Story by Joe Adamo
One of those cruises we were in a collision of the coast of Sicily. We were sideswiped by one of our own ships the USS Conyngham DDG17 a Guided Missile Destroyer.
But there’s a lot more to the story!
Daniels had a capability that was not common at the time amongst navy ships. She was able to do over the horizon tracking and identification. This capability led to the special assignment of meeting up with the new Russian aircraft carrier, Moskva, as she came out of the Black Sea. Daniels got the word in Norfolk, and set out at best possible speed to meet Moskva. We transited the Atlantic at over 20 knots, stopped briefly in Rota to refuel, (about 12 hours) and headed out to cross the Med and met Moskva as she left the Black Sea. It was high tempo operations and work up as we went to take on the task. The crew was pretty excited and looking forward to the operation.
The Russian philosophy at the time was that areas within their formations were sovereign territory and therefore no trespassing allowed by others – the US naturally heralded freedom of the seas. A clash was about to occur!
We met up with Moskva just off the coast of Turkey; some Mod Kashin class cruisers accompanied her.
The Mod Kashin was a turbine-powered ship – fast and maneuverable, but Joey D was up to the task. I believe we fired up all blowers and burners with 110% nozzles for this operation. Our job, get in close to the new Moskva and get pictures and electronic signatures especially of the YAK 36 - the Russian equivalent of the US Harrier VTOL aircraft.
Under the watchful eye of Capt O.C. Chisum we began to make our penetrating runs of the Russian formation. The Russians did everything they could to keep us out – the collision alarm was sounded often as the ships came dangerously close to one another over the next few days. Talk about OJT for the junior officers in ship handling! It was dangerous but it was fun and exciting!
We quickly discovered that the Mod Kashin was able to out accelerate the Joey D at the low end but did not have the sustaining power to keep up that acceleration at the higher speeds – we had ‘um! We out maneuvered and raced the destroyers and got the pictures! I distinctly remember the Russian communications with us threatening to inform our government of our illegal tactics.
So you might ask what does all this have to do with the collision with the USS Coyningham? Well after a week of High Tempo ops and ship maneuvering with the Russians we were assigned to participate in a national week exercise of the coast of Sicily. We specifically assigned to protect the carrier (the Kennedy I believe) from incursion by orange forces (the role playing bad guys) into our carrier formation! Hey we just practiced this for real – a no brainer! The Coyningham (an orange bad guy) was supposed to start the mock war by penetrating the formation and attacking the carrier – but Joey D was there! Well we did what we had done so well the previous two weeks and cut DDG 17 off – they were slow to respond (and a little surprised I guess at our tactics at 0500) and were unable to keep from hitting us starboard side aft.
It was a good hit too! Rippled the deck plates from just aft of the break, around the five-inch gun to the stern. It also wiped out the starboard prop guard and opened a seam along the aft starboard side gunnels and gave the after steering guy quite a ride. Woke everybody up before reveille also as we went to GQ to assess the damage.
We were rushed to Naples for temporary repairs and then Toulon for a better fix and ended up spending Christmas in the shipyard at Scaremonger Greece for a permanent fix. (another story another time)
After the investigation was completed both ships were exhonorated of any wrong doing in the collision – they were two aggressive U.S. Navy warships just doing their jobs! What an exciting time to have been on board!
At least that’s what I recall, I invite anyone to provide additional updates.