Here are 5 times US Navy ships returned to the fleet after severe damage

Oliver Hazard Perry's battle flag hangs in Memorial Hall at the United States Naval Academy.

Oliver Hazard Perry’s battle flag hangs in Memorial Hall at the United States Naval Academy.

James Lawrence said, “don’t give up the ship” during the last fight of USS Chesapeake in 1813, and those words were emblazoned on Oliver Hazard Perry’s battle flag during the U.S. Navy’s decisive victory in the Battle of Lake Erie. That sentiment has proved to be very wise on the fighting seas since then. While the damage done to HSV-2 Swift in a recent attack looks bad, some U.S. Navy ships have taken much worse and returned to active service.

Here are 5 examples:

1. USS San Francisco (SSN 711)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

In the early morning hours of January 8, 2005, the fast attack submarine collided with a seamount that was not labeled on the charts the crew was using, suffering severe damage to the bow and killing one crew member and injuring 98 others. Despite the horrific-looking damage, San Francisco was repaired and will stay in the undersea inventory until sometime next year.

2. USS Cole (DDG 67)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

On October 12, 2000, two Islamic militants detonated as much as 700 pounds of explosive against the hull of the vessel. Seventeen sailors were killed, 39 injured. The Cole suffered a 40-by-60-foot gash in the port hull and suffered some flooding. Despite the damage, the frigate was back in service in less than three years, and today is part of the fleet.

3. USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

The USS Samuel B. Roberts came close to sinking after hitting an Iranian mine on April 14, 1988. The mine’s explosion damaged the ship’s keel, “breaking her back,” and threw the LM2500 gas turbine engines off their mounts. The ship was carried back to the United States for repairs and returned to service, sticking around for another 27 years after the attack.

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

4. USS Stark (FFG 31)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

USS Stark also came back from horrific damage. On May 17, 1987, the frigate was hit by two AM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles fired by an Iraqi jet (reports disagree as to whether it was a Mirage F1 or a Dassault Falcon). The two hits killed 37 sailors and wounded 21 more. The Stark managed to get back to the United States for repairs and remained part of the fleet until 1999.

5. USS Laffey (DD 724)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

World War II offers some classic stories of ships that came back. USS Laffey (DD 724) is the most notable, having survived four bomb hits and six kamikazes. Laffey not only survived but went on to serve with the United States during the Korean War and stayed in service until 1975. The destroyer eventually became a museum in South Carolina.

The wisdom of James Lawrence’s final command is readily apparent. The history of these five ships should rebut those who think the Swift’s had it.

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