Essential Thoughts for Mission Essential Professionals

A Steel Ship and Iron Men – Catastrophic Failure and Courage on USS IWO JIMA (LPH 2)


The application of sound engineering practices and common sense should have prevented this accident.”

“There were many acts of bravery and good judgment under extremely stressful and dangerous conditions. Concern for shipmates was a common thread present throughout the tragedy.”

– Record of Proceedings of the Inquiry into USS IWO JIMA (LPH 2) Engineering Casualty.]


The engineering space is a dangerous workplace (U.S. Navy file photo showing the lighting of fires on the USS John F. Kennedy)

In August 1990 an international coalition led by the United States began preparations for war. Called Operation Desert Shield, it involved the coordination and prepositioning of military forces that would be deployed in Desert Storm. One warship included in the buildup was USS IWO JIMA (LPH 2). She was a 30-year old amphibious assault ship with a crew of over 700 and capable of transporting a Marine aviation squadron and landing team of over 1,500. She was dependable and deployable. Just weeks after the start of Desert Shield, she participated in maneuvers meant to confuse the Iraqi army. In late October, the ship transmitted a maintenance request to the Navy’s repair unit in the region, Ship Repair Unit Detachment Bahrain (SRU), for repairs to components in her propulsion plant which required repairs before returning to the operational theater. An item added later, which did not have to be repaired before returning to sea, was main steam valve 2MS-7, which provided steam generated from #2 boiler to a turbo service generator. IWO JIMA requested it be added to “to maximize valve maintenance” and “correct a myriad of small packing and flexitallic gasket leaks”. SRU requested additional information about 2MS-7 and ship’s force personnel responded with information, a part of which indicated it was a six-inch globe valve. In reality it was a four-inch gate valve.

Because failures in main steam systems pose great danger to the crew and its proper operation is vital to a ship’s mission, the Navy categorized them as having the highest “level of essentiality”, referring to the degree of regulation and control required to assure reliable repair and maintenance.  Because maximum confidence was required, the strictest oversight – “Level I control” – applied to maintenance and repairs conducted on 2MS-7 valve and adherence to numerous operating, maintenance, material, inspection and quality assurance (QA) procedures were mandatory.

SRU personnel were not aware 2MS-7 was in a Level I system subject to Level I controls. They thought they were managing repairs on a less critical Level III system, but even so, the surveyor chosen to define and have oversight of the work informed the resident marine surveyor that he had never developed repair specifications for valve repairs. Nonetheless, he was directed to create them, for despite the recent augmentation to the unit increasing its staff from nine to seventy-six people, he was the only surveyor available. SRU’s workload had increased from seven ships to thirty-one. The SRU acting officer-in-charge later testified he was under pressure from Naval Logistics Support Force to complete IWO JIMA repairs quickly to free up the power barge supplying electricity to the vessel for use by USS LA SALLE and the resident marine surveyor, who supervised all surveyors, was under the impression repairs needed to be completed quickly for operational reasons. Neither impression was accurate.

On Thursday, the 25th of October she arrived in the Port of Manama in Bahrain, an island less than 400 square miles in size 20-miles off the coast of Saudi Arabia. A conference was held on the ship that included the SRU acting officer-in-charge and resident marine surveyor, representatives from fleet- or Navy-wide units and the IWO JIMA Chief Engineer. During the conference the ship’s Chief Engineer, who knew 2MS-7 was a Level III valve by design but Level I by application, stated the ship had no replacement parts for 2MS-7. Neither he nor any other conference participant asked about or mentioned Level I requirements on any of the scheduled work. The Chief Engineer was under the impression the surveyor was familiar with Level I procedures, that his written work specification called for Level I controls, and the contractor knew how to do Level I work. His thinking was contrary to a Naval Surface Forces Atlantic instruction which stated “The engineer of a ship shall ensure that controlled material requirements are included in work requests where a determination has been made regarding the requirements of Level I controlled material.” On Level I taskings that required material, a ship would normally provide what was needed because detachment level SRUs would not maintain an inventory of Level I material.

This error of initially communicating that 2MS-7 was a globe valve was discovered. The surveyor knew his specifications should be corrected but he did not do so due to perceived time constraints and how the work on 2MS-7 had been characterized as a Level III item (due to ship’s force never identifying it as Level I). He wasn’t knowledgeable enough to have caught the error on his own, but a surveyor’s work package was supposed to be reviewed by the resident marine surveyor, whose position required knowledge of Level I ship repairs.

Following the conference, inspection of the listed items was made. Because the plant had been on line recently and was still hot, 2MS-7 remained covered in insulation preventing examination. The work specification was expedited so the contract could be awarded to a civilian contractor before noon. That was when the Bahrainian weekend began and only a few hours after the end of the conference. Even so, work would not begin until the start of the new work week. The next day, the oversight of the repairs were reassigned and the surveyor turned his documentation and work specifications over to another surveyor, who was familiar with Level I requirements on diesel and oxygen generation systems, but not on steam systems. As he transferred the work to the second surveyor he said the ship was gathering technical documentation for SRU and what parts the ship was providing. Both surveyors later testified neither of them received the requested information.

Due to miscommunication, misunderstandings and mistaken assumptions, a correct understanding of quality assurance requirements, and who was responsible for ensuring the required QA was indeed performed, was thwarted. Where procedures, policy and practical common sense should have made for a clear development and execution of QA requirements, a rough patchwork of vastly different interpretations emerged:

  • Ship’s force personnel thought responsibility for all work specification check points were shared by SRU and the civilian contractor. This is the case when work is performed at larger U.S. based repair units, but not in foreign ports.
  • The SRU officer in charge and one surveyor thought IWO JIMA personnel was responsible for QA for the contractor’s work, and indeed, the Chief Engineer and Commanding Officer ultimately were. Had they reviewed the specification they should have discovered QA requirements that would have ensured progress inspections and check points were absent.
  • Another surveyor thought the contractor had responsibility to provide a QA inspector to be on board during the repair work.
  • Other SRU personnel thought that surveyors were responsible only for completion of a job in accordance with the specifications, but this was not the same as the QA that was required.
  • The contractor’s perspective was the surveyor is primarily responsible for confirming the work was adequately completed.
  • The Sixth Fleet’s maintenance officer said QA in repair work is a shared responsibility between the ship’s force and the surveyor.

It was the responsibility of the Chief Engineer to establish a team of qualified personnel to monitor progress and inspect the work being performed by commercial contractors, witness quality control tests, and assure correct completion of the work. He had a standing requirement that his personnel monitored all work in the plant, no matter what entity was doing the work, and such an organization existed when he reported aboard nineteen-months earlier but it waned. In July 1989, IWO JIMA promulgated a ship’s quality assurance instruction but in October 1990, the engineering department was not utilizing it.

On Sunday, October 28th, a civilian employee of the shipyard contractor boarded the ship and began disassembling of 2MS-7.  He was not expected to read the repair specification but to take “general repair guidance” from his foreman, who did have a copy of the specification, which SRU routinely issued in a simple form because of language barriers, and because the contractor wouldn’t have the reference documentation cite therein. After he resurfaced the portions of the gate and valve body that controlled steam flow, IWO JIMA’s Chief Engineer and a Chief Boiler Technician inspected the work and the Chief Engineer directed the surveyor to reassemble 2MS-7. The contractor foreman was required to inspect the work but did not do so; he was confident in the pipefitter’s ability to work on Level I systems even though neither one spoke the other’s language. An amendment to the “Master Agreement for Repair and Alteration of Vessels” between the Navy and the contractor stipulated at least one English speaking employee be on board when work was being done. Although the Master Agreement had been in force for six years, SRU did not have a copy.

Graphic of Parties

Personnel from several different organizations missed opportunities to oversee the work properly

Not aware of the stringent material control on the work he was performing, the pipefitter approached a crewmember for new parts. The ship’s force had not been instructed to not provide any parts for the work, so, despite the language barrier, he was shown the parts bin from which he selected four bolts, eight studs and 20 3/4 -inch nuts. He possessed ten years of experience but hadn’t noticed that some of the nuts he chose were brass. Because those fasteners were covered with a manufacturer-applied black coating, at a glance, they could be mistaken for the correct grade 4 steel nuts. The pipefitter knew silver nuts in the bin were steel, but was unsure of the dark colored ones. Closer examination by way of a scratch or magnetic test, would have revealed their metal content. Brass nuts were not appropriate for use on any system exceeding 400° F. IWO JIMA’s propulsion plant operated in excess of 800° F. Past the maximum rating of 400 ° F, the tensile strength of this copper and zinc alloy was lost and when IWO JIMA left port two days later, the nuts would be subjected to a system temperature 116% above their limit. Without “general repair guidance” from his foreman, he reassembled the valve, mixing eight studs with four bolts. The valve should have been reassembled using only B-16 steel studs; doing otherwise was a violation of good engineering practice. He also unwittingly started a battle with physics that could not be won when he placed at least one brass nut on each stud or bolt.

The non-English speaking pipefitter indicated to ship personnel he had finished the work and disembarked IWO JIMA. The next day the valve was reinsulated with lagging, covering it up again. The foreman had never looked at 2MS-7 and now no one would be able to. When the plant was lighted off, every sailor in the fireroom then would be at extreme risk, and the likelihood the ship’s mission commitments could be missed was significant. Navy propulsion plants were dangerous places. From the late 1800’s to mid-20th century, no less than 52 Medals of Honor were issued for heroism in engineering spaces.

On October 30th in preparation to get underway and proceed to her operating area, fires were lighted in the boilers at 0218 (#1) and 0556 (#2). At 0353, one side of 2MS-7 was initially pressurized with steam generated from #1 boiler. Between 0630 and 0720, valve 2MS-7 was opened to supply steam to the generator that supplied electrical power to the vessel. The passage of superheated steam – a powerful and invisible gas with immense energy and now at a searing 865° F – pressurized the bonnet and heated the bolts, studs, steel and brass nuts. The brass nuts were coming under a strain for which they were never designed – and were incapable of holding – and they rapidly softened. At 7:50 am, a Boiler Technician Third Class saw the lagging insulation covering 2MS-7 smoldering and discussed this with two other petty officers. Four minutes later the wheelhouse received the report from main control the plant was ready to “answer all bells”.  At 7:56 am, IWO JIMA was underway, headed for her part in the largest military buildup since World War II. She would quickly reach a catastrophic destination made inevitable due to improper repair specifications, inadequate work procedures, use of non-certified material and no quality assurance merging with the lack of proper supervision, missing inspections and check points.

At 0811, main control requested permission to shut down #2 boiler because of a steam leak reported by the Boiler Technician of the Watch. The officer of the deck approved the request. One minute later “a major steam leak” was reported to the bridge along with the request to sound general quarters. Seconds before the valve’s failure, one sailor, who had just entered the fireroom, saw four men on the upper level looking at the failing valve beneath them. Immediately he was waved off by the main propulsion assistant. As he turned around and began exiting the space he heard the loud bang of the valve bonnet explosively detaching. Instantly, the entire space within the fireroom was overcome by 640 p.s.i. superheated steam. He was already on the ladder leading up but because of being suddenly enveloped in extreme heat, he questioned himself “Will I be able to make it out?” Because he had literally just set one foot in the fireroom when the lieutenant motioned for him to leave, he escaped with no injuries and survived. Just a few feet more and he would have received irremediable injuries along with ten watch standers in the space.

Moving between eight- and nine-knots, the ship’s steering was lost for about a minute and when the vessel had slowed to a safe speed of five-knots the OOD ordered both anchors dropped to slow, and then halt, the ship. Bold professionalism, augmented by training in major steam leak casualty control procedures in June and August, was evident in many locations. In main control, quick actions were taken to mitigate further impact. Like the watch standers on duty in the fireroom, other individuals moved with rapid purpose, making lightning-fast assessments in main control, on the mess decks and the bridge saving the ship from more damage.

The four men who were looking at 2MS-7 initially did not attempt to escape, rather, they ran away from the exit toward the lower level to undertake casualty control measures, a disciplined, professional and sacrificing move because the decision would unquestionably doom them. All ten of the sailors standing watch that morning knew the procedures for a major steam leak stated personnel should attempt, as time permits, to locate and isolate rupture and secure equipment including securing boiler. Without hesitation, three of the men standing above 2MS-7 rushed farther into apocalyptic space but quickly realized there was nothing they could accomplish. Gravely injured in the few seconds that had passed since the release, they made their way to the fireroom exit and ascended the ladder to the mess deck where they were treated by other crew members until the medical staff arrived. The other sailor who had been above the valve climbed through the escape hatch and walked to sick bay. Despite their own fatal injuries, the four men who escaped pleaded to those who were caring for the injuries that those who hadn’t escaped had to be helped. In time, they were transferred to the USNS Comfort to receive appropriate medical care for their devastating thermal injuries. All of them, these sailors who had responded courageously to be immediately vanquished by the horror that enveloped them, died later that day on the hospital ship. In the moments following the accident, one thought was on the minds of the rest of crew: Six shipmates were still in the space.

The remaining sailors in the fireless inferno went about implementing procedures for controlling a major steam leak. The fuel oil pump for #2 boiler was manually tripped to shut down the fires and attempts were made to trip the quick closing valves on the fuel oil supply to #1 boiler. If the fires in either boiler were not extinguished significant damage to the ship probably would have occurred. The sailor performing this casualty control procedure also tried to time it so steering wouldn’t be lost for a longer period that would pose an even greater hazard to the ship leaving port and to prevent causing a major brownout of the electrical system. Another, forgoing a good chance to escape, stayed to switch control of the turbo generator to main control. On the mess decks another sailor who had not been in the fireroom at all, shut the main and auxiliary main steam stop valves on both boilers by using remote operators. The main steam stop valve for #2 boiler, 2MS-1, did not shut because the air supply line to the valve motor had been severed by the explosion. The hellish leak from 2MS-7 could not be isolated. Upon recommendation of the Machinist’s Mate of the Watch, the Chief Engineer ordered throttles to full open to pull as much steam from the system as possible and ordered positive air flow into the fireroom to clear the steam and cool the space. The other turbo generator was left on line to continue its use of the steam supply. A Boiler Technician First Class attempted to enter the fireroom to trip the fuel oil pumps but the forceful heat was impenetrable.

Twenty-three minutes after the explosion, and now on their second attempt, two petty officers entered the menacing fireroom to search for their shipmates. They too had been turned back earlier, but as scared as they both were, what kept them going forward was their shared thought, a hope really, that someone had made it through. While approving their aggressive and courageous request, the Chief Engineer instructed them to assist anyone in the fireroom as needed. Otherwise, they were told to identify the sailors still in the space.


The author with Matt Edwards (on right), one of the first two sailors to enter the space

Once a space filled with engineering wonders – where man created and harnessed 16 megawatts of energy that moved the 18,400 ton vessel around the world – was now a furnace of devastation. Still exceptionally hazardous because of the incredible heat, the fireroom presented a stunning landscape: Everything was white. The explosion obliterated insulation covering pipes, valves and fittings and dusted everything within the space with fine particles. Working quickly for the sake of the six as well as themselves, the two sailors found the lifeless bodies their shipmates. Where they found them told the story: The delay of all ten, and the inability of the six who never escaped, was due to their attempts to shut down the steam plant and save their ship.

A harbor tug maneuvers the amphibious assault ship USS IWO JIMA (LPH-2) into port following a boiler room accident aboard the vessel which killed ten crew members. The Iwo Jima is in the region in support of Operation Desert Shield.

A harbor tug maneuvers the amphibious assault ship USS IWO JIMA (LPH-2) into port following a boiler room accident aboard the vessel which killed ten crew members.  U.S. Navy photograph.

Reminiscent of five Marines and one sailor raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi – the highest point on Iwo Jima – ten sailors in one of the lowest locations on USS IWO JIMA, with many shipmates in other locations of the warship, acted in the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service the day 2MS-7 surrendered and hell came calling.

In Memory Of:

The Fallen for Chief Engineer Magazine

“Fair winds and following seas”.

The explosion on IWO JIMA rumbled through the entire non-nuclear surface fleet. The Judge Advocate General (JAG) and Naval Investigative Service (NIS) investigations determined that missteps in the required quality assurance procedures were not isolated to SRU or USS IWO JIMA. The Court’s proceedings found “the failure of USS IWO JIMA to maintain a viable QA program is a tragic example of a greater QA deficiency in the non-nuclear” Navy. Concurrent with the investigations a significant fleet-wide review was undertaken and it was discovered a vast number of ships were not consistently embracing required quality assurance processes. Even IWO JIMA’s Chief Engineer, who had initiated or resumed certain QA measures since reporting aboard, wasn’t following his department’s engineering organization and regulations manual. In response to the major engineering casualty, quality assurance manuals were simplified and QA responsibilities of ship personnel clarified throughout the fleet. Pocket-size guides to QA was provided for every sailor in the fleet and proper training and program reviews were instituted along with increased attention to QA by the leadership of the Navy’s surface fleets.

The direct cause of the accident was the improper use of black coated brass nuts. The potential for an engineering casualty anywhere in the fleet was identified by the Navy in 1975, but because an all-out purge never took place, they remained an inventory item in 1990. The Court called for the removal of all such fasteners, fully and finally rectifying the problem that was first acknowledged fifteen-years earlier.

After the accident IWO JIMA spent six weeks in port for repairs before getting underway and serving in Operation Desert Storm. In 1992 she participated in the humanitarian mission Operation Provide Promise as a search and rescue resource in the Adriatic Sea for aircraft delivering aid supplies to Sarajevo. In 1993, weeks short of thirty two years of active service, the USS IWO JIMA (LPH 2) – the first vessel built from the keel up to deliver both air and ground forces – was decommissioned and cut up for scrap three years later.

What’s your plant’s SITREP (situation report for civilians)?

  • Is your operation founded on properly trained and qualified personnel?
  • Is it established on proven and proper procedures?
  • Is it free of assumptions and shortcuts?
  • Are honest and professional questions and suggestions genuinely encouraged?
  • Are there any real or perceived limitations on anyone stopping or reporting an unsafe situation?
A former Sailor's outreach to Shipmates he never knew.

A former sailor’s outreach to Shipmates he never knew.

Timothy C. Cummings, a former Navy 1,200 p.s.i. boiler technician, is a Certified Professional Maintenance Manager and antiterrorism specialist. His original case study of the USS IWO JIMA accident was selected to be the keynote speech at a national human performance/root cause conference in 2013.

Chief Engineer Magazine May 2014 Cover

Postscript: In May 2014, this piece was published as the cover story of a plant engineering trade magazine. Ironically, the publisher misspelled “catastrophe”. After being annoyed at their amateurish oversight, I came to view it as an ironic way to underscore what went wrong on 30 OCT 90: People not paying attention. – TCC


77 comments on “A Steel Ship and Iron Men – Catastrophic Failure and Courage on USS IWO JIMA (LPH 2)

    December 8, 2012


  2. BTCM
    December 11, 2012

    Very well said, “Once a space filled with engineering wonders – where man-created and-harnessed thermal energy and powered a ship – was now a furnace of devastation.” I came in the Navy in 1987 as a BT and I’m currently still an active duty Navy Pit snipe steaming, maintaining and repairing main propulsion boilers. Every time I walk into a plant I look up at the “main steam lines” and remind myself that we have to be ready from all aspects.

  3. Andrew Lang
    April 8, 2013

    I served aboard three steam ship during my 12 year career with the US Navy. I always recognized the serious nature of the job, and took my responsibilities as such. I still run a steam plant 18 years after leaving the service. The responsibility is still the same. But it is very difficult to get younger employees to respect the nature of this job. Everyday you work around a power boiler your life is in the hands of anyone and everyone who ever work on, or maintained it. It grows more difficult as the availability of Naval trained steam propulsion engineers has been reduced to almost nothing. This type of accident is completely avoidable as your article states. Tragic loss of life due to complacent behavior.

  4. Terry Rasmussen
    May 27, 2013

    I only became aware of this tradegy recently. I served with LT Snyder on his first sea tour onboard the USS Briscoe. I will never forget his smile…it was contagious. I read in the JAG report that John waved off his shipmate to protect him and when he finally was out of the fireroom he was most concerned with the well being of his shipmates. I would have expected nothing else. That is who John was. Fare winds and following seas my friend!

  5. Michael Jensen
    December 18, 2013

    I just want to say thank you for such a detailed account of what happened on the Iwo. I served aboard her 88/92. BT3 David A. Gilliland and I were close shipmates. He was an awesome friend and exceptional SAILOR. That horrific day he and I and a few others were playing spades on the aft mess deck. It was about five in the morning. I was in charge of the team who was responsible for pulling in line #7. Dave was not on watch that day, but another shipmate of his was and asked Dave if he would releave him for a much needed break, he agreed, and it was about 6:30 am. He headed down to the boiler room, doors to boiler room were located within the aft mess deck. As he opened and entered, I then headed to line 7. I wouldn’t of believed that that would be the last time I would have ever of had the pleasure of knowing such a fine, dedicated man.

    • timothycummings
      December 18, 2013


      Thank you for your comments, and especially the memories of your shipmates.

      I have heard from several men who were onboard that day. Their comments, and yours, gives deeper meaning to what happened. When I update the case study or present it to an audience, the valued feedback I have received is essential to the retelling of the mistakes, and so importantly, the courage of several sailors on the morning of 10 OCT 90.

      Thank you for your service.


  6. Ed Walters
    February 14, 2014

    Thank you for putting together this detailed account of the accident. I was a new AD3 assigned to the AIMD department as ships company from 1989-1993. I was part of the lagging tiger team that was assisting the engineers remove the coverings from the pipes in preparation for the boiler work. The days prior to the incident I was working on number 2 boiler and had reported for duty that morning to the boiler room. BT1 Volden told me to go to department since they were not working on the boilers at the moment. After being dismissed I went to my work center where I was then directed to my line handler position. Being the typical Airedale, I detoured to the mess decks to get chow before they closed. I was pouring a glass of milk from the dispenser, which was right in front of the boiler room trunk, when I felt the first rumbling of the ship.
    At first I thought the shipyard tugs had hit us. When the second and more violent rumbling happened, the door to the boiler room opened and someone fell out of the door way. All the Marines on the forward mess deck had now stood up from their tables and were crowded at the forward bulkhead of the mess decks. During this time MS1 came out of the Mess Office and told us to evacuate the area as steam started spilling from the forward trunk. Sensing the panic and knowing something bad must be happening, I quickly ran to my work center and retrieved my GQ gear.
    As I was blousing my pant legs and donning my pisspot my supervisor asked what I was doing. I told him something bad had happened in the boiler room, which was punctuated by the GQ alarm sounding. My repair locker was 1-H and my casualty control station was the forward mess decks serving line starboard side. When my team and I reached our station we flaked out the hose and stood by for instructions. We were then recalled back to 1-H for reassignment. My new assignment was to report to the aft mess decks, but my path was to go through the hangar and down the starboard aft ladder trunk since the forward mess decks were considered too dangerous.
    On my way down the starboard aft ladder trunk is when I saw the first casualty of the incident. I could not make out who he was because he was wrapped in a blanket on the stretcher and all that was showing was his face. He was alive and trying to talk but he was gasping and staring blankly at me. His skin, lips and eyes had been bleached white, and skin was peeling from his face. I am still haunted by that moment and the futile words I said to him; you’re gonna make it, you’ll be alright. I don’t know if I had just watched too many war movies growing up or I was truly optimistic about his prognosis, but those were the only words that I could think too say to him at that time. I helped carry him to the casualty elevator where we turned him over to the medical personnel. After turning him over I reported to my next assignment on the aft mess decks.
    AVCM Romero was coordinating efforts at the aft mess decks station and he told us to sit tight. I told him we needed to get the rest of the guys out, to which he said “There is no one left to get. It is too hot to enter right now. Once it has been ventilated we will retrieve our shipmates.” The weight of the situation settled on all of use when he said that. I am not sure if the CHENG had heard AVCM Romero or if he had just truly felt the loss but he came around the corner yelling “Those are my boys. That mother fucker killed my boys. All for a fucking star.” He was distraught and was led away from the area by some kakis.
    Prior to our deployment to the Gulf our ship was scheduled for dry docks to get work done. During our transit to Moorehead city the CHENG made it a point to stop by each repair locker and tell everyone to take the training seriously. He stated we were overdue for some critical maintenance and he anticipated a serious malfunction within two months. He said we needed work done but the current crisis trumped our need for maintenance. I don’t know why his words stuck with me like they did but they proved prophetic since the #2 boiler accident happened two months later.
    After the CHENG was led away the rest of us just sat there in silence for what seemed an eternity. I am not sure how long we sat there before were finally given orders to retrieve our shipmates. We stood up and shuffled our way to the forward mess deck and down the trunk to the boiler room. As I entered the doorway my senses were assaulted with sights, sounds, and smells which still linger in my mind all these years.
    The boiler room was hauntingly serene. Absent were the sounds of machinery and whirring of the boilers. No one was yelling and there was no laughter or friendly banter. All was quite except for the faint sound of ventilation fans. Nothing like I had heard just moments before. No one was busily checking gauges or moving about. The only movement was from a sailor directing us to the places our shipmates lay. It looked like it had snowed and covered the entire room with a fine white powder. The smell was acrid and wet. It smelled like the dank basement of an old house that used an oil heater. That wet, musty, sharp smell of insulation that was wetted then heated. As I descended the steps I saw one of the advance team members in his thermal suit. It was a surreal scene; I was being motioned into wintered land by a man in a thermal suit. He motioned me and another to a spot where lay a fallen shipmate.
    I walked past the main fuel line which feed the boilers and saw a single boot sitting there. The advanced team member said that BT1 saved the ship by cutting off the fuel. I nodded in understanding that there was heroism in a time of chaos. As I went further I found duty. A shipmate had fallen through a section of floor grate and it was he who I needed to bring away from this winter hell. He looked peaceful, as if he had purposely pulled the grate up and sat in it. My counterpart and I loaded him onto a stretcher and forced his limbs into place with straps. A rope was lowered through the starboard aft escape scuttle for us to attach to the stretcher. We tied the rope to the stretcher and guided him up through the hatch and away from the frosted grave.
    After that the next thing I remember was walking back into my shop. The Marines in me shop just looked at me as I lit a cigarette with the other one I just lit. I slunk down on the cabinets in my shop and tried to process what had just happened. One of the Marines asked what had happened and all I could do was look at the skin on my coveralls and say “they’re all dead.” The days that followed are blurry, except for sleeping on the cat walks to escape the oppressive heat from being in a ship without power throughout, and working with the Acadia’s crew in the repair and cleanup efforts. I always remember the Ten as they live on with me in my thoughts and dreams.
    If anyone else from the Iwo that day reads this and knows the name of the MS1 the sailor who came out of the boiler room trunk, and the sailor brought up the starboard aft trunk please contact me with their names. I need to put names to the faces and hopefully put them to rest in my thoughts.

    • timothycummings
      February 16, 2014


      Thank you for sharing your memories. Even though I was out of the Navy by October 1990, I recall the day 2MS-7 let loose. The thoughts you carry are not carried alone.

      From my research, and much more importantly, thanks to emails from other crew members, I do know the names of the two fallen shipmates you have been looking for. My files on the Iwo Jima accident are in Texas and when I return from working in Louisiana, I will send their names to you.

      Bravo Zulu to you, your shipmates and Marines who responded on that dark day to lend those ten sailors a hand.

    • Doug Allen
      May 5, 2014

      AD3 Walters,

      Thanks for your service and memories.

      LT Allen
      Repair 1H Locker Leader

    • Greg Knox
      May 6, 2015

      Hey Walters.. KNOX here….. I can remember this as if it were yesterday…
      I should have been in that room that morning.

      I had just changed rates to AD from MM…

      I am still trying to figure out what God wants me to do…

      • Ed
        August 12, 2015

        So am I brother, so am I.

      • Troy Amaker Corpsman
        April 24, 2017

        The same here. It is like it was yesterday–think about it daily.

    • Ron Collee
      March 3, 2016

      Ed I remember you telling me this story sometime after I checked onboard in Oct of 92. I remember the feeling and intensity of how you told it then, and now.

      Good luck to you brother.

      AD2 Ron Collee

  7. Daniel Mercer
    May 25, 2014

    I remember this day very well. I was in the Marines with HMH-461. I worked in S-1 office we were the CO of Troops Units on board. Very Sad day.

    Corporal Daniel Mercer
    USMC 1988-1992

  8. William lemons
    May 25, 2014

    I to was onboard the Iwo at the time of this incident. I appreciate your dialogue as to what happened, however I find a fault in your reporting. Who was it that supposedly survived because he had only just set foot into the boiler room? I was on the forward mess deck when the situation occurred and only one person emerged from the boiler room. He was dead by the time he reached medical…he was unable to talk and his fireproof uniform had basically melted to his body. He had been the ONLY person to come out! Everyone died.

    • timothycummings
      May 26, 2014


      Thank you for your service.

      Five people escaped but only one lived: The Water King was waved off by the MPA as he stepped into the fireroom, as placed one foot inside the main space.

      LT Snyder, EM2 Lupatsky and BTFA Brooks ascended the ladder to the mess decks.

      BT2 Parker went up the escape trunk to the forward mess decks and walked to medical.

    • Dan Wilson
      July 15, 2014

      I was a corpsman attached to MWSS-274, embarked onboard IWO JIMA that day. While attending to casualties in medical, a young sailor presented there. I talked with him out in the passageway. He stated that he had entered the boiler room, and was told to leave. He was understandably upset, his face was dirty. He did not appear to be injured, other than a few minor facial insults . We were very busy, and did not examine him. He told me that he worked in that space, but was told to stay out that morning due to the possibility of a mishap. He later decided to join his shipmates, and that was why he had been there. My impression was that he experienced some exposure to the explosion. Thanks for writing this article. Those ten sailors deserve this story to be told.

      Dan ” Doc ” Wilson, HM2/USN

      • timothycummings
        July 15, 2014

        Thanks for your service, Doc. I appreciate your comments. Their stories do need to be told.

      • Horace Payne
        May 29, 2016

        Doc, good to hear from someone from 274. I was in 274 but on the Guam when this happened. Even though I wasn’t there, I heard stories from my buddies. One of them helped with the cleanup. I still think of this tragedy to this day.

    • MS2 (SW) Kevin Smith
      November 11, 2014

      I was on the forward mess deck when I heard the boom and the ship shook. I thought that we were under attack. That was the most fear that I EVER felt in my life. I ran back towards the steam room exit door. Before I got there somebody burst out of the door. I knew him but right now I can’t remember his name. (I knew all those guys because we stayed in the same berthing and I visited the space regularly to work on my ESWS qualification). He was running in front of me while I was going to my GQ station. I will never forget hearing him scream ,”My chest is on fire! My chest is on fire!”

      • MS2 (SW) Parker
        October 16, 2016

        Smitty, My brother this is Tripple ” P” I’ve been looking for you for years. Like you, I will never forget our brothers we lost that day. Images of pulling the bodies out of the space hunts my dreams. Visions of their bodies covered with grey matter and ash. I will never forget ! They are true heroes!!

      • kevin d'v smith
        May 5, 2017

        My Brother! Where are you?

    • Greg Knox
      March 19, 2016

      MM3 Smith came out, but did not last long.. Electrician Lapatsky who was on SSTG1 got out and was taken to the U.S.S. comfort where he died shortly thereafter.

    • Troy Amaker Corpsman
      April 24, 2017

      Hello William,
      I was the (only) corpsman that incountered our shipmate when he made it to medica/sick bay. He ran towards me yelling for help. Not knowing what had occured, I ran to get my gas mask. After finding out it was an explosion, we stabilized our shipmates and transported them to the Comfort/hospital ship. No one surived the explosion.

  9. Brian Hedrick
    October 13, 2014

    Thank you for your detailed account. I was a Marine on board that fateful day. The door to the boiler room had a picture of Freddy Kruegar painted on it. The images like hell in my mind since. I CANNOT WATCH THOSE MOvies anymore. HORRIBLE DAY. Horrible explosion. I STILL HAVE A HARD TIME BUYING THE FORIEGNERS excuse that the nuts were painted on. LIVES LOST. NEVER FORGET.

  10. Rob Anthony
    October 30, 2014

    Today is the anniversary of that fateful day. I was in that engine room getting some ESWS signatures for lightoff when the ship’s Bos’n paged me to the focsle. I dropped the anchors to slow and stop the ship and it was pucker factor 10. It wasn’t until after that i realized how close I had come to death, as well as the 30 man Tiger-team for lagging and cleanup.
    Deck and engineering didn’t mix much but I played Spades and Tonk with these guys…Miss you much, Heroes.

    BM1(SW) Rob Anthony 89-91

    • MS2 (SW) Kevin Smith
      November 11, 2014

      Hello Anthony

      I was stationed on the Mighty Iwo from 89-92. I will NEVER forget that day. I was also working on ESWS at time. I was in the space the day before getting training with Parker. I just happened to not go in the space that morning!

  11. jerry messier
    October 30, 2014

    Great job Tim, I was a BTC and steamed both 1200 and 600psi plants. I always had the utmost respect for my fellow snipes. Guys that paid the ultimate price trying to save a ship and shipmates without any hesitation in the face of danger. I retired in 1989 before this happened. Great job.

  12. Meritt Hutton
    October 31, 2014

    The Final Inspection:
    The sailor stood and faced his God which must always come to pass. He hoped his shoes were shining just as brightly as his brass.
    “Step forward now, you sailor, how shall I deal with you?” “Have you always turned the other cheek? To My Church have you been true?”
    The sailor squared his shoulders and said, “No, Lord, I guess I ain’t, ‘Cause those of us who carry guns can’t always be a saint.
    I’ve had to work most Sundays and at times my talk was tough, and sometimes I’ve been violent because the world is awfully rough.
    I’ve never passed a cry for help, though at times I shook with fear, and sometimes, God forgive me, I’ve wept unmanly tears.
    I know I don’t deserve a place among the people here; they never wanted me around except to calm their fears.
    If there’s a bunk for me in here, it needn’t be so grand; I’ve never expected nor had too much, so if you don’t, I understand.”
    There was a silence all around the throne where saints had often trod as the sailor waited quietly for the judgment of his God:
    “Step forward now, you sailor, you’ve borne your burdens well. Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets; you’ve done your time in Hell.”

  13. Lee Wheeler
    November 5, 2014

    I was on mess duty that day on board the Iwo. Marine with HMH-461. I knew two of those that died that day, one very well. Got to know him on a working party one day a couple weeks prior. We used to play a lot of spades. I will never forget the smells, heat and the lack of visibility on the mess decks right after. Myself and another Marine helped get a couple of those who died that day up to the hangar. The heat was so intense it melted boots and clothes to their bodies. Still see it as if it was yesterday.

    Thank you for your research and for telling the rest of the story. This will help a lot of us better understand what happened that day. We never felt like we got the whole story. There was a lot of anger and animosity towards ship leadership after this.

    Semper Fi shipmates.

    • Troy Amaker Corpsman
      April 24, 2017

      I still have anger towards them. Still with questions…

  14. Steven C. Covington
    November 12, 2014

    I was Machinist Mate First Class assigned to USS La Salle, AGF3, after engineroom being worked on by the same company, at that time. I had been stationed on different ship with BT1 Volden, if I recall correctly. We had a similar incident in 1979 on the USS Fort Snelling, (fortunately no injuries), on the main steam stop valve in aft engineroom .
    The part number for the black brass coated nuts was just one number different from the same size correct heat treated steel nuts…Many years earlier, there was an NIS investigation on my ship, as we had received several of the knives that the SEAL’s use; It was one digit off from the thrust bearing shoes for our main feed pump.

  15. Thomas Cuba
    February 4, 2015

    I was a BT in the Navy 78-82 on the sister ship USS Tripoli really hit home the story and the presentation Thank you and God Bless the familys of the crew members BT 3 Cuba USS TRIPOLI LPH-10

  16. David Hodge
    May 24, 2015

    Thank you Tim for your service – and the account of the IWO’s loss. I was a member of the SEVENTH Fleet Band Orient Express, and was flying in to Bahrain from Japan to embark on the BLUE RIDGE on a National Guard C130.

    As we approached Bahrain, we noticed the IWO returning to port after the explosion. We didn’t hear of the explosion until we landed. While we were loading our gear aboard the RIDGE, IWO tied up alongside, and a Chaplain took me aside and aboard IWO. I was honored to play Taps at the memorial service for these fallen, on the main deck of the IWO. It was pretty moving to see the entire crew on the main deck. In all my years of funerals and memorial services – this is one of the most memorable.

    • timothycummings
      January 26, 2017


      As a BT and a trumpet player – and former RTC drum major – knowing you played Taps moves me beyond words.

      Thanks for your role in saying goodbye to ten fine men.


  17. Bobby
    May 25, 2015

    I served on the Iwo from 89-91,and was onboard when the explosion actually happen..I constanlty temember that distinct smell and the darkness on the ship. Im BM3 Mobley and after general quarters was called I was forward look out….wow I dnt wanna relive tht but thank God I survived and mt heart continues to go out to those tht didnt survive and on this Memorial day I’d like to day”All gave some, and some gave All” have a great day my fellow shipmates and may God bless!

  18. Carl Ahlmark
    June 19, 2015

    I was on the Iwo Jima at the time. I was on the aft mess decks when the Chief Engineer meet up with the Captain. After experience with level 1 jobs repairing equipment on submarines I knew procedures were not followed. You have to have a maintenance mechanic and a Q/A inspector following step by step procedures and signing every step. A tragic loss. Knew everyone of those guys.

  19. timothy hopper
    August 27, 2015

    Mark Hutchison and I were on the Uss Ponce together. I went to the Dewey DDG45 and I guess Hutch went to the Iwo Jima. Sometimes, we would eat on the Iwo Jima, and occasionally someone would say, “Somebody is going to die on this old piece of shit. So sorry that it became reality. RIP Hutch

  20. Nancy Hutchison Fahey
    September 14, 2015

    Mr, Cummings, as the sister of one of the fallen, BT2 Mark Edward Hutchison, I wish to thank you for your thorough research and factual accounting of what happened aboard the USS Iwo Jima that fateful day. I was unable to read, in their entirety, many of the excerpts and comments due to the graphic details within, as I’m sure you can understand. However, I came upon your manuscript in an effort to confirm information, which given your comprehensive research, you may be able to provide.
    Needless to say, my family was devastated by the loss of our son, brother, uncle and hero. To this day, I will remember the tragic loss as the darkest days of my life; our lives were changed forevermore. However, we eventually came to realize that life would, and could, march on. We would find that though we would never forget, we could learn to live again. Many years have since passed, but Mark’s memory has lived on in our hearts and minds. To this day, we miss him so very much.
    A family member of Mark’s wife has recently informed me that the accident has officially been reclassified as an act of terrorism. I have, as yet, been unable to verify this information as fact. According to your account of the details, as written here, the accident was caused by a breakdown of command and gross dereliction of duty on the part of higher ranking Navy officials in a position of responsibility and authority. Given your account of what took place, and the findings of the investigation, I am unable to determine how this could have been reclassified as an act of terrorism unless it has been discovered that the negligence exhibited by the contractor was, instead, a deliberate act of sabotage.
    Needless to say, we were taken aback to hear from a third party that what we had always believed to have been an accident, albeit a preventable one, was supposedly an act of terrorism. I only wish to confirm the established facts and findings of the official investigation, and II have, as yet, found no declaration of a reclassification of the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.
    Again, thank you so very much for your time and your passion for giving a thorough accounting of tragedies whose cause and effects are often submerged in murky technical jargon and departmental mismanagement on multiple levels. We appreciate your mission to get to the heart of truth.
    *Please note: The correct spelling of our last name is HUTCHISON. I have noted that it is misspelled on multiple documents and memorial pages.

    All the best,
    Nancy Hutchison Fahey

    • timothycummings
      September 14, 2015

      Thank you Nancy. You had a fine brother. I know this from his friends writing to me and sharing their memories of him. They miss him still.

      I have corrected the photo of the names of the fallen with a corrected spelling of Hutchison. I know better…sorry you caught that before I did.

      All my best – Tim

  21. wayne carroll
    October 30, 2015

    I was a mm on the Iwo, but left navy after 3years because of problems on-board. In 1975 the Iwo crashed into the side of a ship we were vert-reping with. Got pics of our elevator being swapped with another LPH that was headed home. That ship for YEARS was noted for loosing steering. I remember a steam issue wound up us losing the load, and sitting in the Bermuda triangle for 45-to 60mins. before the incident in the MISS. river we lost the load at least 2 times. As MM on a LPH, there is a wall separating boiler from main engine, so it was like 2 different entities. Supposedly a BT1? saved the ship then. WE were supposed to go into dry-dock repairs, but the captain accepted another Med cruise on way home. See how many people LEFT engineering in 1976. I was VERY young and DUMB.But very sincere condolences to the brave sailors that risked their lives, some not making it. That ship shoud have been decommissioned years before. At a top speed of 23knots!!!! it
    was not running too quick.Sitting duck.The Russian ships proved us wrong and slow several times during war games we were in, they were watching. Again, VERY sorry to hear.

    • Armand Rubbo
      January 18, 2017

      Retired ASCS, USN 1970-1990, stationed on the Nashville 1975-78. I was on that Med crossing when the Iwo lost steering and collided with the Nashville. I was in Pri-fly, port side. Saw the elevator fold up and a forklift pop tie down chains and bounce over the side. We hit the deck, and when we looked up we were eye to eye with the flying bridge of Iwo. CO’s eyes looked like saucers. Ship went to GQ, and I went to my station, Repair 7, where I was an investigator. OBA in place, ran down the port side troop spaces. When the Iwo hit she folded our motor whaleboat deck, and opened the side. As I’m checking for damage, I passed a Marine sitting on a bunk, crying, while his buddies were taking care of him. He was ok, so I kept looking. Went into a head, and there is a 2 x 4 hole to the outside, sunlight and fresh air flooding in. An old staff sergeant is shaving. I asked him if he was ok, he says without missing a stroke, “about time you assholes put ventilation in here…”

      I was a rated aviation electrician, but E-gang was short, so I ended up standing gyro and board watches. Trons is trons, says the MPA. I eventually learned how to stm the 600 psi plant, and was a plankowner ESWS. Got a good healthy respect for the power we controlled. Standing watch on the aft board near turbogenerator 2, couldn’t help but keep looking at the air operated guarding valve above me, the one that ruptured on the Trenton.

      RIP Shipmates!

  22. Russ Mansfield
    October 30, 2015


  23. Russ Mansfield
    October 30, 2015

    RIP Brother Snipes. Gone but not forgotten. With much respect. BT3 mansfield

  24. Tom Parson
    October 30, 2015

    That morning, twenty-five years ago today, I was in Main Control on board USS GUAM LPH-9. I was the Engineroom LCPO and acting M Division Officer. We were at Sea & Anchor Detail and headed in to take the Iwo Jima’s berth. We had been lit off since mid-August and had a lengthy work list to take care of in a very short port visit. Our first indication something was wrong was our orders to turn around and return to sea. A few hours later we learned the terrible facts. Several of us, including myself, had friends in B and M divisions onboard the Iwo Jima. For obvious reasons we did not pull into Bahrain for our availability. It would be more than a month before we would finally have the chance to pull into Dubai and go cold iron; we had been at sea for 100 consecutive days. We would have spend twice that and double again to see our old shipmates safe. Godspeed Iwo Jima.

  25. Bob Coles
    November 1, 2015

    This was NOT an act of terrorism, this was a result of pure laziness, and disregard for procedures. I read these comments and get mad at some of the lies being published. I was there on the mess decks as a Navy LDO engineer who had been onboard 2 weeks, I was in the space and left, on my way to main control when it let loose, BT1 B from the oil lab was behind me. LT Snyder came out of space and I met him and laid him him down on the deck, there were no screams of “chest on fire”. Nor were there any rantings by the Cheng of “he only wants a star”
    This was a terrible day and we don’t need folks bending the truth to suit their needs.

    • Ed Walters
      January 7, 2016

      I was winess to the Cheng’s rant. He said these things on the aft mess decks as our recovery team was waiting for the space to be cooled enough for the recovery operations to begin. He did in fact say he killed my boys all for a fucking star. Sorry if you find it offensive but I was there and witnessed it. The Cheng knew the ship was not battle ready before we left on deployment, he so stated when he came by our repair locker. He and iron Mike O’Hearn were known, per scuttle butt, to have a tenuous relationship.

      • Thomas Cowen
        May 29, 2017

        I was a grunt with BLT 1/2 onboard the Iwo that day. I was in th e hangar deck heading to the flight deck when I saw all this stuff I thought was white smoke but had no smell. When I got on flight deck I realized the wship wasn’t going to get out of port but was now heading for the rock wall. I thought something was wrong then they issued an ” Aweigh all anchors for and aft. Brace for impact” over the PA. I layer down on the flight deck and could feel the anchors catching and rapidly slowing us until we stopped. Then they sounded General Quarters. As a Marine I knew I was supposed to go to my berthing. As I was attempting to get there I got stuck by steam in air and personnel removing the Sailors to the medical spaces. It wa so crowded we were passing the stretchers along and up the ladderwell. The first Sailor looked like he was okay because his uniform was untouched from behind but as they turned him around to lay him in the stretcher his entire front was asphalt black. As he and the next sailor on a stretcher were passed up I saw black stuff dripping from them and though it was oil from some kind of accident. Then I realized when some dropped on me it was their skin dripping off, it was like black jelly just dripping.
        I can say that ship was a floating death trap as I have sailed on others. Iwo Jima was the only ship that I ever floated on that had fires and floods on a routine basis. Sailors when we first boarded her in Norfolk told me they had just returned from a 6 month float and were scheduled to be down 2 years for an overhaul but instead were give several weeks to be ready to steam out to the Persian Gulf. If this is true it’s many more people’s fault than the ships crew that weren’t being diligent.
        Other examples were the ship not being ready is we spent most of our deployment operating on one desalination plant and water restrictions. There were not enough berthing spaces for the Marines that were boarded as we had to hot rack. Mymberthing was also flooded with JP5 after flight ops one night because the poor E-2 that was manning the levels to report to the pump room had fallen asleep. I remember talking to his friend later and he said he hadn’t slept since 0530 and it was 0200 when the flooding occurred. He had worked his 12 hr shift stood a 4 hour watch and was then pressed to fill in for someone. I saw lots of unhealthy and dangerous conduct in order to keep the Iwo steaming. I was really sad for those guys when this happened.
        I remember that vividly and will always remember what those shipmates did in the boiler room to prevent further tragedy. I do remember them telling us that the boiler room Sailors took heroic efforts for our safety.

    • gettyupandgo
      March 22, 2016

      MS2 (SW) Smith was my name. I will NEVER forget October 30th, 1990. The time was 0812. We had just got underway. I was walking on the forward mess deck. I had the previous night off. I was suppose to be in the fireroom and the engineroom because I was learning the plant working on my ESWS qualification. For whatever reason I decided not to go. While I was on the mess deck there was a loud rumbling and the ship was moving weirdly. I thought that we were under attack. I just knew this day was my last day alive. GQ is sounded so I am running to my station. As I approached the fireroom or the engineroom it was on the mess deck, the door flew open and a guy came flying out of there. I cant remember now which one he was. He was running in front of me as I was running to my station .He was yelling “My chest is on fire! My chest is on fire!” I will NEVER forget hearing that. The most tramatic day in my life. There is more I can tell but right now I just have to stop.

  26. Michael J Frumento
    November 11, 2015

    I was aboard the USS Iwo Jima, BT2 Frumento, I just got off sea and anchor detail, went to take a shower, got back to my rack to change and heard the rumble through the ship, I knew something was wrong, made may way to the mess deck, opened the door to the fire room, there I ran into Tyrone Brooks, I will not go into any further detail. After reading the article, all is on point! I noticed the lagging smoking, before I got off watch, I was Lower Lever watch…BT1King was the one who placed his foot in the fire room, he was the one that hit the remote steam stop.
    The only detail that was left out, was I was changing oil on the booster pump next to the DFT, I had the deck plates open, this was right before the escape trunk

    I knew the 10 gentleman very very well.
    I miss them all
    God Bless them

  27. Tim Blunck
    November 13, 2015

    Thank you for the analysis of this. I was on board as the Admin Officer of the Marine Helicopter squadron. I clearly remember being in my stateroom, getting something when the GQ alarm sounded. Some of us thought SCUD, some though ship casualty. Some of my brothers flew the MEDEVAC to the hospital ship. It was a crazed sorrowful morning.

    All the best

    Tim Blunck

  28. Paul Chesek
    December 18, 2015


    Thank you for such a meticulous and well written account of this tragic event.
    My sympathies and condolences for the friends and families of those lost.

    MPA LTJG John Snyder was a classmate from Villanova University NROTC. Your excellent article provided key information and helped us create a memorial plaque in his honor and memory. A wall of remembrance for fallen Villanova NROTC alumni is maintained in John Barry Hall (the NROTC building) on the Villanova campus. John’s “infectious smile” and memory now reside there thanks in large part to your witness and narrative. I can personally attest to the recollections of John mentioned in your article and in the comments. John was known for his intellect, but equally if not more for his friendliness and good nature.

    I also wish to thank the many shipmates who served, were present, and provided their narratives in the “comments” section which gave further life and detail to that day. I had occasion to speak with one of the Navy nurses aboard USNS COMFORT that treated John and the others that briefly survived. To them entrusted with trying to relieve the pain and suffering of those mortally wounded, for whom recovery was not possible had great effect on their entire crew as well. Everything humanly possible was done to help ease their passing.

    A brief summary of John’s life and that day are on the plaque. They conclude with the words from the Gospels that bear his name:

    “No one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

    –John 15:13


    Paul Chesek
    Villanova NROTC ’87

    • timothycummings
      December 18, 2015


      I am glad to hear from you and heartened that my work supported the memorial plaque honoring him. Lest we forget.

      I was fortunate to have had a B Division officer much like John. Others who knew him have emailed me and they have nothing but complimentary things to say about him. I have heard from countless others who knew the other men as well and the loss of that watch section is still profoundly felt by sailors and Marines on board IWO JIMA that day. There are many hard lesson to be learned from the incident, there is no doubt.

      Thank you for your service Mister Chesek. Bravo Zulu for keeping the memory of John Snyder alive at his alma mater.

  29. Stephen Puckett (BM3)
    January 11, 2016

    I was there and some of what i read is not what i remember happening but i can not bring myself to go into all of it as i still have night terrors from it all. But the OOd did not call for the anchor drop as we were drifting towards running aground to the stern and I was the aft lookout. The OS on the bridge kept telling me to shut up and i just called the forcastle and told them to call the bridge to drop the hooks to prevent the ship from running aground . Not to mention that there was steam pouring out of a vent on the port side next to the port quarter deck , mind you it was a vent that never had any thing flowing from it but it was a vent for fresh air. That is all i will say to it , like I said i was there when it happened and the crew was feeling the loss of our shipmates and i still do to this very day , I was also on the Iwo when the sea whiz accedent happened too

    • timothycummings
      January 23, 2016


      Thank you for your service, Shipmate. I appreciate very much you sharing what you wrote about 30 OCT 90.

      I hope you find comfort from the night terrors. You are by no means alone – I have heard from many men on this blog or Facebook and by email who are still not at ease about what happened that day.

      Please know you are in my prayers.

      All my best,


  30. MM3 James Scurlock
    January 23, 2016

    Dear Mr Cummings

    Thank You for your fine accounting of the tragedy aboard the Iwo Jima. You will certainly make a difference in the lives of many. You made a difference in mine.

    Upon reading the various accounts of those who served aboard her and those who were left behind and recalled that tragic day I must confess the tears welled up in my eyes.

    I served on the USS Tulare LKA 112 from 1970 thru 1973 during The Viet Nam War. I was LPO of M division at the time. The Tulare sailed with the Iwo Jima in the Gulf of Tonkin. I in fact had the pleasure of visiting her fine hospital via bosuns chair during a VERTREP and refueling at sea. I was treated for an injury that happened in the engine room.

    We had a similar incident aboard Tulare with amazing similarities. Thank God the outcome was quite different and tragedy was averted. We had just come off a repair period at Subic Bay in the Philippines and were under pressure to get back on the line. It seemed like there was never enough time to perform those critical repairs our lives all depended on. Yet we steamed on. We worked together.

    I had the top watch and we were preparing to set The Special Sea and Anchor detail before getting underway. Our engineering space had the same general set-up as the Iwo Jima with two boilers 600 psi 850 degree steam. Tulare had a single shaft and screw. We were lighting off the 2nd boiler when the incident occurred. Our engine room and boiler room were in a single open space though, and M division and B division shared it.

    The main boiler cross connect had just been opened to heat up boiler #2. All burners in both boilers were lit and were wide open. As we were performing the lighting off procedure there was a sudden explosive boom like a shotgun blast and shortly after, a 2nd and then a third. It took me only a minute or so to locate the source. It was the main steam cross connect valve located two decks up on an open catwalk above the boilers. As I approached the valve I was horrified to see lagging being ripped off lines a full fifteen feet away. The noise was deafening, literally above and beyond sound. The packing was being blown out of the valve one ring at a time. Asbestos snow was blowing around like a blizzard. I just had time to clear the engine room except for one BT who volunteered to stay behind and pull the burners out while I attempted to approach the valve. I posted a guard outside on port and starboard hatches with orders to let no one in. Starboard hatch opened directly into the mess decks which were packed with personnel for the evening meal at the time.

    The valve was only a foot or so above the catwalk but I managed to slide up to it on my back, on the side away from the leak, get a crows foot on it and begin closing it, one incremental turn at a time, but not before another ring or two blew out. The heat was brutal, but the jet was blowing up and away from me. I managed to finally get it closed.

    I don’t remember much of what happened after that. I was numb and could not hear.

    I was not involved in the repairs or the investigation if there was one. I only remember that as I left the engine room and stepped thru the hatch into the mess decks that everyone was still sitting there eating their meal as if nothing had ever happened. I had screamed out before “Clear the mess decks we have a major steam emergency” They were marines chowing first. I guess they didn’t understand. It was surreal. I think it was the next day when things had cooled down enough. Repairs were made, and we got underway. I later learned that during the maintenance period someone (probably a yard-bird) had mistakenly repacked the valve with teflon water pump packing instead of the wire inserted graphite required for high pressure steam. The incident was quickly forgotten, but not by me. I remember it like it was yesterday and not 44 years ago.

    I have often wondered what might have happened if that last ring or two of packing had gone and that valve had blown wide open. I certainly would not be here giving this account, but how many others would have perished? Would those hatches have been open or closed at the time it blew?

    I have finally come to the realization that it was not I who closed that valve. It was God. He only used my hands. RIP my brothers. I know what you did and why you did it. I love you for it.

    MM3 James Scurlock USS Tulare LKA 112 1970-1973

    • timothycummings
      January 23, 2016


      Thank you for your generous first paragraph. It is very humbling to me when Sailors, Marines and survivors whom I have never met reach out with their thoughts on what I wrote and share their recollections. Writing the piece was quite moving for me, but receiving feedback puts me in a place that is beyond description. As a BT, I am always appreciative, and extremely moved, to read what readers say. It is all about the ten fine men who never came home. Lest we forget.

      Allow me this: What you and the Burnerman did on the TULARE is what being a Snipe is all about: Taking care of your ship and each other. To you I say “BRAVO ZULU”. That casualty ended well, and God indeed was directed your hands. I am honored to know your story. Thanks for sharing it, Shipmate.

      It was for you, and all Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have ever served, who are serving now and who will serve in the future that I penned the poem “On Station”. I wrote it as an 18-year old right after I left the recruiter’s office. A self narrated version may be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3XcG-E2pvw

      Thank you for being On Station, Machinist Mate Third Class Spurlock. If you’re on Facebook, please join my group https://www.facebook.com/groups/USNBoilerTechnicians/


  31. Brian Hedrick CPL USMC
    January 23, 2016

    It was like being on a coffin at sea. I, as well, had nightmares and other supplemental nightmares about being stuck in that birthing space, where you pack all of us marines in like a can of sardines. We had a fire down in there a few weeks prior to the explosion. The fire started right next to my bunk where the boiler pipe insulation somehow caught fire…as if it was a foreshadow or bad omen that would occur later. I felt relief when they flew us out to the desert and attached us to a British tank unit of some kind. I remember the day they came and told us the ship was repaired and we had to return. I felt such dread. I wanted to stay in the desert and take my chances in the ground war like all of the other marines, rather than have no control and die on that ship. I guess that ship still haunts all of us, in some way or another…to this day. May God grant us peace from these memories one day. Thanks again, for giving all of us some kind of closer and remembrance of this great sacrifice for this first Persian Gulf war. It and they were all but forgotten until you and your article. Thank you my friend.

    • timothycummings
      January 24, 2016


      Thank you for sharing your memories, and thanks for serving.

      Lest we forget those who never came home.


  32. Tony
    April 19, 2016

    After it came out what the was, incorrect fasteners, there came out an all ship messages that all hp steams were to be verified by qualified mechanics, and noted on qa forms, reports made to ships engineer, SQN engineer, and so on.

    My thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.

  33. Horace Payne
    May 29, 2016

    I was a Marine on board the USS Guam when this happened. The Guam was the sister ship of the Iwo Jima during Desert Shield/Storm. Half of my unit MWSS 274 was on each ship. One of my buddies helped with the clean-up after this happened. To this day I can’t get this out of my mind. I can’t imagine what was going through their minds when this happened. They’re all hero’s in my book. They gave their lives to save the ship and the lives of their shipmates. These are the men I want to honor this Memorial Day. God bless them.

  34. Marino Quinsay
    July 8, 2016

    After a short tour with the Marines in Japan, I reported aboard Iwo in April 1990 where I made Chief Hospitalcorpsman a few months later. Thank you for the detailed account of the Iwo’s unfortunate boiler mishap. Did you accessed the Iwo’s Medical Journal to find out who was the sailor who walked to medical without assistance, the first stretcher casualty that I accompanied to medical, how 4 critical steam burnt patients were sustained until MEDEVAC and etc. I am proud that I served with the bunch of professional medical personnel (ship’s company, Embark Marine Corpsman and MMART Team from Portsmouth Naval Hospital) aboard Iwo Jima on Oct 30, 1990. Again, your tenacity is greatly appreciated.

  35. Ranea Lajewski
    August 29, 2016

    I came across your article in a search for answers for this tragic event that occurred while my husband (ex, now) was stationed at Naval Station Norfolk. It occurred to me upon reading the comments that there was really no perspective, save one, from those other than these heroes brothers in service. My husband was also a MM but was stationed on the USS Milwaukee AOR-2. He had attended school with Dan McKinsey and they had become good friends and after completing their training remained friends, both being stationed at Norfolk. His wife and I had just started to get to know each other, as i had only come to Norfolk a month earlier having just been married in Sept 1990 and moving to be with my husband. I remember first hearing the news of the accident and the events that followed especially those of the morning of October 31, as though they just happened. The Milwaukee was in dry dock at the shipyard for repairs of her own and my husband was on duty and I decided to take him lunch, as my worry regarding the news of the accident was increasing with each passing minute knowing our friend was on the Iwo Jima and was assigned to this duty. I met him for lunch and asked him if he had heard any news on Dan and he said no, but I’m sure he is fine. We decided when I returned home I would call his wife and see how she was holding up as the wait must be excruciating and given the fact she was expecting their first child we were concerned for her as well. I returned home and called Kim. When she answered the phone she was sobbing that “THEY had just left her house and Dan is gone” of course I knew instantly who THEY were, as every military family does. She was referring to the men in uniform who come to tell you the most tragic news you never want to hear. I don’t remember what I said or if I said anything. After all, what words of comfort are there to a wife who just lost her husband in service of their country, a husband who will never lay eyes on his child, never hold him in his arms, and for a child who will never know the great father this man would have been. I still think of these men and their families often and my heart still breaks for each of them, although time has healed some wounds, I’m sure their absence is still felt over and over.
    Fair winds and following seas, to our friend Dan and his shipmates who gave all on Oct 30, 1990.

    • timothycummings
      August 30, 2016


      Thank you for your feedback. When I wrote the original version, it was very much about the accident, but I did give due notice to the sailors. Since then, I re-titled it to emphasize the fallen – The content is about the same as the 2012 version, but the title points readers to the hero Snipes. I will continue to bring them even more into focus as I revise it in the future, because I have heard from so many Sailors and Marines to be able to fill in the blanks in the redacted JAG/NIS investigation.

  36. John Gove, MM1, 1971-1980 1984-1986
    October 11, 2016

    Dear Mr Cummings,
    I did my time (11 years) as a Snipe and had to read every word of this. 2 DDs, a DLG and a CV – 600 & 1200 PSI plants. I met a lot of dedicated and talented mechanics and leaders. I look back at the men I worked with and for and feel proud that “we served our time in Hell”. Dirty, sweaty, greasy work. Keeping the “pointy end” moving forward, the water running and the lights on. Qualifying as EOOW was my best day. We used to joke about the line from Ben Hur – “we keep you alive to serve our ship”. The entry trunk had a painting from Dante’s Inferno and “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”. This was to remind us daily of the dangers of our trade. I still carry a few burns that remind me of those days.

    These ten men had the day that we all knew could happen. They are heros. They did what they were trained to do, knowing the consequences. They did it for their fellow shipmates. Heros all.


    Fair winds and following seas, Thanks to them for their service and sacrifice.

  37. Wes Russell
    October 29, 2016

    Here is my story of that morning. I was a young LCpl with 8th ESB embarked aboard the Iwo for Desert Shield/Storm. I wrote this account on FB before reading the article. Some details in my account may not be exactly correct but I am not going to change my account as it is how I remember and seeing as it was 26 years ago and I have slept since then). We were in port in Bahrain getting ready to set sail. If I remember correctly it was a little after 0800 in the morning. I was the the 2nd to last Marine in the chow line to be served. I had just grabbed my tray and turned to the right walking into the mess hall. Directly to my left over a short railing was the mess hall full of Marines and Sailors sitting at tables. In front of me was a stairwell that was enclosed on 3 sides by metal sheeting and the 4th by a metal hatch. I felt the ship get underway and immediately there was a loud sound (I don’t remember an explosion or a bang just the sense of overwhelming sound) and the ship shuddered. I was looking aft directly at the enclosed stairwell and I remember seeing the metal walls bulging outward and a few loud pops….my eyes caught movement to my left..I turned my head and wondered why the Marines and Sailors that were sitting at the tables were screaming and falling all over the deck (there was steam escaping from the stairwell and and blasting into the chow hall onto them). It was all a blur……I looked back aft at the bulging metal walls and remember a Navy Chief looking directly at me and telling me to “Run for your Life”. All of this happened in the a split second and my mind had no time to process what was happening. I turned to run…I have no remembrance of what exactly happened at this point but somehow I was down on the deck hitting my head on the “Knee Knocker” (the Metal bottom of the doors that you have to step over to get though the hatchway) I briefly blacked out and came to with two (Marines? Sailors? Ill never know) guys picking me up by the arms and legs and literally throwing me through the hatchway into the hallway..sliding down the hallway and one again hitting my head on the next knee knocker…..this happened 2? 3? 4 times? I’m not sure….these guys were as far as they knew saving my life by getting me out of harms way and not even thinking of leaving me behind….this means they were sacrificing there own lives if need be to save mine. Somehow I made it to my feet…and stumbled forward through the ship with the sound of General Quarters ringing in my head and Sailors and Marines Running in every direction to Battle Stations and Fire and Damage Control Stations. It took me a long time to work my way forward and upward and then all the way aft of the ship to our berthing area. I do remember Sgt Ron Fitzwater examining my head, meaning I actually had a lump the size of a baseball on my skull and Him and several others helping me into my rack..and making sure I was seen by a Corpsman….We had no Idea if we had been attacked..or what was happening….rumors were wild. Our Berthing Area was over top of part of medical and I dimly remember the sounds of screaming coming up the stairwell as someone was being brought into medical..

  38. E Collier (BT2)
    January 2, 2017

    I appreciate your research and telling the story of these sailors. As I read it, it reminded me of my time as a BT early in my Navy Career. My emotions are high and my heartfelt empathy goes out to the Sailors and their families. The training that we do over and over is critical to immediate actions without thought. They reacted just like they had been trained. It is a great tragedy that we lost them and I can only find solace that their lessons learned benefited the rest of the fleet.

  39. Hal Morgan
    January 2, 2017

    I am a retired MMC, I was deployed during desert storm, but the echoes of this catastrophe was still ringing throughout the
    Fleet. There are a mass of errors and failures throughout this story, and I know all too well the procedures for level 1 systems even 20 years since my retirement. My subsequent life, as a safety professional, has taught me that root causes abound in all incidents, but this one also reeks of crew error. We never allowed critical systems work to pass without senior crew QC inspection. No matter what else occured, and by no means would I besmerch the heroic efforts of the day, the engineering crew bears responsibility of ensuring the correct materials and procedures were used and documented as such. They were the last line defending their own lives. God rest their souls, they allowed substandard materials and procedures to be used by not implimenting standard policy. The chain of command should be ashamed.

  40. leasjahasr
    January 2, 2017

    I was a surface nuke MM who served aboard the USS Enterprise in the early 80’s. I’d joked that if I were to die aboard Enterprise, it would have been while performing bottom blows on steam generators (the nuke term for boilers). The valve handwheel for performing blows was in between the feed pumps and at deck plate level up against the bulkhead. A small curved section of the piping that the effluent from the generators flowed through was adjacent to the bottom blow valve for each generator and not lagged. When performing the blows, I was always painfully aware that it was the integrity of just that length of piping that kept me safe, and that if it failed – even just a pinhole leak – while I was performing blows, it was going to get real ugly real fast.

    Having read the account of the demise of 10 men here, and reading the heavily redacted Court of Inquiry report, I more fully appreciate that my joking about the *potential* danger is a luxury some snipes didn’t have.

    In defense of the people who made decisions that set in motion the Iwo Jima tragedy, I’d like to say that it’s easy to focus in and isolate neglect, or lack of concern, or ignorance, or mistakes, or even carelessness. In reality, virtually every ship experienced the increase in op tempo the Iwo Jima did, and virtually every crew was expected to work harder, longer hours in support of Desert Shield. Everyone had dozens of other things that needed to be done YESTERDAY. Even civilians associated with the buildup were working their tails off. Thousands of shortcuts were executed across the fleet in engineering spaces alone. I’m not saying those shortcuts were OK; they just WERE. Virtually all of them hurt no one. But it only takes… a few.

    There was, however, one decision (or lack thereof) that if properly executed would have almost certainly saved those ten men, and it wasn’t really anything the Iwo Jima crew of 1990 had control over: getting rid of the black coated brass nuts that were identified more than a decade earlier (by, ironically, ‘The Brass’) as a problem that could contribute to a deadly catastrophe.

    It is quite likely that no one who failed to mandate the removal of black coated brass nuts back in the 70’s will ever be named as contributing to this accident. Shit rolls downhill boys (& girls).

  41. Jeff mathews
    January 3, 2017

    My first ship cg 27 we had a bt3 put the same black nuts on a transmitter line off the steam drum ,1/4 in valve. We were bringing boiler up to pressure when it blew,shot the valve into the bulkhead.we tripped the boiler,fuel qc valves,fuel pump,lifted saftys by hand. In 1980 i was an e2 at the time taught me alot that day carried it with me till the day I got out in 88 as an e6. From that day on always double check your work and anyone else’s in my hole,my home.hated them black nuts and the monnel (nickel /steel)nuts of the time we’re a pain also always had to be on the lookout.

  42. Richard French
    January 3, 2017

    I served as a Boiler tech, on the Iwo Jima, from 83 to 87. When I heard about this, I was working at Newport News Shipbuilding. I couldn’t have been more devastated by the news. To this day I share this story routinely with my staff at the power plant I currently am a control room operator at. I am so glad you are doing this, and thank you for your hard work. I can still see the old fireroom I sweated in, while learning my craft. It brings tears to my eyes to think how sadly unessesary this was…

  43. Russell J Harper II
    January 3, 2017

    Tim I think this is how we more or less met on FB As you probably know by now my name is Russ Harper BT/MM 1 ret. I was on the England DLG/ CG 22 74 to 78. I was on the IWO Jima in Va. attached to SIMA. right before this happened. myself and two others Punched tubes on one of those boilers “water Jetted” not punched. My first class got cut bringing the hose back out the last day of my Acdutra before headin back to Ohio. I want you to get back to me on this everyone i talked to about this on Facebook has never answered two questions about this incident that I would like to know I will go to your page and continue after repeating this writing.
    I remember two funny second Classes in the space while we were there on cold iron watch I suppose or just keeping an Eye on us. The Steam drum i remember was the biggest one I had ever worked in I could almost stand up in this one. I was used to the D type boilers of my first Ship. I also remember we had to use that huge what was it 3 story high escape trunk to go up to the main deck to leave of course are hoses had to be fed down there and back up to the upper level.
    The one thing that stood out was you had a control room in the space and thats where the two E5s were hanging out in I had heard some ships had those but never seen one but the thing about this one was that the Door was jammed open and I asked what was up with that and they said they had been waiting for it to be fixed for awhile. So when I tell you I have asked the questions without answers I ask again does anyone know who or are you out there if you remember this Id like to know if you are one of them or you know if the other one might have been in this terrible accident? The other question that bothers me, was that door a possible escape that could have been the reason for some of those deaths or did it get fixed?
    You know ive had reflections that come back to the what if question. I am a writer and I have reflected on my past quite a bit. One thing I know of all those dangers out there that we faced every day either in battle or out and just steaming. When we were young we were invincible the possibility of being killed or hurt badly never seems to come into our minds so our bravery, their bravery was engraved on their minds and in their Hearts as the only thing they knew what to do it was lived and taught and passed on. I reckon if they were still around and stayed in the proffession if we still had Boilers they would have ran into the same fence i did in the 80s getting ready to do a desup change in the Mud drum you remember that job crawling all the way back propping up the tubing with your feet while putting in a flex seal in and bolting it up! It was an easy job in the day and i actually enjyed it then but when revisiting the job 10 years later I was real hesitant. I grew up the Lord was always there he had been tryin to get my attention back in the 70s but when i got older I listened even more. God Bless those who went before us Fair Winds and following seas Brother

  44. Robert Scott
    January 3, 2017

    I was heartbroken when I heard of the tragedy aboard the Iwo Jima back in 1990. I was one of BT2 Fred Parker’s LPOs when we were stationed on the USS Farragut DDG-37 where he started out as a BTFN. He transferred to the Iwo Jima shortly after I transferred to the USS Nitro AE-23. Turn the clock back 6 years when I was LPO of the Boiler Repair Shop at the SIMA Navairlant, later SIMA Portsmouth. I attended the annual HM&E conference (while representing my command) held at the Pentagon every year to hear of fleetwide problems pertaining to shipboard equipment reliability. It was at this meeting that I brought up the problem with counterfeit fasteners. The main problem being those black anodized brass nuts and bolts. Some I believe even had a B16 stamp designating heat treated steel. I tried my best to emphasize the danger of not looking into this matter. I almost pleaded with them to look into this matter before we had a catastrophic incident. My pleas went unheeded and the incident aboard the Iwo Jima was one of several incidents that occurred for the same reason. I still feel partly responsible for that tragic accident to one of my former shipmates because of my inability to move them to action. I wanted to ask them why does it have to cost lives before there is any action taken, but I held my tongue as I was just a BT1. It has been over 30 years since that conference and it still haunts me. That is something that I must live with. Signed BT1 RH Scott USN (Ret)

  45. Greg Patterson
    January 3, 2017

    Mr. Cummings,

    I was present onboard LPH-2 on 30 October 1990. I was a GMG2 assigned as Mount Captain to Mt 33. That day, as was procedure for the Main Space Casualty Bill, both Gun Mounts were stood down and report to Repair 1H as ordered. We dressed out in ensemble gear and stood by to back up Repair 5 (propulsion repair locker). Some of us were called down to the mess decks and we prepared to enter that Main Space. The first attempts failed due to extreme heat and conditions entering the space. I can’t recall specifically, as the whole situation was nightmare/chaos but we entered the space. I want to say we were the 2nd team to enter (might have been the third team). We were spraying water (high velocity fog) all over the place and steam was hissing from every direction we were spraying. As I recalled it, we found the first body within 2-3 minutes of breaching the space. I yelled back up at the scene leader what we had found and he ordered us out of the space (the heat was still extreme). We were sent to the hanger bay where Medical was peeling us out of our ensemble suits, monitoring us and giving us small sips of water. I remember taking my dungaree shirt off and literally wringing sweat out of it.

    That day was a nightmare. I was just a kid doing what I was trained to do and 10 of my shipmates were killed. I don’t consider myself a hero in anyway, it was those guys that pulled the safety switches that is the reason I can type this today. The ship would have went up like a firecracker if they hadn’t took action and tried to save themselves.



  46. Port and Starboard Crew CIC
    January 3, 2017

    I was there, sea and anchor detail on the bridge. Forced off the side of the Blue Ridge while in for repairs at Bahrain, He wanted us gone ASAP, this is why I believe the QA was really overlooked. I guess the skipper there did not like us tied to the side of his boat.
    Lt, McKenzie was the OOD when it came over the 1MC. Then there was some chaotic comm, then it went silent. No response back from main control. Somewhere in all that there was a rumble, you just knew something was not right. We lost all power to the ship. The LT made a bold decision in a moment of crises. He ordered the anchors to be dropped, simultaneously telling the BM to announce General Quarters. I left my post to get our guys out of their racks, only to find a monster of a man carrying one of those red devils over his head like it was an empty box. It was one of those moments when you see something that just can’t be real. Senior Chief Batista, I think that was his name, had it over his head and was yelling, “make a hole!”. No need to even hear that, you knew to step aside or get run over. The mess decks were so hot and the tiles themselves were actually a little tacky. At this point, I do not think anyone understood the gravity of the situation. The rest was just all bad. Looking back, I could see the fear in Mckenzie’s face.
    For the record, Captain M. O’hearn (Lieutenant William Bligh) was a very disliked man aboard our ship. He could give a damn about any enlisted man and went out of his way to bring us hardship on a regular basis. I seriously doubt ever felt any remorse for those lost souls. He was most likely only concerned with the outcome of his career. All OS’s knew, as we spent many days by his side on the bridge, our post was literally behind his Captain’s chair.

  47. Scott Driscoll
    February 14, 2017

    My father was one of the men who first discovered his fallen brothers. He still talks about it … it haunts him…..

  48. Chip Bagley
    May 27, 2017

    I was on the USS Fort McHenry in the Gulf War Arena when this tragedy happened, we heard pretty much the same story except that all that was found of the 6 sailors in the hole was clothes and boots, their bodies had been vaporized, we were in shock and saddened about the report, it just made our already uncertain mission all that much more nerve racking, thanks for giving the intricate details that we couldn’t have known back then.

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