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This is part 3 of a series on the explosion on the USS Iowa on April 19, 1989 that killed 47 men in turret 2 of the battleship.  In this part I will cover the Navy's shoddy investigation, which in reality amounted to a cover-up, and the Naval Command's despicable effort to blame the disaster on a single dead sailor.

404px-USS_Iowa_(BB-61)_projectile_hoisted_to_spanning_tray
    Image 1: Center gun and breech on USS Iowa
* Part 1: An obsolete weapons system.
* Part 2: Fatal weaknesses ignored.

The turret consisted of its visible portion, the "gunhouse", and then extended several stories down to the "magazine" levels where shells and gunpowder were kept pending transfer to the gunhouse for firing.  

The turret officer for Turret 2 was Lt. (jg) Phil Buch, age 24, from Las Cruces, NM.  The turret chief was Reggie Ziegler, age 39, from Port Gibson, NY.  Both of these men were killed in the blast.  According to Wikipedia, which has an excellent article on this incident, the following occurred, starting 44 seconds after Captain Moosally gave the order to fire the guns in Turret 2:

1. Buch reported that Turret Two's right gun was loaded and ready to fire.

2. Seventeen seconds later, Buch reported that the left gun was ready.

3. A few seconds later, Errick Lawrence, age 29, from Springfield OH, in Turret Two's center gun room, reported to Ziegler over the turret's phone circuit that, "We have a problem here. We are not ready yet. We have a problem here."

4. Ziegler responded by announcing over the turret's phone circuit, "Left gun loaded, good job. Center gun is having a little trouble. We'll straighten that out."

5. Buch then confirmed that the left and right guns were loaded.

6. Lawrence then called out, "I'm not ready yet! I'm not ready yet!"

7.  Next, Ernie Hanyecz, age 27, from Borenton, NJ, a gunner's mate, suddenly called out over the intercom "Mort! Mort! Mort!", meaning Dale Mortensen, the highly-competent lead petty officer of Turret 1.

8. Ziegler shouted, "Oh, my God! The powder is smoldering!"

9. At this time, Ziegler may have opened the door from the turret officer's booth in the rear of the turret into the center gun room and yelled at the crew to get the breech closed.

10.About this same time, Hanyecz yelled over the phone circuit, "Oh, my God! There's a flash!".

11.  The explosion then occurred, 81 seconds after Moosally had given the order to fire.

Following the explosion, once the fire had been extinguished, the bodies were removed, without any photographs being taken as to their positions in the turret.  Much of the wreckage from the turret was simply removed and dumped over the side, without regard to its potential value in reconstructing what had occurred to cause the explosion.  

The Navy investigation begins.
While all this was happening, the navy began its investigation, which was headed by Rear Admiral Richard Milligan, who had commanded Iowa's sistership, USS New Jersey during one of the Reagan Administration's more ridiculous (and rather bloody) war-making efforts of trying to suppress the Druze of Lebanon with 16" shells back in 1982.  Milligan did nothing to prevent the debris from Turret 2 from being dumped over the side, and his staff threatened witnesses with the apparent objective of suppressing the evidence about experiments being done with the 16" battery.

How the propellent (commonly called powder, but actually it was in pellet form) was packed was a critical point of inquiry.  An error in the packaging could have caused the explosion.  Additionally, a good portion of the powder bags had been recently stored over the summer in a warehouse on a barge, where the temperatures rose to over 120 degrees.  At temperatures over 70 degrees, the stabilizing chemicals in the powder begin to vaporize and the powder becomes unsafe.

And in a specular display of Navy good-old-boyism, the very man who was in charge of the packing of the powder, Capt. Joseph D. Miceli, was placed on the investigating team.  Micheli had run the Naval Weapons Support Center in Crane Indiana, which was responsible for the technical support and supply for the 16" batteries on Iowa and the other battleships..

As it turns out, many of the men were killed by inhaling cyanide gas produced by foam jackets which Micheli had ordered placed on the silk powder bags.  It was definitely in Micheli's interest that nothing be found wrong with ether the guns, the ammunition, or the propellent.  Perhaps worse yet, Milligan had authorized similar gunnery experiments when he had been in command of the New Jersey!

And so the Milligan/Micheli inquiry went on, basically achieving nothing, actually less than nothing, since they permitted potentially valuable evidence to be thrown away, and even the inside of the turret, which should have borne relevant evidence such as blast debris patterns, to be cleaned and repainted.  

800px-USS_Iowa_(BB-61)_placing_powder_bags
     Image 2: Lining up powder bags to be rammed into
      the breech on USS
Iowa
The bureaucracy finds its scapegoat
And then along came a ray of inspiration.  One of the men killed in the turret, Clayton Hartwig, had taken out a $50,000 life insurance policy, naming his shipmate, Kendall Truitt, another Turret 2 crewman but who survived the blast, as the beneficiary.  Truitt had promised Hartwig's sister that he'd give the money to Hartwig's parents, but she didn't really trust Truitt to do, so she wrote letters to Moosally and others in an effort to get them to convince Truitt to do so.

Up until this point the Milligan/Miceli investigation had been plodding along a general theory that some sort of friction in the sliding of the powder bags had ignited the fire leading to the explosion.  This actually was somewhat close to truth, and perhaps even those blockheads might have reached this conclusion ... that is, until Hartwig's life insurance policy became known.  

From that point onward, the Navy developed the following theory:

1.  Hartwig was secretly a homosexual (note: there was no evidence for this; Hartwig had actually dated a pole dancer, if that's any evidence of his sexual preference.).

2.  He and Truitt had been lovers, or at least Hartwig had some kind of yearning for Truitt. (this supposedly accounted for the naming of Truitt as the beneficiary of Hartwig's life insurance policy.)

3.  When Truitt went off and got married, the spurned Hartwig became both suicidal and homicidal.

4.  Hartwig then devised a plan whereby he would plant a home-made detonator between the powder bags, then have the hydraulic rammer shove the powder bags too far into the breech of the gun.

5.  This would set of the detonator, firing the powder bags with the breech still open, undoubtedly killing Hartwig but also everyone in the turret, including Truitt.

6.  Oh, and one more thing.  Hartwig did not actually operate the hydraulic ram.  He would need to use his position as gun captain to misdirect the ram operator.

There.  You see how easy it is to blow up a battleship.  

800px-USS_Iowa_(BB-61)_ramming_powder_bags
      Image 3: The gun captain (right) gives the command
      to the rammerman (left, partly visible) to insert
     the powder bags into the breech.
Technical and training problems ignored.
This solved a lot of problems for the Navy.  If the problem had been a technical one such as the gunpowder, or the loading procedure, this meant that the 16" gun, the sole unique weapon system used by the battleship, might be too dangerous to operate.  If the problem was shoddy training or incompetent command on the Iowa ... well, let's not go there!

And there were many technical, training, and command problems that the Navy didn't want to acknowledge as the possible explanation, including.

1.  In the summer of 1988, when Iowa had been in dry dock, a good portion of the powder bags had been removed from the ship and stored in a warehouse on a barge, where the temperatures rose to over 120 degrees.  At temperatures over 70 degrees, the stabilizing chemicals in the powder begin to vaporize and the powder becomes unsafe.  Nobody bothered to notice, and all this likely degraded and now-dangerous powder (1800 bags) was loaded back onto to the battleship.

2.  The hydraulic rammer could be accidentally used to jam the bags in at a speed of 14 feet per second, not 1.5 fee per second as was standard.  No fail-safe system existed to prevent the wrong ramming speed from being used.

3.  Many if not most of the men in the Iowa's gun turrets had not been properly trained; this problem was particularly acute on center gun of Turret 2.

4.  Neither the captain, the executive officer, nor the weapons officer on board Iowahad any experience in, knowledge of, or interest in the 16" gun battery.  These weapons systems were seen as having no future, and the primary interest of these officers was in the ship's missile systems.

5.  The captain of the Iowa permitted experiments to be done with the ship's 16" gun battery, including one underway in the center gun when it exploded.

6.  The experiment being done on the center gun required the loading of only 5 bags of powder -- yet no one in any gun turret on Iowahad any training as far as how far up the breech the five bag load should be placed by use of the hydraulic rammer.

The Navy ignored all this contrary evidence and concentrated solely on the "spurned homosexual lover theory."  

Bungled Navy "investigation".
One of the justifications for ignoring this evidence was that tests that the Navy's Dahlgren research lab had done indicated that ignition by friction or overram was not possible.  The Navy claimed to have found evidence, based on the presence of "foreign" substances in the breech of the center gun, and on the shell extracted from that gun, of the placement of a detonator in the powder load.

The "investigation" was just about most offensive and ham-handed POS forensic work one could ever imagine.  I already mentioned their tactic of intimidating witnesses.  But there was more, so much more in the Navy's bag of tricks.  

For example, the Navy saw fit to question Truitt's wife about how often she had sex with her husband and what positions they used.  Meanwhile while the investigation was underway, much of its theories, including Hartwig's name and the theory that he was an angry and suicidal homosexual were leaked to the press.

800px-16inchload
        Image 4: Diagram showing proper loading of a six-bag
         charge in a 16" gun and loading machinery.
Proper scientific testing establishes likely cause.
After a few months of this, nobody outside of the Navy command and their toadies in Congress such as John Warner (R-Military Industrial Complex) had any confidence in the Navy's investigation.  

Starting in November, 1989, hearings were held in both the Senate and the House, and the GAO was brought into the investigation.  GAO in turn brought in scientists at Sandia National Laboratory to conduct an actual science-based investigation.

Sandia conducted a series of new and much more careful experiments than the shoddy ones employed by the Navy.  What these experiments established beyond any doubt was:

1.  There was no foreign substance in the center gun.  All claimed "foreign substances" (e.g. calcium, chlorine, etc) were either present in comparable quantities in the other guns, or were traceable to materials introduced into the center gun after the explosion to free the shell.

2.  The powder bags had been rammed even further into the center gun breech than the Navy had thought.  Sandia was able to replicate an explosion of the powder bags using an similar overram, which forced the navy to issue an order immediately suspending the firing of 16" guns on all battleships until corrective action could be taken..  

This evidence, combined with the fact that no one actually knew if Hartwig had been acting as the gun captain that day (recall the locations of the bodies weren't photographed or tracked in any sort of reliable way), forced the navy to back off from its accusations against Hartwig and Truitt.  The Navy gave a lame-ass "If any one was offended, I'm sorry" type of apology to the Hartwig family

Coming next in part 4, I hope to establish who was really to blame for the explosion.

Originally posted to Plan 9 from Oregon on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 05:27 AM PDT.

Also republished by Milk Men And Women, Angry Gays, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for your ongoing story. (16+ / 0-)

    I imagine I'm not the only one who last heard of this in the "the gay sailor did it" stage, and never was apprised of anything further (like massive incompetence all the way up the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense) to explain why 47 sailors died for no discernable reason. Sad that this story reads so much like so many others with respect to those who paid the price also bearing the blame (Pat Tillman, for example).

    Your black cards can make you money, so you hide them when you're able; in the land of milk and honey, you must put them on the table - Steely Dan

    by OrdinaryIowan on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 06:09:55 AM PDT

  •  I guess my sense is.. (10+ / 0-)

    that the fact that the Navy tried to find a scapegoat isn't really anything new.  Not to say the Navy is unique here - if it had been the Army, they might have done the same..

    The thing that surprised me was how clumsy and farfetched their theory was, and I imagine that they didn't think the whole thing to fall apart quite so quickly.

    •  The whole thing took about 2 years to play out (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cocinero, kurt, BlackSheep1, kyril, yaque, ladybug53

      but people were suspicious about the "gay revenge" theory from the start.  Part of the problem was really basic -- no body was really sure who had been the gun captain that day, as there weren't any records and the body of Hartwig, the alleged perp, seems to have been (this was never confirmed because of slack ass Navy investigative techniques) at the bottom of the turret, where it was thought he'd been sent to fix one of the many things wrong with the gun mechanism, in this case it was the compressed air device that cleared out the barrel following discharge of the weapon.

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 08:19:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  if it had been the Army, they might have done the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cartoon Peril

      the same.

      Might have?

      Ask those low ranking enlisted service members punished for what happened at Abu Ghraib.

      In the Army, someone takes the hit for screw ups. Usually an enlisted person, but failing that, some luckless lieutenant.

      Case closed.

      Of course, that conveniently shields the higher ups from scrutiny.

      Disclaimer: Weapons of Mass Destruction and terrorists may vary according to region, definition, and purpose. Belief systems pandered separately.

      by BlackBandFedora on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 06:24:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here, the sailor Clayton Hardwick had $31 in the (0+ / 0-)

        bank, no place to live other than his parents house, and was late on his car payments when he was killed in Turret 2.  The perfect scapegoat for the Navy, somebody who was dead AND broke.

        You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

        by Cartoon Peril on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 06:35:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The system protecting itself (11+ / 0-)

    It seems to be inherent in hierarchal power structures like the military, the Catholic Church, corporations, etc. to protect the system that has given its top members power and other rewards. Any who question it put their power derived from it at risk.  We can see how that incentive works out in practice.

    A.E. Van Vogt in "The Silkie" came up with the Betrayal Principle - the idea that one of the functions/powers of the leader in a group is to betray the lesser members of the group at will and at need. Leaders rise to power in part on their ability to rationalize this.

    It may have been a throwaway idea in a sci-fi story, but it has a frightening plausibility in explaining human behavior.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 07:16:59 AM PDT

    •  Yep, the real problem was a very bad decision (7+ / 0-)

      had been made by the Reagan administration, with the compliance of Congress, to bring the battleships back into operation, but they were too cheap to do the job right, and in any case, the sole unique weapons system, the 16" guns, were unnecessary to any mission the Navy was likely to have to perform.  To protect this big lie, they had to invent the "gay revenge" theory.

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 08:24:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have sometimes wondered.... (5+ / 0-)

        ....whether the relatively level-headed investigation of the loss of the British battleship Vanguard was connected with a concept that I learned very early from my parents (who were both in the military, one British, one Canadian), the "price of Admiralty." That is, roughly, that there is no getting around the fact that war is a death machine and if you are ready to fight or are fighting, people will die, sometimes in very stupid and meaningless ways. Throughout British history, ships have sailed out and been lost, some simply disappearing. If you have a navy at all, that's the reality you have to face.

        "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

        by sagesource on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 02:22:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Quite possible, the Iowa problem was there was no (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simplify, yaque

          need for the battleships, so the "price of admiralty" argument wouldn't work.  Here is a rather even-handed Admiralty report from 1919 about fatal non-combat cordite munitions explosions on Allied warships during WW1.

          Obviously with the war in in 1917 the British government couldn't openly discuss the loss of the Vanguard, along with 800 men, that is, all but 2 of the ship's company.  But they couldn't lie to themselves either, and the 1919 report concluded:

          Although no facts have been brought to light to indicate that the cause is to be attributed either to the malice of an enemy agent, the act of a lunatic, or to carelessness in handling explosives on shore or after they were supplied to the ship, the lesson of the disaster to HMS Vanguard is that, both in peace or war, so long as a ship has explosives on board, the possibility of the existence of such causes always remains. Therefore every precaution which can be taken must be taken. So far as can be foreseen, all such precautions are now in force.
          Of course, Iowa, unlike Vanguard, had survived the explosion, so there was all the more reason not to seize on a lunatic as the explanation.

          You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

          by Cartoon Peril on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 02:42:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I think you're over-reaching here... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PrahaPartizan, Cartoon Peril

        The cover-up was reprehensible, but blaming the President and Navy for bringing them back years before, as if they could know the future, is spurious. Yes, 16" guns are dangerous. As mentioned elsewhere this has happened before. That's a known risk that is not ignored but is accepted. You drive a car you risk a collision. Life is full of risk. You can't blame a weapon system for failing to operate properly when it's not use properly.

        There is plenty of blame to go around for decisions about which blame for misjudgement should be assigned. The blame should be put on those who did the cover-up and on those who were derelict in their duty to operate the weapon safely, store and maintain the propellant safely, etc. No blame or aspersions should be cast upon those who deduced that battleships could be operated safely and would cost less than new vessels of equivalent or greater offensive capability with regard to Tomahawks missiles.

        -We need Healthcare Reform... but i'm selfish, I Need Healthcare reform-

        by JPax on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 06:36:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  you can assign blame to the navy (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          yaque, ladybug53, Cartoon Peril
          You can't blame a weapon system for failing to operate properly when it's not use properly.
          for failing to provide the proper training in the use of these weapons, which they didn't. economics played a huge part in this: why spend money on critical training, for an outdated weapon system that, more likely than not, won't be called into action? that's money that could be better spent elsewhere. the causes of the explosion could have been reduced significantly, had the navy spent more time/money on effective and ongoing training. they didn't feel it was worth it.

          as well, these guns served no legitimate war making function, they were re-activated solely for political purposes.

          •  Artillery is a legitimate war-making function, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cartoon Peril

            and though it might not have been used well at the time (shelling Lebanon might not have been well planned), but it was used (Iraq) and could have been used (Somalia) later, where shore or near coastal operations needed it. Tube artillery is often neglected or ridiculed but it is one of the most effective weapons on a battlefield.

            Furthermore, it appears that there were plans to try to increase the range using newer projectiles. A sabot round was claimed to go double the normal distance (~40 miles), which is longer that any land-based tubes in inventory.

            In the present paradigm of asymmetric warfare, those big guns may not seem useful, but with increased range and smart projectiles, they could be. And asymmetry in warfare will only exist where inequality of capabilities exist. If the US does reduce the military, it reduces capabilities increases the potential for attack by a nation-state and increases the possibility for military responses that might include beach assaults and hitting heavy infrastructure within 20-40 miles of the sea. In that paradigm, costs add up and in a war of attrition, gun rounds are cheaper than missiles.

            Will that happen? I don't know. I'm willing to wager that we can live peacefully with other countries, but I'm not sure I'd wager that we will.

            -We need Healthcare Reform... but i'm selfish, I Need Healthcare reform-

            by JPax on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 08:30:58 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  there is a psychological theory for this. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      yaque, Cartoon Peril

      it's called "Group Dynamics", which is further broken down into "Large Group Dynamics", and "Small Group Dynamics". a "Group" is defined as 2 or more people, working together for a specific purpose. the group doesn't actually even have to be formally identified as such, to be one.

      with respect to your comment, a "Group" can resemble a living, single organism, whose first job is survival. when something threatens that organism's (group's) survival, it must be destroyed. if the threat is internal (a member of the group), that member/person must be destroyed, to maintain group integrity.

      rod serling did an episode of The Twilite Zone on this very issue. it was an early episode, in B&W. a company's management group got together, invited in their hardest working sales rep, and threw him out the window, to his death. to the police, and everyone else, poor "fred" was driven to suicide, by the stress of overworking. it served as a warning to his peers. management was concerned that "fred" was, by his example, going to cause burnout (and thus lost sales revenues) among his peers, hurting the company (organism). they cut him out, for the good of the group.

  •  I met a guy out in Hawaii (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Peril, BlackSheep1, yaque

    he would come into the camera store and talk about this subject . Said he was there .

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 09:53:37 AM PDT

  •  I met the guy (4+ / 0-)

    who wrote the report from Sandia the other day. It is available in open literature.
    Impressive man.

  •  Good work CP (6+ / 0-)

    Thanks for sharing.

    Do have two observations:

    24 is on the young side for a Lieutenant (O-3), typically requires about 4 years after commissioning.  ROTC grad at 21, 2 years as Ensign, 1+ years as LT, jg, "frocked" to full Lieutenant is possible...  But may not be typical.  Frocking is where you are promoted to the next rank, and allowed to wear the insignia of the rank, but you're still at the old pay grade, so it's not a full promotion. It was used commonly in the nukes to try and keep top performers in the service longer.

    The 120 degrees F is entirely probable, if not low.  The 70 degree breakdown bothers me.  I've done a lot of Mil-Spec work and nominal operating temps are often -40 degrees to +70 degrees CENTIGRADE.  Translates to -40 to +158 degrees Fahrenheit.  Seeing temperatures of over 120 deg F on a ship at sea in the tropics is common.  Why then have a critical part of a weapon system be so unsuited for the environment?

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 10:33:33 AM PDT

    •  You're right, Buch was an ensign, Meyer, turret (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cocinero, kurt, BlackSheep1, markdd, vzfk3s, yaque

      officer in Turret No. 1 until shortly before the explosion, had recently been promoted to Lt (jg), I must have conflated the two, will change.  

      The powder was stored for a number months in a barge in the York River while the Iowa was in drydock in the summer of 1988.  On the barge there was a structure something like a warehouse or storage shed, and with no air conditioning, it must have been like the inside of a hot car day after day.

      The Navy obviously didn't want their idiotic powder storage procedures, or the goofball "experiments" to be blamed for this disaster, hence the "gay revenge" explanation.

      There have been a number of munitions explosions on warships, some were blamed (dubiously) on sabotage, but the most were explained by the authorities rather honestly as an inevitable risk of dealing with highly dangerous materials but necessary for national defense.

      The problem with the Iowa explosion was that it could in all likelihood have been avoided, and also the 16" guns weren't necessary for the national defense.  So the old fairly honest explanations won't work.

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 11:00:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wiki had the same (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vzfk3s, Cartoon Peril, yaque

        Lieutenant instead of Lieutenant, jg.  So I'm not blaming the messenger.

        Having a very junior officer as turret officer harks back to the lack of training and manpower that your last entry detailed.

        I've read reports that auto interiors can reach temps over 200-250 deg F on sunny days with ambient air temps in the high 70's.  So a corrugated shed, not as sealed as a car and without glass could easily be over the 120 deg F you propose.

        “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

        by markdd on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 02:45:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  well, (6+ / 0-)

      enough money to reactivate obsolete warships, not enough money to adapt the mechanisms to use modern propellants.

      all morals are relative, but some are more relative than others.

      by happymisanthropy on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 11:11:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  the old gunpowder probably was still good, but (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        IreGyre, markdd, TomFromNJ, yaque

        it had been remixed before being used in New Jersey, which contributed to wildly inaccurate shooting when that ship was used to bombard Lebanon in 1983.  

        None the remixed stuff was used on Iowa but there were other things done, such as improper stowage on the barge that appear to have led to a very unsafe situation on that ship.

        You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

        by Cartoon Peril on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 11:22:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Part of the damage to the Forrestal (4+ / 0-)

        in 1967 was recycled Korean war vintage bombs cooking off faster than expected.   One story was that we had sold them to West Germany a few years earlier at $.21/ lb and bought them back at closer to $4.00.   I guess they were going to save money no matter how much it cost.

        “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

        by markdd on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 02:58:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Another cause of the Forrestal fire was disregard (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          markdd, yaque

          of safety procedures.  That fire was mentioned at the opening of the hearings on the Iowa explosion.  John McCain, who was on the Forrestal when the fire occurred, was a senator attending the Iowa hearings..

          You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

          by Cartoon Peril on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 03:06:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The missle that launched (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cartoon Peril, PrahaPartizan, yaque

            caused the fuel tank on the A-4 next to McCain's to come off and the resulting fuel spray caught fire.  McCain and the other pilot were able to escape the fire, there is video of McCain running across the nose of his plane and jumping off.  Unfortunately the other pilot LCDR Fred White, and a number of firefighters were killed minutes later when the first bomb cooked off.

            “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

            by markdd on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 03:25:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Great work! (3+ / 0-)

    Besides the obvious cover-up, the thing that really stands out for me is that the Iowa was decommissioned in 1958.

    That was some seriously out-of-date technology.

  •  I appreciate the enlightening series. (4+ / 0-)

    Time goes by, and events fade from memory.  It is criminal that the Navy acted as they did in re-deploying these ships while many deficiencies existed.  Then, when the inevitable happens they turn a victim into a scapegoat and don't even suffer any consequences.  Sorry bastards that ran the entire affair collecting nice pensions we all pay for.  Definitely need to keep an eye on our government.  

    "Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person." David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World

    by Delta Overdue on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 02:29:26 PM PDT

  •  You have to remember too that in the 80s (8+ / 0-)

    there was nothing that Ronnie Raygun and his galloping band of Chickenhawks wanted more that a 600 ship Navy.  Resurrecting these old gals was a cheaper way to get hulls floating than building newer, totally obsolete battlewagons.  The problems of manning them, and OPTEMPO/PERSTEMPO i.e. keeping people deployed never really concerned them.

    I was there, and it sucked sometimes.

    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism. -Carl Sagan

    by jo fish on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 02:39:59 PM PDT

    •  It's the details such as training and repair that (5+ / 0-)

      keep a ship in order, nobody in the Reagan Administration gave a shit about that boring stuff.  Plus, keeping good crew might mean raising their pay -- and we know THAT couldn't happen.

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 02:47:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I grew up around the fishing and crabbing (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vzfk3s, Cartoon Peril, ER Doc, yaque

        fleet in Seattle.  My Dad always said he reserved the right to disallow crewing on any ship he didn't approve of for these very reasons.  I never ended up doing any of that kind of work, but am thankful to be aware of how important the details are no matter how big the boat is you're going out on.

        "Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person." David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World

        by Delta Overdue on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 03:43:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The first thing that pisses me of is the Death of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Peril, Seeds, KenBee

    47 Sailors, the second is that no Flag Officer ever had to take responsibility for what I consider involuntary manslaughter.

    "Behold the Turtle, it only makes Progress when it sticks it's neck Out."

    by vzfk3s on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 03:58:49 PM PDT

  •  How ironic...... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Peril, KenBee, yaque

      ...this tale of a "cover your ass" investigation. Tomorrow June 3, is the day the Austrailian aircraft carrier cut USS Frank E Evans in two. Do a Google on USS Frank E Evans, and some reading, you will find the same type of "investigation," where they try to cover their own asses and to hell with the facts. Disgusting!

    Compost for a greener planet.............got piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 07:12:47 PM PDT

  •  Thank You - N/T (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Peril

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Sat Jun 02, 2012 at 08:25:05 PM PDT

  •  i know who. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yaque, Cartoon Peril
    Coming next in part 4, I hope to establish who was really to blame for the explosion.
    that would be one ronald reagan, president of the united states, and insister on a 600 ship navy. without him and it, the Iowa and its sister battleships wouldn't have been taken out of mothballs, again. all other events cascade from that. the navy didn't want to spend money in training and proper materials/supplies, because those guns were museum pieces.

    funny thing. i was watching a history channel show, Top Ten Warships, the other day. this class was rated no. 1. they made no mention of this explosion or its aftermath, even though they did point out they had been taken out of mothballs by reagan. since i've been reading these posts, that stuck out like a sore thumb to me.

    •  Yep, and a few other folks who helped him out, (0+ / 0-)

      in particular John Lehman.  

      There had never been a fatal turret fire on any Iowa class ship.  Why?  Because when the ships had been in operation up until the 1950s, the Navy put the money into keeping them up and training their crews.

      That did NOT happen with Iowa on reactivation.  The ship had constant problems, but it was needed as prop on the set of Reagan's swaggering militarism, so it stayed in service.

      The storage of the powder bags on hot barge warehouse and subsequent reloading the now-dangerously degraded propellent back onto the ship was an appalling act of stupidity, which was made possible by the fact that neither the captain, the executive officer, nor the weapons officer had any substantive knowledge about the 16" gun battery over which they were placed in command.

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 06:30:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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