USS Hobson DD464
USS WASP CV18
|FOLLOWING ACCOUNTS ON WASP/HOBSON
COLLISION RECEIVED VIA FOX.
When Captain McCaffree was positive that all available efforts were being made to pick up
survivors, he inspected the damage to the USS Wasp CV18. Damage reports trickled in at first, and
then as the holds forward were opened up from night cruising condition the information became
more exact. After an on the spot survey forward and a thorough inspection of the ships plans with
the damage control officer marking the flooded areas, the strength of the remaining bulkheads had
to be estimated. Repairing of the bulkheads began immediately, it was 2330. The questions was
how much speed could be made safely with the bow in the present condition, and the deadline for
decision was 0015. The present winds were very light at first and the ten aircraft launched at
2000. The winds had to be at least 10 knots for an attempted recovery. No survivors had been
sighted for the last hour, so at 0020 Capt. McCaffree left his small boats at the scene with the three
DDS to continue searching, and headed into the wind to recover aircraft. The planes which had
been orbiting at maximum fuel economy were given a landing order and entered the traffic pattern.
The first plane landed at 0043, and only six wave-offs were given in this first night operation of the
cruise. The ten pilots, worried about the low fuel and a minimum wind across the flight deck were
still exceptionally cool and responded to the LSO signals perfectly. They were aware that a crash
on the flight deck would cause a delay necessitating the remaining airborne aircraft to land in the
dark water. The operation was a credit to the ability of the pilots, the LSO and the flight deck
crew. The pilots flying in the vicinity of the wasp as she turned into the wind for the initial recovery
actually saw the collision not knowing what was about to happen.
Lt. Dale S. Klaessy, USN, of Spencer, Iowa observed the three ships in formation. It was an
extremely dark night, the high overcast obscured the stars, but the visibility was unlimited. The
carriers recognition lights and its red truck light were plainly visible as were the red truck lights of
both DMS's and observed that its course was taking it towards the carrier, but he, Klaessy, had
mistaken the wasp bow for the stern. When the ships came together he saw a big flash; not an
explosion, but thousands of sparks. He knew what had happened a minute later when the wasp
directed him to conserve fuel because of a collision.
Lt. R.H. Etzel of Bowling Green, Ohio said practically no horizon was visible. During a port orbit he
saw a white flash of light of the starboard side of the wasp but did not know the cause until he
received the message to be relayed to CTG 88.1 moments later. The Wasp was dead in the water
and many white lights were displayed. Finally at 0035p when the Wasp was again underway, he
had but 15 minutes fuel remaining. After a successful landing on the carriers flight deck the fuel
tanks were found to be practicaly dry.
Personal account of Kenneth Bonse LtJG USNR VF-13 of 123 E 65 Jacksonville, Florida.
Several of us were sitting in the midships bunkroom writing letters to our wives when we heard a
noise and felt the ship shudder. We realized then the ship must have struck something, so we got
up and started aft into the passageway at which time we heard collision quarters sounded. We
made our way to the ready room and picked up Mae Wests. Then we went back up to the hangar
deck to muster. Someone began raising the roller curtains on the starboard side of Hangar Bay
One and the word was passed that there were men in the water. There we began putting lines over
the side. A Jacobs Ladder was let down and a survivor in the water grabbed ahold of it and was
pulled up toward the hangar deck. Several people were in getting him aboard, one of whom was
an enlisted man with a line around his chest, completely over the side and grabbed hold of his
trouser belt and one leg and we pulled him aboard. Our skipper LCDR R.E. Merchant USN saw
that he was put into a stretcher, wrapped in a blanket and taken to Sick Bay. About that time word
came that there were some men in the water on the port bow. Upon crossing the hangar bay to the
port rail I noticed a man in the water who was unable to reach any of the lines. A Jacobs Ladder
was put over the side and I attempted to reach the man. Unable to do so I started to swim to him
but noticed a Motor Whale Boat that had been put over the side into the water was coming my way.
So grabbing ahold of the ladder again, I directed them to the man near the boat. They picked him
up with the aid of battle lanterns. By this time a raft floated by near me with four survivors in it. One
of the Helicopter pilots dropped the sling which they use in the helicopter over the side and I
managed to get two of the survivors into it and they were hauled safely aboard. Then I climbed into
the raft and as the Motor Whale Boat came back by they stopped and took off the other two
survivors. As they started to shove off one of the men noticed me still in the raft and they came
back and got me too. I suppose they hadn't seen me in the raft as everything was covered with oil,
including me, and the water was pitch black. By then the Motor Whale Boat had a pretty good load
of survivors, so we went aft and the ship hoisted us aboard.
The swells were fairly heavy and the water was rather calm and the fuel oil made it very difficult to
hang onto anyone unless he had clothes on. It was awfully hard to see a man in the water because
fuel oil covered everything, making everything the same color- BLACK.
It was certainly teamwork that allowed the rescue of as many survivors as were gotten. Everyone
seemed to have a part in the rescue. Especially appreciated were the blankets thrown over the
side into the boats, enabling the survivors to be kept warm.