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October, 1972

On 1 October after firing 34 8-inch and nine 5-inch shells in the course of three missions, tragedy struck NEWPORT NEWS. At 0100 an 8-inch projectile in the bore of the center gun of Turret Two exploded prematurely, setting off several powder casings in the powder hoists. The explosion resulted in the eventual death of 20 men, and injury of 36. Quick and efficient action by the repair parties concerned confined the damage to the inside of the turret and its barbette. The cause of the explosion was subsequently determined to be a faulty auxiliary detonating fuse. At 0816 the ship was detached from TG 75.9 to proceed to Subic Bay.

In transit on the second at 1331 the USS BAINBRIDGE (DLG 25) rendered passing honors. The following day at 0752 19 deceased crewmembers were heloed off, and honors were rendered. At 1016 NEWPORT NEWS moored starboard side to Nabasan Wharf, US NAVSTA SUBIC BAY, Captain Zartman briefed the members of the press onboard the ship. RADM Cole, COMSERVGRU THREE, commenced formal investigation of the turret explosion. On the 4th the investigative teams surveyed the damage. The next day at 1227 the berthing was shifted to Rivera Wharf, berths 11 & 12. Routine maintenance began and plans to effect temporary repairs to Turret Two were drawn up on the 6th.

Routine maintenance continued through the 18th. On the 8th the center barrel of T-2 was removed and on the 16th at 1800 the turret was brought to centerline position. COMSERVGRU THREE adjourned his investigation on the 18th. Berthing was shifted to Nabasan Wharf at 1024 on the 19 and ammunition was loaded onboard throughout the remained of the day.

NEWPORT NEWS got underway for the gunline at 1017 the next day. On the 21st at 1547, while preparing the starboard chaff-roc for action, an inadvertent firing took place, injuring SN W.D. Davenport, of 5th Division. The ship arrived on station at 0534 on the 22nd. No firing took place during the day. The ship departed station in the morning of the 23rd to refuel from the WACCAMAW at 1053. Attached to TG 75.9, NEWPORT NEWS began firing two missions and 256 5-inch rounds. No GDA was observed. Five-inch fire continued with two more missions and 195 rounds. The ship again provided support for VNMC in Quang Tri Province on the 24th. The next day NEWPORT NEWS fired one mission accounting for 216 5-inch rounds. The ship rearmed from the VESUVIUS at 1046 on the 26th. Personnel were also highlined off the ship. Again one mission was fired with 5-inch rounds, totaling 391. No GDA was available. NEWPORT NEWS vertrepped ammunition with the SANTA BARBARA at 1252 the next day. Returning to the line she fired one mission accounting for 88 5-inch rounds. On October 28th action increased as NEWPORT NEWS was called on to fire nine missions and 633 5-inch shells. Her efforts caused two secondary explosions and destroyed two bunkers. At 0845 the following day the ship rearmed with the PYRO. Upon returning to station she fired three missions totaling 42 8-inch and 286 5-inch rounds. Her fire caused destruction of two structures. On the 30th she refueled from HASSAYAMPA at 0802. During the remainder of the day NEWPORT NEWS fired two missions and expended 138 5-inch rounds, starting five fires and causing one secondary explosion. The last day of the month proved to be a busy one for NEWPORT NEWS. At 0956 four rounds of hostile fire were observed, the first on the gunline since 27 June. At 1153 NEWPORT NEWS picked up five members of an Allied patrol, three of whom were Navy Seal team advisors. Two of the members of the group were injured, and were treated in sickbay. The ship fired one mission totaling only 104 5-inch rounds during the day, but the damage included two bunkers and 12 structures damaged, and two secondary explosions.

 

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