USS HARTLEY (DE-1029) a Destroyer Escort, when its home port was in Newport, Rhode Island, back in the 60’s, it was involved in a terrible accident, that could have been deadly, but thankfully, was not.
It had been hit by a Swedish tanker while cruising along Virginia Beach.
No one was hurt, which was a miracle. The tanker missed the boiler room by about ten feet. Had it hit the boiler room, this “Sea Story” would be quite different.
I spent my first few months on the Hartley doing inventory of all the ship’s parts and equipment. It was pretty lonely, boring work and not a lot of fun. Most of the crew was on base –at least what was left of the crew. We had then just a skeleton crew, enough to do the inventory and get the ship back up to Newport, Rhode Island when all the repairs were completed.
You can bet on that trip back to Newport, Rhode Island, the crew was at full alert. I remember that I stood watch in CIC, and I tell you, we didn’t miss a single ‘blip’ on those radar scopes.
I got an “attaboy” from the Captain for my performance in CIC on the way back. I guess a little skittishness can be the inspiration for a great performance on watch.
It’s hard to believe with all that radar, that an accident like that could happen. I wonder if someone was sleeping on watch. I’m sure someone really got their ass in a sling over that one!
The Blue Master’s bow impacted the Hartley at the after bulkhead of the engine
room, and directly into Sick Bay, which was obliterated. The hard rudder
swing probably kept the ship from being cut in half by the impact, as
Blue Master was still accelerating to 16 knots, and the bow cut to within
30” of the main keel structure of the DE. The angle of the slice into
the hull of the DE was perhaps 30 degrees from a perpendicular attack.
Shoring of the adjacent bulkheads was underway by the courageous Damage Control teams who worked steadily while watching the bulkhead “pant” with the seas striking it.
The boundaries were shored on both sides, and they held.
Five months of repairs commenced immediately, together with a formal Navy
investigation of the incident. Both ships were found to be at fault in the
incident, and shared the bill for damages and loss of services of the ship equally.
As a result of the collision, the USS Hartley sustained hull and equipment damage estimated in a preliminary survey by the U.S. Salvage Association at $700,000 (1965 $). This estimate did not include the expense of towing the Hartley into port, nor the cost of subsequent salvage of Hartley’s anchor.
Visibility was low, and a bridge also obscured the view of the running lights.