Jump to content

37 years later, the USS Belknap tragedy is still fresh in the minds of the survivors and families


67Rally

Recommended Posts

37 Years ago, one of the worst peacetime tragedies in U.S. Navy history occurred. On the flip side, this was one of the most heroic examples of the sailors' determination to save their ship and shipmates. It isn't always in combat when our service members are killed serving their country. One of the most tragic and heroic events in Navy history occurred near Thanksgiving in 1975 as the guided missile cruiser USS Belknap suddenly turned in front of the carrier USS John F. Kennedy. The ensuing mass conflagration fire that ensued nearly sank the ship. One of the boilers had erupted due to the aviation fuel (from a ruptured fuel line on the Kennedy) that poured down the Belknap's stack.

 

This account of the incident tells the story from the perspective of the families at home and the delay of information flow due to the technology of the time (or lack thereof).

 

 

A personal nightmare when two Navy ships collideUSS_Belknap_collision_damage.jpg

 

 

Patty Jenkins

The Virginian-Pilot

November 18, 2012

 

I am 10 years old, sitting alone on the living-room floor watching a Peanuts holiday special. It's the Saturday before Thanksgiving - Nov. 22, 1975.

 

The cartoon is just about over when a special news bulletin interrupts at 8:25 p.m.: "The aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy and the USS Belknap have collided in the Mediterranean Sea."

 

Then: "Oh, my God." It's my mom's panic cry echoing from the kitchen.

 

Within seconds, the telephone rings and neighbors knock on the door of our Port Lyautey home in Virginia Beach.

My dad, Petty Officer 1st Class Newton Blihar, had started his day aboard the Belknap.

 

The two warships were conducting night-flying exercises in the Ionian Sea, 70 miles off the coast of Sicily. They were on a parallel course when the Belknap made a turn into the Kennedy's path.

 

The carrier's flight deck, with its huge overhang, sliced across the smaller ship. The guided missile cruiser's stacks and antenna masts were sheared off. An intense fire broke out, explosions followed, and the heat become so intense that parts of the Belknap began to melt onto itself.

 

The next morning, the first published report about the incident appeared in The Virginian-Pilot:

 

"The exact number of casualties is unknown," a Navy spokesman said. (More)

I do not profess to be a militaria expert, but I conduct as much research as I am capable of and then write about my findings.
Check out my blogs, The Veteran's Collection (general militaria) and Chevrons and Diamonds (military baseball)

donation2011.gifdonation2012.gif

donation2013.gifdonation2014.gifdonation2015.gif


Link to post
Share on other sites

A very touching column written about a tragic event that most people don't even know about. Thanks for the post !

 

Chris

donation2016.gif

donation2017.gif

donation2013.gifdonation2014.gifdonation2015.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

I posted the same article to my Facebook page only to be reminded that one of the IC chiefs that I served with was an ICFN aboard the Belknap that day. I had completely forgotten about nugget. My buddy who was in his division said that the ICC never spoke about that day. He'd start talking about something during a training evolution and then clam up when he started to bring up experiential details that were connected to the Belknap. So sad.

I do not profess to be a militaria expert, but I conduct as much research as I am capable of and then write about my findings.
Check out my blogs, The Veteran's Collection (general militaria) and Chevrons and Diamonds (military baseball)

donation2011.gifdonation2012.gif

donation2013.gifdonation2014.gifdonation2015.gif


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.