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Damage to the Main Engine Room of the USS Samuel B. Roberts
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Back on the bridge Rinn ordered the damage control  party  to  stop  putting  water  on  the  fire. The  XO  asked  the  CO  if  he  was  crazy.  Com- mander  Rinn  explained,  “No,  we  don’t  have  to worry about the fire. In a little while we’re going to  be  underwater  and  the  fire  won’t  matter anymore. We’ve got to quit putting water into the skin of the ship. We’ve got to hold back on that until  we  can  get  control  of  the  flooding.” Meanwhile, the bulkheads of the ammunition magazine  were  getting  hot—up  to  134  degrees. The CO immediately gave the crew permission to remove  the  ammunition  from  the  magazine.  At first, they threw the 76-mm ammunition over the side. Then they began to move the shells to the forecastle. Each round weighed about 25 pounds. They  moved  700  rounds  in  90  minutes. From  the  first  moments  of  the  crisis,  the captain realized the way he presented himself to his men would never be more important. The crew watched every move he made. It was time to earn his pay—time to do his job as he’d been training to do it for years. It was time to lead this brave group of men in one of the most dangerous situa- tions  any  of  them  would  ever  face. In communications to Rear Admiral Anthony Less, Commander, Joint Task Force Middle East, Rinn said, “We are determined to save the ship, period.  That  is  our  intention.  We  can  save  our ship. I intend to stay here and do just that.” Rear Admiral  Less  informed  Commander  Rinn  that other units were standing by to assist. However, Rinn explained,  “We never saw the mine that hit us. Recommend you don’t send other ships. We’ll get  out  on  our  own.” The captain then spoke to the crew over the 1MC. He explained the ship’s status, and then said again,  “I think we can save the ship—there is no doubt  in  my  mind.” Captain Rinn had very few good alternatives to  saving  the  ship.  Going  into  the  water  meant swimming with poisonous sea snakes and hungry sharks.  Roberts  was  at  least  80  miles  from anyone—except  maybe  the  Iranians.  Asking  for assistance  meant  putting  another  U.S.  ship  in  the minefield.  Therefore,  Rinn  knew  the  men  of Roberts  would have to find their way out of this predicament  alone.  Safe  water  was  anywhere  from 4 to 7 hours away. Rinn thought, I hope we make it  till  morning;  I  hope  we  get  to  see  the  dawn. On  the  flight  deck,  Doc  got  his  last  patient off—10   casualties   transported   in   less   than 2  1/2  hours.  EN1  Dejno  was  not  evacuated;  he volunteered to stay. His expertise was needed to keep the diesels running. If they lost the diesels, they’d lose everything. They wouldn’t be able to pump water out of the ship or fight fires. The ship wouldn’t  be  able  to  communicate,  maneuver,  or defend  itself. A daring investigation by the Chief Engineer, Lt.   Gordon   Van   Hook,   and   BM3   Eduardo Segovia had pinpointed the source of the fire. An access plate on the 02 level had to be removed to get to the space where fuel oil had collected. Both Rinn  and  Van  Hook  watched  as  crew  members SM1(SW) Charles Dumas, HT1 Gary Gawor, and HT2(SW)  Tom  Regan,  led  by  Lieutenant  Dave Lewellyn, removed the bolts and then pried the cover  away  with  crowbars.  Flames  roared  up  in their faces, as a column of fire shot 15 feet into the air. Van Hook tried to maintain his sense of humor as he turned to the CO and said, “Maybe this  wasn’t  such  a  good  idea.”  Fully  aware  that his  men  had  to  react  in  seconds  to  control  the blaze,  Van  Hook  added,  “Maybe  we  should  do this tomorrow.” But his men immediately applied foam  to  the  fire  with  applicators  stuck  into  the access.  The  smoke  changed  color,  from  black  to white. That was the first good indication they were winning  the  battle  of  the  fires.  By  midnight, conditions  were  stable  aboard  Roberts.  Shoring watches and fire reflash watches were set. A crack amidships ran all the way across the ship, threatening to break it in half. Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate (SW) George E. Frost came up with  an  idea  to  keep  the  front  half  of  the  ship attached to the back half. The ship’s Boatswain’s Mates began stringing steel cables across the huge cracks in the deck and superstructure, attaching them fore to aft wherever possible. The work was hard, but soon they were showing the bystanders gathered around how it was done. Under the stars, the  ingenious  sailors  lashed  their  ship  together  to prevent  the  crack  from  growing  larger. By 0300 the ship was quiet. Fires were out, leaks   were   plugged,   and   flooding   was   under control. USS Roberts was slowly, carefully sailing to  safety.  As  Rinn  walked  the  decks,  he  looked at his crew, exhausted, collapsed, some sleeping, some talking quietly. He reflected on what they had done in the last 10 hours. His men fought for their lives and their ship—a ship that was burning and  sinking.  They  fought  and  won.  He  felt  a powerful bond with them. They were  Samuel B. Roberts. Their survival made all the tough work and  long,  boring  drills,  exercises,  and  training worthwhile. At  0507  QM2  Nicholson  made  the  entry “Observed  sunrise”  in  the  ship’s  deck  log. 2-28

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