5 notorious ship grounding incidents the Navy would rather we all forget

The recent grounding incident involving the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) in Tokyo Bay is not the first time a Navy vessel has run aground. But some have been more…notorious than others.

Grounding a ship is not exactly career-enhancing in this day and age (never mind that the Antietam spilled 1,100 gallons of oil in one of Godzilla’s favorite hangout spots). In fact, it usually means the end of one’s advancement in the Navy.

Here are a few notorious groundings over the years to remind the soon-to-be-relieved personnel that it could be worse.

1. USS Guardian (MCM 5)

The mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) sits aground on the Tubbataha Reef. Operations to safely recover the ship while minimizing environmental effects are being conducted in close cooperation with allied Philippines Coast Guard and Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Naval Aircrewman (Tactical Helicopter) 3rd Class Geoffrey Trudell)

The mine counter-measures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) is the first U.S. Navy ship to be lost since USS Scorpion (SSN 589) in 1968. The vessel ran aground on Jan. 17, 2013 on a reef, and was very thoroughly stuck. So much so that a 2013 Navy release indicated she had to be dismantled on the spot. A sad end to a 23-year career.

2. The Honda Point Disaster

Aerial view of the disaster area, showing all seven destroyers that ran aground on Honda Point during the night of 8 September 1923. Photographed from a plane assigned to USS Aroostook (CM-3). Ships are: USS Nicholas (DD-311), in the upper left; USS S.P. Lee (DD-310), astern of Nicholas; USS Delphy (DD-261), capsized in the left center; USS Young (DD-312), capsized in the center of the view; USS Chauncey (DD-296), upright ahead of Young; USS Woodbury (DD-309) on the rocks in the center; and USS Fuller (DD-297), in the lower center. The Southern Pacific Railway’s Honda Station is in the upper left. (U.S. Navy photo)

Imagine losing seven warships in a day during peacetime. Yes, that actually happened to the United States Navy. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command website, during the evening of Sept. 8, 1923, a navigational error lead seven destroyers to slam into rocks at Honda Point, California, at a speed of 20 knots. Twenty-three sailors were lost, as were seven Clemson-class destroyers that were about five years old.

3. USS Decatur (DD 5)

USS Decatur (DD 5) while on sea trials. Then-Ensign Chester W. Nimitz ran her aground in 1908. (U.S. Navy photo)

This one is notable not for any loss of life but for the career it could have derailed. Accoridng to a 2004 article in Military Review, on July 7, 1908, the destroyer USS Decatur (DD 5) ran aground on a mudbank in the Philippines. It was pulled off the next day. The commanding officer was relieved of command, court-martialed, and found guilty of “neglect of duty.”

However, his career didn’t end. That was a good thing for America because that commanding officer was Chester W. Nimitz, who would command the Pacific Fleet in World War II.

4. USS Port Royal (CG 73)

The Pearl Harbor-based guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) ran aground Feb. 5, 2009, about a half-mile south of the Honolulu airport while off-loading personnel into a small boat. The salvage ship USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52), which included an embarked detachment of Mobile Diving Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1 personnel, the Motor Vessel Dove, and seven Navy and commercial tugboats freed Port Royal off a shoal on Feb. 9. (U.S. Navy photo)

Now some groundings are just embarrassing. This is one of them. The Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) had been on sea trials after about $18 million in repairs. According to a Navy release in 2009, the ship ran aground about a half mile from one of the runways at Honolulu International Airport, providing arriving and departing tourists with an interesting view for a few days.

5. USS Hartford (SSN 768)

Damage to the submarine USS Hartford’s rudder after its grounding. (US Navy photo)

On Oct. 25, 2003, the attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) ran aground off the island of Sardinia. According to a 2004 Navy release, fixing the damage required assets from Louisiana to Bahrain. It took 213 dives to repair the vessel enough that she could return to Norfolk at half speed. Six years later, the Hartford would collide with the amphibious transport US New Orleans (LPD 18).

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