Little Rock CLG 4
Re-Opening of the Suez Canal 05-06 June 1975
The Suez Canal as seen from the Little Rock
Two of the ship's crew check the sights.
Little Rock passes an Egyptian military post.
Port Said as seen from the decks of the USS Little Rock
Photo by John Meyers, ETN2, 73-75
|In April 1974, the United States and Egypt agreed that the US would provide assistance in clearing the Suez Canal of explosives and sunken ships. These projects were referred to as:
Nimbus Star and Nimbus Moon were carried out primarily by the US, where as a private salvage contractor cleared the canal of the sunken ships.
The project fell under the supervision of the Sixth Fleet's Task Force 65.
Captain J. Huntly Boyd, the Navy's Supervisor of Salvage acted as Commander, Salvage Task Group (CTG 65.7) supervising the salvage clearing operation which was carried out by the Murphy Pacific Marine Salvage Company of New York.
Working from May to December
1974 the Task Group allowed the canal to be reopened on 5 June 1975,
with the Sixth Fleet flagship Little Rock in attendance.
On June 5, 1975, amid the echoes of a 21-gun salute, a seven-ship flotilla eased through ceremonial gates in mid-Canal waters off Port Said and steamed south through the Sues Canal to Ismailia in a five-hour voyage marking the official reopening of the Canal exactly eight years after its closure during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
For the maritime nations of the world, for the Middle East and, above all, for Egypt, it was an event of historic proportions. And if the ceremonies were less spectacular than those marking the original opening of the Canal they were, nonetheless, impressive.
The ceremonies began on a symbolically decorated platform in the Canal just in front of Port Said's ornate Canal Authority building overlooking a waterway again alive with ships in the sparkling sunshine. There, Egypt's President Anwar Sadat, impeccable in a white admiral's uniform, surrounded by some 600 dignitaries, opened the "Day of Joy" by signing a document transferring the Canal from military to civilian control. Then, amid a din of horns, whistles and martial music uncomfortably mixed with the recorded tones of Um Kalthum, the late, revered Egyptian singer, he boarded the destroyer that would carry him to Ismailia. Minutes later, as the last salvo of the destroyer's 21-gun salute echoed across the Canal's blue water, the stately 10-knots-per-hour voyage began and one of the world's greatest man-made waterways was again open.
The above is a lead-in to an article
entitled "Suez - The Reopening"
U.S.S. Little Rock's "Tiger Rag"
ROCK ATTENDS SUEZ 'REOPENING'
LITTLE ROCK made history recently as it participated in the re-opening of the Suez Canal, which had been closed since the 1967 six-day Arab-Israeli War. The SIXTH FLEET flagship was the only non-Egyptian vessel to take part in the opening day ceremonies.
After being greeted in Port Said, at the gateway of the Suez, by small groups of fishing boats carrying what seemed to be impromptu welcoming committees, LITTLE ROCK joined a procession of ships down the canal.
Headed by an Egyptian Navy Destroyer, carrying President Anwar Sadat, his guests and dignitaries, the procession made its way down the canal to the port of Ismailia. Here, LITTLE ROCK anchored for the night and observed from her mooring the festivities on shore.
U.S. Navy ships and (SIXTH FLEET/TASK FORCE SIXTY FIVE) personnel participated in clearing the canal, which took more than a year before it was reopened.
The joint service task force trained more than 1,500 Egyptian military personnel in explosive ordinance clearing.
During the year-long operation more than 200 tons of unexploded ordinance and 686,000 land and anti-personnel mines were removed from the canal and its banks. Ten sunken ships were also raised from the canal bottom with the help of Navy salvage teams.
From the Naval Historical
On 5 June 1975, after having been closed since the June 1967 war between Egypt and Israel, the Suez Canal was formally reopened for business. USS Little Rock, flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, represented the United States at the ceremonies, which were held at Port Said. According the the 1976 "Naval Review", she was the "only foreign warship in the official flotilla that sailed down the canal to Ismailia" on this occasion.
Much damaged by direct military action in 1967, and especially in another war in October 1973, as well as by the neglect inherent in its long inactivity, the canal had required considerable effort to remove sunken wrecks, clear explosives and return its banks and channels to navigable condition. Its closure had produced serious disruptions in international commerce, as eastbound shipping from the Indian Ocean area and the Far East had to make a long passage around Africa instead of taking the relatively short route via Suez and the Mediterranean. Some of the expedients adopted at that time to improve the economics of a non-Suez Canal environment, among them enormous supertankers for transporting Persian Gulf oil to Europe and the Americas, survive to this day.
Additional Historical Information
On April 10, 1974, a special Sixth Fleet Task Force, CTF 65, was established under COMSIXTHFLT OPLAN 4371 to assist the Egyptians in clearing the Suez Canal of mines and other operational hazards. At the time, USS Little Rock CLG 4 was Flagship of the Commander United States Sixth Fleet and the COMSIXTHFLT staff worked from the ship to assist CTF 65 with operational issues. Little Rock's crew and equipment provided day-to-day support of COMSIXTHFLT that contributed to the successful reopening of the Suez Canal.
The task force used operational code names Nimbus Star, Nimbus Moon Land, Nimbus Moon Water, and Nimrod Spar. Nimbus Star included controlled minesweeping of the canal and approach channels. It was carried out by RH 53D Sea Stallion helicopters using the Mark 105 magnetic minesweeping sled. The plan for Nimbus Moon Land was to train and advise Egyptian Army personnel to find and remove unexploded ordnance from the banks of the canal. Moon Water combined minesweeping craft and divers from the United States, Egypt, Britain and France to find and dispose of ordnance not found otherwise. Nimrod Spar included the salvage and removal of ten sunken wrecks and other waterway hazards.
Ships from the Sixth Fleet that were part of CTF 65 included USS Iwo Jima (LPH 2), USS Inchon (LPH 12), USS Barnstable County (LST 1197), and USS Boulder (LST 1190).
Over the course of CTF 65 operations, more than 8500 contacts allowed for the disposal of 60-plus tons of ordnance. Additionally, 200-plus tons of ordnance was pulled from boats, barges, trucks, tanks, and other vehicles removed the canal.
On June 5, 1975, Little Rock joined the ceremonial convoy for the reopening of the Suez Canal. All participating crewmembers received a Suez Canal Reopening certificate.
Vice Admiral Frederick C. Turner wrote a short note to commemorate the reopening of the Suez Canal as follows:
Note: A 115 page CTF 65 summary document is available here. It can be downloaded as a PDF file.
Also from John Meyers:
". . . . . . In the book Negotiating for Peace in the Middle East by Ismail Fahmy (Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time of the Suez Canal reopening) the following quoted material is in reference to Anwar Sadat requesting two U.S. Navy ships for the reopening of the Suez Canal as follows:
Reopening of the
The certificate shown at the right is one of those issued to crew members of the U.S.S. Little Rock who were on board during the historic Suez Canal transit on 05 July 1973.
(Certificate furnished by John Meyers)
What did the U.S. media have to say
about the U.S.S. Little Rock
at the reopening of the Suez Canal ?
Galveston Daily News
Friday, June 6, 1975
(UPI) In pomp and pageantry befitting the pharaohs, Egypt ceremonially reopened the Suez Canal Thursday as "a gift to the world" and the cause of peace in the Middle East. While white doves flew overhead and cheering crowds chanted his name, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat officially declared the canal open to international traffic for the first time in eight years. Then he boarded an Egyptian Navy destroyer which snapped a thin metal chain at this port on the Mediterranean and sailed into the canal on the six- hour voyage to Ismailia mid way along the 102 mile water- way. The ships of more than half a dozen nations followed, including the flagship of the U.S. 6th Fleet......
The U.S. cruiser Little Rock, based with other 6th Fleet units in the Mediterranean, was in the first convoy to enter the reopened canal. They followed Sadat's vessel, the destroyer "October 6", named for the opening date of the 1973 Middle East war which led to the return of the canal to Egyptian control. American diplomatic sources said the Little Rock came at the invitation of the Egyptian government. The invitation was understood to have been a gesture of gratitude to the United States for the key role it played helping to clear mines and other debris from the canal during the last 13 months, they said.
Frederick (MD) Post
Friday, June 6, 1975
(AP) Leading a convoy of Egyptian ships dwarfed by a big American cruiser, President Anwar Sadat reopened the Suez Canal Thursday after eight years of war and uneasy peace. Dressed in the white uniform of an admiral, Sadat led the ceremonial convoy on the bridge of the Egyptian destroyer "October 6", named for the date on which Egyptian troops stormed across the Suez Canal in 1973 to recapture part of the east bank. Sailors, teenagers and aging boatmen in white turbans jammed small boats to follow the convoy. Many hung from the rigging or perched on top of masts chanting "Sadat! Crowds lining the canal banks clapped and danced to the rhythm of reed flutes and leather drums. "I have been feeling very happy since the moment I arrived in Port" Sadat told a reporter aboard his destroyer. "It has been one of the happiest moments of my life when we started transiting the canal again after eight years." The guided missile cruiser Little Rock, a flagship of the U.S. 6th Fleet, became the first foreign warship to sail the strategic waterway since it was closed by Arab-Israeli hostilities in 1967. The reopening was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the June 1967 six-day- war, which brought Israeli troops to the east bank of Suez Canal and forced Egypt to close it..............Steaming down the Suez, the USS Little Rock towered over the two lead destroyers, both Soviet built. "The sight of the Little Rock in canal waters will make insurance carriers very (happy) said one American admiral looking on. "But it's not making those guys very (happy) he pointed to two gloomy Soviet admirals, silently witnessing yet another symbol of the Egyptian-American friendship that has undercut Russian influence in this part of the volatile Middle East. Sadat opened the canal at Port Said, its Mediterranean gateway, before boarding the October 6 for the 45 mile cruise to Ismailia, the halfway point.
Friday, June 6, 1975
".........As Sadat and his guests moved by launch to the October Six, a gaggle of tugs, pilot boats and harbor runabouts sounded horns and whistled furiously. Egyptian MIG fighters and a pride of helicopters circled overhead. The amplified recorded voice of the late beloved Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum mixed with the martial music.
"This is one of the happiest moments of my life," Sadat told Correspondent Wynn on the bridge of the destroyer. Girls blew kisses to the Egyptian President from small boats. Men clung to the tops of masts, beating the air with their fists and chanting, "Ya Sadat, ya Sadat!" He beamed and waved in response. At intervals the ship passed remnants of the old Israeli Bar-Lev Line, now manned by Egyptian troops. Sadat climbed to the destroyer's signal station to return their salutes.........
The biggest warship in the convoy, as it turned out, was not Egypt's. It was instead the 14,600-ton guided missile cruiser Little Rock, flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet. The Little Rock was trimmed with flags, including the Stars and Stripes, which flapped visibly in the hot summer wind. Two Soviet admirals among the guests in the flotilla - Moscow's sole representation at the ceremonies - glowered and gloomed."
Wisconsin State Journal
Friday, June 6, 1975
U.S. Ship Joins Pageant
as Egypt Reopens Canal
PORT SAID, Egypt (UPI) - In pomp and pageantry befitting the pharoahs, Egypt ceremonially reopened the Suez Canal on Thursday as "a gift to the world" and the cause of peace in the Middle East.
While white doves flew overhead and cheering crowds chanted his name, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat officially declared the canal open to international traffic for the first time in eight years.
He then boarded an Egyptian navy destroyer which snapped a thin metal chain at this port on the Mediterranean and sailed into the canal on the six-hour voyage to Ismailia, midway along the 102-mile waterway.
The ships of more than a half dozen nations followed, including the Flagship of the United States Sixth Fleet.
A Liberian tanker carrying cargo for Israel was reported ready to test whether Egypt would allow it to pass as well within the next few days.
In a four-minute speech from a rostrum shaped like the pharoahs' ancient Nile barges, Sadat pledged that the Arab world would continue its efforts to reclaim land conquered by Israel and do its "holy duty" to the homeless of Palestine.
Church bells rang. Ship's whistles screamed. Egyptian naval artillery thundered in salute. Military jets swept overhead.
While making this initiative as a contribution to peace, Egypt reminds friendly nations that parts of its dear soil are still under foreign occupation and that an entire people are still suffering the consequences of suppression and homelessness," Sadat said.
"Egypt reiterates its determination to do its holy duty toward its own and other Arab lands- in the Golan Heights, Sinai, and Palestine - and toward usurped Arab rights."
The U.S. cruiser Little Rock, based with other Sixth Fleet units in the Mediterranean, was in the first convoy to enter the reopened canal.
They followed Sadat's vessel the destroyer "October 6" named for the opening date of the 1973 Middle East war which led to the return of the canal to Egyptian control.
American diplomatic sources said the Little Rock came at the invitation of the Egyptian govern- ment.
The invitation was understood to have been a gesture of gratitude to the U.S. for the key role it played helping clear mines and other debris from the canal during the last 13 months.
Two hours later, the first toll-paying convoy, five ships flying the flags of Kuwait, Greece, China, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia, entered the canal.
The reopening of the canal came exactly eight years after the canal was blocked at the outbreak of the 1967 war in which Israel seized the entire Sinai peninsula, including the east bank of the canal.
In the 1973 war, Egyptian forces crossed the canal, smashed the Israeli Bar Lev defense line and advanced up to 12 miles into the Sinai
The U.S., Britain, and France joined Egypt in a $120-million salvage operation to clear the mines, sunken vessels, and other war debris from the canal. It began in April, 1974, and ended last month.
Reactivation of the canal, Cairo hopes, will help Egypt increase its meager hard currency earnings. In 1966 - the last fUll year of operation before the waterway was blocked - revenues totaled about $240-million.
The canal authority, which announced 90 to 100 per cent increases in tolls last month, says it now expects an annual revenue of about $450-million.
The Stars & Stripes
Friday, June 6, 1975
Egypt Reopens the Suez
PORT SAID (UPI) --- Egypt reopened the Suez Canal Thursday, and the flagship of the U.S. 6th Fleet was among the first ships to travel its waters.
The AmerIcan cruiser Little Rock, which is based along with other 6th Fleet units in the Mediterranean, was among the vessels making up the first convoy to go through the reopened waterway. The convoy was led by the Egyptian navy destroyer October 6, carrying President Anwar Sadat.
American diplomatic sources said the Little Rock came at the invitation of the Egyptian government.
The invitation was understood to have been a gesture of gratitude to the U.S. for the key role it played in helping to clear mines and other debris from the Suez Canal during the last 13 months, they said.
The sources dismissed reports circulating here that the Little Rock had made a sudden appearance at the canal entrance and may have caused embarrassment to the Egyptian government.
The presidential convoy was followed into the canal by the first toll-paying ships to use the waterway in eight years.
Sadat described the reopening as "a contribution to peace" in the Middle East but indicated this would not hinder Egypt from fighting Israel again, if necessary, to obtain an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands and resolve the problem of the Palestinians.
The reactivation of the canal came amid reports from Israel about an impending test of passage for Israeli goods.
In Tel Aviv, Israeli Transport Minister Gad Yaacobi said Egypt has pledged in writing to permit Israeli cargoes through the canal. He said a Liberian ship headed for the canal with sugar for Israel would be "a test case."
Yaacobi told Radio Israel that Egypt agreed to let Israeli cargoes through the canal in the disengagement pact with Israel signed last January, "Without any doubt this is a part of the disengagement of forces agreement," he said. "It was a commitment given by Egypt to the United States. in writing."
In two days of celebrations, Sadat will travel the length of the waterway linking the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
Standing on the bridge of the OCTOBER 6 as it nosed southward in the canal, Sadat said it was "one of the happiest days of my life."
In a four-minute speech from a quayside rostrum shaped like a vessel of the pharaohs, Sadat said, "While making this initiative as a contribution to peace, Egypt reminds friendly nations that parts of its dear soil are still under foreign (Israeli) occupation and that "an entire people (Palestinians) are still suffering the consequences of suppression and homelessness."
As he spoke, ships blew their whistles, military jets zoomed overhead and church bells pealed across this city at the northern end of the canal, where it links up with the Mediterranean.
After the speech, Sadat boarded the October 6 - named after the opening day of the latest Arab-Israeli war in 1973 - which broke a thin chain 120 yards across the mouth of the canal and nosed southward for a six-hour trip to the city of Ismailia.
Sadat stood on the destroyer's bridge and waved to cheering crowds ashore. At his side was Iranian Crown prince Ali Reza, delegated to represent his father, the Shah, at the reopening ceremonies.
The reopening was exactly eight years to the day the canal was blocked by the outbreak of the June 5, 1967, Arab-Israeli war in which Israeli forces thrust across the Sinai Peninsula all the way, to the east bank of the canal.
Egyptian forces stormed across the canal at the start of the 1973 war, destroyed Israel's Bar Lev defense line and pushed the Israelis back up to 12 miles.
Anwar Sadat's destroyer "October 6"
passes between channel buoys as it
moves to cut a small chain stretched
across the canal to symbolically open
the Suez Canal.
Photo is from John Meyers ETN2 '73-'75
Looking from the 04 level, LITTLE ROCK
proceeds up the Suez Canal on 05 Jul 73.
Official US Navy photo.
Looking aft from the bow of LITTLE
ROCK as she proceeds transits the
Suez Canal on 05 Jul 73.
Official US Navy photo.
Looking aft from above the Missile House,
LITTLE ROCK transits the Suez Canal
during its reopening on 05 Jul 1973.
Official US Navy photo.
Clearly President Anwar Sadat was the hero of the day!
The June 13, 1975 issue of "Tiger Rag" stated: "Posters and banners bearing President Sadat's name and picture were seen all along the canal route as LITTLE ROCK made her passage. The "6 October" on the banner is in reference to the name of the Egyptian destroyer "October 6" on which President Sadat was embarked for the parade. The destroyer was named for the date on which Egyptian troops stormed across the Suez Canal in 1973 to recapture part of the east bank.
Note: Ironically, it was on October 6, 1981, about three years after making peace with Israel, that President Sadat was assassinated by Muslim extremists during an annual military parade celebrating the "successful" campaigns of the 1973 Egypt-Israeli conflict. President Sadat was saluting the troops when a small group of them ran from a vehicle in the parade firing machine guns and throwing grenades in the stands.
Revelers on an obviously overladen Egyptian boat wave to the LITTLE ROCK crew.
The above photo, and the photo to its left were run in the June 13, 1975 copy of the ship's pub- lication "Tiger Rag". Official US Navy photo taken by PH2 Harry Deffenbaugh.
The cartoon on the left
was published by the
Indianapolis Star, and
was sent to us by our
Bruce Stewart JO3
1965 - 1967.
( Thanks Bruce !! )
two photos on the left we furnished by shipmate John Meyers,
ETN2, 73-75. They provide a starboard view and
a bow-on view of an Egyptian "gunboat", obviously
equipped with Soviet missiles (Note the four launchers.)
The picture on the right, also from John Meyers, provides a nice view from atop USS Little Rock's missile house, looking aft as Little Rock transits Suez Canal.
Sixth Fleet Band
A Little Rock shipmate survey's the Suez Canal.
Then we'd like your input.
Your photos and comments are welcome.
Contact the Webmaster
|Except as noted, the
above black & white photos are Official Navy Photos from Dep't.
of the Navy's Naval Historic Center.
Except as noted the full color photos were contributed by USS Little Rock shipmate Dave Sciarretta RM2 1973-76
COMSIXTHFLT's take on this Historic Event...
In a message to the Sixth Fleet VADM Turner sent the following message:
And to the "Gaeta Community" he sent the following:
And to the rest of the world CNO sent:
....and CDR Kent Siegal, XO recalled the transit with the following ...
Your comments are welcomed!
Here's what your shipmates recall about the Little Rock's transit of the Suez Canal on 05 June 75...
* Received via email from Bill Peterson, MSSN, 73-75: "Yes I do remember that day 6-5-75. It was hot and our LPO said the media will be on board the ship and act your age and not your IQ. I was in the S-5 div standing on the rails in our dress whites while we went through the canal at parade rest. Yes those were the days!"
The following related article was on Page 1 of the June 13th "Tiger Rag"
"UP AND OVER" FOR FIVE
Two enlisted crewmembers and three officers from the LITTLE ROCK were made an indelible part of the historic Suez Canal reopening recently as they participated in re-enlistment and promotion ceremonies.
BM3 Charles Finiak and SH3 Raymond Brown Jr. re-enlisted for six years during the ceremonies held on the Signal Bridge as LITTLE ROCK made her return trip up the Suez. Finiak assigned to the ship's Deck Division since 1972 will be leaving in July for assignment with the USS FLINT (AE 32) homeported in Concord, Calif.
Brown, a member of the LITTLE ROCK's Supply Department, has worked in the ship's laundry since his arrival in 1973. He will leave in July for Pearl Harbor Hawaii and the USS DAVIDSON (DE 1045).
The second ceremony advanced three LITTLE ROCK division officers to the rank of LTJG. Alexander Murray, Disbursing Officer; Daniel Musmanno (#367), Second Division Officer and Nicholas Smilari, Legal Officer strapped on their new rank insignias with the help of Commanding Officer Captain William R. Martin (#330) and their Department Heads.