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Greetings fellow Navy retirees! I served for twenty five years, and have told many sea stories. I like to categorize them just a little by putting them into Liberty wild tale type things, and Operations this is what happened on an exercise or evolution type thing. Do you have a really BIG EVENT that was very cool or maybe not so cool that you would like to tell the rest of us old salts?

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I'll start. 22NOV1975 flight ops off the coast NW coast of Sicily. It is just a few minutes past 2200 we have just heard the evening prayer from the Chaplain, and the collision alarm starts sounding. The USS John F Kennedy suddenly rocks sharply to the starboard side. The GQ alarm is sounding. I am 18 yrs. old and aboard my first ship for just 3 weeks. My GQ station is REPAIR 3, the after mess-decks. "Time Plus 4, set ZEBRA". Somehow the USS Belknap CTG-26 has collided with us. Many lives were lost that night. Many injuries were sustained. I was assigned to 2nd Div in the Deck Dept. and was an investigator. I went below through many decks to find damage. I found none and returned to 2nd deck repair 3. Upon opening the hatch I was handed an OBA and canister to light off. We were starting to fill with smoke. The team shut off more ventilation and setup red-devil blowers to clear it all by the time my OBA was burning. "All dressed up and no where to go." Don't you believe it. I was snatched by the Fire Marshall with a few others and we took off for investigator stuff and hose teams on the port side 03 level. Most of the smoke was from the burning exterior of the ship around the catwalks of the flight deck. There were also storage areas around the port sponsons and the motor whale boat burning. The flight deck was extinguished within the first 10 minutes. It was a very long night. We were at GQ for 12 hours before we secured and set re-flash watches. We had only one fatality on 'Big John" that night. I believe the Belknap lost 8. Time in the water before hypothermia was only 10 minutes. The HELO's pick those men up very quickly. The Belknap was so engulfed in flames topside that these firefighter jumped overboard as they exited the skin of the ship to battle the flames. I was 52 years old in May. I still have vivid memories of it all. I told my 20 year old son who report for Basic training to be certain to understand what is going on in Damage Control and Fire Fighting School. I appears it was the first thing I needed to call on seriously immediately following training.


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