The following notes were written by Family and Friends following the deaths of our Shippmates. I have tried to add the Author and to whome the notes were written but some information was not available or missing so I did the very best I can with what I had.
"May They Forever Rest In Peace"
For: Joseph V. Balzano
It was Sunday December 19, 1953. I was a SN in the 3rd. Division aboard the New Port News. We were in the Portsmouth Naval ship yard, and were scheduled to bring ammunition aboard the next day, Monday December 20.
It was one of those lazy Sunday's. We were all in good spirits looking forward to going home for the Xmas holidays, on Wednesday December 22. After the noon meal we decided to make preparations for the loading of the ammunition. SN Joseph Mizer, SN Thomas Botti, SN Louis Machicote, SN Frank De Salvo, and SN Richard Gagnon are some of the mates that I can remember being part of the crew that was mustered to make the preparations. No doubt there might have been others.
We would be using an electric hoist on turret number three to load the powder kegs and the projectiles to be put inside the turret, to be stored in the magazines. While hooking up the hoist the cable on the hoist snapped and the motor fell from above the turret, striking Balzano on his side fracturing his ribs and puncturing his lungs.
There was no blood so none present knew the gravity of his injury. The ship with the Doctor on duty was near by and a helicopter brought him aboard in a very short time. The Doctor came aboard and pronounces him dead. It was a great shock to all of us.
When I came aboard the News there were two coffins stored in the hanger deck. None of us gave a thought that one of us would some day be in one of them. His Body was shipped to New York, accompanied by SA Richard Gagnon for burial in St. Raymond cemetery in the Bronx. He was buried with military honors on Saturday December 26, 1953.
It has been some fifty-one years since my good friend passed away in death, yet I can still remember him as if it was yesterday. Scanz was his nick name. He was white and I am black, but we had a lot in common. We both were born in 1934 and both of us came from New York. There was a special bond between us. but it wasn't only with me, all the other mates felt the same way about him as I did.
For the younger folks who might read this information. In these days It would be quite hard to imagine a black or African American sailor riding the Gray Hound or Trail ways bus from Norfolk Virginia to New York and can't find a place to eat or a rest room to relieve himself. That is the way it was in the 50's. There was five of us who would make that trip back and forth. Thomas Botti, Frank De Salvo, Louis Machicote, Joseph Balzano, and me. My good friend Scanz would be there to bring my food to the bus for me to eat, and with his jovial personality he would help me to forget the terrible conditions. I am an old man now and my memory is beginning to fail me, yet I don't think that I will ever forget my good friend Joseph V.(Scanz) Balzano, a young man who at the tender age of nineteen, lost his life while serving his country. What a tragic lost of life.
May God Bless his family and give them comfort. Romans 15:4
Edwin Braithwaite, BM3 3rd Division, 1952-1955
For: Jack Stephen Bergman Jr
Jack was a fun loving and caring brother who enjoyed life so very much. The night of the explosion was a time our family will never forget. Our brother was taken from us on that October 1st, but the years we had living and growing together as a family still leave the great memories and admiration we will always have for him. There could not have been a better brother anywhere. We will always miss you and never forget you big brother.
Love, Ron & Tina
For: Stephen Michael Brumfield
I don't know if you remember him. In 1972, He was the DJ on the NN radio station at night at times. Big guy, balding. I don't remember what division he was in --probably some technical rate. He'd let me help him pick records to play. Anyway, when we were loading up ammo at sea, he died as a result of an accident.
He had a wife and a few kids back in the states. I'm not sure of the spelling of his name. German names, even your own, get spelled creatively at times. Broomfield? Brumfeld? Brumfeldt? etc.
I did not serve with Stephen Michael Brumfield, Mike was a classmate in high school.
We attended George Wythe High School in Wytheville, Virginia. I never saw him again after he joined the Navy. Then I heard of his death on July 4, 1972. Mike was always smiling and laughing, always jolly, never let you see him down. You could hear him laugh all over the halls of school and he was hard to miss roaming the corridors. He had an old Plymouth with a Hemi engine in it that he would drag race every now and then, usually blowing out the clutch. Mike used to carry his drums around in the back seat with him. He had a passion for life that was unmatched, lived life to the fullest. Rock on Mike, till we meet again.
Gary L. White
AS ONE OF MIKE'S CLOSEST FRIENDS I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU A FEW THINGS ABOUT HIM. MIKE WAS KILLED ON JULY 4, 1972 LOADING SUPPLIES. MIKE WAS ON BOARD WHEN I ARRIVED FOR MY TOUR OF DUTY IN 1970. SINCE WE WERE BOTH LARGE MEN AND IN THE SAME DIVISION WE QUICKLY BECAME FRIENDS. TO THIS DAY HE IS STILL THE BEST FRIEND I HAVE EVER HAD. MIKE WAS TWENTY YEARS OLD WHEN HE DIED. HIS WIFE WAS NINETEEN AND EIGHT MONTHS PREGNANT AT THAT TIME. THEY HAD NO OTHER CHILDREN. MIKE WAS ALWAYS FRIENDLY AND GOT ALONG WITH EVERYONE. WE SPOKE OF STARTING A BUSINESS TOGETHER WHEN WE GOT OUT OF THE SERVICE. WE WENT ALMOST EVERYWHERE TOGETHER, I EVEN MET HIS PARENTS, AND HIS IN-LAWS. MIKE AND I WERE BOTH DJs ON THE RADIO STATION AND SPENT MANY HAPPY HOURS THERE, ALTHOUGH THE MONEY FOR RECORDS WAS LIMITED. MIKE IS THE ONE WHO TALKED ME IN TO BEING ON THE RADIO AND DOING A COUNTRY SHOW. I WENT TO HE MIKE' S WIDOW AFTER I GOT OUT OF THE SERVICE AND SHE HAD A BEAUTIFUL BABY BOY. I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER HIM AS A GREAT PERSON AND FRIEND, AND I WILL MISS HIM ALWAYS.
Depew, Craig A
For: Charles Wayne Clinard
Thank you for the web site honoring my uncle and the accident that killed him. I will type in some things about my uncle.
Charles Wayne Clinard
July 3, 1951-October 1, 1972
I don't remember much about my uncle because I was only 6 years old, so i never had the pleasure of knowing my uncle, i know he was very loved by his family and friends. I will never forgot that phone call that day when they had called and told my mother, it was so sad, i didn't know what exactly was going on but i knew it was bad she was crying, i can still see and hear that to this day and i am 34 years old. I have a copy of the last letter that Uncle Charles had wrote to my grandparents, it was dated September 27, 1972 and in the letter he said that he couldn't wait to get home, because my grandmother was sick, and he told my grandfather to use all his (my uncle) savings if he had too, because when he gets out that he would dig ditches to make a living, but he could not dig ditches and make another mother and daddy like them because they were the best. Then he goes into detail that it would be the 20 of December before they would get back to the states, then he says that he has served his time and that he would be out of the Navy in 7 months and he would be home to take care of them. Then he closes and that the last time they heard from him. My grandmother kept notebooks on her family and she would write down everything in those books, she had in those books when uncle Charles had gone down to apply and when he left everything was to the tee. I don't know if everybody gets there are not, a letter was sent to my grandparents about my uncle had been awarded the Purple Heart, in addition he earned the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze star and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal As a child Charles was the baby of 12 children. He was born in Belton, Tx. He grew up in the Mayfield, TX area and he went to school at Cameron Public School.
My grandparents were proud of him as for the family was too, i am very proud also because i now do genealogy and i have seen the wall in DC and i have seen the memorial in Va. He maybe gone, but not forgotten.
Now, he and my grandparents are seeing each other again in Heaven. Bless all the families that have lost someone, and Bless all the families of people that our out there fighting for us!!!
I will send a picture, as soon as i get one from my mother, i now live in north carolina and she lives in Texas. Let me know, what else i can do.
thanks again Jeannie
For: Joseph Grisafi
When we shipped for Vietnam, the Second Fleet Flag left NN. That meant that the Public Affairs office moved from its hole in the fantail to an office in the superstructure. Nothing like having to work in officer's country. In any case, this placed me in closer proximity to T2, and Joe would spend some of his free time hanging around the PA office crew.
I spent a lot of duty in the powder room with Joe, sometimes I stood watch as a pointer/trainer in the booth. Joe taught me about the powder room, how to run the elevators and move the powder casings in and out of the holds. During re-arming, I worked on the T2 crew getting powder and projectiles into the turret.
On Oct. 1, I had just gotten off watch from T2, had just gotten back into the Public Affairs office when the rhythm of the guns broke and I knew something was wrong. Things had been weird lately, and I was between assignments for general quarters duties, so when the alarm sounded I had nowhere officially to go. I ran down to the fire control station where I usually geared up, but there was no extra equipment.
Guys were starting to come up out of the lower decks next to T2. We were supposed to close all the hatches, but the center manhole was left open and I was helping guys crawl out and directing them to the fantail. An aid station had been set up there. I remember helping Joe up out of the hole. He was coughing and all worked up. He was concerned that there may still be guys trapped down in the powder decks. He wanted to go back down, but I got him moving to the fantail.
I found out later that he cut back across to the starboard side and went back down to look for more of the guys.
Guy L. Pace
For: William Harrison III
This is Bob Liitle GMC USNR. I knew both Joseph Grisafi and William Harrison whom both were killed in the Turret 2 explosion. Us three were all SN in 7th division together. My memory is not that good anymore from back then, but Joe and William were exceptional sailors. The NN was down in the Carribean , I can't remember the exact dates, but we had gone to places such as Trinidad Tabago, Cartahenga, Caracass and of course San Juan. When the ship was down there, the Weapons department passed the word to all deck divisions, that they needed Gunners mate strikers. Bill, Joe and I decided together that we would be gunners mates. We had reported to the weapons department, and they proceeded to show us the 3'' , 5'' and 8'' gun systems.
Also Weps interviewed our divisional CPO to ask what kind of workers we were. We all got high recommendations. Bill and Joe decided they wanted to work on the 8" gun systems, so they were sent to 2nd division. I decided to go into the 5" gun system, so I was sent to 5th. We were very good friends, after we split up, I saw less and less of them. We would see each other occasionally, but when we were over in west pac, we were always working or at GQ, or on Condition III watch.
I do remember William was a squared away sailor, his uniform was always very neat, and he was easy to talk to. He had a good sense of humor too ! My memory is fading a bit with Joe, I am having a hard time remembering exact details. I do know that a strange thing did occur. I live in Akron Ohio. After the explosion, and the bodies were shipped back home, I got a letter from my uncle who lives in Springfield, Pa. In his letter, he said that Joe Grisaffi parents had gone to the same parish as them, and that is where they had Mass of Christian burial at my uncles church.
To this day, I feel very fortunate. If i had gone into the 8" gun system with Bill and Joe, well, who knows? I guess the Lord had other plans for me. I was in 5th div and i knew Louis Sansone too. He was assigned to mt.55 where he worked. I was not close with Louis, but there was a gunners mate named Fred Blind GMG3, who was very close to him. I think Fred now lives in Hollywood Fla. I remember the day Louis fell over the side. I did not see it, but we had to go to quarters at foul weather parade. That is when we knew right away that it was Louis.
Well, it is time for me to get to work, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
For: Terrence F. McGee
"Now hear this. Now hear this. Man overboard, starboard side. This is no drill". I don't remember the rest of the announcement, but I think it was to have all hands lay topside to their fair weather muster stations; not only to have a number of searchers, but also to determine who was missing.
Cool, I thought to myself as I headed topside with my new buddies; Barstrom, Dinderman, Myers, Wentworth, et al. My first Med Cruise, 1960. We'll give this guy the business for falling off the ship when they haul him back aboard. Spirits were high. This should be fun. I know there were cameras brought out to record that inglorious moment, also.
Hundreds of pairs of eyes scanned the grey rough ocean, under a grey rough sky. Where's he at?? Why don't we see him?? How far away could he be?? That's a lot of water out there. It's been a long time. We're giving up??
He was never found, but his untied life jacket was. He died.
I'm sure his name was announced at a memorial service. I don't remember it, and it's not on the Memorial Page, and since this was pre-Viet Nam, it's not on a wall in Washington. I've never forgotten the incident.
At the last Memorial Day at my church, the Pastor asked all the veterans to stand and be recognized. The Pastor said that not only those who had given their lives in service of their country in time of war should be honored, but also those who were willing to give their lives in peacetime should be honored, also. I thought of that young man, then.
While driving to Florida on vacation in October, my wife got me talking about Navy days; boot camp, electronics school at Great Lakes, and of course, the USS Newport News. She asked me if I was ever in any danger. I thought of this young man, again, and told her the story. It could have happened to any one of us.
I was showing my USS Newport News model, over the holidays, to my grandchildren. One of them asked if anyone had ever drowned. I thought of that young man, again.
I know it will stay with me, forever.
Williams, J L ETR2 OE Div '59-'62
my name is lonny neiman and i was on the newport news when we lost shipmate terrence francis mcgee. i thought we secured from g-q and he jumped out onto the net that was hanging from mount-55 right after we secured from g-q that net hangs out over the water and a wave came up swept him overboard. i was in mount 53 at that time. i thought he was in 7th division.
Terrence F. McGee, was from the 7th division, which was my division also. It was a gray day, we were in general quarters earlier that day. Later after g-q we washed the life jackets & hung the canvas jacket on a line to dry. We got word that we were heading to earthquake stricken Agadir Morocco. The word was past to rig the ship for bad weather, that's when Terry went out onto the wire net ( net hangs out over the water) next to gun turret #55. We yelled to Terry to get a life jacket on but just then a wave (swell) pull Terry over the side. We ran over to the life line for the life ring to throw to Terry last time we saw Terry he was trying to get the life ring, we also threw a smoke bomb. The watch on the fan tail didn't know what happened until the word was past ("Now hear this. Now hear this. Man overboard, starboard side. This is not a drill"). He was lost & never more found.
One day I asked why Terrence F. McGee wasn't on the Memorial page with the rest of our fallen shipmates. I then heard from Willy Williams, he said we have to come up with dates of when it happened. You might say why did it take me so long to remember Terry McGee. (I had to leave the USS Newport News because my dad had a stroke while I was at home on leave, 3 months my dad past away he was 46 yrs. old I was devastated for a long time). I came up with the date March 12th 1960, cause I still have the letter I wrote my girl friend (my wife now). So with the effort of myself Louis J. Fricano, Willy Williams, David Meyers, 2 other shipmates. I am so glad that we got Terry F. McGee on the Memorial page now he can rest in peace with our other shipmates & never more be forgotten.
Louis J. Fricano SN 7th Division 1960
For: Robert Thomas Moore
Bob just reported on board in September '72. He was from Frankford, a middle class neighborhood. He graduated from Frankford High in June of '72. He was working as a mess cook by day, and was striking for GMG. On 1 October he was on Condition 3 watch in T-2.
For: Seaman Stanley G. Pilot, JR
Letter Mrs. Pilot wrote to the Secretary of the Navy.
Dear Mr.. Warner
I am the Mother of Seaman Stanley G. Pilot, JR., who was killed on the USS Newport News, 1 Oct 1972.
I just wanted to write to you to thank you for the kind letter you wrote on 12 Oct 1972, and to let you know that I am so very proud that Stan chose to serve his country. He would have been 19 years old 11 Oct 1972, and that made our grief that much harder to bear. My daughter is all I have left, but I am not bitter because I keep thinking of several lines from a letter Stan wrote to me on 3 Mar 1972, while he was in Boot Camp. He wrote, "It was my own decision. I haven't regretted one single minute of it. I am proud to be serving a country that is free like the United States is. I have enjoyed every minute of Navy life." All we can do now is to pry to God for the safety of his mates and ship. And for the Captain, who I know how his heart was breaking when he had to write those 19 letters.
Thank you again for thinking of me.
Yours truly, Mrs.. Peggy E. Pilot
In his reply to Mrs. Pilot, Secretary Warner extended his appreciation for the warmth and sincerity of her letter, adding,
"The everlasting pride you have in your son, his service in the Navy and his service to his country is an inspiration to families and his shipmates wherever they are."
Thank you both very much for your emails. I have really enjoyed looking over your websites. It's been great to see and learn about the ship that my friend, Stanley Pilot, served on. Our 30 year high school reunion is coming up this fall, and for some of us Stanley has been on our minds this year more than ever. He died so young, not even nineteen years old. And here we are thirty years later...
I met Stanley in the ninth grade at junior high school. My family had moved to a new city in the middle of the year, and Stanley befriended me, a stranger, at a new school. In that year and throughout high school we became very good friends. Stanley was a great guy, had a big heart, and he would do most anything for anyone. I ran on the track team with Stanley, and he played on the football team as well. Stanley was only second string, but we all had a blast cheering anyway.
Often after school on rainy days I remember going to Stanley's house. We would sneak off to his back bedroom and pitch for quarters, dimes, and nickels. We never had much money in those days. So when one would run out of change, one would loan it back to the other. That game would continue for hours.
Stanley was also involved in one of my most embarrassing moments ever. In the ninth grade I had a crush on a cheerleader, but I was too scared and too shy to even strike up a conversation with her. One day Stanley wrote a really mushy love letter to her. He slipped it to me between classes, and we had a big laugh about this imaginary love letter. But little did I know that Stanley had signed my name to the letter and had given it to her that very day. In the afternoon we had a home track meet. The cheerleader and her friends came to watch. Stanley waited until the start of the meet to tell me about the letter. My face turned all shades of red. I was so embarrassed and so furious that I went out, won the race, and set a new school record. Before that race I was just an average runner. From then on I was a totally different runner. So I guess I owe my running success, in part, to Stanley and his antics.
I remember another story about Stanley which took place on the river that ran near our hometown. It was graduation week. A bunch of us seniors took a pontoon boat and went floating down the river. Stanley had never learned how to swim. Over the years we tried to teach him but no avail. On the pontoon boat there were a bunch of jugs or bottles (I can't remember which for sure). Regardless, Stanley wanted to learn how to swim once and for all. We put all of the containers together, found some strong rope, tied the containers around Stanley's waist, and shoved him off into the river. It worked and from then on he knew how to swim.
After graduation we all faced the draft. In 1971 the draft board wasn't taking very many numbers. It might have been 125 or so. I drew 275 in the lottery. Stanley drew number 2. We always thought he had the worst luck of any of us. Stanley joined the Navy. I, like many of his friends, went off to college. From there on we kind of lost contact. We were both in two different worlds, but Stanley was always in the back of my mind.
It was in early October of 1972 when my dad called me. I was in college and hundreds of miles away from home. Dad told me the news of Stanley's tragic accident. I was stunned and shocked. I was in disbelief. So much so that a few days later I had to call my dad back to see if it had really happened. I had almost convinced myself that Stanley's death was only a nightmare. My dad confirmed that it was all true. He also told me how Stanley's mom said she had received a letter from Stanley just prior to the accident. In the letter Stanley told his mom how proud he was to be serving his country and how proud he was of his ship.
It was hard. I remember going for long walks over the campus and shedding many tears. I even began to feel guilty. I felt guilty because my good friend had gone off to war and died. I looked at my own life and realized my only concerns were how fast could I race tomorrow and what girl might I go out with next weekend. Then I looked at Stanley giving his own life for his country, and suddenly everything in my own life seemed small and insignificant. Life did not seem fair at all.
Now almost thirty years since the accident Stanley is still somewhere in the back of my mind. There are just some things in life that cannot be forgotten. We sometimes wonder if anyone remembers the life Stanley sacrificed. Sometimes we wonder if the loss of Stanley's life was in vain. I found it sad that I never knew much about the last several months of Stanley's life. I really did not know how Stanley died. Some explosion was all that I knew. I did not even know the name of his ship, where it was located, or even what Stanley's ship duties were. So just recently, and on a whim, I typed his name in a search engine, and up came the USS Newport News website. On that website, as well as Dexter's website, many of my questions have been answered. It has been sort of a closure for me. To able to see the ship that Stanley served on and to read the stories of his shipmates has been invaluable. I have learned that Stanley served on a great ship with very brave and very dedicated shipmates. Stanley paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country. I do not believe it was in vain. Stanley was a wonderful guy and a great friend. We still miss him.
Thank you all for remembering,
I was also a good friend of George Stanley Pilot who died in the Oct.1, 1972 mishap. I remember that Stanley was not as fortunate as many of us. His father had left the home and his mother and sister struggled. During my senior year, I went to the prom. Stanley didn't have transportation. I invited he and his date to go with me. Although it was a small gesture at that time, it weighs heavily now in my loving memory of my friend. Only a short time later, I went to college and I had heard that Stanley was in the Navy. One day I was at home from school and had heard that Stanley's ship had experienced a major explosion and his mom was waiting to hear since 19 had perished. (We thought 19 at that time.) I couldn't leave the house because my mother was in contact with the family through neighbors. I told my mother that I was going to wash my car in the driveway. Let me know if you hear anything. About 15 minutes later she tearfully gave me the bad news. It me in the worst way. So young, so innocent, so much to live for. I had the privilege to go to Washington DC a few years ago. Yes, I went to the wall. I traced Stanley's name. It was a very emotional thing. As I was leaving, I looked down to only see where someone had left a note for someone else. It started with Daddy. I couldn't bear to read anymore. Stanley's father had left early, he never heard the words called to himself. Hardly a week has gone by since, that I haven't thought of my friend. Stanley's feats were not on the athletic field. His were more. He touched those who knew him. He proved that he didn't have anything to prove, just be Stanley. That's all we ever wanted.
This picture is of my friend, (left) Ray Davis,
or as the Navy called him, "Seaman Raymond Rance Davis".
This picture of Ray and myself was taken
a few months before the Turret 2 explosion.
Ray was an extremely enjoyable friend to know.
A shipmate with a great since of humor,
a kind heart and a lot of fun to go on liberty with.
Man we looked young in this picture!
For reasons that I can not understand,
I lived to become an old man,
Ray only lived until Oct. 1, 1972.
I miss you ol' buddy.
From your friend,