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Author Topic: Loss of Oriskany pilot  (Read 6184 times)

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Offline Chuck White

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Loss of Oriskany pilot - from Gary Hamlet
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2006, 07:23:09 AM »
As you well know, the Navy, and the military in general are really good at coming up with spur of the moment solutions to problems.
 
The solution to one of those The Navy works in mysterious ways when selecting a ship's swimmer.  The selection process was quite simple, approach a young, unsuspecting seaman apprentice fresh out of boot camp, ask him if he can swim, if he answers in the affirmative....he's it.  I remember it like it was yesterday, I was on the port side, on the fantail near the quarterdeck.  One of the other BM's says "...... wants to see ya."  The rest is history
 
Next thing I know, ( a month or so later ) there's a pilot in the water, instructions given "..if he still has his chute on, strike the harness firmly in the center and it will release...", next thing I know, they tie a life line on me and I'm over the side, in my dungarees, sans shoes, with a life jacket on.  The pilot is incoherent, has his helmet on and his parachute, he is unable to move either of his arms, (it was later determined that when he ejected he broke both of his collarbones), after trying unsuccessfully to strike firmly in the center, we, the pilot and I came along side, tried to cut shroud lines with the "K-Bar" knife that was handed to me just before I went over the side, didn't work, removed my life line and tied it around the pilot's torso, under his arms, as the suction got stronger it got more difficult to keep his head up, about that time an ensign bailed over the rail and cut the line that was attached to him and he immediately went under.  I don't remember his name, but the engineering officer at the time put on the shallow water diving gear and retrieved the body, then spent quite some time getting the 'chute out of the grating over the intake. 
 
There was, of course, an official inquiry, it was determined that the procedure for coming along side a downed pilot needed to be revised as the intakes on a DLG were in a different location than on a conventional destroyer, also that the parachute harness was of a newer design, pinch releases in four locations, two near the arm pits and two just below the waist.  Further that putting a person in the water under those circumstances with no training was not too smart.  I got a double shot of brandy from sick bay with the X.O., a bright pink honest to goodness shroud knife, which I still have, and nightmares for the next 30 years.
 
The first bit of "equipment" I received was a couple of old dried out, mostly rotten, green rubber, surplus dry suits.  Finally after awhile I finally did get some fins, a real wet suit, a good shroud cutter and some rudimentary training at North Island Naval Air Station in what would eventually become the rescue swimmer program that is so highly thought of today.  I received my training from a Chief named Bill Oxendine, as I recall he was a Cherokee Indian.  He spent a lot of years on sea plane tenders before becoming an instructor.
 
Gary Hamlet
SN  W.D. Div.
USS King DLG-10
October, 1961--April, 1965
« Last Edit: May 23, 2006, 20:11:03 PM by Chuck W »
Chuck White 1963-1967
BT3, EB Division, USS King DLG-10
USS King (DLG-10/DDG-41) Association Webmaster
2011-2017 Communications Director

Offline Chuck White

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Loss of Oriskany pilot - From Mike Shagena
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2006, 07:15:51 AM »
This is written by Mike Shagena and found in the Sea Stories section of the website
http://www.uss-king.com/./Sea%20Stories.shtml


In December of 1961 we were on operations with the Oriskany. During daylight flight-ops a pilot had a flame-out and had to ditch his plane. The pilot ejected and landed in the water with no apparent problem. Then a series of instances occurred that caused the problems that resulted in the loss of the pilot. The pilot did not, I repeat did not, disengage himself from his parachute nor did he take his helmet off. He was floating in the water with his life jacket inflated. The King had approached the pilot for pick up and the ship backed down in the water and shut off the propellers. As the pilot drifted toward the King it was noted that his chute was floating toward the ship and was going under water. Still the pilot did not disengage his chute!

As I was a radioman, and not an engineman, I can only repeat that I heard later that the chute was being sucked under the water by the Main Intakes and the pilot was being dragged closer to the ship. Grappling hooks were being thrown over to try and grab the chute, but, none of this worked. Then shipmates went into the water, wearing life jackets, and tried to grab the chute but the life jackets prevented them from going under water after the chute harness cords. Still the pilot did not disengage his chute harness.

I was on the bridge with the Captain and I said that we needed someone in the water without a life jacket so the swimmer could get under water and try to cut the cords of the chute. Capt. Bustard agreed and I grabbed a knife from one of the signalmen and jumped off of the O-1 level into the water. The pilot was now next to the ship where a ladder had been thrown over the side, and the pilot was actually being drawn under and was holding on to the ladder. I managed to cut about half of the chute cords and then, and this I will never forget, the pilot said "don"t let me drown kid". I said I was doing all that I could but then the pressure of the chute pulling was too great and the pilot started going under the ship. Afterwards I had finger nail scrapes on my body from the pilot trying to grab me.

After the incident, approximately two months later, we were shown how to hit a chute harness in the middle of the pilots chest and this would disengage the harness from the pilot. To this day I do not know why the pilot did not get rid of the chute. There was little said about my efforts to save the pilot until the reunion and I'll bet five or six guys talked to me about the accident.

I will never forget the accident nor will I ever believe that the loss of the pilot was a problem with the way the King performed in the rescue operation.

Mike "Shags" Shagena

« Last Edit: May 23, 2006, 20:30:39 PM by Chuck W »
Chuck White 1963-1967
BT3, EB Division, USS King DLG-10
USS King (DLG-10/DDG-41) Association Webmaster
2011-2017 Communications Director

Offline photojerry

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Re: Loss of Oriskany pilot
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2006, 23:27:03 PM »
Thank you for correcting me about the pilot. For all these years I remembered them saying his name was Jack Truly. I was deeply involved with his rescue. I took photo's of him dying and when he finally went under I handed my camera to someone and dove off the ship. I couldn't find him. When they finally cut him out of the induction valve grate I helped haul him on board and help take him to sick bay right through the mess decks. What a cruise.
Jerry Cook 

Offline Mark D

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Re: Loss of Oriskany piolt
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2006, 06:06:12 AM »
Actually it was LT J. J. Freely, but that info is tough to come by! He's not even mentioned on the Oriskany's web site. I did find the deck log entries for that day though.
FC1(SW), WF / CF Division, 1986 - 1990
USS King (DLG-10/DDG-41) Association Historian

Offline photojerry

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Loss of Oriskany pilot
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2006, 23:01:58 PM »
I guess not many want to remember LT. Jack Truly and A-4 pilot off the Oriskany in 1961. He bailed out when his jet flamed out and the King went to the rescue. Many errors happend that day. We pulled up alongside and LT Truly still had his parcshute on. We should have picked him up in the whale boat but the captain wanted a ship resuce. No one on the ship had any experiance in rescues. WD division had the responsibility for a rescue swimmer. The kid that went in didn't know what to do and started cutting shroud lines. The LT's shute was straight up and down in the water and the induction was pulling him under. He never made it. The King had her first casualty.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2006, 07:24:12 AM by Chuck W »