Writing about the USS
Oriskany is something I enjoy. I don't know why. Maybe it's because she is
so connected to Oneida County. Heck, people here even helped raise some of
the $70 million it took to build her.
So I'm always pleased when something happens that gives me an excuse to
write about the "Mighty O," as she was affectionately called. Like the other
day when I saw an Associated Press article about the "Big O," her other
The article pointed out that for the past two years the Navy has been trying
to sink the Oriskany, something the enemy couldn't do in Korea or in
Vietnam, when John McCain was flying an A-10 Skyhawk off her decks.
McCain, of course, would eventually be shot down and captured by the North
Vietnamese. He would eventually become a U.S. senator.
The plan is to sink the Oriskany in 200 feet of Gulf of Mexico water, thus
creating the world's largest intentionally created man-made reef, which will
attract all sorts of marine life which will attract all sorts of divers and
fishermen which will attract all sorts of money.
The folks at the Chamber of Commerce in Pensacola are as happy as the bars
and restaurants in ports around the world once were when the Oriskany, which
was equipped to hold 80 airplanes and a crew of 3,200, pulled up to the
The Oriskany has had a difficult time of it in recent years. First she went
into mothballs and was for many years tied up at the Navy's shipyard in
Bremerton, Washington. That's where I once went to visit her. She looked
good even then.
Then the Navy sold her to some foreign company which was going to make razor
blades out of her. When that deal fell through, thank goodness, the Navy
took her back.
The "Mighty O" has been towed up and down the west coast and back and forth
across the Gulf coast, but now it looks like the waters off Pensacola will
be her final resting place, which is better than cutting her into pieces but
not as good as turning her into a museum which is what many Oriskany sailors
and fans would have liked.
The Oriskany had been scheduled to be sunk in the Gulf two years ago, but
there were environmental issues. In fact, more than 2,500 Oriskany veterans
had planned on being in Pensacola for the ceremony, and they were hoping to
have Sen. McCain as the main speaker.
Now that she has been cleaned of contaminants, the plan is to use small
explosive devices to sink the Oriskany on May 15th, although that date isn't
set in stone. The Navy wants to sink her slowly, over the course of five
hours, so that she'll come to rest on her keel.
That, of course, will give me another writing excuse. In fact, it might even
give me an excuse to go to Pensacola.
If you'd like to see a picture of the USS Oriskany, here's one showing her
in her glory years. If you'd like to see more pictures, the Village Museum
in Oriskany, home to much USS Oriskany memorabilia, has a website:
In addition to pictures and information about the aircraft carrier, there is
good reading at the website about the history of the Village of Oriskany and
the Aug. 6, 1777 Battle of Oriskany, from which the carrier got her name.
Thanks to that battle we carry American passports instead of ones issued by
the English. But that, as the saying goes, is another story.
Joe Kelly is the editor and publisher of The Boonville Herald & Adirondack Tourist and