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Accidents, Collisions
and
Underway Hazards

Page last update: 15 Dec 2013


Most sailors learn early on that being at sea in a ship is not without its danger. Constant changes in weather, sea state, and visibility keeps the mariner continually on his toes. The unknown dangers of voyaging in unfamiliar waters can make even the "saltiest of the salty" a little bit nervous. Continual vigilance and precise navigation are a prerequisite for arriving at the next port unscathed, but still there is the potential for running aground, collision with objects or other vessels, flooding or sinking, and fire.

Below is a list of the events involving the U.S.S. Little Rock where damage was done to the ship or to the egos of those involved. In a few instances injury or worse tend to highlight the danger to those "...that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters."



Date(s)
of
Incident
Details of Incident
(See Notes Below.)
29 Jul 45
Accident Type: Gunnery
Cause
: Faulty Ammunition
Information: Practice shore bombardment Culebra Island.  Mount #3 fired a pair of 5" HE with one shell bursting about 20' out of the barrel. Fragments struck ship starting small fires.
08 Aug 45
Accident Type: Aircraft
Cause: Unknown
Information: Aircraft lost at sea. Pilot rescued.  (Exact date required)
The crew remembers....
 
From: John Breslin, S1/C 1945-46:  .... from my "Air, Aft" lookout post behind the highest aft director, I witnessed and described (on SP phone), our only complete aircraft loss during my time aboard.  Ensign W. R. Merryman was landing one of our scout planes south of Cuba, on the smoothed-over water surface our ship always created for landings, by making a slowed-down sliding turn.  As Ens. Merryman was taxiing up towards our towed recovery netted sled, his plane suddenly nosed over, engine still turning and tail straight up in the air.  The pilot was pitched forward out of his cockpit, into a bright, clear sea, teeming with hundreds of visible sharks.  I reported the sharks immediately on my SP phone, but they were also clearly visible from all parts of our ship.  The OD immediately ordered the rescue whaleboat's crew not to enter the water. But when the swimming pilot was not able to grasp the boathook, my buddy and bunk-neighbor, (whose rack was directly across the aisle), immediately dove over his bow and swam to the pilot who was losing consciousness.   Grasping the pilot's life vest collar, "Sully",  our Coxswain W. M. Sullivan, swam closer to the whaleboat and then helped push the limp pilot aboard, as others pulled him in.  "Sully" did get a Life Saving Medal for risking a plunge into shark infested waters against orders."

Ed. Note 1: A U.S. Navy aircraft accident report provides the following information:

      Accident Date:    8/4/1945
      Aircraft Type:    SC-1
      Aircraft Number:    35555
      Ship Number:    CL-92
      Ship Name:    USS LITTLE ROCK
      Location:    OFF CUBA
      Area:    CENLANT
      Pilot:    Name not shown

Ed. Note 2: This is most likely the incident referred to by John Breslin, although the date may be off by four days.


From: Anthony Mastroianni, S1/C C Div.  1945-46

Regarding the 8/4/45 loss of our plane....  I remember that incident quite well as I was on duty on bridge and witnessed the accident. Prior to the accident an object was reported in the water. (The) crew manned the 40mm to sink object. It was shortly after that incident, that as we were preparing to retrieve our aircraft, the pilot approached the ship to land, hit a wave, and capsized. Being on duty on the bridge I was called as part of rescue crew that manned the whale boat to retrieve pilot. On that day the weather was fine.
29 Apr 2013


* * *  For more information and on-scene photos click HERE. * * *
10 Aug 45 Accident Type: Seamanship
Cause: Maneuvering Error
Information: Exercised towing with USS Portsmouth. Towing wire fouled Portsmouth rudder or propellers.
15 Jan 46
Accident Type: Seamanship
Cause: Maneuvering Error
Information: While getting underway the local harbor pilot backed the ship into the dock, making a small dent in the stern. Prop wash creates havoc, but no real damage to adjacent ships.
The crew remembers....
 
From Cdr. Arthur Schultz's letters: "Today we started bravely forth, only to have the pilot back us into the dock. We put a dent in our rear, but not a very big one.  However, the turbulence from our power screws washed a couple of small Brazilian motor ships free of their moorings. You never saw such a mad scrambling sight in your life. The inboard ship had its lines part with a bang, and of course the water hose broke in two and sprayed everyone in the vicinity. The excitable Brazilian sailors went head over heels in all directions.

No damage was done except to the lines, so with our apologies everyone thought it was a big joke.

However we had to anchor out in the blue harbor while a couple of our divers went down to inspect our screws. Everything was all right, so about 1000 we got underway again and soon were at sea again in the midst of a hot, sparkling day."
21 Nov or
13 Dec 46
Accident Type: Gunnery
Cause: Unknown
Information: Little Rock hits USS Missouri with starshell during gunnery practice. An excerpt from a book about the Missouri relates that Richard Chabot, a crew member of the Missouri, recalls the starshell explosion killed the ship's coxswain. See USS LITTLE ROCK 1946 Chronology page for more information.
31 Dec 46
Accident Type: Aircraft
Cause: Unknown
Information: Aircraft and pilot Lt(jg) Charles R. Fitzpatrick lost at sea.

On the afternoon of 31 Dec 1946 USS Little Rock (CL-92) pilot Charles R. Fitzpatrick, Lt(jg), USNR died after his SC-1 crashed off the coast of New Jersey. Below are the accident details as provided by the Aircraft Accident Card:

Date: 31 December 1946 (shows correction from 1947), Approx. 1310
Pilot’s Name, Rank and Service Group or Unit to Which Pilot Attached: FITZPATRICK, Charles R., Lt.(jg) USNR, USS LITTLE ROCK
Location: Approx. 3 mi  E Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Unit to which aircraft assigned: USS LITTLE ROCK CL-92, ComAirLant, NAS Norfolk, VA, NAS Quonset Pt. R.I.
Pilot (License?): Expired, Restricted
Total Hours: 800
Total Hours This Model: 166
Total Hrs. Last 1 Months: 30
Hrs. This Model Last 1 Months: 30
Hours This Flight: 1 hr. 25 min.
Previous Accident Record:  (None)
Injuries to Pilot: Fatal
(???): X-Country
Serial No. (of Report): 1 - 47
Type of Clearance: Contact
Maneuver or Angle of Impact, Stopping Distance, Est. Speed: Unknown
Check Off Items: - It is believed that pilot flew into an area of freezing rain and snow which was in the immediate area where parts were recovered.
Analysis: Pilot was not found, only a small portion of main float was found, and analysis of accident is undetermined.
Additional info hand-written on Accident Card: Some additional gear recovered including pilots shoes and flying boots. Body not recovered. Aircraft heard to crash in bad snow storm by fishermen who recovered gear described above.

22 Jul 47
Accident Type: Seamanship
Cause: Maneuvering Error
Information: Log entry: "0815 Breasted ship from alongside CL-82 to Pier 4. Rudder and screws touched mud, shoulder in 20' of water."
18 Aug 47
Accident Type: Equipment Failure
Cause: Unknown
Information: Log entry" "1104 Lost steering control - shifted to emergency steering in hanger."
17 Sep 47
Accident Type: Aircraft Accident
Cause: Unknown
Information: Aviators Lt. E.E. Sandoval and Lt. B.F. Hoffman down at sea - located and recovered late at night.
The crew remembers....

From: Al Yoder,  FC2C, 1946-1949: "I don't remember Lt. Fitzpatrick being killed.  I have the names of two other pilots, LT B.F. Hoffman & LT E.E. Sandoval. These two got lost and landed on the calm ocean off Newport (RI).  I think I remember they were located somehow and the destroyers and Little Rock took off at high speed. The impressive thing was that after an hour the Rock passed all the destroyers and arrived at the downed aircraft  & recovered them. I don't know any other details."
31 Oct 47
Accident Type: Crew Injury/Death
Cause: Accident
Information: BM1 D.H. Butler died when crushed between ship and chain to buoy.
06 Jan 48
Accident Type: Aircraft Accident
Cause: Unknown
Information: Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk crashes and sinks. Pilot Ens. Logan is rescued. (See Notes 3 and 4.)
The three photos to the right and below show
the dramatic rescue of CL 92's  SC1 pilot Ensign Logan.
Photos were provided by CL92 shipmate
Walde Lindemann ADAN 1946-1949.


MWB approaches Ens. Logan


SC1 Sinking - Lindemann Photo

Ens. Logan on SC-1 float
30 Aug -
02 Sep 48
Accident Type: Storm Damage
Cause: Weather
Information: Got underway from Newport, RI (30 Aug) to avoid hurricane. At 0320 (31 Aug) lost #3 motor whale boat over port side. Unable to estimate storm damage due to weather conditions. On 02 Sep at 1554 moored at NY Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, NY. Naval shipyard reps investigated storm damage to ship and listed required repairs, 42 in number.
23 Sep 48
Accident Type: Seamanship
Cause: Maneuvering Error
Information: USS Hugh Purvis DD-709 collided with Little Rock (starboard side) while refueling, incurring some damage. Log reads: " 0625 Prepared to refuel USS Hugh Purvis DD-709 and while fueling was hit by the Purvis on the starboard side incurring some damage."
The crew remembers....

Received from Jim Melvin ETN2 (USS Pervis/USS Fiske):  "I also did some reserve duty time on the USS Hugh Purvis DD-709. (Regarding)...  23 September '48  -  It seems the Purvis not only steamed with the Little Rock, well before my time, but rammed her during a refueling.  A bit more up close and personal than most would prefer.  Makes an old ET glad he never had any responsibilities during "special sea and anchor details."
02 Jan 49
Accident Type: Storm Damage
Cause: Weather
Information: Heavy weather in harbor damaged ship - temporary repairs made
Jul 1962 Accident Type: Crew Injury/Death
Cause: Equipment  Failure
Information: GMM Richard Smith died as a result of injuries received in the Missile House Magazine (Area 3) from a high-pressure hydraulic line failure.
27 May -
03 Jun 63
Accident Type: Food Contamination
Cause: Unknown
Information: While in Trieste, Italy a general illness occured after a fantail party - contaminated food suspected.
1967
or
1968
Accident Type: Seamanship
Cause: Undetermined
Information: "In 1967 or 68 we attempted to med moor in Naples Italy.  We hit the dock so hard that it knocked some of us off our feet.  If that was not enough, we pulled forward and hit the dock again.  It opened up a hole across the stern above the water line, thankfully.

The best I can  remember the hole was about 4 or 5 inches wide and went from the port side to the starboard side.  The CO had men working around the clock so the could get under way on time which we did, even though the paint was still wet.  Lt. Hallinan may be able to give more details."

Note: The above was received from Obert Blaisdell, BM3, 1966 - 1968, 1st Division
1967 ?
Accident Type: Seamanship
Cause: Maneuvering Error
Information: USS Little Rock involved in a collision at sea with the USS Saratoga CV-60. (Need to verify date).
The crew remembers....
 
From: LitComs (Winter 1995 / 1996) article: "Close Call in the Med Nearly Spells Disaster for Little Rock in 1967. What Really Happened?",  by Bruce Stewart.

"The pictures shown (see below) were sent to me in 1968 by a former shipmate - I had already departed Little Rock in June, 1967...  My buddy gave me a brief description of the incident... it went something like this.  Someone in the task force (presumably the Admiral) gave the command for all ships to change course. Apparently, some ships got the message and some didn't,  (the) result being that Little Rock ended up crossing the bow of the carrier she was running with..."

- - - - - - - - - - -

The following was received from BT3 John Hudson (1966-1969)

"I was a BT back in '67 and was watching the jets take off from the carrier and noticed we were close. I had to get back to the boiler room and relieve the watch for chow. That's when it all broke loose.

I had the watch that maintained the water level in the boiler and that’s hard to do when the ship is changing speed, from backdown to flank and then big rolls. We didn’t know what was going on until the guys got back from dinner. Then we got scared.

Down in the hole you just got the bells and hung on. That was a wild ride."

- - - - - - - - - - - -

From: Letters to LitComs (Spring 1996 Edition) by FTM3 Don Kempkes (1967-1968)

"Dear Don (Schuld):  I would like to relate to you my recollections of the "Close Call" shown in the Winter LITCOMS.

The carrier was USS Saratoga. We were underway during the 1967 Israeli War. At the time I was an FTM3 assigned to GM Division. We were operating with Saratoga and had been alongside to observe flight operations. Our original position had been steaming on the port side when Saratoga indicated she was planning to turn to starboard. This would put us on the outside of the turn and when the carrier indicated she was executing, we increased speed to maintain position. Unfortunately, the Saratoga turned to port. We basically pivoted on the carrier's bow and raced down her starboard side. I believe there was contact between the two ships but no significant damage.

I also have pictures of the event including some of the air ops that started the whole show. If I can locate them, I'll send copies. I had only been on Little Rock a couple of weeks when this happened and at the time wondered what I had gotten myself into. To this day when someone asks: What is the world's largest ship?  I always respond with "Saratoga".

Sincerely, Don Kempkes, Sr.



USS Saratoga CV-60

Photo #1

Saratoga making approach

Photo #2


Carrier moves closer

Photo #3

Carrier almost alongside

Photo #4

Sara Alongside

Photo #5
Start of collision course

Photo #6
Carrier bearing down

Photo #7

Carrier crew

Photo #8

Carrier crew panics

Photo #9
Too close for comfort

Photo #10
A bump to the stern

Photo #11

A Picture is worth a 1000 Words

A Picture is worth a 1000 Words !!!

Photo #12

The U.S.S Saratoga today...

Saratoga was decommissioned at NavSta Mayport on 20 Aug 94 and was stricken from the Naval Register the same day. She was towed to Philadelphia in May 95 for deactivation.

Efforts by Jacksonville, Florida civic leaders in 1994-95 estab- lished a fundraising campaign "Save Our Sara" to make the ship a museum. The effort failed to raise even half of the $3 million start up costs. Officials had hoped to place the ship in downtown Jacksonville, on the St. Johns River. The Jacksonville USS Saratoga Museum Foundation, Inc. ceased operating in the summer of 1995.

In Aug 98 Saratoga was towed to NavSta Newport, RI and placed on donation hold. While at Newport, ex-Saratoga was exten- sively stripped to support the fleet. An effort to make her a museum ship in Quonset Point, North Kingstown, RI fell through. In Apr 2010 Saratoga was removed from donation hold. As of 26 Nov 2013 Saratoga remains tied up in Newport in an unmaintained condition awaiting to be sold as scrap. "Sara" will probably be scrapped at Brownsville, Texas.

Saratoga December 2013

U.S.S. Saratoga sits in the rain on 26 Nov 2013
at Newport Naval Station, RI  waiting for
the scrapman. A sad ending to a great career.

(Photo by Art Tilley)

Google View of Saratoga

U.S.S Saratoga CVA-60 pierside at Newport Naval Station, Newort, RI
Photo courtesy of Google Map (Satellite View) 2013

USS Saratoga and USS Little Rock "bump" in the Med,  ca. 1967
1.
Click any photo for a larger picture.
2.
Photos #1-4, and #6, #7 and #10 were provided by Joe Stine GMM-3 66-69.
3.
Photos #8, #9, and #11 are from Bruce Stewart JO3 65-67.
4.
Photos #5 and #12 are from Don Kempkes FTM3 67-68.
5.
Photo #10 was taken by CPL Larry McKay (USMC) who was standing on top of the missile house when he took the photo. Photo sent in by Dave Reid CT3 66-67.
6.
Photos #1 - #7 as well as #10-12  were taken from the 02 level (on top of the Missile House). Photos #8 and #9  appear to be taken from the 04 or 05 level.
7.
Not much has been published about this incident. If you have any recollection, especially if you were a"participant",  please contact the webmaster.




13 Jun 70

Accident Type: Seamanship
Cause: Maneuvering Error
Information:  Little Rock is in a minor collision with the Greek destroyer Lonchi (HNS D-56) (ex USS Hall DD583 in the Gulf of Laconia off Greece during the NATO exercise "Dawn Patrol 70".
Notes:

The Greek destroyer Lonchi D-56, ex-USS Hall DD583 was a Fletcher class destroyer, laid down by Boston Navy Yard 16 Apr 42, launched 18 Jul 42 and commissioned 06 Jul 43. She was decommissioned 10 Dec 46, then loaned to Greece 09 Feb 60 and renamed Lonchi ("Spear", or "Lance"). Again decommissioned on 01 Oct 90, she was stricken 10 Oct 90 then scrapped in 1997 at Aliaga, Turkey. See also Hellenic (Greek) Navy Page.

The Crew Remembers....
 
From: Frank Maxwell QMCM(SW) USN(Ret.)

"...we were scheduled for a gunfire support exercise in Greece that morning as part of a NATO exercise. Little Rock was proceeding into the bay at about 10 knots. About 0400, a Greek destroyer on patrol of the bay appeared out of the darkness. We exchanged call signs, and it looked as if she would pass our port side at about 2000 yards. When she was about a mile forward of our bow, she turned hard to port, directly into our path. The conning officer ordered hard right rudder and all back full. But it was too late, we hit the Greek destroyer (an old Geering Class) amidships. The impact drove our motor whaleboat into our stack and badly bent our bow...

I don't remember if anyone was hurt. I do remember we had to go to the shipyards in Malta for a week to get our "Broken Nose" fixed and, of course, a week of that "terrible" Malta liberty. If you look closely at the bow today, l am sure you can still see the weld marks.

...I was a QM2 then.
"

- - - - -

Phil Baratta PN2 asks:

"
Does anyone remember that they put the Chemical alarm on instead of Collision alarm?

We also had a Chief from X Division that made us all go back and put on our clothes while we were mustering up on deck."

- - - - -

Received via email on 18 Jul 2010 from Richard Powers HM2:

"I just sort of stumbled across this web site.  I was a crew member on the USS Little Rock when we collided with the Greek Destroyer.  I was an HM2 at the time and my sleeping compartment was in the forward part of the ship.  The collision happened before revelry, around 0500, I believe.  I remember hearing an alarm and sitting up in my rack in the darkened compartment and wondering what the hell it meant.  A few seconds later there was a big jolt.  I thought we had run aground.  They then sounded general quarters and we gradually found out what happened.   I do remember that they sounded the chemical alert siren because the collision siren wasn’t working (although I wouldn’t have known what either one sounded like).   I was a crew member of the Rock for about a year and a half after this incident and was on board when we got a permanent bow repair in drydock in Boston. "

HNS Lonchi D-56
HNS Lonchi D-56 Underway (1)
HNS Lonchi midships damage

HNS Lonchi Midships Damage (2)


USS Little Rock Bow

Bow Damage to USS Little Rock (2)

Little Rock Underway

U.S.S. Little Rock Underway
With Bow Damage and
Crew Paraded on Deck (2)


CLG4 arrives in Malta for repairs to bow.

USS Little Rock arrives in Valletta, Malta for temporary repairs to her bow.

An Associated Press photo donated by:
Wayne (MU2 68-70) & Sharon McDermott

A note on the reverse side of the photo reads as follows:

"June 22 1970
USS LITTLE ROCK IN MALTA FOR REPAIRS

The United States Navy cruiser, USS Little Rock, arrives in Valetta Harbour, Malta to undergo repairs for her damaged bow, after colliding with the Greek destroyer "Longhi", during the North Atlantic Treaty organisation exercise "Dawn Patrol".....

FOR FIRST PUBLICATION IN EVENING PAPERS OF THURSDAY JULY 2ND 1970"

01 May 76
Accident Type: Equipment Failure
Cause: Data not available
Information: Casualty in the main engine lube oil system while operating in the Tyrrhenian Sea requires Little Rock to go to Naples for repairs.
Notes:
(1) See Hellenic Navy website,
(2) Received from shipmate Franklin W. Davis III  (FN, 1968-1972)
(3) Photos donated by Walde Lindemann (ADAN 1946-49).
(4) To see additional Curtiss SC-1 data and photos click HERE.

Details regarding each of the above incidents are from various sources. Your input is invaluable in helping us get the facts correct.
Contact the Webmaster if you have information, documents or photos about any of the above incidents. Please be specific.


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