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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 lifetime membership in the prestegious Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club.

The name "Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club" was used from 1961 when the Seventh Fleet arrived to the waters off Vietnam. Much like the naval traditions of line-crossing ceremonies and plankowner certificates, the club served to commemorate sailors' participation in the campaign. The qualifications for membership broadly construed to any service-member assigned to 7th Fleet, from the ships on the gun line, to aircraft sorties from the carriers, to riverine units, and Marines on the shore. Although unofficial, the term became popular enough to be found in a declassified 1966 command history of the USS Enterprise, one of the vessels of Seventh Fleet. The title and logo have been popular with veterans of Seventh Fleet's involvement in the Vietnam War.Credit: wikipedia.org

On Station in the Tonkin Gulf
USS Saratoga / RVAH1


Yankee Station map

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 was a geographic position during the Vietnam War in the South China Sea off the Mekong Delta from which United States Navy aircraft carriers launched strikes providing close air support for American and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) ground troops in South Vietnam.

The name "Dixie" was chosen to match that of the phonetic-alphabet-designated "Yankee," resulting in a pun relating to the traditional slang terms for the Northern United States and Southern United States, with Yankee bombing the North, and Dixie the South.

Credit - military.wikia.com

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.

On 7 June 1972, RA-5C BuNo 156616 was struck by an SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missile in combat near Haiphong, North Vietnam. Both crewmen ejected successfully and were rescued.

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.

October 22, 1972 - Operation Linebacker I ends. U.S. warplanes flew 40,000 sorties and dropped over 125,000 tons of bombs during the bombing campaign which effectively disrupted North Vietnam's Eastertide Offensive. During the failed offensive, the North suffered an estimated 100,000 military casualties and lost half its tanks and artillery. Leader of the offensive, legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap, the victor at Dien Bien Phu, was then quietly ousted in favor of his deputy Gen. Van Tien Dung. 40,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died stopping the offensive, in the heaviest fighting of the entire war. REF: The history Place

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 rejoined the Atlantic Fleet.

Credit - en.wikipedia.org