Don't lose the plot
There is no such thing as a "normal watch," especially on Nov. 22, 1975 onboard the USS BELKNAP (CG-26);
We were on plane guard. They put us on a plane guard because their TACAN was down. We had been making this same maneuver to port eight or nine times a day – from the start of the turn to completion was 3600 yards. This time we made a turn to starboard. I’ve read the investigation report, so even though I was down in the fire room, I’ve since come to know what happened up on the bridge. With the lights of the carrier looking the same, there was confusion, and miscommunication, and we made a right-hand turn this time, and the arc was half of what it had been for the last 15 or 20 times. We were going to stop, let them go past us, come across the wake, and get back in position, but we couldn’t determine what their position was. So, I’m in the phone booth, and the next thing I know, we’re getting all these bells. I said, “Okay, everybody, be alert.” Usually on this shift there is nothing going on—no exercises or drills, and the off-watch crew is watching the movie. I was actually writing a letter to my wife and I put it down in the phone booth. The engineering spaces are very noisy, and the phone booth is a place where you could talk. I saw the shaft stop, and I said, “What the hell’s going on?” So I told the guys, “Everybody pay attention. Something’s going on.” And then they called “Captain to the bridge! Captain to the bridge!” on the 1MC general announcing system. I knew they would normally pass the word, “Commanding Officer, your presence is requested on the bridge,” and only if they couldn’t reach him on the phone, or send the messenger to find him in time. But I knew from when I was on Blandy, going to Viet Nam, that “If you hear this terminology, you know there’s a serious problem.” So, I said, “Okay, everybody, get up. Get up. Get ready. Something’s gonna happen.” And then all of a sudden the ship started to shudder, and I thought, “What’s going on?” And I looked over to the stack periscope. With the periscope, you can look out to see whether you’re smoking or not. And usually, if you were smoking it gets black at the bottom and it goes up to the top. What we didn’t know down in the fire room at that time was that when we hit, JP-5 fuel lines were cut up on the carrier, and fuel poured down onto our ship, and into the air supply for ventilating the engineering spaces. We had combination stacks and masts, called macks. All that fuel came down into the after mack. The forward mack never got any oil on it. All that fuel came down MY mack, and they estimated like 18 hundred gallons.
Required reading of an interview with a great Sailor, BT1 Andrew Gallagher.
Hat tip Sean. First posted May 2016.