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  USS Noxubee AOG56

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Noxubee Crest

Disaster At Sea


By Paul Gryniewicz

 

Forty-nine years ago, April 26, 1952 tragedy struck the United States Navy. That night the USS Noxubee was home bound from Tripoli, Libya to Norfolk, Virginia following a nine month long Med Cruise. She was just north of the Azores Islands when during the mid-watch an urgent message from Atlantic Fleet ordered Noxubee to rendezvous with the aircraft carrier USS Wasp and render assistance.

The Wasp and her escorts were heading to the Med and were conducting flight operations. Shortly after 2300 hours Wasp turned into the wind and increased speed to 27 kts. to recover aircraft. One of the escorts, USS Hobson, DMS 26, was out of position and before anyone could do anything, she crossed under the Wasp's bow. The Wasp struck the Hobson just aft the number two stack and cut her in two. The Wasp and her escorts immediately went to work to rescue the crew and before she cleared the wreckage was picking up survivors. The Hobson sank quickly. In less then four minutes she was gone taking with her 176 men out of a crew of 237. Only 61 cold, oil-soaked survivors were rescued. The crash tore a huge, jagged 90 foot section from the Wasp's bow forcing her to steam backwards the entire 1200 miles back to New York.

Because of the Wasp's steering difficulties and the winds picking up to 25 kts. the next day, Noxubee's orders were changed. She was directed to proceed directly to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and wait for the Wasp. The Wasp limped into port a few days latter. To everyone who saw her, including Noxubee Seaman Tom Hayes, she was a terrible sight. The first thing that Tom and everyone else in the Navy Yard noticed was that the 90 ft. gash in her bow was right about at the height of a destroyer's main deck.

As soon as possible Noxubee went along side the Wasp and off loaded some 300,000 gallons of avgas and quickly departed for Norfolk. The Wasp then went into dry dock for repairs and in just a couple of weeks was back on her way to the Med. But a ship with 176 crewmen was on the bottom of the Atlantic and would never sail again.

Tom Hayes sums it up best when he said, "It's really sad, all those guys killed like that and after a couple of years it's all forgotten about, except by the families , of course, who will never forget."

--Story based on information provided by Tom Hayes.


Noxubee Crest

Noxubee Spirit


By Paul Gryniewicz
Bravery never goes out of fashion
William Marketplace Thackery
Congrove, John Gene
322 14 18 SN USN
USS Noxubee (AOG-56)

21 July 1948:
MERITORIOUS MAST:

Commended by Commanding Officer at meritorious mast this date for his part in saving the life of a poor swimmer who had fallen overboard. Congrove dived overboard into the cold water of Naraganstt Bay, Rhode Island, on 17 May 1948, without regard to his own safety, and with the help of another man, supported the drowning man until a boat picked them up.

E. Wilkey,
Lieutenant, USN
Commanding.


Noxubee Crest

Lost At Sea


By Paul Gryniewicz

On Tuesday, November 15, 1955, the crew of the U.S.S. Noxubee AOG-56 was enjoying a few days of well-earned liberty in Barcelona, Spain, when orders arrived to proceed immediately to Naples, Italy. Preparations were made quickly, and the ship was soon underway. Leaving Barcelona, the weather was sunny and warm, the Mediterranean Sea was calm and blue. But by nightfall, a fearsome winter gale seemed to come out of nowhere to smack the ship. Back in those days, weather reporting was not nearly as accurate as it is today, so the storm took everyone by surprise. The Med turned nasty as the sea appeared to merge with the sky. Twenty-foot waves and high winds pounded the ship. As typical of an AOG, the Noxubee was soon rolling from side to side, and waves were breaking across the tank deck catwalk. The lower tank deck was constantly swept by the waves with each new roll of the ship.

Around breakfast time on Wednesday, a crewman struggling to make his way aft across the catwalk to the mess decks noted that the hoses stored on the port side tank deck had broken free and were adrift. Each new wave threatened to carry them over the side. The bridge was notified, and they in turn called down to the engine room to have someone secure the loose hoses before they were gone for good or worse yet fouled the screws. Fully aware of the dangers to both the ship and himself, Leo Evens EM 1, took on the job. Dressed in full foul-weather gear he went down to the hoses on the well deck, the ship rolled as a wave swept the length of the deck and carried Evans overboard. He did not even have a chance to grab for one of the lifelines. One second he was there and the next second he was gone.

Horrified crew members saw Evans as he was swept over the side. "Man Overboard" sounded throughout the ship. The OOD immediately took appropriate action by swinging the ship around to its reciprocal course and began making rescue pass at Leo. Captain LT Richard Demondy and XO LTjg Jim Full arrived on the bridge as soon as the alarm sounded. The captain assumed the conn and all stations reported manned and ready. Leo was spotted on a crest of a wave and remained in view for a full 15 minutes. During that time the ship, in spite of the bad weather, made two passes at Leo desperately trying to get a line to him. But sadly time ran out and on a third pass several of his shipamtes watched him vanish beneath the waves.

Hoping against hope, the Noxubee spent the rest of the day unsuccessfully searching the storm tossed Mediterranean for him. Sadly, Leo Evans was never seen again.

Evans was not only well-liked but as the top engineman he was a father to all in the "black" gang. His loss devastated everyone from the captain on down. Leo Evans was the only man the Noxubee ever loss at sea.

--Story based on information provided by Jose Flores-Toro, Floyd Barlow Jim Full, Leonard Geshan, Willis Glassgow, Bob Wood, and Ed Yates