Man Overboard

Dean is right,
we should try to date our memories, at least within a particular time frame.
I couldn't remember whether Ensign Garret had fallen over the side during the North Atlantic cruise in the fall of 1964 or during Med cruise in '64 - '65.   

Reading the clipping pictured in the attachment to Mitch's letter that started this whole series, I see that it occurred in the Bay of Biscay, which places it at the end of the North Atlantic cruise, so it would have been in November of '64.    Therefore, Dean, you missed all the fun. By the way, we weren't alongside the stores ship, yet, but were next in line and we were going along starboard side to.

We had two different occasions when we rescued pilots while I was on board (commissioning until February 1966).   One happened in the Med in the spring of '65.    A jet from the carrier lost its after-burner on take-off and the pilot and flight officer (FO) safely ejected.    However, the FO's chute got tangled and he couldn't get rid of it and was hanging on to his life raft to avoid going down.    The helo rescued the pilot, who informed them of the FO's predicament.    The Helo rescue swimmer jumped in to help but landed wrong and hurt his back.    The FO got the chute cutters off the crewman's belt and rid himself of the chute, then got the crewman into the liferaft.    The Tattnall was on Plane Guard, but when they were told to effect a surface pickup of the two men, they didn't even know that a plane was down, let alone where the men were.

   We were on screen and our lookouts had kept the men in sight from the get-go. We requested, and received, permission to make the pickup. When we went alongside the carrier to return the two men, they had a sign saying "Keep Them, We'd Rather Have Ice Cream!!".    The FO laughed at this, stating that their ice cream machine had been broken for some time. Incidentally, the FO asked Captain Welander if he could bring the ship alongside the carrier, since he was working on his OOD qualifications.   His picture is in the cruise book with the caption "I hope my airedale buddies don't see me in this silly hat".    (Remember the officer's berets?)

I don't remember when the incident with the helo from the Newport News happened.    It was not during the Med cruise, but could have been during the North Atlantic cruise, although I don't recall the Newport News being on that operation.    I think it was during some operation off the East Coast, but I don't recall if it was during 1964 or 1965.    We might be able to pin it down based on who remembers it and when they came aboard or left the ship.

Anyway, I do remember that our boat made the pickup and returned the crew to SEMMES.    I also remember that our boat helped the cruiser try to get their winch hooked up to the helo to get out of the water.    I think they succeeded (we usually did what we set out to do), but I also seem to remember that the cruiser's deck force managed to screw things up.    We didn't get any ice cream that time either, and I believe that is when we had the sign "SEMMES LOST AND FOUND" displayed.    I think they totally ignored our request for ice cream.
The sea story residue will get deep in Charleston.

Keith Cottrell

Subject: Re: Ensign Garrett

I remember the incident well.   I was not far from where he was when he went over.   If the truth be known, I did not see him "trip" but rather do the unthinkable, of reaching for the lifeline which was not there, and over he went.   It was during a refueling, and we were along side the other ship, can't remember if it was a tanker, or what.   We could have been transferring stores too, the old memory isn't exactly sharp as a knife.
He was like a windmill when he hit the water, arms and legs going full tilt to get away from the ship.   He made it about four feet or so, which was enough to clear our wake, but remember we were already along side the other ship, so things were just a bit choppy between the two ships.
We all watched, and cheered when we saw he was going to clear all danger.    I kind of remember actually having a picture of that incident, but looking everywhere, high and low, has resulted in nothing.   I also remember the transfer of the pilot, and maybe my mind is playing tricks, but didn't the other ship have a big sign up that said something like, "keep him, we would rather have the ice cream"???

Major things I remember slightly:

- Running over the reef near Hatti, and damaging the sonar dome.
- Having the refueling hose break during transfer, and totally drenching the ship and crew in oil.    Then we went along side a supply ship, and smashed several nets of food all over the already oily deck.   This one I do have one or two pictures of.    After this rather adventurous outing, we then tried our best to get Semmes looking like a Navy ship again, and it was the only time I saw Chiefs, and Officers, cleaning, and even painting to try and get things looking ship shape before entering Charleston.   Maybe that is why I always felt Semmes was such a good ship.   Everyone did whatever they needed to do to give the rest of the world the impression Semmes was nothing short of "excellent".   Clearly that day we fell a little short of what the Navy would have liked to see for a refueling and replenishment exercise.
- Building some sailboats, and trying them out at night in the in-land waterway near Charleston, and being eaten alive by mosquitoes,   You know those damn things that suck your blood.    I remember getting in the water, with just our heads above water, and pushing the sailboat back trying to keep a little blood for myself.
- I remember ordering a "safe" for the WDS equipment rooms, and we ordered this little dinky wall safe with a combination on it.    What arrived was a railway flat car, on pier "D" with two huge vaults, they were about the size of a refrigerator.    I have no idea what the resolution finally was, that was done at a much higher level than this 2 class PO. I remember Chief Maurelli asking to see the paperwork I had submitted, and the book or whatever it was I got the numbers from.    Keith Cottrell may remember a little more about this, he was innocent, but did get involved. They were all in order, so I guess I dodged a major bullet, but those things were still on the pier with my name on them. They vanished and were never spoken of again.
- One thing I can't remember is ever getting into any trouble.    Well, not any serious trouble.
I sent my old 8mm films off to be transferred to digital media yesterday, and they should be back by the end of next week.    If all goes as planned, they will be at the reunion with me, on my laptop.   If you remember the fashion show in France, you can see it, "recorded earlier", and in 40 year old faded color, at the reunion.
Tom Ringate
Semmes 63-65

Subject: Re: Ensign Garrett

In a message dated 11/15/2002 1:17:29 AM Eastern Standard Time, writes:
P.S.    The pilot and the ice cream is a whole nother story.
Hi Keith,
Wow, I love it when someone can remember these details!   Now someone will have to clear up the ice cream story!   Funny thing is we were sober when these things happened, why do they get so mixed up!   I remember when Ens Garrett went over the side, as I was up forward on the bow, port side.   I remember we had the snaking down, and someone said he backed up and tripped over it, and over the side he went.   I remember people yelling "Man overboard", probably you and a few others followed!
When we highlined the chopper pilot back to the Newport News, we had made up a large sign saying something like, "Semmes Lost and Found", as a joke.   But somehow we didn't get the ice cream that traditionally is provided by the host ship that lost it's crewmember.   I'll route this and I'm sure someone with a clearer memory than mine right now, will shed some light on it. My good friend Dean Slone is good at remembering these things!

Now, for the real story.

Ens. Garrett was the First Lieutenant (or maybe assistant) and we were going alongside a store ship to highline groceries.
I was in charge of the inboard strikedown team, so I went up on the forecastle to confer with Ens. Garrett and the BM in charge.    The crew was taking down the regular lifelines and stringing light line on the top of the stanchions, so I stayed away from the deck edge, since I did not have a lifejacket on.
As Ens. Garrett was talking to me and the BM, he went to lean against the lifeline (a big NO-NO in itself) and, since the lifeline was not there, he went overboard.   The BM reached out to get him, but didn't make it.    I could have reached him, but since HE had a lifejacket on and I didn't, I restrained my self and instead did my part by sounding the MAN OVERBOARD call at the top of my lungs (which anyone who knows me can tell you is pretty loud).
Ens. Garret was stroking before he hit the water and was well away from SEMMES before the stern of the ship got to the spot where he fell.    He then noticed DEWEY bearing down on him and started to swim back, but stopped in a spot where DEWEY could just come alongside and take him aboard without changing course.
After replenishment was completed, the Motor Whaleboat was sent to get him from DEWEY.    When we returned, Capt. Welander complimented him on his swimming style over the 1MC but wondered why he didn't wait until he got back to Folly Beach.   AH, the sea stories that have yet to be told !!!
Keith Cottrell
P.S. The pilot and the ice cream is a whole nother story.

Hey Shipmate! No, I didn't get your email regarding Ens Garrett. Please resend it when you have a chance. Seems to me that he's the greenhorn that fell off the bow when we were about to highline the pilot we fished out f the water, back to the Newport News.   They in turn, sent him back to us in exchange for their guy, and we DIDN'T GET ICE CREAM for the whole ship like we would've! What a knucklehead! It was good for a laugh anyway!

Bill Herbert

Just a bit more on the overboard incident. Al was picked out of the water by a BMC who asked Al what his job on SEMMES was. How embarrassing!!! (As I remember he was the 1st LT)

 Cheers, Bill