|Soviet Navy "Kashin-Class"
Guided Missile Destroyer 381
USS Galveston CLG3
|Ships in Distress
||USS Tidewater AD 31
|A "Run-in With a Carrier
|USS Little Rock and USS Tidewater
Towing Exercise at "Gitmo" Spring 1963
Navy Guided Missile Cruiser
"Giuseppe Garibaldi 551"
On the bridge of the cruiser Little Rock not long ago, Vice Adm. William I. Martin, commander of the U.S. Mediterranean fleet, braced his elbows on a chest-high rail and focused his binoculars on the "skunk" (naval jargon for any unidentified vessel) cutting through his formation. The intruder's silhouette - long and lean, with missiles protruding from a bow launcher like buck teeth - was a dead giveaway. Without even glancing at the flag snapping on its mainmast, Martin and his staff knew its identity. The stranger in their midst was a Russian guided-missile destroyer.
As the Soviet vessel closed to within 150 yards of an American destroyer, Martin radioed a blunt message in Russian: "In a few minutes, my task force will commence maneuvering at high speeds and on varying courses. Your present position in this formation will be dangerous for your ship. I request you to clear our formation without delay;" Whereupon the Russians took the angry hint and fell back - though never farther away than the horizon.
Muscle: The Russian destroyer and it's companions - in the distance Martin could make out two more Soviet warships plus a trawler known to be crammed with sensitive electronic equipment - were part of Moscow's new Mediterranean squadron, a modern, power-packed unit of more than 40 ships, including the latest guided-missile cruisers and destroyers, assorted auxiliary craft and eight to ten submarines. And their presence on the horizon underscored a new turn in international affairs. The Mediterranean, the Russians seemed to be saying, was no longer an American lake.
Until recently, such a challenge from Moscow would have been unthinkable. Historically, Russia has never been a major naval power, and after 1905, when the greatest of czarist fleets was destroyed by the Japanese, such naval strength as Russia did possess was designed primarily for the defense of its own coasts. In the mid-1950s, however, with the buildup of the Soviet merchant navy (now the world's fifth largest) and the increase in Soviet commitments abroad, Russian admirals began to think in global terms. Soviet Fleet Adm. Sergei Gorshkov put his country's new naval ambitions on record a few years ago when he wrote: "In the past, our ships have operated primarily near our coasts. Now, we must be prepared to deliver crushing strikes against sea and ground targets of the imperialists on any point of the world ocean and adjacent territories."
Today's Soviet presence in the Mediterranean obviously stems from the strategy enunciated by Gorshkov. Before it was put into practice, Russia's Western fleet was divided into three segments: Northern, Baltic and Black Sea. Traditionally, each force kept to its own geographic area. This lack of mobility was due, in part, to year-round ice conditions in northern waters and to Soviet inhibitions about passing through narrow straits (such as the Kattegat and the Bosporus) which could easily be interdicted by Western naval units. Even more important, however, were the restrictions imposed on the Soviet Navy by its lack of service units and its failure to develop techniques for refueling and replenishing warships at sea.
Rendezvous: Lately, however, the Russians seemed to have stolen a page from the U.S. Navy, which often resupplies its fleets from tankers and cargo ships even when port facilities are available. The Russians are still short of Mediterranean ports - though they now put into Yugoslavian and Algerian harbors for liberty, and may soon start using some of the Arab harbors along the Levant. But their units in the Mediterranean have been supplied by a procession of oilers, tugs, tenders and other support ships which rendezvous with the warships at anchorages in international waters.
Despite the impressive firepower of the Russian guided-missile ships, most observers insist that the effective balance of power in the Mediterranean hasn't been shifted by the new Soviet presence. (The U.S. Sixth Fleet stations two or three carriers in the area regularly and has enormous air superiority.) But if the arrival of Soviet warships hasn't changed the equation, it has certainly complicated it, and given U.S. admirals something new to contend with. "I have no doubt we can defend ourselves against what they have here, Admiral Martin told NEWSWEEK'S Rome bureau chief Curtis Pepper last week. "But what concerns me is their buildup from here on out. Make no mistake about it, they are here to stay, to explore, and to exploit. The Soviet Navy has entered the Mediterranean and they don't intend to leave it.
Photo and article are from Newsweek Magazine, August 28, 1967 Issue, pages 39- 40.
Ed. Note: The above article and accompanying photo seem to imply that the photo of the Soviet Kashin-class Guided Missile Destroyer DDG381 was taken from on board the LITTLE ROCK. This was probably not the case however. There seems to be ample reason to believe the photo was taken from the USS William C. Lawe (DD763) on 07 June 1967. (See Wikimedia/DDG article, and also Wikimedia/CVA66. The USS William C. Lawe was assigned to the Carrier Battle Group of the aircraft carrier USS America (CVA-66) for a deployment to the Mediterranean Sea from 10 January to 20 September 1967.
|Soviet "Submarine Tenders"
Russian Sub Tender
It wasn't unusual to have the naval fleets from two different countries maneuvering simultaneously in the same part of the ocean. Often this dangerous practice was used to make a "statement" as to who was in control of that particular part of the sea. Other times it seemed to be nothing more than a show of bravado.
In this news wire photo several of the crew on board USS LITTLE ROCK watch a Russian submarine tender in the Mediterranean Sea. The photo is dated Nov 1973.
It's not every day that you meet your sister walking down the street. It's probably even more rare to meet your sister ship in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. However, as the following photos show, it can happen, and in fact did happen when the USS GALVESTON CLG 3 and USS LITTLE ROCK CLG 4 had a chance to do a high-line transfer in the middle of the Med.
Then, some time later after receiving the first photo, I received a photo from Little Rock shipmate Bob Forester (BT2, 1964-1968) which shows the same event as viewed from the Little Rock. Most likely this event took place in 1967 when we know that both the Little Rock and Galveston were in the Med at the same time. How can I be sure it is the same event? Look at the water between the ships. How often have you seen water THAT smooth during a highline operation?
Some time back I received the above photo. It was taken from the deck of the USS GALVESTON CLG 3
during a highline transfer to what I was sure was the USS LITTLE ROCK.
(But just maybe it was the USS OKLAHOMA CITY CLG 5 !)
The photo was sent by Bob Rank BM2 of the U.S.S. GALVESTON Association.
Trivia item: Did you know that BEFORE its conversion to a guided missile cruiser the U.S.S. LITTLE ROCK was a "Cleveland Class" cruiser, and that AFTER its conversion the LITTLE ROCK was a "Galveston Class" cruiser?
And here's a couple of other photos from an unknown LITTLE ROCK sailor that corroborates this "historic" event.
On occasion LITTLE ROCK found herself having to provide assistance to other vessels. One such incident involved taking the OLIMPIA, an Italian fishing boat, under tow after her engine died in the Med. Here's the story ....
"Little Rock, early July 12 (1968), came to the aid of an Italian fishing craft which had been adrift with engine trouble for two days about 65 miles north of Palermo, Sicily.
Little Rock had been steaming enroute to rendezvous for an underway refueling near the Strait of Messina, when at about 2:20 a.m. a red flare was sighted and the Officer of the Deck, LTJG M. A. Lehmann, called the Commanding Officer, Captain Walter F. V. Bennett, and ordered the ship's course changed toward the source of the flare.
About fifteen minutes later there was another flare and Little Rock soon pulled up and took under tow on the port side the 50-foot Italian fishing boat Olimpia, out of Catania, Sicily. The ship's Chief Shipfitter, V. Di Mauro (SFC Vincent "Vince" Di Mauro of R Division), was summoned to translate and the four-man crew of the small vessel told their story.
They had been adrift for two days with engine trouble - - dead batteries they thought - - and only the day before had made contact with a French fishing boat. Olimpia's Captain, Mariano Mirabella, 36, of Catania, had gone with the French fishermen to bring back help. He had not returned, and when Mariano's father, Orazio, 62, saw the Little Rock's lights, he ordered the red flares to be sent up.
As the crew explained their problem, First Class Engineman T. E. Allen and Third Class Electrician's Mates R. L. Pope and B. L. Straber went down to examine Olimpia's engine. They soon discovered it was something more complicated than dead batteries and that it might take some time to repair the trouble.
Captain Bennett, after considering the alternatives involved, decided that if repairs by the Little Rock's crew were not feasible, the ship would tow the fishing craft to the nearby island od Lipari where she could have repairs made at her leisure. This was done, and later in the morning Little Rock left Olimpia in the harbor."
(The above, slightly modified, was printed in the July 1968 ship's newsletter "The 4 Caster".
The following are excepts from emails received from Gary Di Mauro on Nov. 14th and Nov. 18th, 2013:
"... My uncle... Vince Di Mauro... has passed away... my Uncle Vince was a Seabee with the 128th Naval Construction Battalion - Pontoons in WWII, and he served on the carrier Randolph (CVS-15)... I believe he served his last years in the Navy on the Little Rock. My aunt had a photo of the Little Rock on his grave site, so I know it must have been the ship he talked about the most.
.... Here is the info I found related to his passing... My dad and Uncle Vince were both born in Italy, and Vincenzo was (my uncle's) birth name. Vincenzo Di Mauro was born on January 14, 1922. Vincenzo died on April 4, 2003 at 81 years old. Vincenzo's last known residence was in Marina di Camerota, Italy."
Meeting other ships at sea is usually a cordial event.
Perhaps there are some radio coms, a few flags waved or dipped, or perhaps some flashing of lights back and forth, and then everyone heads on their way.
One of the key elements of ships parting company is making sure everone is in agreement as to who is turning and which way....!
Click on this LINK to see what can happen if everyone is NOT in agreement....!!