UNITED STATES SHIP RANGER (CV-61)
Previous Ships Named “RANGER”
The history of the United States Ship Ranger is the story of a proud lineage of vessels that have served the United States of America for over 200 years. This legacy was built and established by eight different ships – all of which proudly bore the name “Ranger.”
The First Ranger is the current Ranger’s oldest ancestor. She was an 18 gun Continental frigate built in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1777. The ship was named to honor the Portsmouth militia, Roger’s Rangers. She displaced 308 tons and was the pride of the new American colonies.
Her first Commanding Officer was Captain John Paul Jones, a Scot by heritage and the father of the United States Navy. Captain Jones certainly lived up to his famous quote: “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.” Ranger joined the fight for America’s independence and he sailed her into harm’s way. Her sailors and Marines went ashore and successfully harassed unsuspecting British towns and villages. Captain Jones further embarrassed the British by sinking two of their ships that out-gunned the Ranger.
Along the way, Captain Jones and his 140 man crew sailed into French waters at Quiberon Bay and received the first formal salute at sea from the French fleet. The salute was the first official diplomatic recognition of our fledging country by a foreign power.
The Second RANGER was an armed schooner purchased in 1814 and sold in 1821 after routine service.
The Third RANGER was a 14-gun brigantine. She operated with Commodore Chauncey’s squadron on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812.
The Fourth RANGER was a fully rigged iron vessel powered with auxiliary steam built during 1873-1876.
NOTE: The next ship named RANGER was never completed. Because of the provisions of the Washington Treaty her partial hulk was sold for scrap in 1923.
The Fifth RANGER was a converted steel yacht built in 1910. She patrolled the east coast of the United States during World War I.
The Sixth RANGER was a mine sweeper commissioned in 1918.
The Seventh RANGER introduced a new era in naval aviation in 1934. Unlike the carriers SARATOGA (CV-2) and LEXINGTON (CV-3), which preceded her and were built on converted battle cruiser hulls, the seventh RANGER (CV-4) was the first United States ship to be designed and constructed as an aircraft carrier from the keel up. During World War II, CV-4 deterred German naval activity in the Mediterranean and was instrumental in providing air cover for the successful allied invasion of North Africa.
The Current “RANGER”
The current RANGER was laid down as a FORRESTAL-class aircraft carrier. Her two older sisters FORRESTAL and SARATOGA were originally designed as axial deck (straight deck) carriers. But, thanks to the successful British “angle deck” configuration, both sister carriers were changed to angle deck carriers during their construction. RANGER was the first American aircraft carrier designed as an angle deck carrier from the keel up.
RANGER was commissioned on August 10, 1957, and joined the Atlantic Fleet in October of the same year. She spent the remainder of 1957 and part of 1958 in final acceptance trials. In mid-1958, she sailed around Cape Horn for her new homeport of Alameda, California, where she provided a deck for pilot qualification training and participated in exercises with the Pacific Fleet.
Her first WESTPAC deployment in early 1959 involved operations with SEATO naval units. She patrolled along the southern coast of Japan then returned to Alameda in late July 1959. She participated in fleet operations in her home waters then departed in early 1960 for her next WESPAC deployment. Her next WESPAC deployment began in mid-1961 and she returned to her homeport in early 1962. After several months of intensive training, RANGER began her next WESPAC deployment. She sailed from Alameda in late November 1962 for operations off Hawaii. Then, she steamed into the South China Sea in May for several days to support possible Laotian operations when the political climate in that country became heated.
RANGER returned to her homeport in mid-1963 and entered Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard for an overhaul. Refresher training followed then she began her next WESPAC deployment and sailed for the Far East in early August 1964 in response to the attack against American destroyers MADDOX and TURNER JOY by North Vietnamese PT boats. While RANGER was in transit to the Far East, the TICONDEROGA and CONSTELLATION launched numerous attacks from their decks in response to North Vietnamese aggression.
In October 1964, RANGER became the flagship of RADM Henry Miller, USN, who commanded Fast Carrier Task Force 77. In early February 1965, RANGER, CORAL SEA and HANCOCK destroyed military targets in North Vietnam in response to Viet Cong attacks around Pleiku. RANGER continued to strike targets in Vietnam until mid-April when a fuel line broke and ignited a fire in her #1 main machinery room that unfortunately killed a sailor. She sailed for her homeport and arrived in Alameda in early May 1965 and entered Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard for an overhaul until late September.
Following a brief overhaul, RANGER completed refresher training then departed Alameda for her sixth WESPAC deployment in mid-December 1965. During this next deployment, under the command of Captain Leo B. McCuddin, USN, Carrier Air Wing 14 and RANGER’s crew received the Navy Unit Commendation for exceptionally meritorious service during combat operations in Southeast Asia from January to August 1966.
She returned to Alameda in late August 1966 then departed Alameda in late September with numerous dependents and their vehicles on board for a 2-day cruise to Puget Sound, Washington. Her extended overhaul lasted until May 1967. After a long and intensive period of training she embarked Attack Carrier Air Wing 2 in mid-September then departed for her next WESPAC deployment in early November with the new A-7 Corsair II jet attack plane and the UH-2C Seasprite turboprop rescue helo. After stops in Yokosuka, Japan, and Subic Bay, Philippines, RANGER departed for Yankee Station off North Vietnam with Commander Carrier Division 3 (COMCARDIV3) embarked.
During the next five months, RANGER and carriers from Division 3 destroyed numerous targets, airfields and military installations. This deployment included a Bob Hope Christmas show and welcome port visits to Yokosuka, Japan, during early April and Hong Kong in May 1968. She headed for her homeport followed by a shipyard availability at Puget Sound. She departed for Alameda in late July 1968. After three months of upkeep and training she departed for her eighth WESPAC deployment which lasted from late October through mid-May 1969. She departed Alameda for her next WESPAC deployment in December 1969 and returned to Alameda in early June 1970.
After operations off the west coast of California, RANGER departed for her next WESPAC deployment in late September 1970. During this deployment, RANGER and carriers KITTY HAWK HANCOCK disrupted and destroyed entry corridors leading into South Vietnam from Laos. RANGER returned to Alameda in early June 1971 where she remained undergoing regular overhaul until late May 1972. During this yard period Captain Hank P. Glindeman, USN, became RANGER’s 15th Commanding Officer. Captain Glindeman retired as a Real Admiral and is the Chairman Emeritus of the USS RANGER FOUNDATION.
After training and operations in home waters, RANGER embarked on her next WESPAC deployment in mid-November 1972. In mid-December 1972 peace negotiations in Paris stalled. Pilots from RANGER, in company with carriers SARATOGA, ORISKANY and AMERICA flew 505 sorties during Linebacker II strikes in North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese returned to the peace table in late December and a cease fire went into effect on January 27, 1973.
She returned to her homeport in August 1973 and remained in home waters until she departed on her next WESPAC deployment in early May 1974. During this deployment, RANGER again operated off Yankee Station during the withdrawal of military forces there. She returned home in mid-October 1975. During her deployment in late May 1976, helos from RANGER, CAMDEN, MARS, WHITE PLAINS and NAS Cubi Point assisted in Philippine disaster relief in flood ravaged areas of central Luzon.
In mid-July 1976, RANGER and her escorts entered the Indian Ocean and operated off the Kenyan coast in response to a threat of military action by forces from Uganda.
In February 1977, RANGER departed from Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California, for Puget Sound for a major overhaul. She received technological upgrades, refitted engineering spaces, new flight deck gear and she was armed with Sea Sparrow missile defense systems. Her yard period was completed in March 1978 and she began shake down cruises and sea trials.
She deployed for her fourteenth WESPAC deployment in late February 1979. Unfortunately, she had to return to Subic Bay in early April for temporary repairs and then to Yokosuka, Japan, for permanent repairs after a collision with a tanker near Singapore.
RANGER completed additional WESPAC deployments. In early November 1983, a fire broke out in a main machinery room that unfortunately killed six crewmen. She returned to Subic Bay after 121 consecutive days at sea.
In late June 1985, Captain Walter J. Davis, USN, became RANGER’s 24th Commanding Officer. Captain Davis retired as a Vice Admiral and is currently on the board of the Foundation.
VAQ-131 was the first EA-6B Prowler squadron (equipped with AGM-88 HARM missiles) to join the fleet on RANGER’s 1987 WESPAC deployment. During a WESPAC deployment in 1989, RANGER rescued numerous Vietnamese refugees who were adrift on a barge 80 miles off the coast of the Philippines. They were taken on board by helo for medical evaluation then flown to NAS Cubi Point for further processing.
During the liberation of Kuwait from Iraq in 1991, RANGER and MIDWAY in the Persian Gulf and THEODORE ROOSEVELT, JOHN F. KENNEDY AND SARATOGA in the Red Sea along with all of their escorts and support ships contributed significantly to the liberation of Kuwait.
In mid-April 1992, RANGER participated in a commemorative reenactment of the April 1942 Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan. Two restored Mitchell B-25 bombers were loaded onto RANGER’s flight deck in San Diego then flown from the ship. The B-25s flew to retired General Jimmy Doolittle’s home and dropped hundreds of red, white and blue carnation on his home and yard.
RANGER began her 21st and final WESPAC deployment in early August 1992. She relieved INDEPENDENCE after transiting the Straits of Hormuz and began flying patrol missions in support of the declared “no fly” zone in southern Iraq. During this deployment, a Russian helo landed aboard RANGER. It was the first such landing on a U. S. Navy aircraft carrier. She left the Persian Gulf in early December and steamed to the coast of Somalia where she played a significant role in massive relief efforts for starving Somalis in Operation Restore Hope. RANGER provided reconnaissance, airborne traffic control, logistics support and on-call air support for navy and Marine amphibious forces during Operation Restore Hope.
In Mid-December 1992, RANGER was relieved by KITTY HAWK and began her last journey home to San Diego.
RANGER and her numerous air wings earned 13 battle stars for service in the Vietnam War.
She was decommissioned on July 10, 1993, and is currently at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, Bremerton, Washington.
My last time aboard USS Ranger I departed from her flight deck in my squadron A7E; destination NAS Lemoore. It was the end of Ranger’s 1976 Bicentennial Cruise to WestPac and the Indian Ocean to the far side of the world off the East Coast of Africa.
Thirty-three years later, December 2008, on a cold wet day in Bremerton Washington, I once again set foot on the hangar deck of the ex-USS Ranger moored at the inactive ship facility. What a different feeling! The cold steel and silence was deafening compared what I was accustomed to during her active service. The sounds of human activity were gone, along with noise of her engineering plant, steam catapults, electrical motors and jet engines along with the bosun’s pipe and the 1MC. I walked through the spaces I was once so familiar with from the second deck Chief’s Mess to the forecastle, up to the O3 level Air Ops, and Pri-Fly on the island with a fore and aft view of the flight deck. It was like the crew just left, except some forgot to turn out the lights. The Captain’s chair on the Navigation Bridge was vacant, but Captain Denny McGinn’s name was still on the back of his chair, the last of a long line of Naval Officers to hold this awesome responsibility.
Our vision is to bring to life to the ship through the eyes of her Captains and the 5,500 crew members on Ranger as well as a representative carrier for all supercarriers to include the nuclear powered supercarriers. Title 10 United States Code, Section 7306 provides the authority to transfer historically significant non-nuclear powered vessels under the Navy donation program for static display in the United States.
SO THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT RANGER, it is about saving a supercarrier designed and built after World War II. Ranger is similar in flight deck size and hull shape, therefore will serve as a representative ship of the navy’s nuclear powered carriers well into the future after they reach the end of their service life and their nuclear plants are removed and recycled.
There are thousands of individual stories of those dedicated men and women who served aboard supercarriers. The stories involve duty, self-sacrifice, heroic action, triumph and yes, tragedy. The flight deck can best described as 4.5 acres of the most dangerous work space on sovereign United States Territory. The trust between Naval Aviators and a nineteen year old “Yellow Shirt” directing their aircraft following recovery to within a foot of the edge of the deck on a dark rainy night with 35 knots of wind is a testimony to the training of each person on deck to do his or her job flawlessly. Flight deck operations have been compared to conducting a symphony orchestra with each person having a part to play at a precise time and executing their part with precision. It’s called Navy Teamwork. We will tell those stories such as “Oysters” airmanship to bring his damaged F-18 back aboard Connie during night blue water ops and the coordination with paddles resulting in a successful trap aboard. Who can forget the heroic action and individual sacrifice of the crew of Forrestal in 1967 to fight the fire while bombs were exploding all around them; they saved the ship, sadly paying the price with the loss of 134 brave shipmates. These are just two examples of stories that will come to life aboard Ranger as a memorial to those who have served on supercarriers.
The USS Ranger Foundation invites you to send in your stories and photos during your tour on a supercarrier, be it from the main machinery room, the galley, an underway replenishment station, in the air or from the Flag Bridge, each is important telling a story that gives life to the carrier and provides the public a taste of life at sea while standing aboard a carrier in the same spot where you once served your country.
Also please consider sending a Letter of Support and a financial donation to the Ranger Foundation to support cost of the application process that will result in donation of Ranger by the Secretary of the Navy as a Historical Ship and Memorial. Together as a Navy Team we can make this happen.
Peter Ogle, Captain USN, Ret
November 1, 2009