December 30th, 2013

Whale fluke

Aircraft Carriers are Magic

About a third of the way into the completely fictional novel Red Storm Rising -- yeah I think I'm trying to reassure myself with that -- an aircraft carrier gets attacked.

At least I was able to read that, and not skip or skim the book, because the idea of an aircraft carrier getting attacked especially bothers me. I realized that years ago. It's one reason I didn't see the film adaptation of another Tom Clancy novel, The Sum of All Fears, because I knew from ads that an aircraft carrier is badly damaged in that film. Didn't want to see that. When the very first clip I saw from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (thanks to a Super Bowl ad) was of Decepticons shredding and sinking a carrier and its battle group, I REALLY didn't want to watch that. When I finally borrowed the DVD from the library -- mainly so I could see exactly how incoherent the final film was -- I covered my eyes. I'm not typically a viewer who covers his eyes, but in that case, I made an exception.

And I still have to remind myself that aircraft carriers are the best-protected vessels in the world: surrounded by destroyers, frigates, and (sometimes) subs, plus having all those F/A-18 Hornets onboard ready to launch against threats hundreds of miles away to keep them hundreds of miles away. And that successful attacks against aircraft carriers haven't happened since World War II.

As I get to tell Red Cross staffers every time I donate blood, I was a Navy dependent growing up, though I never went overseas. (They ask that because of the chances of different, special blood-borne diseases one can get elsewhere in the world.) Dad was career Navy, 26 years, and several years of that were spent by him on six aircraft carrier cruises. Five different carriers: Coral Sea, Independence, Kitty Hawk, Nimitz, and the John F. Kennedy. Some of those ships don't exist anymore: as Dad would say, "I've probably shaved with it." Dad can tell you many stories of being on these grey-hulled floating cities; I can only tell a few, because I've spent a total of a few days on them. It's called a Tiger Cruise: family members of crewmembers can be invited on for a brief excursion. Mine was in summer 1987: me and Grandpa Irv flew to Portland, Maine, sailed out to the Kennedy, and rode on it for three days down to its then-home port of Norfolk, Virginia. (If anyone who reads this was in Boston that summer, did you visit the Kennedy in your port? BECAUSE LOTS OF YOU DID.)

That trip was the farthest into the Mid-Atlantic I've gone. (Hello, Mid-Atlantic!) And I had run of lots of the ship, taking pictures all over. I hope I wasn't too obnoxious about it. Weather was warm and gorgeous; we never got hit by bad weather, but -- this was cool -- we saw it. One night I stood in the hangar, looking out one of the side elevators at a lightning storm miles and miles away.

My brother T.J. did this, too, earlier in the 1980s (he joined the ship at Bermuda). Grandpa Irv did it at least once before either T.J. or I did it, in the '70s when Dad was on the Kitty Hawk. Irv would happily tell stories about that, as well as wear the ballcaps for each ship. Those caps are fantastic ice-breakers. As an actual aircraft carrier might be, if it ever sailed north or south far enough to need to break ice. (I know, I know, it's better to let actual ice-breakers do the job. But I can dream.)

Keep being protected and un-damaged, OK, aircraft carriers? I worry for y'all.