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James E. Williams
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Naval Orientation - Military manual for administrative purposes
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Damage to the USS Stark
was accompanying this element of his regiment, was  positioned  with  the  command  group.  When word was received that one of the platoons had made  contact  and  was  in  danger  of  being  over- run,  Chaplain  Capodanno  ran  directly  to  the beleaguered marines. He proceeded to assist the corpsmen,  provide  comfort  and  reassurance  to  the wounded, and administer last rites to the dying. In  the  midst  of  heavy  mortar  and  automatic- weapons fire, he ministered to his men calmly and without faltering. Although wounded, he refused treatment for himself. When conditions required the use of gas masks, he gave his own to a marine. At a point of particular heavy attack, he placed himself  directly  in  the  line  of  fire  to  save  a wounded  Navy  corpsman.  By  that  act  he  gallantly gave his life in the service of his fellow man, his God,  and  his  country.  For  his  selfless  courage, Chaplain Capodanno was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. USS  Capodanno  (FF-1093) was  named  in  his  honor. THE  PERSIAN  GULF As   with   other   wars,   conflicts,   or   areas   of military aggression where U.S. naval forces were present,  the  Persian  Gulf  has  had  its  share  of heroes  and  tradition  makers.  The  presence  of naval  units  showing  the  flag  in  any  hostile environment  is  a  dangerous  situation.  This  danger can become real, as was the case with two U.S. Navy   ships   in   the   late   1980s.   The   following accounts explain the roles of several heroes from these  ships. USS STARK The  job  of  USS  Stark  (FFG-31)   in   the Persian Gulf was to remain in international waters of  the  gulf.  Its  mission  was  to  monitor  the movements of ships and aircraft of other nations and  to  show  the  American  flag. About  2100,  17  May  1987,  a  U.S.  Air  Force plane reported two Mirage jet fighters had taken off  from  an  Iraqi  air  base.  The  Stark  was  still hundreds  of  miles  away  conducting  engineering drills.  One  of  the  jets  climbed  to  an  altitude  of 5,000 feet and turned toward the  Stark at a range of  about  200  miles.  Both  Iranian  and  Iraqi  air- craft  maneuvered  in  that  manner  on  a  regular basis, so no real sense of danger was felt. At 2208 the Stark  issued  a  warning  to  the  approaching Mirage  to  stand  off.  The  jet  did  not  respond  to the  warning,  so  a  second  warning  was  issued.  The Iraqi  pilot  did  not  respond  to  that  warning  either. Approximately  3  minutes  later,  a  lookout  reported an  inbound  missile.  The  report,  however,  came too late. General Quarters was sounded. The first of two Exocet missiles punched through the port side  of  the  ship  above  the  waterline  in  an  enlisted berthing  compartment.  It  failed  to  detonate  but spread  hundreds  of  pounds  of  burning  solid rocket fuel, creating an immediate inferno. Less than 15 seconds later, the second missile hit the ship  slightly  forward  of  the  first  and  detonated about 5 feet inside the hull. The fire that ensued was so hot (in excess of 1800 degrees Fahrenheit) that the main deck and starboard side of the ship glowed cherry red. Figure 2-17 shows the extent of damage to the  Stark. The extraordinary and heroic damage control that  followed  probably  kept  the   Stark  from sinking.  The  crew  performed  in  an  outstanding manner  to  control  the  initial  fires  and  flooding. Afterwards,   personnel   from   five   commands joined in the 16-hour battle to save the ship. Axes were used to cut holes in the bulkhead to drain the  fire-fighting  water,  which  was  2  to  3  feet  deep and boiling hot. Fire fighters who knelt down, as trained,  found  themselves  with  boots  full  of scalding water. The deck was so hot their feet were burned  through  the  soles  of  their  boots.  In addition,  temporary  communications  lines  melted, and some decks collapsed from the heat. Reflash fires  continued  for  3  more  days. Once   conditions   stabilized   37   sailors   had perished.  Those  men  who  fought  the  fires  are credited with keeping the ship afloat. President Ronald  Reagan,    during  a  memorial  service, praised  the  men  who  died  during  the  attack  on the Stark as  “ordinary  men  who  did  extraordinary things.  Yes,  they  were  heroes.” USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS The USS Samuel B. Roberts  that steamed in the  Persian  Gulf  was  the  third  ship  named  in honor  of  Coxswain  Samuel  Booker  Roberts,  Jr., U.S.   Naval   Reserve.   He   was   posthumously awarded   the   Navy   Cross   for   extraordinary heroism  during  World  War  II.  Roberts  was  a landing craft boat coxswain, who despite intense enemy   fire,    rescued  stranded  marines  from Guadalcanal. Since the USS  Samuel  B.  Roberts  (FFG-58) had been steaming the Persian Gulf for nearly 3 months,  14  April  1988  seemed  pretty  routine.  The ship’s crew felt the Roberts was the best. Roberts had won the Battle Efficiency award and earned the highest grades any ship had ever attained in damage  control  training  at  Guantanamo  Bay, Cuba,  before  deployment.  The  ship’s  preparedness would  soon  pay  off. 2-24

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