Awarded: June 13, 1968
Laid down: January 23, 1970
Launched: September 22, 1971
Commissioned: February 16, 1974
CGN 36 - June 30, 1975
Decommissioned: July 9, 1999
Fate: nuclear-powered ship recycling program;
completed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton - May 12, 2000
The keel was laid for
the"Golden Grizzly" on January 23, 1970 at the Newport News
Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Newport News, Va. She was launched on
September 22, 1971 with a "near miss" of the champagne bottle by
First Lady Mrs. Richard M. Nixon. The USS CALIFORNIA was commissioned on
February 16, 1974 at Pier 12 of the Norfolk Naval Station, Norfolk, Va.
For ten years, USS CALIFORNIA, the sixth ship to bear the name, steamed the
Atlantic and Indian Oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea from this
homeport, serving three times with the Sixth Fleet and twice with the Seventh
Fleet. Her first Mediterranean Cruise was from July 1976 to February 1977.
In the summer of 1977, CALIFORNIA represented the United States Surface Fleet
at the Silver Jubilee Review in Portsmouth, England. More than 150 warships
from 18 nations participated in this commemoration of the 25th anniversary of
Queen Elizabeth's coronation.
Two years later, reactionary Moslems intensified their revolt against the
Shah of Iran. Following seizure of the U. S. Embassy in Iran, CALIFORNIA,
along with USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) and USS TEXAS (CGN 39), interrupted a routine
Mediterranean cruise to steam from Livorno, Italy, to the southern coast of
Iran in the North Arabian Sea. The all-nuclear task group completed the
12,000-mile transit in only eighteen days, remained on station in the Indian
Ocean for the next five months, and eventually returned to Norfolk from the
80,000-mile, nine-month deployment in May of 1980.
The following year, CALIFORNIA completed its second Indian Ocean cruise. Upon
returning to Norfolk via the Panama Canal, the cruiser became the first
nuclear-powered surface ship to circumnavigate the globe since the USS ENTERPRISE
(CVN 65) task force completed Operation Sea Orbit in 1964.
In September 1983, the "Golden Grizzly" left Norfolk for the last
time, steaming through the Panama Canal to its new homeport, Naval Air
Station, Alameda, California. The ship embarked on its first Western Pacific
and Indian Ocean cruise in February 1985 as a member of the USS CONSTELLATION
(CV 64) battle group. During the spring of 1986, CALIFORNIA conducted several
weeks of Bering Sea operations and became the first cruiser to visit Adak,
Alaska, since World War II. She again deployed to the Western Pacific and
completed a second "Around-the-World" cruise in 1987.
The year 1988 brought continued high-tempo operations as CALIFORNIA cruised
the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans for a third time. The ship served as
battle group Anti-Surface Warfare Commander during the RIMPAC 88 exercise as
well as for Olympic Presence Operations off the Korean Peninsula.
Subsequently, during her 1988-1989 deployment, CALIFORNIA assumed duties as
Anti-Air Warfare Commander for operations in the North Arabian Sea and
Arabian Gulf. While assigned patrol duties in the Strait of Hormuz in
December 1988, CALIFORNIA conducted the last USN EARNEST WILL convoy mission
through the strait.
The summer of 1989 saw CALIFORNIA tasked with Northern Pacific operations as
part of a CNO project to study the effects of Near-Land Operating Areas on
carrier battle group operations. In September and October of 1989, the
"Golden Grizzly" participated as an anti-air-warfare picket ship in
PACEX 89, the largest combined sailing of U. S. and allied naval units since
World War II.
In April 1990, CALIFORNIA entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in
Bremerton, Washington for a three-year refueling complex overhaul, including
two new D2G high endurance reactor cores in her engineering plant with
adequate fuel capacity to power the ship for more than 20 years of normal
operations, and the New Treat Upgrade Combat Systems Suite. Upon completion
of the overhaul in January 1993, CALIFORNIA began a series of exercises and
evaluations in preparation for deployment. These included independent
training in all aspects of its mission as well as coordinated battle group
In June 1994, CALIFORNIA joined the USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) battle group in
the Western Pacific for the ship's first deployment in five years. CALIFORNIA
exchanged personnel with the Republic of Korea Navy for a combined exercise
and with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force for ANNUALEX 06G and KEEN
EDGE 95. The cruiser also took part in a LINKEX exercise with United States
forces in and near Korea, establishing the most extensive tactical data link
ever in this region. The deployment wrapped up with participation in TANDEM
THRUST 95, a joint exercise with the armed forces of the United States,
Australia, and several allied nations. CALIFORNIA then returned to her home
at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard just before Christmas 1994.
In 1995, CALIFORNIA completed a four-month maintenance availability,
improving the reliability of her propulsion plant and updating her combat
systems. In September 1995, the "Golden Brizzly" sailed in a parade
of ships through Pearl Harbor as part of the ceremony commemorating the end
of World War II.
In May 1996, CALIFORNIA left for the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans and
the Arabian Gulf on a routine six-month deployment with the USS CARL VINSON
Battle Group. CALIFORNIA received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for
operations SOUTHERN WATCH and DESERT STRIKE for shared duties as Air Warfare Commander
for the Carl Vinson Battle Group.
Having completed a short but intense maintenance period in the spring of
1997, CALIFORNIA conducted a series of training operations and evaluations
including a live-fire missile exercise, and Operational Reactor Safeguards
Examination, and a Final Evaluation Period. CALIFORNIA was awarded the Battle
Efficiency Award for outstanding operational readiness throughout 1997.
In January 1998, CALIFORNIA deployed to the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean
Sea in support of Counterdrug Operations as the Air Warfare Commander for the
Joint Inter-Agency Task Force (JIATF) East. In July, she gave her last
"GRIZZLY ROAR" by participating in RIMPAC 98 as a member of the
The USS CALIFORNIA Deactivation Ceremony was held on 28 August 1998 at the
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.