This is a little remembrance story of one of many trips down to theCaribbean for Missile and Gunnery exercises. This particular episodewas under the direction of Cap'n Ailes. While I remember many incidentsunder his command, this particular story had probably the highest levelof eminent danger!
Like usual during these exercises, the crew at some point would beallowed to view, from the weather decks, the launching of one of theASROCs. And as usual the decks were quite busy with personnel eithertaking pictures or just watching the festivities. We watched as onebird flew aweigh, then two, then three...but wait, this last one doesn'tlook quite right! It immediately starts "fish-tailing" round and roundabout 500 feet above the ship! Then it starts turning circles all thewhile it begins to fall back to earth and low and behold it does a bellyflop right in front and to the right of the bow! It starts doing thiscircling motion in the water like a torpedo, round and round and round.So, Cap'n Bob, with all of his great navigational prowess (as anyone canattest that witnessed his nearly commanding us into the bow of the SouthCarolina during towing exercises!!) directs the Helmsman to turn theboat in the same direction that the missile is puttering in the waterand by the time the Cap'n realizes his mistake we run right over themissile!!! Of course when everyone topside sees the bird fallingtowards us from the sky, there began a mad rush for any door leading toinside. I stayed topside because if the ship was gonna blow, I'd just assoon be able to jump over the side as to be caught inside!
Well, after all of the screaming and hollering subsided, it turned outthat the missile had petered out of gas and was just floating harmlesslyon its own. So, we lowered the Bo'sun's Rig and after a little huntingaround they located it and gigged it and brought that puppy back to theboat. Thankfully, nothing detrimental happened to the ship or her crewthat day, except for a few choice words thrown about. I will say thatthe crew never watched a launch in quite the same manner again!

Tom Rothweiler

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