Hard Aground

Author Unknown

From Doak Walkers 255 Site


Iroquois approached Midway Island during the morning of June 29, 1954 while enroute to Ocean Station Victor. Weather and visibility was excellent, but the Commanding Officer, who had assumed command just 5 days earlier prior to departing Honolulu, was unfamiliar to both with 255 foot cutters and the Pacific Ocean Atolls. He requested a pilot, whereupon a Navy Chief Boatswain came on board and took the Conn.

Not our finest hour

The Iroquois stood northward into the entrance channel at standard speed, and although the prevailing wind and currents set to the westward, her log reads "Pilot gave command left 5o rudder, followed 5 seconds later by left 10o rudder followed immediately by left 15o rudder, then by engines back full" ... the cutters turboelectric plant responded promptly, but the ship steaming at 13 knots could not be stopped quickly - the Iroquois crunched onto the coral reef to the left of the channel. There she stayed until the afternoon of July 1, pounding heavily as the surf increased, grinding a hole in the coral and sustaining serious structural damage. The cutter was finally refloated by the combined efforts of a Navy salvage ship, a district tug, and her own capstan heaving around on beach gear.

This occurrence seems intelligible only if the Iroquois had swung suddenly right, causing the pilot to order left rudder, although the log entry gave no indication that this occurred. In any event, it is likely that the unfamiliarity with Owasco class cutters led to the grounding. This was more unfortunate because the Iroquois did not actually need a pilot, the LCDR who was temp CO, was on board assisting with underway exercises between Honolulu and Midway and was familiar with 255s and North Pacific atolls and was fully competent of taking Iroquois into Midway harbor. But the new CO elected to utilize a pilot -- who put his ship on a reef, ending Iroquois' career and providing Waikiki bars the opportunity to introduce a drink "Iroquois on the Rocks"

On receiving news of the Iroquois grounding, the Winnebago, left San Francisco to take her sister's place on Ocean Station Victor, and another 255 footer, Chautauqua, which was on her way from the Pacific coast to the CG Yard for deactivation, was ordered to Honolulu in her stead. The Yocona towed Iroquois to the Panama Canal, whence the Cherokee brought he to Curtis Bay. The Iroquois remained at the CG Yard until her sale in 1965.

Postscript - The Iroquois was sealed up and lay moored at Curtis Bay for many years. In 1962, her sister ship, Escanaba was in the yard for bi-annual overhaul. The yard birds managed to lose the two Escanaba boiler burners which they were charged to overhaul. Without those burners the ship couldn't be moved. They were the keys to the kingdom. We requested the Iroquois' burners from the yard to no avail. THe EO sent me down to ENE in Headquarters (as a lowly mustang ensign) to see if I could get them released. I moved through several offices absorbing flack as I progressed until finally Captain Schumacher gave us the ok. They were removed and installed that evening.

So the Iroquois didn't die entirely as their burners lived on installed in the Escanaba's boilers until she was disposed of - Jack




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