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USS Oriskany

Wreck Diving Trips

Diving USS Oriskany

Come and dive one of the worlds largest ships. Big "O" was sunk as an artificial reef 17 May 2006


The history of Oriskany differs considerably from that of her sister ships. Originally designed as a "long-hulled" Essex-class ship (considered by some authorities to be a separate class, the Ticonderoga class) her construction was suspended in 1946. She eventually was commissioned in 1950 after conversion to an updated design called SCB-27 ("27-Charlie"), which became the template for modernization of 14 other Essex-class ships. Oriskany was the final Essex-class ship completed.

She operated primarily in the Pacific into the 1970s, earning two battle stars for service in the Korean War, and five for service in the Vietnam War. In 1966, one of the worst shipboard fires since World War II broke out on Oriskany when a magnesium flare was accidentally ignited; forty-four men died in the fire.

Oriskany's post-service history also differs considerably from that of her sister ships. Decommissioned in 1976, she was sold for scrap in 1995, but was repossessed in 1997 because nothing was being done. In 2004, it was decided to sink her as an artificial reef off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. After much environmental review and remediation to remove toxic substances, she was carefully sunk in May 2006, settling in an upright position at a depth accessible to recreational divers. As of 2008, Oriskany is the largest vessel ever sunk to make a reef.

Service history


Oriskany departed New York on 6 December 1950, for carrier qualification operations off Jacksonville, Florida, followed by a Christmas call at Newport, Rhode Island. She resumed operations off Jacksonville through 11 January 1951, when she embarked Carrier Air Group 1 for shakedown out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

After major modifications at New York Naval Shipyard from 6 March to 2 April, she embarked Carrier Air Group 4 for training off Jacksonville, then departed Newport on 15 May 1951, for Mediterranean deployment with the 6th Fleet.

Having swept from ports of Italy and France to those of Greece and Turkey, from there to the shores of Tripoli, Oriskany returned to Quonset Point, Rhode Island on 4 October 1951. She entered Gravesend Bay, New York on 6 November 1951 to offload ammunition and to have her masts removed to allow passage under the East River Bridges to the New York Naval Shipyard. Overhaul included the installation of a new flight deck, steering system, and bridge. Work was complete by 15 May 1952, and the carrier steamed the next day to take on ammunition at Norfolk, Virginia from 19–22 May. She then got underway to join the Pacific Fleet, steaming via Guantanamo Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Horn, Valparaíso, and Lima, arriving San Diego, California on 21 July.

Following carrier qualifications for Carrier Air Group 19, Oriskany departed San Diego on 15 September 1952, to aid United Nations forces in Korea. She arrived Yokosuka on 17 October and joined Task Force 77 off the Korean Coast on 31 October. Her aircraft struck hard with bombing and strafing attacks against enemy supply lines and coordinated bombing missions with surface gunstrikes along the coast. Her pilots downed two Soviet-built MiG-15 jets and damaged a third on 18 November.

Strikes continued through 11 February, attacking enemy artillery positions, troop emplacements, and supply dumps along the main battlefront. Following a brief upkeep period in Japan, Oriskany returned to combat on 1 March 1953. She continued in action until 29 March, called at Hong Kong, then resumed air strikes on 8 April. She departed the Korean Coast on 22 April, touched at Yokosuka, and then departed for San Diego on 2 May, arriving there on 18 May.

Following readiness training along the California coast, Oriskany departed San Francisco on 14 September to aid the 7th Fleet watching over the uneasy truce in Korea, arriving in Yokosuka on 15 October. Thereafter, she cruised the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea, and the area of the Philippines. After providing air support for Marine amphibious assault exercises at Iwo Jima, the carrier returned to San Diego on 22 April 1954. She entered San Francisco Naval Shipyard for overhaul; the overhaul was completed on 22 October, when she put to sea for the first of a series of coastal operations, and participation in the production of the Korean War-era film The Bridges at Toko-Ri, where she stood in for the escort carrier USS Savo Island.

Oriskany arrived at Yokosuka on 2 April 1955, and operated with the Fast Carrier Task Force ranging from Japan and Okinawa to the Philippines. This deployment ended on 7 September, and the carrier arrived at NAS Alameda, California, on 21 September.

She cruised the California Coast while qualifying pilots of Air Group 9, then put to sea from Alameda on 11 February 1956 for another rigorous Western Pacific (WestPac) deployment.


Oriskany returned to San Francisco on 13 August 1956, and entered the shipyard to undergo the SCB-125A modernization program on 1 October. She was decommissioned there on 2 January 1957. Oriskany received a new angled flight deck, aft deck edge elevator, enlarged forward elevator, and enclosed hurricane bow. Powerful new steam catapults replaced the older hydraulic catapults. The wooden flight deck planking was also replaced with aluminum planking.

Oriskany was recommissioned at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard on 7 March 1959, Captain James Mahan Wright was in command. Four days later she departed for shakedown out of San Diego with Carrier Air Group 14 embarked. Operations along the West Coast continued until 14 May 1960, when she again deployed to WestPac, returning to San Diego on 15 December. She entered San Francisco Naval Shipyard on 30 March 1961, for a five-month overhaul that included the first aircraft carrier installation of the Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS).

Oriskany departed the shipyard on 9 September for underway training out of San Diego until 7 June 1962, when she again deployed to the Far East with Carrier Air Group 16 embarked. She returned to San Diego on 17 December for operational readiness training off the West Coast.

The carrier was again stationed out of San Diego on 1 August 1963, for Far Eastern waters, with Carrier Air Group 16 embarked. She arrived at Subic Bay on 31 August 1963, and from there steamed to Japan. She was at the port of Iwakuni, Japan, on the morning of 31 October, en route to the coast of South Vietnam. There, she stood by for any eventuality as word was received of the coup d'état taking place in Saigon. When the crisis abated, the carrier resumed operations from Japanese ports.

Oriskany returned to San Diego on 10 March 1964. After overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, she steamed for refresher training out of San Diego, followed by qualifications for Carrier Air Wing 16. During this period her flight deck was used to test the E-2 Hawkeye, the Navy's new airborne early warning aircraft. She also provided orientation to senior officers of eight allied nations.

Oriskany departed San Diego on 5 April 1965, for WestPac, arriving at Subic Bay on 27 April. By this time more United States Marines had landed in the South Vietnam to support Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops against increased communist pressure. Oriskany added her weight to the massive American naval strength supporting South Vietnam. In combat operations that brought her and embarked Carrier Air Wing 16 the Navy Unit Commendation for exceptionally meritorious service from 10 May to 6 December 1965, she carried out over 12,000 combat sorties and delivered nearly 10,000 tons (9,100 tonnes) of ordnance against enemy forces. She departed Subic Bay on 30 November, and returned to San Diego on 16 December.

Oriskany again left San Diego for the Far East on 26 May 1966, arriving in Yokosuka, Japan, on 14 June. She steamed for "Dixie Station" off South Vietnam on 27 June. The carrier shifted to "Yankee Station" in the Gulf of Tonkin on 8 July. In the following months there were brief respites for replenishment in Subic Bay, then back into the action that saw her launch 7,794 combat sorties.

USS Oriskany

Apologies for the poor quality of video. There is very little video on Oriskany (so hopefully we will be able to remedy that after the trip!)

© Pete Mesley's Lust4Rust and Shock&Awe Big Animal Diving - Auckland, New Zealand, 2103