109â10; Vistica, p. 290. Hanyecz was not wearing phones, but Mortensen heard him in the background over Buch's phones. Visiting the FBI's facility at Quantico, Virginia, Mountz, Goodman, Goodwin, and NIS employee Dawn Teague explained to FBI special agents Richard Ault and Roy Hazelwood that the Iowa explosion was not an accident, but an act of sabotage. According to Ensign Dan Meyer, the officer in charge of the ship's Turret One, morale and operational readiness among the gun-turret crews suffered greatly. , During further overram testing by Miceli's team, four more explosions occurred. He also observed that abuse results when a powerful organization attempts to manipulate the press, as the U.S. Navy had apparently tried to do through leaks of information about the investigation. It was not even qualified to conduct its chief mission, anti-ballistic missile defense. As pumps and generators and sailors worked to help, the water level began to stabilize. The men reached down and hauled out Mead, the second, and last, sailor rescued by the two petty officers from Texas. She didn’t think he could be relied on to aggressively search for ships. 77â80, 87â88. Zucchino, "The suicide files: Death in the military", Schmitt, "Navy Investigators Face New Attack". Vice Admiral Johnson and his staff entered the bridge to watch the firing exercise. He grabbed White in a bear hug, and the two heaved their combined bulk against the door, pushing it back enough to reveal the captain’s stateroom. The tear in his cabin’s wall had left Benson with a 140-degree view of dark water and dark sky. The fishing trawler was only 200 to 300 yards away, an extremely close distance for ships at sea. 367â68. Sailors rotated in and out, relieving comrades fatigued by the nonstop passing of 10-pound buckets of water. Ensign Francis Womack, 25, had worked 19 hours without a break. Later, FBI agents Ault and Hazelwood appeared before the committee and answered questions about how they had prepared their equivocal death analysis on Hartwig. Bryce Benson, the 40-year-old captain of the Fitzgerald. He loved to watch soccer, and his favorite video games were Fallout and Lethal Weapon. It wasn’t personal,” she said. He fought his way to a ladder exiting the starboard side of the ship. 97, 101â07, 152; Vistica, p. 289. â Several of the turret's crewmembers had time to don chemical/biological filter masks, which failed to protect them from the poisonous gasses filling the turret. 2 on the midwatch was Lt. Irian Woodley, 42, the surface warfare coordinator. The Navy did not grant interviews with current Navy leaders. She asked that someone talk to Truitt to convince him to give the money to Hartwig's parents. Death usually comes from a heart attack or a reduced blood supply to the brain. Rosenthal, "Discord Reported in Navy Over Iowa Blast Inquiry", Schwoebel, p. 243; Thompson, pp.  Drake also helped Mortensen unload the powder from Turret One's left gun. Quickly. He stated that the Navy had uncovered no evidence to suggest that the gun had been operated improperly, nor had it established a plausible accidental cause for the explosion. That figure would grow to 514 tons as the night progressed. The Navy fired admirals, captains and commanders, punished sailors and criminally prosecuted officers for neglecting their duties. Dora Hernandez was in the crowd when the Fitzgerald had at last arrived, desperate for news about her husband, Noe. Woodruff stated that Milligan contradicted several statements that he and Edney had made in the 7 September press conference, including stating that Hartwig and Truitt were "faggots" and that he (Milligan) had evidence to prove that an electronic timer had been used (Thompson, p. 314). If that didn’t work, they would provide mouth-to-mouth. One of Comb’s most important responsibilities was communicating with her counterparts on the bridge. After most of the water was pumped out, the bodies in the turret were removed without noting or photographing their locations. The Navy inquiries determined that there had been widespread problems with leaders regarding shortfalls in training, manning and equipment in the 7th Fleet. “Sir, can I wear Captain Benson’s boots?”. Skelley then asked Lieutenant Phil Buch, Turret Two's officer in charge, and Buch acquiesced. “They just kept telling me I was too aggressive, that I needed to ... tone myself down,” she said. 10â11, 65, 236; Thompson, p. 137.  Later, Moosally began working for Lockheed Martin in the Washington, D.C. area. Benson judged he was suffering the effects of “fatigue and sleep deprivation.” He needed to rest. A subsequent test by the Navy of the overram scenario confirmed that an overram could have caused an explosion in the gun breech. 384â85. In response to the new findings, the U.S. Navy, with Sandia's assistance, reopened the investigation. Benson also worried about the ship’s physical state. His ship was in danger. Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Williams noticed Nelson struggling. “You could sit there and scream at each other for hours and it was just to get stuff done. “You’re going to be on watch, and you might save my life,” he told his senior chief. 35, 49, 55, 97, 236; Thompson, pp. He continued his effort to clear Hartwig's name in statements to the media. I’m so fucked!" During Senate hearings into the explosion, Senator.  Nunn later criticized the NIS, saying, "The Navy's whole investigative technique here should be under serious question. , On 12, 13, and 21 December, the House Armed Services Committee held its hearings into the Navy's investigation. He told them he was relieved to be alive. He illustrated it with haunting black and white drawings: bunkmates lining up for the inescapable starboard exit, sailors bobbing in seawater up to their necks, a body floating in the floodwaters. Babbitt refused. The blow tilted the deck 14 degrees off level, hurling men from their beds and uprooting lockers and furniture. Perez stepped forward to finish the job. Crew migrated to the main deck in search of relief and rest after what seemed an endless night. The successive incidents raised an unavoidable question: How could two $1.8 billion Navy destroyers, protected by one of the most advanced defense systems on the planet, fail to detect oncoming cargo ships broadcasting their locations to a worldwide navigational network? Benson reached for the phone by his bed and stopped. Iowa was 260 nautical miles (300 mi; 480 km) northeast of Puerto Rico, steaming at 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h). Engelberg, "Navy Finding on Iowa Blast Is Drawing Criticism", Schwoebel, pp. Sailors from all over the base arrived to help. Conahan concluded by suggesting that, because of the issues surrounding the limited deployment availability of the battleships, they "seem to be top candidates for deactivation as we look for ways to scale back US forces. He put his legs in the rising water and lowered himself down. The Navy Times published a multipart series containing portions of the confidential reports that we reviewed. Breau immediately ordered an emergency stop, directing all engines back full. The Lake Champlain crash caused Babbitt, Benson’s second-in-command, to issue a bulletin to the ship’s officers. He could hear the shouts and groans of his sailors. If you manage to take a breath, you probably can’t hold it long — panic makes the heart beat faster and the body use more oxygen than normal. , Milligan and Miceli retired from the Navy in 1992 as a rear admiral and captain, respectively. At 1:30:34 a.m., the Crystal slammed into the Fitzgerald. Turret One's left gun misfired and its crew was unable to get the gun to discharge. The team determined that the "tare" or "trim" layer (a small amount of powder placed at the end of each bag to equalize the bag's weight, inserted in the mid-1980s when the powder was mixed and rebagged under Miceli's direction) would often ignite when compressed at high speed. “We must not be sinking anymore,” he recalled thinking. A small crew remains with the ship. , Iowa was decommissioned in Norfolk on 26 October 1990 and became part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet. We have a problem here. Hence the Navy belief that it’s not the steel that makes the ship, it’s the crew. One explanation is that the three ships were traveling close together. Each shot was to use five bags of D-846, instead of the six bags normally used, and to fire at the empty ocean 17 nautical miles (20 mi; 30 km) away.  Meyer and Kissinger were accompanied by Gunner's Mate Third Class Noah Melendez in their inspection of the turret. Most of the bodies recovered from the center gun and turret officer's booth were badly burned and in pieces, making identification difficult. But it’s dangerously cold for water. The turret contained most of the force of the explosion. Nothing to concern him. At 1:30:34 a.m. on June 17, 2017, at 34.52 degrees north latitude and 139.07 degrees east longitude, the ACX Crystal slammed into the USS Fitzgerald. After some confusion, it became clear that most of the sailors had escaped from Berthing 2. The exercise, titled "FLEETEX 3-89", began on or around 17 April under Johnson's command. “Freddy,” Benson said, “Get your boots on.”, The young culinary specialist turned to the ranking officer standing nearby. An explosive ordnance disposal technician, Operations Specialist First Class James Bennett Drake from the nearby USS Coral Sea, was sent to Iowa to assist in unloading the powder in Turret Two's left and right guns. “Okay, let’s do it, man, let’s go get this guy,” Ogilvie said. Like many sailors on board, Combs had been up before sunrise. She began tracking the vessel but did not pay close attention to it. In the best of circumstances, the Fitzgerald had a narrow window of time to take out a ballistic missile. At this time, Iowa was moved to Avondale Shipyards near New Orleans, Louisiana, to undergo a modernization as part of President Ronald Reagan's "600-ship Navy" plan. It was moving so slowly that it took several more hours to reach shore. Because of a shortage of properly trained crewmen, Ziegler had been forced to reassign eight men to different duty stations an hour before the firing drill. When the water reached their necks, they, too, climbed out the 29-inch-wide escape hatch. Other equipment had been written off, too. On June 1, the Fitzgerald joined almost a dozen other warships to sail with the Vinson and Reagan. Dan Meyer said of the shoot that it was "the most frightening experience I have ever had in my life. The Navy had not released any information. Looking up, he saw the light coming from the open scuttle and fought his way toward it. The U.S. Navy expressed regret (but did not offer an apology) to Hartwig's family and closed its investigation. Also in 1999, Charles Thompson published a book, titled A Glimpse of Hell: The Explosion on the USS Iowa and Its Cover-Up, documenting his investigation into the explosion and its aftermath. Other vehicles, ranging in size from mopeds to tractor-trailers, zip around you. When an enlisted cafeteria worker bends over the captain of the ship and asks to claim his boots, it is a sign that the rigid structure of life at sea was being undone by the demands of survival. Benson could have taken the rare step of refusing the order, though he risked being fired by his superiors. 161â65. The warship tilted 3 degrees starboard as its rudders swung and its speed jumped to 22 knots. Felderman was a popular sailor. Trainor, "Explosion and Fire Kill at Least 47 on Navy Warship", Bonner, pp. In April 2004, the South Carolina Supreme Court dismissed the suits against Thompson and Meyer, but allowed the suit against W. W. Norton to proceed. Miceli directed his team to begin testing to see if an electrical timer could have ignited the powder bags. Debris covered the door leading to the ladder and to safety. Dan Meyer contacted the Senate Armed Services Committee to report irregularities in Captain Miceliâs handling of the investigation into the explosion (Thompson, p. 368). The request was supposed to come from the, Schwoebel, p. 69; Thompson, pp. Woodley ordered Cato to point the camera in the direction of the approaching ship. 10â11, 13, 121; Thompson, pp. The seven coffins sat on a makeshift bier in front of the transport plane. Schmitt, "Tests by Experts Challenge Navy Over Iowa Blast", Gordon, "Navy Reopens Iowa Blast Inquiry After Ignition in Gunpowder Test", Schwoebel, pp. Garzke, Dorsey, "Ten years after Iowa tragedy, only evidence left is memories", Schwoebel, pp. At this point, according to Meyer, Messina interrupted, told the stenographer to stop typing, and took Meyer out into the passageway and told him, "You little shit, you can't say that! His head was above water, and Felderman thought he could hear him gasping for air. We had no power, no lights for a time. xvii, 27, 51; Thompson, pp. All the ship’s major weapons systems can be fired from the center — the missiles, torpedoes, the 5-inch gun. Scot replied, "We don't have a choice. Or they sleep in a special cabin on the bridge. Moosally ordered Turret Two to load and fire a three-gun salvo. Hospital corpsmen tried to start an IV and piled warm blankets over him. It was an extraordinary sight: scores of massive cargo vessels slowly following a disabled American warship.  In August 1988, Iowa set sail on sea trials around the Chesapeake Bay area and then began refresher training in the waters around Florida and Puerto Rico in October. Some sailors were eager to get back to work. They were his sailors and he was not giving up on them. Rehm was the oldest sailor in the berthing and considered one of the best watch standers on the ship. Parker had her doubts. Parker ran inside from the bridge wing, yelling, “They’re coming right at us.”. Berthing 2, just below the waterline and barely bigger than a 1,200-square-foot apartment, was home to 35 sailors. The radar was supposed to automatically follow the hooked tracks on the screen. 70â71. Dewey sailors poured on board the Fitzgerald, bringing food, water and fresh muscle. “We gotta slow down,” Parker told Coppock. That same day, Miceli's supervisor, Vice Admiral Peter Hekman, commander of Sea Systems Command, called Sandia's president, Al Narath, and told him that the Navy would conduct the full-scale drop tests as requested and Sandia was invited to participate. He smashed his head into the opening so hard that he bruised his face, split his skin and began bleeding. The U.S. Senate and U.S. House Armed Services Committees both held hearings to inquire into the Navy's investigation and later released reports disputing the U.S. Navy's conclusions. She set the speed at 20 knots. ", On 10 April the battleship was visited by commander of the US 2nd Fleet, Vice Admiral Jerome L. Johnson, and on 13 April Iowa sailed from Norfolk to participate in a fleet exercise in the Caribbean Sea near Puerto Rico. They passed Benson vertically from man to man down the steep ladders. He was fired as commander of the Fitzgerald, a punishment he did not contest. Friends hurried to check on him. For Benson and his officers, it was another long week attacking the Fitzgerald’s long list of repairs and finding the right sailors to do the ship’s many tasks. The 30,000-ton Crystal was moving at 18 knots. To track a ship, a radar operator must “hook” it — or direct an automated system to lock on the target and display its projected path. The personnel shortages made it difficult to post watches on both the starboard and port sides of the ship, a once-common Navy practice. The committee, including Mavroules, Les Aspin, Larry Hopkins, Norman Sisisky, and Joseph Brennan, interviewed Donnell, Ault, Hazelwood, Milligan, Miceli, Truitt, Nimmich, and Richard Froede, the Armed Services Medical Examiner. It had multiple backups for critical systems — three radar systems, four kinds of compasses, reinforced hulls and stations throughout the ship that could be activated for navigation. xixâxx, 223â24, 284â87; Thompson, pp. June 16 was the first night he had ever served as conn by himself. He had lain in his bunk — Berthing 2, port side, Rack 44 — and watched a movie before falling asleep. “I decided to try and handle it,” she said. Captains often insist on remaining on the bridge when maneuvering through traffic at night. Kelso stated, "The initial investigation was an honest attempt to weigh impartially all the evidence as it existed at the time. , The New York Times in 1993 severely criticized the U.S. Navy for a series of botched investigations, including the Tailhook scandal, the Iowa explosion, security breaches at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, Russia, and a problematic investigation into the murder of a homosexual sailor in Yokosuka, Japan. Garzke, Dorsey, "Ten years after Iowa tragedy, only evidence left is memories", Diehl, p. 172; Bonner, p. 59; Schwoebel, pp. Coppock graduated from the University of Missouri on a Navy scholarship. Most of them were minor: a request for new coolant for a refrigeration unit, another for a certain type of washer. Dora and Noe had been high school sweethearts. The chain of men pulled back, maneuvering Benson out of his bunk and over his desk to the corridor in front of the cabin. The electricity was out. The tallest sailors often try to get the top bunk, where they can stretch out more. Thompson said that he was barely able to close and latch the breechlock before the gun discharged on its own. Meyer complained to Commander Robert John Kissinger, Iowa's chief weapons officer, about the proposed experiments, but Kissinger refused to convey the concerns to Captain Moosally or halt the experiments. Closest to the Fitzgerald was a Chinese cargo vessel, the Wan Hai 266, slightly smaller than the Crystal. He gave us focused, clear guidance.” Naval investigators blamed Shu for creating a “culture of complacency” and “longstanding weaknesses” in training and tackling equipment problems that Benson would have to fix. 36â37, 127â31, 138â43; Thompson, p. 360. And then returned at night to sleep in the same compartment together. An episode of the TV series JAG was based upon the incident. His worry almost instantly proved warranted. He was having difficulty breathing and could only draw in short, shallow breaths. There was blood streaming down his face. The team also found that calcium and chlorine were present in Iowa's other gun turrets and in the gun turrets of the other Iowa-class battleships, and that this was indicative of routine exposure to a maritime environment. They were starting to panic. Up on the bridge, Babbitt was fighting to keep the ship afloat. Alan E. Diehl, a former safety manager for the U.S. Navy, described the USS Iowa incident in his 2003 book Silent Knights: Blowing the Whistle on Military Accidents and Their Cover-Ups. Benson began to shiver uncontrollably. Her husband lay on a metal table in a body bag. Fitzgerald crew members were missing. The Navy explicitly ruled out problems with any of the ship’s radars. Huynh had celebrated his 25th birthday one day before his death. Hundreds of people had gathered. “Maybe I should just wait because this seems very unreal.” He thought about his wife, Liz, and their soon-to-be-born daughter, Alice. Others fought through the flotsam to reach the exit ladder next to Vaughan’s bunk on the port side of the ship. After the crash, the Crystal found itself headed straight for the Maersk Evora. The 7th Fleet encompasses about 20,000 sailors and some 70 ships and submarines. On the Fitzgerald’s bridge, the jangle of the phone next to Benson’s empty captain’s chair pierced the chaos. , On 20 January 1989, off Vieques Island, Iowa's Turret One fired six of the experimental shells using the supercharged powder bags. None of Iowa's rammermen had any training or experience in ramming nonstandard five-bag loads into the guns. At 8 a.m., Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos Victor Sibayan, 23, was retrieved from Berthing 2. Three of them, large vessels off the starboard bow, posed a grave danger to the warship. 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