This 1971 Film Depicted a Mark 1, Mod 0 Day in the Tonkin Gulf
When the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34) hosted the Pacific Fleet Combat Camera Group to shoot the film ‘A Day in WestPac’ in 1971, the “Big O” was on her 14th deployment. She was a member of the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club several times over by then, having already deployed off Vietnam five times. Carrier Air Wing ONE NINE (CVW-19) was embarked aboard “Tico” for the 5th time. The film depicts a Mark One-Mod Zero day aboard an Essex-class carrier deployed to Vietnam. If you were there you know what a good job the camera crews did. The film was uploaded to YouTube by Periscope Film.
Named after a Revolutionary War battle, the Oriskany was one of the few Essex-class carriers completed after World War II concluded in 1945. Work on the ship was actually suspended when the war ended. It wasn’t until 1950 that the ship was completed and commissioned as the final Essex-class carrier to be placed in service. The Oriskany went into service as a straight-deck Essex-class ship. In 1956 the ship went back to the yard for conversion and was decommissioned, there to receive a new angled flight deck, aft deck edge elevator, enlarged forward elevator, enclosed ‘hurricane’ bow, steam catapults, and aluminum deck surface. Oriskany was recommissioned in 1959.
The Air Wing
During her 1971 WestPac deployment aboard Oriskany, CVW-19 consisted of VF-191 ‘Satan’s Kittens’ and VF-194 ‘Red Flashes’ flying the Vought F-8J Crusader, VA-153 ‘BlueTail Flies’ flying the Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) A-7A Corsair II, VA-215 ‘Barn Owls’ and VA-155 ‘Silver Foxes’ flying the A-7B Corsair II, VAQ-130 ‘Zappers’ Detachment 3 flying the Douglas EKA-3B Skywarrior, VFP-63 ‘Eyes of the Fleet’ Detachment 34 flying the Vought RF-8G Crusader, VAW-111 ‘Early Elevens’ Detachment 1 flying the Grumman E-1B Tracer, HC-1 ‘Pacific Fleet Angels’ Detachment 5 flying the Kaman UH-2C Seasprite, and VQ-1 ‘World Watchers’ Detachment 34 flying the Douglas EA-3B Skywarrior.
The Movie Star and a Plot Twist
The Big O starred in several films. The shipboard scenes for the 1954 Paramount film ‘The Bridges at Toko-Ri’ starring William Holden, Grace Kelly, Fredric March, and Mickey Rooney were filmed aboard, as were similar shots for the 1954 MGM feature ‘Men of the Fighting Lady’ starring Van Johnson, Walter Pidgeon, and Keenan Wynn. Much later in 1997 when the ship was laid up prior to scrapping, scenes from the 1998 Universal film ‘What Dreams May Come’ starring Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Max Von Sydow were filmed aboard. Talk about plot twists- Oriskany was not scrapped. In 2006 she was intentionally sunk off Pensacola , Florida in the Gulf of Mexico as an artificial reef.