San Diego, California, January 1963
The same hierarchical relationship is preserved when the group visits the uss Oriskany, an aircraft carrier built late in World War ii and a participant, like the Sperry, in the Korean War. The first sighting, taken on the approach, is of a warship stem to stern, from the perspective of a humbler vessel on the water. A photograph taken on the vast flight deck reinforces the message. A friendly handshake – the photographic standard ‘grip and grin’ – might have been staged as a photo opportunity, so neatly has it been executed by our novice photographer. The protagonists clasp hands beneath an enormous warning sign: “Beware of jet blast and propellers.” A glance around the flight deck suggests that none of that is about to occur. Two sailors, one actually reclining, are taking a break in the background, above skids loaded with buckets. A cord or hose snakes across the deck under the protagonists’ feet. Things are not shipshape, in other words, and the sailor in work shirt looking down from above seems to be counting the minutes until the visitors leave. The Oriskany had come into San Diego in mid-December and was taking part in operational training exercises: enter Course Sixteen. But even at this random, in-between moment, the sheer scale of the warship is impressive, and the dwarfed NDC visitors are on their best behaviour: no horsing around as in North Bay. If Warren Langford was able to record this ceremonial handshake, so, one might surmise, were his companions, who are not in the picture but well off to the side, looking on.
A few months after these pictures were taken, the Oriskany had its first contact with the Vietnam War. It went on to launch thousands of bombing missions during the war and suffer an onboard fire that killed forty-four crewmen. The ship was decommissioned in 1976, but it came to public attention again during the 2008 American presidential election as the carrier base of navy pilot, become Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, when he was shot down over North Vietnam in October 1967 and imprisoned until early 1973.