Destroyers collide off Newport Beach
July 19, 1960: The demolished bow of the destroyer Collett shows the force of the collision with the Ammen in fog off the Orange County coast. Eleven sailors on the Ammen were killed.
The Los Angeles Times reported the next day:
Two U.S. Navy destroyers collided in dense fog off Newport Beach yesterday, killing 11 men and injuring 7, despite desperate last-minute maneuvering to avoid the disaster. The USS Collett ripped into the port side of the USS Ammen at a near-90-degree angle, laying open her rear engine and fire rooms.
As the fire and engine rooms took on water the Ammen listed sharply to port. She was momentarily feared lost until her pumps checked the flooding.
The collision occurred about seven miles off the Orange County resort city as the Collett knifed through the water on sea trials after an overhaul and the Ammen headed for mothballing with the reserve fleet in San Diego.
The Collett’s bow crumpled, leaving its anchor embedded in the side of the Ammen, but it was able to back free of the wreckage.
Both ships saw combat against Japan during World War II. The Collett also served in the Korean War. Following the collision, the Ammen was decommissioned and sold for scrap.
The Collett was fitted with a new bow from a mothballed destroyer. In 1974, the ship was sold to Argentina, renamed the ARA Piedra Buena and served in the 1982 Falklands War. In 1988 the ship was sunk in an Argentine naval missile exercise.
On Nov. 11, 1960, the Los Angeles Times reported that Cmdr. Albert T. Ford, skipper of the Collett, was officially reprimanded by the U.S. Navy and demoted in seniority rating. He was found guilty, according to The Times, “of excessive speed during trial runs in thick fog.”
July 20, 1960: Wreckage from the Ammen is removed at a Terminal Island drydock the day after the collision off Orange County. This photo was published on The Times’ local news front on July 21. Credit: Charles Crawford / Los Angeles Times
July 27, 1960: Officers and men of the damaged Navy destroyer Ammen assemble on deck for a memorial for the 11 crew members killed in the collision with the Collett. The ship was in drydock at the Long Beach Navy Shipyard. Credit: Charles Crawford / Los Angeles Times
June 20, 2011, 5:07 am
[…] Destroyers collide off Newport Beach […]
June 3, 2013, 5:07 am
my uncle Raul Hidalgo R. served military service at the uss collett during the corean war. by 1950-1952 and the family certainly is proud of it ..He now lives in the state of Guanajuato Mexico after he worked for so many years.
July 15, 2016, 2:48 pm
On that fateful day , I was on the 03 deck of the USS Edson DD946 and observed
two Naval Destroyers slowly sailing out to sea into a dense fog.
Shortly after 10 o'clock , we received news of the deadly collision . They were members of the destroyer
Navy and we all grieved about the loss of life and injuries.
Even now , over 55 years ago , I have a sense of sorrow for their families and our destroyer community – we were all family.
Anthony Clemmons retired FTCS
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