An excerpt from the article:
” … An Alabama woman says her grandson contacted her from the USS Fitzgerald to say he’s OK after a nighttime collision off Japan left seven crew members missing and three injured.
Rita Schrimsher of Athens, Alabama, tweeted: “Just heard the sweetest voice and saw a wonderful face. He’s okay. Thank you all for the prayers.”
She says: “It could have been worse so we’re grateful.”
That comment from a grandmother is the reason why I titled my book “I Didn’t Want To Worry You Mom … (But sometimes it got a little scary and dangerous out there!)”
I was a sailor during the 1960s on a WW-II vintage destroyer – they are often called “tin cans” because of their small size and non-existent armor.
I was witness to a collision off the California coast in the 1960s between a large freighter and a large oiler. We were a three ship formation taking on fuel from the oiler – two destroyers on either side of the oiler steaming at about 12 knots in calm seas, but patchy fog conditions.
My job in UnRep (Underway Replenishment) was to help pull the fuel lines over from the oiler to our ship. When that was done I was free to go below and take a nap, which I did on this occasion. My rack was in the forward part of the ship directly below and behind he foreword most gun mount.
I was abruptly awakened from my nap by the shuddering of the ship and the clanging collision alarm. The shuddering was from us cutting away from the oiler and backing down as fast as we could.
I jumped out of my rack and climbed the forward ladder to the bow of the ship. I gazed off to my right and saw this huge (not as big as todays container ships) cargo ship coming out of the fog and crossing directly across our three ship refueling formation. The other destroyer had likewise cut away from the oiler and with a full left rudder was racing away. This left the oiler and the freighter on a collision course, and I saw it unfold in real-time slow motion. The oiler had no maneuvering space and was too massive to slow its momentum, and the freighter made no observable attempt to maneuver – as I recall, we could see no human activity on the bridge of that freighter as if it may have been on auto-pilot.
They hit. The oiler center punched the freighter right below the bridge and the two ships bounced off one another, again in slow motion.
The collision punched a large hole in the freighter and caused it to list substantially to starboard. Fortunately it did not capsize, and the hole was above the waterline and there seemed little fear of it going over and under.
Back to my book. As I became passionate about such at-sea experiences such as my own and others I read and heard about first hand, I recalled seeing a documentary of a destroyer that was cut in half during WW-II. I eventually found the documentary on the USS Murphy DD-603, and how it was cut in half as it was escorting a large convoy to England in 1943.
The Murphy story became the anchor story of my book, but I soon found out that Murphy’s story was not unique and I discovered other stories of collisions. The USS Frank Evans DD-754, again a destroyer, was cut in half in 1969 by the Australian aircraft carrier Melbourne with the loss of 27 sailors who went down with the forward part of their ship.
I was reminded vividly by both Murphy and Evans, that my bunk that day off the California coast was in the bow of my ship – the bows that took sailors to the bottom on both those destroyers..
The book began to take on a life of its own as I discovered more stories where the sailors (and a few soldiers) involved “Didn’t Want To Worry You Mom … “
I invite you to look at my book and a 20 minute video I put together of some of the things our war fighters, and their loved ones at home, face on a regular basis. The USS Fitzgerald DD-62 is the latest such story, and we mourn the sailors lost in that tragedy – they remain “on watch” in the defense of liberty.
The video is here:
The book is here:
Don Johnson – June 2017