During her decades-long run, the supercarrier spent most of its time in the Atlantic and Mediterranean but also did make three deployments in the Pacific while serving during the Vietnam War. Furthermore, it took part in key operations during the Persian Gulf War.
However, according to USSAmerica.org, she was scuttled southeast of Cape Hatteras after four weeks of tests in 2005. She was the largest warship ever to be sunk, and the only supercarrier that met its demise either on purpose or in active combat.
“America was the first large aircraft carrier since Operation Crossroads in 1946 to be expended in weapons tests,” the site noted, adding that some crewmembers demanded that the supercarrier be instituted as a memorial museum instead.
The Navy had confirmed that it sank the carrier in controlled flooding, with explosives set inside the ship. That was the culmination of a series of explosives tests aimed to help design the CVN-78.
Weeks to Accomplish
But why did this take four weeks to accomplish?
Blake Horner, a mechanical engineer, explained on Quora via the Aviation Geek Club that “it took four weeks and they ended up having to scuttle her from on board due to her not sinking. She is not only far larger than WWII battleships, but she is also a lot tougher. While she does not have the heavy armor the battleships of yore had, she does have a double layered hull, meaning weapons have to push through alternating layers of steel and empty pockets to reach her internals.”
He continued: “On top of that, her internal compartmentalization was far better than that of battleships. She is so large, there are so many more rooms that must be filled in order to make her sink than that of a battleship. … The whole point of the tests was to make future carriers more survivable, as well as see how warships reacted to underwater explosion and damage. Clearly, after taking a beating for four weeks, they can survive a LOT due to just their sheer bulk.”
Where She Rests
The Daily Press had reported that according to the electronic ship transmission released by the Naval Sea Systems Command, the warship slipped beneath the waves at thirty-three degrees, nine minutes, nine seconds north latitude and seventy-one degrees, thirty-nine minutes, seven seconds west longitude. That would place the USS America approximately four hundred eighty miles east of Charleston, South Carolina and roughly four hundred miles west of Bermuda.
Walt Waite, the vice president of USS America Carrier Veterans Association who served as a boatswain’s mate on the vessel in the late 1960s, told the paper that the carrier likely didn’t sink straight down and could have shifted a mile or more during the long descent.
“That flight deck with the taper of the hull would actually act like a wing,” he said.
“It could have traveled forward, or it could have gone into a left or right turn. I’d be very surprised if she’s directly under the spot she was last seen on the surface,” he added.
The water depth in the area of the sinking is believed to be nearly seventeen thousand feet, which is more than four thousand feet deeper than where the Titanic currently sits in the North Atlantic.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.