Accidents, Collisions
Underway Hazards
20 March, 2021

Most sailors learn early on that being at sea in a ship is not without its dangers.  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 USS 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."

Details of Incident
(See Notes Below.)
29 Jul 45
Accident Type: Gunnery
: 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."
13 Dec 46
Accident Type: Gunnery
Cause: Uncertain
Information: Little Rock hits USS Missouri with starshell during gunnery practice.

*  An excerpt from a book about the USS Missouri relates that Richard Chabot, a crew member on the Missouri, recalls the starshell explosion killed the ship's coxswain.  However, there appears to be no corroberating evidence that indicates this was in fact the case.

Below are several other reports that indicates there may have been some damage to the Missouri, but no deaths occured.

*  1)  From Wikipedia: USS Missouri (BB-63): "On 13 December, during a target practice exercise in the North Atlantic, a star shell accidentally struck the battleship, but without causing injuries."

*  2)  From: : Ref. USS Missouri "On 13 Dec (1946), while on exercise in the North Atlantic, a star shell accidentally struck the ship, but caused no damage or injuries."

*  3)  From: December 13, 1946, North Atlantic "USS MISSOURI is hit by a star shell during target practice in the North Atlantic."

*  4)  From: Neptune Paper No. 3:  Naval Accidents 1945 - 1988:  12 /13/46: The USS Missouri (BB-63) is hit by a star shell during target practice in the North Atlantic.

*  5) Another note says:  13 Dec 1946 - A star shell accidentally struck USS Missouri during an exercise in the North Atlantic, causing no damage nor injuries.

*  6) From a note by William A. Pitcher (Capt. USN Ret.) USS Missouri Oct 1946 - Feb 1948 (R Div Officer, Fire Marshall, 4th Div Officer, 5" Battery Officer), in an Article "The First Known Helo-Ship Operation":

"There were two other memorable incidents during the cruise. One occurred during a night-time star-shell illumination exercise with a cruiser, the USS Little Rock. A star-shell correction failed to get into the computer, resulting in a 5" star-shell hitting the Missouri amidships at the 01 deck, the exact geographical center of the ship. The shell hit in a nest of acetylene bottles causing a nasty fire that damaged several staterooms and compartments, two personnel were seriously injured. Damage was considerable, but the ship-fitter gang repaired the damaged area so that when the Mo returned to Norfolk, there were no scars visible."

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. RI.
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 CL 92 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 occurred after a fantail party - contaminated food suspected.
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

- - - - -

CWO Anthony P. Fernandez recalls: 

(Regarding the) 1968 Med-Mooring Incident...We had entered Naples harbor for a tender availability, and were scheduled to be "Med-moored" to the tip end of the Molo Angioino within the section of the port known as Porto Vecchio. 

A tender and several U.S. destroyers were already med-moored to the breakwater.  As we came around the tip of the breakwater, and entered the Porto Vecchio at slow speed, the starboard hook was released and chain paid out.  A short distance further on, the ship using engines and rudder, pivoted around that now emplaced hook, and reversing direction, dropped the port hook and straightened its course toward the tip of the Mole. 

For a few minutes, all went well...and then it was realized on the bridge that the anchors had been let go prematurely and too far out.  The ship's stern was about 20' shy of the tip of the Mole and there was no more anchor chain to release. 

It would've been unseamanlike to retrace our steps, haul in the anchors, and try again.  (No problem!  We'll just drag the anchors through the soft mud of the harbor!) 

I suspect that engines were all back 2/3rds when both anchors let go of the bottom, allowing the ship to accelerate in reverse banging into the Mole; bouncing off and hitting it a second time, damaging the stern.  Fortunately, the tender was right there, and with a work order submitted, the damage was repaired.  (Who had the conn?)
1967 ?
Accident Type: Seamanship
Cause: Maneuvering Error
Information: USS Little Rock involved in a "minor" collision at sea with the USS Saratoga CV-60. (Date is probably May or June 1967).

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..."

- - - - - - - - - - -

QMCM Ken Olson provided a first-hand narrative regarding the incident. Here is the real story:

"We had our SPECIAL STEAMING DETAIL manned as the LITTLE ROCK was to close the CARRIER so that the VIP's on the 04 Level (Flying Bridge) could get a better and closer view of the FLIGHT OPERATIONS.

Therefore our most qualified and best helmsman Dan Jones QM2 was on the wheel and I (as per our normal procedure) was stationed directly behind Jones at the wheel in case of any misunderstanding of the commands given from the starboard wing of the navigational bridge.

After the FLIGHT OPS were completed we (to the best of my recollection) rang up all ahead full and were in the process of maneuvering to take our normal or assigned position in the steaming formation. Apparently the CARRIER unknown to us was also increasing speed. I believe after having gained speed and supposedly having cleared the CARRIER we were coming right in order to cross ahead. Unfortunately the CARRIER (as stated) had apparently increased their speed also, putting us in dire straits with the CARRIER bearing down on our starboard side.

The command was given loud and clear "HARD RIGHT RUDDER". Helmsman answered correctly and had come HARD RIGHT. Again came the command "HARD RIGHT RUDDER" answered by both the helmsman and I. "The RUDDER is HARD RIGHT CAPTAIN."

With that, all we could do is hope (no time to pray) that our ADVANCE AND TRANSFER would clear the carrier's bow. Fortunately the only damage (as I recall( was having our SONAR BOOM (which protruded from the stern) being knocked off or damaged.

After proceeding to and settling into our assigned steaming formation the CONN was turned over to the regular underway OOD.

- - - - - - - - - - -

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.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

From: Bruce Van Deuson, EM3 (USS Saratoga)

Hi, Regarding the (near) collision between USS Saratoga and USS Little Rock while operating in the Mediterranean in 1967.

I was in USS Saratoga . . . .  in E-Division at the time, and for some reason I don't remember the incident. It must not have been much, and my job kept me below in the Power Shop where I was Leading PO in vent gang. I got out when the ship arrived at the pier December 6, 1967 so I suspect being "short" was on my mind.  I'm sure we heard about it, but it was just one of those things that just went on by.

Bruce Van Deuson, EM3 (USS Saratoga)
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Wikipedia's page on the Saratoga has this to contribute: ...."Later on she was involved in a near collision with the cruiser Little Rock, which cut across Saratoga's bow during flight operations. Saratoga had messaged indicating that she was planning to turn to starboard. This would put Little Rock on the outside of the turn because Little Rock was on Saratoga's port side. As the carrier indicated she was executing her turn, Little Rock increased speed to maintain position. Unfortunately, Saratoga turned to port, putting Little Rock across her bow. Fortunately there was little damage and no injuries reported."

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

Photo #8

Photo #8

Photo #9

Photo #9
Too close for comfort

Photo #10
A bump to the stern

Photo #11
To close to call . . . . .!

Photo #12

A Picture is worth a 1000 Words

Photo #13

USS Saratoga and USS Little Rock "bump" in the Med,  ca. 1967
Click any photo for a larger picture.
Photos #1-4, and #6, #7 and #10 were provided by Joe Stine GMM-3 66-69.
Photos #8, #9, and #11 are from Bruce Stewart JO3 65-67.
Photos #5 and #12 are from Don Kempkes FTM3 67-68.
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.
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.
Photos #8, #9 and #12 were sent in by shipmate Dick Clase FTM3 1967-68.
Dick recalls: "I was.... on the 02 level.... I remember I was the last standing there to realize the Saratoga shouldn't be that close. I turned around and all the guys.... (were) running like crazy. I ran into my workspace and grabbed the....  gyroscope.... my division officer (Ltjg Maxwell I believe) said "What's wrong with you Clase?"  I said "That f-ing carrier is going to run us over." I must have been convincing because they all hit the deck.
Not much has been published about this incident. If you have any recollection, especially if you were a"participant",  please contact the webmaster.
CWO2 Anthony P. Fernandez, Asst. Electronics Officer  / OE Div. Officer 68-71 recalls: "(The) near collision with the USS Saratoga (CV-60)....  This occurred before I reported aboard, but I seem to recall hearing that the Little Rock's damage consisted of losing an outrigger/hoist/boom (for raising/ lowering a bathythermograph (???) and a garbage chute; both of which were located at the very stern of the ship."
The U.S.S Saratoga - Her Final Days...
a small bit of Navy history.

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.

On 09 May 2014 Fox News reported: ....... "The USS destined for dismantling after the Navy paid one penny to a Texas firm to recycle the 81,101-ton behemoth ....ESCO Marine, of Brownsville, will pay to tow, dismantle and recycle the they did with the Forrestal last year."

USS Saratoga Decommissioning.... Crew Deoart

USS Saratoga Crew depart ship for the last time during the Decommissioning Ceremoney on 20 Aug 1994
(US Navy photo)

Saratoga December 2013

USS 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

Saratoga's Final Journey.....

Sara with Tugs

The USS Saratoga prepares for her final voyage from Newport
val Station to a dismantling facility in Brownsville, Texas.
U.S. Navy photo by Lindsay Church

Sara under Newport Bridge

Tugboats pull the USS Saratoga under Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge as she begins her final voyage to Brownsville, Texas.
U.S. Navy photo by Lindsay Church

The following was excerpted from an Associated Press article written by Jennifer McDermott

USS Saratoga Carrier Heads off to Be Scrapped

NEWPORT, R.I. - Aug 21, 2014

The decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Saratoga left its port in Rhode Island on Thursday for its final journey to Texas, where it will be scrapped.  (Saratoga) heading to the Esco Marine ship recycling plant in Brownsville, Texas.

Esco Marine is being paid a penny by the Navy to dispose of the Saratoga.   ....."It's a sad day in a way to see a great lady finish her career by being towed off to be scrapped," said Bill Sheridan, who was involved in the effort to try to save the ship by turning it into a museum.

Tugs arrived... at about 6 a.m. Thursday.... (and) the carrier passed under Newport's Claiborne Pell Bridge and by Fort Adams at midmorning..... The trip is expected to take about 16 days.

More than 100 veterans from all eras of the carrier's life took part in a farewell ceremony at the naval station earlier this month. They walked along the pier, taking pictures and looking up at the Saratoga one last time.

The Saratoga....  was commissioned in 1956 and completed 22 deployments before it was decommissioned in 1994. .... It arrived in Newport in 1998 and fell into disrepair.  The Navy took the Saratoga off the donation list in 2010 after... the USS John F. Kennedy, became available for a museum.

The Saratoga, Sheridan said, is "gone but not forgotten, and always remembered in our hearts."

Sara in Hurricane Cristobal

Ex-USS Saratoga (CV-60) under tow off North Carolina bound for Brownsville, TX being towed by Signet tug "Warhorse III". The choppy seas are from Hurricane Cristobal, with winds of 65 knots.
U.S. Navy Photo by LCDR Scott Moak.
(LCDR Moak previously served on board Saratoga.)

Sad Sisters

Ex-Saratoga (CV-60) passes ex-USS Forrestal while navigating the channel at
Brownsville, TX  in preparation for scrapping.
(Photo source unknown.)

More Accidents.....

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".

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....

Received from: Franklin W. Davis II - FN (68-72)

A first-hand personal recollection of the collision between USS Little Rock CLG 4 and the Greek Destroyer "Lonchi" by shipmates Franklin Davis II:

"Here are the facts as I remember them, about the collision in 1970 with the Greek Destroyer

On June 13, 1970, I was in "A" Division sleeping in my bunk, which was located right next door to the After Engine Room escape hatch door. I slept on the top bunk. My Division was located between "E" Division and "R" Division.

Around 0445 the ship began to shake violently, and I woke up and jumped off my bunk. I put on my jeans and shoes and ran up the ladder which led up to the Mess Decks and went out the door leading to the starboard side of the ship.

Day Break was just beginning, and you could see the horizon very clearly. At first i saw nothing. Then a destroyer came into view. Then some men began to run towards the bow and I know then that something was wrong. But, at no time was "General Quarters" sounded.

There were many men coming up on the Main Deck, in their skivvies, and looking around to see just what happened.

Finally our Captain, Charles E. Little, announced over the PA System, that we had a collision with a deserter, and that we were giveing assistance if needed. Captain Little also said that we had sustained some damage, and that no one had been injured. He also said that we would get on the way as soon as possible.

After, the collision and everything was found in operation condition, we continued our flagship duties for a few weeks, then we headed for shipyard repair at Malta for (2) weeks. During that time an investingation followed about the collision, and who was at fault.

Little Rock was found not at fault and the Greek destroyer was held at fault, for not giving us enough right-away room.

After the temporary repairs were made to our bow, we continued on our dutyes as Flagship.

Our bow wasn't completely repaired until we arrived at Boston Naval Shipyard in November 1970 - at which time the damages from the collision was cut out and new plating was welded on.

I believe these statements I have said are true to the best of my knowledge.

ss // Franklin Davis II
Oct. 1968 - Aug. 8, 1972

From: CWO Anthony P. Fernandez, Asst. Electronics Officer / OE Division Officer from Apr 68 - Jul 71

On the morning of 13 Jun 1970, I was awakened about 0555 by a "humming" noise caused by the 1MC system being keyed-on but as yet without a voice message superimposed.  My stateroom was the most forward compartment in "Warrant Officer Country", a two-man room shared with (Darrel J.) "Gunner" Cherry

Almost immediately, there was a series of bumps, and in my semi-awake state, I thought I was hearing the sound of the buoy to which we moored when in our homeport of Gaeta, Italy, moving with the tide and "walking" down the ship's side.  And then the chemical alarm sounded, which made me think, "Whoa...we're not in port!"  I bounced out of my top rack, quickly donned pants, shoes, and a working jacket; then raced to my battle station in CIC.  When I got there, the watch team seemed blissfully unaware of what was going on topside; but then the General Quarters alarm sounded,  followed by the 1MC announcement, "Man battle stations."  I don't remember the DRT being lit off until that announcement was made; so except for the bridge watch's testimony, I don't know how the incident was recorded. 

I remember that the underway OOD was a LCDR, and that that he was an Engineering Duty Officer (EDO) who apparently took all the right actions when it became apparent that the Greek destroyer would suddenly cut across our bow.  The violent shaking noted by other commentators was caused by the OOD's order to back down full (emergency).  That the collision was more of a
"glancing" blow was due to our rudder being put over hard right simultaneously with the reverse engines order.  I heard that we were still making 8 kts in a forward direction when we collided. 

Cdr Chris Lardis was a member of Sixth Fleet Staff, and as an American of Greek ancestry, I guess he was tasked with determining what actions were taken aboard the Greek destroyer (and conducting a reaming?) 

CLG 4's stem was broken in at least two places, and I recall that our shipfitters welded some light sheet metal over the openings in CLG 4's bow to reduce the possibility of flooding a forward compartment when underway.  We later pulled into Valleta, Malta for temporary repairs, where the broken sections of the stem were cut away, railroad rail was substituted for the missing portions of the stem, and the whole area received some new sheet metal.  The crooked section was replaced during our 1970-1971 shipyard overhaul in Boston.

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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.

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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."

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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. "

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Received this via email on 03 Oct 2014 from Chet Zaiko of Gallatin Gateway, MT:

"I also was on the Little Rock at the time of the collision.  I was a Fire Controlman.  I chose to sleep in my work space, in the aft superstructure under the fire control radars the night of the accident because it was a lot cooler.

I heard the chemical alarm go off on the ship and the ship started shaking pretty violently when the engines were thrown in reverse. I ran out to the starboard side of the aft conning tower and saw the bow of the destroyer. I then ran to the port side to see the stern of the destroyer. It first I thought we may have cut it in half, but with the bridge throwing the rudder hard right, it ended up what I would call a glancing blow. It could have been a lot worse."

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From Doug Simpson FTM1:  Photos #2,  #3 and  #5B below were received from USS Little Rock Association member  Doug Simpson, a crewmember on  LITTLE ROCK at the time of the accident.   Here's some of what Doug had to say:

" I was asleep in FM division (aft) the morning of the collision when I was awakened by the ship shaking due to a rapid back down. They sounded the chemical alarm (instead of the collision alarm) by mistake.  I remember that we laughed about it later.  A friend of mine and me grabbed our cameras and headed topside.  I had a Nikon with a 500mm and 2x extender giving me a 1000mm lens.  I was kind of dark due to the time of day and the lens length but I got a couple of shots after the collision.  Later, the ships photographer was looking  for additional pictures taken by some sailors with a big lens so my friend turned his in.  I kept mine and just recently found them again."

HNS Lonchi D-56

HNS Lonchi D-56 Underway (#1)

Lonchi Damage

Damage to HNS Lonchi (#2) 13 Jun 1970
(See arrow.  Click photo to zoom)

Lonchi Damage

HNS Lonchi Midships Damage (#3)

HNS Lonchi midships damage

HNS Lonchi Midships Damage

USS Little Rock Bow
Little Rock Bow Damage Stb'd Side

Port Side View

Starboard Side View

Bow Damage to USS Little Rock
Photos most likely were taken in Gaeta

Click photos to zoom
Gaeta mooring after collision

15-18 Jun 1970 for temporary repairs
prior to departing for Malta.

Little Rock Underway

USS Little Rock CLG 4 Underway (#6)
with Bow Damage and Crew Paraded on Deck
Photo most likely taken 17 Jun 1970

CLG 4 arrives in Malta for repairs to bow.

USS Little Rock arrives in Valletta, Malta
22 Jun 1970 for temporary repairs to her bow.

An Associated Press photo donated by:
Sharon &Wayne McDermot (MU2 68-70)
A note on the reverse side of the above-right photo reads as follows:

June 22 1970

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".....


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.
(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.
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