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USS Theodore Roosevelt: The Apex of Wartime Aircraft Carriers in the U.S. Navy?

USS Theodore Roosevelt Goes to War: In addition to being the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt had a deep connection with the United States Navy.

Prior to the Spanish-American War, he had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and as president oversaw the country’s naval expansion – so much so that by the end of his second term the United States had more battleships than any other country besides the United Kingdom.

The Panama Canal, which was also a pet project of Roosevelt’s, allowed the U.S. Navy to rapidly move from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.

Though no battleship was ever named for the president and war hero four vessels have been named in his honor, including the fourth Nimitz-class supercarrier. It is truly a special ship. USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) was the first aircraft carrier to be assembled in large sections or modules. Much like building a model, the innovative construction techniques employed with USS Theodore Roosevelt have been used on every aircraft carrier since.

This sped her construction and she was launched in October 1984 and commissioned two years later in October 1986. The carrier began her maiden deployment in late December 1988 with Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8) embarked.

However, it almost never happened. President Gerald Ford had actually canceled the order for CVN-71 in 1976 and instead sought to build two conventional-powered carriers that could operate with vertical and/or short takeoff and landing aircraft.

President Jimmy Carter also initially opposed the building of the nuclear-powered carrier, but he reversed course following the Iran hostage crisis, which highlighted the need for U.S. carrier battle groups to remote regions of the world. Construction of CVN-71 was finally authorized under the Fiscal Year 1980 (FY80) authorization bill for the Department of Defense (DoD).

USS Theodore Roosevelt Heads off to Fight 

While named for the man who remarked it was wise to speak softly and carry a big stick, Roosevelt was still one who didn’t shy away from doing his part. So it was somewhat fitting that just over two years after entering service, USS Theodore Roosevelt was deployed to take part in Operation Desert Shield and arrived in the Persian Gulf in mid-January 1991.

During the subsequent Operation Desert Storm, which actually began the day before the carrier arrived on station, the vessel took part in combat operations where pilots flew more than 4,200 sorties – more than any other carrier. In total, aircraft operating from Theodore Roosevelt dropped more than 4.8 million pounds of ordnance!

The warship’s airwing later took part in patrols during Operation Provide Comfort to support Kurdish forces in Iraq, and then a year later in Operation Deny Flight to support the U.S. no-fly zone over Bosnia. CVN-71 then became one of only a few nuclear-powered warships to transit the Suez Canal when she was deployed to participate in Operation Southern Watch over Iraq.

Theodore Roosevelt began her seventh deployment just after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, and joined the already-present USS Enterprise and USS Carl Vinson, and conducted attacks against al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

While deployed in the region, Theodore Roosevelt spent a total of 160 consecutive days at sea and broke the record for the longest period underway of a U.S. carrier since World War II.

The carrier is also one of the most decorated warships of the post-Cold War era. Her awards include a Joint Meritorious Unit Award, three Navy Unit Commendations, five Battle Efficiency Awards (Battle “E”), two National Defense Service Medals, two Security Excellence Awards, and a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal among others. The warship also was awarded a NATO Medal as well as Kuwait Liberation Medals from both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

It was this past March that CVN-71 received the 2021 Battle Efficiency Award, and the Battle “E” award highlights the crew’s high level of sustained proficiency and readiness to perform in an operational environment throughout a year-long evaluation.

“This is a team award,” said Capt. Eric J. Anduze, Theodore Roosevelt‘s commanding officer. “It demonstrates this team’s ability to perform anywhere, anytime.”

Teddy Roosevelt would no doubt be proud that this fighting lady bears his name, and he’d certainly be proud of the ship’s crew.