Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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George Washington IV (CVN-73)


The fourth U.S. Navy ship named for George Washington (1732–1799), Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States.

In addition, six ships have been named Washington in honor of the first President. The first Washington -- while never part of the Continental Navy -- was a 160-ton schooner named Endeavor, acquired by Gen. Washington in 1775, fitted out and re-rigged as a brigantine, and served in 1775. The second Washington, a row galley, served from 1776–1778. Frigate Washington was launched on 7 August 1776 but never completed, and she was destroyed by fire on 7 May 1778. The third Washington, a lateen-rigged, two-masted galley, also served in 1776. The fourth Washington, a ship-of-the-line, served from 1815–1843. The fifth Washington, a revenue cutter, served from 1833–1837. The sixth Washington, also a revenue cutter, served from 1837–1861.


(CVN-73: Displacement 104,017; length 1,092'; beam 252'; draft 42'; speed 30 + knots; complement 6,275; armament NATO Sea Sparrow Basic Point Defense Surface Missile System, 3 Mk 15 Close In Weapon System (CIWS),  two 40 millimeter saluting guns, 85 aircraft, class Nimitz)

The fourth George Washington (CVN-73) was laid down on 25 August 1986, at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va.; launched on 21 July 1990; sponsored by Mrs. Barbara Bush, wife of President George H.W. Bush; and commissioned on 4 July 1992 at Norfolk, Va., Capt. Robert M. Nutwell in command.

George Washington (CVN-73) IV 1992-
A unique overhead picture of the ship shows her cleanly slicing through the Caribbean Sea. A Grumman F-14B Tomcat of Fighter Squadron 143, manned by Lt. Tom Luscher (pilot) and Lt. Stephen P. Davis (Radar Intercept Officer), snaps the shot by using the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System. (Undated U.S. Navy photograph, George Washington (CVN-73) Collection, Ships History, Naval History & Heritage Command)
An aerial starboard side view of George Washington
An aerial starboard side view of George Washington as she steams from Norfolk to take part in Fleet Exercise 2-94 in the Atlantic Ocean, 6 April 1994. (Chief Journalist Gregg L. Snaza, Department of Defense Photograph DN-SC-95-01574, George Washington (CVN-73) Collection, Ships History, Naval History & Heritage Command)
Sailors use a tow trailer to reposition a Boeing MH-47D Chinook
Sailors use a tow trailer to reposition a Boeing MH-47D Chinook of the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), across the ship’s flight deck during Fleet Exercise 2-94, 6 April 1994. (Chief Journalist Gregg L. Snaza, Department of Defense Photograph DN-SC-95-01603, George Washington (CVN-73) Collection, Ships History, Naval History & Heritage Command)

President William J. and First Lady Hilary R. Clinton led an entourage of the nation’s leaders on board George Washington on 5 June 1994, during the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day. George Washington sailed off the coast of Portsmouth, England, and then crossed the English Channel toward the invasion beaches of Omaha and Utah, France.

A Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk
A Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 5 hovers alongside George Washington as the ship, her flight deck packed with aircraft, crosses the eastern Atlantic en route to the Mediterranean, 3 February 1996. (Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Chris Vickers, U.S. Navy Photograph 960203-N-2381V-003, George Washington (CVN-73) Collection, Ships History, Naval History & Heritage Command)

Intelligence analysts meanwhile identified the (apparent) preparations of five Iraqi divisions to invade Kuwait, and on 6 October 1994, the U.S. launched Operation Vigilant Warrior to protect the Kuwaitis. The following day President Clinton dispatched George Washington from the Adriatic, the ship reaching the Red Sea on 10 October. In addition, amphibious assault ship Tripoli (LPH-10) and 2,000 marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed to the Northern Arabian Gulf. These resolute moves convinced Saddam Hussein to withdraw his mobile troops from the Kuwaiti borders.

On 3 September 1996, George Washington became the first carrier to undergo more frequent maintenance periods under the Planned Incremental Maintenance Availability program. The plan aimed to save money by performing maintenance on a more regular basis, thus allowing carriers to return to the Fleet following shorter but more intensive overhaul periods. In November 1996, the Improved Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System completed shore-based technical evaluation at NAS Patuxent River, Md. The system was subsequently installed on board George Washington, and on 1 March 1997, the operational testing and evaluation of the system began when a Boeing F/A-18 Hornet from NAWC (AD) Patuxent River trapped on board George Washington.

The United States Central Command launched Operation Desert Thunder I -- a large-scale deployment to the Middle East to pressure the Iraqis and to bolster the UN’s negotiating position that included the planned continual availability of two aircraft carriers -- on 18 January 1998. On this date U.S. aircraft carriers George Washington and Nimitz (CVN-68) and British aircraft carrier Invincible (R.05) operated in the region. A total of more than 50 additional allied ships and submarines, including amphibious assault ship Guam (LPH-9), deployed to the region during this period. British aircraft carrier Illustrious (R.06) turned-over with Invincible in the Arabian Gulf while operating with aircraft carriers George Washington and Independence (CV-62) on 3 March 1998. Aircraft carrier John C. Stennis (CVN-74) relieved George Washington in the Arabian Gulf on 12 March. A resurgence of tensions later in the year led to additional deployments as part of Operation Desert Thunder II. When George Washington returned from the six-month deployment to the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf and disembarked the 26 Marines of her security detachment on 3 April, she ended an era of a Marine Corps security presence on board carriers.

Gulf Air Flight 072, an Airbus A320 en route from Cairo, Egypt, to Manama, Bahrain, crashed in the Arabian Gulf on 23 August 2000. George Washington operated in the region and launched two Sikorsky SH-60F Seahawks from Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 15 that helped direct rescuers to the scene of the crash. All 143 people on board Gulf Air Flight 072 perished in the crash.

Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airliners, crashing two of the jets into the twin World Trade Center towers in New York City, and one about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Pa., on 11 September 2001. The terrorists also flew American Flight 77, a Boeing B-757, into the Pentagon. The impact of the plane thrust it into the reinforced building and severely damaged the newly opened Navy Command Center. The attack at the Pentagon killed 189 people: all 64 on board American 77 including Naval Reservist and pilot Capt. Charles F. Burlingame III; and injured 125 including 33 sailors and nine Navy civilians. The strikes killed an estimated 2,977 people on 9/11. The Department of Defense declared Force Protection Condition Delta — the highest alert. George Washington sailed from Norfolk to protect New York City. The carrier responded to tasking from NORAD, and supported Military Sealift Command-operated hospital ship Comfort (T-AH-20) during the relief efforts. Aircraft carriers John F. Kennedy (CV-67) and John C. Stennis positioned themselves to defend the East and West Coasts, respectively, while across the globe many aircraft ashore sortied. Coast Guardsmen began to escort Navy ships during their departures or arrivals at ports.

The following year, George Washington deployed to the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf (20 July-20 December 2002). Three days after she sailed, Kauffman (FFG-59) also deployed and subsequently rendezvoused with the carrier. Venom 502 and Venom 510, two SH-60Bs of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Light (HSL) 48 Detachment 7, embarked on board the guided missile frigate, the Seahawks conducting multiple maritime interception operations (MIO) during the voyage, including one that involved 60 flight hours tracking a merchant vessel, leading to the capture of 15 suspected al-Qaeda terrorists by Italian authorities.

United States Special Forces fought al-Qaeda extremists and Taliban militants defending a compound in Afghanistan on 27 July 2002. The heavily armed and well-entrenched defenders fought with determination, but two Grumman F-14B Tomcats of Fighter Squadron (VF) 103, and four F/A-18C Hornets of Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFAs) 81 and 83, all deployed with CVW-17 on board George Washington, flew close air support runs firing 20 millimeter guns and dropping 500-pound bombs, destroying the compound and defeating the enemy. During that deployment, aircraft flew 925 sorties and completed 4,378.7 flight hours from George Washington supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

While an SH-60B from HSL-43 Detachment 1, flying from guided missile cruiser Mobile Bay (CG-53), hovered over a Syrian vessel to observe a health inspection, its rotors accidentally cut into the ship’s mast and the Seahawk crashed, about 80 miles west of Būshehr, Iran, on 6 September 2002. Fifty-year-old Larry Greene, a civilian cameraman with KCBS-TV, died. Greene flew with the Navy crew while covering a feature commemorating the al-Qaeda onslaught on 9/11, and was survived by his wife and two sons. The four crewmembers all sustained minor injuries. A helicopter flew one of the sailors to George Washington for medical treatment. Australian helicopter frigate Arunta (FFH.151), Cmdr. R. J. Griggs, RAN, in command, assisted Mobile Bay. Arunta’s medical officer provided triage advice and helped in prioritizing the other three patients prior to their evacuation for further care ashore.

The band 3 Doors Down filmed segments of the music video for their song “When I’m Gone” on board George Washington while she steamed in the Mediterranean on 2 October 2002. The video is a compilation of footage of servicemembers of the different branches deploying, interspersed with clips of the band performing before the ship’s company, her hull number visible in the background. “Dedicated to all the Men and Women Serving Our Country,” the musicians say at the end of the film. “TBT [throwback to] to shooting the music video for When I’m Gone on the U.S.S. George Washington in 2002,” 3 Doors Down shared on their Facebook page on 7 April 2016. “We dedicate this song each night to all of those who have served and sacrificed for our safety. We Thank You, Friends!”

Thirty-three-year-old Lt. Cmdr. Robert E. Clukey of VFA-34, deployed on board George Washington, crashed in a Hornet during a nighttime practice bombing run over the Aegean Sea, 85 miles north of Bari, Italy, on 3 November 2002. Aircraft from the carrier and guided missile cruiser Normandy (CG-60) searched into the next day but failed to locate either Clukey, who had flown more than 20 combat missions over Southern Iraq and Afghanistan, or his plane.

Early the following year, 25-foot fishing boat Little Spray caught fire and sank approximately 60 miles east of St. Augustine, Fla., on 2 February 2003. The Coast Guard notified George Washington, which carried out flight operations nearby, and she launched two helicopters from Reserve Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 75, temporarily embarked on board from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla. The helos rescued four of the five people from the boat, and a private boat, Whiskey Man, also responded to the Coast Guard’s call and retrieved the fifth person. One of the people died, but the carrier’s medical team treated the four survivors for mild hypothermia and second degree burns, and a Grumman C-2A Greyhound of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 flew the four injured people to medical facilities at Jacksonville for further treatment. Investigators did not determine the cause of the fire.

Jihādists (Muslim volunteers) increased their infiltration into Iraq during the winter and spring of 2004, primarily moving along a route that ran across the Syrian mountains and down the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers into Fallujah and Ramadi west of Baghdad. Navy and marine aircraft struck these jihādists and insurgents during Operation Vigilant Resolve. On 9 April 2004, the Coalition suspended Vigilant Resolve to allow negotiations, but Fallujah remained an extremist stronghold and the fighting continued. George Washington, with CVW-7 embarked, operated in the area and on 28 April she launched F-14Bs of VFs 11 and 143 and F/A-18Cs of VFAs 131 and 136 that dropped 13 GBU-12 guided bomb units on jihādists and insurgents locked in fierce battle with marines of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, enabling the leathernecks to hold their positions. Aircraft flew more than 7,000 sorties from George Washington during this deployment, 1,500 of them against the enemy during the fighting in Iraq.

Twenty-one-year-old AN David M. Wilson of Red Oak, Texas, assigned to the ships Air Department, died from severe head injuries he incurred while operating a tow tractor in the hangar bay, while the ship trained off North Carolina at approximately 0400 on 21 November 2003. Wilson had enlisted in the Navy in June 2001, and served on board George Washington since October of that year. He was survived by his wife.

On 2 December 2005, the Navy announced that George Washington would relieve Kitty Hawk (CV-63) in 2008 as the forward deployed aircraft carrier at FSA Yokosuka, Japan. George Washington, with CVW-17 embarked, therefore sailed from Norfolk on 7 April 2008. On 22 May, however, a fire erupted on board George Washington while she accomplished a replenishment with guided missile frigate Crommelin (FFG-37) in the Pacific. The ships conducted emergency breakaways and sailors fought the blaze for 12 hours, 38 George Washington crewmembers receiving treatment for their injuries. The fire apparently resulted from the ignition of improperly stowed refrigerant compressor oil, and delayed George Washington from relieving Kitty Hawk. George Washington completed repairs, turned-over with Kitty Hawk at NAS North Island, Calif., in August, and reached Yokosuka on 25 September.

The ship steams into a magnificent sunset
The ship steams into a magnificent sunset near Guam, 8 September 2012. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly, U.S. Navy Photograph 120908-N-TX154-095, Navy NewsStand)

Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda cut a wide swath of destruction across the Central Philippines, killing at least 6,268 people (6–9 November 2013). Multiple U.S. aircraft and ships, including George Washington, with CVW-5 embarked, guided missile cruisers Antietam (CG-54) and Cowpens (CG-63), littoral combat ship Freedom (LCS-1), guided missile destroyers Lassen (DDG-82) and Mustin (DDG-89), submarine tender Emory S. Land (AS-39), and Military Sealift Command-manned oceanographic survey ship Bowditch (T-AGS-62) and auxiliary dry cargo ship Charles Drew (T-AKE-10), steamed to the Philippines during Operation Damayan — humanitarian assistance to the victims of the disaster. George Washington received her orders while visiting Hong Kong on 12 November, but returned to sea and reached the Philippines two days later.

Cowpens’ embarked SH-60B, from HSL-49 Detachment 6, supported an MH-60R Seahawk flying from Freedom, and delivered relief supplies to people from a position 16 nautical miles off shore, beginning on 16 November 2013. The following day, two Bell Boeing MV-22 Ospreys of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 and an Osprey of VMM-265, landed on board George Washington for their first operations from the carrier. The unique aircraft refueled and then continued their mission of mercy, delivering supplies to the victims of the tragedy. That same day, George Washington deployed a medical team ashore in the Guinan area of eastern Samar. American and Filipino servicemembers and civil aid workers unloaded ten pallets (five of medical and five of hygienic supplies) at Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport at Tacloban, Leyte. The victims -- as well as the aid workers -- desperately needed the supplies, especially hand sanitizer, baby wash, band-aids, and disinfectant. “The first time I saw the impact of the typhoon, I was shocked,” Lt.( j.g.) Christine Mayfield of HSL-49 recalled, “It feels great to be out there and helping people.”

Sailors refuel a marine Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey
Sailors refuel a Marine Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey that lands on board George Washington during Operation Damayan, 17 November 2013. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Peter Burghart, U.S. Navy Photograph 131117-N-XN177-028, Navy NewsStand)
An MH-60S of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 evacuates people
An MH-60S of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 evacuates people from an area of eastern Samar devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda to safety, 15 November 2013. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Liam Kennedy, U.S. Navy Photograph 131115-N-BD107-375, Navy NewsStand)
George Washington leads a task force of U.S. and Japanese ships in tactical maneuvering
George Washington (right) leads a task force of U.S. and Japanese ships in tactical maneuvering during Annual Exercise 13 in the Philippine Sea, 28 November 2013. The exercise is designed to increase the participants’ readiness and interoperability through training in air and sea operations. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman, U.S. Navy Photograph 131128-N-BX824-367, Navy NewsStand)
A Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet of Strike Fighter Squadron 115
A Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet of Strike Fighter Squadron 115 launches from George Washington while the ship operates in the Pacific Ocean, 24 September 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Everett Allen, U.S. Navy Photograph 140924-N-GT589-023, Navy NewsStand)
Sailors connect a refueling probe
Sailors connect a refueling probe while the carrier replenishes from Military Sealift Command-manned oiler John Ericsson (T-AO-194) in the South China Sea, 19 October 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paolo Bay, U.S. Navy Photograph 141019-N-TE278-043, Navy NewsStand)
George Washington crewmembers give the signal to raise the integrated catapult control system
George Washington crewmembers give the signal to raise the integrated catapult control system while the ship operates in the waters south of Japan, 10 November 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Bryan Mai, U.S. Navy Photograph 141110-N-EH855-047, Navy NewsStand)

Detailed history pending.

Mark L. Evans
20 June 2018

Published: Wed Jun 20 12:20:38 EDT 2018