Operation Praying Mantis

 

Now in glorious YouTube-Vision.  On April 14th, 1988, USS Samuel B. Roberts struck an Iranian mine.  Sailors worked with incredible stamina and ingenuity to save the fractured ship, to include welding cleats outside the hull and lashing those together with wire rope (“cables”) to hold the hull together.  On April 18th, US Navy forces in and around the Persian Gulf damaged or destroyed half of the Iranian Navy.

At that point, I was so new that my YES concert tees still reeked of dope (not mine) and I was in training, but I manned my gear in the Electronic Warfare spaces aboard USS Enterprise.  Gee, this Navy stuff sure is exciting!  The Iranian action caused us to leave the area late, so we canceled a port visit to Australia, which I would not see until over a decade later.  On the other hand, this freed up schedule time on the balance, which we dissipated in the Philippines.

We pulled into Seattle and our money was no good.  We had shown Iran and the world that the US Navy wasn’t taking any crap off of any mullahs.  We were going to return to homeport Alameda (in the San-Fran-cisco-Bay) on the fourth of July, and the fanfare was — what’s that, Lassie?  You say USS Vincennes just blew an Iranian airliner out of the sky killing hundreds of civilians, and the whole thing looks bad from any angle?  Oh, damn.  Well, I guess high winds will keep us out at sea until after sunset, and then we’ll just sneak off the ship and hit the bars on Webster Street asking each other What the Hell just happened.

Vincennes never returned to the Persian Gulf.  Probably a good call.

When I later departed Enterprise, I retained (great verb) the by-then outdated copy of Jane’s Fighting Ships which my Chief had used during Praying Mantis, with his yellow highlights indicating corrections that would have to be made in the next edition.  Dave K. got the gas log, and hey Doc Watson — I have your family bible.  Are you still alive?

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  1. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr
    @Tex929rr

    Bravo Zulu.

    • #1
  2. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    Bravo Zulu.

    Splice the main brace!

    • #2
  3. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Early in the clip are the words, “President Reagan.”  I immediately felt better and knew that it will all work out.

    • #3
  4. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Reportedly a sailor on the Roberts set the record for continuous operation of a water pump on a ship after she struck the mine- when asked how he did it he said “I can’t swim”. In that he continued the tradition of his ship- the 1st ship Samuel Roberts was sunk off Samar in 1944 after an incredibly heroic fight against overwhelming odds.  The last men to abandoned the ship were its captain and chief petty officer. When the Captain asked the chief why he was still on the ship he was reported to have said “because I can’t swim”- the Captain replied that he couldn’t either so they jumped off together [why a chief and Captain didn’t learn to swim ranks as one of the great mysteries of all time]. Read more about it in the great book “Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors”. Sadly, no ship named after Roberts is in service today-but we do have ships named after Gabby Gifford and Harvey Milk…..

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Stand_of_the_Tin_Can_Sailors

    A book every American should read- we can never have enough of men like those who served their country off Samar. The US Navy’s finest hour.

    • #4
  5. ERIC PIERSON Thatcher
    ERIC PIERSON
    @ERICPIERSON

    I wasn’t there when it happened. The minesweeping crew I was part of hadn’t rotated in yet. I have been on a minesweeper that ran into a sunken mine layer with live mines. For reasons known only to God, nothing blew. I was in the forward engine room, a couple of feet from where the impact was.. Flash forward to about 7 years ago, where my new boss became Dave Walker. Dave was an engineering Chief on the Roberts, a true hero who helped save that boat. I loved having him as a friend and General Foreman. I later found out that the guy who came to teach the sailors how to take care of their ships generators worked under Dave on the Roberts. Small world.  I respected those two more than any other people I worked with before I even found out they were on the Roberts.

    • #5
  6. James Hageman Coolidge
    James Hageman
    @JamesHageman

    Any Yes fan gets a like from me.

    • #6
  7. AMD Texas Member
    AMD Texas
    @DarinJohnson

    I was standing as throttleman in the EOS of Engine Rm. 1 on the USS Texas CGN-39 the day the Vincennes shot down that airliner and we got to go into the Gulf and replace her for the next several weeks. Things were a little tense onboard for awhile as we expected some sort of response. Lot of saber rattling but not much more. I remember most of my time on that West Pac pretty fondly but it was not a fun time  on that station.

    • #7
  8. ERIC PIERSON Thatcher
    ERIC PIERSON
    @ERICPIERSON

    AMD Texas (View Comment):
    Vincennes shot down that airliner

    Oh man, I was there for that. That was one wild summer in the Gulf. We took so much fire at our wooden minesweeper that they started giving us Apache escorts everywhere. We also had to go right off the Iranian coast to find a sunken SeaBat helicopter they needed to recover fast. Had a couple of destroyers and cruisers shoot our way in and out. The 2 special forces barges were going non-stop. I learned that I truly had a gift for destruction on 50s, 60s, and mark 19s that summer. Got to see the video of the Vincennes bridge. We clearly lied about the distance from shore. When I eventually got home, it was very weird that nobody really knew what was going on in he gulf. We took out more than half of the Iranian Navy over a weekend.

     

    • #8
  9. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    ERIC PIERSON (View Comment):

    AMD Texas (View Comment):
    Vincennes shot down that airliner

    Oh man, I was there for that. That was one wild summer in the Gulf. We took so much fire at our wooden minesweeper that they started giving us Apache escorts everywhere. We also had to go right off the Iranian coast to find a sunken SeaBat helicopter they needed to recover fast. Had a couple of destroyers and cruisers shoot our way in and out. The 2 special forces barges were going non-stop. I learned that I truly had a gift for destruction on 50s, 60s, and mark 19s that summer. Got to see the video of the Vincennes bridge. We clearly lied about the distance from shore. When I eventually got home, it was very weird that nobody really knew what was going on in he gulf. We took out more than half of the Iranian Navy over a weekend.

     

    Yeah, the Vincennes CO sent a Frigate up the axis to bait Iran.  The Frigate CO protested and took it to the admiral, who IIRC shut it down, but things were amiss.  There was a bunch more going wrong on Vincennes.  That was a bad shot, and the Navy whipped out the post-Iowa playbook real fast.  Sigh.

    • #9
  10. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Reportedly a sailor on the Roberts set the record for continuous operation of a water pump on a ship after she struck the mine- when asked how he did it he said “I can’t swim”. In that he continued the tradition of his ship- the 1st ship Samuel Roberts was sunk off Samar in 1944 after an incredibly heroic fight against overwhelming odds. The last men to abandoned the ship were its captain and chief petty officer. When the Captain asked the chief why he was still on the ship he was reported to have said “because I can’t swim”- the Captain replied that he couldn’t either so they jumped off together [why a chief and Captain didn’t learn to swim ranks as one of the great mysteries of all time]. Read more about it in the great book “Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors”. Sadly, no ship named after Roberts is in service today-but we do have ships named after Gabby Gifford and Harvey Milk…..

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Stand_of_the_Tin_Can_Sailors

    A book every American should read- we can never have enough of men like those who served their country off Samar. The US Navy’s finest hour.

    I’ve read that one, an amazing story.

    • #10
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