USS ARKANSAS was laid down on 17 January 1977 at Newport
News, Va., by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co.; launched on 21
October 1978; sponsored by Mrs. Dale Bumpers, the wife of United States Senator
Dale Bumpers, of Arkansas; and commissioned on 18 October 1980, Capt. Dennis S.
Read in command.
The guided-missile cruiser spent the four months following her commissioning in
the vicinity of Hampton Roads, Va.,
clearing up details associated with her acceptance by the Navy and preparing
for her shakedown cruise. Late in February 1981, she made a brief round-trip
voyage to Puerto Rico and back and then
resumed preparations for shakedown training. In March, she completed contract
trials and conducted a public relations call at Port Everglades, Fla. April brought a
series of underway qualifications and certifications. On 28 April, ARKANSAS departed Norfolk
to carry out shakedown training in the West Indies.
That cruise included more tests and trials, port visits to several Caribbean Islands
and a swing south to call at Rio de Janeiro and Recife in Brazil.
The warship returned to Norfolk
on 25 June and began post-shakedown availability at the Newport News
Shipbuilding Co. six days later. ARKANSAS
completed repairs on 15 December and put to sea for three days of trials before
returning to port where holiday routine occupied what little remained of 1981.
The warship did not get underway again until three weeks into 1982. She put
to sea on 22 January and shaped a course south to Key West, Fla.,
where she underwent explosive shock tests. In the intervals between the several
visited Mayport and Port Everglades for work on some of her equipment. Returning
north at the beginning of March, she entered the yard at the Newport News
Shipbuilding Co. for two months of post-shakedown repairs. The guided-missile
cruiser conducted trials at sea on 3 and 4 May and then returned to Newport
News for another 11 days to correct minor deficiencies.
She arrived back in Norfolk on 20 May and, the
next day, commenced local operations out of her home port. Over the ensuing
four months, ARKANSAS carried out a schedule
of training operations conducted mostly off the Virginia capes. Two missions, however, took
her south to the West Indies. From 23 June
to 16 July, she voyaged to Guantanamo
for refresher training. Between 24 September and 16 October, the warship served
as escort for aircraft carrier NIMITZ (CVN 68) during an operational readiness exercise executed
in the vicinity of Puerto Rico.
Upon her return to Norfolk in mid-October, ARKANSAS began preparations for her first tour of duty
with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.
The guided-missile cruiser embarked upon that assignment on 10 November 1982.
She completed the transatlantic voyage on 30 November, and then set out across
the Mediterranean bound for the coast of troubled Lebanon. She arrived on station
near Beirut on
6 December. Though ARKANSAS spent most of her
time supporting the multinational force ashore in its efforts to keep peace in Lebanon, she left the eastern Mediterranean
occasionally for port calls and to participate in some of the 6th Fleet's
freedom-of-navigation maneuvers into the Gulf of Sidra off the coast of Libya. On
January 3rd, 1983 USS ARKANSAS collided with the Italian merchantman
MEGARA ILEA in the Strait
of Messina and is
"slightly damaged on the port side". Witnesses reported that a 30’ or
40’ gash was ripped in the mess decks that also included the chief’s mess. The
warship completed her final tour on station near Lebanon
on 4 May 1983 and laid in a course for Gibraltar.
After a two-day visit to the "Rock," ARKANSAS
got underway for Norfolk
on 10 May.
The guided-missile cruiser stood into her home port again at the end of the
third week in May. Norfolk,
however, remained her home port only for the duration of her post-deployment
standdown period. On 8 July, ARKANSAS began
the long voyage to her new base of operations at Alameda,
Calif. Steaming by way of Port Everglades in Florida and Charlotte Amalie
in the Virgin Islands, she arrived in the Canal Zone on 21 July and transited
the Panama Canal on the 22d. From there, the
warship headed north to Alameda,
reaching her destination on 31 July. ARKANSAS
spent the next five weeks at her new home port clearing up incidentals
attendant to the shift of bases and carried out nuclear propulsion safety
Normal operations at sea began again during the second week in September and
occupied the guided-missile cruiser for the remainder of 1983 and the first six
weeks of 1984. Between 12 and 14 February 1984, ARKANSAS
made the passage from Alameda to Bremerton, Wash.,
where she entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for a three-month repair
period. The warship returned to Alameda in mid-May and the crew readied her for
a deployment that became a circumnavigation of the globe. On 1 June, ARKANSAS put to sea on
the first leg of her long voyage. En route to Hawaii, she participated in the
multinational exercise Operation "RIMPAC 84." She spent the latter
half of June conducting exercises in the Hawaiian islands then resumed the
voyage west on 2 July. ARKANSAS arrived at
Subic Bay on 20 July and remained in the Philippines until the beginning of
August. At that time, she set out for Hong Kong
where she visited during the period 6 to 10 August.
From there, ARKANSAS headed for the Indian Ocean. The guided-missile cruiser
served almost three months in the Indian Ocean, primarily in that portion known
as the Arabian Sea where the protracted war between Iraq and revolutionary Iran
threaten to engulf their neighbors and perhaps involve the superpowers as well.
On 1 November, ARKANSAS entered the Red Sea on
her way to the Suez Canal. She passed through
the canal on the 3rd and, after an expeditious passage, stopped at Toulon,
France, from the 7th to the 12th. The Arkansas was the first Nuclear Powered
vessel to ever pass through the Suez Canal. Returning to sea on the 12th, the
warship shaped a course through the Strait of Gibraltar and across the
Atlantic. She rounded out her circumnavigation with calls at the Azores,
Barbados and St. Thomas. ARKANSAS transited
the Panama Canal on 9 December and reached Alameda on the 17th.
Post-deployment stand down kept her in port at Alameda through the end of 1984 and into
February of 1985. Between 17 and 19 February, ARKANSAS
sailed north to Bremerton
for a four-month restricted availability during which she was armed with
Tomahawk cruise missiles and the Phalanx close-in air defense system. Back at Alameda on 25 June, the
guided-missile cruiser resumed training operations out of her home port soon
thereafter. The usual exercises, inspections and examinations kept her busy
through the summer and fall of 1985. On 7 December, the warship began preparations
for overseas movement.
During time between cruises at the end of 1985, the USS
Arkansas was designated as the Tomahawk test platform for the west coast. The
Arkansas made many 10 to 14 day trips off of the coast of southern California
to test fire the new Tomahawk missile. These tests were performed while the
crew was at general quarters. The target was set somewhere in the dessert
several hundred miles away. The missile was fired and a chase aircraft would
follow the missile over land and to the target. The chase plane was a safety
measure just in case the missile went off its course and was instructed to blow
up the weapon remotely if needed.
The usual year-end holiday leave and upkeep period interrupted her efforts to
get ready for the upcoming deployment, but the guided-missile cruiser put to
sea as scheduled on 15 January 1986. During the transit to Hawaii the crew found
out that the space shuttle had blown up on take-off. The accident was broadcast
over site TV from a recording made on the day of the incident. Again the
Arkansas participated in exercises during the passage and stopped at Pearl
Harbor. Within days and the ship was off again to Subic Bay, Philippines then
to Singapore for a few days. The Arkansas then
made her way across the Indian Ocean to Karachi,
guided-missile cruiser called at Karachi between
15 and 20 March then resumed her voyage to the Arabian Sea.
Once more, ARKANSAS patrolled the waters of
the troubled Middle East.
Her sojourn in the Arabian Sea, however,
lasted only until late April. On the 29th and the 30th, she left the Red Sea
and transited the Suez Canal headed for another hot spot. The Arkansas
led the way with the Enterprise
and Truxtun following. The Arkansas once again made history as the second
Nuclear Powered vessel to traverse the Suez Canal. The 12 hour transit began
just after dawn so that it would be completed before dark. The upper decks
were busy with sailors manning binoculars, 50 cal machine guns, and shoulder
rocket launchers. Every watch was doubled up in case anyone was injured in
an attack. The day long journey took the trio through sand storms and past
remnants of wars past which littered the sandy shores on both sides. The next
stop was Lybia and Col. Muammar Gadahfi’s compound. On Memorial Day 1986, the pig crossed
the ‘Line of Death” and entered the Gulf of Sidra for the first time. During
the month of May and June, ARKANSAS served with aircraft carrier ENTERPRISE (CVN 65)
and guided missile cruiser TRUXTUN (CGN 35) off the coast of Libya in the wake of the
air strikes launched on that country by the United States in reprisal for
terrorist activity against Americans in Germany.
The next port of call was Gaeta,
Italy where the Arkansas anchored off of the coast for a week and then it was
off to Monaco. The Arkansas sailed into Monaco and the crew enjoyed 7 days
ashore. Once the port call in Monaco was complete the Arkansas did make an
attempt to make a port call off the coast of Haifa, Israel. She arrived one
night and the crew was supposed to get shore leave the next day. During the
night a local night club that was frequented by US Service men was bombed and
some military personnel were killed. With this event the Arkansas decided it
was best to pull up anchor and head west instead of risking the lives of the
left the Mediterranean at the end of June and shaped a course for Australia.
On July 4th she crossed the equator and enjoyed the “crossing the
line ceremonies”. Here Polywogs become Shellbacks in a 2 day extravaganza. The
pig arrived at Fremantle between 18 and 22 July. The ship steamed around the
horn of Africa and made it to Fremantle in 7 days. During the transit to the
port at Fremantle there was a Greenpeace demonstration in which a man grabbed
onto the bow of the Enterprise and held on for a brief moment which managed to
make the local news. She stopped at Fremantle between
18 and 22 July and then headed for Subic Bay where she laid over for two days
at the end of the month. From there, the warship headed for Pearl Harbor where
she paused overnight on 8 and 9 August. She arrived back in her home port on 13
August. From there it was back to Subic Bay where she laid over for two
days at the end of the month. The warship headed for Pearl Harbor next where
she paused overnight on 8 and 9 August. Male family members were allowed on a Tiger
Cruise where they got to ride back to San Diego with the crew. The 4 day trip
was highlighted by an air show put on by the air wing aboard the Enterprise. The crew and
their families enjoyed seeing F-14’s break the sound barrier and drop
live bombs on un-suspecting fish. After a brief stay in San Diego where Tiger Cruise
members went ashore, the Arkansas arrived back in our home port on 13 August
1986. The wives club had made banners that hung from the Oakland Bay Bridge
welcoming the crew home and to reclaim the hearts they left in San Francisco.
The ARKANSAS remained at Alameda until late September for the leave
and upkeep period that usually follows an extended tour of duty overseas. Early
in October, the warship resumed local operations along the west coast. She
remained so occupied for the rest of 1986.
Operation: Kennel Freelance
The USS Arkansas departed from Alameda, California
on April 27th, 1987 for operations in the Northern Pacific (NorPac). She
stopped off in San Diego, California for special weapons on load prior to
deployment. Following a brief port visit in Perl Harbor, Hawaii, the pig got
underway on May 8th for Operation Kennel Freelance. The Arkansas left Pearl
Harbor with 2 silent partners, both Fast Attack submarines that would shadow her
every move. The crew was told that they were heading for Adak, Alaska. On the
night of May 16th an announcement came over the 1MC from the Captain, Mr.
Robert Twardy. The Captain told the crew to go darken ship and turn off all
radars and sources of radio frequency (RF) emissions. Captain Twardy had strict
orders from Washington to head for the peninsula of Kamchatka and surprise the
Russians. This was a time when the cold war was in full swing and pulling
stunts like this happened on occasion. Russia
drew a strait line between two points that were located at the mouth of the Avacha Bay.
The Arkansas was about to enter what the Russians called "restricted
waters" near the top secret Soviet naval base at Petropovlosk. The US did
not agree that this "bay" was restricted and this was a test of our
policy. Inside the bay was the largest Soviet Military base on the Pacific Rim
which was comprised of a Naval and Air base. As she approached the coast at
0400 Sunday morning, May 17th, all was quiet. Within a few hours of dawn the
ship was surrounded by Soviet intelligence gathering ships, Cruisers,
Destroyers, submarines, and fighter aircraft. A few years earlier another of
the Virginia class cruisers had surprised the Russians as the Arkansas was
about to and they were rammed by a Russian warship. The crew was warned the
same may happen to them and the next few days that followed were tense.
Arkansas had all of her weapons mounts powered up and
ready just in case something happened. The crew held "quarters" as usual
each morning and performed routine maintenance as if the Russians were not
there. As a daily requirement the Gunner’s Mate Missile, (GMM's) had to test
both the forward and aft missile launchers by running up a "blue
bird", which looked like a live missile except for the color. The
maintenance only takes a few minutes to perform but if you were to run up a
missile in what Russia
considers their waters surrounded by warships you are asking for trouble. The
Ark had to get to Flank speed, which the Russians could not match, and leave
them behind. When the ship was out of sight the maintenance crew would run up a
missile on the forward launcher and perform maintenance. Once that was complete
the pig would turn around, slow down, and perform the same on the aft launcher.
The Soviets put up signal flags
that displayed a warning. The Arkansas had to leave or risk being rammed or
fired upon which kept tensions high. On the 4th day the Ark crossed the
imaginary line of death again but after 5 days the crew started getting used to
the daily routine. Every morning a submarine would surface and dive as a
reminder that they were there. The ship was constantly surrounded on at least 3
sides by ships as aircraft circled overhead. BE-12 Mail's would swoop down and
buzz nearby on occasion. Once the crew was comfortable with the routine they
started breaking out their cameras. At first it was just the Arkansas crew that
was taking pictures as the Russian crew stood stoically at attention. That soon
changed and they too began taking photographs of the Arkansas crew. In the end
the Arkansas was not rammed and no shots were fired.
On June 8th she headed East for Adak, Alaska. With
roughly 4 weeks of tension behind them the crew needed some rest. The Arkansas pulled into the Harbor at Adak
for some supplies and a long awaited mail call. The weather was not cooperating
and the scheduled port of call was cancelled. Next stop was Anchorage, Alaska for a few days
of shore leave. From there it was a tour of the Glacier Bay National Park. The
trip led them inland where they watched killer whales, icebergs, and an actual
glacier break apart and fall into the water. After the brief sightseeing tour
she turned around and headed back home to Alameda, California.
In January of 1988 the Arkansas steamed for Bremerton, Washington
for overhaul. There we would spend 18 months in dry dock and completely refitted
for sea. On June 15th, 1989 she underwent sea trials tied to the
In May 1991, Arkansas
deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of the Abraham Lincoln carrier battle
In 1996 Arkansas was part of the Carl Vinson carrier battle group
off the coast of Iraq and participated in the Rugged Nautilus exercise.
USS ARKANSAS served her country for 17 years, 8 months and 19 days, until
decommissioned on 7 JUL 1998. USS ARKANSAS was disposed of on 1 November 1999
at the Nuclear-Powered Ships Recycling Program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard,
She had once been considered to be preserved as a museum ship in her namesake
state, but as an ocean-going vessel, would not have been able to navigate
inland rivers, except during the springtime flood of the Mississippi River.
Artifacts from Arkansas, including the ship’s bell and anchor, are on
public display at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little
Rock, Arkansas. Currently a replica of the bridge is being constructed as
part of the many displays at the museum.
EM2 Allen K. Kraft
RE02 Work Center Supervisor
June 1985- August 1989
(CGN-41).” Pages 1. November 1st, 2010 <http://www.navysite.de/cg/cgn41.htm>.
“USS Arkansas (CGN-41) Defender of Opportunity.”
Hullnumber.com: Pages 1.
4th, 2010 http://www.hullnumber.com/CGN-41.
“ USS Arkansas (CGN-41) Pages 1. December 5th,
“USS Arkansas (CGN-41).” NavSource
Online: Cruiser Photo Archive: Pages 1.
The story does not stop there. I am looking for sailors who
served and wish to add to the story. Please send any information to me and
I will update this site.