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    BB-64 volunteer recalls collision that occurred 64 year ago

    Damaged USS Wisconsin (BB-64)

    Photo By Max Lonzanida | An archived photo showing the damaged USS Wisconsin (BB-64) after she collided with...... read more read more



    Story by Max Lonzanida  

    Hampton Roads Naval Museum

    Amid the on-going COVI-19 mitigations and closures, many in the Downtown Norfolk area have arguably walked by the bow of the majestic USS Wisconsin (BB-64). The majestic Iowa-Class Battleship is berthed next to the Hampton Roads Naval Museum and the Nauticus campus as a museum ship; her decks and interior spaces attract scores of visitors from near and far seeking to connect with naval history.

    On May 6, 1956, BB64 collided with the USS Eaton (DD/DDE-510) off the Virginia Capes which resulted in significant damage to both haze gray warships. BB64 Volunteer, former Bosuns Mate Second Class Bob McCarthy, was aboard the Eaton in the immediate wake of the collision; he vividly recalled that fateful day that occurred 64 years ago in an interview.

    McCarthy started the interview from his home in Washington state with the moment he was transferred to the Eaton from another Fletcher-Class Destroyer, USS John Hood (DD-655).

    He recalled that “they called me up and said they were transferring me to the Eaton. They had collision and they needed more help on the ship. I went over there with just what I had on my back. They sent over my gear afterwards.”

    At the time, Eaton was part of the squadron of four Fletcher-Class Destroyers of Escort Destroyer Division 22. They were conducting exercises amid fog in the Chesapeake Bay along with the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), USS Des Moines (CA-134) and USS Wisconsin (BB-64) when the collision occurred.

    Eaton, the flagship for Escort Destroyer Division 22, had turned in-front of Wisconsin during a man overboard evolution. The collision had nearly ripped Eaton’s bow off and ripped one of her 5 inch/38cal guns into the sea. McCarthy recalled that the collision “ripped through the forward boiler room, [and] all the steam escape valves on the mast went off. They say it was so loud that they couldn’t even think.”

    He further recalled that “it [the collision] went through the mess decks and it went through the Chief’s quarters. To be honest with you, if they didn’t call man overboard, there would have been people in those locations.” The collision injured two aboard Eaton, and both were transferred to the Wisconsin for treatment in her sick bay.

    In the immediate aftermath of the collision, Eaton pulled alongside Wisconsin. McCarthy recalled that “Wisconsin’s crew threw lifejackets over thinking the Eaton was going to sink, but thankfully they got watertight security in place. The first Lieutenant and two Bosuns Mates were able to go forward and close those spaces.”

    He vividly recalled the actions of Eaton’s crew:

    “The whole front of the ship was swinging back and fourth because the keel was broken. They put cables in place to hold it [her bow], the cables would stretch so they wrapped the anchor chain and welded it past the damage so they could hold the front of the ship together.”

    Eaton was eventually towed, stern first, to Norfolk Naval Shipyard with McCarthy aboard. He was able to augment the personnel assigned to her first division and was able to assimilate quickly with his new crew.

    He recalled that while pier side, Eaton’s crew was not immediately allowed off base. “They would let the crew off, so many at a time to call home, but they wouldn’t let them off the base of anything,” said McCarthy, as he recalled the investigation and quarantine reminiscent of today’s current COVID-19 mitigations.

    McCarthy recalled his service aboard Eaton vividly at the conclusion of his interview. When “I was reassigned to the ship, it was supposed to be temporary. For eight months on them. I made Second Class Bosuns Mate and they kept me on board. [We] spent 8-9 months in drydocks and went out to sea after repairs.” He spent four year assigned to the Eaton, and recalled a cruise to the Red Sea, to Canada, and to the waters off Cuba.

    As for the Wisconsin, her bow was repaired by fitting the unfinished bow from the USS Kentucky. Archived copies of Norfolk Naval Shipyards Shipyard Bulletin aptly call the repairs Operation Bow Transfer. In the aftermath, Wisconsin took on a new callsign, WiSKY; W, I, S for Wisconsin and K,Y added after fitting of the Kentucky’s bow. As for McCarthy, he wished all of his friends and the staff at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum and Nauticus campus well after his interview; and wanted to reiterate that he is staying at home amid on-going COVID-19 mitigations.



    Date Taken: 05.07.2020
    Date Posted: 05.07.2020 12:17
    Story ID: 369425
    Location: NORFOLK , VA, US

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