- Posted October 23, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
When you heard JFK was killed
John F. Kennedy, Dates of Destiny
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
John F. Kennedy, Dates of Destiny
The school’s janitor came to the door and in a low voice spoke to Ms. Melvin, my third grade teacher. Her hands rose to cover her face and to still her sudden-shocked voice from raising our concerns. After composing herself, she turned to us and stated, “The President, President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. Thus began an extended weekend of watching news coverage following the assassination and leading to a national funeral.
Now we advance to the future.
On May 25, 1975, on a warm spring night, I exited from Norfolk's airport and joined a bunch of sailor's in a limo-cab for a ride to the naval base. I had to report to D & S piers to report to my ship, a guided missile destroyer, a DDG. The cab proceeded across town via highways and city streets until it traversed through a wide-gated avenue. We had to show our ID cards to the U. S. Marine on watch checking vehicles entering NOB- the Naval Operating Base. This was the largest naval base in the world. A few moments later, the cab rolled onto a pier that was half a city block in width and about six times as much in length. On both sides of the pier berthed before me were two of the largest ships I have ever imagined. On separate sides of the cab was the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), to the left (or port side) and the other had the newly commissioned, USS Nimitz (CV-68). The ambient sounds of the ships, the bright lights on and around them and the pier, plus the sheer bulk of the nautical gigantics caused me to feel what I can only describe as "raw awesome power". I shifted from side to side in the cab checking them out. After a few moments, the cab exited the pier and the base. It proceeded about a mile further on Hampton Blvd., until it made a right turn and then proceeded through another gate and past another Marine. It dropped me off to a dimly lit, narrow pier. One would have to make a K-turn to indicate the pier width. At the end, I reported aboard a small ship. In a few months, I would soon learn its power.
As an Operations Specialist Seaman Apprentice, I was now onboard the USS Claude V. Ricketts (DDG-5), the toughest guided missile destroyer on the planet. In July, we headed to the Mediterranean; my first naval cruise.
The night was November 22, 1975. It was dark; we were part of the battle group for the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). The usual means of communication between ships was the radiotelephone. We had used callsigns when transmitting and receiving tactical signals; the type that orders a change of course, speed, position, track a sub or hold a BBQ on the fantail. It was about 2230 hours, when all of a sudden a radio circuit blared, "Belknap, this Kennedy, what are your intentions, over? The reply came (confusingly)- "Ah, Ah, Ah, Kennedy, this is Belknap- wait out". This grabbed everyone's attention in the battle group...the other ships, the Commodore, who rode with us, and the Soviet tattletale destroyer that trailed us. Callsigns were not being used! Needless to say, they collided! One died on the carrier, seven were dead on the cruiser. The Russians offered to assist, but was ordered by the toughest DDG (and its Captain) to maintain its distance.
The significance of events was the date; here it was 12 years after the date of President Kennedy's death for the carrier that bears his name to collide with a cruiser, resulting in death. The CVR tied up to the Belknap, played fire hoses upon her, transferred fire-fighting gear and took on many of her crewmen. I’ve always wondered- “was it coincidence or destiny?”
Derek L. Farthing,
Operations Specialist Chief (SW), U. S. Navy (Retired)