Oct 2, 1992: (Very) Shortly After Midnight – USS SARATOGA – Part I

October 5th, 2006 by xformed

I missed the “anniversary” of this in posting days, as the incident discussed here happened on October 2nd, but come the beginning of next year, the same number of years ago, I became involved in the incident where the mid-watch (0000-0400) team on USS SARATOGA (CV-60) made a terrible mistake and launched two NATO Sea Sparrow RIM-7 missiles into the former US GEARING Class destroyer, then the TCG Mauvenet. Some of the details are here.

Three Admirals are named in the Wikipeida notes, two of which I personally worked with during my career, and the third I knew of. One of my shipmates from a training command was working for Admiral Dur that night, and was present earlier in the evening when the SARATOGA Operations Officer came into the Flag Watch Command Center and mentioned they were going to play in the exercise using their NATO Sea Sparrow system (NSSMS). The reported response from Admiral Dur was “Yeah, right!”

USS BADGER BPDMS Launch

RIM-7 Launch from USS BADGER (FF-1071)

The NSSMS was derived from the successful air-launched Sparrow AIM-7 series, brought “down” to serve on ships as a “point defense” system. This means it was designed to be used against threats coming at the platform where the missile system was located. It was by no means an “area” defense system, as it had a very limited capability against “crossing” (read headed for another target) threats. The first installations were Frankenstein like conglomerations of a F-4 Phantom II radar system, mounter on a stanchion for manual aiming and targeting by a sailor on the open deck, which would then fire a missile from an eight celled launcher, adapted from the Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC) system. The system, in this configuration, was the Basic Point Defense System (BPDMS – pronounced Bee-Ped-EMus in verbal reference). It was a start, but the operator, strapped to the send and receive antennas mounted on the station on the open deck, had to be verbally pointed in the direction of the target, then he would sweep the area of sky where the target is supposed to be, while listening to the audible return signal of the radar, which would tell him when he had acquired the inbound target by a change in pitch. He also had the firing key for the system, as he was the only one who had the ability to judge if he was on target or not.

More later, but this will be presented in series, as once I get through the technology involved, then it will be on to the investigation.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 5th, 2006 at 7:43 am and is filed under History, Military, Military History, Navy, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

9 responses about “Oct 2, 1992: (Very) Shortly After Midnight – USS SARATOGA – Part I”

  1. Steeljaw Scribe said:

    Oh yeah, the (in)famous Sea-Seeker Sparrow… This should be interesting….
    SJS

  2. An Anniversary of an Incident - 1992 - - It’s not random, it’s CHAOS! said:

    […] Some of the history involving the USS SARATOGA (CV-60) and TCG Muavenet (DM-357, ex-USS GWIN (DM-33)) begins here. […]

  3. Bob McDonald said:

    I was there, a Hospital Corpsman (HM1), helped in providing First Aid. Got some video.

  4. ABF3 Messner said:

    I was there as well and I’ll tell you one thing I was scared out of my mind! I just came to the Saratoga sometime in mid September Via COD from Sigonella Naval Air Station. After being in Sigonella, Italy for three days I was quite excited, to say the least, to see my ship for the first time! Coming off of my 15 day leave from boot camp in Sandiego I was Excited to finally be in the action! Upon Arrival I was quickly assigned to the V-4 (purple shirts) division. Needles to say I didn’t expect to be as close to the action as I was that fateful night! Our birthing for V-4 division was on the O-4 level just below the arresting gear wires and right next to the aft launcher that fired the two missiles. The missiles launched at 11:55 PM for the record, the reason why I know this is because at first we thought it was a fly-by from two of our aircraft. At that time I was in my rack writing a letter to family and looked at my watch wondering why we were still flying so late. Not but 10 sec’s after, our flight ops crew came into the birthing from taking a shower, at that point you could imagine the confusion going through my head seeing this! Then before we knew it our birthing filled with the smoke from the missiles. At that point I jumped out of my wrack to see where the smoke was coming from because our second task is fire fighting if our home was on fire! So I followed the smoke to the hatch leading outside. And looked around and saw no fire on our ship but to my surprise not but 3 nautical miles out was a fire on the horizon and could just make out the outline of a ship from the fire on deck! At this point I’m scared, confused, and in disbelief, then within seconds came to the chilling conclusion, we just actually shot something! At this point General quarters was sounded and the call for assistance for all firefighting personnel and equipment to the hanger-bay! I ran into our berthing and just threw my close on and went straight to the flight deck to assist in anything I could! An hour and a half after the incident happened they allowed us to assist them in helping with the fire and evacuating the wounded and dead. At this point I knew the best thing I could do was to assist in carrying the wounded from the H-3’s as they landed. So I grabbed a stretcher from the Island and some guys to help me carry it to the landing site for the helicopters and proceeded to carry the wounded down to the hanger bay via elevator 4. It was at this point that I was told by an officer that all the wounded and dead have been aboard and to retire back to my bunk to get rest for the next day! One thing about military life is that there is no rest period even after a catastrophe when deployed! I’ll tell you know, that day will always haunt me till the day I die! To top it off, all this happened 5 min’s before my 19th birthday! MY prayers still go out to those families involved and those that have perished! May God be with them always!

  5. HM2(AW) Eric Hartsock said:

    I spent 8 hours aboard the Mauvenet shortly after the explosion. I was the corpsman on the bridge who discovered the Turkish CO, along with HN Armstrong. Very scary night for all of us. Hello to you, HM1 Mac!

  6. lopks said:

    My husband’s uncle was Kudret Gungor, the commanding officer killed in this “incident”. Today my husband’s grandmother is visiting us, and very vividly remembering this day 18 years ago.
    Not good memories for her.

  7. HM2(AWSW)FMF Silvers said:

    I was the Leading Corpsman for the Medical Ward, I worked CDR Pressler and other corpsman on the ward getting the Turkish sailors ready for MEDIVAC to a hospital in Turkey, the things we saw cannot be describe or even taught in any medical book to prepare us for what and the other endured that night. The communication barrier was from I remember was the hardest thing because you could tell them what you were going to do to help them with their pain. One sailor I was help had a piece of un-exploded missile or bomb primer in his but cheek and we had to get EOD down and x-ray to see how we were going to get it out. We also didn’t have any way to figure out what blood type they were before we gave them blood transfusions. No records so we used the universal blood type but one of the sailors didn’t react to it very well; which I never want to see again. He was missing his right hand and his left foot. Po Cook even taped his ID card to this patient to stop his sucking chest wound. The smell of the burnt skin and hair and another thing I’ll remember it just didn’t seem real. I felt so bad for this sailors trying to put myself in their place and how scared they must be to not be with their own. This still haunts me til this day.

  8. MS2 ORMSBY said:

    I was aboard the saratoga attached to VAW 125. I was assigned to stretcher barer for my general quarters sataion. I had just finished up in the officers wardroom and had headed down to my berthing area to take a shower and hit my rack. General quarters was sounded and I went up to the hanger and reported to my station. We train every day for all types of situations and this time was no different except it wasn’t a drill. Considering the fact that my aircraft carrier had just fired 2 missiles into another ship and we were trying to get emergency fire parties and corpsman and help over to that ship and evacuate the dead and wounded back to our ship, and extinguish their fires, their was a lot of chaos and yelling and urgency in everyone’s actions that night, but we did what we were trained to do and even though I have terrible dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks to what I saw and what I had to do, I am proud of the people I was with aboard that ship that night. We saved lives. Coming from the USS NASSAU LHA 4, I served aboard her during desert shield / storm. We were in mine infested waters and were in constant danger of missile attacks and possible boat attacks. We were over there for 8 1/2 months and were awarded the combat action ribbon for our combat service. So I was a little bit more used to being in combat situations and when the saratoga had fired those missiles into the TCG Muavenet DM-357, I did what I was trained to do. I held a combat dressing over one of the Turkish sailors wounds, I could feel his broken bones moving underneath my hand, I had his blood all over my cook whites and I will never as long as I live forget that man looking into my eyes with fear and pain ang crying, he kept saying why, why, why. All I could do was hold that dressing tight and carry him along with the other 3 men to where they were doing triage. Once we set him down, I took his hand and tried to comfort him the best I could, I told him he would be ok, but I don’t know if he could understand or not because he was in a bad state of shock. I carried one dead sailor too and afterwards when things were more under control and their were no one else to be brought back to our ship, I went back to my berthing, undressed and showered. I remember the blood that was dried onto my Hands and arms, scrubbing with a towel for several minutes and watching the blood go down the drain. The smell of the blood, the burnt flesh was something too that I still have not been able to forget. But after that cruise, I served another 6 1/2 years before leaving the navy. For those 6 1/2 years I delt with my time aboard the saratoga and that terrible incident, but it wasn’t until the attack on the USS COLE in 2001 that I started having really bad flashbacks and nightmares, stirring up all those bad memories. Anyone who was aboard the saratoga at that time, if you too are experiencing some of the same things, you should go to your local VA and ask for some counseling. This has helped me some. But all the counseling in the world will never take away that night and those faces, smells, sounds, and screaming. To the families of those sailors lost or wounded aboard the TCG Muavenet DM-357, I’m truley sorry for you. I think about those sailors almost every day of my life.

  9. Timothhy Mc Meen said:

    I really am at a loss reading all these quotes from people who were involved with this terrible incident. I was on that ship all night collecting casulaties and moving them to the USS Gates and I dont remember seeing anyone there but our doctor and myself and one other crewmen. I was a Chief aboard the USS Detroit and was dispatched to render assistance.

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