Marc Arsenault ET2
(USS Hartley 1960-61)
On 16 June, 1965, the USS Hartley DE 1029 in route to the anchorage at Lynn Haven Roads and the
Norwegian Freighter Blue Master in route to New Orleans, collided at the Chesapeake Bay entrance resulting in extensive hull
damage to the Hartley and bow damage to the Blue Master. The official findings of the facts leading up to and following the
collision of the USS Hartley and the Blue Master along with personal interviews were compiled nd summarized in the interest
of simplicity for this Newport Dealeys reunion 2006 presentation.
The following shipmates contributed photos, personal
copies of official files and their verbal recollections of the event.
Reo Beaulieu LCDR Captain of the USS Hartley
John Bonds LT Officer of the Deck
William Litzler LTJG
John Fry RD2
John Aluza BT1
Richard Legg RM1
The circumstances leading up to the collision USS Hartley At approximately 0800 on
the morning of 14 June 1965, the USS Hartley departed Newport RI en-route to Lynn Haven Roads anchorage via Virginia Capes
operating Areas and was scheduled for arrival on 16 June 0600. In addition to her regularly assigned crew, Hartley embarked
a group of Naval Reservists on 13 June for a two week period of active duty for training. Absent on sailing were the Operation
Officer (CIC Officer) one RD2 and one RDSN, who were on temporary Additional duty on board the USS Long Beach as observers
for training exercises. Preparatory to entering the Chesapeake Bay, The Hartley had reveille at 0345 and had scheduled the
Special Sea and Anchor Detail for 0400, to relieve the mid watch. Pursuant to direction in his Night Orders the Commanding
Officer LCDR Reo Beaulieu was called at 0345 and was on the bridge at 0348. Upon his arrival the Captain was briefed by the
OOD (LT John Bonds) concerning the navigation situation and the presence of surface contacts.
1. A ship approximately
two miles ahead, slightly on the starboard side, showing a green running light.
2. A pilot vessel slightly to the right
of the contact.
3. Farther to the right , another pilot vessel
4. Another ship farther to the right of the second
pilot vessel, showing a green running light approximately four miles.
The Norwegian Motor
Vessel Blue Master departed Baltimore, Maryland, en-route to New Orleans Louisiana at 1750 on 15 June 1965. During the transit
of the Chesapeake Bay at a maintained speed of 16 knots, the Blue Master experienced weather which was blustery, with rain
squalls and increasing northwest winds. Visibility averaged five to ten miles. In the vicinity of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel,
The Blue Master slowed to 10 then 5 Knots to avoid overtaking the ship Hollandia which was also proceeding southward, in order
to provide sea room in the vicinity of the pilot vessel for discharge of pilot. The Blue Master change course left and stopped
in order to round up and heave-to to create a lee on the starboard quarter and to facilitate transfer of the pilot to the
pilot vessel by small boat. Visibility was 6 miles. Wind was from the Northeast at 40-45 knots, seas rough and confused. The
Master of the Blue Master was briefed by the Pilot prior to his departure as to the following contacts:
ship Hollandia, proceeding to sea in an easterly direction.
2. An Alcoa ship holding station between the CH Buoy and
the Thimble Shoals Channel.
3. The Maryland Pilot boat Baltimore and Virginia pilot boat Relief were cruising east and
south oh the CH Buoy. 4. A fisherman (small wooden trawler) was crossing the Blue Master’s bow inbound.
5. A faint
light bearing southeast, distance unknown and was not shown as a contact on the Blue Masters radar.. At 0350 the Pilot relinquished
the conn of the Blue Master to the Captain so he could proceed out to sea.
MV Blue Master (Norway)
USS Hartley DE 1029
The following is a summary of the collision on 16 June 1965, off Little Creek
Virginia between the USS Hartley and the
Norwegian freighter Blue Master as
perceived and communicated by John Bonds to Marc Arsenault on 19 February 2006
LT Bonds was the Officer of the Deck at the time of impact.
Time approximately 4 AM
was heading towards Norfolk and due to its location was still
operating under International rules. (no horn
2. Blue Master was heading out to sea and due to its location was operating
3. No vessel to vessel communications (before VHF radio)
4. Weather was windy (18-25 mph NE winds)
5. Area was cluttered with many small vessels in the area.
6. There were many confusing targets
on the radar. Captain and navigator
were on the bridge, the JOOD had the conn, I was watching the radar,
trying to make sense of the picture. CIC was changing to the sea detail.
7. First visual identification
of the contact which was Blue Master was at
045 relative, about 3500 yards, showing target angle of 060 (range
masthead lights plus starboard running light), and stationary. Later
that he had come out of the North Channel
bridge/tunnel opening and was making a lee to debark his bay pilot
the area between the north and south channels.
8. Shortly afterward, we noticed a red (port) running
light on the
Blue Master still on our starboard side, and the contact at 2000 yards.
the CO that the contact had turned to his starboard and was closing.
CO Hartley ordered speed increased to
15kts to cross ahead of the contact,
but continued our course into the south channel bridge opening.
9. Blue Master, now accelerating to sea speed, apparently saw Hartley at the
same time and instinctively
turned to starboard.
10. The two vessels converged rapidly. The range decreased to 1200yds, then
to 800yds, then to 400yds, almost as fast as I could move the cursor and
report the range. Hartley turned
to port to parallel the approaching ship,
but at about 400yds, with both ships now heading South (Cape Henry
was dead ahead), Blue Master turned to port—probably realizing that she was
into shallow water on her course. The bow turned into Hartley.
CO Hartley order all ahead flank in an attempt
to move the ship out of the
way of the approaching merchantman, and at the last moment when it was
obvious we weren’t going to get across the bow, he ordered right hard
rudder to try and swing the
11. Blue Master’s bow impacted Hartley at the after bulkhead of the engine
room, and directly into Sick Bay which was obliterated. The hard rudder
swing probably kept the ship from
being cut in half by the impact, as
Blue Master was still accelerating to 16kts, and the bow cut to within
30” of the main keel structure of the DE. The angle of the slice into
the hull of the DE was
perhaps 30deg from a perpendicular attack.
The avoidance maneuver almost worked, but the ship was severely
bowled over to port sharply (people on the O1 deck were wet to the waist
from rolling down to the water, or the water being pushed
up to the deck by the side motion imparted to Hartley
by the much larger
ship. The bow towered over the bridge level, of course. After a minute
two the sideways movement stopped and the ships lay together in the
6-8ft seas, grinding away. Blue Master
hailed over, “Do you require
assistance?” Hartley responded, “Yes, please inform the Coast
our situation.” At that point, Blue Master backed out and proceeded
12. In Hartley, the ship had gone to GQ when the collision alarm had been
sounded at 400yds.
The DC parties were already out, assessing the damage.
On the bridge, the CO and navigator plotted their position
and the drift
of the ship and readied an anchor. When the ship drifted out of the
into shallower water, the anchor was dropped and the ship
secured to it.
13. Meanwhile, the
flooding boundaries had been established, and shoring
of the adjacent bulkheads was underway by the courageous
DC teams who
worked steadily while watching the bulkhead “pant” with the seas striking it.
The boundaries were shored on both sides, and they held. We kept fires
in one boiler for a while,
to provide fire main pressure with the steam
pumps in the fire room, but then began to run out of feed water
a condenser, and fires were allowed to die out. The emergency generator—the
turbine unit under the helo deck aft—was operational, but the power
cables coming forward from it had
been sliced by the Blue Master’s bow.
So the lights were out, and stayed out except for battle lanterns.
Black oil oozed out of the wound all night, fouling the beaches at Cape Henry.
14. Next day dawned
gray, cold and nasty. But Navy tugs appeared at first light
and attempted to pass a tow line. The messengers
were not strong enough to
withstand the surge of the sea between the tug and the ship, and broke
repeatedly when the tow line was put into the water to be pulled (manually)
to the ship. The seas were breaking
around the ship and the tug could not
get close enough, so a brave helo driver delivered a stronger messenger
dragging it across the foc’sle of the DE, where the entire crew was mustered
in the tow line. It was finally made fast, the anchor chain slipped,
and the tow to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
Five months of repairs commenced immediately, together with a formal Navy
of the incident. Both ships were found to be at fault in the
incident, and shared the damages/loss of services
of the ship bill equally,
as I recall.
LT John B. Bonds
Anchored off Virginia Beach
of Facts Events transpiring subsequent to the collision
1. Upon with drawing from the Hartley’s side, Blue Master
inflicted additional damage to the Hartley superstructure as ships rolled together.
2. Hartley lost all propulsion and
electrical power as a consequence of the flooding of the only engine space and severing of the wire way supplying power
3. Preliminary shoring was installed by the repair parties on their own initiative in areas surrounding the
4. Until about 0454Q, The Commanding Officer permitted the Hartley to drift in a southerly direction in order
to clear the Chesapeake Bay Entrance traffic lanes and to place the Hartley closer to the shore in the event that it became
necessary to abandon ship, finally dropping anchor at Latitude 36-53N, Longitude 75-58W
5. Commencing about 0620Q units
of the Coast Guard arrive on the scene and proceeded to take Hartley under tow, succeeding finally at 1438Q when the Hartley
slipped anchor and the Kiowa, with the Senec on her starboard quarter, got under way in tow. They proceed up the Thimble Channel
to the Destroyer- Submarine Pier 2 arriving at 2340Q
6. On June 18 1965, the Hartley was towed from the D&S piers
to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for repairs having first off loaded ammunition.
7. As a result of the collision, the USS
Hartley sustained hull and equipment damage estimated in a preliminary survey by the U.S. Salvage Association at $700,000
(1965 $). This estimate did not include the expense of towing the Hartley into port, nor the cost of subsequent salvage
of Hartley’s anchor.
Finding of Facts
1. The collision
occurred in International Waters.
2. The Hartley at all times was in International Waters
3. The Hollandia was
the contact which Hartley passed port to port
between 0350Qand 0355Q. It is probable that the Hollandia merged
with Hartley as a radar target, thus precluding early visual or radar
detection by the Blue Master as a separate
4. The Blue Master approached the point of impact from Inland Waters.
5. The actions of Blue Master
in coming to her departure course changed
the presentation of her side light to Hartley from green to red, and had
the effect of an illegal action to change an unequivocal “clear to
starboard” situation into a crossing
situation which burdened Hartley
shortly before development of “in extremis”
6. The Hartley was proceeding
upon her legitimate course to enter Thimble
7. The development of this collision situation
was brought about by the
Blue Masters’s second change of course to the right when the range had
about 1200 yards. This course change by the Blue Master to
the right was illegal.
8. In response to Blue Masters
second change of course to the right,
Hartley’s change of course to the left and effort to increase speed to
20 knots were prudent actions and justified by the developed “in extremis
situation. This action, in an unchanging
situation, should have enabled
Hartley to parallel Blue Master’s course and run out ahead.
9. The subsequent
change of course to the left by Blue Master nullified
Hartley’s evasive action.
10. After sighting Blue Master’s
red side light on her own starboard bow,
Hartley’s decision to increase speed to cross ahead of Blue Master was
an error in judgment by the C.O. of the Hartley, and an illegal movement,
despite a reasonable prior expectation
held by Hartley that the Blue Master
intended to pass astern of the Hartley and proceed southeasterly to
as indicated by her movements up to that time.
11. A series of short whistle blast sounded by the Blue master construed
be the danger signal, were heard by the Hartley personnel immediately
prior to the collision.
whistle was operative. Yet, Hartley erred in not sounding
any whistle signals, incident to her maneuvers.
action of the Hartley’s Commanding Officer in ordering hard
right rudder militated against more extensive damage
to both ships,
probably save Hartley from being severed, and was material factor in
the fact that there
was no loss of life, nor occurrence of serious injury.
14. The actions of the damage control parties were proper and
controlling and in minimizing the damage resulting from the collision.
15. The overall conduct
of Hartley’s crew subsequent to the collision was
exemplary and in the best traditions of the Naval service.
In summary it must be considered that both ships contributed to the
in judgment and must be held to share the
culpability: Blue Master’s violation of the Rules of Good Seamanship
well as the General Prudent Rule in addition to other violations
of the Rules of the Road, make the Blue Master’s culpability
A first hand account of the
collision of the USS Hartley DE 1029 and
Norwegian Freighter Blue Master
HTCM T. D.
June 1965, Newport, RI, as I walked up the gang way to the
quarter deck of the USS Hartley, sea bag on the shoulder, orders in hand, I was greeted by a First Class Ship Fitter, who
said "Boy am I glad you're here" handed me a ring of keys, he then saluted the Ensign and called back to me "good
luck on this one" and he disappeared down the pier.
After I checked in, I was informed we were getting underway by the weekend to go down to Norfolk area and
then head back up for a North Atlantic cruise.
took a couple of days to get housing arranged, schools for my kids and next thing I knew we were leaving port. I'd been in
the shop area one day, met the fellows that made up R division. I found a bunk and locker in the Engineering 1st
class section, which was a small 8 bunk compartment off the starboard side of the Engineering berthing. The next day, I took
inventory of R division spaces, met more crew and then took in depth tour of the Hartley. Taps, lights out, and sea detail
at 0400 next day. I recall reveille, sea detail being announced over the 1MC, then BANG, got knocked out of my rack, lights
flickering, people yelling, heard "engine room blew up", "hit a mine", everyone scrambling for the only
scuttle out of compartment. When I came through the scuttle onto fantail, I looked forward, could see starboard main deck
peeled up in the air, steam blowing and a huge forward section of a dark ship that appeared to have cut us in half. It was
pushing us sideways, we were leaning over to the port and I remember looking up what seemed like 80 - 90 feet to their foc'sle
area and seeing one small flashlight peering down on us.
The seas were rough, wind blowing, spitting rain, the side push came to a halt, then suddenly the freighter
slowly backed out of the ship. The Hartley came upright then slowly started to list to the starboard side. In all the confusion,
I don't recall the collision alarm or GQ alarm being announced, which conflicts to the report.
Damage control is an R Division responsibility. I looked around at unfamiliar
faces, said we need a damage assessment now, the faces jumped up and took off to investigate. One of the ship fitters opened
the DC locker and brought some emergency lanterns.
new found friend was an engine man 1st class, think his name was Phillyar, a big stout guy.
As the faces came back with their reports, it was apparent
the compartment aft the engine room, forward bulkhead and starboard skin would need to be shored up to prevent flooding and
Yelling out, we need shoring
timbers, shoring kit, more lights. Phillyar came back, looked like a northwest logger, with shoring and helpers. We went down
into the compartment, it was taking on water. We had to keep a steady stream of lights coming as each one would only last
for a few minutes, then die. We got mattresses stuffed into the big rip, backed up with a bunk bottom and shored it into place.
Then started on the forward bulkhead, it took two guys to hold the floating shore and one to cut by hand, then stand on them
to hold in place so they wouldn't float back up. Overhead shoring was a little easier, you could see the wedges to hammer
We all came back up on deck,
told Phillyar we need to start pumping out the flooded space. There was a P-500 on the fantail, rigged it up to pump out,
pulled on the starter rope numerous times, finally sputtered to life, then suddenly quit. A quick check revealed that it had
seized up. I told Phillyar, I saw another P-500 forward near foc'sle, bring that back here, we changed everything over
to that pump, went to fire it up, we broke both starting ropes, it was seized up tight!! No pumps.
During all that commotion, there was a coast guard helicopter hovering
over our helo pad. Someone yelled that the Captain wants to see me up on Helo deck, I ran up there, he said I don't know your
name, but do we need any assistance? I told him we need pumps to start dewatering. The coast Guard had lowered a pad and a
pencil, I wrote we needed dewatering pumps with suction lines, he retracted the clip board, gave me a thumbs up, flew off,
they returned shortly with two big salvage pumps and all the gear, I thanked them with a big thumbs up.
We got everything hooked up and finally started to make headway
I do remember the tug trying
to get a tow line aboard. The messenger line would break because of rough seas. On their last effort, you could see the tugs
screw kick up sand off the bottom, it was almost time to abandon ship to get ashore, but the helo took the line from the tug
and slowly inched his way across the foc'sle and the crew up there was able to hold on, then it was all hands to pull the
tow howser on board.
LT John Bond
would like to stress again the calm professional courage exhibited by the Damage Control personal, who were standing in knee-deep
water with a steel bulkhead flexing about 4 inches in front of them, and a 14 inch scuttle the only way out of the compartment.
They all knew if that bulkhead let go before they could shore it, only one person would get out of the compartment. They worked
fast, skillfully and with humor. The guy sawing the shoring timber to fit was whistling while he worked. The Navy at its best,
doing his job, in the face of quite real danger.
CO USS Hartley
I would like to make one comment. In both the findings of fact and the opinions,
it was noted that the bearing drift on the Bluemaster was always to the right, going from 318 to 330. This was a major factor
in my decision to increase speed and pass ahead of the vessel. If Bluemaster had maintained course at that time, we would
have certainly passed ahead of her. However, as hindsight would have it, I guess Bluemaster's intent was always to effect
a port to port passage. Too bad I didn't realize it at the time. I believe you have done a great job in your presentation.
Please let me know how it was received at the reunion and the reactions of others that were involved.
Richard Legg RM1
Checking out the damage
Flight Deck looking aft
Ltjg Thasher, Comm Officer, was thrown
from his bunk to deck,
stumbled out of after "O" and stared at Blue Master's markings.
Then climbed up the twisted ladder,
through the hatch to the main deck.
Ended up on the bridge in his skivies.
Wilbert McCartney MM2 was at
his station in the engine room
when the Blue Master's bow came within 4 ft of him.
Note the day light opening
above to the dry dock. (Red lines)