Text and photos (Though sent in be Kurt Spitzner) were taken from the
October 1965 issue of News Horizon.
U.S.S. Shangri-La’s monthly news magazine published aboard and by the
crew of the U.S.S. Shangri-La (CVA-38).
“COLLISION, collision, starboard side forward ! All h a n d
s, man your battle stations! !
This urgent announcement was passed by the Bos’ns mate of the Watch
aboard USS SHANGRI-LA at 1:15 a.m., August 27, 1965
Less than a minute later streams of men poured out of their berthing
spaces into passageways and ladders throughout the ship as they proceeded
to their GQ stations on the double, hurrying quietly and quickly, just
as they had practiced during the numerous drills of the cruise.
At first all efforts were directed toward locating and controlling whatever
damage had been incurred. As soon as this had been accomplished word
was passed for all hands to muster on station and it was verified that
no one aboard SHANGRI-LA was either missing of injuried.
Addressing all hands over the 1MC system, Captain Elliott informed them
about the circumstances of the accident. He named the destroyer NEWMAN
K. PERRY (DD-883) as the ship involved in the collision and said that the
collision and the bows of both ships were damaged. He added that
neither ship was in danger of sinking and thatgeneral quarters would be
secured as soon as YOKE was set.
Details concerning the nature and cause of the collision are not available
for publication pending final review and approval of findings determined
by the Board of Investigation. However, information about the general circumstances
has been released for publication and is summarized below.
Prior to the collision, SHANGRI-LA had been operating in the Tyrrhenian
Sea about 115 miles southwest of Naples, Italy. She had been steaming in
formation with seven destroyers which were engaged in an electronics exercise
with the carrier.
At one o’clock in the morning the exercise was concludedand five minutes
later the task group commander signalled the ships in company to proceed
and carry out their previously assigned duties.
During the exercise, the destroyershad been required to rotate their
positions in a huge circle around the carrier. The collision happened
at 1:15 a.m., while the ships were still maneuvering out of the circular
Aboard NEWMAN K. PERRY, almost immediately after the collision, it was
discovered that two members of the crew were trapped forward in the ship
by crumpled bulkheads and machinery. Medical assistance was requested
from SHANGRI-LA and a helicopter from the carrier lowered a physician and
corpsman to the fantail of the destroyer at 1:45 a.m.
Every possible effort was concentrated on rescuing the two injuried
sailors and neither SHANGRI-LA nor NEWMAN K. PERRY attempted to leave the
area until this was done.
One man was freed after four and a half hours. To shipmates worked
constantly for 17 hours and had to cut through the destroyer’s steel hull
from outside the ship in order to reach him.
The first man to be rescued underwent surgery for internal injuries
and is recovering. The second man died about an hour and a hlaf after
he was brought aboard SHANGRI-LA despite maximum efforts of the MEdical
Department to save his life.
Arrangements had been made for the damaged ships to go to Naples where
the repair ship SHENANDOAH (AD-26) could work on them. Both got underway,
steaming at reduced speeds, after sunset on the 27th. SHANGRI-LA
arrived at Naples the next morning and NEWMAN K. PERRY came into port that
It was determined that NEWMAN K. PERRY’S bow would have to be replaced.
SHANGRI-LA, previously scheduled for a period of overhaul commencing in
November at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, would only require temporary repairs
in order to return to the United States.
SHENANDOAH, assisted by SHANGRI-LA’S Engineering Department, went to
work at once. The repairs consisting primarily of “patching” holes and
then welding steel plates over the openings. These patches would
enable SHANGRI-LA to steam at normal cruising speed without hazard and
enter the shipyard on schedule for permanent repairs.
Repairs were completed September 9th. SHANGRI-LA held her turnover with
the USS FORESTAL (CVA-59) the same day and left the bay of Naples the next
morning on a course through the Straits of Gibraltar and across the Atlantic
toward her home port.
Personal side notes not mentioned in the magazine ‘Collision’
In the picture of the hole in the side of the Shang, you will
note three men standing on the flight deck, forward. The man to the
furthest right–forward–with his hands in his pockets, is me. I
remember watching the photographer in the liberty launch as they moved
slowly around snapping shots of the damage. Never thought he would
wind up taking my picture.
We were on the flight deck waiting the return of our helo which, at
that moment, was standing by near the PERRY waiting to airlift the
second injured man aboard to our sick bay.
* * * *
While we were tied up to the pier in Naples for repairs, one hell of
gale blew up. Naturally the wind had to be blowing directly in from
the sea. Seems to me this storm came up rather unexpectedly as the
crew aboard was soon entertained with the sound of the Bos’en mate
the watch piping All Hands and then asking for volunteers to help
double up the lines.
Before it was all over we had the privilege of hearing that
unforgettable sound of a 4 inch hawser breaking under strain. Makes
neat snap clearly heard over the howl of the winds and an even more
memorial sound when it recoils and slams against the side of the hull.
Anyway, we were actually in a fairly tight spot then. Someone, OOD,
Captain, someone, made a phone call and we were to expect several tug
boats to assist in keeping us on the pier. Four of them I distinctly
seeing but my memory wants me to think there were more of them. But
memories without pictures or notes tend to stray from fact so I’ll
with the four I did see and not the more which I only think I saw.
Whatever, they did arrive and they did push with all their might for
what now seems like many long hours. And, the winds, well, they
subsided after awhile. Just how long the storm lasted I don’t recall
but it was well into the wee hours of the next day.
OK Tom, hope you find something interesting enough here to use on your
web site. Might jog someone’s memories.
– Kurt Spitzner –
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