Three Soviet warships steamed into the Norfolk Naval Base today for a five-day good-will visit that will include cookouts, sightseeing tours and shopping sprees.
The visit to the Navy’s largest base is the second time since World War II that Soviet warships have docked in the United States. Three Soviet vessels visited Boston harbor in 1975.
The guided-missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov, the destroyer Otlichny and the oiler Genrikh Gasanov docked at Pier 7 about 8:30 a.m. after exchanging 21-gun salutes with Ft. Monroe at the entrance to the Hampton Roads harbor.
“They’re sharp-looking. The sailors look good,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Lloyd as he watched from the pier. “They did an impressive job of ship handling when they reached the pier.”
The 1,100 Soviet sailors will spend much of their time mingling with sailors at the base.
“They’re going to have barbecues, cookouts,” said Capt. Paul W. Hanley, an Atlantic Fleet spokesman. “We expect there will be quite a lot of person-to-person contact.”
The Soviet sailors will tour the Navy base, eat at a pizza parlor and McDonald’s, visit a shopping mall and grocery and hardware stores and take a bus trip to the Busch Gardens amusement park in Williamsburg.
The Soviets will reciprocate the hospitality by opening two of the ships to visitors and offering performances by a song-and-dance troupe.
Next month, three Navy ships will visit the Soviet Black Sea port of Sevastopol.
The exchange program was arranged last summer when Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, the Soviet chief of staff, visited the United States as the guest of Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.