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USS Saratoga CVA60

Smokin' Tigers

Thanks to my uncle in DC I got one all expenses paid WestPac cruise in 72, which included a membership in the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club and as a bonus I was tagged with Agent Orange.

On Station in the Tonkin Gulf
USS Saratoga / RVAH1


RA5C on a hot catapult

Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club

My Time On "Yankee Station"

On 11 April 1972, Saratoga sailed from Mayport en route to Subic Bay, and her first deployment to the western Pacific. She arrived in Subic Bay on 8 May and departed for Vietnam the following week, arriving at "Yankee Station" on 18 May for her first period on the line. Before year's end, she was on station in the Tonkin Gulf a total of seven times: 18 May to 21 June; 1 to 16 July; 28 July to 22 August; 2 to 19 September 29 September to 21 October; 5 November to 8 December; and 18 to 31 December. She had been reclassified as a "Multi-purpose Aircraft Carrier" (CV-60) on 30 June 1972.

During the first period, Saratoga lost four aircraft and three pilots. On the plus side, on 21 June, two of her F-4 Phantoms attacked three MiG 21s over North Vietnam. Dodging four surface-to-air missiles, they managed to down one of the MiG aircraft. Saratoga's planes attacked targets ranging from enemy troop concentrations in the lower panhandle to petroleum storage areas northeast of Hanoi. On her second line period, she lost an F-4 to enemy fire northeast of Hanoi with the pilot and radar intercept officer missing in action. During this period, her aircraft flew 708 sorties against the enemy.

On 6 August, Lieutenant Jim Lloyd of VA-105, flying an A-7 Corsair on a bombing mission near Vinh, had his plane shot out from under him by a SAM. He ejected into enemy territory at night. In a daring rescue by helicopters supported by CVW-3 aircraft, he was lifted from the midst of enemy soldiers and returned to the Saratoga. On 10 August, one of the ship's CAP jet fighters splashed a MiG at night using AIM-7 Sparrow missiles.

During the period 2 to 19 September, Saratoga's aircraft flew over 800 combat strike missions against targets in North Vietnam. On 20 October, her aircraft flew 83 close air support sorties in six hours in support of a force of 250 Territorials beleaguered by the North Vietnamese 48th Regiment. Air support saved the small force, enabled ARVN troops to advance, and killed 102 North Vietnamese soldiers. During her last period on station, Saratoga's aircraft battered targets in the heart of North Vietnam for over a week.

Saratoga departed "Yankee Station" for Subic Bay on 7 January 1973. From there she sailed for the United States via Singapore and arrived at Mayport on 13 February 1973 where she joined the Atlantic Fleet.


YANKEE STATION

Yankee Station was a point in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam used by the U.S. Navy aircraft carriers of Task Force 77 to launch strikes in the Vietnam War. While its official designation was "Point Yankee," it was universally referred to as Yankee Station. Carriers conducting air operations at Yankee Station were said to be "on the line" and statistical summaries were based on days on the line.

The name derived from it being the geographic reference point "Y", pronounced "Yankee" in the NATO phonetic alphabet. In turn the term Point Yankee derived from the launch point for "Yankee Team" aerial reconnaissance missions over Laos conducted in 1964. It was located about 190 km due east of Dong Hoi, at 17° 30' N and 108° 30' E.

During the two periods of sustained air operations against North Vietnam (March 2, 1965 – October 31, 1968 and March 30, 1972 – December 29, 1972) there were normally three carriers on the line, each conducting air operations for twelve hours, then off for twelve hours. One of the carriers would operate from noon to midnight, another from midnight to noon, and one during daylight hours, which gave 24-hour coverage plus additional effort during daylight hours, when sorties were most effective. However at the end of May, 1972, six carriers were for a short period of time on the line at Yankee Station conducting Linebacker strikes.

The first aircraft carrier at Yankee Station was USS Kitty Hawk, which was ordered there in April 1964 for the Yankee Team missions. Kitty Hawk was joined by Ticonderoga in May and Constellation in June, two months prior to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Ticonderoga and Constellation launched the first bombing missions from Yankee Station on August 5, 1964. Constellation was also the last carrier conducting operations at Yankee Station on August 15, 1973. USS Forrestal suffered a major accident while at Yankee Station when a series of fires and explosions on her deck killed 134 men and injured another 161.

A corresponding Dixie Station in the South China Sea off the Mekong Delta was a single carrier point for conducting strikes within South Vietnam from May 15, 1965 to August 3, 1966.

Credit - military.wikia.com