The USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) was the second of three Midway class carriers, and the first carrier to be named for a U.S. President. Construction was started in December 1943. Originally the ship was christened as the USS Coral Sea when launched 29 April 1945, but on 8 May President Harry Truman approved the recommendation of the Secretary of the Navy to change the name to honor the recently deceased President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The FDR was commissioned 27 October 1945 at the New York Naval Shipyard.
Originally launched as a straight deck carrier, the angle deck was added in 1954 during an extensive rework at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. In addition to the angle deck addition, radar and other systems were modernized. Recommissioned in 1956, she was homeported in Mayport, Florida (near Jacksonville).
The FDR was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet for her entire career, and deployed frequently to operations in the Atlantic as well as the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas. Only one deployment was made to Vietnam, August 1966 to January 1967. Here is an account of the Naval Security Group’s role during that deployment.
The USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, homeported in Mayport, Florida. She left homeport on the 21st of June 1966 with the Chief of Staff of Commander Carrier Division Nine (COMCARDIV 9) embarked, headed for St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands via the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range. After an overnight stop at St. Thomas to embark an Operational Readiness Inspection team she continued on to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, arriving in the morning on the 8th of July. Enroute the ship crossed the Equator on 4 July, but no Shellback ceremony was held.
After three days at anchorage in Guanabara Bay, Rio De Janeiro, the FDR weighed anchor Monday morning, 11 July 1966 and proceeded into the Atlantic; destined for Subic Bay in the Philippines via the Cape of Good Hope and a transit across the Indian Ocean.
This rather lengthy transit would require refueling at some point, and the refueling problem was compounded by political considerations. The most likely place to refuel was Capetown, South Africa, but the politicians were concerned with anything that might be construed as approval of South Africa’s apartheid policy, and issues that might arise concerning the integrated crew of the ship. The fueling dilemma was finally resolved by scheduling several underway replenishment evolutions, the first on the 18th of July with the USS Allagash (AO-97). At this point in the transit the FDR had already rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and reported sighting the Bird Island light at eleven miles.
On Tuesday July 26, the FDR entered the Realm of Neptunus Rex, crossing the Equator at 86-02.5 East around noon of that day. In a fitting ceremony the FDR was cleansed of her complement of Pollywogs, and continued on toward Subic Bay, exiting the Indian Ocean via the Straits of Malacca on the 28th of July. FDR refueled again after passing Singapore, this time with the USS Platte (AO-24) on the 29th of July. On the first of August the FDR stood into Subic Bay and moored starboard side to Alava Pier at Naval Station Subic.
At Naval Communications Station Philippines, located twenty some miles north of Subic Bay, a team of thirteen Naval Security Group cryptologists had been assembled under the leadership of Lieutenant Carl W. Strobel. With nearly ten years of service and a pending promotion to Lieutenant Commander, Strobel was well-qualified to lead a team supporting a carrier with no previous Vietnam experience. But because he was due for promotion in October, another junior officer, Ensign Airell B. Jenks, had already been nominated to replace Lieutenant Strobel as soon as Jenks could be brought back from flight duty in Da Nang.
The FDR’s deck log for the fifth of August reflects a shift of berth from Alava Pier (the main pier of Subic Naval Base) to Leyte Pier (the pier used by carriers at Naval Air Station Cubi Point, adjacent to Subic Naval Base). The muster report for that date reflects the arrival of the thirteen Naval Security Group Detachment men from San Miguel. Two days later, after the arrival of the remainder of the COMCARDIV 9 staff, the FDR got underway from Subic, headed for Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin.
“Rosie” joined the war on the tenth of August, when her first combat sorties were flown against North Vietnam. Although not recorded in the unclassified deck log, the NSG detachment would have begun operations about the same time, manning three to four collection positions in FDR’s supplemental radio (SupRad) space, and providing additional support to the staff, the latter in the form of intelligence summary messages received via the Western Pacific Operational Intelligence broadcast.
This routine continued until the 23rd of August, when Ensign Jenks caught up with the team. After returning from Da Nang and flight duties, Jenks had a brief work-up at San Miguel before flying out to the FDR to relieve Lieutenant Strobel. After a short turnover, Strobel departed the ship via the C-1A COD the following day, returning to San Miguel.
Another deployment milestone occurred on the 28th of August, when Captain George C. Talley, Jr. assumed command of the FDR, relieving Captain Charles L. Burbage. Operations in the GOT continued under Captain Talley until the 12th of September 1966, when the ship was temporarily released from combat duties on Yankee Station to proceed to Yokosuka, Japan for liberty and upkeep. Shortly before, on the 9th, one of the NSG team members was returned to San Miguel for humanitarian reasons, so upon arrival in Yokosuka on the 16th the NSG detachment mustered twelve total.
The humanitarian transfer illustrated how sometimes confusion arose from a dual chain-of-command. Although technically the NSG Detachment was assigned to the embarked staff (or ship if no staff was embarked), the NSG also operated a parallel communications system (CRITICOM) that allowed the division officer (as Det OIC) to send message traffic under his own signature. A humanitarian transfer normally was an administrative matter that typically would be handled by the ship’s office, but when the division officer requested such, he was told that the ship would only approve humanitarian transfers for very serious cases, and the case in question did not qualify. Not willing to give up, the division officer sent an unclassified message via CRITICOM to San Miguel, requesting relief. San Miguel approved the request and informed the ship via a general service (GENSER) message, making the transfer a matter of record. As a reference, San Miguel included the date time group of the original CRITICOM message (only held in SupRad), which created some confusion in the ship’s office since they didn’t have the referenced message available. After all was straightened out, the FDR’s Executive Officer directed that in the future any such correspondence would be GENSER only (thus requiring the XO’s review and the Captain’s releasing signature).
During the ship’s time in port Yokosuka COMCARDIV 9 held a change of command, with Rear Admiral Curtiss relieving Rear Admiral Cousins on the 23rd of September. Three days later the “Rosie” left Yokosuka with the NSG det back up to full strength at 13 total.
Shortly after return to the GOT, the ship suffered a major engineering casualty. Severe vibrations were noted, and after going dead in the water, divers were put over the side. Their inspection revealed part of one screw was missing, a problem serious enough that FDR was forced to limp back to Yokosuka for a stay in dry dock to effect necessary repairs. Prior to departure from the GOT COMCARDIV 9 shifted to the USS Oriskany (CVA-34). FDR arrived back in Yokosuka on the 7th of October and stayed until the 16th.
With repairs complete, FDR stood out of Yokosuka on the morning of 16 October and headed back to the GOT, arriving on 20 Oct and commencing operations immediately. Three additional people joined the detachment on 29 October, bringing the total number assigned to 16.
Towards the middle of November the FDR completed her second line period and headed for rest and upkeep at Subic, arriving on the 15th of November at Alava Pier, Subic Bay Naval Station. For the NSG detachment, it was a chance to turnover personnel, with four team members relieved and replaced. The Detachment Officer in Charge, Ensign Jenks was among those relieved, replaced by Lieutenant (junior grade) Gregory Wanamaker, who reported to the “Rosie” on the 20th of November.
Shortly after Wanamaker reported, the FDR was forced to sortie from Subic to avoid a storm, leaving behind CT3 Roger A. Johnson. Johnson returned to the ship the following day when the ship returned following passage of the storm, only to discover that not only was he listed as an unauthorized absentee, but that he had missed ship’s movement, a slightly more serious offense in the eyes of the Navy.
With upkeep completed, the ship with the 17 man team embarked departed Subic 22 November, headed back to the GOT and a third line period.
Some personnel turnover occurred between 10 and 15 December, and by the 19th of December the team complement stood at 16 men (one officer/15 enlisted). Christmas was spent on the line, with the compensation being entertained by Bob Hope’s USO show. After spending Christmas on Yankee Station, the FDR concluded her third and final line period, pulling into Subic Bay 30 December 1966, just in time to bring in the New Year.
The ship remained in Subic for the first week of the New Year, allowing for crew rest and minor repairs to be completed. On January 5, although probably not known by the majority of the crew, Captain Talley suffered a heart attack, and doctors on board determined that the Captain was too ill to continue in command. On the morning of 7 January the Commander, Seventh Fleet made a brief visit and later that afternoon Captain James D. “Jig Dog” Ramage reported on board with verbal orders from Seventh Fleet to assume command.
The following day Roosevelt got underway for Hong Kong, arriving at anchorage in Hong Kong on the 10th. The 17-man NSG team spent four days in Hong Kong, probably the premier liberty port in the Western Pacific before returning to Subic on 17 January for off load to San Miguel. The final muster of the NSG Detachment totaled 17 men. On 18 January 1967 the FDR stood out of Subic headed for Capetown, South Africa.
Detachment Roster (Partial list)
LT Carl W. Strobel (5 Aug 66 – 23 Aug 66) NCSP
ENS Airell B. Jenks (24 Aug 66 – 20 Nov 66) NCSP
LTjg Gregory Wanamaker (21 Nov 66 – 17 Jan 67) NCSP
CTRC Augustus “Gus” Schubert NCSP
CTR3 Robert C. Willis Hanza
CTR3 William B. Dillon, Jr. (1 Aug 66 – Sep 66) Hanza
CT3 Roger A. Johnson NCSP
Following the departure of the NSG detachment on the 17th, FDR took on fuel during the morning of the following day, and that afternoon got underway at 1650, departing Leyte Pier for Capetown, South Africa. Less than an hour later, just after the pilot departed the ship and with FDR barely past Grande Island, emergency stop was ordered due to vibrations. At 1812 FDR anchored at the mouth of Subic Bay and divers were put over the side to determine the cause. Nothing significant was found, and at 1859 anchor was weighed and she stood out into the local operations area off Subic. Early the following morning (0708) she briefly returned to anchorage in Subic Bay, but stood out a second time at 1108; resuming her journey to Capetown. For the crew, the chance for another night of Olongapo liberty was gone.
The USS Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Vietnam cruise hadn’t been a great one for liberty, despite several lengthy stays in Subic and Yokosuka. Both ports were considered working ports, with visits used to accomplish the many small repairs necessary during a deployment. Outside of the overnight in St. Thomas and three days in Rio De Janeiro, the only liberty port the ship visited was Hong Kong. As they stood out of Subic, Capetown was on the horizon, a chance for several days of liberty in a port not commonly frequented by the U.S. Navy.
The westward transit across the Indian Ocean was completed 4 February 1967 as the FDR stood into Capetown, firing 21 gun salutes to the host nation and her president. By 0900 the ship was moored starboard side to Duncan Dock in Capetown’s Table Bay. The ship was opened to visitors, and liberty call went down at 1600.
The entire crew was looking forward to the Capetown visit. In addition to a chance for the rank and file to relax, the visit to Capetown was also a “show the flag” visit, with daily tours and receptions for senior officers scheduled. All that abruptly ended the afternoon of 6 February, when the ship unexpectedly got underway for Mayport. Politics had intervened again, much to the disappointment of the crew. Three of the ship’s crew remained, unauthorized absentees in Capetown.
After a direct transit across the Atlantic, the “Rosie” stood into Mayport, Florida, mooring at her berth at 1542. The USS Franklin D. Roosevelt’s only Vietnam deployment had ended.
Roosevelt crew members were awarded campaign medals from both the United States and the Republic of Vietnam, but no unit commendation for the deployment. During this deployment she crossed the Equator four times; however, there was no NSG complement onboard during any of these crossings.
The Roosevelt never made another deployment to the Western Pacific, but did continue to deploy to the Atlantic and Mediterranean for many years following. Time started taking its toll, however, and of the three Midway class carriers, FDR’s material condition was the worst. Her final deployment (to the Med) was from October 1976 to April 1977. She was decommissioned 30 September 1977, and sold for scrap the following spring (1 April 78).
Editor’s note: If you were part of this detachment, or can provide more detail, please post here or contact me at email@example.com.
LT Airell Jenks
CDR Carl W. Strobel, USN (ret.)
CTRC William B. Dillon, USN (ret.)
Deck logs for the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (June 1966 – February 1967)
Naval History and Heritage Command – FDR ship’s history
 The WestPac Opintel Broadcast, or GOPI, was one channel of a multiplexed broadcast signal received by WestPac ships. The GOPI ran twenty-four hours daily and was decrypted via a KWR-37 JASON broadcast receiver installed in the SupRad. Off-ship generated support of this nature was sometimes referred to as “direct service,” in contrast to “direct support.” Direct support referred to signals and intelligence actually produced on board.
 COD – Carrier Onboard Delivery, a twin engine prop plane used to move passengers, light parts and mail to and from the carrier.
 COMCARDIV 9 never rejoined the FDR.
 Ramage was a legendary Navy pilot who was then serving as CTF 77 Chief of Staff. Ramage was CO for four days, relieved 12 Jan 67 by Captain Martin G. O’Neill while the ship was in Hong Kong.
By LCDR Robert E. Morrison, USN, Ret