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.
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."
- 10/29/67, SA Carlyle B. Pomeroy, Jr., Denver, Co
- 10/30/67, AO3 Victor R. Wooden, White City, Or
- 10/30/67, SN Ronald A. Hessman, Los Angeles, Ca
- 12/7/67, AO3 Donald D. Maki, Hutchinson, Mn
[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.
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.
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!
- A-4 Deck Mishap involving CDR William .H. Searfus. The following is a letter to the Commanders son:
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.
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.
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!
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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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!
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.
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.
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.
[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.
[Submitted by - Mike Campbell] - An A-7E of VA-22 in the barricade. Need some more info on this mishap. Pilot was Commander Gulianni.
[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)
[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 - 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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
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.)
[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!!!
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.
[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
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!!!!!
[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.
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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
VA-97 Corsair II taking the barricade. No details on this one.
[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.
[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.
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.
[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.
[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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
[Submitted by - Tony Peters] - EA-6B Prowler of the VAQ-135 Black Ravens with "Hairy" landing coming aboard USS Coral Sea.
[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.
Maybe my memory's not too good, but I believe that was when and how the curse of 'Triple Sticks' got started.
[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.
[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.
[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)