USS Nimitz (CVN 68) has completed 28 deployments, over a quarter of a million catapult launches and arrested landings, five homeport changes, and countless operations and missions successfully executed. These accolades are attributed to the oldest U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in active service.
The decorated history of Nimitz began 50 years ago this month, when the keel was laid on June 22, 1968.
This was a plan set in motion long ago when, after the successful implementation of the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the Navy recognized the need to expand its projection and influence and create an entire class of aircraft carriers powered by nuclear reactors.
Nimitz’s story began when congress authorized the construction during fiscal year 1967, and negotiated a contract with Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., in Newport News, Virginia, to begin building the following year.
The ship was christened May 13, 1972, by the late Fleet Adm. Nimitz’s daughter Catherine, and commissioned May 3, 1975, by President Gerald R. Ford at its first homeport at Naval Station Norfolk.
The namesake of the Nimitz-class, this state-of-the-art warship boasts a 100,000 ton displacement, is 1,092 feet long and has a compliment of 5,000 Sailors and Marines onboard. The ship is powered by two nuclear power plants providing steam powered propulsion to four engines with more than 250,000 horsepower. There are also four catapults and four arresting wires, the capability of serving 18,000 meals per day, and four distilling units making more than 400,000 gallons of fresh water daily.
Since being commissioned into active service, Nimitz has spent years out to sea and has been an instrumental part of the success and longevity of the Navy’s mission. Its 28 deployments have been an essential aspect in supporting peace, security, and prosperity throughout the oceans of the world, with its latest deployment concluding December of 2017.
Throughout its time, tens of thousands of Sailors have spent formative years of their naval careers as Nimitz crewmembers, some having completed multiple tours onboard. Cmdr. Chuck Jones, from LaCenter, Washington, is currently on his third Nimitz tour. He served as a chief electricians mate and leading chief petty officer of a division in reactor department from 1995 to 1997. On his second tour, from 2010 until 2013, he was a lieutenant commander serving as the ship’s maintenance manager. His current tour began in April 2017, and he serves as the ship’s chief engineer.
He recognizes the importance of perpetuating the proud history and heritage of the ship the crew calls home.
“It’s a big deal for a ship to reach close to 50 years and have people say she looks like she can do many more. We have done a very good job of taking care of her over the years,” Jones said.
Another group of people with special ties to Nimitz are Sailors who were part of the first crew upon the ship’s commissioning. These Sailors, known as “plankowners,” have the distinction of being the first crew to take a newly commissioned ship out to sea. Scott Telecky, from Wenatchee, Washington, is one such Sailor. Telecky served as an electronics technician first class onboard Nimitz from 1975 until 1978, and he looks back on his time on Nimitz with much fondness.
“Being a plankowner creates a special bond with the ship. Watching the president of the United States actually commissioning the ship is a moment I’ll always recall with great clarity,” he said.
Telecky also warmly spoke about the long-standing friendships he made with his fellow Sailors.
“After 43 years, I still keep in touch with many of my shipmates. The comradery is still there whenever we start reminiscing about the old days. It’s a bond we’ll always have,” he said.
With the coming implementation of the Gerald R. Ford-class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and due to the active service life of a Nimitz-class carrier being 50 years, the legendary career of the USS Nimitz is projected to end in the coming years. However, the legacy of this renowned ship and its monumental achievements over its storied, decades-long career will never be forgotten, and the tradition of teamwork will continue to live on.
Nimitz is conducting a docking planned incremental availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility where the ship is receiving scheduled maintenance and upgrades.