Harry S Truman heading for Cape Town

Mar 15, 2005
Author: P&S

The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) is scheduled to visit Cape Town at the end of March (see our report in this column dated 1 March).

The aircraft carrier is due in Cape Town harbour on 29 March in the company of USS Monterey (CG 61), a Ticonderoga class cruiser. At this stage it is not known whether the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Albuquerque (SSN 706), a part of the aircraft carrier strike group, will also make the visit or where the submarine may otherwise be at the time - possibly Simon's Town? The two or three vessels will remain at the Mother City until 3 April.

USS Harry S Truman is the eighth of nine Nimitz class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the US Navy and is homeported at Norfolk.

For the city and people of Cape Town the visit will provide a wonderful fillip as thousands of sailors go ashore to see the sights and visit tourist attractions - the aircraft carrier normally has a total crew of about 5 680 people while the cruiser carries over 380 sailors.

USS Harry S Truman was laid down in November 1993 and launched in September 1996 from the Newport News shipyard. Commissioning took place two years later on July 25.

The ship has two nuclear reactors providing steam for the steam turbines and driving four five-bladed propellers for a speed in excess of 30 knots and it is estimated the aircraft carrier will run for between 20 and 25 years without refuelling. She displaces 100 000 tons fully loaded and has a draught of 11.7m.

Two US Navy destroyers, USS Barry (DDG 52) and USS Mason (DDG 87) are to visit Durban where they have been booked at O-berth alongside the T-Jetty. A replenishment vessel, USS Arctic (T-AOE8) is listed for Richards Bay. The three are scheduled to arrive on 27 March and will sail again on 1 April to rejoin the strike group off Cape Town.

The six ships of the Harry S Truman carrier strike group have been on duty in the Persian Gulf where they relieved the USS John F Kennedy CSG late last year.

Of the two ships visiting Durban, USS Barry was named after a War of Independence hero, Commodore John Barry and is at least the fifth ship to bear this name.

The first version of the USS Mason (DE 529), named for a navy airman shot down during the Battle of the Coral Sea in World War II, has an interesting story attached that will resonate among South African readers. Laid down in 1943 the ship became the only US Navy vessel to be crewed entirely by black sailors (with white officers) - US armed forces at that time being strictly segregated and the US Navy was 98% white.

During one particular convoy across the North Atlantic the ship and its crew performed extraordinary service despite a Force 8 storm, which resulted in a recommendation from the convoy commander that each crew member of the destroyer receive a letter of commendation for outstanding performance - a request that was subsequently denied for fifty years by which time many of the original crew had passed away.

The current USS Mason is on her maiden deployment with the USS Harry S Truman carrier strike group.

acknowledgements to a number of sources including the US Navy for above information

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