Baltic Sea Encounter – part
I reported aboard the Daly
on Sunday 15, May 1955. She was tied up the Destroyer Pier in Newport,
RI., I was a 20 year old inexperienced TMSN (Torpedoman Seaman) who had
completed 32 weeks of TMA school in Newport, after boot camp training in
San Diego. I graduated 3rd in my class and chose the USS Daly
as my duty station. I think fate played a big part in the selection I
made. I knew little about the Daly except that she was a destroyer and her
home port was Newport, RI, only a short walk from the torpedo school
I did not have a clue as
to what a “Tin Can Sailor’s” life aboard a DD at sea would be like,
especially in heavy sea conditions which appeared to be most of the time.
I learned I was the only TM aboard who had completed the TMA school. I was
constantly talking to my shipmates. It took me awhile, learning the
different departments, their duties and the various watch station
assignments of the crew. I remember GM1 Mund. His nickname was Mr. Magoo
the comic book character with poor eyesight. He was the Master at Arms and
was always helpful getting me help when needed. My duties were well known
due to the size of the Torpedo Tube and the 3800 lb Mark 15 Steam Fish and
it’s location on the 01 level amidships.
To me, a half-breed (Tigua
Indian/ Spanish mix) from the American southwest (El Paso, Texas), it was
truly an experience I shall never forget. I am proud to answer to name of
“Tin Can Sailor”, thanks to my sea duty time aboard the oldest Fletcher
Class DD in the Sixth Fleet
( May 1955- June 1957). I
remember every moment aboard the Daly as I really have a special place in
my heart for the old Tin Can.
It was July 1, 1955, when
Des Div 302 set out from Newport, RI, our homeport, headed for Portsmouth,
England. Two of the destroyers in the division pulled into Portsmouth. The
Daly and the Smalley did not make port there but proceeded westward to the
Irish Sea. The trip up through the narrow and turbulent passage was my
first experience aboard a destroyer in heavy sea conditions. I learned
where the name “Tin Can” came from to describe a destroyer.
Inverness , Scotland was
our next port: however, it was not a liberty port. We were there only
long enough to pick up a special photographic team, before we steamed on
to the Baltic Sea.
The two ship formation got
underway and crossed a rough North Sea, through the Skagerrak and Kattegat
pass between the southern tip of Norway and the northern tip of Denmark.
Then south around the tip of Sweden and then north again into the Baltic
We soon became aware that
the Russian KGB was keeping close tabs on our position. We had only been
in the Baltic Sea a short time with the Daly as the lead ship and the
Smalley close behind when a Russian 4 engine bomber made a pass directly
over both the Daly and Smalley.
I had just come topside,
walking forward on the starboard side about midships, when I heard the
drone of the plane. I was on my way to the bridge to stand the 1600 – 2000
helm-watch. I looked up as the large multi-engine bomber flew directly
overhead. It was only 200 to 300 feet above me. I could clearly identify
the large red star on the wing and briefly could make out the bombardier
and co-pilot. They were that close to the ship. The aircraft made two more
low passes then climbed to several thousand feet and continued to circle
high above us.
I relieved the helm-watch
and was on duty for some time when CIC reported to the bridge that they
had two surface contacts. The bridge lookouts also reported visual
sightings of the contacts. It was determined they were two motor patrol
boats (MPB’s). Everyone on the bridge was very interested in the
approaching MPB’s, and I suddenly realized I was alone in the wheel house.
Everyone was on the starboard side of the open bridge peering at the
approaching vessels. I don’t know what I was thinking. I saw that the
MPB’s were going to pass over 100 yards off our starboard side. I thought
about the photography team on board, then slowly proceeded to move the
helm ever so slightly to starboard. Everyone’s interest was on the
approaching MPB’s and did not notice the slight change in the wake of the
ship as we turned. By the time the Russian boats passed our beam we were
less than a hundred yards away and the photographic team was getting some
great close-up photos. As they passed, I slowly moved the wheel back on
our original course as the rest of the pilot house crew came back inside.
To my relief, no one had noticed the slight turn I had provided.
The bomber had disappeared
as the boats arrived, the MPB’s turned around about 500 yards off our
starboard quarter and followed us until nightfall.
The next morning, as I
came topside on my way to breakfast, I looked for the MPB’s, but they were
nowhere in sight. However, a heavy Russian Cruiser was now about 1000
yards off our starboard quarter. Perhaps they just happened to be on the
same course as our ship. The Captain was obviously very curious about
their position as he made several unnecessary course changes to check
their reaction. As the captain probably expected, the Russian ship matched
every change. The skipper even gave the order to “Stop all Engines”. The
Russians did so as well as we drifted dead in the water for about 45
minutes in a calm sea.
The next morning the
cruiser was gone, but Sonar reported an underwater contact to starboard.
Evidently a Russian sub had now replaced the cruiser. The sub dogged us
until we entered the Gulf of Finland, it then disappeared from the Sonar
All hands who were aware
of the encounter with the Russians were relieved when it was over. The
date was 31 July 1955. As far as I know the USS Daly and our sister ship
USS Smalley were the first American Naval Ships to venture into Russian
dominated waters in that part of the world, during the time of the “Cold
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