USS Oriskany CV-34 later CVA-34 and CV-34 - Page Two

Two days later, during a strike on a rail yard near Nam Dinh on 14 July, the air wing had its first encounter with enemy fighter aircraft. A flight of three VF-162 F-8E Crusaders flying top cover for the strike were jumped by two MiG-17 Fresco fighters. In a brief duel, one jet on each side was damaged by enemy cannon fire and the crippled Navy F-8E, piloted by Cdr. Richard M. Bellinger, attempted to make Da Nang. Damage and lack of fuel forced him to eject some 40 miles out but he was quickly rescued by an Air Force helicopter. Interdiction and armed reconnaissance missions continued throughout the month, even as ground anti-aircraft intensity continued to grow. Navy pilots continued developing tactics to avoid flying into SAM envelopes, such as the technique of running in on targets at tree-top level, a risky tactic used during the 23 July Skyhawk raid on Dong Nhan, made even more dangerous by heavy thunderstorms. Four days later it was the turn of VA-152 to shine, when two Skyraiders , led by Lcdr. James O. Harmon, sortied to help rescue a downed Air Force pilot. Proceeding to the crash site near Dong Hoi, the "Spads" escorted an Air Force helicopter into the area, suppressing enemy small arms fire during the approach. Spotting the pilot, who was about to be captured, the two Skyraiders strafed nearby enemy positions until the helicopter could drop in and pick him up. On 28 July, during an "Iron Hand" mission, three Skyhawk's from VA-164 detected a SAM radar emission and closed for a Shrike missile attack. Multiple SA-2 launches followed and Ens. George P. McSwain Jr.'s Skyhawk was mortally damaged. He survived bail out but was captured soon after. Two other aircraft were lost to ground fire during this line period and although both pilots survived, Lt. Terry A. Dennison's of VF-162 was captured and later died in North Vietnamese custody. A third aircraft crashed during a night aerial refueling attempt on 29 July, killing Lt(jg) Donovan L. Ewoldt. The aircraft carrier departed "Yankee Station" that same day and put in to Subic Bay for rest and upkeep 30 July to 3 August.

Returning to Yankee Station on 4 August, Oriskany began a month of combat operations starting on the 7th. In what was by now normal routine, the first few days of missions were invariably armed reconnaissance and other "warm up strikes." Unfortunately the line period began badly, when Lt. Charles L. Fryer's Skyraider took heavy ground fire while attacking a train near Qui Vinh. Damaged and on fire the plane crashed in the water off Cape Bouton, killing the Lieutenant. Another reconnaissance mission over various coastal islands cost another aircraft on 11 August, a VF-111 Crusader piloted by Ltjg. Cody A. Balister, that splashed owing to hydraulic failure. The pilot ejected safely and was picked up from an island by an SH-3 helicopter from Chicago (CG-11). The first large air strike took place that same day, with a successful 14-plane attack on the Giong POL storage area. Two days later, an 8-plane night strike hit river traffic near Hon Gay, setting close to a dozen fuel barges on fire and sinking two enemy PT Boats by the light from the flames. During one attack run on a barge a VF-111 Crusader piloted by Lcdr. Norman S. Levy caught fire. The pilot arced out over the sea and ejected when the plane reached 3,500 feet. He was later picked up by Navy helicopter, and given a medical check in Towers (DLG-9) before being returned to Oriskany. Over the next few days, additional armed reconnaissance missions destroyed supplies and munitions in trains and trucks, and on 18 August, the "Spads" of VA-152 hit the jackpot. After following tire tracks into a wooded area, a Skyraider piloted by Lcdr. Eric H. Schade fired several zuni rockets into the trees "on a hunch." The pilot was rewarded by a series of explosions, while "every rocket and strafing run added more secondaries." Smoke from burning fuel and ammunition rose 6,700-feet in the air. The resulting burnt out swath of jungle was thenceforth known as "Eric's Truck Park." Also on the 18th, the air wing lost yet another Crusader, this time from VF-162. During a strike on a barge, Lcdr. Demetrio A. Verich's F8E caught fire after being hit by debris from ground explosions. He maneuvered the sluggish plane out to sea, ejected and was safely picked up by an SH-3. These types of logistics strikes continued for the next two weeks, with both "Spads" and jets focusing their strikes on truck parks, trains and barges. Before the line period ended in early September, CVW-16 lost five more planes to operational causes and three more planes in combat, two to flak (though both pilots were recovered) and one to enemy aircraft. In the latter case, Air Force Capt. Wilford k. Abbott, flying a VF-111 Crusader off Oriskany, was ambushed and shot down by an enemy MiG jet fighter near Hanoi. He survived and was captured by the North Vietnamese. The only fatality during this latter period took place on 25 August, when Lt(jg) William H. Bullard's VA-164 Skyhawk splashed at sea shortly after a night catapult launch.

Following five days at Subic Bay for rest and recreation, Oriskany sailed for Hong Kong for liberty on 15 September 1966. While underway, the aircraft carrier conducted cross-deck operations with British carrier Victorious and, on the 16th, helped rescue the crew from the British freighter August Moon, then aground on Pratas Reef in the South China Sea owing to a heavy storm. Despite high winds and heavy seas, the three UH-2B helicopters from the HC-1 detachment in Oriskany flew rescue operations, plucking 44 crewmen from the stricken cargo ship. During the operation one helicopter was engulfed by a huge 65-foot wave, knocking the bird into the sea. Quick reactions from the other helicopters saved all three crewmen and the entire operation came off without loss of life. After liberty in Hong Kong between 17-22 September, Oriskany returned for her third line period of this tour. The first multi-plane strike took place on the 27th, with an attack on island groups east of Haiphong that sank one enemy PT boat. Two days later, the air wing carried out a time-sensitive strike on an occupied SAM site, destroying an SA-2 launcher and receiving the Carrier Division Commander's "Prize for SAM Busting" for that line period. Following a major strike on Phu Ly on 1 October, the air wing returned to that complex on the 9th to attack a rail road bridge and marshalling area. During the attack, Cdr. Richard M. Bellinger of VF-162 intercepted an enemy MiG-21 Fishbed jet fighter and fired two heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles, one of which scored a lethal hit that sent the MiG-21 crashing in flames. The kill was particularly satisfying for Cdr. Bellinger, as he had been forced to eject during another MiG encounter three months previously. Over the next two weeks, the air wing launched strikes against ammunition dumps, rail lines and bypasses. During the first three and a half weeks of October, the air wing lost four planes to combat operations and two to operational loss, including four fatalities. VA-152 suffered three of the fatalities, with Lt(jg) James A. Beene lost at sea owing to mechanical failure during a thunderstorm and Lt. John A. Feldhaus and Ens. Darwin J. Thomas to enemy flak. A Crusader from VF-162 and a Skyhawk from VF-164 were also lost to ground fire, and while the former pilot was rescued, Lt. Frank C. Elkins was killed on 14 October when his aircraft crashed while trying to avoid a surface-to-air missile.

Combat operations came to a sudden halt on the morning of 27 October 1966 when a mishandled magnesium parachute flare ignited in the forward ready service locker. The three-foot long flare, burning at 5400 degrees Fahrenheit, set off the roughly 700 other flares inside the locker. The resulting explosion blew out the steel bulkheads of the flare locker, instantly killing five Sailors, setting two nearby helicopters on fire and spreading flaming debris into the forward berthing areas. Smoke and flames quickly spread into passageways and ventilation systems, trapping dozens of officers in their staterooms. The automatic sprinkler system opened up, dumping curtains of water into the hangar but the magnesium continued burning, sending gouts of flame and a dense, acrid smoke deep into the forward section of the ship. In the hangar bay, teams play water over piles of steaming ordnance, desperately cooling bombs and aviation gasoline tanks as other Sailors drag planes clear or jettison bombs over the side. Damage control teams spray water into the forward berthing areas too, protecting rescue teams who don OBA (self-contained oxygen breathing apparatus) and venture into the super-heated passageways, dragging out burned, asphyxiating Sailors from their staterooms. Down below, tons of water collected in void spaces and compartments, trapping other sailors in darkness when their compartment power failed. Over the next seven hours, fire fighters and rescue parties slowly pushed black the flames, rescued survivors still trapped in compartments and recovered the wounded and the dead. The final tally was 35 officers (many of them pilots) and 8 enlisted men dead, with 38 others injured. The air wing lost two UH-2A helicopters and a Skyraider destroyed, with another three A-4s damaged, while the ship itself suffered heavy fire damage. Oriskany retired to Subic Bay on 28 October, where injured crewmen were transferred to waiting aircraft for flights to the United States that evening. The aircraft remained at Subic Bay for repairs until departing for San Diego on 2 November, arriving there on the 16th.

Oriskany got underway five days later, entering San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard for overhaul and extensive fire-damage repairs on 23 November 1966. Yard work was completed on 23 March 1967 and the warship shifted to Alameda for sea trials in April and refresher training with CVW-16 in May. Owing to the frenetic pace of both yard repairs and crew training, the aircraft carrier completed all deployment preparations by early June and sailed for her ninth western Pacific tour on the 16th. After short stops at Pearl Harbor and then Cubi Point, Philippines, where Commander, Carrier Division Nine, broke his flag on board on 9 July, Oriskany sailed to "Yankee Station" in the South China Sea. There, the aircraft carrier joined the ongoing interdiction campaign against the North Vietnamese road and rail network. As the attacks were nationwide in scope, even persistent strikes were unable to overload any critical element of the transportation system and the North Vietnamese adjusted routes in response to most strikes in a short period of time. One counter-method was the widespread use of Mark 36 Destructor magnetic-influence mines, intended to close roads and river ways by seeding chokepoints with the aerially-dropped mines. During the summer of 1967, Navy aircraft dropped these mines all around Hanoi and Haiphong, hoping to destroy all bulk rail lines and isolate river and road traffic into and out of those cities. These attacks, flying into the teeth of the North Vietnamese air defense system, took a heavy toll on Oriskany's planes, beginning with heavy damage to a VA-164 Skyhawk during the very first strike on 14 July. With the nose cone of the plane shot off, Lt(jg) Laurence J. Cunningham had great difficulty flying the aircraft but managed to steer the crippled bird out to sea and to within sight of Oriskany before ejecting. He was quickly picked up by one of the carriers Seasprites.

Losses stayed high through the rest of July. The day after Cunningham's rescue, a VA-152 Skyraider crashed after being hit by small arms fire during an anti-shipping strike, killing Lt(jg) Robin B. Cassell. On the 16th, during a late afternoon strike on the Phu Ly railroad yard, Lcdr. Demetrio A. Verich's Crusader exploded after being struck by a SAM. Amazingly, Verich managed to eject safely and descended with a good chute onto a densely foliated ridge. Although no SAR effort was launched that evening owing to darkness, the following morning Oriskany jets and "Spads" escorted a Sea King on a hazardous two-hour 100-mile round trip inland to successfully pick up Verich just after dawn on the 17th.

Later that morning, however, the SAR teams had to do it all over again. During a strike against a rail road bridge south of Hanoi, two Skyhawk's received fatal damage over the target from intense enemy antiaircraft fire. Both pilots bailed out alive and almost two dozen aircraft closed to support the SAR effort. Lt(jg) Larry J. Duthie landed through trees along a ridge, quickly moving one hundred yards up the hill to avoid capture. Enemy forces closed his position but were kept pinned by strafing from supporting Skyraiders. Despite losing most of his equipment during his descent, Duthie still retained his radios and contacted the approaching Navy Sea King. Enemy small arms fire mortally wounded one helicopter crewman, however, driving away the bird which returned back to Worden (DLG-18). A short time later an Air Force "Jolly Green" helicopter managed to approach and pluck Duthie out from beneath the forest canopy. Meanwhile, less than five miles away, a good chute and "beeper" contact from the second pilot, Lcdr. Richard D. Hartman, allowed a second rescue effort but persistent MiG alerts and damage to the rescue helicopter ended the search at dusk. During the night Hartman evaded discovery and managed to contact Oriskany aircraft at 0525 the following morning. A waiting rescue mission went feet dry five minutes later and within an hour Skyraiders and Skyhawks began pounding enemy antiaircraft positions with napalm and rockets. As the Sea King, from HS-2 embarked on Constellation (CVA-64), closed Hartman's position, however, an enemy flak site opened up on the helicopter, which burst into flames and crashed, killing all four crewmen. No further SAR efforts launched and, although Hartman remained free for another day, he was finally captured hiding in a cave. To compound the tragedy, Hartman later died in enemy captivity.

Before the end of the month, the air wing lost three more aircraft to combat damage. On 19 July, Cdr. Herbert P. Hunter, Jr., Executive Office of VF-162, received ground fire that heavily damaged the port wing of his F8E Crusader. Unable to refuel or jettison ordnance he attempted an emergency landing on Bon Homme Richard. The aircraft hit hard, missed the arrestor cables and crashed over the side, killing Cdr. Hunter. On the 25th, a Skyhawk crashed while strafing a truck convoy, killing Lcdr. Donald V. Davis.- Lastly, during a multi-plane strike on the Tranh Lang petroleum complex northwest of Haiphong on the 31st, a SAM mortally damaged another VF-162 Crusader. Lt(jg) Charles P. Zuhoski bailed out of his burning plane safely but was quickly captured once he hit the ground. Another three aircraft were also lost to operational accidents in July, including a KA-3B Skywarrior tanker that suffered a dual flame out over the South China Sea on the night of 27 July. All three crewmen bailed out but only one, Lcdr. Michael W. Kavanaugh, was spotted by a patrolling VP-1 aircraft. He was later rescued by a boat from the American merchant ship SS Fairport but Ens. Bruce M. Patterson and AE2 Charles D. Hardie were never seen again.

In the midst of these operations, Oriskany also responded to a call for medical assistance from Forrestal (CV-59) after that aircraft carrier suffered a catastrophic series of fires and explosions on 29 July. By happenstance, one of Oriskany's Seasprites, piloted by Lt. David E. Clement, was flying temporary plane guard aft of Forrestal when the initial fire broke out. Closing to investigate, the UH-2A proceeded down the port side and, as she passed abeam the port fantail, "a horrendous explosion shook the helicopter and appeared to engulf the whole stern of CVA-59." Skimming into the wake of the stricken carrier, the crew quickly spotted Sailors in the water. Dropping a swimmer, AN Albert E. Barrows, the helicopter hovered as he tried to get the shocked and burned survivors in the rescue sling. The hover was difficult owing to the close proximity of the ship, the continuing explosions that shook the helicopter and scattered flaming debris everywhere. Despite the difficulty of handling the survivors "because their burned skin kept coming off," the crew managed to rescue five Sailors from the water. The helicopters, pushing their flying limits owing to overheating due to heavy loads, then transferred medical personnel and firefighting equipment to the stricken carrier, dodging explosions, flying shrapnel and landing on a badly listing, debris covered deck. The birds then evacuated many of the Forrestal's injured Sailors who were triaged in Oriskany before eventual transfer to hospital ship Repose (AH-16). Returning to the line for another week of operations, CVW-19 suffered another pilot killed, when a SAM knocked down Lt(jg) Ralph C. Bisz's Skyhawk near Haiphong on 4 August. In 1988, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam repatriated remains to the United States from Hai Hung Province and, in 2007, advanced mitochondrial DNA analysis by the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory obtained verifiable mtDNA that allowed the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) to identify the remains of Lt(jg) Bisz.

Following liberty at Cubi Point, Oriskany returned to Yankee Station for her second line period on 18 August. The ensuing two weeks of strikes again focused on interdiction strikes, including attacks on the Hanoi thermal power plant and rail road bridges south of Haiphong. As aerial photographs revealed an immense buildup of supplies in the port of Haiphong, but the existing rules of engagement prevented the bombing of the Soviet and communist Chinese munitions stacked in open storage, the carriers struck at the transport routes out of the city instead. Beginning on 31 August, CVW-16 began a "donut" interdiction strategy around Haiphong, striking rail and road bridges and seeding the waterways with mines in order to slow the movement of supplies out of the city. The first heavy attack was costly, with three Skyhawks lost to a coordinated four SA-2 missile launch during the same 31 August strike on Haiphong. While pilots Lt(jg) David J. Carey and LCdr. Hugh A. Stafford both ejected from their burning jets and were captured, Lcdr. Richard C. Perry managed to coax his damaged Skyhawk before ejecting over the Gulf of Tonkin. Tragically, Perry either died of wounds suffered from the missile explosion or died during the ejection, as the rescue helicopter saw him hanging limp and without a life vest when he hit the water. A diver went in the water to assist in any case, found Perry dead and, unable to cut him free from the tangled parachute, was forced to abandon him owing to intense enemy mortar fire. Three other aircraft were lost to accidents over the next two weeks, but all three pilots were rescued. Toward the end of the month, poor weather began hampering strike operations and the planes switched to small night raids and armed reconnaissance missions, both of which were greatly assisted by the radar capabilities of attached E-1B Grumman Tracers. On 15 September Oriskany turned north and sailed for Japan, arriving in Yokosuka on the 19th. There, she underwent a Board of Inspection and Survey review in preparation for a planned overhaul the following year, before returning to line duty off Vietnam on 5 October.

As the Skyhawks continued bombing bridge targets around Haiphong, the North Vietnamese shifted cargo away from the interdicted land routes to barge traffic in the Red River delta. This river traffic then fell prey to the prowling "Spads" of VA-152 which, in October alone, destroyed 64 logistics craft and shot up another 75. The Skyhawks and Crusaders continued their strikes against North Vietnamese installations as well, targeting airfields at Kien An and Phuc Yen as well as power plants in Hanoi and Uong Bi. Losses were again heavy, with ten planes lost in combat during "Black October," mostly Skyraiders that fell to antiaircraft guns during attack runs. Two pilots were killed in those attacks, with Lcdr. John F. Barr of VA-164 dying on 18 October after his Skyhawk exploded in midair and Lt(jg) Frederic W. Knapp of VA-164 killed on 2 November. A third pilot, Lt. Jeffrey M. Krommenhoek, was initially listed as MIA after a strike on Phuc Yen airfield on 25 October but was later declared killed-in-action. Of the four planes lost to SAMs, the first two killed both Skyhawk pilots, with Lt. David L. Hodges of VA-164 downed on 7 October and Lt(jg) James E. Dooley of VA-163 on 22 October, the latter's plane splashing in the mouth of the river east of Haiphong. Another two aircraft fell to SA-2s south of Hanoi on 26 October. The pilots survived bailout but no SAR was initiated owing to the heavy populated area. Both Lcdr. John S. McCain and Lt(jg) Charles D. Rice remained in enemy captivity until March 1973. Unusually, only two pilots were rescued following these losses. The first was Lt(jg) Laurence J. Cunningham, who ejected for the second time this cruise on 11 October (having first been rescued on 14 July) but had the good fortune to again splash in the Tonkin Gulf. He was rescued by a helicopter from Fox (DLG-33) after 15 minutes in a life raft. A second pilot also ejected over water after his Skyraider was damaged on the 24th. Following a short rest period at Yokosuka between 6-15 November, Oriskany returned to "Yankee Station" five days later.

Oriskany's fourth line period began on 20 November 1967 with monsoon weather in full force, with the entire region socked in with low, thick clouds. The weather curtailed many strikes, although a few low visibility mine-dropping missions were carried out using radar targeting guidance from the E-1B Tracers. Of the two completed major strikes, one hit the Nui Long cave storage area and the other dropped a span of the Haiphong highway bridge. VA-152 also kept up their coastal reconnaissance raids, sinking 21 logistics craft and damaging another 34. Losses were accordingly light, with only one VF-111 Crusader shot down by antiaircraft fire on 5 December and the pilot was rescued. That same day, one of the carriers' plane guard helicopters came to the aid of their brethren after Ranger's plane guard helicopter splashed. Oriskany's Seasprite sprinted to the wreck location and, as the survivors in the water popped smoke, easily picked up all four crewmen without incident. The highlight of the line period was another air-to-air combat engagement, when Lt. Richard E. Wyman of VF-162 pursued an enemy MiG-17 Fresco on 14 December 1967. After a 15-minute dog fight, Wyman managed to close and fire a Sidewinder missile into the North Vietnamese fighter, sending it cart wheeling in flames into a rice paddy. Two days later, Oriskany took another break owing to bad weather, steaming to Subic Bay, then Cubi Point and on to Hong Kong for the holidays. She returned to "Yankee Station" for her fifth and final line period of the tour on the last day of the year. Poor weather again limited most major strikes and even armed reconnaissance targets were fewer as the weather hampered North Vietnamese logistics efforts. Still, four planes were lost to enemy antiaircraft fire, with Lt(jg) Richard W. Minnich and Lt(jg) Ralph E. Foulks, Jr. both killed in early January. Of the two pilots rescued, both managed to shepherd their damaged birds out over the sea, one of which glided all the way from Laos where the Skyhawk had been hit by 23mm fire.

The aircraft carrier turned for home on 15 January 1968, having completed 122 days of combat operations over North Vietnam.- During the combat tour, CVW-16 suffered perhaps the highest loss rate of any naval air wing during the Vietnam conflict, losing half of assigned planes, 29 to combat damage and another 10 to operational causes, and had 20 pilots killed and another 9 taken prisoner. One contribution to this heavy loss rate was the air wings' unrelenting pace, as the pilots flew over 9,500 missions, including 181 air strikes into the heavily defended Hanoi-Haiphong corridor. Another contribution was the existence of safe havens for trucks and munitions within Haiphong in particular, as that meant targeting the flow of supplies in more heavily protected chokepoints further south. Oriskany returned to Alameda on 31 January and, after leave and upkeep, the crew began preparations for an upcoming nine-month overhaul. The warship entered San Francisco Naval Shipyard on 8 February to have new electrical generators, air conditioning and water distillers installed. The aircraft carrier also received repairs to her flight elevators, had her boilers refurbished in addition to the usual hundreds of post-deployment routine maintenance fixes. With yard work complete in the fall, the crew conducted refresher and pre-deployment training over the winter. In early 1969, Oriskany embarked a new air wing for familiarization and qualifications in preparation for her fourth deployment to Vietnam. In contrast to her previous air wing, CVW-19 did not include any Skyraiders, having two squadrons of F-8J Crusaders in VF-191 and VF-194, and three squadrons of A-4 Skyhawks in VA-23, VA-192 and VA-195, as well as the usual detachments of reconnaissance, tanker and early warning aircraft.

Oriskany sailed from Alameda on 16 April 1969, chopped in theater on 5 May and began her first line period at Yankee Station on 16 May.

There, the aircraft carrier began combat operations in a much more restricted environment than the previous deployment. Previously, in April 1968, President Johnson had restricted armed attacks south of the nineteenth parallel, which limited strikes to the southern third of North Vietnam. Following a massive six-month interdiction effort that shut down all North Vietnamese rail traffic out of Haiphong, closed two inland waterways and eliminated virtual all coastal shipments, the air campaign was suspended on 1 November 1968. Domestic political considerations, mainly the upcoming presidential elections, played the critical role in this decision as President Johnson was leaving office. With Rolling Thunder strikes ended, the aircraft carriers at Yankee Station shifted operations to Viet Cong and infiltrating North Vietnamese Army targets in South Vietnam and against the logistics supply routes in enemy-occupied Laos, the so called Ho Chi Minh Trail. The new administration of President Richard M. Nixon fully supported bombing operations against the trail, as it would relieve pressure on the South Vietnamese Army as American ground forces began withdrawing from the war.

Called Operation "Steel Tiger," strike operations over Laos began in late May 1969 against what were essentially time-sensitive targets. Aircraft arrived over communist logistics routes in eastern Laos and were directed by forward air controllers against primary and secondary targets of opportunity. While Laos was the target of most missions, about 30% of CVW-19s total effort was directed at I Corps' area in South Vietnam. In addition, the air wings' RF-8G reconnaissance aircraft still flew the dangerous but vital "Blue Tree" photographic missions over North Vietnam. Oriskany's first line period was short, lasting only until 3 June. Following a week or so at Subic Bay, the aircraft carrier returned to the line on 16 June. Enemy defenses in Laos were sparse in comparison to North Vietnam and aircraft mostly encountered small caliber antiaircraft fire. Indeed, the only pilot loss of the cruise took place on 20 July, when Lt. Stanley K. Smiley's Skyhawk crashed and exploded after being hit by small arms fire. The second line period ended on 30 June and, after ten days at Subic, the warship's third line period took place between 13-30 July. After a fourth line period between 16 August and 12 September, Oriskany steamed north to Korea to fly intermittent reconnaissance escort missions into early October. Following a fifth line period off Vietnam between 8-31 October, the aircraft carrier turned for home, arriving at Alameda via Subic Bay on 17 November.

Following a dry dock period at San Francisco Naval Shipyard over the winter, where the aircraft carrier was modified to support A-7 Corsair II aircraft, Oriskany embarked CVW-19 that spring for refresher operations. In contrast to previous deployments, she carried only four combat squadrons, VF-191 and VF-194 equipped with the familiar F8 Crusaders and VA-153 and VA-155 equipped with the new, snub-nosed Corsair II attack aircraft. Commencing her fifth Vietnam deployment on 14 May 1970, Oriskany inchopped on 1 June and began combat operations at Yankee Station on the 14th. Like her last deployment, Oriskany launched strikes against North Vietnamese logistics targets in eastern Laos, initially targeting storage areas, bunkers and lines of communication in conjunction with strikes by the Seventh Air Force. Equipped with better electronics gear, the Corsair II aircraft proved especially useful during night raids on the Ho Chi Minh trail. The missions remained dangerous, however, with a Corsair II from VA-155 lost in a failed catapult shot on 25 June and a VA-153 Corsair II crashing in Laos on 28 June. In the latter case, the aircraft, flown by Cdr. Donald D. Aldern, then Commander, Air Wing Nineteen, exploded during a night attack run, presumably after taking flak damage- During this phase of the deployment, the aircraft carrier conducted three line periods (14-29 June, 13-21 July, 3-25 August and 18 September to 13 October) and launched over 5,300 sorties. During the latter line period, a VF-191 Crusader returning from a night combat air patrol on 6 October crashed the flight deck and exploded, killing Lt. John B. Martin. In November, as part of the Navy's efforts to reduce costs, the number of aircraft carriers off Vietnam was reduced to one, meaning that Oriskany's sole focus in her fourth line period 7-22 November was missions over Laos. In that effort, she joined the Seventh Air Force in strikes against four identified bottleneck points along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The carrier suffered another deadly accident on 14 November, when an RF-8G Crusader from VFP-63 skidded off the flight deck after a failed catapult launch, killing Lt. Joseph R. Klugg. Then, in an unusual assignment, Oriskany flew 14 diversionary sorties over North Vietnam early on 21 November in support of the Son Tay POW rescue mission and another 48 missions during retaliatory strikes later that day. The aircraft carrier turned for home the next day, arriving in Alameda on 10 December.

In a by now familiar pattern, Oriskany underwent a restricted availability at Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco during January 1971, receiving a much looked for upgrade in the SPN-41 all-weather carrier landing system. Refresher training passed uneventfully in March and on 14 May the aircraft carrier departed Alameda for her sixth Vietnam deployment. While steaming across the Pacific via Pearl Harbor, however, the normally uneventful crossing was livened up by the appearance of four Tupolev TU-95 Bear strategic bombers east of the Philippines. Oriskany fighters intercepted and escorted the aircraft as they flew through the region. Like the previous year, CVW-19 carried out strikes against communist logistics targets in Laos during five line periods off Vietnam: 16 June - 10 July, 25 July - 7 August, 5-26 September and 4-19 November. In between line periods, however, other duties began to intrude, subtly but surely indicating the Navy's focus was shifting away from Vietnam. In mid-August, for example, the aircraft carrier took part in a transit exercise against an American nuclear-powered submarine. This was followed by a strike exercise against the Okinawa Air Defense network on the 26th. Then, between her last two line periods, Oriskany carried out exercises in Philippine waters with HMS Glamorgan 26-27 October, indicating a renewed multi-national focus in response to the growing threat of the Soviet Navy in the 1970s. The main mission of the deployment, however, remained strike operations in Laos and while there were no combat losses during the cruise, CVW-19 did lose four aircraft to operational accidents. Two cases were fatal, with Cdr. Charles P. Metzler killed when his Crusader inverted and splashed while in a landing holding pattern on 21 June and Cdr. Thomas P. Frank drowned after ejecting from his stricken Corsair II following a catapult launch failure on 1 November. A week later, Oriskany aircraft took part in Operation Proud Deep, the successful 7-8 November strike (the largest in three years) against three North Vietnamese airfields whose fighters were beginning to worry Air Force planners. Following these last missions, Oriskany sailed south to Singapore for eight days of upkeep. Toward the end of the transit, the aircraft carrier crossed the equator and close to 2,000 Pollywogs became Shellbacks, thus "joining the realm of King Neptunus Rex." Departing Singapore on 3 December, the warship steamed across the Pacific and arrived at Alameda via Subic Bay on the 18th for leave and upkeep.

As per her custom, Oriskany entered Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco, on 17 January 1972 for her winter restricted availability. Refresher training followed in April and she embarked CVW-19 for qualifications in May. Events in Vietnam meanwhile, forced the warship into feverish preparations for deployment and she sailed for her seventh Vietnam tour on 5 June 1972. Following refueling stops at Pearl Harbor and Guam, the aircraft carrier arrived at Subic Bay on 21 June. Three days later, after loading her last combat supplies, Oriskany sailed through heavy seas caused by typhoon Ora towards Yankee Station. On 28 June, however, the aircraft carrier collided with ammunition ship Nitro (AE-23) during an underway replenishment evolution. The collision put the number three aircraft elevator out of service but did not mission disable the carrier, so Oriskany took her place on the line that same day. There she joined six other aircraft carriers for Operation Linebacker, the largest bombing offensive against North Vietnam in five years and the largest gathering of aircraft carriers in a combat zone since World War II. Triggered in response to the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam from sanctuaries in Cambodia, navy and Air Force aircraft mined Haiphong harbor, dropped railroad and highway bridges with new precision-guided bombs and otherwise sought to isolate the southern battlefields from their supply sources in the north. In addition, the harbor mines and bridge strikes cut off the flow of foreign aid, and patrolling aircraft hunted small craft trying to shuttle supplies down the North Vietnamese coast.-Oriskany's first combat loss took place on 17 July, when Lt. Leon F. Haas was killed when his Corsair II crashed while conducting a night armed reconnaissance mission in the Tonkin Gulf. Four days later, the aircraft carrier herself suffered a major accident, when a screw and shaft section on number one main engine fell off. She spent 28 July to 11 August in dry dock at Yokosuka, Japan, for repairs, having number three elevator fixed as well.

Returning to Vietnam for the second and third line periods of the 1972 tour, 16 August - 1 September and 11-29 September, Oriskany and CVW-19 continued pounding targets in Quang Tri province south of the DMZ, playing their role in stopping the North Vietnamese Army offensive into South Vietnam. A spate of losses struck the air wing in late September, the first being a VA-155 Corsair II that suffered complete engine failure during a patrol over the Gulf of Tonkin. The pilot was able to eject safely and was quickly rescued by a helicopter from Long Beach (CGN-9). Four days later, another VA-155 Corsair II, piloted by Lt. Daniel V. Borah, was shot down by small arms fire near Quang Tri and the pilot was captured. Then, on the 26th, a third VA-155 Corsair II conducting an attack near the DMZ had the dubious distinction of running into a bomb dropped by an Air Force B-52 a mile overhead. Despite major damage to the vertical fin stabilizer, the pilot managed to coax the crippled plane to a safe landing at Da Nang airfield. Finally, on the morning of 27 September, a VF-194 Crusader crashed while trying to take off from the wet runway at Da Nang airfield, killing Lt. Richard B. Lineberry. Following a short upkeep period at Subic Bay, Oriskany returned to Vietnam for her fourth line period, 8-31 October. During the month, the pace of air strikes on storage areas and supply routes slowed as peace negotiations in Paris crept forward and then stopped as President Nixon formally ended Operation Linebacker on 23 October. The timing proved fortunate in one respect, as Oriskany lost a second screw, this time from number two shaft, on the 24th, and so diverted to Yokosuka in early November, arriving there on the 3rd.

Following the completion of repairs on 20 November 1972, the aircraft carrier returned to "Yankee Station" for her fifth line period, 25 November - 18 December. Although peace talks in Paris had stalled, Oriskany's aircraft continued to pound communist targets in South Vietnam as allowed by weather. The warship withdrew to Subic Bay for upkeep on the same day President Nixon began Operation "Linebacker II," a massive bomber-heavy series of raids on North Vietnam intended to kick start peace negotiations. The aircraft carrier joined the tail end of the so-called "Christmas bombing" campaign, for her sixth line period, 27 December - 30 January 1973. Attacks were then restricted to enemy targets south of the 20th parallel for the first two weeks of January and then below the 17th parallel starting on the 16th. With the Paris Peace Accords signed on 27 January, Oriskany's aviators finished up their last strikes over South Vietnam that same day. After a short rest period at Cubi Point in early February the aircraft carrier conducted one final combat line period, 11-22 February, when CVW-19 bombed enemy targets in Laos in a last effort to assist indigenous allies there against communist infiltration. Following upkeep at Cubi Point 8-14 March, Oriskany sailed for home, arriving at Alameda on the 30th after completing 169 days on the line, her longest and what proved to be her last combat tour.

After her usual fast-paced refit and training cycle, Oriskany got underway for the Far East on 18 October. After arrival at Subic Bay on 5 November, the aircraft carrier began preparations for operations in the Indian Ocean, a change of pace from her last seven tours off Vietnam. The aircraft carrier sailed south, transited the Straits of Malacca and rendezvoused with Hancock (CV-19) in the Indian Ocean. The two carriers conducted training operations there, and Oriskany visited Mombasa, Kenya, 22-27 December, before returning to the South China Sea in January 1974. The carrier then conducted various type training exercises out of Subic Bay in February and March, primarily concentrating on day and night flight operations in conjunction with other 7th fleet units. Following a series of three Fleet exercises in April, the warship visited Manila in May before sailing for home, arriving at Alameda on 5 June.

Two months later, the warship entered Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 15 August for an extended availability that lasted until 9 April 1975. Following refresher operations with CVW-19, Oriskany sailed on her fifteenth and final western Pacific deployment on 16 September. The carrier conducted war at sea and other exercises out of Subic Bay before returning home on 3 March 1976. Owing to defense budget cuts, as well as wear and tear on the old carrier, Oriskany was tapped for inactivation on 15 April and soon decommissioned on 30 September 1976.

Towed to Bremerton, Wash., the old carrier remained in reserve until struck from the Navy list on 25 July 1989 for use as a museum ship or scrapping. Initially intended for possible sale to Japan as a museum ship, the hulk was eventually ordered scrapped, the hulk was towed to the Gulf Coast, but three subsequent dismantling contracts were cancelled owing to cost and environmental concerns. Ultimately, after many years of planning and hazardous material clean up, the aircraft carrier was sunk as an artificial reef off Pensacola, Florida, 17 May 2006.

Oriskany received two battle stars for Korean service and ten for Vietnamese service.