Grounding at Fort Story, VA

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Grounding at Fort Story

 
This account of the grounding at Fort Story will be from my memory and will be an account which is just over 50 years old and faded slightly. As I recall, the ship was ordered to anchorage in Chesapeake Bay because of some bad weather in the forecast. Not wanting to risk damage tied to the piers we got underway and went to anchorage. The Captain was not on board as I remember. Early on the morning of 5 Jan 1956 there was a lot of activity and confusion and we dragged anchor, and not being able to generate power to the screws quickly enough we were washed over a sand bar and into a slight depression and came to rest port side to the beach maybe about 75-100 feet offshore. There was a strong wind blowing from the starboard side fantail to the port side bow and high waves were crashing across the ship from starboard to port side. In those days there were torpedo tubes in a compartment on the main deck amidships and would shoot both port and starboard. You could walk on the 01 deck above the torpedo compartment and as you moved forward on the port side, 01 deck, the first room on the left was the ET shack where I worked from, Being an ET2. Next was a water-tight door open to a passageway, and on the right was the Radio room and on the left was the post office and then forward and to the right was CIC-Combat Information Center. Just between the ET shack and the Torpedo tubes on the Port side, even with the 01 deck was a lifeboat hanging from 2 arms and held up by block and tackle. The lifeboat broke loose from its mooring and began to swing wildly starboard to port and back. Afraid that the boat would break loose entirely and be lost, a seaman was attempting to secure the boat and was fighting 30-40 knot winds and waves crashing over the entire 01 deck. This seaman was Anthony Servido I found out later. I was watching him fight to secure the lifeboat when a wave and gust of wind took the seaman overboard and I saw him hit the water. The wind and waves washed him parallel to the ship from where he went overboard toward the bow of the ship. He looked like he was trying to get to shore but he was wearing a life jacket and couldn’t make it to shore. Eventually 2 or 3 hundred yards down the beach some people made it out to him and got him ashore. The air temperature and the water was very cold and I am certain he died of hypothermia. We started to make the best of the situation. Food was brought to us from Little Creek Amphibian Base and the stores were brought aboard by a long gangway. They attempted to pull the 824 off the beach with an ocean going tug but no luck, so a dredge was brought in and some of the sandbar between us and deeper water was removed. Again they tried to pull us off, but still no luck. If memory serves me correctly we offloaded all fuel oil, ammunition, and anything else that wasn't nailed down. Then they waited until just the right time for HIGH TIDE and tugs pulled us off and took us to the yards. That to the best of my ability was an accounting of the GROUNDING AT FORT STORY. John "DUTCH" Roth. ET2 1953-1957
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John J. Roth ET2
February 1953 to February 1957