50TH ANNIVERSARY OF COMMISSIONING OF USS ``JOHN F. KENNEDY''; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 57
(Extensions of Remarks - April 10, 2018)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E423]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                         HON. GUS M. BILIRAKIS

                               of florida

                    in the house of representatives

                        Tuesday, April 10, 2018

  Mr. BILIRAKIS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the 50th 
anniversary of the commissioning of the first aircraft carrier named 
after our 35th President of the United States, the USS John F. Kennedy. 
President John F. Kennedy began his political career as a member of 
this chamber and his legacy continues to this day with our colleague 
from Massachusetts, and his great-nephew, Joe Kennedy.
  The USS John F. Kennedy, nicknamed ``Big John,'' was the only ship of 
her class and the last conventionally powered carrier built for the 
United States Navy. Since its first keel plates were laid down on 
October 22, 1964, at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company 
in Virginia, the ship grew weld by weld and deck by deck to its full 
magnitude--five city blocks in length, 252 feet across the flight deck, 
and the height of a 23-story building.
  Big John was officially christened by President Kennedy's 9-year-old 
daughter, Caroline, on May 27, 1967, just two days short of what would 
have been President Kennedy's 50th birthday. Some 30,000 spectators 
gathered at the shipyard to witness the launching of the Navy's newest 
aircraft carrier. President Lyndon B. Johnson, delivering the principal 
address, was joined at the podium by members of the Kennedy family 
including Caroline, the Matron of Honor Jackie Kennedy, and a 
distinguished list of military and civilian officials.
  As the bottle of champagne crashed across the bow with Caroline's 
swift blow, the ship floated free from the keel blocks that had 
supported her during years of construction. In that moment, Hull 577 
became the mighty aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy. A little over a 
year later, the ship entered the fleet after being commissioned on 
September 7, 1968 with Captain Earl P. Yates in command.
  The Kennedy's maiden voyage and several of her subsequent voyages 
were on deployments to the Mediterranean during the 1970s to help deal 
with the steadily deteriorating situation in the Middle East. It was 
during the seventies that Big John was upgraded to handle the F-14 
Tomcat and the S-3 Viking. During her seventh deployment in 1978, 
Kennedy set a record of 31,568 flight hours and 12,438 arrested 
  On January 4, 1982, Big John sailed as the flagship for Carrier Group 
4 from Norfolk, Virginia on her ninth deployment and her first visit to 
the Indian Ocean. During her time there, the USS John F. Kennedy played 
host to the first visit of the Somali head of state aboard a U.S. Naval 
ship, held the largest mass re-enlistment ceremony in her history 
officiated by the Secretary of the Navy, and achieved her 150,000th 
arrested landing. Her cruise ended with port visits to Mombasa, Kenya 
and Toulon, France before returning home on July 14, 1982.
  In October 1983, Big John was diverted to Beirut, Lebanon from her 
planned Indian Ocean deployment, after the Beirut barracks bombing 
killed 241 U.S. military personnel taking part in the Multinational 
Force in Lebanon, and spent the rest of that year and early 1984 
patrolling the region. On December 4, 1983, ten A-6 aircraft from 
Kennedy along with A-6 and A-7 aircraft from USS Independence took part 
in a bombing raid over Beirut, in response to two U.S. F-14 aircraft 
being fired upon the previous day.
  Setting sail in July 1986, Kennedy was the focus of the world when 
she served as the centerpiece of a vast international naval armada 
during the International Review in honor of the 100th anniversary and 
rededication of the Statue of Liberty. Big John hosted President Ronald 
Reagan and many other dignitaries during the review. Kennedy departed 
for the Mediterranean in August of that year, returning home in March 
1987. During her November 1987 work ups, Kennedy's flight deck crew 
trapped their 200,000th arrested landing.
  In August 1988, the USS John F. Kennedy departed Norfolk, Virginia 
for her 12th major deployment to the Mediterranean. During this 
deployment, a pair of MiG-23 Flogger fighter aircraft from Libya 
approached the carrier task force, which was 81 miles off the shores of 
Libya conducting routine flight operations in international water. Big 
John launched two F-14 Tomcats from the VF-32 ``Fighting Swordsmen'' to 
intercept the incoming MiGs and escort them away from the task force. 
During the course of the intercept, the MiGs were determined to be 
hostile and both Libyan aircrafts were shot down.
  Big John entered the nineties eager to take on new challenges as part 
of America's commitment to help keep the world's oceans free for all 
nations. After spending the first half of 1990 participating in various 
exercises, the carrier paid a visit to New York City for Fleet Week and 
Boston for the Fourth of July--hosting more than 180,000 visitors.
  In August of that year, the USS John F. Kennedy received short-fused 
orders to load up and get underway in support of Operation Desert 
Shield. Big John arrived in the Red Sea in September 1990 and was 
chosen as the flagship of the Commander, Red Sea Battle Force. On 
January 16, 1991, aircraft from the embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 
Three, began Operation Desert Storm as part of a multi-nation coalition 
to drive Iraq out of neighboring Kuwait. Throughout the war, aircraft 
from JFK flew 2,895 sorties and 114 strikes delivering over 3.5 million 
pounds of ordnance over 11,263 combat hours. Following the cease fire, 
Big John passed through the Suez Canal for the fourth time in seven 
months and began her journey home. When the carrier arrived home in 
Norfolk, Virginia on March 28, 1991, her crew was witness to the 
greatest homecoming celebration and outpouring of public support since 
World War II.
  Big John's next deployment from October 7, 1992 until April 7, 1993 
was her 14th to the Mediterranean Sea. This cruise was marked by the 
developing turmoil in the former country of Yugoslavia. Throughout the 
ship's deployment, the crew hosted many visitors, both in port and at 
sea, and conducted numerous joint exercises with armed forces from 
Mediterranean littoral nations and spent most of her time in the 
Adriatic Sea. She passed another milestone by logging her 250,000th 
arrested landing on December 8, 1992.
  Following the deployment and a two-year comprehensive overhaul at 
Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, she was transferred to the Mayport Naval 
Station near Jacksonville, Florida, which remained the ship's home 
port. In October 1995, the USS John F. Kennedy was designated to be an 
operational reserve carrier and Naval Reserve Force ship with a 
combined full-time active duty and part-time Naval Reserve crew, 
assigned to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. In this capacity, her new primary 
function was to provide a surge capability, and in peacetime, to 
support training requirements.
  Following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, the 
Operational Reserve Carrier concept was discontinued and Big John was 
returned to the active duty fleet. Her 15th and 16th deployments 
included transits of the Suez Canal, operations in the Persian Gulf. 
There, she became the first U.S. aircraft carrier to make a port call 
in Al Aqabah, Jordan, while also playing host to the King of Jordan. 
During the first six months of 2002, Big John's aircraft dropped 31,000 
tons of ordnance on Taliban and al Qaeda targets in support of 
Operation Enduring Freedom. On August 8th, the carrier passed through 
the Strait of Gibraltar and returned to Mayport Naval Station on August 
17, 2002.
  The USS John F. Kennedy deployed again in 2004 with Carrier Air Wing 
17 and sailed east in support of the Global War on Terror. She passed 
through the Suez Canal and on July 10, 2004, launched her first 
aircraft in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, providing critical 
overhead support for Multi-National Corps--Iraq and Iraqi forces. 
During the deployment, CVW-17 aircraft flew 8,296 sorties for a total 
flight time of 21,824 hours. The veteran carrier and her air wing 
transited the Suez Canal, homeward-bound, in late November returning to 
Mayport Naval Station on December 13, 2004. On December 30th, a little 
over two weeks later, the U.S. Navy announced its intention to 
decommission the ship.
  On March 23, 2007, the USS John F. Kennedy was decommissioned. She 
set sail on her last voyage at the end of a tow line in July of that 
year, setting course for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which she 
reached on August 1, 2007. The carrier was stricken from the Naval 
Vessel Register on October 16, 2009.
  The 80,000 ton warship, namesake of the 35th President of the United 
States, saw 18 deployments and boasted 30 commanding officers in its 
illustrious 38 years of service. I commend all those who contributed to 
the legacy of this great ship--from its builders to the men and women 
in uniform who served aboard to keep our nation safe.