TO THE FAMILIES AND FRIENDS OF USS BENNINGTON CVS-20
THE FOLLOWING WAS SENT TO THE FAMILIES AND FRIENDS
OF USS BENNINGTON CVS-20
BY RICHARD GRAFFY, CAPTAIN U.S. NAVY,
ON 21 DECEMBER 1966
USS BENNINGTON -
Elements of Antisubmarine Warfare Group One operating with the Seventh Fleet in waters of the Philippines, answered a call for assistance the night of 15 December as the 300-foot Panamanian freighter TEH-LOO burned out of control 180 miles west of Luzon, Philippines. A Navy P-3A patrol plane attached to VP-9 from NAS Sangley Point spotted the burning ship while on routine mission and sent out a call for assistance to all ships in the area. BENNINGTON and accompanying destroyers were operating about 120 miles north of the stricken ship's position. An SH-3A Helicopter from BENNINGTON was ordered to the scene and the destroyer USS O'Brien (DD-725) altered her course to speed to the scene, while Admiral Arrant ordered medical and evacuation assistance on standby notice. The Japanese freighter AKAGISAN MARU, however, was only a few miles away and reached the burning ship before Navy units arrived. The freighter lowered her lifeboat and rescued the 27 crewmen off the burning ship as the helicopter hovered overhead. The chopper pilot, LTJG D.O. Korhonen, reported the fire raging out of control through the superstructure and stern of the ship, with smoke billowing high into the sky. The chopper was unable to establish radio communications with the rescue ship but dropped a note asking if help was required. The AKAGISAN MARU finally replied "no" by means of the international flag signal. Other members of the chopper, attached to HS-8, included LCDR J.R. Griffiths, co-pilot, and AX3's W.H. Krkuckmeyer and T.A. Nelson.
HS-8 also played a vital role in saving the life of Nationalist Chinese Navy Seaman Chiu Hsien-Cheng, 24, off the destroyer NAN YANG (DD-17). At 11 p.m. on 15 December 1966 a message was received from the Nationalist Chinese destroyer, which was participating in Operation Slewfoot, requesting assistance for a crewman suspected of having an acute case of appendicitis. A boat was sent from destroyer USS EVERSOLE (DD-789) to evacuate the stricken man. Helicopter #55, piloted by Commanding Officer, CDR. D.L. Hughes, then lifted the Chinese crewman from EVERSOLE to BENNINGTON where a medical team, headed by LT. V.C. Guardione, Marine Corp., diagnosed the case as being a perforated appendix. An emergency operation was performed and at last report seaman Chiu Hsien-Cheng was resting comfortably in BENNINGTON's medical ward. His co-pilot, LTJG P. Larsen and crewmen AM1 Reed and AX2 Nemecek aided Hughes in the airvac. LT. Schillin, Marine Corp., and Medical Corpsmen Dickerson, Potter, Gunter, Smith, Davis and Delfo assisted Doctor Guardione.
THE ABOVE DATA PROVIDED BY:
JOSEPH L. PIRES