USS Nimitz CVN-68

Chronology and Significant Events: 1986-99

4–-7 Mar 1986: Nimitz conducted sea trials.

16 May 1986: CVW-8 returned to Nimitz for the first time in seven months.

15 Aug–-16 Oct 1986: Nimitz participated in NATO exercises Northern Engagement 86 and Northern Wedding 86 in the North Atlantic, both designed to test NATO’s ability and resolve to defend northern Europe against an East Bloc attack. Ships in company included battleship Iowa (BB-61), amphibious command ship Mount Whitney (LCC-20), South Carolina, guided missile destroyers Kidd (DDG-993) and Richard E. Byrd (DDG-23), destroyer Thorn (DD-988), guided missile frigate Doyle (FFG-39), frigates W.S. Sims (FF-1059), Moinester (FF-1097) and Truett (FF-1095), replenishment oiler Kalamazoo (AOR-6) and ammunition ship Nitro (AE-23).

27 Aug 1986: Nimitz crossed the Arctic Circle at 2138, 66º33’N, 24º14’3”W.

30 Aug–-4 Sep 1986: Nimitz completed the first of two extremely demanding safety challenges for her navigational team during this deployment by sailing in the constricted waters of Vestfjord, Norway, where she conducted anti-submarine, anti-air and anti-surface operations, as well as covered several amphibious landings. VADM Charles R. Larson relieved VADM Henry C. Mustin, Commander, Second Fleet, on board on the 2nd. Secretary of the Navy Lehman was the principal speaker.

4 Sep 1986: An A-7E Corsair II crashed in the Norwegian Sea . Despite an “intensive” search the crew could not recover the pilot.

27 Sep 1986: Nimitz conducted her second abnormally dangerous navigational detail of the deployment as she transited the English Channel (with its high volume of shipping) en route from Wilhelmshaven, West Germany, to Brest, France.

19–-25 Jan 1987: Nimitz participated in dual exercise National Week ‘87A with John F. Kennedy in the Mediterranean. Ranger 12, a Douglas EA-3B Skywarrior (BuNo 144850) from Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ)-2, crashed while landing on board Nimitz in the Ionian Sea, at 2328 on the 25th. The “Whale’s” front wheel caught the barricade net and the aircraft skidded across the flight deck, going over the edge and breaking apart as it struck the water. LCDR Ronald R. Callander, LT Stephen H. Batchelder, LT Alan A. Levine, LT James D. Richards and AT2 Richard A. Herzing (all VQ-2), and CTI3 Patrick R. Price and CTI3 Craig H. Rudolf (both from Naval Security Group Activity Athens, Greece) all died in the mishap.

24 Feb 1987: An A-7E (VA-82) crashed while launching, but the pilot ejected safely and the crew recovered him.

3-–15 May 1987: Nimitz participated in NATO exercise Dragon Hammer, which “enhanced the combat effectiveness, readiness, coordination and interoperability of allied sea, amphibious and air forces.”

20-–21 May 1987: Following an extended deployment, Nimitz came about from the Mediterranean. Anchoring at Augusta Bay she turned over to Kitty Hawk, which subsequently entered Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Penn., for a three year overhaul, replacing the latter in the Pacific Fleet. Passing westward through the Strait of Gibraltar, Nimitzsailed round Cape Horn, making her way up the Pacific coast of South America.

29 May 1987: Nimitz crossed the equator, en route from Augusta Bay to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, at 1109, 32º10’W.

11-–15 Jun 1987: Helo crews (HS-9) tested their mettle against their Brazilian counterparts in TopEx 1-87, delivering over 20 “valid” attacks against a pair of Oberon-class submarines.

18 Jun 1987: The warship rounded the Cape of Good Horn.

1–2 Jul 1987: Nimitz arrived in Puget Sound, Wash., anchoring overnight outside of Rich Passage before mooring the next day at Pier B, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) Bremerton to complete her home port shift.

21 Aug 1987-–8 Feb 1988: The ship conducted SRA-87.

12–-14 Feb 1988: Nimitz returned to North Island.

3 Mar 1988: The Duke and Duchess of York [Prince Andrew, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killyleagh, and Sarah M. M-W., née Ferguson, The Princess Andrew, Countess of Inverness and Baroness Killyleagh] visited Nimitz at North Island.

4 Mar 1988: GEN Aviau Ben-Nun, Commander, Israeli Air Force, and Canadian RADM Robert E. George, Commander, Maritime Pacific, visited the ship (two different visits).

6–7 Mar 1988: Nimitz participated in exercise CNO Project 0779 Support on Nanoose Range, British Columbia, Canada, the first U.S. carrier to use the range in 22 years.

8 Mar–-17 Apr 1988: Nimitz completed upkeep at PSNS.

28 Apr 1988: CDR John B. Nathman relieved CDR John S. Payne as the ship’s executive officer. (Nathman would go on to command the ship, her battle group, Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet, Naval Air Forces and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Requirements and Programs, before becoming the 33rd Vice Chief of Naval Operations and then Commander, Fleet Forces Command).

28 May–-10 Jun 1988: Nimitz returned to PSNS for additional upkeep.

2 Aug-–1 Sep 1988: The ship accomplished “deployment preparation” at PSNS.

5–-13 Sep 1988: Soviet aircraft (apparently) failed to detect Nimitz as she conducted a high speed “deceptive” transit at a speed of advance of 22 knots across the Pacific to the Tsugaru Strait (in Japanese waters).

13 Sep-–2 Oct 1988: Nimitz sailed off the Korean Peninsula to provide security for the XXIV Olympiad [Olympic Games] at Seoul, South Korea.

26–-28 Oct 1988: Nimitz conducted PASSEX evolutions with Malaysian and Thai forces in the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea, respectively, before relieving Carl Vinson and Battle Group Charlie. Aircrew conducted dissimilar air combat training, low level passes and patrol boat events with their Malaysian and Thai counterparts.

29 Oct 1988: Nimitz entered the northern Arabian Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz, beginning her participation under the leadership of RADM Anthony A. Less, Commander, Joint Task Force Middle East, in Operation Earnest Will. Ongoing Iranian and Iraqi attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf during the “Tanker War” between those two countries became so commonplace that the Kuwaitis requested U.S. assistance. American forces escorted 11 renamed and reflagged [registered] Kuwaiti tankers during Earnest Will, which was designed to maintain freedom of navigation within the Gulf.

8–-9 Nov 1988: VADM John H. Fetterman, Jr., Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet, visited the ship.

30 Nov 1988: A 20 mm gun mounted on an A-7E fired during a “troubleshooting” maintenance check and hit a KA-6D tanker, setting it afire, while the ship steamed in the northern Arabian Sea , at about 0250. AMH2 Douglas S. Dimberg from Redfield, S.C., died, and AA Chadwick R. Henderson (VA-147), Rockford, Ill., received injuries. The fire damaged eight aircraft: five Corsair IIs, an Intruder, and a Viking, and the crew jettisoned the KA-6D off the flight deck as “unsalvageable.” The men battled the “ship-threatening conflagration” for 20 tense minutes, though they controlled the flames in the first eight.

4 Dec 1988: Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci visited Nimitz.

12-–15 Dec 1988: Nimitz, guided missile destroyer Waddell (DDG-24) and frigate Barbey (FF-1088) conducted a PASSEX with the Omanis. The exercise included air to air refueling, ship tactical maneuvering, anti-air warfare, “splash” target bombing, gunnery, and a War at Sea scenario, near Wudam Naval Base, Oman .

19–-21 Dec 1988: The ship participated in Beacon Flash and Al Barq Al Lama’a 39, a pair of exercises with the Omanis, which included dissimilar air combat training against Omani Hawker Siddeley Hunters and Sepecat Jaguars, and low level passes, electronic warfare and opposed strikes in the vicinity of Thumrait Airfield , Oman .

26–-30 Dec 1988: Nimitz sailed eastbound through the Strait of Malacca .

31 Dec 1988-–6 Jan 1989: Nimitz anchored at Singapore , affording her crew their first port of call after 71 punishing days at sea.

6–-16 Jan 1989: Nimitz sailed westerly courses through the Strait of Malacca into the Indian Ocean for exercise Weapons Week in the vicinity of Diego Garcia at the British Indian Ocean Territory [Chagos Archipelago]. Shecrossed the equator on the 9th.

17 Jan 1989: Nimitz turned over with aircraft carrier Constellation (CV-64) and Battle Group 70.4, and came about for home.

21-–23 Jan 1989: Nimitz conducted a PASSEX with Thai forces in the Gulf of Siam .

29–-30 Jan 1989: VADM Henry H. Mauz, Jr., Commander, Seventh Fleet, hosted 12 leaders of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army [Navy] on board for a visit.

21-–26 Feb 1989: The ship operated with French forces during a PASSEX. VADM Fetterman again visited Nimitz.

2 Mar 1989: Nimitz moored at Pier B PSNS, assuming duties as the Ready Carrier for the Third Fleet from 19 March–-16 May.

13 May–-14 Jun 1989: The carrier completed upkeep at Puget Sound.

15 Jun-–1 Jul 1989: Nimitz participated in joint exercise NorPac 89-1 with the USAF in the vicinity of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.

29 Jul-–4 Aug 1989: Nimitz performed additional upkeep at PSNS, commencing preparations for DSRA-90 (a docking SRA) on 4 August.

19 Aug 1989–-3 Mar 1990: Nimitz completed DSRA-90 in Drydock No. 6 at PSNS. During the overhaul some of her crew berthed in former transport (T-AP-121) General Hugh J. Gaffey (IX-507). The yardworkers began flooding the drydock on 1 March, and the rising water lifted the ship off her blocks at about 0900 on the 3rd. Three tugs and a tractor tug took her under tow “deadstick” (without her own power) to Pier 3.

11-–19 May 1990: Nimitz got underway for the first time since beginning DSRA-90, for sea trials. During the following year, the ship completed a training readiness evaluation, weapons onload, carrier qualifications for CVW-9, CVWR-30, and fleet replacement squadrons and battle group workups. Nimitz operated at various times from Bremerton (17 May, 31 August–29 October and 17 December–3 January 1991), NAS Alameda, Calif. (2–4 June and 1–2 November) and North Island (10–12 November).

2 Jul 1990: While mooring to the Ammunition Pier at Naval Magazine (Port Hadlock Weapons Detachment) Indian Island, Wash., No. 2 main engine surged aft, causing “tight line” conditions on lines 4, 7, 8 and 10. The crew responded to the dangerous situation and saved the ship from damage. BM3 McCallister, however, suffered a broken arm during the mishap and had to be evacuated to the Naval Hospital at Bremerton.

10–-12 Nov 1990: Nimitz received orders to prepare for possible “early” deployment to Operation Desert Storm, the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi oppression (the Iraqis had invaded and occupied the country beginning on 2 August 1990). The crew loaded stores and provisions during a backbreaking 48-hour evolution.

15 Nov 1990: Spanish LCDR Cristóbal Colón, the 20th descendent of renowned explorer Christopher Columbus, visited the ship.

25 Feb 1991: Nimitz departed from Bremerton for a scheduled three weeks of training, putting in to North Island on the 28th.

5 Mar 1991: Due to Gulf War I, however, she received orders to deploy early and came about for the Western Pacific. The E-2C + made its maiden deployment on board Nimitz during this cruise. Foul weather pounded the ship during the first few days, causing “pitching deck conditions” that rendered flight operations extremely hazardous.

6 Mar 1991: “Aggression is defeated. The war is over,” reported President George W. Bush to a joint session of the Congress. The news caused relief for many men on board, though speculation ran through Nimitz regarding her potential operations. The crew nonetheless prepared “diligently” for possible contingencies while en route to the Western Pacific.

17 Mar 1991: Nimitz entered the Seventh Fleet’s area of responsibility.

4–8 Apr 1991: Nimitz anchored at Singapore, following which she entered the Indian Ocean for operations through the 15th.

16 Apr 1991: Nimitz entered Central Command’s area of responsibility.

18–-19 Apr 1991: Nimitz sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, entered the Arabian Gulf and overnight relieved aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-61) during Operations Desert Storm/Sabre.

20 Apr 1991: Nimitz commenced flight operations in support of Operations Desert Storm/Sabre. CVW-9 flew primarily air superiority and combat air patrol missions over Iraq , which “lay ravaged and burning following the Iraqi retreat.” The ship assumed the role of Commander, Task Force 154, with Nimitz’'s Carrier Battle Group Bravo being the only remaining such group in the Gulf. Fires produced by burning oil fields created a haze that normally dropped visibility down to below five miles, generating additional dangers for air operations. Confronted with the threat of chemical and biological weapons, men trained by donning protective exposure suits and gas masks, demonstrating a macabre and surrealistic appearance to onlookers. Aircrew flew a daily average of 75 sorties for upward of 20 days per month, a demanding schedule on men and machines. Hornet aircrew flew exhausting five hour missions usually requiring two aerial refuelings from USAF Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers. Combat commanders of all services relied especially on Tactical Air Reconnaissance System (TARPS) equipped Tomcats to provide accurate real time intelligence on Iraqi troop movements. Aircrew often flew these missions at lower altitudes and speeds to improve accuracy, though this made them more vulnerable to ground fire and surface to air missiles. Nimitz launched a total of 31 TARPS missions between 22 April–24 May. Two helo crews flew daily sweeps of Nimitz’s operating box (her area of operations) searching for floating mines, which posed a deadly risk to the carrier and forced the crew to secure all hatches on the 2nd deck and below. Two HH-60H crews (HS-2) flew strike rescue missions in the event that the Iraqis shot down fixed wing aircrew. Also during this period a number of Iraqi revolts erupted against the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, beginning in late February when the Shiites, who lived primarily in the south, rose, followed by a Kurdish uprising in Kurdistan to the north. The shaken Iraqi regime brutally suppressed the revolts, and Iraqi security forces and troops ruthlessly crushed the Kurds. Almost a million Kurdish refugees fled in late March and into April to escape the atrocities, and the U.S. responded with Operation Provide Comfort: international humanitarian relief efforts for the victims of Saddam’s crimes. Aircrew from the ship flew a variety of missions supporting Provide Comfort, including airborne early warning to monitor refugee movements and Iraqi attacks against people, as well as protecting crews, including Marines and SEALs, assisting victims by delivering supplies by air and on the ground and by evacuating Kurds requiring medical attention.

24 Apr 1991: An SH-60F crew (HS-2) spotted a mine 30 nautical miles south of Nimitz but drifting toward her and destroyed it with the assistance of the ship’s explosive ordnance disposal team.

27 Apr 1991: Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA)-147 sent a detachment of three Hornets, four officers and 26 enlisted sailors to Al Dhafra AB in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where they participated in the first air combat training exercise between the ship and the UAE. VFA-147 gained the opportunity to pit their skills against Dassault Mirage 2000s.

7-–9 May 1991: Nimitz anchored at Dubai, UAE.

13 May 1991: While the Allied Joint Command prohibited further Hornet overflights over Iraq, F/A-18s continued to fly combat air patrols over Kuwait and the Gulf.

21-–22 May 1991: Two Iranian speedboats manned by the Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Engelab-e Eslami [Revolutionary Guard Corps, usually known simply as the Pasdaran], a volatile mix of lawless elements and militant students, attacked command ship La Salle (AGF-3), flagship of the Middle East Force, as she steamed in the central Arabian Gulf, from 2024–0021. La Salle ’s crew fought back fiercely, firing 178 .50 caliber machine gun rounds from the port side of the bridge and keeping the Iranians at a range varying between 3,000–5,000 yards. The command ship radioed Nimitz, steaming approximately 300 nautical miles to the northwest, for assistance. The carrier responded by scrambling a pair of “ready” Hornets within 20 minutes. The F/A-18s streaked to the area to intercept the Iranians, but the Pasdaran came about and fled. Following this episode the ship and her crew treated all Iranian vessels with extreme caution as “contacts of interest,” observing them carefully for threatening intentions.

25–-29 May 1991: Nimitz anchored at Dubai.

30 May–-7 Jun 1991: Nimitz sailed through the Strait of Hormuz eastbound to participate in exercise Beacon Flash ‘91 with the Omanis, before returning to the Gulf for additional operations against the Iraqis.

7 Jun 1991: SN Mark Esparza, the aft lookout, spotted a blue light in the water, signifying a probable man overboard, near the end of the mid watch at 0356. The ship called away “man overboard” and lowered her port motor whaleboat, commanded by LT(JG) G. Paul Skentzos, whose crew recovered AM3 Donald A. Ochab of VF-211, who fell overboard while working on a Tomcat. “When I walked back,” Ochab quipped of his brush with death, “I ran out of deck.” Skentzos and Esparza each received the Navy Achievement Medal for their quick actions.

Jul 1991: While performing maintenance on arresting gear constant run-out valves, the Sailors of the ship’s V-2 Division discovered excessive wear on the camhousing and stanchion body bolts. Subsequent modifications to all of the Navy’'s carriers avoided future accidents and probably saved lives.

12 Jul 1991: By this date aircrew flew 934 sorties over Iraq , Kuwait and the Gulf. During a combat air patrol mission over Kuwait, however, an F/A-18C (VFA-146), sustained probe damage and experienced airspeed problems while tanking with a Stratotanker. Upon his return to the carrier at 2200 the pilot slammed into the ramp but miraculously caught the No. 3 arrester wire while in full afterburner. The man ejected, landing on the flight deck with minor abrasions. The crew began applying foam to the fire within 23 seconds, though the crash destroyed the aircraft. ABH2 James A. Gilley, a member of V-1’s Crash and Salvage Crew, courageously entered the Hornet’s cockpit and secured the engines, which remained in full afterburner. Gilley later received the Navy Achievement Medal for his heroic action during the blaze.

16 Jul 1991: Nimitz turned over to aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).

12–-17 Oct 1991: Nimitz participated in Fleet Week ’91 in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay area of California, leading a 17-ship formation into the bay during dangerous near 0 visibility conditions (the navigation team could only see the stanchions as they passed under the Golden Gate Bridge) on the 17th.

19 Oct 1991–-29 May 1992: Nimitz underwent an SRA at PSNS.

9 Jan 1992: Former Soviet CAPT Alexander Zuyev visited the ship. On 20 May 1989, Zuyev gained fame when he defected from the Soviet Union with his MiG-29 Fulcrum, flying a daring “low and fast” escape to the Turkish airport at Trabzon.

Dec 1992: Continual wear on equipment during flight operations caused a potentially “catastrophic” problem when alert flight deck Sailors noticed an abnormal grinding sound from an arresting gear engine during a landing. Immediately fouling the deck they took the engine offline to discover several large metal shavings and severe scoring of the engine’s crosshead sheaves, thus avoiding a major accident. 

11 Feb 1993: Nimitz rendezvoused with her battle group in the Pacific, chopping to the Seventh Fleet eight days later.

5 Mar 1993: The ship conducted a PASSEX with the Malaysians and Singaporeans.

11–-12 Mar 1993: Nimitz sailed through the Strait of Malacca and entered the Indian Ocean, conducting another PASSEX with the Malaysians en route.

18 Mar 1993: Nimitz entered the Naval Forces Central Command’s area of responsibility and relieved Kitty Hawk.

21 Mar 1993: Nimitz transited the Strait of Hormuz and entered the Arabian Gulf, beginning her participation in Operation Southern Watch. The UN established a no-fly zone along the 32nd parallel after the Iraqis renewed attacks against Shiites, and the coalition began patrolling the zone. While deployed in the Gulf the ship’'s Sailors also made on-site repairs to P-3 Orions and USAF Lockheed C-141 Starlifters and to six ships. Additionally, when appraised of a USAF need to replace 12 defective AGM-88 High Speed Antiradiation Missiles, Nimitz rushed them out to enable the crews to continue missions over Iraq . Nimitz also visited Mina Jebel Ali in the UAE three times during this cruise (10–14 April, 8–12 May and 6–11 June).

22 Mar 1993: VADM Douglas J. Katz, Commander, Naval Forces Central Command, visited the ship.

5 May 1993: The crew celebrated their half way point in the deployment and the famous Mexican holiday with a combined “Cinco de Mayo” picnic on the aft mess decks.

18 Jun 1993: Nimitz sailed outbound through the Strait of Hormuz into the Arabian Sea .

28 Jun 1993: The ship passed through the Strait of Malacca eastbound.

29 Jun 1993: Nimitz crossed the equator.

11 Jul 1993: Nimitz turned over to Abraham Lincoln.

7 Dec 1993-–28 Jan 1995: Nimitz conducted an extended drydocking SRA at PSNS.

7–-12 Dec 1993: Following carrier qualifications for fleet replenishment squadron aircrew, Nimitz sailed from North Island to PSNS to prepare for drydocking. A fierce storm encountered en route, however, forced her to change course to outrun heavy seas. 

29 Jan–-20 Aug 1994: Nimitz entered drydock at PSNS. Ex-submarine tender Proteus (AS-19) became her berthing, messing and office barge. As Nimitz was the first ship to use Proteus in this fashion, the latter required extensive conversion work to make her habitable. In the interim, the crew berthed in a barge, at Submarine Base Bangor, ashore at PSNS and at contract hotels.

20 Jul 1994: ADM Jeremy M. Boorda, Chief of Naval Operations, visited the ship.

20-–21 Aug 1994: Following the flooding of the dock she moored to Pier B at PSNS.

20 Jan 1995: ABE2 Daniel Avila died while working on arresting gear machinery on board. The crew held a memorial service for their shipmate on the 23rd.

28 Jan–-2 Feb 1995: Nimitz conducted sea trials.

2–3 Apr 1995: A team from the Cable News Network (CNN) visited Nimitz to film a CNN Newsroom special concerning life on board an aircraft carrier.

6-–15 Sep 1995: Nimitz participated in two training evolutions, FleetEx 95-2A and MissilEx 95-2, the later from the 13th–15th, in the Southern California Operations Area. Also during this period, the ship’s Marine security detachment trained ashore at San Clemente Island off the California coast and practiced “non-permissive boardings” (where crews may be suspected of illicit activities and resist), including one of oiler Walter S. Diehl (T-AO-193).

25 Sep–-6 Oct 1995: Nimitz participated in exercise JTFEx 95-3 off southern California.

27–-29 Nov 1995: During her deployment Nimitz first sailed south to North Island to embark CVW-9, Commander, Destroyer Squadron 23 and RADM Lyle G. Bien, Commander, Carrier Group 7 and then proceeded into the Western Pacific, operating in the South China Sea before Christmas. Guided missile cruiser Port Royal (CG-73), guided missile destroyer Callaghan (DDG-994), destroyer Oldendorf (DD-972), guided missile frigate Ford (FFG-54), submarines Birmingham (SSN-695) and Portsmouth (SSN-707), oiler Willamette (AO-180) and ammunition ship Shasta (AE-33) deployed with the battle group. At various times Nimitz’'s Sailors performed “critical” repairs to equipment on board Port Royal, Callaghan and Portsmouth. Aircrew flew an average of 1,433 sorties per month during this deployment.

4–-5 Jan 1996: Nimitz transited the Strait of Malacca and entered the Indian Ocean.

11 Jan 1996: The ship entered the Fifth Fleet’s area of the responsibility assigned to Task Force 50.

13-–17 Jan 1996: Nimitz participated in Inspired Alert, an exercise with the Pakistanis.

19 Jan 1996: Nimitz sailed through the Strait of Hormuz and entered the Arabian Gulf .

22 Jan-–12 Mar 1996: Nimitz participated in Operation Southern Watch.

Feb 1996: Half of the ship’s Marine security detachment deployed ashore in Kuwait under the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit for a combined arms exercise.

20–-21 Feb 1996: RADM Michael R. Scott, Deputy Commander, Joint Task Force-Southwest Asia, embarked on board.

22 Feb 1996: Renegade 205, an F-14A (BuNo 159867) from VF-24, LCDR Roger A. Pyle and LT Thomas A. Eberhard, crashed at sea in the Gulf during a “maintenance profile.” Rescuers had both men back on board within the hour.

14-–15 Mar 1996: During this period a crisis erupted from ongoing friction between the Chinese and Taiwanese over the continuation of Taiwan ’s independence from the mainland. Both countries deployed additional forces to the Taiwan Strait littoral, and the Chinese conducted what the Taiwanese called “provocative” exercises involving jets, warships and at least three surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, which landed in Taiwanese waters in a dangerous escalation. Nimitz came about and steamed through the Strait of Hormuz outbound, entering the Seventh Fleet’s area of responsibility the next day assigned to Task Group 070.2. Nimitz rushed eastward to signal U.S. support for the Taiwanese elections and that people’s self-determination. During her voyage the ship’s orders changed three times, challenging the crew to ensure that they arrived in time.

21 Mar 1996: The ship transited the Strait of Malacca eastbound.

24–-28 Mar 1996: Nimitz relieved Independence off eastern Taiwan. Independence operated from what her sailors referred to as “Wonton Station” from the 11th–24th. Not to be outdone Nimitz'’s Sailors mischievously referred to their operating area as “Kung Pao Station.” Nonetheless, they stood their watches during a frightening situation as tensions rose between Beijing , Taipei and Washington. Chinese Premier Lĭ Péng warned the U.S. not to make a show of force by sending Nimitz into the Taiwan Strait. “The Chinese,” responded Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, “are a great military power, the premier–the strongest–military power in the Western Pacific is the United States .”

29 Mar–-12 Apr 1996: Diplomatic measures began to diffuse the Chinese crisis and Nimitz came about, transiting the Luzon Strait to operate in the Philippine Sea .

14 Apr 1996: The carrier returned to the South China Sea via the Luzon Strait.

28 Apr 1996: After steaming in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, Nimitz came about for home, transiting the Luzon Strait eastward.

16–-20 May 1996: After first returning to North Island, the ship steamed to PSNS.

Jun 1996-–21 Jan 1997: Following their one month standdown the crew performed an $84 million ESRA at PSNS. In addition to upgrading numerous systems and habitability concerns, the crew replaced all .38 and 45 caliber pistols utilized for security with Beretta 9 mm models.

15 Aug 1996: VADM Brent M. Bennitt, Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific, toured Nimitz to determine the progress in her overhaul.

8 Jan 1997: Bennitt again toured Nimitz to inspect her readiness for sea.

22-–26 Jan 1997: Nimitz conducted sea trials in the northeastern Pacific, also onloading ammunition at Port Hadlock.

Apr 1997: The crew installed the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System and the Video Information Exchange System, which provided “real-time” exchange of intelligence information, and upgraded Battle Group Electronic Mail (E-Mail) and Battle Group Maritime Cellular capabilities.

26 May 1997: CDR Terry W. Cook, ship’s chaplain, conducted a Memorial Day service on board Missouri for WWII veterans, at PSNS.

23 Jun-–3 Jul 1997: Nimitz participated in FleetEx 97-2 off southern California.

14–-24 Jul 1997: Nimitz participated in JTFEx 97-2 and a Revolution in Strike Warfare demonstration off southern California . The latter demonstrated a carrier’s ability to “maximize” air power in a littoral warfare scenario, and the wing flew a demanding 1,023 sorties in 100 continuous hours of flight operations.

25 Jul 1997: Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor visited the ship at North Island.

5 Aug 1997: ADM Archie R. Clemins, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, and RADM Donald A. Weiss, Commander, Carrier Group 3, visited Nimitz.

Sep 1997: The crew configured Contingency Theater Automated Planning System workstations with Joint Task Force, –Southwest Asia to provide Air Tasking Order exchange in support of Operation Southern Watch.

1 Sep 1997-–1 Mar 1998: Nimitz completed a global circumnavigation as she shifted her home port from PSNS to Newport News, Va. CVW-9 aircrew flew an average of 1,658 sorties per month in 76 aircraft of ten different models during this deployment, and made the first operational deployment of the AGM-154A Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW). At one point, the Air Department gathered on the flight deck to spell out “Bullet,” CAPT Richardson’s (the CO’s) call sign.

6 Sep 1997: VADM Bennitt embarked.

11 Sep 1997: Port Royal rendezvoused with the group north of the Hawaiian Islands , completing the battle group as it sailed westward into the Pacific.

11–-13 Sep 1997: Nimitz participated in ASWEx 97-5, an anti-submarine exercise with submarine Hawkbill (SSN-666) north of the Hawaiian Islands .

13–-18 Sep 1997: While proceeding into the Western Pacific Nimitz changed course to avoid Typhoon David, which reached its peak of 95 knots on the 14th, tracking in a steadily northwesterly direction that brought the typhoon dangerously close to the carrier’s journey. David’'s large size gave the crew some tense moments before they outran the fierce seas, which impacted people as far away as Japan before turning northeastward toward the Gulf of Alaska , where it transitioned to an extra tropical low. To compound matters the Pacific Fleet also tasked the crew with locating and tracking an elusive Russian Oscar II (Antyey [Type 949A]) class-guided missile submarine. The Navy detected the Russians loitering off the Washington coast to track carrier movements, first shadowing Constellation during a visit to Seattle on 26 September, and then Nimitz. “It’s not a regular practice,” noted Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, “but it’s not unprecedented either,” referring to the consternation the Oscar II raised among the media before the battle group observed her returning to Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula on 1 November.

19 Sep 1997: Two Russian Tu-142Fs conducted maritime surveillance of the battle group east of Japan, however, Nimitz’s combat air patrol intercepted and escorted the Bears.

21 Sep 1997: VADM Robert J. Natter, Commander, Seventh Fleet, visited Nimitz.

23–-25 Sep 1997: Nimitz and Independence participated in Valiant Blitz off Okinawa.

26 Sep–-3 Oct 1997: Tensions rose between the Iraqis and the UN over weapons inspections of the Iraqi arsenal, Iraqi aircrew violations of the southern No Fly Zone and Iranian air attacks into southern Iraq. During one of his tirades, Hussein threatened to shoot down U.S. Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft monitoring Iraqi non-compliance with UN sanctions. The crisis forced Nimitz to depart Hong Kong and make for Singapore, where her crew anticipated a short visit. The Navy cancelled the ship’s stay at that port, however, and ordered her to continue at speed into the Indian Ocean. Nimitz transited the Strait of Malacca eastbound during poor visibility.

9 Oct 1997: Nimitz entered the Fifth Fleet’s area of responsibility.

13 Oct 1997: The ship entered the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch, completing a 6,000 mile voyage 12 days earlier than originally scheduled. Nimitz steamed at sea for 55 days altogether before Washington allowed her to visit Jebel Ali from 26 November–4 December. Due to security restrictions and the lack of entertainment ashore the ship arranged for bands to perform for the crew nightly at the ‘Oasis on the Pier.’ During most of her time underway in the Gulf, Nimitz served as the flagship for Task Force 50 with aircraft carriers George Washington (CVN-73) and British HMS Invincible (R-05). Nimitz also conducted Maritime Interception Operations, coalition efforts to enforce UN Security Council Resolutions imposed against the Iraqis. The UN prohibited cargo originating from Iraq and any imports not accompanied by a UN authorization letter, though the food for oil agreement permitted the Iraqis to sell oil and import approved goods. Strained relations with the Iranians exacerbated friction in the Gulf, and Nimitz also monitored Victory VIII, an Iranian naval exercise brazenly conducted nearby.

24 Oct 1997: The crew experienced their first barricade arrestment of a Hornet when an F/A-18C (VMFA-314) sustained damage to its nose landing gear and slammed into the barricade, recovering successfully.

26 Oct 1997: GEN Charles C. Krulak, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps, visited.

1–5 Nov 1997: Nimitz participated in exercise Eager Archer with the Kuwaitis.

2 Nov 1997: VADM Thomas B. Fargo, Commander, Fifth Fleet and Naval Forces Central Command, visited Nimitz.

15–-25 Nov 1997: The ship conducted exercise Neon Falcon with the Bahrainis.

18 Nov 1997: MGEN Charles F. Bolden, Jr., USMC, Deputy Commanding General, First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), Marine Forces, Pacific, visited the ship.

5 Dec 1997: RADM Sir Ian Forbes, RN, Commander, United Kingdom Task Group, visited Nimitz.

6–-10 1997: The carrier participated in exercise Nautical Artist with the Saudis.

9 Dec 1997: MGEN Roger R. Radcliff, USAF, Commander, Joint Task Force–Southwest Asia, visited the ship.

13-–24 Dec 1997: Nimitz conducted Eager Mace with the Kuwaitis.

18 Dec 1997: LGEN Carlton W. Fulford, Jr., USMC, Commanding General, I MEF, visited Nimitz.

24 Dec 1997: ADM Jay L. Johnson, Chief of Naval Operations, and his wife visited the ship, sharing Christmas dinner with the crew on the Mess Decks and addressing them during an All Hands Call in Hanger Bay No. 2.

24–-25 Jan 1998: Air Commodore Peter Harris, RAF, Commander, British Forces conducting Operation Bolton to enforce Iraqi compliance with UN sanctions visited.

27 Jan 1998: ADM Clemins again visited Nimitz.

8 Feb 1998: Independence relieved Nimitz, enabling the latter to transit the Strait of Hormuz outbound and leave the Gulf.

11 Feb 1998: The ship sailed through the Bab El Mandeb and entered the Red Sea.

13–-14 Feb 1998: Nimitz anchored off Port Suez, Egypt, and passed through the Suez Canal the next day at an average speed of advance of eight knots, 12-hours after entering the canal. Proceeding into the Mediterranean, she rendezvoused with South Carolina, and both ships then turned west. “The ship’s presence made a difference in world events both times,” reflected ATCS Charles Bell, a veteran of the 1986–87 and 1997–98 deployments. “Like our recent deployment to the Arabian Gulf, in 1987, we were stationed off the coast of Libya launching and recovering our fighter and attack aircraft for days at a time. We even missed port visits during both deployments in order to stay on station.”

18 Feb 1998: Nimitz transited the Strait of Gibraltar westbound, entering the Atlantic.

23-–25 Feb 1998: Nimitz rendezvoused with Enterprise and fast combat support ship Detroit (AOE-4), 750 nautical miles into the Atlantic , and spent two days offloading ammunition. Strong winds and high seas complicated the evolution.

1 Mar 1998: Nimitz completed her voyage around the world, mooring to Pier 11 at NS Norfolk.

15 Apr 1998: Nimitz’s Marine Security Detachment of 26 Marines disestablished (after nearly 23 years on board).

26 May 1998: Nimitz made a deadstick move to Drydock No. 11 at Newport News to commence her 33 month refueling complex overhaul. CAPT Steven F. Firks, her CO, noted that the cost of approximately $1.3 billion as nearly twice her original price of $692 million. The ship originally went to sea with two nuclear reactors, which, due to technological improvements, provided her with the some propulsive power as the eight installed in Enterprise . After years of steaming, however, they required considerable work. The crew transferred most support equipment to the Naval Air Systems Command Southeast Rework facility, Solomons Island, Md., and to the Naval Air Depot, NAS Jacksonville, Fla. While in the yard a number of sailors completed afloat training on board other ships at varying periods, including Carl Vinson, John F. Kennedy and guided missile cruiser Normandy (CG-60). The crew also accomplished the “Y2K rollover,” ensuring that all computer networks complied with 21st Century time-keeping without interrupting end users and without hardware applications failures. Sailors provided “critical” HH-60 parts to aircraft carrier John C. Stennis (CVN-74). Relatively relaxed watchstanding provided sailors the opportunity to transition from eight duty sections to 10 (five during holiday standdown with a primary and standby “alternate” sections). Most crewmembers transferred to Floating Accommodation Facility, a $20 million, 300 foot barge with berthing, galleys, office space and medical facilities. The shipyard provided the “floating hotel” to accommodate crucial crew needed to oversee vital work, though over 1,900 bachelor Sailors berthed ashore. Steelworkers struck, however, from 5 April–30 July 1999, delaying progress, though the crew continued the overhaul as well as they could.

15 Jul 1998: RADM Daniel R. Bowler (and his relief RADM Peter W. Marzluff), Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group-5 assumed operational control of Nimitz.

22 Jan 1999: The crew held a memorial service for GMSN Brian E. Hubert, who died when he accidentally fell five decks through an open hatch.

17 Mar 1999: VADM Michael L. Bowman, Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet, visited Nimitz.

27 Apr 1999: The crew offloaded their remaining test equipment and shipped it to Naval Surface Weapons Center (NSWC) Seal Beach, Calif.

23 Jun 1999: VADM Michael L. Bowman, Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet, again inspected Nimitz.

9 Jul 1999: The crew performed their first baptism in the ship’s bell. The honor went to Blair A. Thomas, son of ICC Mary M. Thomas of the ships company.

1 Nov 1999: The crew and shipyard workers completed their final hull inspections and flooded Drydock No. 11 to 23 feet of water on the hull.

6 Nov 1999: Nimitz shifted berths from Drydock No. 11 to Outfitting Berth No. 1.

22 Nov 1999: VADM Michael L. Bowman, Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet, again inspected Nimitz.