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Rated: E · Appendix · Military · #2159366
Mishaps in the Pacific
Mishaps in the Pacific

Created On: 05/28/2018
Edited By Jonblair On: 05/28/2018

I can tell you from personal experience that absent collisions at sea or engagement with enemy combatants, life aboard Navy warships involve inherent risks. Carrier duty can be particularly hazardous, and I will explain as I continue with my story.

I served aboard several ships during my 21 year career, including a Carrier, where alertness was critical if you wanted to avoid injury (or death). We were conducting routine operations in the South China Sea one weather pleasant day, and I was supervising a crew of four as we manually loaded Sparrow Missiles (approximately 400 lbs.) using hoisting bars into one of two honeycombed launchers. We rotated the port and starboard launchers180 degrees to face the flight deck as we walked the missile backward after lifting it from a missile skid, two of us on a forward hoisting bar (one on each side) and the other two on the rear hoisting bar. The rail on which the missile was to be attached was extended slightly outside the cell we were loading so that the missile could be guided in tongue and groove fashion onto that particular rail. We then secured the mechanical and electrical connections, followed by retracting the rail with the attached and connected missile back into its cell. I would subsequently arm the rocket motor and warhead of each missile through an access port in the launcher. We would repeat this scenario until all eight cells on both launchers were fully loaded.

On this particular day we were engaged in our usual fashion, walking the missile backward toward the launcher to load, when, without warning, one of the hoisting bar arms held by one of the forward crew snapped/broke completely in half, resulting in the missile dropping nose first to the flight deck with a sickening, surreal, our lives are over, 'THUD.' We all looked at each other β€” β€œare we still alive? You mean this thing did not explode and kill the four of us and everybody else within the missile's kill radius?" Fortunately, the warhead is not located in the nose, but in the missile's mid-section, so it did not bear the brunt of the impact from the drop. After a moment of incredulous thought (and only a moment) we removed the other hoisting bar. The four of us picked-up the missile and raised it above our heads. We hurried toward the side of the flight deck and threw it overboard. You cannot load and/or fire a missile that has been dropped; it might explode on the rail at launch, the rocket motor might not ignite, or it's guidance mechanism damaged rendering it useless to pursue a target, nor can you return it below decks to the bomb/missile magazine. Returned ordnance that is damaged or unstable could explode, igniting the other stowed ordnance and quite literally sink the carrier.

This was just one of many dangerous scenarios over the course of a day at sea, including but not limited to fires (about every other day) flight deck operation mishaps, falling off an aircraft elevator or down an ammunition lift, blown overboard, or just falling head first down a ladder etc... After twenty-one years of service, I retired. These days the only ships I sail aboard are the ones with comfortable cabins and beds, restaurants, night clubs, Las Vegas style entertainment and casinos, etc... I'll take my chances onboard one of those, thank you very much!

Click on the link below for a brief view of flight deck dangers -


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