Monday, February 25, 2013

USS Nimitz Task Force Homecoming, 1980

This is a picture of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) arriving at Naval Station Norfolk on Memorial Day, 1980, with her escorts USS California (CGN-36) and USS Texas (CGN-39). With the stream of small boats, fire boats, and tug boats, this homecoming was the largest homecoming celebration since World War II. President Jimmy Carter and many members of his cabinet came to Naval Station Norfolk to meet the task force's sailors in person. 

An ad that appeared in Soundings newspaper,
encouraging Hampton Roads' small boat owners
to greet the Nimitz task force home. 
The reason for the huge, public display of support was because of the events that proceeded the homecoming.  The all-nuclear-powered task force left Norfolk in mid-1979, expecting nothing more than the usual Mediterranean cruise.  The task force changed course for the Indian Ocean due to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis.

While in the Indian Ocean, the task force not only had to be prepared to launch combat operations against Iran, but also needed to keep military units of the Soviet Union at bay. Soviet bombers and ships frequently attempted to get close to the task force to spy on and harass the Americans.

The Carter Administration then authorized Operation Eagle Claw, an attempt to rescue the American hostages being held in Tehran. With members of Delta Force and U.S. Army rangers on board, helicopters launched from Nimitz to a spot in central Iran labeled "Desert One." Through a series of mishaps that resulted eight American causalities and the loss of a helicopter and one C-130 aircraft, the operation was called off.

In addition to Eagle Claw's failure, the task force had been at sea for over 140 days before finally being relieved. To show support for their hard work and dedication, Hampton Roads made an all-out effort to welcome the weary task force home.

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