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Mishaps 2
USS CORAL SEA
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Mishaps 2


 1966-67 WestPac

This A-4 of the VA-23 Black Knights somehow made it back aboard despite having part of its port wing shreaded by a missile that fortunately didn't explode.


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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - John Mittler]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Norm Palosky]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Norm Palosky]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Norm Palosky]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Norm Palosky]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Jerry Shafer]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Norm Palosky]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Norm Palosky]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Norm Palosky]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - John Mittler]


 25 October 1967 - WestPac

Zuni Rocket Mishap - "The United States Navy disclosed yesterday that an air-to-surface rocket accidentally ignited on the attack carrier Coral Sea off North Vietnam this week, injuring nine seaman.
Three of the men were critically burned. All nine were flown to Clark Air Force Base in the Phillipines.
The incident occured Wednesday night while crewmen were assembling the Zuni rocket, used by Navy aircraft raids in Vietnam. The motor ignited and shot the rocket forward about 20 feet into a steel bulkhead.
A spokesman at the Navy fleet headquarters here said the rocket did not explode."

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]


Four of the men subsequently died of their injuries:

[Submitted by variuos sources] - The rocket motor was next to the bulkhead and on the other side was the first class lounge where they had a hot plate on all the time which cooked off the zuni rocket.
The missle became lodged in the bulkhead without the warhead exploding. It was then decided to cut the bulkhead out around the rocket. The rocket and bulkhead were carefuly removed and gently thrown overboard. Walt "The Salt" Hardy who was on board in 1967 when it happened was also aboard in 1983. When he left the ship in 1983 the patched bulkhead was still noticable.

[Follow up - Lloyd Becker] - I was aboard the Coral Sea on Oct 25 1967 when the rocket launched, my GQ was two decks below the forward mess decks right under the resulting fire. The article you have is a little wrong. The rocket was accidentally launched as it was being assembled and lodged in the First Class Mess bulkhead, luckily it didn't arm.The fire was intense and the forward magazines were flooded which were next to us. the fire teams that put out the fire should have been commended because this deck was used for assembling weapons and was of course full, so the danger of something cooking off was possibility. After the fire was put out the warhead had to be cut out and be disposed of, as I recall after we were notified the fire was out it took about four hours for this to take place.
[Follow up - Albert Bodt] - The Zuni rocket incident. I had just showered and gotten into my rack at around 2145 when a fire alarm sounded. I was in the E-Div berthing compartment 3rd deck amid ship near the post office. A second alarm sounded and not long after that a third alarm then general quarters. I grabbed my clothes and shoes, and like everyone else headed for the ladder to the second deck, reminding myself of "port aft and starboard foreward" during GQ. The smell of burning paint and smoke was evident and it scared the crap out of me, not knowing how bad things were. We all started in the wrong direction but soon everyone had rememberd their mantra as well and we headed to our GQ stations. As I moved to my GQ station on the aft mess decks via the port side, the burned sailors were brought by me in litters. My GQ station was not 5 yards from the hatch going down to sickbay and I watched as the wounded were brought down. During the night there was a fire in 2C fire room and guys were going down to the bilges to get those poor guys who were passing out fron the heat. There were 10-20 guys lying on the aft mess decks, passed out from heat exhaustion. They took the liquid O2 tanks out of the A4 Skyhawks to administer oxygen to those guys.. I was an electrician and was involved in deengergizing the circuits so the fire could be fought safely, There was 4-5 inches of water in the passageways on the second deck juft foreward of the messdecks as well. In any event, they safely removed the Zuni rocket still embedded in the bulkhead, (they had cut a 2 foot hole around the warhead) and gently carried it by my damage control team and went up he ladder to the hangar deck on their way to the fantail (I presume) to dispose of it. Few people remember that the missile went through a live 440 volt 400 cycle power panel and had lodged between two live buss bars. The whole power panel had to be disassembled and removed before they could even begin to cut around the missile warhead,. That is why it took all night. By 0730 the following morning it was pretty much over. The reason I go into so much detail is that that incident, and my witness to the injuries and the heroics of the docs and copsmen in sickbay steered me into wanting to become a physician. Subsequently, after leaving the ship on 7 August of 1970, I started my education and ended up in med school in 1979. I am now a specialist in Internal Medicine and subspecializing in Nephrology (kidneys), a direct result of that incident.
[Follow up - Albert Bodt] - I was there during the incident. We were at GQ all night until around 0700. The Zuni pod, as I recall was on the starboard side of the foreward mess deck with the business end facing the bulkhead of the first class lounge, about 15-18 feet away. The tail end of the pod was about 4-5 feet from the starboard bulkhead. The inciting incident did not involve a hotplate but apparently the weapons crewman testing the pod for electrical continuity with a 1.5volt multimeter set off the live Zuni. He was sitting, straddled accross the pod with his legs testing the pins on the connector into which the plug fron the aircraft is attached. As he connected the multimeter to two crirical pins on the connector, there was enough current from the multimeter battery to light off the rocket. He took the full blast of the rocket exhaust and I remember seeing him as he was carried past me in a litter to sick bay as we were going to GQ. The first fire alarm was at precisely 2200hrs, then a second fire alarm was sounded 30 seconds later, then a third, then GQ was sounded at around 2202hrs. The rocket had launched from the tube into the first class lounge bulkhead knocking the television off the stand in the lounge, and had penetrated a 440V/400cycle controller panel which had to be removed before the rocket itself could be removed. It took all night until around 0730 the following morning. As I recall, the controller panel was replaced but the circular weld could still be seen behiond it where the bulkhead had been replaced.
[Follow up - Denis Howard] - I was onboard when this incident occurred. I was in the first class lounge when the rocket ignited and lodged in the bulkhead. The first class lounge (couldn't call it a Mess) was located in forward mess deck area starboard side, this area had been taken over for ordnance assembly. I spoke to one of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians who disposed of this rocket afterwards. Working party handled rocket pods returned from strike aircraft after missions (not all Aviation Ordnancemen as this was a low tech job) job was to visually insure no rockets remained in 4 rocket pod container, then with a battery pack RESTEP the firing switch. Crew apparently failed to inspect prior to resteping and a rocket remained in the pod. Cycling the switch fired the rocket which did not travel far enough to arm (rocket warhead had an impeller and had to travel a minimum distance to arm). Rocket warhead did not explode, it was safely extracted and disposed of by EOD Team onboard.
[Follow up - king@bus.orst.edu] - The Zuni rocket accident in October 1967 involved a lot more than merely the forward messdecks fire. The ship went to GQ because the rocket somehow managed to short out the ventilation systems to the main boiler room, the zuni rocket magazines on either side began to heat up, etc., etc. A damage control chief later told me it was a close call. I have told the story for years to various NROTC classes....
[Follow up - Jonathan King] - The ship also went to GQ when the ventilation systems for the boiler rooms mysteriously shut down. (Later, it was discovered that the zuni and/or zuni fire had short-circuited some electrical stuff, etc.) Meanwhile, zuni rocket magazine next to the boiler rooms began to heat up. "Naturally," one sprinkling system was down for repair and the other barely dribbled out water. A damage control chief later told me he figured the zuni's came within several degrees of cooking off. That would have been a real disaster!

Several crewmen were subsequently awareded medals for going back into the boilerroom to shut down the furnaces. Meanwhile, other folks were throwing all the zunis overboard and anything that looked like it might explode on the hanger deck. In fact, someone threw a box overboard containing a "silver rotary radar joint" for our E2A which cost upwards of $500,000. The plane guard later found it floating the the Gulf and returned it to us.

The ship secured from General Quarters about four hours later.
[Follow up - EN3 D.P. Dougherty A4 Division] - I was aboard Coral Sea during the Oct. 25 1967 Zuni rocket mishap. When GQ sounded I went to my battle station inside the first class mess manning fog foam machine 3. The compartment was full of smoke and ankle deep water and despite many calls on the sound powered phone to REP2 for an O.B.A., no one came[nor did my fellow machine operator] and as the smoke cleared after quite a while I saw the nose of the Zuni sticking through the bulkhead and I experienced a feeling like I was "passing a brick". After a while the hatch opened and the X.O. [I don't remember his name but the C..O.'s name was Capt. Shawcross] and a chief came in and the chief said "What the hell are you doing in here"? And I said "Waiting for an O.B.A., chief". They looked at the Zuni ,then came back to me,and the X.O. asked my name and said "You will get a medal that will help your career, but I think my career is over." The chief gave him a murderous look, and said "Come on,kid". We went and helped bring up hot rounds from a magazine. I will never forget that G.Q. or my brave shipmates, nor the cold words of the X.O.
[Follow up - Jim Doil] - I was one of the survivors of the '67 Zuni accident. There were 9 of us in the forward mess deck when the rocket was fired. The result was 4 died and I was the worst of the injured. I spent almost a year in the hospital with 37% 2nd & 3rd degree burns. I would like to find any of the other survivors. My time on the grand old lady brings back so many fond memories.

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Jim Doil]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Jim Doil]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Jim Doil]


[Follow up - Robert Skelton] - I was on board the Coral Sea during the 1967 Zunnie Rocket incident. I was a BT2 assigned to 2-B fireroom and my GQ station was in a berthing area little aft of 2-C fireroom. My assignment, when we were @ GQ, was nozzelman on a  firehose on a damage control team. When it came time to remove those warheads from the locker I was one of the work party to go into that storage area to remove them. Myself, as well as everyone else was pretty scared. We formed a line of about 30 people that went up the ladder to the hanger deck and acrossed the hanger deck and over the side at the elevator. As we relayed them out from the fourth deck up to the hanger deck and over the side they had fire hoses spraying on the overhead to keep everything cool and that sea water was cold. We all were in our scivies and tee shirts and we all looked like a bunch of drown rats. The Senior Chief said they were very unstable because of the heat and it would not be very good to have one of them detonate.  

When the rocket went off it went accross the compartment and lodged in the bulkhead where the rocket motor continied to run until it was out of fuel. When it went through bulkhead it lodged in a electricial distribution panel on the other side of the bulkhead in the First Class mess. It just so happens that was the distribution panel that supplied power to forced draft blowers in 2-C fireroom and any cooling vents that were running were out also. Right above the fireroom was the storage area for the rocket warheads. When the vent system in the fireroom was knocked out it rapidly allowed the fireroom temperature to rise which intern caused the heat problem in the rocket storage area to escalate. Under normal steaming conditions, when all ventilation systems were up and running, it was a continious 140-150 drgrees on top of the boiler which is directly under the rocket storage area. Sometimes we did some of our wash and hung it up on top of the boiler where it would dry in 10 minutes or less.   

After they finially got a handle on the problem, they realized they had to take 2-C boiler off the line. By now the heat in the fireroom was unbearable. They took our damage control team to the air trunk above 2-C fireroom where we went down in teams of three for 5 minutes only to try to wrap up the boiler. I don't know how hot it was but I do know it would turn your skin red after 5 minutes down there. I went down for three rounds and the last thing I remembered after the third round was looking up the air trunk and seeing people up at the top yelling for me to hurry up the ladder. The next thing I remember I was lying on the mess decks in my scivies with ice packed all around me and some guy was trying to wake me up. I did find out latter that a guy carried me from the air trunk to the mess decks. When I found out who it was I looked him up and thanked him. The only thing I really got out of it was the fact I looked like a lobster for a couple of weeks.     

One of other stories I read mentioned that some people got some awards for what they had done. I don't think that is true. I think those other guys as well as myself are not looking for a pat on the back but we need to try to get the story straight. We all did what we had to do for ship and shipmates and I would do it all again!


 Nov 25, 1967 Westpac [Submitted by - Gary Chappell]

- A-4 Deck Mishap involving CDR William .H. Searfus. The following is a letter to the Commanders son:

Dear Stan,

Your dad used to come and see Bill Shawcross quite a bit, and generally would have to wait awhile to see him.  I just remember your dad always asking me how I was doing, and where I was from?  Just nice little personal things, that many others did not bother with.  I could always tell he was sincere.  He just seemed like a great guy to me.

After I left the Marines, I became a professional pilot for many years of all things.  Flew Citations and Learjets mainly later on, with quite a bit of time spent flying in Europe and Middle East.  Caught the bug on Coral Sea of course.

I served two Tonkin Gulf Tours and being on the bridge most of the time, I witnessed many unfortunate accidents.  Several aircraft dead cat shots, shot up aircraft, and several guys either blown off deck or even driving tugs off deck. I grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, a somewhat small town, thus this was all pretty shocking to me to say the least.

I along with Captain Shawcross was on the bridge when your dad's accident happened.  I'm sure you know by now most of the details.  Really they are not that important now, as your father's memory is what we all want to remember.

However the following is what I recall:

The Skyhawk (Bill's plane) was parked last slot/port/fantail.  The F-4 was adjacent, and of course a full air strike was in progress, daylight hours, but late in day.  As you probably are aware some confusion may exist as to whether your dad was fully strapped and buckled in.  It was very hot and it was not uncommon for the pilots to wait until the last minute to get fully strapped.  In any event, the F4 pilot made a very simple, but critical error.  In applying thrust he under judged the required  power to get his aircraft out of the slot, and turned up the deck.  He obviously applied more power at about the 45 degree angle of the turn, when he realized he had mis judged his initial power application.  This of course meant his secondary power increase was directed straight at the A-4.  This coupled with about 40 knots of wind over the deck, turned the A-4's nose towards the fantail, and ultimately over the side.

Neither Captain Shawcross nor I actually witnessed the accident, as it was happening.  The Captain was of course notified immediately by the Air Boss, and it was at the end of the launch.  Of course the ship was immediately put into a search pattern for several hours.  No debris was found.

About 15 minutes after the accident occurred the Captain and I were escorted to the scene by other members of the crew.  Captain Shawcross was extremely upset.  More than I had ever seen him.  Arriving at the A-4 slot both of us basically had a tear in our eyes.  We could clearly see where your father had locked up the brakes in a desperate attempt to stay on the deck.  Solid rubber for about 20 feet in a nose first circular pattern was very evident.  Shawcross thought Bill was not strapped in and could not eject.  The plane was loaded with ordinance and hit the water inverted.

I have read couple different accounts on the internet about your dad, just doing a maintenance check on the aircraft, and not scheduled for the actual air strike that was in progress.  I do not remember that being the case at all.  In addition I do not think a maintenance run up would be occurring during a actual air strike.  That makes no sense to me.  Especially with an aircraft loaded with ordinance.

Lastly I recall what happened after all of the strike aircraft had been recovered.  I'm sure you have not heard this part.  The Captain ordered the F-4 pilot and Cmdr. Linder to the bridge immediately upon recovery.  Linder was on the strike also, and was chief pilot for all squadrons (forget what his actual title was).  In any event Linder and the young F-4 driver reported to the bridge, and the scene was not pretty.  The F-4 pilot was either an ensign or JG, and pretty young.  He was shaking like a leaf, and Cmdr. Linder was crying.

Then Shawcross basically lost it, and literally unloaded on the young F-4 pilot.  I had never seen the Captain in this type of emotional outburst ever.  It ended with Shawcross telling the F-4 pilot he was finished as an aviator.  I don't know if that proved true or not.

Having recited all of these material facts, as I witnessed them, it was clearly an accident.  Preventable sure, but an accident.  These young pilots were under tremendous stress, and it went on day after day for 7-9 months.

I will always remember your father.  I am not sure exactly why, but I think about him often.  I feel good just reciting this small bit of info to you.  Your dad knew he was risking it all.  He was a hero .  It is that simple.



 1966-67 WestPac

October 10, 1967 - USS Coral Sea collides with the Auxillary Explosives ship USS Mount Katmai AE-16. The two ships made contact during an underway replenishment operation. Both ships sustained damage but no one was injured.

[Follow Up - Albert Bodt] - I remember the Mount Katmai collision very well. I was on the hangar deck standing just inside the hangar bay by the starboard aft elevator. I saw the Mount Katmai come slowly closer and suddenly, I believe a swell may have pushed her into us, we collided and then separated again. Fortunately no one was hurt. The next unrep with her was at 2 am in the morning, a week, maybe two later, as I recall, and they played music during the unrep and had a large target painted on the side at the point of impact.
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  1966-67 Westpac

1966-67 - Somehow this F-4 Phantom wound up in the cat walk. Hmmmm...see the mishap story from the 1979-80 mishap when a Phantom wound up in exactly the same spot!

[Follow up - Matt Voight] - In reference to your bewilderment as to why the F-4 was in the cat walk, I can tell you why this happened. The same thing happened when I served aboard as a troubleshooter in 1985-1986. At that point in the deck, there is no deck edge combing due to the fact the the barricade arm extends beyond the deck edge. If the wing walker is not paying attention, as can happen, the main mount will go right over the side. An A-6 suffered the same fate in early 1986.
[Follow up - Bob Dorais] - The same thing happened when I served aboard as a troubleshooter in 1979-80. Pilots had manned their planes and started their engines. As the ship turned in to the wind to get ready for launch it rolled hard to port and one of the F-4N Phantoms, with tie downs removed and ready for taxi, rolled right in to the cat walk.
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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]


 1967 Westpac

Another A-4 shot-up over Vietnam, this one from the Blue Tail Files of VA-153, returns to the ship for a barricade landing.

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Gerald Davis]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Gerald Davis]


 1967-68 - WestPac

[Submitted by - Bob Nicholas] - Robert Rideout was killed when he walked in to a prop?  For years I have carried this one with me. I suppose we all experienced some PTSD from the '67-'68 cruise.  In a two month period during the TET offensive, we lost a large number of avaiators.....it was unbelievable. 

One night in an EA1F, we were warming up our engines for a flight.  Then out of nowhere the prop jerked.  We checked the guages to see if there was an oil pressure loss but nothing.  Then we get a call from Ops to shut down our engine and come back in to the ready room.  We didn't hear what had happened until the next day and then it was sketchy information.  All I heard was that the S2 in front of us had to shut down their engines for some reason and one of the officers had a habit of walking behind his S2 when he egressed the aircraft.  He had been warned not to do this but either forgot or didn't see the danger but he, in fact, did walk into our prop and was splattered up against the island. This individual, I was told was an officer/controller and either a LTJG or LT.   I say he, but it may not be him.  There may have been another incident where someone else walked into a prop.  Chances are however, that this is the same individual.  When I was reading the comments of folks who have died in carrier related '67-'68 incidents.....frankly, I had heard of all that were related to accidents on the Coral Sea at least the ones that were discussed on this wall.

I'd like to find out more about him as to when it happened, that is, what day and time, along with his rank, and anything else about him I can find out. 

1968 - WestPac

[Submitted by - Chuck Wothke] - There were 3 men that also died while I was on board the Coral Sea.

One was Jim Gardner. He was driving a tractor on the flight deck after flight ops respotting aircraft. He lost control of his tractor and went over the side and was never found.

Another was Jim Bitter of Indiana. We were getting underway from Alameda air station for the pilots to practice landing. They couldn't get the line lose from the dock. He was waving to his wife on the beach when the line snapped and came back through the hole he was looking out of and it cut him in half.

The third I remember was a young lad working on the flight deck. They were getting ready to launch a phantom when his hat flew off and he went onto the flight deck. He went out to retrieve it just when they launched the plane. He was a fuel operator.

Also when I was on Station 5 refueling from an ao I was a phone operator. As we were hooking up the cable to pull hose over, the ship listed and Ortiz of second division was thrown over board. He was later rescued buy helo and returned to the ship a.o.k.

 

 1969-70 - WestPac

[Submitted by - Richard Evans] - The COD was being taxiied on the fantail and had a full load of mail to go home. It got too close to the roundown as it was being spun around and started to go over. Fast thinking flight deck crew secured the plane until it could be pulled back up.

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Richard Evans]


 1969-70 WestPac

[Submitted by - Daniel Sauceda] - I have this picture of an F-4 Phantom [from VF-151] that's getting ready to crash in the water. It was getting ready to be launched when the cable that shoots it off the catapult slipped off and tore off the front landing gear. All you see is the after burners and the jet plane going off the angle deck into the water. Both pilots ejected and one of them landed on the flight deck but the other one landed on top of an F-4. His back hit the wing and than he just fell into the water and we lost him. The other one was being dragged on the flight deck by his chute so we all ran after him trying to catch him but he signaled not to grab him. He went over the side too but he made it to our relief!

[Follow Up - Harry T. Kelley, Jr] - I was there when the F-4 went off cat-3 that morning. I was on the fire truck in my fire suit. The pilot that was lost went through the canopy an hit an F-4 air in-take down to the wing over the back of the jet and down over the fantail. They were on there way home. We were 24 hours out from NAS Alameda. The cat-man let the tension off the cable and the cable droped, he still shot the cat off and riped the nose gear off by pushing it down the track.They were about 30 ft. from the end of the deck when they shot out of the jet. To this day I`ll never forget it.

While the afterburners were at full 100% the C.O. thought he was fixing to take off. They didn`t know they were about to have an accident on deck. If the C.O. knew they had a problem he thought he could get the jet off the deck before there would be a big accident on deck. I work that deck for over 3 1/2 years. This is what I believe I saw, it happened right in front of me that day. It was a sad day knowing his family was looking to see him come home.
[Follow Up - Terry Goldfarb] - I was the Plane Captain of that plane that went overboard (VF- 151 number 102). Like it was yesterday I remember strapping in the Commanding Officer (the pilot) and the Executive Officer (the RIO) for their last flight home from combat to meet their families. If I recall our executive officer was going home to retire out of the NAVY. Tragically he died in this mishap. I can still vividly see the nose landing gear collapse on the cat and the plane go over the side. The CO went into the water but the XO hit a plane taxing up from behind, bounced off of it and went into the ocean. He was the one who died.
[Follow Up - Benjamin Romero] - Another one I personally witnessed. It was the fly-off before making our final leg to San Francisco. On the Angle Cat was an F-4, 96.6 percent engine, full afterburners [of course!] going. The pilot was the squadron's commander - and perhaps evens the air wing's commander - that was the scuttlebutt. For whatever reason, the forward guide wire disconnected and wrapped itself around the nose gear, just as the shuttle yanked the craft forward. It was sad and ugly. The plane, nose at a down angle, slid off the round down in front of the angle. Both pilot and RIO ejected, but bounced down the deck and into the water.

The pilot who was killed or listed as MIA, was LCDR, R.C. Keating. This accident took place the day before we entered San Francisco 1970. The pilot who was killed or listed as MIA, was LCDR, R.C. Keating, the CO of VF-151 was Co. Fred Winton, who did survive the accident.
[Follow Up - Jerry Hart] - Below is my eyewitness account of the death of my RIO, LCDR R. C. Keating on 30 June 1970: At the end of my first combat cruise the Air Wing was flying off the USS Coral Sea. The fighters were going to Miramar; the A-7's were headed toward Cecil Field, FL; the A-6's to Whidbey Island, WA; the Cats & Dogs to their respective home Naval Air Stations. All the wives, children and girlfriends were all dressed up in their "Sunday go to meeting clothes" waiting for their men to fly in to a joyous celebration after 10½ months apart.

Me? As a nugget I was too junior to get to get a seat so I had to ride the boat into Alameda arriving the next morning. I was the Squadron Duty Officer that day and the squadron observer in PriFly(the tower.)

We were about 250 miles west of San Diego when the flyoff began. Everything flyable that could fit on the flight deck was turning and burning. As usual, the fighters would be shot off first, then the bombers then the cats & dogs.

I assume the Captain was anxious to get to Alameda on time so he elected to not slow the ship down for the launch. There was plenty of natural wind so as a result, we had 47 knots of wind over the deck. Not out of limits(as far as I know) but definitely more wind than we had operated in before.

The first aircraft to launch was my squadron CO, CDR Fred Winton with my RIO, LCDR Bob Keating, in his backseat. Bob was a "Mustang," a former enlisted man who was commissioned an officer and worked his way up the ranks. He was the senior RIO and the squadron Maintenance officer.

Since I was a cocky snot-nosed kid and an FNG and Bob was almost old enough to be my father, he had been assigned as my RIO to keep me alive long enough for the Navy to get a return on its investment. In more than 100 combat missions together he had saved my life at least half a dozen times that I was aware of and probably many more that I was blissfully unaware of.

Despite the more than 20 years difference in our ages, we had become fast friends. We went on R&R to Hawaii together where we were met by his wife and my girlfriend. We all hung out quite a bit together in Hawaii even though Bob and I had been together on the boat and in the air almost 24/7 for months.

This flyoff and reunion was to be Bob's final flight as a crewmember in a fighter aircraft. He had orders to two years of stateside shore duty before he was to retire. His wife, teenage son and teenage daughter were all waiting at Miramar to greet him.

I was outside PriFly on the O-7 level with my camera when Bob and the Skipper taxied over the shuttle, had their nose strut extended, went into tension, went into burner, saluted and were shot off the waist cat. At their weight with that much wind they probably didn't need to be in burner but they were going to have to dump down to landing weight anyway so why not?

The cat shot looked normal for the first 10-20 feet then I saw the nose rise up a little before it fell down as the nose gear folded forward(opposite the direction of normal retraction) as the shuttle ran away relieved of the weight of a 45,000# F-4. The aircraft skidded along the cat track on its nose in full afterburner.

Time stood still. It became obvious they were going too slow to fly and too fast to stop with brakes before they reached the end of the angled deck. I remember yelling "get out, get out." Everyone else watching was probably yelling the same thing.

I was so relieved to see Bob's canopy come off followed by his seat. I sweated bullets as the seat rockets fired and carried him about 100 feet into the air right in front of me. I then sweated out the seat separation and chute opening. Everything worked as advertised. I felt like I could almost reach out and touch him as he floated down under a beautiful canopy.

The skipper was in trouble though. The F-4 ejection seat system has a built-in delay of ¾ of a second between the time the rear seat ejects and the front seat ejects. This delay is designed to keep the rocket motors of the front seat from burning the guy in the rear seat and to prevent both seats from trying to occupy the same airspace at the same time during an ejection.

The ¾ second delay meant the aircraft was already pitching nose down off the end of the angled deck when the skipper went out. His seat trajectory was about 45º and he didn't get nearly as high as Bob. Fortunately it was just high enough to get a good chute and to come down on the deck.

Bob was also coming down on the deck. Unfortunately, the fantail was jam-packed with aircraft ready to launch. Bob came down and collided with the center bullet-proof windscreen of another one of our F-4s. It was 1½ inches thick and weighs 90 pounds. He hit it so hard it cracked. He slid off the windscreen, down the port side of the aircraft, over the wing, onto the deck and off the fantail and into the wake of the ship 60 feet below the deck. We later found his survival seat pack or his body dug a ¾ inch gouge out of the solid steel intake splitter ramp of the left engine of the F-4.

The last I ever saw of my best friend and mentor, Bob Keating, was when he disappeared into the wake of the ship. He sank immediately. The Angel hovered over him within seconds but there was nothing they could do. This was in the days before water-activated Koch fittings so if a crewmember was unable to free himself from his chute, the Angel couldn't help him lest the water-filled chute pull them under also.

The skipper was fortunate enough to land on the deck in front of the pack on the fantail. The 47 knot wind dragged him over all 4 arresting wires, between and under the airplanes in the pack on the fantail and into the water. He was able to release his Koch fittings and the helo picked him up and brought him back on deck. He was very battered and bruised but nothing too serious.

The flyoff celebrations were cancelled without an immediate explanation to the families. The launch was postponed for about an hour and everyone just straggled home. Since I was the SDO and practically the only officer from my squadron still aboard, I had to bite the bullet and implement the squadron emergency plan and initiate the crash investigation. We were never able to determine what exactly went wrong. The videos weren't good enough to determine why the bridle became disconnected from the aircraft. The bridle was lost overboard along with the aircraft.

[Follow Up - John Holland - VF-151] - I just read accounts of the F4 accident on cat 3 on the last day of the 1969 WestPAC cruise.  Herry Kelley's account, if correct, answers questions that I have always had since that day.  Namely, what broke or came loose?  We watched the PLAT tapes repeatedly just after the accident but could not discern the answer.  I was out of the Navy before the accident report was published.  What was my role?  I was a pilot in VF-151 at the time and I was spotted on centerline with my tail nearly hanging over the ramp.  My log book says I was in F4B Buno 152325 with an RIO named Webb.  We were already turned up with the chains broken down when the incident occurred.  There was a commotion on the radios and I looked up to see a perfect replication of the drawings out of the NATOPS manual of the Martin Baker ejection seat sequence - two seats in fact.  I remember papers flying through the air mixed with steam from the catapult.  Since the wind was directly down the centerline, all of this stuff was rapidly coming our way.  I instinctively shut down the engines thinking of FOD.  It soon became apparent that the parachutes were also coming straight at us.  Cdr Winton hit the deck just to the left of my plane and bounced off the end if the ship.  Bob Keating hit and cracked the bulletproof insert at the front of my canopy then bounced down the left side of my plane and into the sea.  I remember holding the emergency airbrakes as hard as I could thinking that if one of those chutes snagged and billowed, we could be in trouble too.  VF 161 had already launched and the accident delayed our launch and arrival at Miramar by about 2-3 hours.  I could have downed my plane for the cracked bullet proof but I ended up flying it in (I did put down my visor for the CAT shot!).  The whole incident was a sad thing and certainly put a damper on our homecoming.

* Click on any thumbnail to start a slide show of these images *
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Daniel Sauceda]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Daniel Sauceda]

View the video of this mishap here.


[Submitted by - James Waldron] - I was on the COD crew from 1967-1970. I have found a few pictures of the aircraft, and will attach them. One of the pictures is of the elevator accident in 1970. I was in the aircraft on the elevator getting ready to go to the flight deck for a flight. I was on the elevator with one chain tie down on the front landing gear. I saw a rouge wave traveling down the side of the ship when the elevator was picked up and torn from the big metal guide channels. The elevator and plane came crashing down dangling the end of the elevator dragging in the ocean. I was sitting in the pilot seat looking up to the sky with the plane at a45 degree angle up. I had hit my head on the throttles, located in the overhead, and banged up my right ankle and knee. I ended up climbing out an emergency exit, hanged on to the gear and had to jump from the elevator to the hanger deck. With the elevator being ripped away, it left me with a gap of four feet to clear to reach the hanger bay. I am still fighting with the VA trying to get a repair to my broken nose- breathing problem and a bad ankle and knee. I tried to locate records of the accident but have not found any. Thank god the ship photographer took some pictures and I got one.
As a footnote, I was on the fantail when I saw an A-4 blown off the flight deck. I saw the plane hit tail first bobbed once then sank. I was within 50 ft. The pilot never got out. During my aircraft accident I thought that the same end would be repeated.

* Click on any thumbnail to start a slide show of these images *
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - James Waldron]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - James Waldron]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Jim Goodwin]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Jim Goodwin]


[Submitted by - Mike Campbell] - An A-7E of VA-22 in the barricade. Need some more info on this mishap. Pilot was Commander Gulianni.

[Follow up - Richard E. Satchell] - June 1972. If you look close, there is a 500# bomb still hung on the rack along with a couple of missiles. I was on the bridge with Captain Harris sweating that 500 pounder. The leading edge of the right wing has a hole in it about the size of a basket ball. Last picture is close up of shrapnel damage from the SAM that got too close.

* Click on any thumbnail to start a slide show of these images *


 1971-72 WestPac

[Submitted by - Daniel Sauceda] - You know, some of those incidents that I read about are more or less like some that happen while I was on the Coral Sea.

We had this minister say good bye to everyone in his squadron and than he jumped off the flight deck from the back end of the ship with tie down chains around his neck. He came up once and waved good bye. We found out later that he had gotten word from back home that his only sister had died of cancer. We had an F-4 Phantom that fell in the catwalk while they were trying to park it on the flight deck on the right side, aft end of the ship. We had an F-4 Phantom slip off the aft end of the flight deck and fell into the water when the tow bar broke. No one was hurt or lost in this mishap. One night we had an A-7 Corsair lose it's landing gears when it hit the run down and slid down the flight deck while my crew and I were fueling an A-6 Intruder at station 14 which is where the angle deck meets the bow. We saw the pilot eject right into the water and I knew right away that he didn't make it. The funny thing about this was that the pilot's name was LTJG Waddell and the destroyer that picked him out of the water was the U.S.S. Waddell.
(Correction from Glenn Willis. This happened in 1972)

[Follow up - Kent Damon] - Enroute San Francisco to Vietnam , probably Nov. 1971, and somewhere east of the Philippines , we lost a plane (A-4?) doing practice landings.  I was in the hurricane bridge lifting weights, maybe early evening, when I heard an unusually loud jet engine noise, then the announcement over the 1MC of "pilot in the water". The pilot (LTJG Waddell) did manage to eject but drowned before recovery.  Note: I see that your "Mishaps" section has this accident listed in the "1969 WestPac" subsection (with correction to the year 1972.)  And there's another similar-sounding incident in the "1973 WestPac" subsection.  I am fairly certain of the date being late-Nov.'71/early-Dec. as we hadn't arrived on station yet and I left the Coral Sea (and the Navy) in Feb. of 1972, and I do remember the pilot's name was Waddell (sp?) -- the same name as the plane guard's.  Hope my memory adds to that incident instead of confusing it further.

[Submitted by - Joe Ballard & Charlie Williamson] - Also off the coast of Nam we had a C-2 coming in from Da Nang with mail. I belive this was in 1972. As the plane came in the nose gear collasped. the prop's bent, and went flying. Parts of the prop cut open the top dome of a E2, and a small fire started on the engines. I remember see people running out of the back of the plane. Our mail was saved.

[Submitted by - John Gramlick] - I was in VAW-111 DET.4 as a (ADR) reciprocal engine mechanic ( E-3 airman) when the C-2's main landing gear collapsed. Part of the propeller hit the radar dome and ripped about a 4 ft. section of our E-1B Tracker. I was watching flight ops on vultures row when this happened. If the aircraft (E-1B) was not there the propeller would have hit the Carrier super structure.
[Submitted by - Richard Rielley] - I was an AE-2 in VA-95 on the Coral Sea during the 73 cruise. I was TDY to the ship for a while in 1972. These pictures were taken by AD2 Pete Mclain during the accident.

* Click on any thumbnail to start a slide show of these images *
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Pete Mclain]
C-2 Greyhound port mainmount collapses on landing. Fire breakes out right away. Notice prop has broken loose and is heading towards island.
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Pete Mclain]
Seconds after the crash, flight deck crews are dousing the flames.
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Pete Mclain]
The fire fighting crew standing down after foaming the plane.
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Pete Mclain]
Aftermath of the fire.
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Pete Mclain]
Look closely at the E-1B radome. You can see a big chunk missing where a prop blade sliced through it.
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Ed Kenny]
Close-up of damage to the C-2.
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Michele Copeland]
Close-up of the damage and temporary repair to the E-1B Fudd.


[Submitted by - Joe Ballard] - Also in 1973 there was an F4 that came in for the landing, hit the deck missed the wires. I was on the flightdeck at the time. We were off the coast of California doing night air qual's. It was pilots that needed traps and launches. After they took the dip off the angle, they both ejected. We saw them punch out, and land in the water behind the ship. The F4 continued to travel up, with afterburners, and banked right. It was something to see this plane travel on it's own. It was around midnight when it happen..I can honestly say that people on the deck where very scared as the plane verd in a right turn, and headed back to the ship. As we stood there watching it come back to the ship, with afterburners on. Alot of us where running, but where??? The ship tried to turn, with no luck. The plane crashed in the water a very short distance from midship. parts of the plane landed on the flightdeck.

 1973 WestPac

[Submitted by - Jon Kusler] - There is a story of a sailor named, I'm doing this solely by memory, Seaman Flores. I can't remember his first name. He died in a five inch gun turret. He somehow ended up getting locked up in the turret with no air supply and died while we were in West-Pac on Yankee Station. I remember there being a memorial for him in the 1973 West-Pac cruise book. Capt. P.A. Peck was CO and he addressed the ship on the 1MC about the incident. He was our only fatality that cruise.

[Follow up - Joel R. Flores] - Seaman Flores was my uncle. I remember his funeral as a little boy. I remember it very well, I'm now 38 and an Army Veteran. My uncle's name is Gregorio Flores from Uvalde, TX. He is buried there.
[Follow up - Joe Ballard] - I was on the flightdeck working when Seaman Flores died in the gun turret. We were docked in Subic Bay. Our understanding was that he was locked in the gun, doing some cleaning. The solvent he was using overcame him and he had no air. I watched as they tried to revive him outside the turret.

* Click on any thumbnail to start a slide show of these images *
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Al Kleveno]


[Submitted by - William 'BUCKY' Schuster] - I was on that ' 73 cruise when the Phantom left the deck in burner and came back at the ship. I was a trouble shooter with VF 51 and was forward of the island when it hit the water. There were pieces and parts all over the flight deck. Funny how time plays tricks on you though. I remember it happening in the afternoon.

I can also remember another crash from that cruise. I had just finished checking our aircraft that had been recovered and were parked on the bow. F-4's were recovered first due to their using so much fuel. My friend and I were walking down the deck between the bow 'cats' toward the island. Just as we passed the starboard 'cat' blast deflector, an A-7 struck the round down. The force of the landing broke off both main landing gear and the aircraft skidded down the deck on its belly. Luckily for us it maintained a straight course and plunged into the water off the angle. I can still see the shower of sparks as it streaked past us. The pilot was able to eject as the plane left the deck. I saw the chute open and the pilot drift over the back of the ship. My friend and I ran over to the angle in time to see the plane sinking into the depths. Although the pilot ejected safely, he became entangled in his chute after hitting the water and drowned.

[Follow up - John Gramlick] - When the A-7B hit the rown down it was at night, I was aft of Tilley and L-2 waiting for our E-1B to land. I was at the fowl line when the landing gear went by me in a split second, way to fast and close to make a move. After the fact, the U.S. Navy put a lot of thought in the way the crash debris stays in the fowl line perimeters.

[Submitted by - Jim Long] - We had an F-4 that slipped off the aft end of the flight deck. Earlier in the day there was a fuel spill and the deck was foamed down. It was still slippery when respotting the bird. The plane captain jumped out and hurt his knee just as it went over the round down. It was #112 one of my birds. ADJ2 Jim Long mechanic and test operator. VF51 Screaming eagles.

We lost a helicopter on that cruse also. It was bringing in the mail and got to close to the water. A big swell licked it and it went in. Had another F-4 run out of fuel on the way back from a mission. The wing tanks were full but refused to transfer to the center tanks. Sits in Davy Jones' locker now.

The best one we lost was a F-4 on our shake down cruse just before we left for the West pack. A Phantom was coming in for a landing and the pilot thought he had caught the third wire so he cut the throttle. But he had missed the wire so he put it into full afterburner last moment. The RIO? (instrument operator in the back seat) thought they were going to hit the water so he punched them both out. The bird recovered by itself in full afterburner and flew off into the night. It looked like two little pencil flares flying a huge circle to the starboard. It came back right at the carrier (Corral Sea). It hit the water off the starboard side and blew up.A part of it laded in the hanger bay. A buddy said he ran in four different directions and wound up in the same spot.

[Submitted by - Pete Campo & Bob McManus] - F4 cold catshot, dips and then peals off to the starboard side, Lt in front seat hits the Martin Baker ejection seat and out he goes, chute deploys, splash, recover, pilot on board. Ltjg in rear seat, navigator, hits the button, up goes seat and co-pilot, no chute, down comes ejection seat, co- pilot still attached. We search for 8 hours until Captain "Paul" Peck calls off search and announces to ships crew that said Ltjg died doing what he loved in life. That's all I remember...

[Submitted by - David Lee] - I was a Federal Fire Fighter at Alameda Naval Air Station (1968-1978). One night we got alarms from the Coral Sea. We responded and found the Engine Area on Fire. After some six hours the small fire was brought under control. Later that month our Fire Station received other fire calls to the Coral Sea. We were told that someone was starting fires aboard ship. All hands were on 24 hr. watch for the arsonist. The Sailor was finally caught. He was brought to Treasure Island and confessed that he set the fires. When asked if he was an agent from a foreign country he replied "No". then asked the intelligence officer why did you start the fires? This was his answer: "My girl friend and I wanted to have more time together, so we thought if we started some small fires aboard ship that it couldn't leave port." Well he was partly right, it couldn't leave port and he got 25 years in Leavenworth Federal Prison.

[Follow up - BTCM(SW)RET Al Ching] - [Maybe a different incident ??] I was reading the mishaps and was a little confused about the fires set on board. The story said 1974...but I thought it was in 1973, we were docked in San Diego not Alemeda. I recall because we got back to the ship after partying about 0300 and I remeber General Quarters being sounded. It was all pretty confusing, I was a BT3 at the time and actually thought it was a drill until I got to my GQ station. The sailor set the fires in two different firerooms, I believe it was 3C and 2B. He supposedly opened all the burner valves on the boilers and let the diesel fuel spill onto the deck, lit the torch (used for lighting the boilers) and threw them on the deck starting the fires. I recall there was extensive damage to the two firerooms but ironically we still got under way, after all we had 10 boilers left. I beleive we were in San Diego for ORE..Overseas Readiness Evaluation, smilat to REFTRA.


[Submitted by - Joe] - I was in VA122 and we were dong carrier quals on the Coral Sea in late spring or summer I don't recall exactly. As part of the quals the aircraft would do touch and go's from late after noon to past sunset. We had a fellow who hit the round-down but did not crash out right, it ruptured the oil resivor in his A7-E. He headed for land but the A7's engine quit about half way to shore. He punched out. He said that he could see the ship and see land so he cut loose his seat pack, (big error) thinking he would hit it if he did not do so. It took us almost all night to find him. One guy in the ocean with no light or signal device is hard to find at night.


 1975 - Death on Deck 5

[Submitted by - Jimmy T] - In 1975 the ship was in transit from/to Australia. SN Spires was in S-1 division. On the day the event took place, he and another shipmate were tasked to clean up a chemical spill in a division flammables locker. The two went down to the 5th deck space and started moving the leaking cans. Sometime around 0900 I entered the area to clean an adjacent S-6 storeroom. I noted a bad smell when climbing down the ladders to the 5th deck. when I landed on the 5th deck I turned around to see one man laying on the deck in the storeroom, and one man laying on a bunch of 5 gl cans. I thought the men were asleep and had missed 0800 muster. I entered the storeroom and reached down to wake up the man on the cans, but it was obvious he was dead. This man was Spires. I moved to the other man and checked his status. he was not breathing but his heart was still beating. I picked him up and dragged him out of the storeroom, secured the hatch, and began CPR/mouth to mouth till he started breathing again. I then sounded the alarm and stayed at his side.

[Submitted by - Gary Wiley] - I was working Departure Control in the CATCC in early December, 1976. The seas were relatively calm and the weather was pretty good. Standard procedure for fair weather required that I be at my station monitoring departures, but I really didn't have a lot to do. I monitored all departures on the PLAT screen. We had an F-4 on the port cat launching when the Air Boss called out "Burner Blowout Cat 1 (I think), Eject, Eject!" The Phantom banked to the port side and hit the water like a rock. Not even the appearance of floating, just straight to the bottom. The pilot and RIO ejected, but because of the attitude of the plane they were almost horizontal as they went out of the range of the camera. The plane guard helicopter was over the crash site in seconds and dropped markers. They scanned for the pilot and found nothing then went to look for the RIO. They found him cutting his way out of his parachute and rescued him. No sign of the pilot at all. My division officer also witnessed the mishap, and was visibly shaken. It turned out that he had flown as RIO for the pilot in the past and knew him. Ironically, my division officer, after being discharged from the Navy was killed as a ride-along pilot on the 727 that mid-aired in San Diego around 78/79.

[Follow up - Ken Lyon - I was assigned as an additional Flight Deck troubleshooter that day. Since it was 2 months before deployment, we had installed all our ECM and crypto stuff. The boxes were touchy and failure-prone and the aircrews were having problems remembering how to use the gear so extra hands were needed on deck. I was working a TACAN gripe on an A-6 on deck when the incident happened. Weather was pretty and sunny that day as I recall. I just happened to look forward, saw the plane launch, make a low sweeping bank to port, 2 ejections, and then the Phantom hit the water. It looked like it floated for about 5 seconds and then just disappeared. I vaguely remember seeing only one chute. Since I was plugged in after having just made a radio check, I switched to the SAR frequency to listen to the helo traffic. They were on top within 30 seconds. The helo reported seeing one chute in the water. I think it was the RIO and they picked him up. The helo then looked for the pilot and reported that there was no sign of the pilot or his chute. There was talk of reluctance to put the swimmer in the water because they reported sighting several sharks in the area. I monitored SAR until they called off the search and my Flight Deck supervisor chewed my butt for not paying attention to my assigned task. Oh well.

We also lost an RF-8 on a cat shot one day. The pilot ejected and almost landed on the flight deck. He barely missed the ship and was picked up by the plane guard. (Dried off and got another chance to fly, too, however not the same day.)

[Follow up - Ken Lyon - I also remember the day we lost the RF-8. I think it was on our second to last READEX before deployment. The ship was alongside at NAS North Island that time. I remember because I really got bad drunk in Coronado the night before and met the most beautiful girl I ever laid eyes on. We left port around 0800, a beautiful sunny and cool San Diego type day, and as soon as we cleared Point Loma, they called the ship to flight ops. I think the RF-8 was the first aircraft launched and I think it was on the starboard catapult. He flamed out about halfway down the deck and he punched out. He landed right in front of the ship and some quick-thinking Seaman Quartermaster turned the boat in time and just missed him. That Quartermaster was mentioned in the Bravo Zulu section of the ship's news a couple days later.

[Submitted by - Robert P. Hampton] - We did lose a young guy playing Frisbee on the hanger bay, when he tripped off the "lifted Elevator" door. Our Communication's Commander saw him from the fantail, and called for "General Quarters/Man Over Board". It was a very sad night for all! I have never seen so many guys (Officers and Enlisted!) cry in my life! I did not know him, but he had a LOT of friends on board!!!

[Follow up - Ken Lyon] - I also remember the night we lost the guy playing Frisbee on the hanger deck. He went over the starboard aft elevator safety rail. As I recall, the seas were pretty rough that night and it was pitch black dark. We steamed around for a couple of hours looking for him and went on. One of my drinking buddies in CS Division said one of the plane guards stayed all night searching but he was never found.
[Follow up - Bill Warman] - His name was HT3 Marvin Ritz. I witnessed the "mishap" with the frisbee.

We also lost a couple of jets; one on take-off with the Pilots ejecting, and one on landing where a big fireball explosion took place on the flight deck few minutes after the bad landing. Loss of pilots on both incidents. Another sad time....

[Submitted by - Ken Lyon] - As for other losses once we deployed on WestPac 77, the only casualty I know of was an A-7 from VA-94 pilot was lost when he crashed at sea during a training mission.



 8 February 1978 Carquals

[Submitted by - Walt "The Salt" Hardy] - So I dug out these photos i had in one of my photo albums of F-4 crash that happened the night of 7 February 1978 when the Coral Sea was operating in the southern California operating area during a sea period from 31 January 1978 to 17 February 1978. The ship was conducting carrier qualifications for the west coast replacement squadrons and for the basic training command squadrons while the USS Lexington was in restricted availability.

That night a very fiery accident occurred when a VF-121 F-4J # 150 landed and broke its main wing spar in half during recovery. During the runout the flames from the ruptured centerline drop tank ignited spreading flames in front of the wings which caused the RIO to eject but the pilot was unaware of the flames and turned his head to see why the RIO ejected and wasn't in the tucked position when his own seat ejected and he suffered a broken neck and died while they recovered the RIO uninjured.

The flames burned for 17 minutes with the crash crew unaware that the engineering department had emptied all the AFFT tanks before going on our very last sea period operating aircraft for training because the ship was going to Bremerton , Washington for a 11 month yard period after that sea period. Needless to say that commander didn't make captain. I was working in flight deck control as the elevator control third class petty officer for Lcdr Casterline the aircraft handling officer and these are pictures taken the day after that crash 8 February 1978 of the F-4J #150 from VF-121. Well here is another great set of photos for our growing list of shipmates to see. So take care and keep on stroking. Walt the Salt!!!!!

* Click on any thumbnail to start a slide show of these images *
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Walt Hardy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Walt Hardy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Walt Hardy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Walt Hardy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Walt Hardy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Walt Hardy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Walt Hardy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Walt Hardy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Walt Hardy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Walt Hardy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Dale Smith]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - David Martin]


 1979 Reftra

[Submitted by Mike Scrogham] - I also remember we were ready carrier off the coast of California for about four months going from off the coast of Mexico, up to the Aleutians, and back. There was an A-7 corsair they had been working on in the hangar. They wanted to see of one of the main mount struts from an F-4, could be substituted for one of the main mounts on an A-7, in case of an emergency. It took off and flew just fine. Landing, was another story!
I was off duty and liked to watch the launches and recoveries, and was standing at the rear of the superstructure, on the starboard side, near the wreck crane. The A-7 came in and caught the wire, but the main mount on the right side of the plane they replaced exploded into a million pieces! I was lucky to be where I was as it occurred straight out from me! I ran around the corner of the superstructure just in time to see pieces of aluminum and steel whizzing past me and flying over board! No body was hurt, and the disabled A-7 was quickly picked up and took down to the hanger for evaluation. I think it was a VA-27 bird.

 1979 Bremerton

[Submitted by Jo Rutherford for Michael Rutherford] - Towards the middle of my duty period on the USS Coral Sea, we were in dry dock at Bremerton, WA.  We were preparing to leave dry dock, heading for Oakland Naval Air station.  I was a member of 1st division.  George A. Aitcheson, Jr., Rear Admiral, captained the ship.  1st division officer was LTJG Finley.  On the day in question we were taking orders from the Senior Chief.  I no longer recall his name.

I was working with a team of line handlers.  I was in the number 2 position.  We were preparing to hoist a 17 ton anchor chain into position around the capstan and into the hold.  There were two additional men stationed on the brake.

At this point, I observed that the wire used to connect or hold the anchor chain to the rope was hooked up incorrectly.  The wire, rather than being supported on a rounded surface, was folded over 2 knife edged sides of the snatch block.  I reported to the chief, that the cable was going to break as soon as tension was applied and that I would not stand on the line.  The chief responded to me, "You will stand on the line or be court marshaled."  I agreed to remain at my position under protest.

Following my protest, the team began to pull.  The line moved approximately one inch and snapped.  When it snapped, the broken wire straps slingshot around the capstan, it missed the man in the number 1 position, it hit me injuring my right arm, it then hit the man in the number 3 position, shattering one of his legs.  I later discovered his leg was amputated.  It then grabbed one of the brakemen and wrapped itself around the man and the brake so tightly; the brakeman also suffered a broken leg. 

In the ensuing pandemonium, I located the cut wire, waited for photographs to be taken for documentation, then removed the wire so that it would be in safekeeping for the investigation I knew would occur as a result of my protest.  I had reasonable cause to believe the integrity of the chief was in doubt and that he might destroy this crucial piece of evidence.

I was in a state of mental shock at this point.  I sustained several injuries to my right hand and arm.  I could not bring myself to look at my hand and arm because I was afraid they had been severed; however, I have no recollection of going to the infirmary or being treated for these injuries. I have scars from the injuries, but thankfully, my arm is otherwise intact.

I was given 4 days of liberty following the incident.  I know that I spent some time in a bar drinking but I have no recollection of where I was, what I did at night, or of going back to the ship.  I just kept reliving the incident over and over in my mind.  I kept seeing the face of the number 3 man and his shattered limb.  To this day I replay the incident in my mind frequently.

I returned to work following the liberty period.  At some point the investigation officer came to talk to me.  During the interview, I delivered the wire strap explaining what had happened and how it broke.  I pointed out the three individual sets of wires on either side, which had snapped.  He took additional photographs of the scene and I never heard from him again.

The man in the number 3 position was John Melican.  He was a good friend of mine and I never saw him again.

 1979 Workups

[Submitted by - Michael Chlebowski] - RF-8 lost after build up cruise in July. Ltjg Martin was killed and aircraft 622 was an alpha unknow mishap. All they found was a stabilator and a chunk with the aircraft number. Never found his body in bay area water. This picture was taken just prior to the mishap at 30,000 feet over San Diego.

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Michael Chlebowski]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Michael Chlebowski]


 1979-80 WestPac

[Submitted by - Bob Dorais] Early December 1979 - Man overboard during an UNREP. I personally saw a bunch of the "grape's"(aircraft refueler's)hanging out way forward on the starboard safety net. We took a huge swell and the bow dipped and came up with a big wave that grabbed one of the "grape's" and threw him in between the two ships. People started throwing life jackets, rings, etc... We did an emergency breakaway and the helicopter picked him up in good condition.

[Submitted by - Bob Dorais and Kevin Burke] - Early December 1979 -Late December 1979 - An F4 flamed out on a cat shot. To complicate matters the catapult F "whacked" the belly tank. The amazing thing was that the pilots damn near road that thing into the water before they punched out. Both pilot's were picked up ok.

[Submitted by - Bob Dorais] - January 8 1980 - First day out after leaving P.I. An A-7E from VA-97 was making a night landing and apparently stalled it just short of the deck . He was given the wave off but it was too late, he didn't have enough power to pull out of it. He slammed into the fantail round down and the wreckage traveled up the port side taking out the christmas tree lights and twisting the lens. Somehow the pilot managed to punch out in the nick of time and was picked up ok.
Here is a picture of the bent up lens and light getting inspected the next day.

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Mark Gadomski]


[Submitted by - Kevin Burke] - January 1980 - VA-196 KA-6D lost on cat shot. The plane went out on a mission. When it came back, they hot seated the B/N(bomber/navigator). The plane was refueled when still turning. Only the internal tanks were filled as per the load "A" sheet. When the plane was going down the cat, the pilot thought he had all tanks full, 5 drop tanks as well as internal and wings. He figured that cat shot was too light and the plane wouldn't make it. He punched out during the cat stroke. The B/N punched after. The real sad thing is the B/N almost drowned. He got tangled in his chute. The really, really sad thing is the Pilot had read and signed the "A" sheet and knew his configuration and fuel load. When he ejected he failed to tell his B/N. The first clue the B/N had was a flash and no pilot. Both guys were picked up ok.

[Submitted by - Paul Basso] - January 1980 - I remember one incident that happened in Jan 80 (day unknown). While getting ready for a launch the aircrew of my squadron (VA-196) was standing on the boarding ladder of their A6 Intruder checking things out. There were several maintenance personnel on top of the plane making sure their systems were ready to go. (The plane had several discrepancies that had "downed" the plane, so they had to make sure everything was a "Go!") One by one, the maintenance guys left the plane until only one AT was left. Just as he leaned under the canopy, there was a loud explosion and the canopy flew over his head. The "tweet" wasn't hurt, other than his hearing, but another second of waiting to check out a panel under the canopy and he could have been a headless technician. It seems that when the pilot removed the safety pin on the canopy jettison firing mechanism there was air pressure that caused the firing pin to hit the cartridge. It was later found that the valve that initiated the jettison sequence was leaking. Needless to say, the plane didn't take off for that flight or for several days until we (the AME's) "robbed" another canopy off our "hanger queen" and the Metalsmiths replaced the damaged slats on the wings.

[Submitted by - Bob Dorais] - Late February 1980 - We were on Gonzo Station and finally got a stand down day. They brought about six guys up from the brig in handcuffs for some fresh air. As they walked by the fantail one of the guys just jumped off the ship. I remember we had to clear the deck, launch the helicopter and go get him. Amazingly he stayed afloat even with his hands handcuffed behind his back.

[Follow up - Pat Carty] - Regarding the prisoner that jumped from the fantail during a stand down. His name was Rick Dial. I am not sure what rate he was, I know him from the Mess decks. I was a cook (MS), he was mess cranking at the time of his demise with the Master at Arms.

[Submitted by - Bob Dorais] - Late February 1980 - Another man overboard. I didn't see it but apparently a guy was washed off the sponson. He was picked up in good condition.

[Submitted by - Bob Dorais] - Late March 1980 - I saw this one. Yellow shirts were respotting after a recovery. They were putting an F-4 on the edge of the fantail. The tractor driver got the F-4 wheel too close to the round down and it started to slide. The tractor driver jumped to the deck and the plane captain riding brakes was attempting to climb out when the Phantom went over. As it fell into the sea the plane captain was thrown clear. He was picked up ok.

[Submitted by - Bob Dorais and Kevin Burke] - Late April 1980 - A VA-196 KA-6D was parked and turning just forward of the island on the starboard side. It was the "Alert" tanker for the latest launch. Keep in mind the exhaust pipes are about head high on the Intruder. I think it was a ships company guy who came walking out of the island. At the same time the A-6 was revving his engines. There was a safety guy standing there but didn't see the guy coming. The guy didn't even hesitate and walked right into the exhaust. Kevin Burke, the plane captain, saw it too late to signal the pilot to power down. In an instant the guy was slammed into the railing and then shot overboard. He survived but broke a lot of bones and had to be flown back to the states.

[Submitted by - Bob Dorais] - Not sure of the date - Everyone was on deck getting ready for flight ops. Several birds were already turning. One F-4 Phantom on the port side was getting ready to go. The Plane captain had removed all but the two wing chains. The ship started a port turn into the wind in preparation for launch. The turn was too fast. The ship rolled hard to port and the F-4 jumped its chains and rolled back into the catwalk. It came to rest partially on its fuselage and on the ordinance pods on the wings. If I remember right the ordinance pods at least had sidewinders on them. The crash crew secured the plane and the rest of us stood by on hose teams. The remaining planes were brought forward and the F-4 was ever so gently pulled up by the cherry-picker. No one was hurt.

[Submitted by - Bob Dorais] - Not sure of the date - We were in the middle of a launch. All three "sling-shots" were being used. An E-2C Hawkeye rolled up onto the #3 or angle deck catapult. At the same time on the #2 or port forward cat an F-4 Phantom was hooked up and waiting for the bird on the #1 cat to go. The E-2C was taking longer than usual to get hooked up on the angle deck. While all this was going on the exhaust from the Phantom was washing over the startboard turboprop engine of the Hawkeye. The Hawkeye was finally cleared to go. By this time the starboard engine of the Hawkeye was choking on JP fumes from the Phantom. As soon as the Hawkeye was shot, the starboard engine lost power. The E-2C left the deck and immediately dipped hard to the right. The pilot did an amazing job of keeping it in the air. The Hawkeye banked right in front of the bow with the wing tip just several feet above the water. The starboard engine, now with fresh air coming in the intake, finally regained power and the E-2C leveled out and climbed.

[Submitted by - John Davis] - These pictures are from the first barricade in 1980 aboard USS Coral Sea. Bruce Eaton (Mojo) was my roommate and his was the aircraft that the hook came off after catching a wire. On the LSO platform, we saw Mojo catch the wire and refocused our attention to the next aircraft approaching. The foul-deck light stayed red and the aircraft was waved-off. Looking back to the carrier deck, all we saw was the tailhook assembly and the wire out of tension, looking like spaghetti. Then we saw Mojo's A-7 climbing from below deck level.

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - US Navy]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - John Davis]


VA-97 Corsair II taking the barricade. No details on this one.

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Bruce Henion]


[Submitted by - Bob Dorais] - VA-27 Corsair II returning from a sortie. He flew over the carrier broke left and deployed his speed brake. He put his gear down and got in the pattern for a landing. That's when he noticed that his speed brake would not come back up. On the A7-E the speed brake extends well below the landing gear. He circled the ship and dumped fuel. It was decided to try a barricade landing. This was very risky because if he put it down even a little bit off it could roll and crash. I remember being on the hose team just forward of the island. I thought, "great, this is about where the fireball and wreckage will come to a stop". He lined up and drove it right down the center line. As soon as he got over the round down he cut power and set it down hard. The speed brake touched first but the pilot held it level. He just kept going into the barricade and grinding down the speed brake until the wheels hit. He came to a stop right in front of our hose team and hot footed it out of the cockpit. Other than the huge trail of sparks, the landing was perfect.



 1981-82 WestPac AMHC Gilbert Chavaria "Chief Chevy" VF-154

[Submitted by - Ron Greene] - I can't remember the squadron but it was F4. On the 81/82 cruise a Chief was killed, I believe his name was Cheverez, when an F8 was spun around to get on the waste cat. He got caught by the jet blast and hit the back of his head on the front of an F4 wing pylon.

[Follow up - Ron Greene] - Ron Compton who was a PN at the time recalls that PN Napoli photographed the accident scene.
[Follow up - Mike Scrogham] - I was an airman in VF-154, one filthy whore, to the old blacknights!
I was TAD at the time to the mess decks. I didn't see it happen. But he was in my squadron. We were on our way back to Alameda from Pearl. We had picked up some civies, from Pearl for the tiger cruise. Chief Enchada, was on the flight deck as safety PO for VF-154, that day. The sad thing was the guy had already retired, and got his walking papers in Pearl when we were there. He could have flown back to the states. But wanted to ride the ship back for one last ride. We were at flight quarters and he seen a tie down chain hanging from the wing tip of a bird taxing up to the catapult. He was afraid it would come off and hit somebody so he ran over to get it. Another bird pulled out and turned on him. The jet blast blew him into a bomb rack on another parked bird. Like I said I didn't see it and from what I heard it was horrible. A lot of people got sick.
I was working the sandwich line on the port side of the enlisted dining facility, and had two meat lockers. They made us clean one of them out and they put him in there for three days until they could contact the next of kin. I was ordered not to tell anybody! It really messed me up for quite a while but could not tell anybody about it. He had put in his service record that he wanted sea burial if killed on duty, so we had a ceremony. Most all of the ship that were not on primary tasks attended including MARDET, whom gave him a thee gun salute. His burial used to rank right up there among one of the saddest things I've ever had to witness. He was a real good guy. He was Mexican. Some used to tease him and call him Chief Enchalada! He was one of the most easy going guys I ever met. I was an AMS and he was in the AMS dept. I had talked to him on a number of occasions in the corrosion control dept of VF-154, in the shack down in the hangar.
[Follow up - Edward R. Burkhardt] - A gray sky,against a ragged horizon,the view I stowed in my mind...My BOYS,fall out for dailies on their ,yellow,six ton,girlfriends.With each step,men muttering cuss words."Turn,To! Ya no load cherries, Starts in 15! " was my booming rebuttal."Man, talking like a lifer!, Hey, got any mud,Yo-Yo? Chief Chivaria snickered,from behind me,as he steeped into my Tractor Shack. "For I am ,the King! Oh, shit-bird,encrusted,SHORT, one" Short,referring to Chief's two weeks,and a wake up,till retirement....20 years...I am happy for him ."Make that,a half cup,T-K "Chief spouts,"I'm not gonna miss this shit,at all,Eddie."He says, with the biggest shit eating grin,I've seen. The truth of it was, He always smiled like that! "But you'll miss my mocha,Cabrone!"I, chimed. So,the next five minutes were crammed with as much shootin' da shit,a civy might accomplish in an hour! Our pre-op fun was ,murdered in cold blood! By none other than, Chief Dingle,Flight-deck Chief. "BURKHARDT! Quit smokin' dat shit and git yo ass on deck! BOY! How could I say NO, to the wall of humanity at my threshold. As the din of the AIR-BOSS on the squawk ebbed,all,on deck,went about the biz...Flight operations. All ,except for me,seems that fat bastard of Squadron Puke, Chief Petty Officer,Chivaria,Maint.VF-154,had managed to fill the EARS of MOUSE ,up with grease! Till this day I don't know how He pulled it off! So, with slippery MOUSE upon head, I steeped up to another cycle. Sea of Japan,late in the tour, the deck was slick. 40 or so Plane Captains, with their shaky peace signs,eye my boys,as if competing for their servings of hot air,used to start the aircraft with,as they rolled AFT.CATS 1 & 2 kept time slinging ,nose-tows, thus clearing the angle,and setting the stage. Into the wind She lurched, everything changed.Expansion joints flexed so, one would think that, Neptune,Himself had called for the next act, not to play out fate. The first Phantom set to taxi up,was on elevator #3 ABH2 Honeycutt, taxied the fighter off el-3 ,as if it was losing a tug of war, Honycutt, a first rate,yellow shirt, held that bird. After checking for personnel,He singled the pilot to turn-up His,F-4 so we would win this battle against wind,an angry sea,gravity, and the Coral Sea Herself. Turbines scamming,the Phantom crept up deck,turning towards the Waist CAT-3. As this picture, panned,my view...getting my eyes AFT in FLY-3 to check on my boys. That's when I saw Him, in slow motion sliding off leading edge ,of a Phantom's port wing. Time stopped ,as He hung , like a dish rag,by His massive torso. on the weapons station .Blind rage overtook me,I ran to him...as if I could help Chief Chivaria. Those of us who could ran to aid. Honycutt, in shock, fell to His knees and sobbed,head in hands, rocking,as a child would. Turning my attention back to my friend,who just became a casualty, just hanging there, on a bomb rack of one of His own birds, Seems the Chev, turned His back away from el-3 for one second, to get a visual status of a fighter back AFT. That's when the thrust of Honeycutt's F-4 tossed,Chev,like a rag doll. Impaling Him on bomb rack, He was dead ,He just didn't know it yet. Honeycutt was never the same after that ,poor bastard....Wow...20 years later,I just remembered the big snow ball fight we had the week before!...I'm thinking of you ,Chev, I miss you, ya big stupid, lovable son of bitch....Damn,I need a drink... C-YA, LATE ...Yo-Yo
[Follow up - Bob Prescott] - I don't know how many people I've told this story to, but it looks as though it needs to be told again since some of the facts here are a bit off the mark. I was there that day, too. The day Chief Chevy retired early. And I will never forget what happened, since I was one of the first two guys from VF-154 that picked him up off the deck. The reason that I'll never forget is because it should never have happened! We were finishing the checks on a bird along the port side, right behind the waist CAT when we were told that we had to move so they could begin firing planes. I was an AO and we had control of the plane right then and we argued that we just needed five more minutes to complete our tests. The only reason we gave in without a huge fight was because of Chevy himself being right there keeping everyone stable. So we gave up the plane for movement to the aft of the flight deck. The only problem was that we had half our crew on one side of the plane and half of us on the other side. As the plane got moved, we just walked alongside of it until it was turned rearward. At that point the guys on the other side, including Chief Chevy, ran out of walking room due to the shape of the deck, which caused them to get stranded behind the island. Since I was on the inside of the bird, I was able to walk right alongside the whole time and got an almost too-good view of the entire thing. As the plane's front wheels reached the arresting wires it came to an abrupt halt, making it look as though the pilot had applied the breaks! The Chief probably thought this was a stop and wanted to get within view of everything, so he headed out behind the aircraft. Meanwhile the Plane Captain gave the pilot the signal to throttle-up in order to jump the wire. I glanced behind the plane and saw Chevy and then looked back to the PC, at which time my mind registered that the Chief shouldn't be where he was. The engines fired a strong blast and I spun around to see Chevy laying on his side farther up the deck, right in front of the wing of another plane that was tied down and not running. I ran toward him, chuckling to myself about how he could let himself get tossed along the deck when he was the safety chief! Another guy from 154 met me at the Chief and we rolled him over, thinking that he had only been thrown along the deck. It would not be fair to state what I saw, only that it was quite evident that he was dead, even though I didn't realize it yet. I just remember at one point dropping to the deck and wondering why it was taking so long for the medical personnel to show up... it seemed like forever, although it was most likely only seconds. On my way down below I passed the VF-154 AO Chief. He looked at me with tears in his eyes as he stumbled the words "He's gone, Bobby. Chief Chevy's gone". I've probably cried a couple dozen times in my life as I've thought about the Chief and how he died, just two weeks prior to retirement. He was the kind of guy that took full responsibility for everyone around him, somehow with a smile on his face 90% of the time that I saw him. He worked hard, gave two shits, and I know he loved the old lady. I still miss you, Chief!
 1982 WestPac

[Submitted by - Bob Prescott] - I was at the aft of the flight deck with some squadron buddies waiting for our chance to check another plane when an F-4 on the starboard side from my sister squadron, VF-21, dropped onto it's belly! The skinny that passed around afterward was that the pilot had hit the wheels-up switch and due to a failure in the weight-on-wheels system, the right wheel folded inward. The bird had a full tank of fuel attached to it's center line, which proceeded to burst, sending VP5 across the deck and right over my feet. That's how I found out about the accident. We immediately ran for the fire hoses, but a number of them had not been checked in so long that they rotted and began bursting. I remember that a bunch of guys took off at that point, letting go of the hoses and heading forward for some "safety", which caused my hose to almost get away from me. No offence to anyone else who was there, but it felt as though the only guys left were all the AO's, who saw the live missiles attached to the plane's wings (now lying on deck), and knew that we had to get rid of the fuel ASAP. Thanks to the help of the ship's crew, new hoses came out of nowhere and we got the chance to wash the deck down. Now the crane showed up and it was attached to the aircraft in order to lift it back onto it's feet. The problem we had was that the seas were a tad rough, more than most of us had thought. As soon as they lifted the plane into the air, it swung outward, then swung back in and it's belly made contact with the side of the deck! Now you saw all the red shirts take off forward, myself included I must admit, because it's not a good idea to bang a missile around. Luckily they got control of the airplane without any serious damage and no injuries. That was my indoctrination to the Coral Sea flight deck.

 1985 MED Napo Collision

[Submitted by - Rich Carson] - April 11, 1985 - The US aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea collides with the tanker Napo.
The Napo was carrying 190,000 barrels of No 6 fuel oil from Esmeraldas, Ecuador, to New York, Smith said Some fuel was spilled on its deck, he said, but none was reported to be leaking into the sea. The tanker sought refuge in the harbor at Guantanamo Bay about 8 a.m. Friday. It was not known if it will return to its home port in Ecuador.
Neither ship required assistance, Smith said.
Crewmen were taking supplies and some personnel off the Coral Sea late Friday in preparation for its return to Norfolk. Extra men and equipment had been aboard to conduct training.
Smith said the Coral Sea had been on refresher training with its air wing in the Guantanamo Bay area since April 3.
The carrier had 11 jet aircraft air-borne when the collision occurred. They were diverted to the naval air station at Guantanamo Bay and landed without incident, Smith said.
Those aircraft will return directly to their home bases, Smith said. They include two FA-2C Hawkeyes based in Norfolk, two A-6E Intruders and one KA-6E tanker based in Virginia Beach, and seven F/A-18 Hornets from Cecil Field near Jacksonville, Fla.
The remaining aircraft will be flown from the carrier sometime during its cruise back to Norfolk, Smith said.
The Napo, according to Lloyd's Register of Shipping, is owned by Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana of Equador It was built in 1981 in Korea and has a top speed of 16.5 knots.
The Coral Sea was commissioned in 1947 at Newport News Shipbuilding. It has a top speed of 32 knots, according to Navy specifications. It is the second-oldest operational carrier in the Navy. Its sister ship, the Midway, is still in operation with the Pacific Fleet.
The Coral Sea had been scheduled to return to its base in Norfolk on Tuesday to prepare for a major joint service exercise called Solid Shield.
Its participation as the only carrier in that exercise, which is to begin April 30, is in doubt.
The carrier had just completed a major $200 million overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth. The overhaul took 15½ months and included work on its propulsion system and weapons and electronics gear. The flight deck was extensively modified to handle the first operational F/A-18 Hornet aircraft in the Atlantic Fleet.
The Coral Sea is commanded by Capt Robert Tucker Jr., 47, a 47-year-old fighter pilot who previously commanded the combat support ship Sylvania. Tucker took command of the Coral Sea in September.
Also aboard the carrier are two Hampton Roads-based outfits, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 127 from the Norfolk Naval Air Station, an E-2C Hawkeye radar plane squadron, and Attack Squadron 55, an A-6 Intruder squadron based at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach.

[Follow up - James Wasson] - I was onboard when we ran into the Ecuadorian oil tanker. The day that happened there were a lot of sailors out taking pictures of the ship but almost all of them were confiscated and never given back. I how ever got lucky and had one of the pocket cameras and got away with taking the pictures. I got a few of the bow by having one of my shipmates hold my ankles while I leaned out a port hole in the focsal.
[Follow up - Dan Grant] - I remember the day of the collision mainly because it was my 20th birthday and I was spending it while doing my mess-cooking 90 days in the scullery! It was just as the evening meal was winding down and we were swamped with dirty trays and glasses. Anybody that ever did their turn in the scullery knows how hot and noisy it was! I don't remember exactly what I was doing at the time, but I felt a huge shudder like we used to get from a rogue wave and looked over at one of the guys and said " shit that's all we need is a storm". It was so loud none of us heard the GQ or 1MC and one of the fellas looked out the hatch and asked where the f*** is everybody? Just then one of the Mess-Deck MAA's came up and told us to get to our GQ stations and no he didn't know what was going on.

After getting to G-1 we were contacted by Ordnance Control and told to meet the EOD on the weapons sponson where the bomb eleavator is. You had to go through the uptakes on the Stbd. side and when the Gunner(Lt. Chuck Cole) and about 6 of us got there we found a a whole skid of live sidewinders with the rail bent over them and no serious damage!!! I wonder how many of our guys kknew just how close that collision came to being a lot more serious than it was.

It was a sad way for the Skipper to end his command. Capt. Tucker was a fine officer and gentleman who was always on the move looking out for his sailors. Many times the Skipper would show up on the mess-decks and make sure the chow was good and the space clean. He also ate many meals with the troops and always tried to let us know what was happening.
[Follow up - CDR J. Daigneau, CVW-13 LSO] - I was the duty LSO (landing signals officer) for the "big event". The other CAG LSO, Chip Williamson and our CAG, Phil Gay, were flying and in fact had just landed on the recovery prior to the collision (see entry below). It was a dark, no horizon night. I went to PRIFLY after the recovery to kill some time and talk with the AIRBOSS until the next recovery. I remember the ship suddenly heeling hard starboard (making a very abrupt turn to the left): hard enough that we had to steady ourselves. There was a hard shudder throughout the ship, and we looked to the bow, knowing that we had hit something. Over the bow, we saw a single white mast with a white position light on it falter and fall over. The BOSS and I looked at each other and exclaimed "Holy s___!! We hit the Primori!! (The Primori was a Soviet intelligence gathering ship that had been shadowing us. They were unusual in that they were typically painted white, thus the erroneous identification. They were very interested in the F/A-18 Hornet, since it was still new to the fleet, and CAG-13 was the first "all Hornet" air wing). Then over the 1MC (PA system) came "Brace for impact!!!" , or something like that. Then there was a large crunch and terrific shudder as the two ships hit broadside.

I went out onto the catwalk on the starboard side (this was the normal route to and from PRIFLY) and saw a tanker, sitting low in the water, drifting slowly away with flood lights coming on to illuminate the deck.

At some point the General Alarm (general quarters) was sounded and I proceeded back to the platform. As my phone talker and I did our com checks, it became apparent that the LSO radios were the only operable UHF radios on the ship. When the Napo and Coral Sea hit broadside, the port bridge wing of the Napo had punched a large hole in the Coral Sea's island in line with the mast. All the antennas and wave guides to the bridge, CATTC and CIC had been cut or damaged. Holding the radio handset in my left ear and the sound powered phone in my right ear, I relayed communications between our airborne aircraft and CIC until all the aircraft were safely on deck at GITMO.

Miraculously, the only injury on either ship that I was aware of was one of our sailors spraining an ankle getting to his GQ station. The damage to the ship, however, was significant. The island damage is noted above, the damage to the bow visible in the pictures extended to the keel, and a fueling sponson on the starboard side had been severely damaged.

The transit back to Norfolk was at a tortuous 6-9 knots. We could not fly (except for the helos of course) because of the restricted speed and unknown status of catapult alignment. We knew that a superior skipper's career was over. ROCKY TOP Tucker was a tremendous inspiration to the crew, and it was quite a while before we recovered from his early departure.

Some other tidbits from my memory to which I attribute no accuracy:

The OOD was the ship's First Lieutenant and was fairly experienced at underway operations. He got little to no help from the bridge team after the Skipper left the bridge. The JOOD was an inexperienced Ensign who reportedly fainted as the collision was imminent. Surface plot (in the Combat Information Center - CIC) was not keeping the tactical picture updated. It was a dark, moonless, no-horizon night.

The Primori had been in close proximity for days, and the Soviets had been known to present "navigational challenges" to our ships from time to time. We typically try to avoid international incidents and such, so staying clear of them is always a concern, even though the carrier conducting flight ops is the burdened vessel.

Because of the questionable positions of the Napo and Primori, the OOD gave an order to start turning but did not give a course. By the time the OOD determined the Napo's course, it was too late. It was not a matter of if we are going to hit, it was a matter of how bad is this going to be?! I understand his order was "All Stop, Full Left Rudder". This action resulted in the big "heel to starboard" just prior to the first impact.

The OOD's first order arguably set up the collision. But the more significant point is that his subsequent decision to order all engines to stop and full left rudder probably avoided an unprecedented disaster at sea. Had he done nothing or tried to reverse the turn, the Coral Sea likely would have cut the Napo in half or would have hit in a head-on collision. Either event would have likely resulted in massive casualties and the loss of one or both ships.

How we did not lose any aircraft, equipment or personnel over the side during the collision is baffling. We had aircraft and tugs all over the deck, mostly up at the bow, as the deck crew was preparing to re-spot the aircraft. Reportedly, a sailor was in a radio compartment in the island. At the first impact, he came out of the space to look forward towards the bridge to try to see what was happening. A few seconds later, the bridge wing of the Napo wiped out that space as it cut a huge hole in the island.

The loss of CAPT. Tucker was a tremendous blow to the ship. We did eventually recover to be an outstanding operation (regards to CAPT Ferguson): the second oldest carrier in the world operating with the newest tactical fighter in the world. But I know many of us wondered how it would have been had "ROCKY TOP" taken us on cruise.

[Follow up - CDR J. Daigneau, CVW-13 LSO] - Oh, yeah. CAG Gay and I were flying that night. We were among the first to trap that recovery and they spotted us on the bow. I remember how truly dark it was that [night] and being directed sooo close to the bow before turning, yikes!

Anyway we were in the 323 ready room with our gear still on when over the 1mc came "Captain to the bridge!'. Then almost immediately afterward, "standby for shock!" I remember CAG getting down between 2 R/R chairs and bracing. I was thinking: "WTF is he doing?" Then a shudder, then the sound of grinding metal along the starboard side of ship. I knew we'd hit something, maybe a sub.

I distinctly remember the funny yet haunting introduction to Maritime rules of the road by my ROTC 1st class instructor, "Gentlemen, a collision at sea can ruin your whole day!"

That was the start of about a 4 month malaise that hit our air wing/ship. Remember? I'm glad we got thru it! (Submitted by LCDR C. Williamson, CVW-13 LSO)

[Follow up - Peter J Fischel] - I was on the USS Coral Sea CV-43 During the collision that occured in 1985 as a Quatermaster (Navigation) Fischel (fish). It was on the last day of Battle Training off of Cuba. We were waiting for our scores during that excersize (I keep wanting to call it rough tra). I remember that we were already in collision when the message came out on the 1MC. I ran to the bridge to which was my post for GQ. At the time, I was just waking up and had thought we were hit by the Russian ship that was following us collecting our trash.

When I arrived on the bridge, there was spanish coming across the Ship to Ship radio. I looked over the Starboard side to find a ship stuck to us and a bunch of their people throwing bottles at our ship. That ship did not look very good at all. Eventally, we separated. I do recall that their rudder was stuck and a ship was sent to help them.

As you can imagine, the bridge was a mad house. The captain was giving the OOD a stern talking. The bridge was well informed that this ship was there from many sources... including their eyes. I know that the logs showed that the Junior OOD fainted after he turned on the Color Radar navigation had installed on the bridge and only saw one blip instead of two.

Every shred of documentation was collected and the Navigation Office (located behind the bridge) began swarming with high level officers beginning an investigation.

As far as Captain Tucker is concerned. I was very sad to see him go and for all he went through during this ordeal. He is a great leader. My Navigator lost his job as well which was sad.

Personally I was amazed that this incident could have taken place. It was standard practice to begin working on ways to avoid other ships when they appeared on the horizon. At some point, the Captain was supposed to be called to the bridge. This did not happen until the same call for Collision.

[Follow up - Joe Andrews] - I was talking with some of my friends in the birthing area on the O 2 level when out of the night the ship shook like it had never before. Not like hitting a big wave or anything else that we had gone through before. I looked at my friends and joked that we just hit something. Just after those words passed my lips General Quarters was called. Being assigned to 7 starboard I started running to get to the repair locker. As I went over a knee knocker the ship shook again and caused me to hit the floor. Once I got to the repair locker I dispatched out the investigators to see if there was any damage to our sections of the ship. Being in 7 starboard we were in charge of the island. We found an area in the island where there was a bulk head knocked in. We didn't know what had happened until later. We found out that we had indeed hit something, that Ecuadorian oil tanker. We hit bow to bow when the ship shook the first time and hit island to island the second time we shook. We had to send damage control techs to the tanker to keep her afloat. We later found that the Russian that was ghosting us caused the tanker to take a port turn towards us. Unfortunately the captain that we had got blamed for the accident when he wasn't even on the bridge at the time. The ones on the bridge let the tanker get closer than they should have.
[Follow up - Glenn] - I was onboard for the collision with the Panamanian freighter that occurred on the work up cruise in the Caribbean area (I believe off the coast of Cuba), after we left the yards (overhaul) in Portsmouth, VA and before the ship departed on the Mediterranean cruise of 1985-86 (whereby we delivered care packages to the hotshot little dictator in Libya). I was in a berthing compartment near the forward mess area and do remember watching a movie on the ships channel at the time. The initial (first) impact was very hard and felt as if it had pushed the Coral Sea several feet (level and straight) to the port side. The subsequent (second) impact that followed was less severe but nonetheless forced the carrier to roll slightly in a counterclockwise rotation (unlike modern carriers, the Coral Sea has a battleship bottom). As division members were running up two flights of ladders to reach the hanger bay, I remember thinking that we must have struck a Soviet submarine or the like (because no one would be stupid enough to hit another ship in the middle of the ocean). Also, the impacts were of such a magnitude, that I believed a third strike would definitely cause the ship to list and sink. After I reached the hanger bay, I saw crewmembers running in all directions and an enormous lighted structure approximately fifty to seventy-five yards away from the forward aircraft elevator. I immediately identified the structure as another ship, and it appeared to be slowly moving towards and away from the Coral Sea. There was confusion on the hanger bay before GQ was sounded and some enlisted personnel were saying everyman for himself. The GQ alarm went off a few minutes after the collision and the mass confusion transformed into an orderly state of affairs. I believed we stayed at GQ station for about an hour and the captain came on the PA system to announce what had occurred. This event truly distinguishes the point where the Coral Sea left being The Best In The West and arrived at being the Least In The East. Some facts about the event that I remember: (1) the radar of the Panamanian freighter was inoperable and that ship was given permission to trail the Coral Sea for navigation (2) the Captain of the Coral Sea was taking a shower at the time of the accident (3) the O.O.D. (Officer of the Deck) was very inexperienced and told the Boatswains mate on duty (Coral Sea only had a few qualified Quartermasters at the time, due the high turnover rate after being transferred to the Norfolk, VA area) to turn to Starboard (right, and right into the freighter) instead of to Port (left) (4) a Soviet AGI (intelligence gathering vessel usually disguised as a fishing trawler) who had been following the Coral Sea for days before the accident, was seen out in the distance monitoring the situation but lending no assistance (5) the impacts tore an enormous section out of the bow and island areas (6) the Captain of the Coral Sea was immediately relieved of duty and his career was thus destroyed by the incompetence of another.
[Follow up - Robert D. Mooney] - I was the bmow on the bridge at the time of the collision. The OOD was LCDR Raspett and he was qualified just weeks before the collision. The bottom line is he made us turn to port instead of starboard. The Napo was turning Starboard to pass Port to Port like you are supposed to do, with us turning to Port it caused us to basically turn to meet it instead of passing Port to Port. He also refused to contact the Captain because he thought he had it all under control. The damage would have been much greater except that a very sharp young Ltjg Thornhill I believe he was from CS division came on the bridge to relieve LCDR Raspett and took control and began giving commands and ordered me to call the Captain to the Bridge. We actually had backing bells on which definetly slowed us down.
[Follow up - E.L. Stone, LCDR, USN (Ret)] - I was the MPA at the time of the collision and was in my office next to Main Control briefing the senior folks in the main propulsion division in prepartion for casualty control drills later that evening when we heard the word passed " Captian to the Bridge". I immediately ran to Main Control where the EOOW, CWO3 Krabbe, was ordering all shafts to emergency back and for all engineering watchstanders to brace for shock as we could see what was going on from the PLAT cameras on the flight deck. Immediately after the collision we had all spaces report damage and secure one of the 2 Group boilers due to main steam lines leaking. The DCA and I went forward on the damage control deck and discovered we had lost the forward peak tank which represented about 25% of our fresh water supply. We then commenced to slowly proceed under our own power along with the NAPO to proceed to GITMO where we were met by Norflok Naval Shipyard engineers to asses the damage and some senior CNAL officers who began the formal investigation into the collision.
[Follow up - Michael Boyes] - I was a boiler technician 3rd class and was the one who noticed our tank was full, I went to the oil lab instead of my gq station which was 7 decks down at the bow I knew all hatches were closed so went to the lab. That tank was allways empty at sea so the front of the ship would sit higher. I noticed the TLI ( tank level indicator )showed it as full. So we called mr Stone then James Adkins and I went to get a hard sounding with a measuring tape. I was full and tasted salty.
[Follow up - Richard Petrucelli] - I was onboard USS Coral Sea from 1983-1986. We had just finished INSURV at Guantanamo Bay Cuba on a clear night. I believe visibility was around 7 miles. I was on the bridge getting some time on the helm. I just finished and went to my berthing compartment. I was in CR Div and was hanging out with my fellow RM's when suddenly the ship shook and listed to the port side. We had a russian troller following us all day long and I immediately thought that we had hit him. I was in my rack (top) and fell out ontop of one of my shipmates. We both heard General Quarters being called followed by a collision alarm. My GQ station was in Radio 4, 07 Level. I got up and proceeded to go to my station. When i got there radio 4 was cut open in half (right through the middle). I started looking for my shipmates that were in there prior to the collison. I found them and we maned up and called DC central via sound powered phones. DC central had informed us that Main Communications was down and that CAG had called and needed to communicate with his inflight aircraft. I quickly went a verified that my TACAN xmitter was operational and xmitting. I called Main Communications and spoke with RMSN Guerrero and he informed me that Radio Central was down hard. I asked ET1 Arney if i could go to radio and help them out. Once cleared by DC Central i proceeded to radio central. When i got to radio central my self along with a few fellow radiomen were immediately sent to Repair 7 Forward where we were put on hose teams and fought fires for what seemed days. Once the fires were out we set reflash watches and proceeded to other repair parties to give them a hand. It was quite an eye opening experience. Since those days i have had the luxury of being part of many disasterous sitiations. I hope that one day the Sailors that lost their lives or the ones who were injured during these mishaps are recognized and compensated for their sacrifices.
[AP - Published: June 2, 1985] - 5 Navy Officers Are Removed In Aircraft Carrier Collision
June 1 — The captain and four other officers of the aircraft carrier Coral Sea, which two months ago collided with an Ecuadoran tanker, have been relieved of duty.

The captain and four other officers of the aircraft carrier Coral Sea, which two months ago collided with an Ecuadoran tanker, have been relieved of duty. he Navy said Friday that the decision of Vice Adm. Robert F. Dunn, commander of the Naval Air Force for the Atlantic Fleet, stemmed from ''his loss of confidence in their abilities to perform their duties. A Navy source said the five had also received letters of reprimand and would be re-assigned to unspecified jobs. The five officers are Capt. Robert E. Tucker, the commander of the carrier; Comdr. Ralph Fink 3d, the navigator; Lieut. Comdr. Michael Raspet, the officer of the deck at the time of the collision; Lieut. (j.g.) Tommy Barr, the surface watch officer, and Lieut. (j.g.) Dean Monroe Jr., the junior officer of the watch. The Coral Sea is now in a shipyard in Norfolk, where an estimated $11 million worth of damage is being repaired.

Napo Collision Photo Gallery.

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Rich Carson]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - James Wasson]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - James Wasson]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - James Wasson]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Rob Mooney]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Rob Mooney]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Patrick Carley]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Patrick Carley]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Bill Fessenden]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Michael Boyes]]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Randy VanSickle]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Randy VanSickle]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Al Stiles]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Ken Boyd]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Unkown]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Edguardo Rodriguez]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Kevin Gardner]
[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Kevin Gardner]


 1986 Med Cruise

[Submitted by - Tony Peters] - EA-6B Prowler of the VAQ-135 Black Ravens with "Hairy" landing coming aboard USS Coral Sea.

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 1987-88 Med Cruise

[Submitted by - Carl Tucker] - Hi my name is Carl Tucker I served aboard the Coral Sea with VFA-131 Wildcats during the 87-88 med. Cruise. I looked at the Coral Sea tribute sight, which is great. I saw the list of names of sailors who had died while serving aboard the Coral Sea. But one name is missing and I wanted to share this story with you.
The 87-88 cruise was pretty much uneventful. But this was the first time this young country boy from Georgia was able to go over seas. The Today show did do a live broadcast aboard the Coral Sea while we set off the French coast.
On the day of Dec. 9.1987 I was hard at work as a plane captain on aircraft No. 111. (our squadron flew F/18's.) The day went by normally with 111 flying several times. At the end of the day I turned 111 over to a very experienced plane Captain named Carl Patton, who would be working on the plane during the night check hours. After being relieved I got something to eat in the galley then took a shower and hit my bunk for the night. At 2100 I was awaken by Petty Officer mason a fellow p/c who was in tears as he informed me that aircraft 111 had went down. As fast as I could I threw my uniform on and went to our work center to await any word on Lt. Joseph Mullany, the pilot of 111. He was a young sharp pilot who had received many flying awards in his short career. The Coral Sea and the USS Yorktown searched several ours for the crash sight. When the sight was found there wasn't much left of 111 and there was no sign of Lt. Mullany. The recovery and rescue mission went on forever without Lt. being found. The largest part of the plane we found was the front half of an external drop tank. Although we did find Lt. Mullany's helmet, we never found him.
Being in a squadron living with this small group of people, well they become like family. Loosing one person is like loosing a family member. Investigations were done and rumors were past but when all was said and done, and if I remember correctly it was wrote off as pilot error. That was hard for us to believe. But nevertheless it happened and a good man died. I think the XO of the Yorktown said it best when he said, " the call of a sailor in trouble at sea is a call that every sailor man heeds." Attached is a picture of aircraft 111 aboard the Coral Sea CV-43 just days before it was lost at sea.

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Carl Tucker]


[Follow up - Steve Borkowski] - I remember that cruise. I was with VA-65 (Fighting Tigers). We were the first NVG capable A6 squadron. I remember our pilots located the wreckage that night. I don't know if you recall it or not, but when the aircraft had been replaced, I believe the tailnumber was still '111'. Interestingly enough, that one struck the round-down just in front of the main gear, skidded across the deck and went over the waist cat with the pilot ejecting just as the plane went over. The pilot was recovered. I do not know who it was.

Maybe my memory's not too good, but I believe that was when and how the curse of 'Triple Sticks' got started.
[Follow up - John "Rock" Davis] - My name is John Davis. In 1987 I was an F/A 18 pilot for VFA-136. I read Carl Tucker's account of Lt. Joe "Repo" Mullany's accident and thought I would give you a bit more information. I new Repo well, as we had gone through the "RAG" together to learn to fly the Hornet. As Carl noted, Repo was a fine Naval Officer and Hornet pilot. The cause of the accident was quite clear to us who flew the Hornet. Repo was flying at night on a "Surface Search and Control" flight; essentially, his job was to identify any vessel near the carrier and report it back to the ship. He had a FLIR (Forward Looking infrared Radar) and was in the process of "rigging" (the process whereby we would circle and take pictures of ships.in this case with the FLIR) a Spanish ship. Sailors on the Spanish ship observed his aircraft very close to the water circling their vessel, then impacting the water as it passed the starboard side. Repo's mistake was flying too low at night with a FLIR. As one passed the ship the image of the FLIR, displayed to us on a screen, would turn upside down causing great disorientation to the pilot, for this reason we had rules requiring us to be at 5000 feet while performing this mission at night. It was clear that Repo was at about 200-500 feet. Sadly this seemingly small error cost Repo his life. I think of him often and of the sacrifice he and his family gave for their country.

 1988 Med Cruise

[Submitted by - Brian] - I was aboard between 1986 and 1990. I was the Typewriter/Copier repair supervisor in S-7 Div. One incident comes to mind where a man was killed on sponson #1. I believe he was in deck. His chief ordered him outside to check the rigging of things stored out there. Unfortunately one of the objects broke free and crushed the young man. Not a lot was ever said about that one in particular. I think that was in '88 out in the eastern Atlantic.

[Follow up - Rodney Fama] - I was stationed with va55 attached to CVA-43. The mishap on sponson number 1 was due a storm in high wind and sea's. From what I understand a deck chief ordered him to check the sponson for stored item integrity when all weather decks were to be kept clear of. A wave had hit some stowed gear and broke it loose.
[Follow up - Steve Lipnick] - I was serving on Coral Sea as a Weather Forecaster at the time of the mishap. We were in the Central Med and had forecast high seas 15-18+ feet the previous day. As forecast the seas did build and the ship was taking a beating but riding well into the seas. Gear on the starboard side mid-ships sponson had not been secured the night before and a seaman was sent out during the high seas event to secure the gear. Something broke loose and crushed the sailor against the bulkhead. He was dead when they got him to medical. An unfortunate accident that should have been prevented.
[Follow up - Scott Miller] - I was stationed aboard the Coral Sea from 1987-89 in the Ordnance Division. I witnessed the mishap that AN David Cornell was involved in. We were in some really rough seas at the time. It was so bad that the aircraft on the flight deck had double tie-downs on them and waves were almost coming over the flight deck. I was assigned to the flight deck crew for the Ordnance dept's G-2 division and the Weapons officer decided we needed more 20mm up there. I think the Coral Sea was the only carrier that had a weapons elevator behind the Island or "bomb farm" as it was referred to. All sponsons and weather decks were secure at the time but we had orders to get the 20mm up there. An Cornell was a weapons elevator operator in G-4 division and was sent to operate the elevator at the sponson level. There were 3 skids of 20mm ready to send up and up on the flight deck we were waiting for the ok from AN Cornell to send the elevator down. There were small hatches on each corner of the elevator that had to be opened to "unlock" it from it normal position. We were looking thru them when all of the sudden a wave came over the sponson and hit the skids of 20mm. One was pushed into the elevator pit, the 2nd was left hanging off the edge of the sponson tangled up in the safety chains and the 3rd was pushed into AN Cornell pinning him between the handle of the skid and one of the at sea refueling stations and basically crushed his chest. It was a horrific accident that I will never forget. AN Cornell and I had become friends because he always worked that elevator. He was a good sailor and the U.S. Navy lost a good man that day.
[Follow up - Anonymous] - I believe I was the last person to speak with him. I was outside the ship up under the Main aircraft elevator, I believe it was # 3 below and behind the bridge, enjoying the sea. When An Cornell and another person came out. I did not now the other person. I spoke with him, and he informed me he was ordered to transport missiles to or from the flight deck (stingers)? I said they got to be out of there F--- minds, have you seen the size of the waves out here why can't they use the internal elevators. He just shook his head and laughed. and made a comment that the only ones big enough to do the job inside were not working. I told him to watch his A--. I had been out there for over an hour and I saw waves break over the sponson that were at lest 20 feet in height, above the sponson. ( the elevator comes down on the outside of the ship and the floor panel below it opens like a door and the elevator rests on springs under the sponson) Well one of those waves hit, and crushed him between the elevator door and a 2 foot in dia gatevalve handle splitting him open from the chest to the abdomen. due to the frigid waters this was not known until they got him into Medical, were he bleed to death. the other man servived, I don't remember in what condition. I guess I was in a state of shock over his (Cornell) death. His body was placed inside of the milk locker (Walk in freezer) located in the main or aft mess deck for a couple of days under Marine Guard, until arrangements could be made to transport his body home. He was a member of the Weapons Dept. G-2 Aviation Ordnancemen . I believe the orders he received that day were insane. I only wish I could have done something. He was a friend.

 1987-88 Med Cruise

[Submitted by - Scott Miller] - Picture of an F-18A Hornet of the VFA-131 Wildcats that made an emergency landing. A small fire can be seen near the tail section as the crew gets the hoses on it as the pilot rolls to a stop.

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Scott Miller]


 1988 Med Cruise

[Submitted by - Darrell Young] - I was reading some of the mishaps from the 1988 med cruise, and wanted to add myself as one of the mishaps during that cruise. Although I was not killed. The ship was in the Eastern Atlanta about 200 Nautical miles from the straits of Gibraltar, the sea's were very bad that night, and everyone was ordered off the flight deck. I was working in Tech Control in Main Communications that night, when the C.O. called and said that we were loosing antenna's on the flight deck from the waves, He ordered us to go and raise the antenna's. Myself and my chief went to the flight deck and were in the forward port catwalk when one of the antenna's broke loose and fell on me, crushing my left hand. I was flown to Rota Spain the following day by HS-17. I was disabled and that ended my Navy Career. RM3 Darrell Young (onboard: 1983-1988)

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[USS CORAL SEA TRIBUTE SITE]
[Image Source - Darrell Young]


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