South Carolina was launched in 1 July 1972 and commissioned as DLGN-37 in 25
January 1975. She was redesignated CGN-37 six months later in the Navy's
major type realignment of 30 June 1975. South Carolina was built at Newport
News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Virginia.
The cruiser's first North Atlantic deployment was to the USS Nimitz Battle
Group. After South Carolina participated in Exercise Solid Shield in the
Caribbean and completed her first Mediterranean deployment in February 1977.
The South Carolina in company with her sister ship, California, and Nimitz
commenced a second Mediterranean deployment in November 1977 and returned to
Norfolk, Virginia in July 1978.
South Carolina deployed again to the Mediterranean in January 1979 with the
Dwight D. Eisenhower Battle Group.
In 1980, South Carolina deployed as part of the first Atlantic battle group
to spend an entire deployment in the Indian Ocean. After a cruise to the
Virgin Islands in November 1981, she was deployed in January 1982 for a six
month deployment with Eisenhower.
In 1985, South Carolina began a new year by conducting preparatory exercises
in the Caribbean. It was deployed to the Mediterranean in March and completed
the deployment seven months and 46,500 miles later. South Carolina spent the
majority of the deployment on station off Lebanon, in the wake of the
hijacking of TWA Flight 847. The cruiser underwent her second extended
maintenance period from October 1985 to June 1986. She departed in July 1986
for a North Atlantic cruise, and made port visits to Wilhelmshaven, Germany
and Oslo, Norway. Upon her return to Norfolk, she commenced preparations for
overseas deployment and got underway on 30 December 1986 with the Nimitz
Battle Group. During this deployment, South Carolina returned to her station
off Lebanon when British peace emissary Terry Waite was kidnapped in Beirut.
In June 1987, just months after the USS Stark (FFG-31) was struck by Iraqi
missiles, South Carolina was involved in a tense standoff with Libyan jets in
the Gulf of Sidra. A major incident was averted by the use of high powered
electronic warfare equipment to jam the jet's radars and Libya fired back
only with diplomatic protest.
She conducted joint exercises, entered the Arctic Circle where crew members
became a member of the Order of the Blue Nose, and had a port visit to
Wilhelmshaven, Germany. She returned home in October, 1988 to make final
preparations for deployment.
South Carolina deployed to the Mediterranean in December 1988 with the
Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group. During this deployment, helicopters from
Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron NINE (HS-9) teamed up to rescue the
fifteen British crew members from four yachts disabled by heavy weather.
The crew members' rescue was broadcast on television in France, Italy and the
United Kingdom, and reported worldwide in newspapers. It returned to Norfolk
on 30 June 1989, and began a four month availability at Norfolk Naval
Shipyard following a one month Caribbean visit in support of operations with
South Carolina departed 5 January 1990 for Limited Team Training in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The cruiser again set sail for the Caribbean on 12
March 1990 for law enforcement operations returning on 13 April 1990 having acted
as Coast Guard, COMCARIBRON flagship and making two drug interdictions. South
Carolina returned to the Caribbean in July for counter narcotics operations,
where she served as flagship for Commander, Joint Task Group 4 and
South Carolina departed 1 October 1990 for operations with the Saratoga
Battle Group. Following a solo trans-Atlantic crossing, she transited the
Suez Canal for the first time in her history. During Operation Desert Shield,
she served as flagship for COMDESRON 24, the Maritime Interdiction Force
Commander in the northern Red Sea. South Carolina conducted twenty-seven
boardings during Maritime Interdiction Force operations. Admiral Frank Kelso,
Chief of Naval Operations, visited the South Carolina on station 7 November 1990.
Upon completion of Maritime Interdiction Force operations, South Carolina was
selected as the first nuclear powered warship to visit the Jeddah, Saudi
Arabia. In January 1991 the South Carolina participated in operations in the
Central Mediterranean with the Theodore Roosevelt and America Battle Groups.
It sortied early from Taranto, in Italy 17 January 1991 at the start of
Operation Desert Storm. South Carolina acted as an Anti-Air Warfare Commander
for the Mediterranean, protecting operation Silver Cloud air corridors and
the approaches to the Suez Canal. South Carolina acted as on-scene commander
and supervised the recovery of four survivors and 29 bodies from the sinking
merchant ship Continental Lotus. South Carolina returned to homeport on 28 March
1991. South Carolina entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a Combat System New
Threat Upgrade and refueling of both reactors and left the shipyard 30 March
1994 with a new lease on life.
Following nuclear refueling, she participated in Operation Able Vigil Forces
to assist in the rescue and transport of thousands of Cuban migrants; its
crew members were awarded the Coast Guard Commendation Medal.
South Carolina's first post-refueling deployment was to the Straits of
Florida during October and November 1994 to rescue Cuban refugees who were
fleeing their homeland in hopes of reaching the United States. South Carolina
commenced workups in the spring in preparations for her next major
In the fall of 1995, she started her eleventh deployment. This cruise saw
service off the coast of the former republics of Yugoslavia in support of
Operations Deny Flight, Sharp Guard, and Decisive Endeavor, which was part of
the overall NATO Operation Joint Endeavor. South Carolina acted as "Red
Crown" and Air Warfare Commander in the Adriatic Sea, earning the NATO
Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, and Armed Forces Service Medals. South
Carolina returned to homeport in the spring of 1996. South Carolina completed
all unit work-up phases and began fleet operations with the George Washington
Battle Group in the spring of 1997. From April to June 1997 South Carolina
conducted a COMPTUEX with the George Washington Battle Group coordinating and
acting as Air Warfare Commander for the largest and most successful surface-to-air
missile exercise in the Atlantic fleet. In August 1997, South Carolina
participated in Fleetex and completed all preparations for deployment.
In October 1997, the cruiser began its final Mediterranean cruise visiting
thirteen ports of call from Haifa, Israel to Naples, Italy and Rota, Spain.
She served as the Sixth Fleet Air Warfare Commander and participated in three
major NATO exercises. The ship returned to homeport Norfolk in April 1998.
Just weeks after returning from the Mediterranean, South Carolina returned to
sea for six weeks of Counter Narcotics operations in the South Western
The ship conducted its final port visit in Charleston, South Carolina between
10 August and 14 August 1998. South Carolina was deactivated on 4 September
1998 The last of the crew left in July 1999, with the exception of a small
contingent to escort her through the Panama Canal and to Bremerton, WA where
she entered the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Puget
Sound Naval Shipyard on 1 October 1999. She was stricken from the Naval
Vessel Register on 30 July 1999, and on 28 March 2000 ceased to exist.
Presently she is drydocked at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard going through the
process of being cut up. Her keel landed on the resting blocks in Drydock #3
in October 2007 to complete the process.