USS Independence CV-62 to Live on Only in Our Memories

Today, my ship, the USS Independence, will begin its final journey (under tow) from Bremerton, WA to Brownsville, TX where it will be broken down and scrapped.
It’s interesting (and unique in the military services) how wistful sailors are about their ships when they look back at their time at sea.  I suppose it has something to do with living and working on a big machine, “24 / 7” for, literally, years.
A ship is a living being, of sorts.  The USS Independence (aka “Freedom’s Flagship”) was a machine, but it was run by 5,000 men.  At sea, sailors work seven days a week.  Some work 12 – 14 hour shifts (some longer).  When you’re stuck on a ship, living and working with people, in a confined space with no escape, you HAVE to get along.  You get quite close to your shipmates.  There are no secrets!
It’s understandable that it becomes a mental touchstone of our youth.
The Independence was commissioned in 1959 (launched in 1958) and decommissioned in 1998.  Forty years of service.  Slide show after the jump.

In my dental operatory on the USS Independence.

I spent two years on the “Indy.”  In 1990, out of the entire year, we were in port for only 90 days.  We spent 275 days of that year at sea.  “Haze gray and underway!” “Sailors belong on ships, and ships belong at sea.”  That was also the year we entered the Persian Gulf as the first response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.  That was “Operation Desert Shield,” which later became “Operation Desert Storm.” We spent 118 days on station in the Persian Gulf without seeing a port (or a female).

Hover your mouse over slide show to pause.



Among the many memories is my very first time at sea.  I got to be in a movie!  “Flight of the Intruder” was filmed on the Independence.  It wasn’t a blockbuster.  But, I got to be an extra in a scene with Danny Glover.

“Flight of the Intruder”

Another memory that will never be surpassed is the day I got to fly in the back seat of a jet launched and recovered on the flight deck.


It is sad to know that my ship will cease to exist.  Some ships (like my brother’s ship, the USS Iowa) become floating museums.  The USS Independence was not so lucky.  It’s a shame, but life goes on, and memories are forever.  Fair winds and following seas.

Edit to add – January 2018:

The shipbreaking company that is dismantling the USS Independence sells off bits and pieces of the ship on Ebay.  I was able to get some of the Dental Department signage!  Big score for me!  Now I have to figure out what to do with it.

I found the oral surgeon who served at the same time as I did and sent this sign to him.

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13 Responses to USS Independence CV-62 to Live on Only in Our Memories

  1. Sue says:

    Thank you for your service. Quite the experience during a vibrant period in your life (i.e. young adulthood!)

    Memories evanesce. Do you keep in touch with any of your shipmates?

    Also I have a question. Wiki says the USS Independence was decommissioned in 1998 and remained on mothballs in Puget Sound until “being struck” in 2004. What does “being struck” mean in this context?

    Thank you.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      “Struck” means taken off the Navy’s registry of vessels but not yet disposed of.

      While many memories fade, I’d say that those of living and working on a Navy ship are different. The experience isn’t comparable to anything else in life.

  2. Linda Miles says:

    Great article and photos of your two years on board the ship. You live in FL. Most Navy personnel in our city of Virginia Beach, VA say they have never gone on a cruise for vacation. Have you ever taken a fun cruise with your family? Just curious as really they are much nicer than the military ships. Linda

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hey… I forgot to mention that I listened to your tapes while in the Persian Gulf, Linda! 🙂

      Never been on a regular cruise. No interest in it whatsoever. But, it has nothing to do with my Navy experience. It’s just that the notion of being on a giant cruise ship with thousands of other tourists does NOT appeal to my wife or me. Even when I see the cruise ship ads on TV, I think and say, “That looks like a nightmare to me!” And, it does. Not our “cup of tea.”

      But, then again… what we DO like does not appeal to most Americans. We would rather go far off the beaten path. I proposed to my wife at the base of Angel Falls in Venezuela. We spent three days and nights in the jungle. At night, we slept in hammocks in a “pole barn” (roof held up by poles, but no walls). Bathed in a river. Ate food prepared by the local natives.

      Mind you, with young kids, we have done more conventional vacations. But, I don’t see us ever doing a cruise ship. Different strokes, as they say!

  3. S.D. says:

    Thank you so much for your service to this country and great blog!!

  4. Linda Matz says:

    Thanks for the blog. My son was on that Westpac. I remember how frightened we all were. We live near the Port of Brownsville where she will dock for the last time. My son also served on the USS Constellation which also had her last port here. It is a very moving experience to see these proud vessels making their final port. He will be there to give the Independence a final salute. Thanks for the memories.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Linda,

      There is a USS Independence Veterans group on Facebook. A bunch of them are going to Brownsville to give it a final salute. It’s very sad to me that she’s going to be scrapped. Regards to your son, my shipmate!

  5. Lance Ledford says:

    Hey Mike, I was your chair side asst. for a while between 89-91. I too will never forget those times and cherish the memories I have. I left the Navy in 93 and stayed in San Diego until 2004. Funny thing, I moved to Silverdale WA in ’04 and drove past ole CV-62 everyday. I didn’t stay in the dental field and I have been in law enforcement for almost 24 years now and it’s been a very rewarding career. I often reminisce of hanging out with you, Mark Milano and LCDR Heiss on the flight deck watching flight ops. Hope all is well with you and your family.

    PS… I still remember Horvath’s instant orthodontic therapy! Do you?

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Dude!! Over the years (and even recently), I’ve tried to use my Google-fu to find you! Damn, you’re elusive!

      SO great to hear from you!

      You were my favorite and best DA in the Navy. Whenever I hear “YYZ” by Rush, I think of you tapping a dental instrument on the 3-way syringe tip to make that little bell sound at the intro to the song. 🙂

      Also remember that you did a great Barney Rubble impression…. and that you crashed a scooter in Hawaii checking out the ladies.

  6. Donald Kast says:

    I just found your blog on the Indy. I was on board from 1988 – 1992 So I remember the filming of the Flight of the Intruder, The Westpac, the we time spent in the Gulf of Oman and the changing of Homeport to Japan. Thanks for a blog that brought it back to memory.

  7. William Threlkeld says:

    Thank you for serving our country, I know most dental and other behind the scenes crew members didn’t get that much said about them but every crew member served there purpose just like you did on the USS Independence. I had a family member serve as a flight engineer during Vietnam he was my stepgrandfather who passed away before I graduated high school, the last time we talked was at lunch and he told me his time serving on it and that he used the old fashion Reel to Reel tapes to record music and played it to remind him of home, he also told me though that the ship he was on was also his home.

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