Sunday, January 30, 2005

For the Family of Joseph Ashley


Many brothers share their grief
On these pages in cyberspace
With you, the dear family of the fallen one
Who now resides in permanent grace.

My tears well up as I read the outpouring
From those that you never knew
You know us now better as we try to express
Our loss, knowing how much bigger the loss for you.

Though most of us try, our words cannot bring
Much peace to you and your family
But with you we’ll grieve and remember him
Now a Submarine Hero, Joseph Allen Ashley.

You lost a son, and we lost a brother
But life must still go on
We’re with you in spirit, so keep your chin up,
And trust in the Heavenly Father.

By Steve Collier, a retired submariner in memory of MM2(SS) Joseph Allen Ashley

Friday, January 28, 2005

Request From Captain of USS San Francisco

From: "Kevin & Avril Mooney"

Subject: Something you can do to help

Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2005 17:21:17 +1000

Dear family and friends,

Let me express my deep appreciation for the outpouring of support from you following the tragic grounding of USS SAN FRANCISCO. I cannot yet recount the details or explain my involvement because the investigation remains in progress. The news stories and recently released photos of the boat indrydock provide a basic description of what happened.

The saddest part of this event was the loss of my shipmate, MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley. This week, I had the pleasure of meeting his parents, who traveled to Guam courtesy of the Navy to meet his shipmates & friends. The Ashley's are wonderful people and their visit was memorable for all of us.

Many of you have offered me help in dealing with this crisis, and I am most appreciative. In addition to your continued prayers, I do have a special request for some help from all of you:

(1) please go to the attached website and send a note of condolence toMM2(SS) Ashley's family
(2) please send the attached link to other people, especially submariners, and ask them to do the same

The Ashley family frequently checks this website, and they read and cherish every word. They are honored that it currently stands at 33 pages. After all of you leave messages and continue this string of support, I dare not guess how long it will be. Thank you in advance for your support.

CDR Kevin Mooney

Oh My God....

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS San Francisco (SSN 711) in dry dock to assess damage sustained after running aground approximately 350 miles south of Guam Jan. 8, 2005
Posted by Hello

View from bottom of drydock Posted by Hello

Closeup of 711 Bow Posted by Hello This and the next few photos were modified by me from the hi resolution photos so that detail can be seen in a web-compatible file size.

Another Closeup of 711 bow Posted by Hello

Another closeup Posted by Hello

Another Message from Ashley's LCPO

Posted by Hagar, MMCS(SS) on Thu - Jan 27 - 8:20am:

Today, we hosted the Ashley's, compliments of SubPac who came out with them today.

Last night they arrived on Admiral Fargo's 737, and greeted them.

Today we gave them tours of our boat, the base, and showed them the parts of guam that make this island special.

Almost the entire crew met them at the "top of the mar" club tonight. We had a host dinner, and it was quite the meeting. The COB and CDR Mooney presented a shadow box and Admiral Sullivan had a good speak.

Admiral Sullivan also had a private speak with my boys in Auxiliary Division, and presented coins to every A'gangr. I was humbled.

To say it was a good night just misrepresents the reason we were together, but we were together to remember the reasons that we shared hardship, and heal.

I would say that it was a resounding success....The San Fran is the best boat I've been on in my 20 years of service, and we are not ready to give up.


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Still Monitoring....

No real news that is new on the San Francisco accident. I'll post when I find additional info.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Comparison with Titanic

After just watching a History Channel program about the TITANIC disaster, I can't help but check the Titanic "lessons learned" against USS SAN FRANCISCO's accident.

The TV program stated that one of the most significant mistakes by Titanic's owners/operators was their near complete faith and trust in the technology of the time, that made them believe she was unsinkable.

With the SF, faith and trust in the construction technology (as, in my experience, held by all American submariners) was proved well founded in that SF suffered so severe a crash and lived to tell about it.

Of course, the faith placed in soundings on the charts apparently proved to be a downfall. I have confidence that the smart people in the submarine-driving business will delineate procedures to prevent a recurrence, as the shipbuilding industry did following the loss of Titanic.

(By the way, I am still surprised that SF's accident is still called a "grounding", instead of an underwater "collision" or crash!)

Commanding Officer Relieved

January 20, 2005
Skipper of submarine San Francisco relieved of command
By William H. McMichael
Times Staff Writer

The skipper of the sub that struck an underwater mountain south of Guam 12 days ago has been relieved of his command, the Navy’s 7th Fleet said. Cmdr. Kevin Mooney was reassigned today to unspecified duties at Guam’s Submarine Squadron 15 by 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert.

Cmdr. Ike Skelton, a spokesman, said Mooney was effectively relieved but that the permanence of the move or any punitive action would depend on how the investigation into the mishap’s cause turns out.

San Francisco’s new commanding officer is Cmdr. Andrew Hale, deputy commander of Submarine Squadron 15.

The Jan. 8 grounding killed one sailor, injured almost half of the 137-man crew and left the attack sub with “extensive” damage to its bow, said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, Pacific Fleet Submarine Force spokesman. The forward ballast tanks, the sonar dome and sonar sphere all are damaged, he said, while the inner pressure hull “does not appear” to be so. Also undamaged were the sub’s engineering, propulsion and electrical systems, he said.

Davis also said the Navy is planning to put the San Francisco into a floating drydock in Guam to enable technicians to make the most accurate assessment of damages. Still to be determined: if the drydock is nuclear-capable, something the Navy continues to check out. Davis said that’s expected to happen. If it does, the sub could be in drydock in about a week, he said.
No estimate of cost for repairs has been announced.

William H. McMichael is the Hampton Roads bureau chief for Navy Times. Reach him at (757) 223-0096.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Guest Book for our Fallen Shipmate

At this link you will find an on-line guest book where you may sign to leave a message for the family of our departed shipmate. Please help us to fill up the guest book so the family may know how much we care about MM2(SS) Ashley's service-- bubblehead or not, if the tragedy moves you, please leave a short message for the family.

Thank you.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

E-Mail from Crew Member

The below was post on Rontini Bulletin Board. Don't know how long the link will be good.

Posted by RMP588 on Sat - Jan 15 - 1:07pm: This I received this AM (Saturday) from an old family friend who was the guy that got me in the Navy. He himself is a WWII surface vet with quite a bit of combat time.

To All,

I thought that I would put out a note since a lot of you have been calling and writing to find out how things are and if I'm OK and what happened. If you hadn't heard, my boat hit a uncharted submerged sea mount at the highest speed we can go at about 500ft below the surface. There were about 30 of us that were seriously hurt and unfortunately one of my shipmates didn't make it.

First off I am OK. I am pretty beat up with my entire left side and butt as one big bruise. My shoulder is separated and may require surgery. They will evaluate later this week. I am very fortunate that I hit the wall and didn't go down a ladderwell that was right next to where I hit. If I had gone down that, I would have got really messed up. I took a tremendous shot to my left thigh from something. If it had been slightly lower in the knee area it would have been really ugly. But all in all I am in good shape.

We hit it at about noon right after field day (where all of us clean the boat for several hours). Thank God we didn't hit while we were doing this or it would have been much worse. We would have had flying deck plates through the air and such. Not good. As it was, it happened while chow was going on and most people were either sitting and eating or on watch. I don't remember much of the collision. People describe it as like in the movie the Matrix where everything slowed down and levitated and then went flying forward faster that the brain can process. My mind has blanked it out exactly what happened.

Adrenaline kicked in and I have no real memory of how I got down to middle level or what I did immediately following. I helped carry several shipmates to the crew mess deck (adrenaline is a wonderful thing - my shoulder was wrecked and I had no idea until about 4 hours later).

I sat with several of my junior guys that had bad head wounds and talked with them to keep them conscious until doc could see them. It seemed like an eternity but I'm sure wasn't that long.

For those Navy folks that ever wondered why Chief's stomp around and preach "Stow for Sea" This was a perfect example. It definitely saved lives. I am extremely proud of the crew to do damage control, help the wounded and get the boat safely to the surface (for the boat guys we blew the tanks dry on the emergency blow but unbeknownst to us we were missing some ballast tanks/some didn't have integrity).

The ship's control party did every thing exactly right even though they were hurt as well. The Diving Officer of the Watch had just unbuckled his belt to update a status board and hit the Ship's Control Panel hard enough to break some of the gauges. To add insult to injury his chair came up right behind him.

Several people were injured in the Engine Room Lower Level area. Lots of metal and sharp edges in the area as well as that's were the boat's smoking area is at. Several crew members are reevaluating that habit now.

Once again we got lucky in the fact that we had an extra corpsman onboard. One of our officer's was a prior enlisted corpsman that was a Fleet Marine Force medic so he was a Godsend for us. Our Corpsman did an outstanding job getting everyone stabilized and did the best he could for our fallen shipmate. I am surprised that he got him to hold on as long as he did.

Our corpsman is definitely a hero in my book. He didn't sleep for 2 or 3 days. We finally put him down when the SEAL docs helicoptered in to help.

Like I said, I am extremely proud of my crew and how they handled themselves. My Chief of the Boat was an inspiration of what a leader should be and my Captain was as well. My XO took out an EAB manifold with his back but still managed to help coordinate things. No matter what happens later, these men did a superior job under difficult circumstances.

I am humbled by the entire crew's performance from the CO down to the Seaman that I was checking in two days before. For those of you wondering, I am sure there will be an investigation into what happened and no I was not part of the navigation preps for this voyage. I work on the inertial/electronic navigation and interior communications part of my rate and didn't have anything to do with the conventional navigation part of it.

I will be lending support to my comrades who were to help them prepare for the pending investigation. I thank you all for you concern and appreciate your prayers not only for myself, but for my shipmates. We are doing well, we band of brothers and will pull through just fine.

Brian Frie
Chief Electronics Technician Submarines
USS San Francisco SSN 711

Submarine Crash Shows Navy Had Gaps in Mapping System


New York Times
Published: January 15, 2005

Sailors on the San Francisco, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, had just finished cleaning the vessel last Saturday as it sped along 500 feet beneath the surface of the South Pacific.

Submarines run blind, just listening for sounds of danger. And to the captain and other officers relying on undersea navigation charts, everything seemed clear.

Suddenly, there was a horrible screeching. And according to an e-mail message written by a crew member, the inside of the submarine quickly resembled a scene from the movie "The Matrix." He wrote, "Everything slowed down and levitated and then went flying forward faster than the brain can process."

The submarine had crashed head-on into an undersea mountain that was not on the charts. One sailor was killed, and about 60 others were injured. Now, Defense Department officials say they have found a satellite image taken in 1999 that indicates an undersea mountain rising to perhaps within 100 feet below the surface there.

But the older navigation charts provided to the Navy were never updated to show the obstruction, they acknowledge, in part because the agency that creates them has never had the resources to use the satellite data systematically.

The officials said the main chart on the submarine, prepared in 1989 and never revised, did not show any potential obstacles within three miles of the crash. They said the incident happened in such a desolate area - 360 miles southeast of Guam - that updating their depiction of the undersea terrain was never considered a priority.

The new information about the charting flaws also illustrates what many experts say is a broader danger not only to submarines but also to many surface ships. At the same time, it provides a glimpse into the arcane task of plotting an undersea world that in some areas is still more mysterious than the surfaces of Mars or Venus.

A variety of satellite data is now showing that many sea charts, including some that still rely on notations from the days when sailors navigated by the stars, are inaccurate. And some scientists are calling for greater use of satellite data to fix more precisely the location of undersea ridges, islands and even continental boundaries and to chart large, less studied areas of the oceans.

The latest disclosures support the account by the commanding officer of the San Francisco that the charts showed that his track was clear. But former submarine captains said Navy investigators were likely to examine whether it had been prudent to travel at such a high speed, 30 knots, given the age and spottiness of the information.

Officials said the main chart on the submarine was prepared by the Defense Mapping Agency in August 1989. That office was later absorbed into the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, a part of the Defense Department that provides maps, sea charts and other geographic intelligence to the nation's combat forces.

Chris Andreasen, the chief hydrographer for the Office of Global Navigation at the intelligence agency, acknowledged in an interview that on the chart, "there's nothing shown that would be a hazard" at the crash site.

But since the accident, Mr. Andreasen said, his office has examined commercially available images taken by a Landsat satellite in 1999, and at least one image indicates that an undersea mountain could rise to within 100 feet of the surface there. Analysts say variations in water color can sometimes indicate a land mass below.

Mr. Andreasen said his agency had not normally used satellite imagery to update sea charts, though it recently began using the images to help pinpoint the boundaries of islands and other land masses. He and other officials said that the charting office's staff had shrunk in recent years, and that the Navy never asked it to focus on the area south of Guam, where it began basing submarines in 2002.

Current and former Navy officials say the main focus during the cold war was charting areas in the Northern Pacific and in Arctic seas where missile and surveillance submarines guarded against a Soviet attack. Since then, the Navy has been trying to improve charts of shallower coastal waters in the Middle East and other areas where it might have to help battle terrorists.

Mr. Andreasen said that since global positioning satellites came into wide use in the 1980's, Navy and commercial ships had had a much more accurate way to fix the coordinates of islands, undersea volcanoes and other parts of the giant mountain ranges that jut up from the ocean floor.

"G.P.S. is changing the world," he said.

As ships have reported these coordinates, sea-charting offices around the world have found that many islands were "maybe a mile or two out of position" on widely used charts, he said. So over the past year, his agency has been using the Landsat images and other data to update many nations' boundaries.

But Mr. Andreasen and other scientists said that while commercial shipping interests had helped chart the most common transit routes, large areas of the ocean depths remained little charted.

Dr. David T. Sandwell, a geophysics professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said that about 40 percent of the oceans were "very, very poorly charted, and those areas are mostly in the Southern Hemisphere."

While many sea charts include obstacles and features spotted by commercial vessels, World War II warships and even 19th-century explorers, the best charts are made by survey ships that use sound beams to create detailed pictures of the undersea terrain. The Navy has only seven such ships, however, and scientists say it could take decades to chart the rest of the seas thoroughly.

As a result, Dr. Sandwell and others have suggested that the government make rough chartings of more areas with another type of satellite - one that uses radar to measure variations in the height of the ocean that can signal if mountains are below.

Dr. Sandwell said readings by one such satellite in the mid-1980's also indicated there could be an undersea mountain at the San Francisco's crash site. But he said the margin of error was too large for the studies to be conclusive. And Mr. Andreasen said much of the satellite data was too vague for precise charting.

Mr. Andreasen said the main chart used on the submarine showed that the only concerns were a small area of discolored water that had been noted three miles from the crash site and some coral reefs about 10 miles away.

Notes on the chart indicated that the discolored water was mentioned on a British sea chart in 1963, and Mr. Andreasen said the notation might even go back to World War II. He said the discoloration might have been just a temporary disturbance, or it could have been a sign of the undersea ridge.

Other notes suggest that some ships had reported depths of 5,000 to 6,000 feet nearby. But Mr. Andreasen said few commercial ships used the area, and "it has never been systematically surveyed."

Navy officials declined to comment, saying they are investigating the accident.

The submarine left Guam on Jan. 7 for Brisbane, Australia. The Navy said 23 of the sailors were seriously injured, and at least five had broken bones.

The e-mail message by the sailor was sent to several people involved with submarines, and as it circulated within the submarine community, one person provided a copy to The New York Times.

The sailor wrote that many crew members were eating lunch at the time of the crash, which severely damaged the vessel's bow. He said several sailors suffered "bad head wounds," and men in the engine room smashed against "lots of metal and sharp edges."

Still, he said that the vessel's damage control party "did everything exactly right even though they were hurt as well."

The message also said that the submarine was lucky to have an extra medic on board, and that its main medic, known as a corpsman, did not sleep during the two-day trip back to port.

The Navy has said a machinist's mate second class, Joseph A. Ashley of Akron, Ohio, was knocked unconscious by the crash and died the next day from severe head injuries. The e-mail message said other sailors were surprised that the corpsman "got him to hold on as long as he did."

Crippled Sub Challenged Crew's Skills

Navy sources shed light on crash, return trip of USS San Francisco

Day Staff Writer, Navy/Defense/Electric Boat
Published on 1/15/2005

New London -- The galley crew had started to serve lunch as the USS San Francisco checked its position against a global positioning system satellite, checked the water depth with its fathometer, and announced that the ship was going to dive, all routine operations aboard an attack submarine.

Four minutes after it submerged, that routine was shattered one week ago today as the San Francisco crashed into an undersea mountain at more than 35 mph, sending sailors crashing into equipment and bulkheads and destroying the bow dome and three of the main ballast tanks at the front of the sub.

The accident released kinetic, or nonradioactive, energy on the scale of the electrical output of the Millstone 2 nuclear reactor, which explains the extensive damage to the ship and the severity of the injuries — one man was killed and more than 60 others were injured, two dozen of them seriously.

But engineers are impressed that despite the violence of the underwater encounter, the ship's reactor, steam turbine generators, electrical distribution network and even its navigation system were unharmed, and the ship was able to limp back to port on its own.

Through dozens of interviews with submariners, active duty and retired, as well as a review of a variety of internal Navy documents, an account of the accident that nearly crippled the San Francisco is beginning to emerge. Because the investigation is still under way, there are few official sources of information, however.

The captain of the San Francisco, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, has not been relieved of duty, perhaps the most telling evidence that the initial inquiry has found that the sub was following all the correct procedures and had the misfortune to run into an uncharted seamount.

In fact, Rear Adm. Paul Sullivan, commander of the Pacific submarine force, said in an unclassified e-mail obtained by The Day that he was impressed with how the captain and crew dealt with the aftermath of the crash.

“The continuous operation of the propulsion plant, electrical systems and navigation demonstrates the reliability of our equipment and the operational readiness of our crews as a whole,” Sullivan wrote.

“The impressive Joint and Navy team effort which resulted in SFO (San Francisco) returning to port safely says volumes about the ingenuity and resourcefulness of all our armed services. For all who participated in this effort, thank you and your people. We are all eternally grateful to each of you.”


The San Francisco was built at what is now the Northrop Grumman Newport News (Va.) Shipyard, was commissioned in 1981, and was originally homeported at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After a refueling overhaul completed in 2002, it was assigned to the new submarine base in Guam.

The San Francisco had finished all the post-refueling sea trials and conducted its first two-month deployment last year, arriving back in Guam Dec. 1, 2004. On Friday, Jan. 7, it set sail for Brisbane, Australia, for a port visit. The sailors were probably excited — Australians still recall that the U.S. submarine force kept the Japanese at bay in the Pacific during World War II and generally treat American submariners well.

Saturday morning, soon after breakfast ended at 6 a.m., the ship conducted a “field day,” during which the entire ship is cleaned, top to bottom. All 137 men on board would have been out of their bunks and taking part until just before lunch was served at 11 a.m. They would have removed deck plates to clean bilges and other hard-to-reach spaces.

The chief petty officers on board warned everyone as they finished to “stow for sea” — make sure everything is bolted down or locked up. In the event of a collision, loose objects tend to become unguided missiles. As a result, the ship was probably more tightly stowed than usual, which helped prevent more serious injuries, submariners said.

In late morning, the ship was at periscope depth, checking to make sure it was on course. Everything checked out; the ship was just over 400 miles southeast of Guam, near the Caroline Islands ridge, but the charts showed that there was no water less than about 6,000 feet deep for at least seven miles around the boat, more than enough of a safety margin for submariners, who are known to be cautious.

Some time about 11:30, after running through a safety checklist to make sure the boat was ready to submerge, the officer of the deck gave the order to dive. The San Francisco used the dive to pick up speed, and was soon running at flank speed, something in excess of 30 knots.

Although its destination was to the southwest, it was headed in an easterly direction, probably because it had “cleared its baffles,” or changed direction to check to make sure there were no submarines trailing it in the spot directly behind the ship, where its normal sonar sensors cannot “hear.”

At 11:42 a.m. Guam time, about four minutes after diving, the San Francisco crashed head-on into a nearly vertical wall of stone, a seamount that was not on the charts. In an instant, the submarine's speed dropped from almost 33 knots horizontal to 4 knots almost straight up as the bow whipped up and the ship tried to go over the obstacle — without success.

Crewmen told family and friends that the moment was surreal, so unexpected that it took a moment to realize what had happened: The sub had rammed into something and was out of control. One sailor told a friend it reminded him of the movie “The Matrix,” in which everything slows down and a disaster unfolds in slow motion.

The diving officer of the watch, normally strapped into a chair in the control room, had just unbuckled his belt to update a status board. He struck the control panel so hard that he broke some of the gauges. Some crewmen were tossed 20 feet into bulkheads, several narrowly missing being dropped down through stairways.

A couple of men were smoking in the lower level of the engine room, and more were waiting their turn — it is the only area in the sub where smoking is allowed. The area includes much sharp-edged metal equipment that caused several of the lacerations and broken bones that had to be treated later.

Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley, 24, of Akron, Ohio, who had just re-enlisted for a second four-year term, was in the main seawater bay at the back of the sub. He was thrown forward 20 feet into the propulsion lube oil bay, striking his forehead against a large metal pump. He was knocked out and died the next day without regaining consciousness.

Through the chaos, though, the crew followed the procedures they had drilled on day after day as submariners. Within seconds, one of the crewmen at the helm, his arm broken in the crash, pulled the “chicken switch,” which forces high-pressure air into the main ballast tanks to force the submarine to the surface.

The executive officer suffered a serious back injury when he was thrown onto an emergency air supply pipe, but he was quickly directing damage-control efforts. Injured men were carried to the crew's mess and the wardroom, where the tables were pressed into service as gurneys. The ship's “doc,” an independent duty corpsman trained in emergency medicine, began assessing and treating the injuries.

One of the ship's junior officers was a former enlisted man and was able to help out. Other crewmen were recruited to keep men with head injuries awake until they could be checked out, as the worst cuts were stitched and the worst breaks were set.

When a medical team arrived from Guam via helicopter the next morning, a surgeon, an undersea medical officer and another independent duty corpsmen remarked that the care given to the injured crewmen was outstanding, particularly considering the circumstances.


The submarine force has a policy of “water space management” that would have required Mooney, the skipper, to file a plan showing his expected track and speed through the area to make sure he would not be in the same water as another submarine at the same time. Navy sources said there was nothing on that plan that would have raised any alarm.

In addition, given the charts that showed only deep water in the area, Mooney would not have been expected to do depth soundings more than every 30 minutes, certainly no more than every 15 minutes, which would not have given him enough time to react to the steep seamount. In fact, he might not have been able to avoid grounding even with nearly continuous soundings.
The undersea mountain was so steep that there was damage visible even on the top of the sonar dome, which indicates that the sub hit a virtual wall.

The San Francisco would have picked up the mountain if it was using active sonar, but submariners use that sparingly because it gives the boat's location away. Instead, it would have been using passive sonar — listening for the noises made by other ships and submarines. But seamounts don't make any noise, and even if there were currents swirling around it, the noise would have been lost in the noise the San Francisco was making as it sped through the water near top speed.

Jeff Schweitzer, a research professor in the Physics Department at the University of Connecticut, said the submarine's kinetic energy at 33 knots and 4 knots is easy to calculate — one-half its mass (6.3 million kilograms) times its velocity (16.98 meters per second before the accident, 2.06 meters per second afterward), or 902.4 megajoules before, and 13.3 megajoules afterward. So the accident released just over 889 megajoules of energy.

The Millstone 2 reactor in Waterford is rated at 870 megawatts, so if the ship slowed over a second, it released roughly the same energy in that time as Millstone 2 could generate.

“It would have lit quite a few light bulbs,” Schweitzer said. “It is a lot of energy, which is why the collision cracked rock and dented such strong steel.”

He said it would take much more complex calculations to determine where all that energy went — how much went into bending the steel of the ballast tanks, or even heating the water in the area around the wreck — but the release was enormous.

Physics also explains the injuries, a fundamental principal being that a body in motion tends to stay in motion until something slows it down, whether air friction or a steel bulkhead. If the submarine instantly decelerated from 33 knots to 4 knots, in theory the men aboard would have kept moving forward at 29 knots relative to the rest of the ship until they encountered something hard.

Schweitzer noted, however, that even sitting in a chair or standing on the floor would bleed off part of that speed, and that the ship would have decelerated over a second or so, which would also yield a slight difference.

“So it might not be the same thing as being thrown forward at 29 knots,” Schweitzer said. “But it would have been a lot more comfortable to have been in a seat and belted in.”

At the time, however, no one on the San Francisco was doing the calculations. They were more worried about saving the ship. At almost 550 feet, the water pressure would have been almost 240 pounds per square inch, so even a small leak could have quickly put the ship in danger.

In addition, it quickly became apparent that three of the four forward ballast tanks had uncontrollable leaks, which caused the ship to take on a serious bow-down aspect. That was dangerous for two reasons: any forward movement could quickly drive the ship deeper; and any angle would allow more air to seep out of the ballast tanks, making the ship heavier, increasing the angle even more.

Through the quick use of variable ballast tanks located throughout the ship, the crew was able to get it to the surface, though the back end of the ship was riding about four feet higher than normal, and the bow was so deep the depth markings were out of sight.

The reactor plant, propulsion system and electric distribution gear were all operating normally, however, which allowed the crew to focus on the ballast system.


Immediately, Mooney dispatched a message to Guam, where the Commander of Naval Forces Marianas dispatched the 110-foot, Guam-based Coast Guard cutter Galveston Island and the 906-foot Maritime Sealift Command cargo ship Gy. Sgt. Fred Stockham to intercept the submarine and escort it home, but it would be almost a day before they arrived.

By 4 p.m. Saturday, the commodore of Submarine Squadron 15 on Guam had called together family members to deliver the news and promise regular briefings on the situation.

The front of the ship was so badly deformed, its maneuverability was compromised. In addition, because the bow-down aspect of the sub would force it under at even moderate speeds, the San Francisco was limited to about eight knots on the surface.

Then, poor weather on Sunday forced the captain to bring all his crewmen down from the bridge out of fear that any additional water coming down the hatch would cut further into the sub's limited buoyancy. He had to run the ship from the control room, using radar and radio to make sure it stayed close to the escort ships, but not too close.

The crew continuously operated the low-pressure blower to keep air in the ballast tanks, despite the leaks. The air pump is rated for only intermittent use, but held out for more than 30 hours during the trip back. In addition, the crew quickly implemented an emergency technique to use the exhaust from its massive auxiliary diesel engines to augment the low-pressure blower.

Back in Guam, the Navy was assembling flotation aids and welding gear to do emergency repairs when the San Francisco finally pulled into port. Divers and technical experts were on hand to assess the damage. A team was on its way within hours from Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, including a structural engineer, a ballast tank expert and an air systems expert, led by Capt. Charles Doty, who commanded the USS Cheyenne in the Pacific until last year. During his time at the helm, the Cheyenne was the first ship to launch missiles in the Iraq war in 2003.

On Monday afternoon, family members lined Sierra Pier at the Guam submarine base, where they waited anxiously for their first sight of the submarine they were assured would be berthed at the pier before long. About 3 p.m., it came into view, nose down, listing visibly to starboard, with a tumultuous bow wake testifying to the damage at the front of the boat.

Submariners from the USS City of Corpus Christi and USS Houston, and the tender USS Frank Cable, which comprise the rest of Squadron 15, waited on the pier as well, ready to help tie up the ship, shut down the nuclear plant, hook up the shore power supply and otherwise aid a crew that had been up for two days straight saving the San Francisco.

Shipmates honor sailor

Friday, January 14, 2005
By Theresa Merto
Pacific Daily News

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Navy

(Story Link with photos)

Sailors paid tribute in a memorial service yesterday for Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley, who died of injuries from the submarine USS San Francisco's recent accident.

During a last man roll call yesterday, all the sailors in the Auxiliary Division of the Engineering Department were present -- except Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley.

The "brotherhood," as many submariners call it, gathered yesterday at a memorial service for Ashley, who died from injuries suffered when the nuclear-powered submarine USS San Francisco ran aground Jan. 8 about 350 nautical miles south of Guam.

Ashley, 24, of Akron, Ohio, was known as a great shipmate who loved submarines, and most especially the USS San Francisco, where he belonged for nearly three years and where he lost his life. A Navy official has said the submarine struck a topographical feature underwater and the investigation into the accident continues.

"(Ashley) dedicated himself to San Francisco, our Navy and our great country. By so doing, he earned the love, honor, trust and respect of his shipmates," Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, commanding officer of the USS San Francisco, said in a release. "Although our hearts ache and we miss him, we thank God for the time together. We also thank Petty Officer Ashley's family for sharing their son and brother with us."

Mooney further highlighted Ashley's positive impact on the crew.

"He was my shipmate, my friend and a great submariner. ... He loved his job and life in the Navy so much," Mooney said. "Not only was Petty Officer Ashley happy all the time, he made it his personal business to make sure all his shipmates were happy, including me."

Lt. j.g. Josh Chisholm, who is a chemistry/radiological assistant, said Ashley was a great sailor who "loved submarines and being on the San Francisco, through and through."

"He always brought a smile to everybody's face when he was around," Chisholm said, adding that Ashley always had a positive, upbeat attitude.

"For us, he was somebody we knew we could trust," said Chisholm, who was interviewed after the memorial service. "We knew he would do the right thing in terms of when he was standing watch."

Four sailors from USS San Francisco, along with sailors from Submarine Squadron 15, will escort Ashley's body off island . He will be laid to rest in West Virginia, said Master Chief Petty Officer Bill Cramer, who is the chief of boat on the San Francisco.

"He was one of those guys who was ready to make the Navy and the submarine force a lifelong career because of the tightness. It is like a brotherhood as we refer to it," Cramer said. "We were very close to him -- everybody on board."

Ashley was in charge of the submarine's emergency diesel on board and took great pride in that, Cramer said.

"In our most recent engineering exam, he got the highest grade that someone would get," Cramer said. "He took pride in everything he did ... and was always willing to learn more."

Cramer said the crew has sought some counseling after returning to Guam earlier this week, adding that the experience has been traumatic. He said 23 sailors were brought to Naval Hospital on Monday, and all but three were released the night they were brought there. By Wednesday, the remaining sailors were released from the hospital.

"Most of my sailors, the very next day, were mustering with me on the pier -- which wasn't required -- but they were ready to get back to work," Cramer said. "A lot of the guys that were getting out of the Navy have said, 'the San Francisco brought me home from that, I'm gonna stick around until (it's) seaworthy again."

Ashley enlisted in the Navy in 2001 and reported to USS San Francisco as a machinist's mate in February 2002, according to a Navy release. While serving aboard the Los Angeles-class, fast-attack submarine, he was selected Junior Sailor of the Quarter for the third quarter of 2004, the release said.

Chisholm said since the grounding, the sailors have been relying on each other and their families for support and do not second-guess getting back on the submarine despite the accident.

"We've been through such a difficult situation with the grounding," Chisholm said. "But I think most of us, if it went back to sea today, would go right back and operate that ship, mainly because we've got all of each other there."

Profile of a Submariner

(Written by Dr. Joyce Brothers following the loss of THRESHER in 1963)

The tragic loss of the submarine Thresher and 129 men had a special kind of an impact on the nation.....a special kind of sadness, mixed with universal admiration for the men who choose this type of work.

One could not mention the Thresher without observing, in the same breath how utterly final and alone the end is when a ship dies at the bottom of the sea....and what a remarkable specimen of man it must be who accepts such a risk.

Most of us might be moved to conclude, too, that a tragedy of this kind would have a damaging effect on the morale of the other men in the submarine service and tend to discourage future enlistment.

Actually, there is no evidence that this is so.

What is it then, that lures men to careers in which they spend so much of their time in cramped quarters, under great psychological stress, with danger lurking all about them? Togetherness is an overworked term, but in no other branch of our military service is it given such full meaning as in the "silent service".

In an undersea craft, each man is totally dependent upon the skill of every other man in the crew, not only for top performance but for actual survival. Each knows that his very life depends on the others and because this is so, there is a bond among them that both challenges and comforts them.

All of this gives the submariner a special feeling of pride, because he is indeed a member of an elite corps.

The risks, then, are an inspiration rather than a deterrent.

The challenge of masculinity is another factor which attracts men to serve on submarines. It certainly is a test of a man's prowess and power to know he can qualify for this highly selective service.

However, it should be emphasized that this desire to prove masculinity is not pathological, as it might be in certain dare-devil pursuits, such as driving a motorcycle through a flaming hoop. There is nothing daredevilish about motivations of the man who decides to dedicate his life to the submarine service.

He does, indeed, take pride in demonstrating that he is quite a man, but he does not do so to practice a form of foolhardy brinkmanship, to see how close he can get to failure and still snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

On the contrary, the aim in the submarine service is to battle danger, to minimize the risk, to take every measure to make certain that safety, rather than danger, is maintained at all times.

Are the men in the submarine service braver than those in other pursuits where the possibilty of a sudden tragedy is constant? The glib answer would be to say they are. It is more accurate, from a psychological point of view, to say they are not necessarily braver, but that they are men who have a little more insight into themselves and their capabilities.

They know themselves a little better than the next man. This has to be so with men who have a healthy reason to volunteer for a risk. They are generally a cut healthier emotionally than others of the similar age and background because of their willingness to push themselves a little bit farther and not settle for an easier kind of existence.

We all have tremendous capabilities but are rarely straining at the upper level of what we can do; these men are.

This country can be proud and grateful that so many of its sound, young, eager men care enough about their own stature in life and the welfare of their country to pool their skills and match them collectively against the power of the sea.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

E-Mail Shows Toll of Crash on Submarine


New York Times
Published: January 12, 2005

The nuclear submarine that ran aground Saturday in the South Pacific hit so "incredibly hard" that about 60 of its 137 crew members were injured and the sailor who died was thrown 20 feet by the impact, according to internal Navy e-mail messages sent by a top admiral.

The messages said the submarine's hull was severely damaged after the head-on crash into what Navy officials believe was an undersea mountain that was not on the navigation charts.

One message said the submarine, the San Francisco, was traveling at high speed, and the impact practically stopped it in its tracks and caused flooding in parts of the bow.

The messages were written by Rear Adm. Paul F. Sullivan, the commander of submarines in the Pacific. They paint a more dire picture of the accident, which occurred 360 miles southeast of Guam, than had previously been disclosed. They also hint at the extensive efforts to steady the vessel and save the sailor who died.

The e-mail indicated that the Navy had tried to evacuate the fatally injured man, Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph A. Ashley, within hours after he had been thrown forward and hit his head on a metal pump, which knocked him unconscious.

Petty Officer Ashley's father, Daniel L. Ashley, said in an interview he had been told that as a helicopter hovered over the choppy seas, crew members could not maneuver a stretcher carrying his son through the submarine's hatches before he died.

"They tried numerous times to maneuver him through various hatches," Mr. Ashley said. "But it just didn't happen."

Admiral Sullivan, who is based in Hawaii, sent the e-mail messages to other Navy officials. As the messages circulated within the submarine community, two people provided copies to The New York Times, and Navy officials confirmed their authenticity.

The e-mail also indicated that about 60 crew members had been injured. All the Navy had said publicly was that 23 crew members were treated for broken bones, cuts and bruises.

The messages said those 23 were hurt seriously enough that they were unable to stand their watch duties as the submarine limped back to Guam. Mr. Ashley said the submarine's captain, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, told him by phone on Monday that among the injured crew members, "there were a lot of broken fingers, broken arms and legs and one fractured back."

Navy officials said yesterday that the rest of the injuries were minor.

The admiral's e-mail also said an outer hull ripped open at the submarine's nose, causing flooding in a dome with sonar sensors and in four of the ballast tanks used to submerge the vessel or take it to the surface.

The flooding caused the submarine to sit deeper in the water and made it hard to maneuver on the trip back to Guam. Sailors had to keep pumping pressurized air into the tanks to prevent the water from rising and to maintain buoyancy.

An inner hull, which surrounds the crew's living and work spaces, held firm, the e-mail said. The nuclear reactor and critical propulsion systems were not damaged.

In the e-mail, Admiral Sullivan did not discuss why the vessel ran aground. The Navy is investigating, and the admiral, who ultimately will have to decide whether to reprimand any of the submarine's crew members, did not respond to requests for comment.

Navy officials have said that the submarine, which was headed for Australia, appeared to have smashed into an undersea mountain that was not on its charts. Mr. Ashley, who lives in Akron, Ohio, said Commander Mooney told him the same thing on Monday.

"He said, 'On the charts we have, this is a clear area all the way through to Australia,' " Mr. Ashley said.

Navy officials said the San Francisco was traveling at 30 knots when it careened off some part of the undersea mountain range. In one of the e-mail messages, Admiral Sullivan wrote that on impact, the vessel made a "nearly instantaneous deacceleration" to about 4 knots.

Mr. Ashley said Commander Mooney told him that his son had just gotten off watch duty in the engine area and was chatting with other sailors when the accident occurred.

Mr. Ashley said his son, who was 24, "loved the Navy and that submarine" and had just re-enlisted.

Mr. Ashley said Commander Mooney, who could not be reached for comment, also told him that his son's condition seemed to worsen as sailors labored to tilt the stretcher through the evacuation hatch.

Mr. Ashley said that at the end of the conversation, Commander Mooney told him that he took full responsibility for the sailor's death. Mr. Ashley said he replied that he had heard all he needed "to know that you and your crew did everything you could do to save my son's life."

Heroics Saved Sub

Sources Say Crew's Heroics Saved Sub
USS San Francisco reportedly could have sunk following crash

By ROBERT A. HAMILTON, Day Staff Writer, Navy/Defense/Electric Boat

It is increasingly clear that the submarine that hit a seamount in the Pacific Ocean last week came close to being lost and that only the valiant efforts of its crew kept it afloat, Navy sources said Tuesday.

With uncontrolled flooding in its forward ballast tanks, the USS San Francisco had to run a low-pressure air pump for 30 hours straight to maintain buoyancy on its trip home, Navy sources said. The pump is rated for only intermittent use.

In addition, the submarine ran its diesel engines, channeling the exhaust into the forward ballast tanks in an effort to force out more of the water and make the ship lighter.

"Based on the information I've seen so far, they're very lucky this ship didn't sink," said retired Navy Capt. John C. Markowicz. "Only through the heroic efforts of the crew did that ship survive."

The San Francisco, homeported at Guam, was traveling more than 500 feet below the surface at more than 30 knots - about 35 mph - when it slammed into the seamount about 360 miles southeast of Guam.

The New York Times, in its editions today, reports that the submarine hit so "incredibly hard" that about 60 of its 137 crew were injured and that the one sailor who died was thrown 20 feet by the impact, according to internal Navy e-mail messages sent by Rear Adm. Paul F. Sullivan, the commander of submarines in the Pacific.

The messages sent by Sullivan paint a more dire picture of the accident than had previously been disclosed, The Times reported.

The accident came just minutes after the crew had finished a "field day," a cleaning process that involves breaking down a lot of equipment. If the accident had happened an hour earlier, the situation could have been much more serious because the loose equipment hatches and other parts could have become missiles, one source said.

Submariners also noted that if the boat involved had been a newer version of the Los Angeles class, the results could have been catastrophic. The San Francisco, SSN 711, was commissioned in 1981.

Starting with the Groton-based USS Providence, SSN 719, Los Angeles-class submarines have 12 missiles in vertical launch tubes in a compartment just behind the sonar dome. Several submariners acknowledged that such an incident involving a newer boat could have led to a fire in the missile fuel systems, which could have led to a low-order detonation of up to 12,000 pounds of high explosives.

"It could have been a real Kursk-type situation," one Navy source said, referring to the Russian submarine that sank in August 2000 after a fire broke out in its torpedo compartment.

Submariners around the country were poring over charts of the area where the San Francisco hit the seamount and were coming to the same conclusion: The ocean bottom was supposed to be more than a mile below where the San Francisco hit.

In fact, sources said the San Francisco had just submerged from periscope depth and had taken a bottom reading with its Fathometer four minutes before it hit the seamount and that the reading indicated the bottom was 6,000 feet below the keel.

The damage to the submarine, which includes a cracked sonar sphere and severe damage to three of the four ballast tanks near the bow, and some buckling of the forward pressure hull, all argue that the submarine hit something akin to an underwater cliff.

"Going from 6,000 feet to almost nothing in four minutes is a very steep seamount, no question about it," Markowicz said.

The local chapter of U.S. Submarine Veterans has started a fund-raising campaign for the crew of the San Francisco. John Carcioppolo, the local base commander, said the group just finished raising $3,800 for the family of the Canadian submariner killed in a shipboard fire last October, and one of the first pledges has come from the group's counterpart in Canada.

"Before I even announced I was doing fund-raising, I already got a commitment from Buster Brown up in Canada," Carcioppolo said. Brown is the head of the Submarine Association of Canada, Eastern Branch, and a former high-ranking enlisted member of the Canadian Navy. Carcioppolo said he would send any money raised to the captain of the San Francisco, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, "to be disbursed as he sees fit."

Carcioppolo is a mentor of one of the young enlisted men on the San Francisco, and is acquainted with Mooney as well. "There's been a very strong outpouring of good wishes for Kevin and for everyone on board," Carcioppolo said.

San Francisco was on its way to Brisbane, Australia, just before noon Saturday when it ran into the seamount, crushing the front end of the submarine. At that depth, the water pressure was almost 250 PSI, or about 16 times atmospheric pressure, so the chief concern was to get to the surface as quickly as possible.

The crew executed an "emergency blow," forcing high-pressure air into the ballast tanks to make the submarine rise sharply.Once on the surface, though, the crew realized the ship was experiencing severe flooding into two of the three forward ballast tanks, and had to come up with some type of quick fix.

The low-pressure air system normally used for short periods of time was pressed into continuous service, and the ship started its diesel generators and used the exhaust to augment the blower to keep as much water as possible out of the ballast tanks.

With those emergency procedures in place, the ship limped home to Apra, Guam, where the Navy has rushed flotation devices, underwater engineering gear and technical experts to begin analyzing the damage.

Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph A. Ashley, 24, of Akron, Ohio, died from a head wound he sustained when he was thrown against a pump in the machinery spaces. Another machinist mate on duty in the engine room also received a serious head injury and was listed in stable condition Tuesday.

The Navy said 22 other men were injured badly enough to be taken off the submarine, so crew members from the USS City of Corpus Christi and the USS Houston, which are also homeported in Guam, as well as the tender USS Frank Cable, met the ship on its return and took over many of the injured crewmen's functions.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Let Us Remember Him

In Memory of MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley Posted by Hello

What Really Happened?

The following messages are apparently written by Rear Admiral Paul Sullivan, and copied from Ron Martini's Submarine Bulletin Board here and here. Note there were about 60 total crewmembers injured, while the widely-quoted number of 24 injured were those unable to stand watch- the others remained able to work.


Subject: USS SAN FRANCISCO SITREP -1500W/8 Jan 05

Fellow Flag Officers,

I wanted to provide an UNCLASS email on the status of the USS SAN FRANCISCO (SSN 711) in order for all of you to be conversant on what we presently know of the apparent grounding incident in WESTPAC:

USS SAN FRANCISCO (SFO) apparently grounded at 080142Z JAN 05, a approximately 360 NM Southeast of Guam, during submerged transit from Guam to Australia. At the time of the incident, the ship was transiting on an easterly track at high speed in a submerged moving haven. The ship sustained damage to equipment and injuries to personnel. The ship is currently on the surface and stable, transiting to Guam making eight knots.

Approximately 60 of the 137 personnel on board are injured. The primary personnel concern is one crewmember who is in critical condition with head injuries. Another is in serious condition with head and back injuries. Twenty-two additional personnel are injured to an extent they are unable to stand watch. Most of the injuries consist of broken bones and lacerations. A medical doctor from a support vessel vectored to the SAN FRANCISCO was transferred aboard at approximately 081300W to provide medical attention to the injured crewmembers. Transfer of additional medical personnel and MEDEVAC of the critically injured crewmember via HELO will occur when conditions permit.

CSS 15 held a notification briefing for families four hours after the incident and is providing regular updates and counseling. COMSUBPAC is responding directly to AMCROSS inquiries from concerned family members as they arrive.

The nuclear reactor plant, propulsion train and electrical distribution systems were unaffected by the incident. The primary material concern is buoyancy. Main ballast tanks 1A/1B/2B and the sonar sphere are assessed to be partially flooded and compromised, resulting in a slight port list, increased draft and slight down angle. To maintain adequate buoyancy for normal surface transit, the low pressure blower is operating continuously on the forward main ballast tanks. The ship is holding steady at a zero-degree trim angle with a port two-degree list. There is visible damage topside to the sonar dome.

An emergency procedure was developed by NAVSEA and provided to the ship to allow use of the diesel as a blower for the forward ballast tanks in the event the LP blower fails. Diesel crank web deflections are satisfactory.

USS SAN FRANCISCO will return to port Guam for a damage assessment. Buoyancy assist devices, underwater assessment and welding equipment and technical experts are being sent to Guam for this purpose. The ship is making hourly position and status reports to CTF 74, and COMNAVMARIANAS has been designated as the On Scene Commander. The focus remains on treating injured personnel and getting the ship to Guam safely. The situation will continue to be very fluid for several more days. Finally, the fantastic support we have received from the the entire Joint and Navy Team has truly made a difference in this most difficult of circumstances. For those directly involved, I thank you for this support and assistance. I'll keep you updated as the situation continues to unfold.


Sent: Mon Jan 10 02:17:01 2005
Subject: USS SAN FRANCISCO SITREP -2100W/9 Jan 05

Fellow Flag Officers this is my second unclas update on the SAN FRANCISCO incident for your situational awareness:

At 10 January 1634 local (100134 EST) the USS SAN FRANCISCO returned safely to Apra Harbor, Guam. The ship moored with her own line handlers in a normal submarine configured mooring (AFT draft is 27'-10'' (normal AFT draft is 32') and FWD Draft is above the draft marks with the waterline at the point the towed array faring begins; 0.8 degree STBD list and 1 degree Down bubble indicating by naval architecture calculations that 1 A/B and 2A/B MBTs are most likely flooded). The severely injured Machinist Mate (Engineroom Upper Level Watch at time of grounding) was evacuated immediately and transferred by ambulance to Naval Hospital Guam where a fully staffed medical team was standing by. He is conscious and in stable condition. Approximately fifteen additional injured personnel requiring medical care subsequently departed the ship and were transported to the hospital after taking a moment to meet with family members.

Crewmembers from the USS CORPUS CHRISTI, HOUSTON and FRANK CABLE assisted in linehandling and various return to port evolutions such as propulsion plant shutdown, shorepower cables, and rig for surface. Standing by on the pier was a full complement of watchstanders from USS CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI (and SAN FRANCISCO stay-behinds) to satisfy all watchstanding requirements for reactor plant shutdown with follow-on inport forward and aft watchsections.

Following the grounding on 8 January, the ship transited on the surface at 8kts with surface escort, USCGC GALVESTON ISLAND to Apra Harbor, Guam. Due to deteriorated weather conditions on the evening of 9 January, the Commanding Officer shifted bridge watchstations to control and shut bridge access hatches to maximize watertight integrity in light of reserve buoyancy concerns. The ship maintained stability throughout the surface transit with continuous operation of the Low Pressure Blower on the Forward Main Ballast Tanks. SAN FRANCISCO has experienced no reactor plant, propulsion train or electrical system degradations as a result of the grounding. The Commanding Officer shifted the Officer of the Deck's watch to the bridge on 10 January in preparation for piloting into Apra Harbor.

The critically injured Machinist Mate (Auxiliaryman) passed away yesterday afternoon as a result of his injuries. The MM2 was in Aft Main Seawater Bay at the time of the grounding and his body was thrown forward approximately 20 feet into Propulsion Lube Oil Bay. He suffered a severe blow to his forehead and never regained consciousness.

Emergency medical personnel, including a Naval Hospital Guam surgeon, Undersea Medical Officer and Independent Duty Corpsmen, arrived on the ship via helicopter transfer to provide immediate medical care and prepare the crewmember for medical evacuation on the morning of 9 January. Unfortunately, the sailor's condition deteriorated and he died onboard while under the care of the embarked physicians. Just moments prior to the sailors death, I spoke with the Sailor's father in preparation for their pending travel from Ohio to the West Pacific to see their Son. Since then I have passed on to his Dad my condolences on their Son's death and reassured them their Son's remains would be treated with utmost respect and dignity. His father expressed great gratitude for the extraordinary efforts made by the Navy to save his Son's life. He told me his Son loved the Navy, having just reenlisting earlier this year and wanted to make it a career. That when he called home he always talked about the many friendships and the wonderful camaraderie the crew of SFO exhibited. Prior to sailing, he was really excited about the pending ship visit to Australia. The parents are considering traveling to Guam, with Navy support, at some point to meet the crew and partake in a memorial service for his Son.

For the remainder of the transit, the embarked medical trauma team administered medical care to the other injured personnel. Their careful attention and evaluation augments the ship's Independent Duty Corpsman's heroic efforts since the grounding.

Submarine Squadron Fifteen COMMODORE, Captain Brad Gerhke and Captain Paul Bushong, Commanding Officer of the Submarine Tender USS FRANK CABLE have mobilized their assets, staffs, crews and local Navy Community to provide comprehensive support to the SAN FRANCISCO. Professional counselors, medical personnel and Navy Chaplains are scheduled to meet with the entire crew to provide grief counseling and assistance throughout the next several days and as required over the long term. Brad has been meeting frequently with the SFO families and they are doing remarkable well. The entire Navy community in Guam has come to the SFO's families' assistance. I have talked to Kevin Mooney's (SFO Skipper) wife, Ariel. Her state of mind is positive and resolute, with a courageous and upbeat view of the trying days ahead.

The ship's Main Ballast Tank damage and deformation has degraded maneuverability and mandated the use of two tugs to moor in Apra Harbor. A Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard/NAVSEA Material Assessment Team comprised of a structural engineer, MBT vent expert, air systems expert and naval architect arrived in Guam with special ship salvage and recovery equipment to stabilize the ship pierside as soon as possible. The team, led by Captain Charles Doty, commenced a seaworthiness and repair assessment upon the ship's arrival. Once additional buoyancy measures are in place and tested satisfactory, the Low Pressure Blower will be secured to allow divers to enter the water to conduct an inspection. While this grounding is a tragedy, with a through investigation led by Cecil Haney, we will find out all the facts and then ensure we learn from the mistakes. But, I too believe we have much to be thankful for today, and much to be confident in. An operational warship has returned to port on her own power with all but one of its crew after sustaining major hull damage. The survival of the ship after such an incredibly hard grounding (nearly instantaneous deacceleration from Flank Speed to 4 KTS) is a credit to the ship design engineers and our day-to-day engineering and watchstanding practices. The continuous operation of the propulsion plant, electrical systems and navigation demonstrates the reliability of our equipment and the operational readiness of our crews as a whole. The impressive Joint and Navy team effort which resulted in SFO returning to port safely says volumes about the ingenuity and resourcefulness of all our armed services. For all who participated in this effort, thank you and your people. We are all eternally grateful to each of you.

Very Respectfully - Paul Sullivan

A Family View of MM2(SS) Ashley

I located the article below here with no information as to the original author. It sounds like a newspaper article. If anyone is aware of the proper credit, please let me know so I can post it with the article. In any case, it just seems fitting to post it here.


The Dixie song played by Joseph Ashley's green Jeep could be heard whenever he drove it through his neighborhood.

The song came from the car's horn, patterned after his favorite 1980s television show, The Dukes of Hazzard.

"We always knew where he was in Manchester,'' said his father, Dan Ashley.

But since 2001, when Joseph Ashley joined the Navy, those noises have seldom been heard.
A few months ago, Dan Ashley blew the horn to see if it still worked, and people started calling to ask if his son was home.

Joseph Ashley will be flown home this week, but he will be escorted by four to six of his crew members.

The 24-year-old Navy man died Sunday after a submarine accident. The family was told Friday their son hit his head on a pump when the nuclear submarine he was stationed on ran aground about 350 miles from its home port in Guam.

The Navy was preparing to fly Vicki and Dan Ashley to their son's bedside. They knew the injury was serious, but their son was holding on.

On television Friday night, the parents watched and sympathized with the families of six soldiers who were killed in a car bombing in Iraq.

"I said those families would love to be in our position, because at least our son is alive,'' Dan Ashley said.

They went to bed unsettled, but relieved.

Vicki Ashley tossed and turned so much that night she moved to the couch in the living room to try to rest.

"I couldn't sleep, but when I saw a flash of lights from a car pulling into the driveway about 2 a.m., I knew my Joey was gone,'' she said. ``I looked out the window and saw two men dressed in uniform. I ran to tell my husband.''

The men confirmed her fears.

"I nodded to them to go ahead. I already knew what they had to say,'' said Dan Ashley, a former Navy man himself. They stood at attention and announced Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Ashley's death.

It was then the parents learned their son died while medics prepared him for transport to a military hospital. He had never regained consciousness from the accident. The Navy has launched an investigation into the accident, in which 19 other sailors were injured.

His parents will now fly to Guam for a memorial service with his shipmates and commanders. A second memorial service will be held in Canal Fulton, when their son is brought home.

Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Ashley was about 5 feet 11 inches tall with blond hair, blue eyes and a big smile.

"When he had his heart set on something, he would try his best to get it done,'' said his mother. "I always told him to do what he wanted to do in life, but to be the best at it and to always try his hardest.''

He attended Stark State College of Technology for a year and took welding classes, but he couldn't find a welding job after he got certified.

One day he came home and shared his future plans.

"He said, `Mom I passed the Navy test; I'm going to do what daddy did. He always excelled in what he did.' ''

He made rank in minimal time and was named Junior Sailor of the Year for the entire Guam naval base.

"He loved the Navy, and he loved his country. He just signed up for another four years. He said he was young and wanted to make a career out of it,'' she said. He had just completed the fourth year of his original 5-year enlistment.

His father spent eight years in the Navy.

His grandfather, also named Joseph, was in the U.S. Army during World War II. Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Ashley and his grandfather talked often because he was also stationed in the South Pacific during his time in the service.

Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Ashley wasn't afraid to share his feelings with his family. He called at least once a month to share what he was doing and to find out what other families were doing. There was never a time he called that he didn't tell family members how much he loved them.
The family last talked to him on Jan 3. He was excited about coming home in March -- his first visit home in 18 months.

His father had just recently made airplane reservations.

The green Jeep Wrangler was waiting for the young sailor, who graduated from Manchester High School in 1999 and played the drums in the high school band. He played freshman football, then joined the band in his sophomore year.

Family members said he was always happy, wearing a big smile and beating his drums while marching in the band.

His older brother, Dan Jr., also a Dukes of Hazzard fan, sawthe show's impact on his brother.
"He always thought of himself as a good ol' Southern country boy wearing his cowboy hat, a red and black checkered shirt with steel-toed black boots.''

Dan Jr. said his brother sported a Confederate flag and the word ``redneck'' on his Jeep, not because he was a rebel, but because he loved the good ol' boy brothers and their driving tactics on the television show.

"He liked to stand out in a crowd,'' said his younger brother, Benjamin. ``Dan and I are the quiet ones. Joseph would be more likely to do the talking for us both.''

He will be buried at Fox Cemetery near Spencer, W. Va., where the family owns 35 acres and a cabin, a place where he spent many good times.

Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Ashley will be buried next to his great grandfather and namesake, Joseph Ashley, also a veteran.

You can see the cemetery from the crest of the hill of the cabin's property, family members say. They remember the last time their Navy son and brother was on leave.

"One of our last memories is of Joey parked in his Jeep at the crest of the hill playing that Dixie song,'' Dan Ashley said. Family members heard him say: ``Hallelujah, I'm home.''

So family members know what they must now do.

"We will play that horn one more time in his memory at his burial.''

Monday, January 10, 2005

Early Reports....

Based on some e-mails from third-party family members of crewmembers, the story is shaping up something like this:

High speed submerged transit (30 knots, 500 feet depth), the ship ran into an uncharted sea mount. Front of boat crushed inward (accordian fashion) but pressure hull did not rupture. The rapid deceleration threw all onboard violently forward (just like passengers in a car would be tossed forward in a head-on collision) injuring many.

Damaged equipment threatened the ability of the boat to get to and stay afloat on the surface, but heroic actions by well-trained crewmembers allowed them to save the ship.

It will be interesting to see if the story remains like this as facts are developed; of course, there is still the question of how much official information will be made public.

Message from a USS San Francisco Crewmember

Post number 955 on this page:

Posted by Dean Adams ET2(SS) USS San Francisco SSN-711 on Mon - Jan 10 - 11:52am:

First off I would like to thank everyone who has offered prayers for us over these past few days. It really means alot to the crew to know that the sub force cares about us.

Second, I know it's human nature to speculate but I have read the previous posts and they are way off.

Third, CDR. Mooney is a Capt in the finest sense of the word. No matter what happens, He is MY Captain!

Fourth, Rest in Peace shipmate to my fallen comrade Cooter. It's hard to type this as I am tearing up just thinking about his passing.

Lastly, I have just been able to go topside to see the extent of the damage and if not for the finest Captain and best crew in the sub force, She would not have brought us home.

HOOOYAH San Francisco!!

Message From MM2(SS) Ashley's LCPO

Click here to read a tribute to the lost shipmate written by his Leading Chief upon San Francisco's return to port. Moving.

Recovering from the shock...

OK, I'm settling down here from the shock of tragedy aboard San Francisco, and the typical nuke inquisitiveness is taking over. How could such a thing as this happen? Underwater sea mount? Aren't those waters pretty well charted now that we're deep into the satelite age and 21st century?

I know, investigations, courts of inquiry, etc. will determine all that. I hope they don't keep it too secret too long.

I always knew throughout my 20 career in the sub force that it was dangerous business. But I can not remember anything of this magnitude (nearly a fifth of the crew - 24 - injured) during my service. Some shaky times farting around with soviet boats, the major hydraulic leak in the engine room that filled the air with hydraulic fog, the flooding that turned out to be water that was already in the people tank, not from the sea-- all dangerous moments, but now seems as nothing by comparison with what the crew of the San Francisco must have experienced - in peace time, while heading for a great liberty port!

I guess this is emotion talking. For a bit more level-headed assessment in progress, take a look at the bubblehead blog.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


Its now been nearly 2 days since the news broke about USS San Francisco's grounding, and just hours since the news that the critically injured shipmate died. The early reports indicate that there are 23 other sailors injured with broken bones and lacerations.

As a retired submariner, this news lays heavy on my heart. I have no idea who the injured and dead are, but on the other hand, it seems as if they are all my dear friends because of the tight brotherhood of bubbleheads.

I'm so anxious to learn more of this disaster, but there is little news yet except that the reactor is running and the ship headed for home. Hear are some links to the news stories (though all say pretty much the same thing):

The Star Online Swiss Info CNN China View Turkish Press