USS BENNINGTON

26 MAY 1954 EXPLOSION
NAVY PILOT
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

This article appeared in the Ventura County STAR paper with regard to the disasterous fire in 1954.
The article was written by the daughter of LT Billy Glen Jackson, Glenda Jackson, in remembrance of her father this Memorial Day, May 26, 2003.


Lt. Billy Glen Jackson

Navy pilot is gone but not forgotten

USS Bennington disaster now a historical footnote, but not to everyone

By Glenda Jackson
May 25, 2003

Lt. Billy Glen Jackson Monday not only marks the observance of Memorial Day [May 26, 2003], a day of remembrance of Americans who died in our nation's service, but it also marks the anniversary of the second worst ship disaster not involving enemy action at the time -- the explosion on board the USS Bennington in 1954 off the Atlantic coast.

My father, Lt. Billy Glen Jackson, a Navy pilot, was on board the carrier and lost his life that day. I don't remember him; I was merely a toddler. We lived in Norfolk, Va., then. What a horrific experience it must have been for my mother: My brother ran home from school that morning to tell her Dad was dead, before she even received official word. As I've gotten older, I find that I want to know more about what happened that day. And for my mom, it's still painful 49 years later.

The following is an excerpt from a Web site dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives and were injured that day in 1954 (www.uss-bennington.org/history26may1954.html:)

"'General Quarters: Memoirs of the Explosion, 26 May 1954, On the CVA-20 USS Bennington. Richard S. Pope, October 1992

'May 26, 1954

'This day started out early as the ship was undergoing flight trials. Planes and crews were already busy at work before 0600 hours. The ship's log gives a concise and all too precise glimpse of the events of that morning. The first evidence of trouble was noted at 0610 hours as a report of smoke. At 0611 hours there was a notation of two or three explosions. By 0725 hours the bridge was notified that the sickbay had been moved to the hangar deck because the available beds had been filled. By 1025 hours the first helicopters from Quonset Point had landed to pick up the most seriously injured. Five tugs had come along side to assist in berthing at Quonset Point by 1207 hours. Mooring was completed at 1233 hours and ambulances were loaded along side by 1233 hours. The casualty report at 1545 hours listed 201 injured and 89 dead men and officers. This number would rise as more definite reports became available and as the most severely injured succumbed. The force and extent of the explosions can be measured by the large number of deaths and injured, and by the fact that the sickbay had been filled and had been moved in an hour and 15 minutes. Such numbers, however, do not give the human feelings of this event, which to a large extent was over in less than 10 hours.'

"The explosion on the Bennington cost the lives of 104 officers and men and caused serious injury to more than 139 others. Hundreds of men showed exceptional heroism and devotion to their shipmates. The secretary of the Navy awarded medals to 178 of the crew on 22 April 1955. Probably many more men deserved such recognition. The vignettes of memories, which I have received and have tried to collate in this memorial, pay tribute to the extraordinary concern for fellow shipmates. Over and over, there was the plea to 'help my buddy.' The first injured man to arrive in the sickbay uttered these words as he died in my arms. I will never know who he was, since he was not recognizable, but his family should know that he was a remarkable and brave person."

The above is only an excerpt from this extensive Web site. There are survivor stories and more details about the cause of the explosions and, most importantly, a list of the personnel who lost their lives and a list of the injured. Gone but not forgotten.

-- Glenda Jackson lives in Ventura.

Glenda Jackson

Public Information Specialist

Air Pollution Control District





Subject:
RE:
From:
"Glenda Jackson" [glenda@vcapcd.org]
Date:
Tue, 15 Jul 2003 07:32:47 -0700
To:
"Lonnie Whittaker" [Lonnie@uss-bennington.org]

Nice to meet you! Feel free to use my article as you wish.
Iíll scan my dadís photo with his crew in front of the plane tonight and forward.
Thanks so much. It really means a lot to me.


Glenda Jackson

Public Information Specialist

Air Pollution Control District




RETURN TO:

26 MAY 1954
EXPLOSION
INTRODUCTION