Strength & Honor

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Alex Nides

Selected Excerpts

Shipmates Forever
Alex Nides (US Navy sailor)

". . . Our ship was in deep trouble. The bombs blew holes through seven or eight decks.

Flaming jet fuel poured through holes blown by bombs, starting new fires below. Crews in the hangar deck were desperately unloading missiles off jets to remove them to safety, forced to do their work by touch because they couldn't see through the dense smoke.

Below decks, off-shift sailors were sleeping in their bunks, unaware of the developing emergency above them. When the bombs began to cook off, one compartment of off-duty sailors from the air wing was cut off from an escape route and 50 were killed, some still in their bunks. Nearby, also immediately below the flight deck, another 41 were killed in their berthing compartment.

There were real heroes on the ship that day. I am told 130-pound Lt. Otis Kight lifted and threw overboard a 250 pound bomb; the explosive ordnance demolition officer, LTjg. Robert Cates, defused and jettisoned one 500-pound and one 750-pound bomb that were on the flight deck smoking from the heat; a team of men with fire hoses charged the intense fire and were vaporized as several 500-pound bombs cooked off, leaving just cut-off hoses spewing water and huge holes in the deck. There were many selfless acts as men desperately tried to help one another and save the ship.

Three sailors, James Blaskis, Ronald Ogring, and Kenneth Fasth, manned their battle station in the port after steering compartment, to steer the ship in case control was lost from the ship's bridge. All three were seriously wounded and yet they stayed at their station as fires closed in on them making escape impossible. Still in touch with Damage Control Central, they managed to execute the last order from Cmdr. Rowland, who listened as they died, one by one. . . ."

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