The first INDEPENDENCE was commissioned in 1776 was a brig of 12 guns. She was built in Kingston Massachusetts at Jones river landing by William Drew as a ship of the Massachusetts Provincial Navy. The procurement agent for the Provincial Government of Massachusetts was William Sever.
The Commanding Officer was Capt. Simeon Sampson. She cruised of the coast of Massachusetts for 3 months, taking several prizes, in that time.
She was captured off the coast of Nova Scotia in a running Gun battle with British ships HMS Hope and HMS Nancy. She was condemned by the British Admiralty and disposed by a Prize Court. Her guns were removed and used to reinforce Fort Cumberland.
The second INDEPENDENCE was the first INDEPENDENCE in the Continental Navy, a sloop built in Baltimore, Maryland. In September 1776
She cruised under Captain John Young along the Atlantic Coast to the Caribbean to guard American merchant trade in the West Indies.
In mid-1777 she sailed for France. She captured two prizes en route and disposed of these in France before the Royal Navy could interfere.
She was in Quiberon Bay on 14 February 1778 when John Paul Jones received the first salute to the flag-first official recognition of the American Republic by a foreign power.
INDEPENDENCE soon sailed for the United States. She was wrecked on the bar 24 April 1778 while attempting to enter Okracoke inlet, N.C.
INDEPENDENCE, First ship-of-the-line commissioned in the U.S. Navy, launched 22 June 1814 in the Boston Navy Yard. She immediately took on guns and was stationed with frigate Constitution to protect the approaches to Boston Harbor and remained there until the end of the war with Britain.
Under command was Captain William Crane who led a squadron out from Boston on 3 July 1815, and began her first overseas cruise.
INDEPENDENCE returned to Newport 15 November 1815 where she became the flagship of Commodore John Shaw until placed in ordinary service in 1822. INDEPENDENCE remained in ordinary service at Boston until 1836 where she was cut down to one covered fighting deck with poop and Forecastle.
INDEPENDENCE decommissioned on 26 March 1837 and sailed from Boston 20 May 1837 as flagship of Commodore John B. Nicholson. Commodore Nicholson attempted mediation to end the war between France and Argentina. He reported 22 April 1839 that: “I volunteered, as I conceived it a duty I owed to my Country, as well as to all Neutrals, to endeavor to get peace restored that commerce should be allowed to take its usual course. In accordance of the feelings of humanity at least, I hope my endeavors will be approved by the department. I see no probable termination of this War and Blockade which is so injurious to the Commerce of all Neutrals.”
INDEPENDENCE returned north to New York 30 March 1840. She was laid up in ordinary until 14 May 1842 when she became flagship of Commodore Charles Stewart in the Home Squadron. Basing at Boston and New York, she continued as his flagship until laid up in ordinary 3 December 1849. She recommissioned 4 August 1846 and the Nation was at war with Mexico as she departed Boston 29 August 1846 for the coast of California. She entered Monterey Bay 22 January 1847 and became the flagship of Commodore William B. Shubrick, commanding the Pacific Squadron.
INDEPENDENCE assisted in the blockade of the Mexican coast, capturing Mexican ship Correo and a launch 16 May 1847. She was present to support the capture of Guaymas 19 October and landed bluejackets and Marines to occupy Mazatlan 11 November 1847. She later cruised as far as Hawaii, arriving Honolulu 12 August 1848. INDEPENDENCE returned to the East Coast at Norfolk 23 May 1849 and decommissioned there 30 May.
Recommissioned 7 July 1849, INDEPENDENCE departed Norfolk 26 July under Captain Thomas A. Conover to serve as flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron under Commodore Charles W. Morgan. She was the first U.S. man-of-war to show the flag at Spezia, Italy, arriving 23 May 1850 for an enthusiastic welcome. She returned to Norfolk 25 June 1852 and was placed in ordinary at New York 3 July 1852.
INDEPENDENCE recommissioned 4 September 1854 and departed New York 10 October to serve as flagship of the Pacific Squadron under Commodore William Mervine. She arrived Valparaiso, Chile, 2 February 1855. Her cruising grounds ranged northward to San Francisco and west to Hawaii. Proceeding from Panama Bay, she entered the Mare Island Navy Yard 2 October 1857. She served as receiving ship there until decommissioned 3 November 1912. Her name was struck from the Navy List 3 September 1913.
INDEPENDENCE did not leave the Mare Island Navy Yard until 28 November 1914. Sold to John H. Kinder, she was towed to the Union Iron Works, San Francisco. On 5 March 1915 she shifted to Hunter's Point, and remained there for a week. Some repairs were made and a plan formulated to use her as a restaurant for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, though it never came to pass.
Pig iron and ballast were later removed from her hold and valuable hard wood salvaged from her orlop deck knees. The night of 20 September 1919, INDEPENDENCE was burned on the Hunter's Point mud flats to recover her metal fittings. The sturdy veteran of the days of wooden ships and iron men had survived more than a century, 98 years of which were spent serving the U.S. Navy.
The fourth INDEPENDENCE was built in 1918 by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Alameda, Calif., for the United States Shipping Board.
She was delivered to the Navy and commissioned 16 November 1918, Lt. O. P. Rankin in command. INDEPENDENCE sailed with a cargo of foodstuffs 6 December 1918, arrived New York 1 January 1918; and continued on to England. Upon her return to New York, the ship decommissioned 20 March 1919 and was returned to the USSB.
She was later extensively rebuilt and sold 7 August 1930 to Baltimore Mail Steamship Co. and renamed City of Norfolk. In 1940 she was reacquired by the Navy and served in World War II as troop transport Neville (q.v.)
The fifth INDEPENDENCE (CV-22), begun as Amsterdam (CL-59), was launched as CV-22 on 22 August 1942 by New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, N. J.; sponsored by Mrs. Rawleigh Warner; and commissioned 14 January 1943, Captain G. B. Fairlamb, Jr., in command.
The first of a new class of carriers converted from cruiser hulls, INDEPENDENCE conducted shakedown training in the Caribbean. She then steamed through the Panama Canal to join the Pacific Fleet, arriving San Francisco 3 July 1943. INDEPENDENCE got underway for Pearl Harbor 14 July, and after 2 weeks of vital training exercises sailed with carriers Essex and Yorktown for a devastating raid on Marcus Island. Planes from the carrier force struck 1 September and destroyed over 70 percent of the installations on the island. The carrier began her next operation, a similar strike against Wake Island 5 to 6 October, as CVL-22, redesignated 15 July 1943.
INDEPENDENCE sailed from Pearl Harbor for Espiritu Santo 21 October; and, during an ensuing carrier attack on Rabaul 11 November, the ship's gunners scored their first success—six Japanese planes shot down. After this operation the carrier refueled at Espiritu Santo and headed for the Gilberts and prelanding strikes on Tarawa 18 to 20 November 1943. During a Japanese counterattack 20 November, INDEPENDENCE was attacked by a group of planes low on the water. Six were shot down, but the planes managed to launch at least five torpedoes, one of which scored a hit on the carrier's starboard quarter. Seriously damaged, the ship steamed to Funafuti 23 November for repairs. With the Gilberts operation, first step on the mid-Pacific road to Japan, underway, INDEPENDENCE returned to San Francisco 2 January 1944 for more permanent repairs.
The veteran carrier returned to Pearl Harbor 3 July 1944. During her repair period the ship had been fitted with an additional catapult; and upon her arrival in Hawaiian waters, INDEPENDENCE began training for night carrier operations. She continued this pioneering work 24 to 29 August out of Eniwetok. The ship sailed with a large task group 29 August to take part in the Palaus operation, aimed at securing bases for the final assault on the Philippines in October. INDEPENDENCE provided night reconnaissance and night combat air patrol for Task Force 38 during this operation.
In September the fast carrier task force regularly pounded the Philippines in preparation for the invasion. When no Japanese counterattacks developed in this period, INDEPENDENCE shifted to regular daytime operations, striking targets on Luzon. After replenishment at Ulithi in early October, the great force sortied 6 October for Okinawa. In the days that followed the carriers struck Okinawa, Formosa, and Philippines in a striking demonstration of the mobility and balance of the fleet. Japanese air counterattacks were repulsed, with INDEPENDENCE providing day strike groups in addition to night fighters and reconnaissance aircraft for defensive protection.
As the carrier groups steamed east of the Philippines 23 October, it became apparent, as Admiral Carney later recalled, "something on a grand scale was underfoot." And indeed it was, as the Japanese fleet moved on a three-pronged effort to turn back the American beachhead on Leyte Gulf. Planes from INDEPENDENCE's Task Group 38.2, under Rear Admiral Bogan, spotted Kurita's striking force in the Sibuyan Sea 24 October and the carriers launched a series of attacks. Planes from INDEPENDENCE and other ships sank giant battleship Musashi and disabled a cruiser.
That evening Admiral Halsey made his fateful decision to turn Task Force 38 northward in search of Admiral Ozawa's carrier group. INDEPENDENCEs night search planes made contact and shadowed the Japanese ships until dawn 25 October, when the carriers launched a massive attack. In this second part of the great Battle for Leyte Gulf, all four Japanese carriers were sunk.
Meanwhile American heavy ships had won a great victory in Suriago Strait; and a light carrier force had outfought the remainder of Kurita's ships in the Battle Off Samar. After the great battle, which virtually spelled the end of the Japanese Navy as a major threat, INDEPENDENCE continued to provide search planes and night fighter protection for Task Force 38 in strikes on the Philippines. In these operations the ship had contributed to a major development in carrier group operations.
INDEPENDENCE returned to Ulithi for long-delayed rest and replenishment 9 to 14 November, but soon got underway to operate off the Philippines on night attacks and defensive operations. This phase continued until 30 December 1944, when the great task force sortied from Ulithi once more and moved northward. From 3 to 9 January the carriers supported the Lingayen landings on Luzon, after which Halsey took his fleet on a daring foray into the South China Sea. In the days that followed the aircraft struck at air bases on Formosa and on the coasts of Indo China and China. These operations in support of the Philippines campaign marked the end of the carrier's night operations, and she sailed 30 January 1945 for repairs at Pearl Harbor.
INDEPENDENCE returned to Ulithi 13 March 1945 and got underway next day for operations against Okinawa, last target in the Pacific before Japan itself. She carried out preinvasion strikes 30 to 31 March, and after the assault 1 April remained off the island supplying Combat Air Patrol and strike aircraft. Her planes shot down numerous enemy planes during the desperate Japanese attacks on the invasion force. INDEPENDENCE remained off Okinawa until 10 June when she sailed for Leyte.
During July and August the carrier took part in the final carrier strikes against Japan itself, attacks that lowered enemy morale and had much to do with the eventual surrender. After the end of the war 15 August, INDEPENDENCE aircraft continued surveillance flights over the mainland locating prisoner of war camps, and covered the landings of Allied occupation troops. The ship departed Tokyo 22 September 1945, arriving San Francisco via Saipan and Guam 31 October.
INDEPENDENCE joined the "Magic-Carpet" fleet beginning 15 November 1945, transporting veterans back to the United States' until arriving San Francisco once more 28 January 1946. Assigned as a target vessel for the Bikini atomic bomb tests, she was placed within one-half mile of ground zero for the 1 July explosion. The veteran ship did not sink, however, and after taking part in another explosion 25 July was taken to Kwajalein and decommissioned 28 August 1946. The highly radioactive hulk was later taken to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for further tests, and was finally sunk in weapons tests off the coast of California 29 January 1951.
INDEPENDENCE received eight battle stars for World War II service.
The sixth INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62) was launched by New York Navy Yard 6 June 1958; sponsored by Mrs. Thomas Gates, wife of the Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned 10 January 1959; Captain E. Y. McElroy in command.
One of the newest classes of "supercarriers" at the time of her commissioning, INDEPENDENCE conducted shakedown training in the Caribbean and arrived her home port Norfolk, 30 June 1959. She operated off the Virginia Capes for the next year on training maneuvers, and departed 4 August 1960 for her first cruise to the Mediterranean. There she added her great strength to the peace-keeping power of the 6th Fleet in that troubled region, remaining in the eastern Mediterranean until her return to Norfolk 3 March 1961. The remainder of the year was spent in training and readiness operations off the Atlantic Coast.
INDEPENDENCE sailed 19 April 1962 for 6th Fleet Duty in support of President Kennedy's firm stand on Berlin during a reoccurrence of stress in a critical area. She returned to Norfolk 27 August and sailed 11 October for the Caribbean Sea. She arrived off Puerto Rico in response to the Communist defiance in the Cuban Missile Crisis and took part in the quarantine operations, which finally forced withdrawal of the Russian missiles. She then returned to Norfolk 25 November for readiness exercises along the eastern seaboard, overhaul in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and refresher training out of Guantanamo Bay.
INDEPENDENCE departed Norfolk 6 August 1983 to take part in combined readiness exercises in the Bay of Biscay with sea-air units of the United Kingdom and France; then entered the Mediterranean 21 August for further duty with the 6th Fleet. Cruising throughout the Mediterranean, she gained much valuable experience during combined NATO exercises, including close air support to Turkish paratroops, reconnaissance, communications, and convoy strike support. President Makarios of Cyprus paid her a visit 7 October, after which she joined in bilateral U.S.-Italian exercises in the Adriatic with Italian patrol torpedo boats, and U.S.-French exercises which pitted her aircraft against French interceptors and a surface action with French cruiser Colbert. She returned to Norfolk 4 March 1964.
Following training exercises ranging north to New York and south to Mayport, Fla., INDEPENDENCE departed Norfolk 8 September 1964 for NATO "Teamwork" exercises in the Norwegian Sea and off the coast of France, thence to Gibraltar. She returned to Norfolk 5 November 1964 and entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for overhaul.
The first Atlantic Fleet carrier to deploy to the South China Sea in support of Vietnam operations, INDEPENDENCE and her embarked Air Wing 7 received the award of the Navy Unit Commendation for exceptionally meritorious service from 5 June to 21 November 1965. They participated in the first major series of coordinated strikes against vital enemy supply lines north of the Hanoi-Haiphong complex, successfully evading the first massive surface-to-air missile barrage in aviation history while attacking assigned targets, and executing, with daring and precision, the first successful attack on an enemy surface-to-air missile installation. The carrier launched more than 7,000 sorties in sustaining an exceptional pace of day and night strike operations against military and logistic supply facilities in North Vietnam. "The superior team spirit, courage, professional competence, and devotion to duty displayed by the officers and men of INDEPENDENCE and embarked Attack Carrier Air Wing 7 reflect great credit upon themselves and the United States Naval Service."
INDEPENDENCE returned to her homeport, Norfolk, Va., in December, arriving the 31st. During the first half of 1966, she operated off Norfolk, replenishing and training air groups. On 4 May she participated in Operation "STEIKEX." The carrier departed Norfolk 13 June for European operations with the 6th 'Fleet. INDEPENDENCE was involved with unit and NATO exercises from July into December. She then continued her 6th Fleet deployment into 1967.
On 25 September 1970, word was received that Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of the United Arab Republic had died; an event that might plunge the entire Middle East into a crisis. INDEPENDENCE, along with JOHN F. KENNEDY, SARATOGA, and seven other U.S. Navy ships, were put on standby in case U.S. military protection was needed for the evacuation of U.S. citizens and as a counterbalance to the Soviet Union's Mediterranean fleet.
Pilots of VMA-142, -131, and -133 began qualification landings in A-4 Skyhawks aboard INDEPENDENCE on 3 August 1971. For the next three days, four active-duty and 20 reserve pilots operated aboard the carrier—the first time that Marine Corps Air Reserve Squadrons qualified in carrier duty.
In May 1973, President Richard M. Nixon delivered his annual Armed Forces Day address from the decks of INDEPENDENCE. While based in Norfolk, the ship made deployments to the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. From 8 October to 13 October 1973, Task Force 60.1 with INDEPENDENCE, Task Force 60.2 with FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CV-42), and Task Force 61/62 with GUADALCANAL (LPH-7) were alerted for possible evacuation contingencies in the Middle East. The ships were on alert as a result of the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Arab states and Israel. INDEPENDENCE operated off the island of Crete.
On 20 June 1979, Lt. Donna L. Spruill became the first Navy woman pilot to carrier qualify in a fixed-wing aircraft. Lt. Spruill piloted a C-1A Trader to an arrested landing aboard INDEPENDENCE. In 1982, INDEPENDENCE provided critical support to the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon. On 25 June, the greatest concentration of U.S. Navy air power in the Mediterranean Sea resulted when the battle groups of FORRESTAL and INDEPENDENCE joined forces with DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER and JOHN F. KENNEDY. After steaming together in the eastern Mediterranean Sea for several days, FORRESTAL and INDEPENDENCE relieved DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER and JOHN F. KENNEDY, the latter sailing home to Norfolk, Va., after a long deployment.
On 25 October 1983, aircraft from INDEPENDENCE's embarked air wing flew missions in support of Operation Urgent Fury, the action to liberate the Caribbean nation of Grenada. Returning to Lebanon that same year, the ship's air wing conducted air strikes against Syrian positions. In 1984, she won the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award for the Atlantic Fleet.
On 17 February 1985, INDEPENDENCE arrived at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard to undergo a modernization and overhaul program to extend her service life by 15 years. The flight deck was improved to allow the recovery of high-performance aircraft while the ship traveled at slower speeds, and the NATO Sea Sparrow launchers were upgraded. Other improvements improved the ship's fuel consumption. INDEPENDENCE completed the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in June 1988. Setting sail 15 August from Norfolk, the ship transited the tip of South America and arrived at her new homeport of NS San Diego, CA 8 October.
Flight of the Intruder (1991) was filmed partly on the INDEPENDENCE. It went out for two weeks of filming in November of 1989. While filming on the INDEPENDENCE in November 1989 the crew kept the on board fire party busy with numerous small electrical fires they started with their lighting equipment. In August 1990, with Carrier Air Wing 14 embarked, INDEPENDENCE was sent to deter Iraqi aggression during Operation Desert Shield. Arriving on station in the Gulf of Oman on 5 August, INDEPENDENCE was the first carrier to enter the Persian Gulf since 1974. The ship remained on station for more than 90 days and permanently reestablished a U.S. naval presence in the region. She returned to San Diego on 20 December 1990.
INDEPENDENCE changed homeports again on 11 September 1991—this time to Yokosuka, Japan, embarking Carrier Air Wing 5 and becoming the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, and flagship for Commander, Carrier Group Five. On 23 August 1992, INDEPENDENCE entered the Persian Gulf prepared to enforce an Allied ban on Iraqi flights over south Iraq below the 32nd parallel. On 26 August, President George H. W. Bush announced that the United States and its allies had informed Iraq that in 24 hours Allied aircraft would fly surveillance missions in southern Iraq and were prepared to shoot down any Iraqi aircraft flying south of the 32nd parallel. The action was precipitated by Iraq's failure to comply with UN Resolution 688 which demanded that the Iraqi government stop the repression of its Shiite population in southern Iraq.
Persian Gulf allies began to enforce the ban on Iraqi planes from flying south of the 32nd parallel on 27 August in Operation Southern Watch. Any Iraqi planes that violated the ban would be shot down. Twenty Navy aircraft from CVW-5 aboard INDEPENDENCE in the Persian Gulf were the first coalition aircraft on station over Iraq as Operation Southern Watch began.
INDEPENDENCE became the oldest ship in the Navy's active fleet, and the first carrier in history to hold that distinction, on 30 June 1995. With this honor, INDEPENDENCE displayed the Revolution-era First Navy Jack, commonly called the "Don't Tread On Me" flag, from her bow until her decommissioning. The flag was presented to INDEPENDENCE commanding officer Capt. David P. Polatty III in a formal ceremony on 1 July. The flag was received from MAUNA KEA (AE-22) upon her decommissioning.
In November 1995, the INDEPENDENCE and Carrier Air Wing Five team returned to Japan after successfully completing their third deployment to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch. In March 1996, INDEPENDENCE was deployed to the waters east of Taiwan to provide a stabilizing presence amid the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. She was joined in the area by the NIMITZ as the People’s Republic of China lobbed missiles into Taiwanese territorial waters. Upon returning to Yokosuka in April 1996, the ship was visited by President Bill Clinton as part of an official state visit to Japan.
In 1997, INDEPENDENCE made a four-month deployment, covering several major exercises and seven ports of call. Included in these ports of call were two historic port visits. The first was 28 February 1997 to the island territory of Guam. INDEPENDENCE was the first aircraft carrier to pull into Guam in 36 years.
The second, two months later, was to Port Klang, Malaysia. INDEPENDENCE became the first aircraft carrier in the world to make a port visit to Malaysia.
Before sailing back to Yokosuka, Japan, INDEPENDENCE made its last port call of the deployment in May 1997 to Hong Kong. INDEPENDENCE's port visit was the last U.S. naval port visit to the territory before its handover to China on 1 July 1997. INDEPENDENCE deployed to the Persian Gulf in January 1998 to support negotiations between the UN and Iraq and to again participate in Operation Southern Watch.
INDEPENDENCE was decommissioned in ceremonies at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, on 30 September 1998. INDEPENDENCE's commissioning pennant was hauled down 39 years, 9 months and 20 days after it was first hoisted, and the "Don't Tread on Me" First Navy Jack was transferred to the Navy's next oldest active ship, USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63).
After decommissioning, INDEPENDENCE remained in mothballs for five and a half years before being struck on March 8, 2004. During her time in mothballs, ex-INDEPENDENCE was said to have been heavily stripped to support the active carrier fleet, especially the KITTY HAWK-class carriers. Her port anchor and both anchor chains were used on the new NIMITZ-class carrier USS GEORGE H W BUSH. The recycling of parts and the poor material condition of INDEPENDENCE at the time she was retired made a strong argument against retaining her as a potential museum ship. Her sisters Saratoga and Ranger were retained, and remain on donation hold as of 2006. In April, 2004, Navy officials identified her as one of 24 decommissioned ships available to be sunk as artificial reefs.