|Damage to USS Belknap after collision with JFK
On the night of November 22 1975 as I was getting into my rack for the
evening and there was an announcement over the intercom that the U.S.S Belknap and The John F Kennedy had collided.
I jumped out of my rack as many of the others did. I helped man the hoses on the port side of the Hart as the Belknaps
boilers exploded and our ship shook from the vibrations.
All that night I helped as we pulled fellow sailors
from the sea. One vision stays with me to this day; as I was helping to pull a guy up on to the deck, skin from his
burned arm peeled off as we reached to pull him on board. When I saw the pictures of what remained of the Belknap it
looked like a big steel canoe.
The next day we pulled a dead body from the water. I don't recall if he was
a fellow sailor or not, but I will never forget the smell of the body. That night I put to use everything that I was
taught in boot camp. Without the training that I learned in Great lakes Boot, I would have been useless to anyone.
I was 18 at the time, soon to turn 19 on December 17th. This was not my first experience
dealing whith death. When I was 14, I saw a man decapitated in a car accident, but that night out at sea in the Med
remains with me more at age 50, and I supose it will for the rest of my life. It took more than twenty years for me
to finally deal with P.T.S.D. issues that were caused by that incident. With the help of the V.A system, I am able to deal
with it today.
I will allways be proud to be a Navy Veteran and a veteran of the T.C.Hart crew. I still
have the Med Cruise jacket and the T.C.Hart Uniform rocker.
Warren R Reade Jr
Jim Swayze comments on collision:
Concerning Belknap collision. The body that we found was not
from the US Navy ships. The feedback from HM1? at the time was that the authorities thought it was a merchant that got
dumped overboard from a freighter.
That was a rough few days for all. During the fire fight we fought for
a while, then was ordered out of there to set up a medical trauma center, receive casualties, and transfer DC equipment as
well as the Battle Group Commander had an issue about the proximity of our ASROC launcher.
EM1 Jim Swayze
Ron Babb comments on this story:
I just read the story from Warren Reade.
One of those sailor that was rescued from the Belknap
was ETR3 Gary Sparks. Gary was assigned the Thomas C Hart a few months after the accident. I was his leading PO for two years
after that. We still are good friends and see each other yearly. He lives in OKLAHOMA and I live in Illinois. Thanks for all
you did that night..