Added memories of the explosion in 1954
on the USS Bennington
Added memories of the explosion in 1954 on the USS Bennington
Wed, 1 Nov 2000 21:16:49 EST
An e-mail friend of mine wrote me of being able to contact you or someone else,concerning this Great Ship..
I was aboard the Bennington only briefly after the explosive disaster of '54. In fact, I flew aboard it's flight deck as the ship was being routed up Naragannset Bay, toward Quonset Point,Rhode Island. At the time I was stationed at the Newport Naval Hospital as a medical Corpsman.
The hospital had recieved word that a ship at sea had an explosion,and we were to ready the hospital to recieve many injured from the explosion. I was a young corpsman of about nineteen or twenty years old at the time, and had NO idea what was about to take place . I was working in the orthopedics ward at the time,where we had about 60 or so cases in different stages of injuries. Some of those were in serious condition. We were ordered to move those patients to the convalessing wards of the hospital along with about five or so other wards in the main building of the hospital. We had to redress the entire ward with sterile sheets and linens. This was a mamoth task for so few ,but thru many long tedious hours we accomplished the orders set before us...
After a while we begin to understand why!! When we started to recieve all those brave men which were so injured that some were barely recoginizable. I cannot speak for all of those stationed at the Newport Naval Hospital at that time;only for myself..My heart poured out toward those men who were so critical. I had never seen so many severly injured people in one place at one time in my entire young life. It was a bit overwhelming. Suddenly, I was no longer so tired from preparing for recieving those brave lads. My energy level shot up-ward and I supppose I went till I almost dropped . Most did! But, we just had to do all we could to aid and assist those poor injured sailors....And, we did...
It was not long until the entire hospital was filled with about six complete wards of those USS Bennington sailors.
As the sailors were being brought to the hospital by helicopters, a friend and I asked the pilot if we could ride back to the ship with him. The pilot was so kind,and being so young and tired from all the involvement,we two boarded the 'copter and headed toward the Bennington. To our horror, we saw first hand what such an explosion could do to steel....I have never forgotten.. We entered hanger bay one ,I believe it was and witnessed all those brave men that were placed there ,now under sheets. As someone begin to remove some of those sheets to help identify those poor souls, I also saw what such a blast could do to a human body.
I thought the ones airlifted to the hospital were severly injured,and they were, but I was not ready for what I witnessed as they lifted those sheets...About 46 years later,I can now visiualize that scene..
At the hospital, our labor of love had just started. Those men were some of the bravest men I ever met. Here they had suffered so much and yet they were trying to cheer us up somewhat ,because we were working long and hard hours.....We gave nothing , those men were the givers...
I can remember certain individuals of the survivors, but no where near all. We did lose several that arrived,and it broke our hearts. We did not want to lose even one. But, God has a time for each of us...To some, it was their time,and all the staffs efforts and all that expert treatment was not enough.. Remember the USS Bennington? Yes, I well remember that ship...I remember most of all those brave fellow sailors, that gave their all for God and country,while serving aboard her....
Later, I was assigned aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Ticonderoga,CVA-14...Also on her I witnessed some injuries and some dying...None were to compare with what I had earlier witnessed from the Carrier Bennington..
God bless everyone,who gave their all, and God bless those who helped bring the others through it all....
former US Navy Corpsman,
HM3 Charles E. Whitman
e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
From: WILLIAM MYERS
Sent: Sunday, June 09, 2002 1:13 AM
Subject: Witness to damage:
Thanks for the information on the Bennington. It brought back many memories. When I was a child in grade school at Newport R.I. I remember we were given permission to stand at the windows one day and watch as the Bennington steamed past. All we knew at the time was that there had been an accident. After all these years I thought a plane had crashed into the side of the ship while trying to land. That story was going around all over the place. Your history cleared that up. It's strange how stories take on a life of their own. I must have been in about the 5th grade at the time. I can still clearly see that beautiful ship slowly passing by. I'm now 58 and a Navy Veteran of the "Gator Navy".