Skip to main content
Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Related Content
Document Type
Wars & Conflicts
File Formats
Location of Archival Materials

Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72)


Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72)


See also 1984-1990, 1996-2003, 2004-2013, Biography

Displacement 97,000; length 1,040'; beam 134'; width 257'; draft 36.8'; speed 30 + knots; complement 2,904; armament NATO Sea Sparrow Basic Point Defense Surface Missile System, two 40 millimeter saluting guns, 85 aircraft.

Abraham Lincoln adopted Lincoln’s phrase “Shall not perish” as the ship’s motto. The ship accomplished a number of milestones during her construction. The benefit of providing aircraft carriers Abraham Lincoln and George Washington (CVN-73) with the most updated weapons systems available, in combination with the late delivery of their intended eight Phalanx 20 millimeter Close-in-Weapons System (CIWS) Block 1 upgrades—four for each ship—led Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Carlisle A.H. Trost to authorize the acceptance of Abraham Lincoln without the CIWS mounts as originally proposed, on 17 July 1987. The service planned to install these mounts during Abraham Lincoln’s first availability, and on board George Washington during her construction.

Capt. Joseph J. Dantone, Jr., served as the Precommissioning Unit’s initial Commanding Officer until relieved by Capt. Stanley W. Bryant on 26 September 1988. Capt. William B. Hayden relieved Capt. Bryant on 13 December 1988. The carrier shifted from Pier 1 to Pier 2 at Newport News on 21 January 1989. The crew began to move on board Abraham Lincoln on 17 April. Sailors raised the ensign and union jack for the first time on board the ship on 1 May. The crew celebrated Independence Day by enabling Nuclear Reactor No. 1 to go critical for the first time on 4 July. Reactors ‘run critical’ when they reach a rhythmic flow of energy.

The carrier completed her primary builder’s sea trials off the Virginia capes from 11 to 14 September 1989. Approximately 2,700 crewmen and 1,000 civilian shipyard workers embarked during the trials. This time at sea included limited air operations when three Sikorsky SH-3H Sea Kings of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 9 became the first helicopters to land on board on 11 September. Comdr. William S. Kordis, the pilot and squadron Commanding Officer, flew the first Sea King onto the flight deck. Kordis also carried Vice Adm. John K. Ready, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic Fleet, as a passenger. Abraham Lincoln returned to Pier 2 at Newport News. The ship recorded the setting of her first brow and pier security watch while moored at Pier 12 Naval Station (NS) Norfolk, Virginia, on 1 November. During the month, the ship also steamed out for a brief sail and anchored at Whisky Anchorage.

Abraham Lincoln was commissioned at Pier 12 at NS Norfolk on 11 November 1989. The distinguished guests among the crowd of an estimated 18,000 people included Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of the Navy H. Lawrence Garrett, III, CNO Adm. Carlisle H. Trost, Vice Adm. Ready, Governor James R. Thompson of Illinois, and Edward J. Campbell, President and Chief Executive Officer of Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co.

“The mention of Abraham Lincoln evokes images of freedom in every American, and every citizen of the world who has tasted the sweet fruit of liberty,” Adm. Trost said. “The name Lincoln also evokes powerful images of strength and national resolve. This ship honors a man who led our country through its most bitter and divisive period.” The admiral entitled his remarks as a request to the ship and her crew to “Bring us victories.” Secretary Cheney addressed the crowd with additional sentiments: “Of course, [Abraham] Lincoln’s hope that the unalienable rights of the Declaration [of Independence] would some day be enjoyed in all nations means we first have to defend ourselves. But it also means more than that. Our global presence, the kind of presence that will be clearly demonstrated by this new carrier, is required if our obligation to the promise of universal natural rights is to be taken seriously.” Aircraft from Fighter Squadron (VF) 41, VF-84, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 15, VFA-87, Attack Squadron (VA) 36, VA-65, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 124, and Air Antisubmarine Squadron (VS) 24 flew in formation at an altitude of 800 feet over the ship.

Abraham Lincoln underwent deperming—a process designed to reduce her vulnerability to magnetic mines—at the deperming crib at nearby Lambert’s Point (13–18 November 1989). The carrier stood out of the channel for her shakedown cruise from the Norfolk area over 28 November to 15 December. Abraham Lincoln ran the degaussing range while putting to sea, conducted antenna radiation testing, and embarked five SH-3Hs of HS-17. The Sea Kings utilized Mk-38 mini-mobile anti-submarine warfare targets while flying the first submarine hunting operations from the ship. The ship otherwise focused upon accomplishing flight deck certification for aircraft.

A Sea King also performed the first medical evacuation from the ship while she steamed underway one Sunday morning. The helicopter lifted off with a sailor suffering from intestinal bleeding and flew to Portsmouth Naval Hospital, Va. The man recovered from his illness several days later. That week during evening hours, the ship called away man overboard. Two Sea Kings launched and searched for an hour and a half without spotting anyone in the water, and two musters yielded all hands accounted for during the false alarm.

The carrier accomplished over all combat system testing, and recorded her first catapult launch and recovery of fixed wing aircraft. Victory 201, a Grumman F-14A Tomcat of VF-84 temporarily assigned to the Naval Air Test Center (NATC) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md., and manned by Capt. Hayden, Abraham Lincoln’s Commanding Officer, and Comdr. Charles K. Crandall, Jr., a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), trapped on the No. 3 wire on 1 December. The Tomcat then launched for a return flight ashore. A McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet of VFA-15, crewed by Capt. John F. Manning, Jr., Commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, followed them on board. “Today we became a real aircraft carrier,” Hayden proudly commented. “The launching and recovery of aircraft is what this business is all about.”

Naval inspectors declared the flight deck certified for aircraft operations two days later. Crewmen also held their first ship wide divine services on board on the foc’sle, as well as the initial Orthodox Divine Liturgy in the chapel. Abraham Lincoln rendezvoused with ammunition ship Suribachi (AE-21) for her initial underway replenishment on 9 December. Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knights hauled 250 lifts of ordnance to the carrier. During this period, crewmen also conducted dynamic interface testing of two NATC Sikorsky SH-60F Seahawks, and assisted investigators during Grumman E-2C Hawkeye upgrade 2 testing (CNO project 760). At one point, Abraham Lincoln slid alongside Military Sealift Command (MSC) operated oiler Leroy Grumman (T-AO-195) and completed her first refueling at sea, taking on 527,782 gallons of JP-5 fuel. Abraham Lincoln recorded 516 aircraft launches and recoveries through the end of 1989.

The ship, with CVW-8 embarked, completed a shakedown cruise in Atlantic and Caribbean waters (19 January–14 February 1990). Abraham Lincoln accomplished cyclic operations off the East Coast and the Puerto Rican Operations Area, including North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Sea Sparrow missile system certification and noise measurement testing. The crew established their initial logistics mobile beach detachment to support the ship’s first refresher training. The detachment deployed from NAS Jacksonville, Fla., to NAS Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, returning to Jacksonville. Tomcats flying from the ship shot imagery utilizing the Tactical Aerial Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS). The carrier offloaded ordnance to ammunition ship Butte (AE-27). Abraham Lincoln made her first visit to another port when she reached Port Everglades, Fla. (14–19 February). The ship also accomplished her first wing fly-off with all of the aircraft either fully or partially mission capable on 16 February.

Abraham Lincoln, with CVW-11 embarked, next accomplished training and independent steaming exercises off the Virginia capes (28 February–7 March 1990). The carrier completed her final contract trials (12 and 13 March). The ship conducted her post shakedown availability at Newport News (14 March–24 July). The vessel floated from drydock on 5 June, and during the next month loaded ammunition pierside. Following these events, she stood out of the channel for a brief shakedown sail to determine the success of the work accomplished on 23 and 24 July.

Iraqi tanks and troops poured across the borders from Iraq into Kuwait as Saddam Hussein seized the tiny country on 2 August 1990. The dictator’s troops raped and looted helpless Kuwaitis; and sailors on board guided missile frigate Robert G. Bradley (FFG-49), patrolling in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf barely 50 miles offshore, overheard the victims’ pleas for help via their bridge-to-bridge radio. Restrictive rules of engagement constrained the crew, however, until the U.S. responded by forming a coalition that eventually comprised 29 nations.

These allies rushed reinforcements to the region during Operation Desert Shield—an operation designed to protect the region from Iraqi aggression. “Saddam Hussein won the toss and elected to receive,” Capt. Lyle G. Bien, Commander, CVW-15, detailed to Central Command (CentCom) as the U.S. Navy’s senior strike planner, noted. The Navy augmented the Red Sea Battle Group’s mission to include Maritime Interception Operations (MIOs) to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 51, which imposed an embargo upon ships entering or leaving Iraqi-occupied Kuwaiti and Iraqi ports.

The first MIOs led to a flurry of activity (16–18 August 1990). Guided missile frigate John L. Hall (FFG-32), a ship that would eventuallyaverage 10 interceptions daily, made the initial challenge of a merchantman. Two days later, guided missile frigate Reid (FFG-30) fired nine warning shots across the bow of Iraqi tanker Khanaqin, whose master stubbornly refused to alter course after being ordered to do so, firing the first naval shots of Desert Shield. Robert G. Bradley fired three rounds from a 25 millimeter chain gun at Iraqi tanker Babr Gurgr when she also refused to come about, but the Iraqis continued on their way. Guided missile frigate Taylor (FFG-50) subsequently relieved Robert G. Bradley of her charge.

A boarding party from guided missile cruiser England (CG-22) carried out the first boarding by inspecting the cargo and manifest of Chinese freighter Heng Chung Hai. Guided missile destroyer Scott (DDG-995) then ordered Cypriot merchantmen Dongola away from al-Aqabah, Jordan, when Dongola’s master confessed to carrying cargo bound for Iraq. Aircraft flying from aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) covered many of those ships as they made these interceptions. Secretary Cheney embarked in Dwight D. Eisenhower and Scott on 18 August.

In the meanwhile, Abraham Lincoln completed upkeep at NS Norfolk preparatory to her passage around South America (29 August–24 September 1990). Vice Adm. John H. Fetterman, Jr., Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet, visited the ship on 30 August. At one point, the crew performed their largest onload of supplies to date in order to prepare for their extended voyage. The undertaking comprised more than 1,000 pallets of stores, direct turn-over, and squadron material. CVW-11 moved on board on 23 September.

Abraham Lincoln set sail for a voyage around South America in order to shift home ports from NS Norfolk to NAS Alameda, Calif., on 25 September 1990. Sailors draped banners stating “California or bust” and “Made in Va.” across her fantail. Guided missile frigate Doyle (FFG-39) escorted the carrier. Abraham Lincoln carried out training and carrier qualifications during the cruise. The ship also accomplished exercises with U.S. and allied forces including the Argentineans, Brazilians, Chileans, Peruvians, and Uruguayans. Aircraft embarked from CVW-8, CVW-11, and Carrier Air Wing Reserve (CVWR) 30. Some 130 Training and Administration of the Naval Reserve and 35 Selected Reserve sailors of VFA-303 and VFA-305 manned six Reserve Hornets for the sail.

The ship visited St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands (1–3 October 1990). While there, she onloaded stores for the first time in a port outside the continental U.S. Abraham Lincoln then conducted refresher training, primarily off the waters of NS Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (4–14 October). At one point during the cycle of exercises, she sailed in company with Doyle and oiler Pawcatuck (T-AO-108). The aircraft carrier also responded to counter-narcotics orders from Combined Joint Task Force 4 in the Caribbean (4–6 October).

Abraham Lincoln crossed the equator for the first time on 9 October 1990. The ship’s historian proudly noted the embarkation of the god of the sea, “King Neptune.” The event afforded her ‘pollywogs’—sailors who have not crossed the equator—the opportunity to become ‘shellbacks’—those who have accomplished the feat and become sons of Neptune. The carrier conducted her initial refueling of another ship at sea when she rendezvoused with Doyle for an underway replenishment four days later. Abraham Lincoln entered Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (15–18 October). The ship hosted a reception for 400 guests in Hangar Bay No. 2. Anti-nuclear protestors marred the visit with demonstrations on 17 October. Two days later the ship stood out of the channel and embarked a contingent of Argentinean naval officers.

The Argentineans served as liaisons on board the ship during exercise Gringo-Gaucho II with their forces (21–25 October 1990). Abraham Lincoln began the exercise by hosting a visit of distinguished Argentinean visitors, including naval officers and landing signal officers. Aircraft operating from the ship flew bombing runs against targets at the Punta Indigo range on 22, 23, and 24 October. The Americans also benefited from the opportunity of flying low-level reconnaissance missions over southern Argentina, and Argentinean Dassault Super Étendards and Grumman S-2E Trackers practiced ‘touch-and-go’ landings on board Abraham Lincoln.

The ship rounded Cape Horn, traditionally the nemesis of mariners because of the foul weather that permeates the region (26 and 27 October 1990). The large dimensions of the ship enabled her to successfully round ‘The Horn,’ but she then plowed through chill South Atlantic seas toward Chilean waters to take part in Blue Sky III—an exercise with the Chileans (28 October–8 November). Abraham Lincoln conducted an anti-air warfare scenario with the Chileans. Aircraft flying from the ship made low-level runs in the vicinity of Puerto Montt, and an opposed air wing training strike against Punta Arenas, both located in southern Chile. Chilean Northrop F-5E Tiger IIs reciprocated and flew a strike against Abraham Lincoln, and several Chilean diesel-powered submarines stalked the carrier (29 and 30 October). The carrier visited Valparaíso, Chile (31 October–4 November).

Tragedy then interrupted Blue Sky III when aircraft accidentally bombed CVW-11 sailors near Viña del Mar, three of whom suffered superficial wounds, on 4 November. The Chileans helped the Americans through the incident, though neither side claimed responsibility. Aircraft from Abraham Lincoln continued with the exercise and conducted air combat training, low-level flight training, and practice bombing runs with their Chilean counterparts (6 and 7 November). The allies culminated the exercise with an opposed U.S. training strike against Chilean defenders at Antofagasta and Iquique, Chile, and a pair of anti-air warfare exercises against the Chileans.

Peruvian distinguished visitors embarked on board the ship as she conducted cyclic flight operations on 10 November. During one of these flights, Abraham Lincoln recorded her 6,000th arrested landing. At one point during the busy events on this day, Aircraft 702, a Lockheed S-3A Viking (BuNo 159410) of VS-29, experienced an emergency and damaged landing gear and slammed into the barricade while landing. All four crewmen survived.

The sailors and marines of Abraham Lincoln celebrated the one year anniversary of their ship with a ‘steel beach’ flight deck picnic at sea on 11 November 1990. Abraham Lincoln fulfilled additional counter-narcotics directions from Combined Joint Task Force 4, this time off the Galapagos Islands (12 and 13 November). In addition, aircraft flew low-level missions over Ecuadorian ranges on 12 November. The carrier accomplished further counter-narcotics missions under the command of Combined Joint Task Force 5 while in the vicinity of Clipperton and Clarion Islands (15 and 16 November). Abraham Lincoln arrived at NAS Alameda following a voyage of upward of 18,000 miles on 20 November 1990.

Mark L. Evans

Published: Wed Mar 19 17:30:09 EDT 2014