The Famous Goehring


By Albert Phaneuf

Originally Appeared in “THE HELM” Duane Association Newsletter – Spring 2003 – Republished by Permission.


I was an MM 2 assigned to the Duane from Sept.'39 to Feb '43 and was aboard during the incident. Two other fellows, Ed Grant and Jim Entwistle served with me at the time. We visit and phone a few times a year. I called them to check my recollection of the event and we generally agreed except on a couple of minor points. We seem to think that it happened in late '42.

It was mid-afternoon on a clear sunny day. The sea was very rough with large waves. Occasionally one would slap the side of the Duane and cover the quarterdeck. Located in that area was a five-inch gun which was surrounded by a heavy duty splinter shield. It was about four feet in height and had only a narrow opening for gun crew access. When the large waves slapped the side of the ship, they would fill that shield with water making it resemble an above ground backyard swimming pool.

Lt. Goehring was the ship's gunnery officer and was back within that shield doing an inspection when one of those waves hit the ship, came over the side at the same time that the bow rose up on another wave further depressing the stern. Later, Lt. Goehring described his experience by saying, "One minute I was on a wet pitching deck, the next I was underwater swimming as hard as I could for the surface." Thinking he was still on the ship he was shocked on breaking above water and seeing the ship about a hundred feet from him and headed away. He yelled but wasn't heard because of the strong wind.

Two things saved Lt. Goehring that day. One he was wearing his lifejacket, and the second and most important, was that he was spotted in the water by a lookout on the starboard side of the ship's bridge. The lookout quickly notified the OOD, who just as quickly sounded the alarm and brought the ship about in a circle (not an easy task in that rough sea.) Meanwhile, the lookout managed to keep sight of Mr. Goehring and a cargo net was hung over the side in hopes that the LT would be able to grab it and be pulled aboard. At the moment that the ship was eased alongside Mr. Goehring, as if on command, a large wave lifted him to deck height. He was grabbed by several deckhands that had formed a human chain and they pulled him aboard wet, cold but very grateful.

A story appeared in Ripley's Believe it or Not which stated that he was washed back aboard but it probably came from a stretch of the fact that that wave lifted him so he could be hauled aboard.

Several months after leaving the Duane, I passed and was accepted to the "Ninety Day Wonder " school in New London. Alas. I had never had trigonometry in school and that was my downfall. Guess who informed me I was being dropped from the program-Mr. Goehring.

In the late seventies, Mr. Goehring became a Rear Admiral and commanded the Boston District. I knew this, and one day while in Boston dropped in on him without an appointment. We visited for quite a while and of course recounted his amazing adventure. He was really quite a nice man.


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