USF Constellation (1797-1853)

Credit: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Naval Historical Center

The configuration of the 15 stars in the original United States national flag.
 
(Frigate: displacement 1,265 tons; length 164 feet, beam 41 feet; draft 13 feet, 6 inches; complement 340; armament 38 24-pounder long guns)
 
The first Constellation, a frigate designed by naval constructors Joshua Humphreys and Josiah Fox whose plans were altered in the execution by builder, David Stodder, and the superintendent of shipbuilding, Captain Thomas Truxtun, was built at the Sterrett Shipyard, Baltimore, Md., and launched on 7 September 1797.
 
Constellation convoyed American merchantmen at the outset (June through August 1798), before sailing for the West Indies to protect United States’ commerce in those waters. Under the command of Captain Thomas Truxtun, she sailed for the Caribbean in December 1798. Subsequently, on 9 February 1799 she received her baptism of fire in capturing the French 40-gun frigate L’Insurgente in battle off Nevis, West Indies, in a hard fought victory, and bringing her prize into port. In succeeding months, she also encountered and seized two French privateers, Diligent and Union. After a brief voyage under Captain Samuel Barron, Constellation, commanded again by Truxtun, sailed in December 1799 for the West Indies. On the evening of 1 February 1800 she engaged the 52-gun frigate Vengeance in a lengthy, furious battle. Although Vengeance twice struck her colors and was close to sinking, she was able to utilize the cover of darkness to escape from Constellation which, disabled by the loss of her mainmast, proved unable to pursue. More success came to her in May 1800 when she recaptured three American merchantmen. At the end of the Quasi-War with France, Constellation returned to home waters, where misfortune awaited her. Anchoring in Delaware Bay on 10 April 1801, the ship was caught in winds and an ebb tide that laid her over on her beam ends, occasioning extensive repairs.
 
Sailing with the squadron of Commodore Robert Morris, and later, with that of Commodores Samuel Barron and John Rodgers, Constellation served in the blockade of Tripoli in May 1802. She cruised widely throughout the Mediterranean in 1804 to show the flag in demonstration of United States seapower; evacuated in June 1805 a contingent of U.S.Marines, as well as diplomatic personages, from Derne at the conclusion of a remarkable fleet-shore operation against Tripoli; and took part in a squadron movement against Tunis that culminated in peace terms in August 1805. Constellation returned to the States in November 1805, mooring at Washington where she later was placed in ordinary until 1812.
 
Constellation underwent extensive repairs at Washington in 1812-13, and with the advent of war with England, Constellation, commanded by Captain Charles Stewart, was dispatched to Hampton Roads. In January 1813, shortly after her arrival she was effectively blockaded by an imposing British fleet. Unable to reach the open sea, her presence protected fortifications at Craney Island.
 
In the wake of the War of 1812, naval action resumed against the Barbary powers that had enriched themselves considerably during the struggle with England. Constellation, attached to the Mediterranean Squadron under Commodore Stephen Decatur, sailed from New York on 20 May 1815 and joined in the capture of the Algerian frigate Mashuda on 17 June 1815. Treaties of peace soon ensued Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. Constellation remained with the squadron under Commodores William Bainbridge, Isaac Chauncey, and John Shaw to enforce the accords, returning to Hampton Roads only in December 1817.
 
Except for brief periods under repair in 1828-29, 1832, 1834-35, and 1838-39, Constellation’s career through the mid-point in the 19th century proved varied and colorful. From 12 November 1819 to 24 April 1820 she served as flagship of Commodore Charles Morris on the Brazil Station, protecting American commerce against privateers and supporting the negotiation of trade agreements with South American nations. On 25 July 1820, she sailed for the first time to Pacific waters where she was attached to the Squadron of Commodore Charles Stewart. She remained thus employed for two years, protecting American shipping off the coast of Peru, an area where disquiet erupted into revolt against Spain.
 
In 1827, Constellation acted briefly as flagship for the West India Squadron on a twofold mission involving the eradication of the last of the pirates and the interception of slavers operating in the area. In August 1829, she cruised to the Mediterranean to watch over American shipping and to collect indemnities from previous losses suffered by U.S. merchantmen. While en route to her station, she carried the American ministers to France and England to their posts of duty. Returning to the United States in November 1831, she underwent minor repairs and departed again for the Mediterranean in April 1832 where she remained until an outbreak of cholera forced her to sail for home in November 1834.
 
In October 1835, Constellation sailed for the Gulf of Mexico to assist in crushing the Seminole uprising. She landed shore parties to relieve the Army garrisons and sent her boats on amphibious expeditions. Mission accomplished, she then cruised with the West India Squadron until 1838 serving part of this period in the capacity of flagship for Commodore Alexander Dallas.
 
The decade of the 1840’s saw Constellation circumnavigate the globe. As flagship of Captain Kearny and the East India Squadron, her mission, as assigned in March 1841, was to safeguard American lives and property against loss in the Opium War, and further, to enable negotiation of commercial treaties. En route home in May 1843 she entered the Hawaiian Islands, helping to keep them from becoming a British protectorate, and thereafter she sailed homeward making calls at South American ports.
 
Ultimately laid up in ordinary at Norfolk from 1845 to 1853, Constellation was broken up there in 1853.

US Sloop-of-War Constellation (1854-1955)

With plans completed in May and the keel laid on June 25, 1853, just before steam propulsion was adopted as auxiliary power for all new warships, Constellation was the last all sail ship designed by the Navy, as well as the largest "sloop" built to that date.

Designed by John Lenthall, Chief Constructor of the Navy, as a "sloop-of-war," she was much larger than most other ships of that category. Being closer in size to a second class frigate enabled Constellation to carry a heavier battery of guns than conventional sloops. Launched on August 26, 1854 at the Gosport Navy Yard in Virginia, Constellation was commissioned on July 28, 1855.

USS Constellation CV-64 (1960-2003)

Credit: USS Constellation Association

The Tradition Continues In America’s Flagship

Like her famous namesakes, USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) has a proud and distinguished record. Connie, as her crew affectionately calls her, has almost 40 years of service, which has seen her sail into harm's way from Yankee Station off the coast of Vietnam to the turbulent waters of the Arabian Gulf.

Built at the New York Naval Shipyard as the second ship in the Kitty Hawk class of aircraft carriers, Connie was commissioned on October 27, 1961, under the motto "Spirit of the Old, Pride of the New." She has been home ported at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego since September 1962.
Just like the Frigate CONSTELLATION, America's newest and best Navy ship was immediately put to the test. In response to North Vietnamese attacks on U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964, CONSTELLATION departed from a scheduled port visit to Hong Kong and was the first U.S. warship to launch strikes against North Vietnamese vessels and bases.

Over the next eight years, CONSTELLATION would return to the South China Sea for a total of seven combat cruises, conducting air strikes against heavily fortified North Vietnamese positions, engaging naval targets and shooting down enemy aircraft.
In 1968 President Lyndon Johnson made a surprise visit prior to Connie's fourth deployment to the Western Pacific (WestPac). In November, Connie pilots flew the last strike missions into North Vietnam prior to a bombing halt declaration.
In May 1972, Lt. Randy Cunningham and Ltjg. Willie Driscoll of Fighter Attack Squadron 96 became America's first fighter aces of the Vietnam War by downing three MiGs during vicious dog fighting over North Vietnam. The extraordinary effort brought their total to five enemy aircraft in four months. For her actions in Southeast Asia, President Richard Nixon awarded the Presidential Unit Citation to CONSTELLATION.

In 1975 Connie was re-designated "CV" from "CVA" following a complex overhaul to the flight deck, enabling her to deploy with the S-3A Viking (anti-submarine) and F-14 Tomcat (fighter) aircraft. A newly refurbished Connie began her 10th deployment in April 1977, which included the first port call by a U.S. carrier to Pattaya, Thailand. In September 1978, Connie sailed west once again on her 11th overseas deployment. The ship was extended on station in the Arabian Gulf because of the Iranian hostage crisis. Her service earned her the Navy and Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal. While on her 12th deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, CONSTELLATION set a new endurance record for that time by remaining on station for 110 consecutive days.

In the summer of 1981, Connie hosted President Ronald Reagan. It turned out to be a watershed moment in the carrier's illustrious history. Reagan presented a Presidential Flag to the ship and proclaimed CONSTELLATION as "America's Flagship" - a new ship's motto which is used to this day.

In 1982, Constellation returned to the yards, this time in Bremerton, Wash. Naval aviation had undergone vast changes since 1961, and when Connie came out of the yards in 1984 two weeks early and under budget, it was completely modernized. One facet of the ship's upgrade was the ability to carry the Navy's newest strike fighter, the F/A-18 Hornet. She was also fitted with the new PHALANX radar-guided Gattling gun, two new flush deck catapults and the NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System. During WestPac 1987, Constellation once again found itself in the spotlight; this time providing vital air cover for the escort of U.S. flagged oil tankers through the Arabian Gulf.

In February 1990, Constellation left San Diego, returning to the East Coast for a three-year overhaul. The $800-million Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), completed in Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in March 1993, added an estimated 15 years to the carrier's operational life. The overhaul saw upgrades to virtually every system on the ship.
After completing one of the most successful work-up schedules in Navy history, CONSTELLATION departed San Diego on June 18, 1999, beginning her 19th overseas deployment. Connie immediately put her war fighting skills to the test by conducting a Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX). This marked the first time ever that a carrier has conducted JTFEX at the beginning of a deployment. With increased tensions between North and South Korea, Connie then headed for the Korean theatre to closely monitor the situation and provide a calming influence. After port calls in Pusan, ROK; Yokosuka, Japan; Singapore; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Connie entered the Arabian Gulf on August 28 where she spend the next 10 weeks flying combat air patrols over the Iraqi no-fly zones in support of Operation Southern Watch.

In May 2001, Captain John Miller assumed command from Captain James Kelly. Just as Captain Thomas Truxtun left an indelible imprint on our nation's naval heritage as CONSTELLATION's first Commanding Officer in 1797, so too has Captain Kelly continued that heritage by guiding the Navy's finest crew on the nation's best carrier. As Connie's 30th Commanding Officer, Captain Miller will continue this legacy and add to the illustrious history of America's Flagship. CONSTELLATION returned to San Diego, CA September 15th 2001 from her 20th overseas deployment. The USS Constellation CVA/CV-64 Association along with the officers and crew of the CONSTELLATION on October 27th celebrated her 40 years of proud service to a grateful nation.

June 2, 2003, Constellation returned to San Diego after completing her 21st and final deployment to the Western Pacific, during deployment, she took part in the war on Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom. After her impressive 41 year service life, “Connie” was decommissioned pier side, at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California on August 7, 2003. Mid September 2003, Connie was towed to Puget Sound Naval Station to begin preparation for permanent storage or be stricken from Navy records.
For over 200 years, ship’s named CONSTELLATION have navigated the world’s oceans defending America's interests. In 1797 the first ship of the U.S. Navy, the U.S.F. “frigate” Constellation was commissioned, she was named for the flag of the Continental Congress. Because of her swift sailing speed and handling ability, Constellation became known as the "Yankee Racehorse." Commissioned in 1854, the Sloop of War Constellation carried on the famous name. Then commissioned in 1961, the aircraft carrier Constellation, that later became known as "America's Flagship," continued the tradition of always being first to answer her nation's call. Thousands of Sailors serving America and the U.S. Navy aboard ship’s named Constellation have written a proud, illustrious and stellar history as they protected and defended freedom for both America and other nations around the world.