March 21, 2017

FN Daly

The USS Mahan gets a cruise extension

We had just finished our last port of call in Barcelona, Spain. We had just spent about 5 months in the Persian Gulf and were steaming home. The announcement comes over the 1MC that we've been diverted to participate in Operation Teamwork '92. We're heading to the Arctic circle to participate in some NATO wargames - a show of force against a Soviet fleet that couldn't afford to feed it's soldiers in port, much less underway.

The chain of command had decided to not tell us about the change in orders until we had left Barcelona. The scuttlebutt was that they were afraid that some of us would go UA (the Navy version of AWOL) and fly back to the states instead of extending our trip for another 10 days. Ten days were a lot. Some of us had become fathers during that time... others just wanted to get back to wives and girlfriends. I just wanted to get off of the fuckin boat.

The seas in the North Atlantic were pretty rough, even for early March in 1992. It was bitterly cold, but we still had to muster for unreps (underway replenishment) to bring on fuel. We didn't bother with anything else, since nothing else was worth risking our lives for. But diesel man... we had to have diesel to make the steam to run the boat.

I'd been off of mess cranking for a few weeks by this time, so I was back in rotation up in the radar room. Actually, since I was one of the few people onboard that truly didn't get seasick, I was in the radar room permanently during the worst of the storm. All hands were ordered to say in the racks, tied down so that they wouldn't fall out when we took a big wave at the wrong angle. Literally tied into their racks.

Up in the radar room, we had a really expensive spectrum analyzer go ass over teakettle. It looked really bad, but it turned out to be mostly cosmetic. I'm glad that we didn't have to explain to the Weapons Officer that we'd lost a piece of gear worth 75k just because we hadn't secured it correctly.

After a time, we started heading back, out of the storm. The seas were calmer, and everyone was back doing their regular rotations. I had the 2000 to 0800 shift in the radar room (being the junior man and everything...) I had just gotten off of my shift when General Quarters sounded. I ran up to my post at the radar console in lower CIC, waiting to find out what happened.

Explosion in the #1 Fire Room

What had happened was that a high pressure steam pipe had ruptured while one of our shipmates was directly in front of it. We didn't know who he was at the time, just that they were scrambling a helo from the carrier to get him off of our ship and into whatever Scandinavian burn center was the closest. After the medevac departs and we stand down from GQ, we start to learn what happened. It was FN Daly, a young black kid, a Fireman (FN) assigned to the fire room, who had been so unlucky that morning. The high temperature and high pressure burned away his uniform and the top layer of his skin. He was pink, or so the rumors went. They got him to the best hospital that they could find, a great hospital, really. A few days later he was transferred to the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. It was the best treatment in the world for this kind of injury. But in the end, FN Daly didn't make it.

Daly had been mess cranking for a long three months. That's how I knew him. We cranked together. We got along well enough. The day before he died, I was hustling around trying to get something VERY IMPORTANT taken care of. It was his first say back in the boiler room, first day out of the mess decks. He needed some tape and couldn't find any, so he asked me for some. I was too busy, in a rush. Always in a rush. We were under the ladder that led up to my radar room. I told him to go up to the door and knock. When FC2 Proper answered, ask him for some tape... tell him that Fix sent him. He got the tape, and Proper was pissed... well, pissy, at least. Daly's accident happened the next day. To this day I'm grateful that I helped him to find some tape, that I didn't blow him off. I bet that Proper is pretty grateful too.

We knew when we got back to Charleston that there would be an investigation. The CO informed us of this. A tiger team was formed, and I was on it, of course. All of the E4's in Fox division were, to my knowledge. We went down into the engine room and painted. And painted. We literally white-washed the entire space. Days and days of painting over rust and dirt and whatever wasn't already white.

The first rule of naval painting is that you have to get rid of all of the rust. If you paint over rust, the rust continues to eat the steel from the inside. But there was too much rust. In the angle irons, we'd chip all the way through... it was just rust, being held together by some magic combination of iron paste and water. So we stopped the remediation and started slapping on coats of paint. Whatever we could do to show the inspectors that the ship was in tip top shape. Must have been a freak accident or something.....

The above is the version of what happened that's been floating around in my head for the last 25ish years. I don't even remember Daly's first name - I'm not sure if I ever knew it. If I had to guess, I would say that it might have been Frank. The problem is that I can't find anything about it on the internet. There's a new USS Mahan that had a different tragedy a few years back... a deranged civilian grabbed a weapon from a watchstander and started firing, killing one sailor before being shot and killed himself. Anyway - Daly was the only person that I served with who died in the line of duty.

A couple of weeks ago, I got some of the actual facts about what happened from some old shipmates on our Facebook page:

  • "FN Daly, happened in EBO1 #1 fire room, soot blower line exploded."
  • "The results of the investigation determined that is was replaced years before by the shipyard (Don't recall if it was Chasn Shipyard, or Metro Machine). The pipe had been Ultrasound tested, and records showed it passed the NDT, however, it was subsequently determined that the line should have been 1/2" larger (don't recall the pipe size), but the minimum tube wall thickness for the larger pipe would have failed the NDT, and consequently, had the right diameter pipe been in the system, likely the testing would have identified the problem and caused the pipe to be replaced."
  • "Yea, we had to steam all the way back from NA on one fire room."
  • "I was in the personnel office and it sounded like a bomb went off. Poor kid!"
  • "There were 5 of us standing in the same spot not 3 mins before it happened. I got called back to 2 fire, by the time I reached upper vestibule, GQ was sounded. I was #1 nozzleman when BT 1 pulled Daly out slung over his shoulder. Could not recognize it was a person he pulled out. Still have nightmares of this."
  • "I believe it was Daly. A steam pipe burst while he was under it? He was from Georgia, poor guy. I helped load his stretcher in the helo."

If you've stumbled across this page, and you knew Daly, feel free to contact me on facebook or send me an email. This page isn't a memorial to him, per se, but there needs to be some notice of his passing.

USS Mahan facebook group

Tags: Navy My Stories