March 25, 2005
San Francisco crew members honored for heroism
By William H. McMichael
Navy Times staff writer
An emotional week for crew members of the attack submarine San Francisco came to a close Friday with an
awards ceremony in Guam for 20 crew members who distinguished themselves in the wake of the violent Jan. 8
undersea grounding that left one sailor dead and seriously injured two dozen more.
Three days earlier, six of their shipmates, who unofficial sources said included the heavily damaged
submarine’s executive officer, navigator, assistant navigator and three petty officers, were punished at
nonjudicial hearings that held each at least partially culpable for the tragic mishap. The Navy would not
confirm the crew members’ positions on the sub.
On Friday, the Navy recognized those who played key roles in treating injured crew members and in the
successful effort to get the crippled sub back to Guam safely.
Two crewmembers — Lt. j.g. Craig Litty and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SS) James Akin — were given the
Meritorious Service Medal for administering emergency triage to 70 injured crew members and organizing the
crew’s mess into a makeshift emergency trauma center. Akin also was commended for his assessment of injuries
and recommendations for which injuries most required transfer off the sub, which “enabled the ship to adopt
the correct posture with respect to operational risk management,” according to the citation.
Nine others received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SS) Jeremy
Key, Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SS) David Miller, Electronics Technician 2nd Class (SS) Scott Pierce,
Electronics Technician 1st Class (SS) Bryan Powell and Yeoman 2nd Class (SS) Carnell Smoot were all honored
for helping treat injured sailors as members of the sub’s emergency medical assistance team. All also helped
rig and hoist the most seriously injured sailor, Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley, in
“extremely heavy weather conditions.” Ashley died as the result of his injuries.
Three other sailors — Sonar Technician (Submarine) 1st Class (SS) Christopher Baumhoff, Machinist’s Mate 2nd
Class (SS) Gilbert Daigle and Lt. Jeff McDonald — played key roles in the planning and execution of the
at-sea rig-and-hoist operation. Another, Senior Chief Machinist’s Mate (SS) Danny Hager, was recognized for
helping direct the sub’s control party stabilize the damaged sub on the surface and, despite a painful
injury, designing a temporary oxygen system from the sub’s oxygen banks to help treat injured shipmates.
Four other sailors received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and five others were presented a
letter of commendation from Submarine Group 7.
The six sailors punished March 22 each were cited by Capt. Bradley Gehrke, commander of Submarine Squadron
15, for “actions that led to the grounding,” according to Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, spokesman for the Pacific
Fleet Submarine Force. The submarine’s commanding officer at the time of the mishap, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, was
relieved Feb. 12 by 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert.
The nuclear-powered San Francisco ran into an uncharted sea mount 350 miles southeast of Guam while
transiting from Guam to Australia. The collision heavily damaged the bow of the 23-year-old, 362-foot attack
submarine, which is being temporarily repaired in a Guam drydock to enable a transit to Hawaii this summer
for further damage assessments.
William H. McMichael is the Hampton Roads bureau chief for Navy Times. Reach him at (757) 223-0096.
USS San Francisco Commander Guilty Of
By ROBERT A. HAMILTON
Day Staff Writer, Navy/Defense/Electric Boat
Published on 2/12/2005
The captain of a submarine that hit a seamount Jan. 8 in the western
Pacific Ocean, killing one crewman and seriously injuring 23 others, has been found guilty of operating
the submarine unsafely and has been issued a letter of reprimand, effectively ending his career.
Kevin Mooney, the captain of the USS San Francisco, was permanently relieved as skipper after an
administrative proceeding known as an admiral's mast. The proceeding was convened by an order of the
commander of the Seventh Fleet, Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert.
Cmdr. Ike N. Skelton, a spokesman for the
Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, said late Friday night that Greenert determined during the
investigation that Mooney failed to follow “several critical navigational and voyage planning” standards.
“By not ensuring those standards were followed, Mooney hazarded the vessel,” Skelton said, reading
from a statement issued by Greenert.
The mast concluded that Mooney's crew had access to charts that
showed there might have been an underwater obstruction in the area, and that a sounding taken just
minutes before the accident did not correlate with the charts that were in use at the time, which should
have prompted him to be more cautious.
The news stunned several Navy sources who have been following
the accident investigation, particularly because Mooney's actions after the accident were characterized
as heroic by everyone familiar with the situation. Despite extensive damage to the ship, he and his crew
got it to the surface and kept it floating long enough to limp back to its homeport of Apra Harbor, Guam.
The San Francisco was heading to Australia when it came to periscope depth a little more than 400
miles southwest of Guam to fix its position accurately. Minutes after diving, and while traveling at a
high rate of speed, the submarine slammed into a seamount in an area where official Navy charts list
6,000 feet of water.
Other charts of the area, however, show muddy water in the area, which normally
indicates shallowness, and other government agency charts show evidence of the seamount less than 150
feet below the surface.
The grounding destroyed three of the four ballast tanks in the submarine's
bow, shattered the sonar dome and smashed the sonar sphere. In addition, a bulkhead at the front end of
the ship was buckled.
Machinist Mate 3rd Class Joseph Ashley was killed when he was thrown more than
20 feet and struck his head on a large pump. Almost two-dozen others were injured so badly they could not
perform their duties, though they have all since been treated and released from the hospital in Guam.
Seventy-five others received less severe injuries.
The crew saved the ship by constantly running a low
pressure blower meant for only intermittent use to force water out of the badly damaged forward ballast
tanks, as well as using exhaust from the ship's diesel motor to augment the blower.
Despite the force
of the blow, the nuclear reactor and the ship's turbine generators continued to operate normally, and
even sensitive electronic and navigation gear continued to function.
On Jan. 20, Mooney was reassigned
to Submarine Squadron 15 in Guam, pending the results of an investigation to determine the cause of the
sub's grounding. Cmdr. Andrew Hale, the squadron's deputy commander, assumed duties as captain of the San
The mast means that Mooney will not face a more serious proceeding known as a court
martial, but the letter of reprimand and the decision to relieve him of command “for cause” means that
his promising career is over, the Navy sources said.
In a related development, Lt. Cmdr. Jeff A.
Davis, a spokesman for the Pacific submarine force commander, said late Friday night that assessment of
the damage to the San Francisco is proceeding and that shipyard workers in Guam are planning to make
temporary repairs to the bow of the ship so it can be moved under its own power to a shipyard where it
can be repaired.
Although the location where it will be repaired has not been determined, Navy sources
said it would likely be Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, or Bangor, Wash.
“These temporary repairs will be
engineered to ensure a successful transit,” Davis said. “As part of having on-hand materials for
potential use in these temporary repairs, a large steel dome about 20 feet high and 20 feet in diameter
will be arriving at Guam in the next few days. As of now, no decisions have been made about when USS San
Francisco will depart Guam, where it will go, or what her final disposition will be.”
sources said that if the assessment determines it makes sense to repair rather than scrap the San
Francisco, the Navy will likely use the entire bow section from the recently decommissioned USS Atlanta
to replace the badly damaged bow of the San Francisco.
What a Crock, That just
saves the ass of the people higher up!
The desktop commanders, number crunchers and pencil pushers couldn't possibly be at fault, NOT!! You
can be assured that all Pacific commanders have now received a directive specifying a new chart for that
January 15, 2005, New York Times
Submarine Crash Shows Navy Had Gaps in Mapping System
By CHRISTOPHER DREW
Sailors on the San Francisco, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, had just finished cleaning the vessel last
Saturday as it sped along 500 feet beneath the surface of the South Pacific. Submarines run blind, just
listening for sounds of danger. And to the captain and other officers relying on undersea navigation charts,
everything seemed clear. Suddenly, there was a horrible screeching. And according to an e-mail message
written by a crew member, the inside of the submarine quickly resembled a scene from the movie "The Matrix."
He wrote, "Everything slowed down and levitated and then went flying forward faster than the brain can
process." The submarine had crashed head-on into an undersea mountain that was not on the charts. One sailor
was killed, and about 60 others were injured. Now, Defense Department officials say they have found a
satellite image taken in 1999 that indicates an undersea mountain rising to perhaps within 100 feet below
the surface there. But the older navigation charts provided to the Navy were never updated to show the
obstruction, they acknowledge, in part because the agency that creates them has never had the resources to
use the satellite data systematically. The officials said the main chart on the submarine, prepared in 1989
and never revised, did not show any potential obstacles within three miles of the crash. They said the
incident happened in such a desolate area - 360 miles southeast of Guam - that updating their depiction of
the undersea terrain was never considered a priority. The new information about the charting flaws also
illustrates what many experts say is a broader danger not only to submarines but also to many surface ships.
At the same time, it provides a glimpse into the arcane task of plotting an undersea world that in some
areas is still more mysterious than the surfaces of Mars or Venus. A variety of satellite data is now
showing that many sea charts, including some that still rely on notations from the days when sailors
navigated by the stars, are inaccurate. And some scientists are calling for greater use of satellite data to
fix more precisely the location of undersea ridges, islands and even continental boundaries and to chart
large, less studied areas of the oceans. The latest disclosures support the account by the commanding
officer of the San Francisco that the charts showed that his track was clear. But former submarine captains
said Navy investigators were likely to examine whether it had been prudent to travel at such a high speed,
30 knots, given the age and spottiness of the information. Officials said the main chart on the submarine
was prepared by the Defense Mapping Agency in August 1989. That office was later absorbed into the National
Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, a part of the Defense Department that provides maps, sea charts and other
geographic intelligence to the nation's combat forces. Chris Andreasen, the chief hydrographer for the
Office of Global Navigation at the intelligence agency, acknowledged in an interview that on the chart,
"there's nothing shown that would be a hazard" at the crash site.But since the accident, Mr. Andreasen said,
his office has examined commercially available images taken by a Landsat satellite in 1999, and at least one
image indicates that an undersea mountain could rise to within 100 feet of the surface there. Analysts say
variations in water color can sometimes indicate a land mass below. Mr. Andreasen said his agency had not
normally used satellite imagery to update sea charts, though it recently began using the images to help
pinpoint the boundaries of islands and other land masses. He and other officials said that the charting
office's staff had shrunk in recent years, and that the Navy never asked it to focus on the area south of
Guam, where it began basing submarines in 2002.Current and former Navy officials say the main focus during
the cold war was charting areas in the Northern Pacific and in Arctic seas where missile and surveillance
submarines guarded against a Soviet attack. Since then, the Navy has been trying to improve charts of
shallower coastal waters in the Middle East and other areas where it might have to help battle terrorists.
Mr. Andreasen said that since global positioning satellites came into wide use in the 1980's, Navy and
commercial ships had had a much more accurate way to fix the coordinates of islands, undersea volcanoes and
other parts of the giant mountain ranges that jut up from the ocean floor. "G.P.S. is changing the world,"
he said. As ships have reported these coordinates, sea-charting offices around the world have found that
many islands were "maybe a mile or two out of position" on widely used charts, he said. So over the past
year, his agency has been using the Landsat images and other data to update many nations' boundaries. But
Mr. Andreasen and other scientists said that while commercial shipping interests had helped chart the most
common transit routes, large areas of the ocean depths remained little charted. Dr. David T. Sandwell, a
geophysics professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said that about 40 percent of
the oceans were "very, very poorly charted, and those areas are mostly in the Southern Hemisphere." While
many sea charts include obstacles and features spotted by commercial vessels, World War II warships and even
19th-century explorers, the best charts are made by survey ships that use sound beams to create detailed
pictures of the undersea terrain. The Navy has only seven such ships, however, and scientists say it could
take decades to chart the rest of the seas thoroughly. As a result, Dr. Sandwell and others have suggested
that the government make rough chartings of more areas with another type of satellite - one that uses radar
to measure variations in the height of the ocean that can signal if mountains are below. Dr. Sandwell said
readings by one such satellite in the mid-1980's also indicated there could be an undersea mountain at the
San Francisco's crash site. But he said the margin of error was too large for the studies to be conclusive.
And Mr. Andreasen said much of the satellite data was too vague for precise charting. Mr. Andreasen said the
main chart used on the submarine showed that the only concerns were a small area of discolored water that
had been noted three miles from the crash site and some coral reefs about 10 miles away.Notes on the chart
indicated that the discolored water was mentioned on a British sea chart in 1963, and Mr. Andreasen said the
notation might even go back to World War II. He said the discoloration might have been just a temporary
disturbance, or it could have been a sign of the undersea ridge.Other notes suggest that some ships had
reported depths of 5,000 to 6,000 feet nearby. But Mr. Andreasen said few commercial ships used the area,
and "it has never been systematically surveyed."Navy officials declined to comment, saying they are
investigating the accident.The submarine left Guam on Jan. 7 for Brisbane, Australia. The Navy said 23 of
the sailors were seriously injured, and at least five had broken bones.The e-mail message by the sailor was
sent to several people involved with submarines, and as it circulated within the submarine community, one
person provided a copy to The New York Times. The sailor wrote that many crew members were eating lunch at
the time of the crash, which severely damaged the vessel's bow. He said several sailors suffered "bad head
wounds," and men in the engine room smashed against "lots of metal and sharp edges." Still, he said that the
vessel's damage control party "did everything exactly right even though they were hurt as well. "The message
also said that the submarine was lucky to have an extra medic on board, and that its main medic, known as a
corpsman, did not sleep during the two-day trip back to port. The Navy has said a machinist's mate second
class, Joseph A. Ashley of Akron, Ohio, was knocked unconscious by the crash and died the next day from
severe head injuries. The e-mail message said other sailors were surprised that the corpsman "got him to
hold on as long as he did."
Queenfishers: The following on the San Francisco came from the 393 XO Captain Jack Bennett.
The ocean bottom was supposed to be more than a mile below where the San
Francisco hit. In fact, sources said the San Francisco had just submerged from periscope depth and had taken
a bottom reading with its Fathometer four minutes
before it hit the seamount and that the reading indicated the bottom was 6,000 feet below the keel.
Admiral's e-mail says nuclear submarine impact was "incredibly hard"
USS San Francisco reportedly could have sunk following crash
By ROBERT A. HAMILTON
Day Staff Writer, Navy/Defense/Electric Boat
Published on 1/12/2005
It is increasingly clear that the submarine that hit a seamount in the
Pacific Ocean last week came close to being lost and that only the valiant
efforts of its crew kept it afloat, Navy sources said Tuesday.
With uncontrolled flooding in its forward ballast tanks, the USS San
Francisco had to run a low-pressure air pump for 30 hours straight to
maintain buoyancy on its trip home, Navy sources said. The pump is rated
for only intermittent use.
In addition, the submarine ran its diesel engines, channeling the exhaust
into the forward ballast tanks in an effort to force out more of the water
and make the ship lighter.
"Based on the information I've seen so far, they're very lucky this ship
didn't sink," said retired Navy Capt. John C. Markowicz. "Only through the
heroic efforts of the crew did that ship survive."
The San Francisco, homeported at Guam, was traveling more than 500 feet
below the surface at more than 30 knots - about 35 mph - when it slammed
into the seamount about 360 miles southeast of Guam.
The New York Times, in its editions today, reports that the submarine hit
so "incredibly hard" that about 60 of its 137 crew were injured and that
the one sailor who died was thrown 20 feet by the impact, according to
internal Navy e-mail messages sent by Rear Adm. Paul F. Sullivan, the
commander of submarines in the Pacific.
The messages sent by Sullivan paint a more dire picture of the accident
than had previously been disclosed, The Times reported.
The accident came just minutes after the crew had finished a "field day,"
a cleaning process that involves breaking down a lot of equipment. If the
accident had happened an hour earlier, the situation could have been much
more serious because the loose equipment hatches and other parts could
have become missiles, one source said.
Submariners also noted that if the boat involved had been a newer version
of the Los Angeles class, the results could have been catastrophic.
The San Francisco, SSN 711, was commissioned in 1981. Starting with the
Groton-based USS Providence, SSN 719, Los Angeles-class submarines have 12
missiles in vertical launch tubes in a compartment just behind the sonar
Several submariners acknowledged that such an incident involving a newer
boat could have led to a fire in the missile fuel systems, which could
have led to a low-order detonation of up to 12,000 pounds of high
"It could have been a real Kursk-type situation," one Navy source said,
referring to the Russian submarine that sank in August 2000 after a fire
broke out in its torpedo compartment.
Submariners around the country were poring over charts of the area where
the San Francisco hit the seamount and were coming to the same conclusion:
The ocean bottom was supposed to be more than a mile below where the San
In fact, sources said the San Francisco had just submerged from periscope
depth and had taken a bottom reading with its Fathometer four minutes
before it hit the seamount and that the reading indicated the bottom was
6,000 feet below the keel.
The damage to the submarine, which includes a cracked sonar sphere and
severe damage to three of the four ballast tanks near the bow, and some
buckling of the forward pressure hull, all argue that the submarine hit
something akin to an underwater cliff.
"Going from 6,000 feet to almost nothing in four minutes is a very steep
seamount, no question about it," Markowicz said.
The local chapter of U.S. Submarine Veterans has started a fund-raising
campaign for the crew of the San Francisco. John Carcioppolo, the local
base commander, said the group just finished raising $3,800 for the family
of the Canadian submariner killed in a shipboard fire last October, and
one of the first pledges has come from the group's counterpart in Canada.
"Before I even announced I was doing fund-raising, I already got a
commitment from Buster Brown up in Canada," Carcioppolo said. Brown is the
head of the Submarine Association of Canada, Eastern Branch, and a former
high-ranking enlisted member of the Canadian Navy.
Carcioppolo said he would send any money raised to the captain of the San
Francisco, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, "to be disbursed as he sees fit."
Carcioppolo is a mentor of one of the young enlisted men on the San
Francisco, and is acquainted with Mooney as well.
"There's been a very strong outpouring of good wishes for Kevin and for
everyone on board," Carcioppolo said.
San Francisco was on its way to Brisbane, Australia, just before noon
Saturday when it ran into the seamount, crushing the front end of the
At that depth, the water pressure was almost 250 PSI, or about 16 times
atmospheric pressure, so the chief concern was to get to the surface as
quickly as possible. The crew executed an "emergency blow," forcing
high-pressure air into the ballast tanks to make the submarine rise
Once on the surface, though, the crew realized the ship was experiencing
severe flooding into two of the three forward ballast tanks, and had to
come up with some type of quick fix.
The low-pressure air system normally used for short periods of time was
pressed into continuous service, and the ship started its diesel
generators and used the exhaust to augment the blower to keep as much
water as possible out of the ballast tanks.
With those emergency procedures in place, the ship limped home to Apra,
Guam, where the Navy has rushed flotation devices, underwater engineering
gear and technical experts to begin analyzing the damage.
Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph A. Ashley, 24, of Akron, Ohio, died from a
head wound he sustained when he was thrown against a pump in the machinery
spaces. Another machinist mate on duty in the engine room also received a
serious head injury and was listed in stable condition Tuesday.
The Navy said 22 other men were injured badly enough to be taken off the
submarine, so crew members from the USS City of Corpus Christi and the USS
Houston, which are also homeported in Guam, as well as the tender USS
Frank Cable, met the ship on its return and took over many of the injured
E-Mail Shows Toll Of Crash On Submarine And Sailors
New York Times
January 12, 2005
By Christopher Drew
The nuclear submarine that ran aground Saturday in the South Pacific hit
so "incredibly hard" that about 60 of its 137 crew members were injured
and the sailor who died was thrown 20 feet by the impact, according to
internal Navy e-mail messages sent by a top admiral.
The messages said the submarine's hull was severely damaged after the
head-on crash into what Navy officials believe was an undersea mountain
that was not on the navigation charts. One message said the submarine, the
San Francisco, was traveling at high speed, and the impact practically
stopped it in its tracks and caused flooding in parts of the bow.
The messages were written by Rear Adm. Paul F. Sullivan, the commander of
submarines in the Pacific. They paint a more dire picture of the accident,
which occurred 360 miles southeast of Guam, than had previously been
disclosed. They also hint at the extensive efforts to steady the vessel
and save the sailor who died.
The e-mail indicated that the Navy had tried to evacuate the fatally
injured man, Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph A. Ashley, within hours after
he had been thrown forward and hit his head on a metal pump, which knocked
Petty Officer Ashley's father, Daniel L. Ashley, said in an interview he
had been told that as a helicopter hovered over the choppy seas, crew
members could not maneuver a stretcher carrying his son through the
submarine's hatches before he died.
"They tried numerous times to maneuver him through various hatches," Mr.
Ashley said. "But it just didn't happen."
Admiral Sullivan, who is based in Hawaii, sent the e-mail messages to
other Navy officials. As the messages circulated within the submarine
community, two people provided copies to The New York Times, and Navy
officials confirmed their authenticity.
The e-mail also indicated that about 60 crew members had been injured. All
the Navy had said publicly was that 23 crew members were treated for
broken bones, cuts and bruises.
The messages said those 23 were hurt seriously enough that they were
unable to stand their watch duties as the submarine limped back to Guam.
Mr. Ashley said the submarine's captain, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, told him by
phone on Monday that among the injured crew members, "there were a lot of
broken fingers, broken arms and legs and one fractured back."
Navy officials said yesterday that the rest of the injuries were minor.
The admiral's e-mail also said an outer hull ripped open at the
submarine's nose, causing flooding in a dome with sonar sensors and in
four of the ballast tanks used to submerge the vessel or take it to the
The flooding caused the submarine to sit deeper in the water and made it
hard to maneuver on the trip back to Guam. Sailors had to keep pumping
pressurized air into the tanks to prevent the water from rising and to
An inner hull, which surrounds the crew's living and work spaces, held
firm, the e-mail said. The nuclear reactor and critical propulsion systems
were not damaged.
In the e-mail, Admiral Sullivan did not discuss why the vessel ran
aground. The Navy is investigating, and the admiral, who ultimately will
have to decide whether to reprimand any of the submarine's crew members,
did not respond to requests for comment.
Navy officials have said that the submarine, which was headed for
Australia, appeared to have smashed into an undersea mountain that was not
on its charts. Mr. Ashley, who lives in Akron, Ohio, said Commander Mooney told him the same thing on Monday.
"He said, 'On the charts we have, this is a clear area all the way through
to Australia,' " Mr. Ashley said.
Navy officials said the San Francisco was traveling at 30 knots when it
careened off some part of the undersea mountain range. In one of the
e-mail messages, Admiral Sullivan wrote that on impact, the vessel made a
"nearly instantaneous deacceleration" to about 4 knots.
Mr. Ashley said Commander Mooney told him that his son had just gotten off
watch duty in the engine area and was chatting with other sailors when the
accident occurred.Mr. Ashley said his son, who was 24, "loved the Navy and that submarine"and had just re-enlisted.
Mr. Ashley said Commander Mooney, who could not be reached for comment,
also told him that his son's condition seemed to worsen as sailors laboredto tilt the stretcher through the evacuation hatch.
Mr. Ashley said that at the end of the conversation, Commander Mooney told
him that he took full responsibility for the sailor's death. Mr. Ashley
said he replied that he had heard all he needed "to know that you and your
crew did everything you could do to save my son's life."
Frank Toon of the Blenney sent the following:
I thought that I would put out a note since a lot of you have been calling
and writing to find out how things are and if I'm OK and what happened. If
you hadn't heard, my boat hit a uncharted submerged sea mount at the highest
speed we can go at about 500ft below the surface. There were about 30 of us
that were seriously hurt and unfortunately one of my shipmates didn't make
First off I am OK. I am pretty beat up with my entire left side and butt as
one big bruise. My shoulder is separated and may require surgery. They
will evaluate later this week. I am very fortunate that I hit the wall and
didn't go down a ladderwell that was right next to where I hit. If I had
gone down that, I would have got really messed up. I took a tremendous shot
to my left thigh from something. If it had been slightly lower in the knee
area it would have been really ugly. But all in all I am in good shape.
We hit it at about noon right after field day (where all of us clean the
boat for several hours). Thank God we didn't hit while we were doing this
or it would have been much worse. We would have had flying deck plates
through the air and such. Not good. As it was, it happened while chow was
going on and most people were either sitting and eating or on watch.
I don't remember much of the collision. People describe it as like in the
movie the Matrix where everything slowed down and levitated and then went
flying forward faster that the brain can process. My mind has blanked it out
exactly what happened. Adrenaline kicked in and I have no real memory of
how I got down to middle level or what I did immediately following. I
helped carry several shipmates to the crew mess deck (adrenaline is a
wonderful thing - my shoulder was wrecked and I had no idea until about 4
hours later). I sat with several of my junior guys that had bad head wounds
and talked with them to keep them conscious until doc could see them. It
seemed like an eternity but I'm sure wasn't that long. For those Navy folks
that ever wondered why Chief's stomp around and preach "Stow for Sea" This
was a perfect example. It definately saved lives.
I am extremely proud of the crew to do damage control, help the wounded and
get the boat safely to the surface (for the boat guys we blew the tanks dry
on the emergency blow but unbeknownst to us we were missing some ballast
tanks/some didnt have integrity). The ship's control party did every thing
exactly right even though they were hurt as well. The Diving Officer of the
Watch had just unbuckled his belt to update a status board and hit the
Ship's Control Panel hard enough to break some of the gauges. To add insult
to injury his chair came up right behind him. Several people were injured
in the Engine Room Lower Level area. Lots of metal and sharp edges in the
area as well as that's were the boat's smoking area is at. Several crew
members are reevaluating that habit now.
Once again we got lucky in the fact that we had an extra corpsman onboard.
One of our officer's was a prior enlisted corpsman that was a Fleet Marine
Force medic so he was a Godsend for us. Our Corpsman did an outstanding job
getting everyone stabilized and did the best he could for our fallen
shipmate. I am surprised that he got him to hold on as long as he did. Our
corpsman is definitely a hero in my book. He didn't sleep for 2 or 3 days.
We finally put him down when the SEAL docs helicoptered in to help.
said, I am extremely proud of my crew and how they handled themselves. My
Chief of the Boat was an inspiration of what a leader should be and my
Captain was as well. My XO took out an EAB manifold with his back but still
managed to help coordinate things. No matter what happens later, these men
did a superior job under difficult circumstances. I am humbled by the
entire crew's performance from the CO down to the Seaman that I was checking
in two days before.
For those of you wondering, I am sure there will be an investigation into
what happened and no I was not part of the navigation preps for this voyage.
I work on the inertial/electronic navigation and interior communications
part of my rate and didn't have anything to do with the conventional
navigation part of it. I will be lending support to my comrades who were to
help them prepare for the pending investigation.
I thank you all for you concern and appreciate your prayers not only for
myself, but for my shipmates. We are doing well, we band of brothers and
will pull through just fine.
Chief Electronics Technician Submarines
USS San Francisco SSN 711
Bill Corcoran sent the following articles:
Columbus Base Shipmate, Tim France, forwards the following:
This is a pretty detailed report from the New London Day:
Damage To Submarine Believed Severe
USS San Francisco Back In Guam Homeport
By ROBERT A. HAMILTON
Day Staff Writer, Navy/Defense/Electric Boat
Published on 1/11/2005
Photographs of the USS San Francisco returning to Apra Harbor in Guam Monday
show the submarine's sonar sphere and forward ballast tanks were heavily
damaged when it hit an undersea mountain, experienced submariners said.
One man was killed in the collision, and 23 others, about one of every six
crewmen on board, were injured and evacuated from the submarine, making the
incident one of the most serious undersea accidents in memory.
"This is the first time in my memory that anyone was ever killed in one of
these accidents," said retired Navy Capt. John W. "Bill" Sheehan of
Waterford, who commanded a submarine in the 1970s.
The bow of the submarine normally rides high in the water, but the San
Francisco's was steeply angled down as the submarine passed the Orote cliffs
in Guam, Navy photos showed. That indicated it was carrying many extra tons
Sources said the sonar sphere was cracked, which would allow in about 20
tons of water. The ballast tanks were cracked and flooded as well, the
sources said, and portions of the hull near the bow were buckled.
Retired submariners said the sonar dome, which is always flooded, probably
absorbed enough of the impact to keep the pressure hull from cracking,
allowing the crew to save the ship.
The reactor, located amidships, and the rest of the propulsion plant in the
rear of the ship were undamaged, the Navy said.
Navy sources said the ship was traveling more than 500 feet below the
surface at more than 30 knots, about 35 mph, when it collided with the sea
mount about 350 miles south of Guam.
Retired Navy Capt. John C. Markowicz of Waterford said the injuries were not
"Put yourself in an automobile going 35 mph and you hit a brick wall without
even having a seat belt on," he said.
The crewman who was killed, Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph A. Ashley, 24,
of Akron, Ohio, died from a head wound he sustained when he was thrown
against a pump in the machinery spaces.
...During the Cold War, the Navy focused on charting the Atlantic because of
the threat the Soviet Union posed from that direction. Submariners said that
until recently some of the Pacific Ocean charts carried warnings based on
soundings made by Captain Cook in the 18th century, and even modern charts
can be based on soundings taken 20 miles or more apart.
Local submariners say the area where the sub was traveling is notorious for
no-warning sea mounts; the water depth can change 1,000 fathoms in seconds.
"We know more about the backside of the moon than we do about the bottom of
the ocean," said retired Navy Capt. James Patton, president of Submarine
Tactics and Technology in North Stonington.
The area in which the San Francisco was traveling, through the Caroline
Islands chain, is one of the worst, with dozens of islands rising out of the
water and many more uncharted seamounts between them.
"It's just bad water," Patton said.
Submariners said that if the navigation team was operating a Fathometer, the
San Francisco probably would have had time to change course no matter how
steep the seamount. But if it thought it was in deep water, it might not
have been running that piece of equipment.
"The Fathometer sends a signal out, and you can be tracked when you're
sending that signal," said retired Navy Capt. Raymond D. Woolrich of
Waterford, a previous commander of the Undersea Surveillance Program in the
"One of the things I found running the undersea surveillance system is that
earthquakes happen all the time in the Pacific, and that's how the earth
changes," Woolrich said. "Could there have been an unknown, uncharted
seamount? Sure there could have been."
Markowicz recalled that during a transit to the North Pole, passing near
Iceland, where a lot of volcanic activity occurs, the water depth could
shift hundreds of fathoms in four or five seconds, which would not have been
enough time to turn a 7,000-ton submarine traveling at 35 mph.
"The slope comes up very quickly," Markowicz said. "You have very little
reaction time, and you may not even have as much warning in the Pacific
(where the slopes can be even steeper.) I'm sure that the board of
investigation will look at the situation very carefully."
Via Mike Hein former COB SSN651
More info for a sad day. More to follow as I get it. 'brothers of the Phin'
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, January 10, 2005 3:52 PM
Subject: USS SAN FRANCISCO SITREP -2100W/9 Jan 05
Sent: Mon Jan 10 02:17:01 2005
Subject: USS SAN FRANCISCO SITREP -2100W/9 Jan 05
Fellow Flag Officers this is my second unclas update on the SAN FRANCISCO incident for your situational
At 10 January 1634 local (100134 EST) the USS SAN FRANCISCO returned safely to Apra Harbor, Guam. The
ship moored with her own line handlers in a normal submarine configured mooring (AFT draft is 27'-10''
(normal AFT draft is 32') and FWD Draft is above the draft marks with the waterline at the point the
towed array faring begins; 0.8 degree STBD list and 1 degree Down bubble indicating by naval architecture
calculations that 1 A/B and 2A/B MBTs are most likely flooded).
injured Machinist Mate (Engineroom Upper Level Watch at time of grounding) was evacuated immediately and
transferred by ambulance to Naval Hospital Guam where a fully staffed medical team was standing by. He is
conscious and in stable condition. Approximately fifteen additional injured personnel requiring medical
care subsequently departed the ship and were transported to the hospital after taking a moment to meet
with family members.
Crewmembers from the USS CORPUS CHRISTI, HOUSTON and FRANK CABLE assisted in linehandling and various
return to port evolutions such as propulsion plant shutdown, shorepower cables, and rig for surface.
Standing by on the pier was a full complement of watchstanders from USS CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI (and SAN
FRANCISCO stay-behinds) to satisfy all watchstanding requirements for reactor plant shutdown with
follow-on in-port forward and aft watch sections.
Following the grounding on 8 January, the ship transited on the surface at 8kts with surface escort,
USCGC GALVESTON ISLAND to Apra Harbor, Guam. Due to deteriorated weather conditions on the evening of 9
January, the Commanding Officer shifted bridge watchstations to control and shut bridge access hatches to
maximize watertight integrity in light of reserve buoyancy concerns. The ship maintained stability
throughout the surface transit with continuous operation of the Low Pressure Blower on the Forward Main
Ballast Tanks. SAN FRANCISCO has experienced no reactor plant, propulsion train or electrical system
degradations as a result of the grounding. The Commanding Officer shifted the Officer of the Deck's
watch to the bridge on 10 January in preparation for piloting into Apra Harbor.
The critically injured Machinist Mate (Auxiliaryman) passed away yesterday afternoon as a result of his
injuries. The MM2 was in Aft Main Seawater Bay at the time of the grounding and his body was thrown
forward approximately 20 feet into Propulsion Lube Oil Bay. He suffered a severe blow to his forehead and
never regained consciousness.
Emergency medical personnel, including a Naval Hospital Guam surgeon, Undersea Medical Officer and
Independent Duty Corpsmen, arrived on the ship via helicopter transfer to provide immediate medical care
and prepare the crewmember for medical evacuation on the morning of 9 January. Unfortunately, the
sailor's condition deteriorated and he died onboard while under the care of the embarked physicians.
Just moments prior to the sailors death, I spoke with the Sailor's father in preparation for their
pending travel from Ohio to the West Pacific to see their Son. Since then I have passed on to his Dad my
condolences on their Son's death and reassured them their Son's remains would be treated with utmost
respect and dignity. His father expressed great gratitude for the extraordinary efforts made by the Navy
to save his Son's life. He told me his Son loved the Navy, having just reenlisting earlier this year and
wanted to make it a career. That when he called home he always talked about the many friendships and the
wonderful camaraderie the crew of SFO exhibited. Prior to sailing, he was really excited about the
pending ship visit to Australia. The parents are considering traveling to Guam, with Navy support, at
some point to meet the crew and partake in a memorial service for his Son.
For the remainder of the transit, the embarked medical trauma team administered medical care to the other
injured personnel. Their careful attention and evaluation augments the ship's Independent Duty
Corpsman's heroic efforts since the grounding.
Submarine Squadron Fifteen COMMODORE, Captain Brad Gerhke and Captain Paul Bushong, Commanding Officer of
the Submarine Tender USS FRANK CABLE have mobilized their assets, staffs, crews and local Navy Community
to provide comprehensive support to the SAN FRANCISCO. Professional counselors, medical personnel and
Navy Chaplains are scheduled to meet with the entire crew to provide grief counseling and assistance
throughout the next several days and as required over the long term.
Brad has been meeting frequently with the SFO families and they are doing remarkable
well. The entire Navy community in Guam has come to the SFO's families' assistance. I have talked to
Kevin Mooney's (SFO Skipper) wife, Ariel. Her state of mind is positive and resolute, with a courageous
and upbeat view of the trying days ahead.
The ship's Main Ballast Tank damage and deformation has degraded maneuverability and mandated the use of
two tugs to moor in Apra Harbor. A Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard/NAVSEA Material Assessment Team comprised
of a structural engineer, MBT vent expert, air systems expert and naval architect arrived in Guam with
special ship salvage and recovery equipment to stabilize the ship pierside as soon as possible. The
team, led by Captain Charles Doty, commenced a seaworthiness and repair assessment upon the ship's
arrival. Once additional buoyancy measures are in place and tested satisfactory, the Low Pressure Blower
will be secured to allow divers to enter the water to conduct an inspection.
While this grounding is a tragedy, with a through investigation led by Cecil Haney, we will find out all
the facts and then ensure we learn from the mistakes. But, I too believe we have much to be thankful for
today, and much to be confident in. An operational warship has returned to port on her own power with
all but one of its crew after sustaining major hull damage.
The survival of the
ship after such an incredibly hard grounding (nearly instantaneous deacceleration from Flank Speed to 4
KTS) is a credit to the ship design engineers and our day-to-day engineering and watchstanding
practices. The continuous operation of the propulsion plant, electrical systems and navigation
demonstrates the reliability of our equipment and the operational readiness of our crews as a whole.
The impressive Joint and Navy team effort which resulted in SFO returning to
port safely says volumes about the ingenuity and resourcefulness of all our armed services. For all who
participated in this effort, thank you and your people. We are all eternally grateful to each of you.
Very Respectfully - Paul Sullivan
( Admiral Sullivan is the Commander of Submarines Pacific)
USS San Francisco (SSN 711) arrived safely in Guam
Pacific Fleet Public Affairs
Release Date: 1/10/2005 9:59:00 AM
PEARL HARBOR (NNS) --
The Los Angeles-class submarine USS San Francisco (SSN 711) arrived safely in Guam the afternoon of Jan. 10
Guam time (all following dates Guam time) following a Jan. 7 grounding accident at sea, approximately 350
nautical miles south of Guam.
Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley, 24, of Akron, Ohio, died Jan. 9 from injuries suffered
during the accident. Twenty-three other Sailors were treated by medical teams dispatched out to the
submarine for a range of injuries, including broken bones, lacerations, bruises and a back injury. The
submarine had a crew of 137 at the time of the incident.
The Navy continues to offer its sincerest condolences and prayers to the family and friends of Ashley.
The Coast Guard Cutter Galveston Island (WPB 1349), USNS Stockham (T-AK 3017) and USNS Kiska (T-AE 35), as
well as MH-60S Knighthawks from Guam-based Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 5 and P-3 Orion maritime
patrol aircraft from Commander, Task Force 72 assisted the submarine’s return.
The Navy is investigating the cause and circumstances of the incident.
Further questions may be referred to the U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs Office at (808)471-3769.
Sent: Sunday, January 09, 2005 7:42 AM
Subject: SUB CREW MEMBER DIES
By: U.S. Pacific
Fleet Public Affairs Office
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- A crewmember died this afternoon aboard the Los Angeles-class submarine USS San Francisco (SSN 711)
as a result of injuries sustained when the sub ran aground yesterday south of Guam.
The name of the Sailor is being withheld pending a mandatory 24-hour period, which started when next of kin
Our sincerest condolences and prayers go out to the family and friends of the Sailor.
Navy medical personnel were surged overnight and came aboard the submarine at the first opportunity this
morning, but the one Sailor’s injuries were extremely serious. The medical personnel, including a doctor,
remain aboard and are treating 23 other crew members for a range of injuries including broken bones,
lacerations, bruises and a back injury.
The submarine remains on the surface and is continuing toward its homeport in Guam, escorted by the Coast
Guard cutter Galveston Island and USNS Stockham. The submarine is expected to arrive in port Monday
afternoon (Guam time). USNS Kiska and military aircraft are also continuing to assist as required.
Further information will be released when available.
USS San Francisco runs aground off Guam
HONOLULU - A nuclear submarine ran aground about 350 miles south of Guam, injuring around 20 sailors, one of
them critically, the Navy said.
There were no reports of damage to the USS San Francisco's reactor plant, which was operating normally, the
The 360-foot submarine was headed back to its home port in Guam, and the Friday afternoon incident was under
investigation, said Jon Yoshishige, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor.
He said there was no information yet on what the submarine struck.
Details on the sailors' injuries were not immediately available, but Yoshishige said an initial assessment
put the number injured at around 20. The sub has a crew of 137, officials said.
Navy and Coast Guard aircraft from Guam were en route to monitor the submarine and assist if needed, the
Guam is a U.S. territory about 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii.