Topics - Stateside Tragedies
Launch Capsize at Narragansett Bay
May 24, 1951

 
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18 Souls Lost in Liberty Launch Capsize

 

Most recent update to this page: May 12, 2015

 


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Introduction


The launch that capsized on May 24, 1951 after the launch was hauled back to the Goat Island repair station. Goat Island used to be a torpedo station. The name of the man in the photograph is unknown.
(Click picture for a larger view)

A party of men was returning to their ships after shore liberty in Newport, Rhode Island on May 24, 1951 when a Nor'easter caused the waters of Narragansett Bay to become extremely choppy.  Anxious to get out of the bad weather, 159 persons got on a launch that was built to hold 80.  The launch was hit by three successive, huge breakers and began to ship water.  The launch dove into the breakers and capsized.  Eighteen lives were lost that fateful day. They were crew members of the Kenneth Bailey, the Perry, and the USS Yellowstone AD-29.

To add information to this page, contact Lynnita via e-mail; phone 217-253-4620 (home) or 217-253-5171 (work); or write Lynnita Brown, 111 E. Houghton St., Tuscola, IL 61953.


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Fatalities (unconfirmed listing) (22 listed here, but some reports say that only 18 died)

[KWE Note: The Providence Journal of May 27, 1951 noted the names of eight men still listed as missing, stating that three were presumed dead (Hennecke, Bokoskizy and Adam), while four were listed as missing and possibly over leave or absent without leave (Laudenberg, Mace, Rogers, and Halloway).  The KWE is currently seeking a list of the deceased via Freedom of Information.]

  1. Adam, Edmund Joseph - commissary steward 3c of 662 Stevenson Street, Sayre, PA. LISTED AS MISSING.
  2. Alexander, Philip G. - 26, quartermaster on the Glennon.  Native of Morgantown, West Virginia, where his wife Mrs. Regina L. Alexander lived until she moved to Second Street, Swansea, one week prior to the launch accident.  She lived with the family of shipmate Edmund Desmarais.  Alexander could not swim.  The Alexanders had two children, a son Charles, age 4, and a daughter Susan, age 2.
  3. Bokoskizy, Casmire - yeoman 2c of the USS Yellowstone.  St. Louis. LISTED AS MISSING.
  4. Bowen, James Joseph - Damage Controlman Third Class.  He had no life jacket.  Son of Joseph A. Bowen, Philadelphia.  CONFIRMED DEAD.
  5. Halloway, Lawrence - Albany, Oregon. LISTED AS MISSING.
  6. Harkins, Richard E. - 23, machinist's mate, Newport.  Wife - Dolores Harkins of Pennsylvania.  His mother was Mrs. Christine Harkins of New Kensington, PA. CONFIRMED DEAD.
  7. Harvey, William A. - seaman apprentice on the Kenneth Bailey. CONFIRMED DEAD.
  8. Hennecke, Ralph S. - 22, electrician's mate 3c of the USS Glennon.  Wife = Agnes Hennecke of 232 John Street, Fall River.  His home was in Indiana.  He had married Agnes about two months before the accident. LISTED AS MISSING.
  9. Jackson, Willie J. - 30, stewardsman on the Glennon.  Wife = Lois Jackson.  Mother = Mrs. Frances Jackson, Albany, GA. CONFIRMED DEAD.
  10. Laudenberg, Adolph J. - 25, Lexington, KY. LISTED AS MISSING.
  11. Logo, Michael John - 23, yeoman seaman.  Wife = Annette Logo, Bridgeport, CT. LISTED AS MISSING.
  12. Mace, Eugene - Anmoore, West Virginia. LISTED AS MISSING.
  13. Manderson, Alton L. - 24, machinists mate.  Wife = Dorothy Geraldine Manderson, 34 West Broadway, South Boston. LISTED AS MISSING.
  14. Murchison, William Henry - 19, damage control man.  LISTED AS MISSING.
  15. Powell, John Henry - 20, radio seaman aboard the destroyer Glennon.  Powell's wife was the former Cecelia M. Villani, 19, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Villani.  She lived at 6 Pallas Street, Providence.  His mother and stepfather were Mr. and Mrs. K.E. Lucas of Roanoke, VA.  Powell served in the Navy four years, two of which were aboard the Glennon and two years aboard the aircraft carrier Leyte. LISTED AS MISSING.
  16. Richeck, Joseph Jr. - 20, seaman apprentice on the Kenneth Bailey.  Wife = Claire Marie Richeck, 35 Harvey St., Cambridge, MA. CONFIRMED DEAD.
  17. Rogers, Dave Lee - Prichard, Alabama. LISTED AS MISSING.
  18. Ruffo, Arthur Ott - 35, boilerman.  Wife = Mrs. Evelyn Adeline Ruffo, Philadelphia. LISTED AS MISSING.
  19. Turner, Edwin E. - Radarman 2 on the Kenneth Bailey, he died in the water.  Next of kin was Mrs. Catherine Turner of Newport. CONFIRMED DEAD.
  20. Skerlak, Francis - 26, fireman on the crew of the Kenneth Bailey.  Mother = Ann Sherlak, Bethlehem, PA. CONFIRMED DEAD.
  21. Stone, Edward Clarence - 21, electrician's mate.  Father = William I. Stone, Hudson, MA. LISTED AS MISSING.
  22. Wright, George Edward - seaman of the destroyer USS Perry, he died on the afterdeck of his own ship while efforts to resuscitate him were being made.  Next of kin was his father, Roy W. Wright of Tracy City, TN.  CONFIRMED DEAD.

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Survivors (incomplete list)

  • Babin, Charles Andrew - SA.  Father = Andrew Babin, Pittsburgh
  • Barry, John F. - Signalman on the USS Glennon
  • Bauman, Gardner F. - 30, of Medford.
  • Beauford, Jackie L. - CSSN.  Mother = Opal Beauford, Hinckley, NY.
  • Bolesta, Stanley E. - Levittown, PA
  • Bongiorno, Philip J. - EMC.  Wife = Josephine Bongiorno, 29 Howard Street, Newport.  Condition listed as serious.
  • Borges, Albert - FN.  Wife = Pearl Borges, Fairhaven, MA.
  • Brady, Alfred John - SN.  Wife = Patricia Brady, Ossining, NY.  Condition listed as serious.
  • Buckley, George B. - Danville, PA
  • Bull, Leamon G. - chief storekeeper
  • Carey, Gilbert Noel - FA.  Father = Franklin E. Gilbert, Pittsburg.
  • Chester, Francis B. - Brooklyn, NY
  • Copre, Thomas C. - chief petty officer, Yellowstone.
  • Crosbey, Rogert C. - fireman acting as engineer on the launch
  • Cullivan, Lawrence - MM2.  Wife = Norma Cullivan, Weymouth, MA.  Condition listed as serious.
  • Debich, Charles - Greensburg, PA.
  • Desmaris, Edmond - RMI.  Wife = Alipete Desmaris, 76 Haskell Street, Fall River.
  • Dudley, Robert F. - Lowell, MA
  • Egler, James D. - 19, apprentice seaman.
  • Gervasi, Louis S. - Trenton, NJ
  • Gillespie, Owen L. - chief petty officer, Yellowstone.
  • Grubb, James L. - Columbus, OH
  • Holmberg, Paul Henry - EM3.  Wife = Mildred Holmberg, Viking Hotel, Newport.  Condition listed as serious.
  • Hubley, _____ - seaman on the launch
  • Irwin, Milton W. - Pittsburgh, PA
  • Kreusche, Henry K. - chief petty officer, Glennon.
  • Kuik, Harold Arthur - SA.  Mother - Florence Kuik, Waushaw, Wisconsin.  Condition listed as serious.
  • Lesher, George W. - Lebanon, PA
  • Levine, Robert H. - Boston, MA (now deceased)
  • Leyton, Paul E. - New York
  • Louisell, Frank H. - Grand Blanc, MI
  • McBride, Carroll Paul - GM1.  Father = Charles F. McBride, Jersey City, NJ.
  • McDaniel, Daniel J. - torpedoman 1C of the destroyer tender Yellowstone
  • Meadows, Jim - USS K.D. Bailey
  • Mears, Donald B. Jr. - St. Albans, VT
  • Morgan, Shirley N. Jr. - apprentice seaman
  • Mullane, Bill
  • Nelson, William F. - Washington, DC
  • Nutter, Maurice W. - dental technician chief, Yellowstone.
  • Oswald, Philip S. - MM2.  Wife = Mildred Oswald, 408 Park Avenue, Portsmouth.
  • Phillips, Leland E.
  • Place, Merlin D. - CSSN of Elmwood, WI.  Wife = Virginia May Place, Newport.
  • Reynolds, Edward Lewis Jr. - RM3.  Wife = Marian Reynolds, 27 Cleveland Street, Putnam, CT.
  • Riddle, Seaman Paul L.
  • Riley, Daniel Carroll Jr. = SD3.  Father = D.C. Riley, New Orleans.
  • Roy, Armand Jr. - SA.  Mothers = Mrs. Irene Estelle Roy, 36 Knight Street, Fall River.
  • Santiono, Arthur - BTC.  Wife = Florence Santiono, 22 Exchange Street, Brockton.
  • Schillinger, Joseph - Ozone Park, NY
  • Schlam, ___ - Father = Joseph M. Schlam, Atlantic City.  Suffering from broken bone in left leg as well as shock and immersion.
  • Shaw, James Herbert - MEC.  Wife = Alvina C. Shaw, 23 Evans Street, Newport.
  • Smith, Harold P. - 37, chief gunner's mate on the USS Perry.  Smith was a 19 year veteran of the Navy and had destroyer experience in the Pacific during World War II.  Wife = Mrs. H.P. Smith of East Bowery Street, Newport.
  • Sorenson, Lawrence - Chicago, IL
  • Thomas, John B. Jr. - chief boatswains mate
  • Unger, LTJG. Paul - destroyer Glennon.
  • Vienot, Perry Gardner = QMSN.  Wife = Jane D. Vienot, West Main Road, Norton, MA.
  • Vollmer, George William - South Webster, OH
  • Wadleigh, Ken (USS K.D. Bailey)
  • Watkins, Donald Lyle - TMSN.  Wife = Margaret H. Watkins, Newport.
  • Weston, John D. - Oregon, WI.
  • Wetmore, Donald F. - EM3.  Wife = Roberta J. Wetmore, Lynn, MA.
  • Wilder, Tracy H. - Pulaski, NY
  • Wilhelmi, Robert C. - Rockford, IL
  • Woolhouse, William - 29, torpedoman striker on the Glennon  Wife = Cynthia E. Woolhouse, Newport.

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Eye Witness Accounts

Nowak, Levine, Keating - "Disaster at Newport"

[KWE Note: The following eye witness account is posted on the Korean War Educator with the permission of Bob Nowak.  The account was written by Nowak, Bob Levine and Bob Keating, and survivors Bill Mullane and Don Mears, with excerpts from the January 1993 issue of Tin Can Sailors, and the official BUPERS account of the events of that day.]

"Many ships meet death face to face in combat. On May 24th, 1951, K.D. BAILEY and others met the Grim Reaper in the supposed safety of their own home port. The day dawned cool and blustery. A Nor'easter was whipping Narragansett Bay into a heaving white capped turmoil. Tied up alongside the USS YELLOWSTONE (AD-27) at one of the mooring buoys (in the outer harbor) were, USS PERRY (DD-844), USS POWER (DD-839), USS GLENNON (DD-840) and USS K.D. BAILEY (DD-713), the outboard destroyer. A large motor launch from the harbor boat pool was serving the nest as a liberty launch. The fifty foot launch was covered by canvas rigging, with flaps amidships for passengers to embark and disembark. Her heavy weather capacity would be no more than 80 passengers. Her life jackets were stowed under the seats which ran fore and aft along both sides of the launch.

Unbeknownst to the OOD on BAILEY, the regular coxswain, an inexperienced man, who had made a few runs in smiling weather, but was not experienced in the heaving storm tossed waters into which he shoved off to pick up the returning liberty parties. The launch made the fleet landing in a protected inner harbor area around 0700. Here, confusion was the rule of the day. Sailors clambered into the launch, anxious to get out of the bad weather and back aboard ship. More and more jammed their way aboard until 159 souls filled the launch.

The Commanding Officer of BAILEY arrived and looked into the launch. He ordered non-BAILEY sailors to disembark. Unfortunately, as many men left others took their places and the launch was still badly overloaded for the weather conditions she faced. The CO of the GLENNON took a few men into his own gig for the trip back. He followed the launch as it motored out into the open harbor.

Here, she was struck in quick succession by three huge breakers. She began to ship water up forward. Senior petty officers and one officer aboard were trapped up forward by the press of jammed humanity and could render no help to the green coxswain who struggled to keep his launch afloat. Many men stood on the life jacket stowage areas and passing out life jackets was next to impossible. The cox slowed briefly, then apparently decided to make a run for it through the heavy going; a fatal misjudgment. The launch dove into the breakers and began to capsize. All aboard were hurled into the cold angry waters, and began to struggle for their very lives. A few hung on to the keel of the capsized launch. Some were picked up by the gig of GLENNON's skipper following behind. Nearby ships began to hoot distress signals and any available boat that could be launched was put into the water to assist the swimmers.

Crash boats from Quonset Point at the north end of the harbor were dispatched to assist in the rescue. Bob Keating and I (Bob Nowak), made separate trips in rescue boats as signalmen; his group pulled out two swimmers; cold and shaking from exposure. The area was littered with debris; white hats; items of clothing; life jackets, etc. A nearby crash boat took in two drowned shipmates; the bodies of others were carried away by the strong currents).

Fortunately, an MSTS gas tanker, USS NODAWAY (T-AOG-78) under charter to the Navy, was in the area. Seeing the disaster and hearing the men screaming for help, she swung around to create a lee and began to pull survivors aboard. Without a doubt, if NODAWAY was not in the area, the death toll would have been monstrous. As it was, 18 brave destroyermen perished in this sad event.

Bodies washed up on the Torpedo Station shore for days thereafter. Courts-martial and reprimands were handed out to BAILEY's then skipper and the OOD and the coxswain who abandoned his duty. The survivors were taken ashore to the base hospital for care and treatment. They were outfitted in dry dungarees, and later that day were returned to the nest by an LCI.

It was a sad and distressing moment for those of us aboard to watch for familiar faces to return, only to find they were among the missing. Bill Harvey, a young Seaman Apprentice, one of our bridge gang strikers was among the lost. Bill was a fine young man and a good buddy. Other BAILEY sailors who died that day were Seaman Apprentice Joe Richeck, Jr., RD2 Ray Turner, and Francis Skerlak. It was not a happy time for the BAILEY. Days later, our skipper was relieved and CDR Noel A. Burkey, Jr., reported aboard as CO. He had been the exec on USS JOHNSTON (DD-821). He began his tour of duty with the job of reconstructing the morale of his new crew and after only about 10 days, BAILEY was underway for her third overseas deployment in a twelve month period. But the day of disaster in Newport Harbor has never left the minds and memories of those who were there that tragic time in May of 1951."

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Nowak, Bob - "Launch Sinking in Newport"

[KWE Note: This account by QM1 Bob Nowak (51/53) was written as a follow-up to the "Disaster at Newport" article above, and is reprinted on the KWE courtesy of Mr. Nowak.]

"Many of you read the report of the sinking of a motor launch that was assigned to our ship in May 1951. The stories that made up the report, which appears at our website (Sea Story #2), was prepared after reference to first hand survivors; the Tin Can Sailors paper, and an official Navy report. One important element was not included: the story of the coxswain who handled the motor launch that day. Thanks to BOB LEVINE, we have located former striker, JIM D. EGLER, who was the substitute coxswain on the launch the day of the accident. Jim has read the website report and does not feel it fairly tells the entire story of what led up to the capsizing of the launch.

Jim agrees that while he may not have been the most experienced coxswain aboard ship, he had made other runs at Newport and had been to the training school as well. He points out that when he brought the launch in to the Fleet Landing, it quickly filled up with sailors, despite his warning that people would have to get out because it was overloaded. No one would respond to his demand. He saw the Captain's gig near the launch, and reported to the Captain (Victor B. Graff) how rough the harbor was, and the overloaded condition of the boat. As originally stated in our report, some men got out following the Captain's orders, but others slipped aboard, leaving the launch overloaded. Jim states he once again protested to the Captain, who got down on one knee to examine the waterline of the launch, and said it looked fine to him. Jim continued to request that others be ordered out of the launch because of the rough conditions outside of the fleet landing area. (It is important to note that the Fleet Landing was in a sheltered area, where it was not possible to see the conditions in the outer harbor beyond Goat Island). After an extended amount of discussion between the two, which almost amounted to an argument, the Captain stated, "Return to the ship; that's an order". Jim, then an 18-year old seaman, felt he had no choice but to obey his Captain. Jim disputes the part of the report that says he tried to "make a run for it" into the heavy weather. He states he slowed down, rather than speeding up, and the launch just filled up with water and sank.

Jim feels the published report makes him seem like he wasn't very bright and used poor judgment. He points to the fact that after he left the Navy; he attended college and obtained not only his Bachelor's degree, but two Masters degrees as well. He had an outstanding career as an educator, both as a teacher and later as a school principal.

All in all, the issue of fairness requires we give Jim's version of the affair. Personally, I never heard anyone lay the blame at his feet for what happened. The same doctrine would apply to Captain Graff. Should he see these remarks, he is certainly welcome to have his say.

Now you know the other half of the story."

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Phillips, Leland C.

[KWE Note: Found on the USS Perry website.]

"The launch from the USS Bailey DD-713 was swamped and capsized with a liberty party. Two men were drowned from the Perry and approx 13 men from the USS Yellowstone AD-27 as recorded in the Yellowstone ship log.  I was one of the sailors aboard the 50 foot liberty launch that swamped in Narragansett Bay on May 24th 1951.  I would be interested in any contact I might be able to have with any of our other shipmates that were also on that launch that morning. The Perry, Glennon, Power and Bailey were nested next to the Yellowstone out in the bay at that time. The Bailey had boat duty that morning and their launch was bringing us back from liberty. In particular I would really like to find the sailor who I strongly feel saved my life that morning. After being in the water for nearly an hour without a life jacket I managed to join this sailor who had a life jacket on and floated along with him on his life jacket until we were picked up. I believe we were in the water for about an hour and forty minutes from the time the boat swamped. After being picked up by a small boat we were taken to a tug boat that was in the area and then taken to the Naval Hospital landing. I spent the next three days in the Naval Hospital."

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Place, Merlin

[KWE Note: Motor Launch Accident, as recalled by Merlin Place, survivor]

"Little did we know what was waiting for us later that Thursday morning when three USS K.D. Bailey shipmates left the apartments at 22 Stockhoms Street.  Jack Beauford had been an overnight guest at our apartment and Ken Wadleigh lived in the upstairs apartment with his wife Alice.  It was cold, raining and very windy.

Everyone was trying to catch the last launch out to their ship.  It was soon apparent the launch was overloaded, so a number of sailors were ordered off--but others kept on coming on board.  Just as the launch was about to leave, a last sailor came running down the pier and jumped aboard.  That sailor was Joseph Richeck, Jr. from the USS K.D. Bailey and one of those who drowned.

As soon as we were outside of the breakwater, the launch started taking on water and was soon full.  Sailors began jumping overboard fearing the launch would capsize and they would be trapped beneath it.  Some grabbed for life jackets.  Shipmate Ken Wadleigh had a life jacket, but soon let it go as many sailors were trying to hold on to it at once.  The Bailey captain's gig came alongside when we were in the water, but we were told to move away and no one was picked up.  We just kept on treading water.  After what seemed like forever, the military sea transportation service vessel "Nodoway" came along and started picking up sailors.  We had been in the water for 30 to 45 minutes or maybe longer.  They took us onboard and transported us to the naval hospital in Newport.  The "Nodoway" saved many lives that day.

Later that morning the Bailey Executive Officer called my wife at her office to tell her, "There had been a little accident--Merlin was okay, just a little wet, but was at the Navy hospital."  He also told her, "Don't call the hospital and don't go to the hospital."  (I don't think something like that would fly today!)

The next day we learned that eighteen sailors had been lost in the accident and by the grace of God we were alive.  I was released from the hospital on Friday, as were shipmates Jack Beauford and Ken Wadleigh.  Another shipmate, Jim Meadows, was on the launch and survived.

Just prior to the accident the ship had returned from several weeks of plane guard duty in Florida.  Very soon following the inquiry the ship left again, this time for several months in Europe.

It is hard to put this experience into words, but it is something you never forget."

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Wilhelmi, Robert C.

"I have very little to add to your account of the Liberty Launch capsize. I can tell you my personal account of the disaster.  I sat near the center of the launch boat, next to the entrance flaps. When we left the pier and went into open water, I noticed a sea going tug boat between us and shore. It was putting out a very large wake. At that time, I knew we were in trouble. The boat was not very steady, due to weight from being overloaded and movement of the sailors on board. Confusion occurred and people started to scramble for life jackets. I was able to get the last life jacket and put it on over my peacoat. Not wanting to be trapped under the canvas, I stood up near the open flap. At that time, someone pushed me from behind into the water.

I was wearing Wellington boots (not Navy issue). I kicked them off, then I was surrounded by two sailors not wearing life jackets. Also, they were not able to swim. They put their hands on my shoulders to try and keep their heads above water. This, of course, was pushing me underwater. This was not working for me. I took off the life jacket and my peacoat and gave the life jacket to them. I also noticed I was attracting a lot of other sailors. My only chance was to swim away from this panic situation. After that, I felt good and got my second wind. I decided that I would make it. I had a new wife of five months and she was pregnant. I decided I was going to see this baby grow up.

Looking around, I saw the motor launch floating upside down. There were about three sailors hanging on to the keel. I swam over to the boat, and crawled on. There was a Bosun's Mate 1st Class hanging on to the boat. He was in bad shape, shaking and not talking. I later learned that he was called Pappy. He had short white hair and looked to be about 40 yrs. old. I thought he would slide off the boat, so I laid on top of him to hold him on the hull and also to keep him warm. After that he calmed down.

A small boat then appeared to pick us up. We had to swim over to it, because they didn't come in on the leeward side. We all got aboard, except one sailor that would not let go of the rudder of the launch boat. He looked scared and didn't say anything, just stared. Finally he let go of the rudder and went under, and I never saw him again. I have always felt bad that I couldn't save him. They took us to a Merchant Ship nearby. We were given blankets and coffee. Later the Navy picked us up and took us to the Navy hospital in Newport RI. The hospital gave us work clothes, and I was interviewed by Life Magazine. The write-up in my local paper was that of a reporter, not really my words."


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Court Proceedings

McDaniel, Daniel J. (Court Testimony)

[KWE Note: The following article appeared in the Providence Journal newspaper on Friday, June 1, 1951.]

Survivor Held on to Rescue Line with Teeth Until They Came Out
Sailor Tells Navy Inquiry in Newport Swamping His Hands Became Numb as He Was Dragged Through Water at 10 Knots Before Being Saved

"One survivor of the swamping of a liberty launch in Newport Harbor a week ago told a Navy court of inquiry yesterday of how he was pulled through the water at 10 knots as he hung to a rescue rope with his teeth until they were ripped from his jaws.

Daniel J. McDaniel, torpedoman 1c of the destroyer tender Yellowstone, said he held a line thrown from a rescue boat with his hands until they became numbed--then he held the line with his teeth until they were pulled out.

The last thing he remembered, he told the court, was being hauled aboard a boat feet first.  He repeated the testimony of earlier witnesses that the launch, which was swamped with an estimated loss of 18 lives, was overloaded and going too fast in the rough water.

The defense of Lt. J.W.H. Coleman, who was duty officer aboard the destroyer Bailey at the time the launch was dispatched, will be continued this morning at 9:30 when the court reconvenes.  Lieutenant Coleman and Comdr. Victor B. Graff, commanding officer of the Bailey, were named defendants in the investigation.  Both were so named at their own request.

Other witnesses yesterday echoed the statements of others of the more than 100 survivors who have been heard by the court.

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Recommendations to the Court

[KWE Note: The following recommendations were made to the Navy court by Commander Victor B. Graff, 36, commanding officer of the destroyer Bailey and one of the two defendants in the inquiry.  They appeared in an article in the Providence Journal on Saturday, June 2, 1951, pp. 1 & 12.]

Recommendations:

  1. Have a commissioned officer supervise loading and landing of liberty boats at the fleet landing, instead of the practice at the time of the accident of having the enlisted man-coxswain make decisions as to loading and weather conditions.
  2. Have regularly trained permanent crews to operate the liberty boats instead of recruiting them from the crews of larger vessels.
  3. Use a different type of boat than the 50-foot launch involved in the accident for shuttling personnel from ship to shore.  "I believe these boats are excellent as cargo carriers in good and moderate weather," Graff said, "but I question their adaptability as personnel carriers in all kinds of weather."

"Graff testified that he lightened the load of the liberty launch at the dock until there were only about 100 men aboard and from 18 inches to two feet of freeboard.  The boat left with 145 men aboard.  He said he told the coxswain, 'Take it easy on the way out to the nest.  Shove off and carry out your orders.'  The nest was the four destroyers, including the Bailey, which were tied alongside the destroyer tender Yellowstone.

Graff said he embarked in his own motor boat, and on the way out noticed the change in sea conditions, with the height of waves increasing as they proceeded to Gull Rock Light.  He said he thought the liberty launch was making too much speed for the size of the seas, and intended to overtake it and slow it down.  But before he could do so, he said, his boat was overtaken by two Navy tugs making fairly high speed, and his coxswain, to avoid the wake, slowed down and turned stern towards the tugs.  The coxswain on the liberty launch took no such action to avoid the wake of one of the tugs which passed the launch, he said, although the waves were six feet high.

As the liberty launch took a series of two or three heavy waves, Graff said, he noticed men standing on the gunwales of the forward compartment, and he ordered his coxswain to close on the launch with the best possible speed,  Graff said they saw men from midships and after compartments leaving the launch and 'she appeared to settle in the water while the men were leaving.  At this time my boat was the only boat in the immediate vicinity....  I saw the motor launch had capsized.  Many men were in the water around it and a knot of about 30 men were hanging to the top of the capsized boat.'

Graff was the chief witness yesterday.  His co-defendant, Lt. J.W.H. Coleman, duty officer of the Bailey, took the stand in his own defense.  He said messages indicating bad weather were received by the Bailey minutes after the motor launch was dispatched to the dock.

The court will report facts of the accident to the commander of the Atlantic Fleet.  It also has been requested to make recommendations for procedure changes to prevent similar accidents and recommend any charges which the fleet commander should bring against responsible parties.  It will reconvene at 9 o'clock today."


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Medals and Awards

Navy and Marine Corps Medal - James Joseph Bowen (posthumous)

General Orders - CO, USS Glennon
May 28, 1951

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy and Marine Corps Medal (Posthumously) to Damage Controlman Third Class James J. Bowen (NSN: 4167317), United States Navy, for heroism on 24 May 1951 when, as a passenger in a motor launch which foundered and sank in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, he distributed life jackets to men in the launch and assisted them in disembarking from the swamped launch thereby contributing materially at the risk of his own life to the saving of others. He gave his own life jacket to a shipmate who could not swim, and, exhausted from his efforts to rescue other men, lost his own life by drowning.

 

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