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"Sighted Sub! Same Sunk!"

A Blimper's Blooper

May 1955

One Friday afternoon, following a week's gunnery practice at Cape Hatteras, we had just tied up at the convoy escort pier, NOB, Norfolk. I had the weekend duty, and as messenger of the watch got a call on the ship's phone from the Commodore, "Send the messenger up!"

He gave me terse orders to carry to the four ships of our DESDIV 322: "Light off all four boilers, cancel all leaves and liberties, and stand by to get underway in 30 minutes!!"

Well, two of our ships, SIGOURNEY and JOHN HOOD, were down the pier about 500 yards. As I began the run, I could feel my adrenaline begin to flow about 100%. The hair was standing up on the back of my neck, and I made it to all ships in record time - so that by the time 30 minutes had passed, all four ships in our division, plus ROSS, WREN, BEARSS and ROWE, were heading out Lynnhaven Roads anchorage at 30 knots, escorted by 2 crash boats zigzagging at 50 knots.

Well, it turned out that a navy blimp pilot had spotted a sub - unidentified, just off Cape Henry - that would not respond to his challenge by radio.

When we got to the site we ran ASW patterns, and began to get suspicious. A navy salvage ship, with a hard-hat aboard, went to the scene. It turned out to be a long-sunk WWII German U-boat, lying in shallow water. The blimp pilot, unaware of these facts, concluded that the boat was underway, for he had dropped a marker at the site, and observed relative motion between marker and U-boat. Unfortunately, he had failed to account for "set and drift" of the water, and therefor he reported a course and speed for the sunken sub!!!!.

Man, oh man!! Was our Commodore mad!! He raved "You'd think those Airedales could have figured that out!!"

-- Rich Johns.