Wartime collisions cost the Navy the equivalent losses of three major sea battles
World War Two was a cruel conflict and had devastating effects upon our country. Fathers, brothers, and sons were sent off to fight – some never to return again. The US Navy alone had 36,950 officers and men killed in action between 7 December 1941 and 31 December 1946.
When speaking of our Naval losses during the war, the first thought is of warships that had been sunk by shelling, torpedo, or kamikaze aircraft. This is a correct assumption – the majority of our losses were due to enemy action. However, a significant number of Naval vessels were also lost as a result of uncontrolled icing, groundings, fires, explosions, hurricane conditions, and typhoons. Many articles have been written about the typhoon which struck Task Force 38 off the Philippines on 18 December 1944 – resulting in the sinking of USS Hull (DD-350), USS Monaghan (DD-354), and USS Spense (DD-512).
However, collisions at sea were a constant problem for Naval authorities. Minor collisions often resulted in injuries to personnel and structural damage to the ship causing the vessel to be removed from the front and retired to the rear area for repairs. Major collisions meant loss of life, the vessel sinking, or being returned Stateside for overhaul. A return to the States would keep the ship out of action for several months.
USS PC-815 would go on through the years to be the subject of debate between the followers of her first commanding officer Lt. L. Ron Hubbard (founder of the Church of Scientology) and his distracters. Their disagreement centered over the effectiveness of his leadership while commanding officer.
- L. Ron Hubbard
USS PC-815, a “Hell Howler” built at the Albina Engine and Machine Works, Portland, Oregon, was placed in commission on 20 April 1943. Proceeding to San Diego on 19 May 1943, USS PC-815 picked up a return echo on its sonar just off Cape Lookout, Oregon. Assuming the presence of a Japanese submarine, Lt. Hubbard initiated an attack and notified HQ. He continued attacks throughout the day but without definite results. It was later decided by authorities that Hubbard had been misled by an underwater magnetic deposit.
Struck by the tanker Chemung while steaming in heavy fog off the Nova Scotia coast on 22 August 1942, the Gleaves-class destroyer Ingraham (DD-444) sank with a loss of all but eleven of her crew.
A photo of Ingraham’s crew taken shortly before her sinking off of Nova Scotia. Only eleven of her 254man crew survived when those tossed into the sea were killed by the concussion of depth charges which detonated as the destroyer plunged to the bottom.
At San Diego, USS PC-815 underwent repairs at the Destroyer Base and was ordered to conduct further training. On 28 June 1943, after exercises had ended for the day, USS PC-815 without authorization engaged in gunnery practice and anchored in Mexican waters. As a result, Lt. Hubbard was relieved of command.
USS PC-815 remained in San Diego for the remainder of WWII. In a dense fog on 11 September 1945, just off Point Loma (a long peninsula bordering the entrance to San Diego Bay), destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724) collided with the subchaser. USS PC-815 sunk in less than two minutes with the loss of one crew member.
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