

ORISKANY was decommissioned on May 15, 1976. She sat at the Bremerton, Washington Mothball Fleet until August of 1997 when she was towed to Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. She was towed out of Vallejo on April 28, 1999 and arrived in Port Arthur, Texas on August 10, 1999.

Oriskany leaving Mare Island on April 28, 1999.

Over the years several plans were made to convert her into a museum, but the ideas fell thorough.

The Oriskany, while awaiting her fate, in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oriskany being towed down the Port Arthur ship channel - January 19, 2004.

January 2004 thru early May 2006: Oriskany was moved on January 19, 2004 from the Beaumont Texas Reserve Fleet and headed to Corpus Christi, Texas. A company called Essco did the prep work for the anticipated sinking. That work included stripping the flight deck, abating any asbestos, dealing with PCB's and removing any lead paint.

I want to thank Ben Harrington for this info and for the above photo of the Oriskany being towed. Ben was there for the move and says, "the Oriskany is an awesome vessel. You don't realize what a marvel it is until you stand at one end of the flight deck and look towards the opposite end! Then, on top of that....imagine the whole thing cruising at 25 knots!"

On April 5, 2004 it was announced that the ORISKANY would be sunk as an artificial reef in Summer 2004. Plans were to have her sunk at a depth of 210 feet, 22 miles Southeast of Pensacola, Florida.

The sinking was delayed to September 2004 and then the hurricanes came! This delayed the sinking even further, plus more work had to be done to finish the preparation.

In mid December Oriskany was towed from Corpus Christi, Texas to the Port of Pensacola, in Florida. As of March 2005 the plan was for the Oriskany to be sunk in December 2005. Then due to the godawful hurricane season the sinking was further delayed.

Oriskany in Pensacola.

8. ORISKANY - REST IN PEACE - MAY 17, 2006

When 500 pounds of C-4 explosives were detonated.

The ORISKANY is now finally at peace - 30 years and 2 days after her decommissioning. She is 24 miles southeast of Pensacola, Florida and 212 feet below the surface.

Neither my wife nor myself had ever been to Florida but we flew in from California and were involved in most of the ORISKANY events of the 13th to the 17th - and we would not have missed it for the world! What a wonderful, memorable and yet sad period of time.

Those of us attending the Memorial Ceremony at the National Museum of Naval Aviation appear dwarfed by the F6F-5 Hellcat suspended from the ceiling. What a great evening! We are in the second row, second and third person from the left.

On May 13th there was a special memorial reception at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Naval Air Station, Pensacola. More than 500 people attended and speakers included Mayor of Pensacola Vince Whibbs, Captain Jack Kenyon who was Commanding Officer of ORISKANY from 1968-1969, Captain Robert Rasmussen who was commander of Fighter Squadron III (1967-1968) and Carrier Division Seven (1971-1972) and US Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida.

The Memorial Ceremony.

There was patriotism and tears and much remembering of the times aboard ORISKANY. There were ex-crew members there who spanned the history of the ship from 1950 to 1976.

I even met two ex-KRIS DJ's who were on the air when I was. They were George Thomann and Jeff Webster.

One of the highlights of the evening was the premier of Cravatt Productions' ORISKANY documentary, "USS ORISKANY - From Combat to Reefing". This was an excellent production that brought both tears and laughter. I am glad to say that I did send some minor information to Marguerite Cravatt that she used in the production. Also, my name was used in the closing credits as a contributor. George Thomann had a big part in this documentary and did a great job.

One of the few artifacts saved was the ORISKANY name plate that was affixed to the ship's fantail for over a quarter century. I wonder how many planes landed above it, how many ports of call she witnessed and how many "sea stories" she could tell if she could talk. Ignore the "old guy" next to her.

My thanks go out to all of those involved in presenting this wonderful memorial. I must also say that the Museum of Naval Aviation is a fabulous place.

On May 14th, my wife and I took a charter boat from Pensacola out to the ORISKANY. ORISKANY sat along the pier rusting away with pieces cut out of her. You could see the silhouettes of yard workers through the open hangar bay doors still working on getting her ready to be sunk. All during our 2 hour cruise we heard continuous stories from the ex-crew members who served aboard the ship. We even had a camera man from the Discovery Channel aboard who was working on a documentary of the ORISKANY and her sinking.

ORISKANY shipmates enjoying a view of the ship from our charter boat. It's nice how dark glasses and a cap help cover gray hair and wrinkles.

A shot of the ORISKANY's aft from our charter boat.

A shot of the port side of ORISKANY from our charter boat.

On May 15th, we drove back onto the Naval Base to take one last look at ORISKANY. We arrived just as she was starting to be towed out at 10:20 AM. As a helicopter chattered above her she slowly was towed out to sea.

ORISKANY the moment she began to move from the Pensacola Naval Base. The little boat on the flight deck is the IKE-3. It's the control vessel with a generator and electronics to set off the explosions and was designed to float off of the ship as she went down. It was borrowed from the Aircraft Carrier Eisenhower.

Just 48 hours later, at 10:25 AM on May 17th, explosives were detonated opening 20 holes in her bottom and allowing water to rush in. It had been estimated that it may have taken 4-5 hours for her to sink. But she knew it was time to go and she went under by her stern just 37 minutes later at 11 AM. She now sits upright and is being visited regularly by delighted skin divers.

The Old Girl going to her final rest. All 888 feet and 30,800 tons of her.

This was a most proper burial at sea for a much beloved lady.

This has to have been one of the most memorable, remarkable and emotional events of my life.

ORISKANY today. Here she is visiting with a few new friends.

(Photo thanks to Jim Phillips and MBT Divers, Pensacola, Florida)

9. THE ORISKANY MUSEUM AND BATTLEFIELD

On May 18, 2007, just a year after the sinking, my wife and I found ourselves in New York state. We visited the Oriskany Museum and met Karen Jacobson, the very dedicated curator of the Museum. We spent a couple of hours with her and she was most helpful in showing us the museum. The museum covers the USS ORISKANY and the BATTLE OF ORISKANY, from 1777. Rest assured that the Oriskany Museum is in good hands! Thanks Karen for making our visit great!

The starboard anchor of the Oriskany.

This photo shows the A-4 Skyhawk and the Oriskany Museum in the background. The Skyhawk bears the name of Captain John Iarrobondo - the Captain of Oriskany during the 1966 fire.

A photo of the Oriskany Battlefield Monument. The battle took place on August 16, 1777. Even though over 500 Americans were killed or wounded in the battle it was considered a victory, as it turned back the British invasion. If you visit the museum, don't fail to visit the Battlefield. It's only a short drive of less than 4 miles and really ties together the two legends: The Battle and the Aircraft Carrier.

You can check out the ORISKANY MUSEUM WEB SITE AT:

ORISKANY MUSEUM

10. CAPTAIN JOHN C. BARROW

Captain Barrow was the Captain of the USS ORISKANY from March 1972 until October 1973. He retired as a Rear Admiral. His Navy service was from June 1943 to October 1981.

I remember him as a very kind man. One who was very quiet but strong when he needed to be. During my year in the Captain's Office, his cabin was right next door and he would occasionally come into the office to speak with CWO Plimmer, Chief Jones or Chief Cruz. He always treated me with respect. I remember coming into his cabin one afternoon and waking him up! He had been up all night. He was very understanding, even though I was scared stiff!

His daughter, Beth, recently sent me several e-mails and I am including their edited versions here. Two of the photos she sent are included here. I think that her comments show what a grand man he really was:

"Hi Larry,

We communicated last year about my dad RAdm. John Barrow and your website about the Oriskany. I have been back to visit my Mom in Virginia and got a chance to take some photos that I'm forwarding to you here.

The first is a black and white photo that was taken of my dad on the bridge of the Oriskany circa 1972/73. The second is of the flag that was flown on the Oriskany. I'm not sure exactly what this banner/flag is called. The third is of the arrangement of these on the wall in my dad's memorabilia room with the photos of the Oriskany passing under the Golden Gate Bridge. The last is of a shelf in a cabinet that you can see his Oriskany hat on the middle shelf in addition to his Naval Academy sword, jet models that he built, etc.

You are welcome to add these to your website if you wish. As you can see, he was very proud of his time as Captain of the Oriskany. As a little girl, I will never forget the day the ship came home. I have lousy quality pocket camera photos of that event and can scan those too if you like.

Dad was born in New Bloomfield, Mo on December 18, 1925, the youngest of 7 children. He died in Somerset, Virginia on July 24, 1987 of pancreatic cancer. He got in about 6 years of retirement with a house and property that needed lots of fixing up, so he was a busy man and loving it.

My mom has lots of photos squirreled away, and I'll be back later this summer. If I find any photos of interest from the Oriskany days, I can send you more. I did make the connection after sending you the photos that the hat in the cabinet is likely the same hat he's wearing in the photo. I had never noticed that before.

I hope more folks are able to contribute more stories. I love reading them.

Thanks for your website!

Beth (Barrow) Forencich (June 13, 2011)"

Here is the only other photo I have of Captain Barrow. This was taken at the reenlistment of YN2 Jeff Moynihan. August 1973. (Photo thanks to Jeff Moynihan.)

A VERY ODD COINCIDENCE

I always thought it was an odd coincidence that two of the major historical benchmarks about Oriskany happened on October 26th. One was the fire in 1966 and the other was the shooting down of John McCain in 1967.

Well I recently wrote an article about my visit to the sinking of the Oriskany and included a photo. It was printed in my local newspaper, the Appeal-Democrat in Marysville, California. Now keep in mind that I had no control over when it was printed, nor did the publisher realize the date's significance. It was published on October 26, 2006!

Click here to read the article:

YC SAILOR TELLS SHIP GOODBYE.

YOU WON'T BELIEVE THE NUMBER OF GREAT E-MAILS I HAVE RECEIVED FROM PEOPLE WHO REALLY LOVE OUR SHIP AND WISHED HER A RESPECTFUL AND PROPER PLACE OF REST!

NO MATTER WHAT YOU THINK OF THE WAY THE VIETNAM WAR WAS FOUGHT: YOU MUST ADMIT THAT THE INDIVIDUAL SAILOR, SOLDIER, MARINE AND AIRMAN FOUGHT FOR THE FREEDOM OF HIS FELLOW MAN. MANY DIED, WERE WOUNDED AND NOW CARRY THE MEMORIES OF THAT WAR. GREAT CREDIT AND RESPECT SHOULD BE GIVEN TO ANY PERSON WHO IS WILLING TO LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THE FREEDOM OF OTHERS.

THIS WEB SITE WAS ESTABLISHED IN JANUARY 1998.

THIS WEB SITE WAS LAST UPDATED ON JANUARY 28, 2012.

REMEMBER THAT "WAR IS NOT HEALTHY FOR CHILDREN AND OTHER LIVING THINGS".

"GOD BLESS THOSE WHO PUT THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE FOR THE UNITED STATES!"


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