USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA
 

This story has been reconstructed from memory by the following veterans. Rod Storz, Bill Chung, Roger Ekman, Russell Thomas, Phillip Chantz, Robert Carter, Henry Bohm, and Max Crow of the Whitehurst crew with help from Jerry Talbert, Randolph Bruner, and Richard "Rick" Farris of the Bugara.  Rick provided the Bugara photos.

12 January 2005, Richard Farris embarked on his final voyage.  Although he was known as "Rick" to his shipmates, in later years he was more often called "Dick".  His assistance on this article is greatly appreciated.  The story wouldn't be complete without it.  mc. 

Input from other Bugara crewmen is welcome.
Please write the site author
crowmax@aol.com

 

The Bugara Incident

USS Bugara SS-331

 
Original Specifications: Displacement 1526 tons (surface), 2391 tons (subm.), Length 311'8" Beam . 27', Draft 16'10" mean, Speed 20.25 Knots (surface), 8.75 Knots (subm.) Armament 1 3"/50 gun and 6 21" torpedoes forward, 4 21" torpedoes aft. Complement 6 officers and 60 enlisted men, Class Balao
 

Collision!

The year was 1952. The USS Bugara SS-331 and the USS Greenfish SS-351, were participating in Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) training exercises in the waters not far from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The USS Whitehurst DE-634 and USS Silverstein DE-534 left Pearl Harbor early in the morning and quickly "acquired" the submarines. During this day's exercises, Whitehurst was escorting and protecting the Silverstein which also served as observer of the operations. It was Whitehurst's job to keep the submarines from carrying out a successful attack on Silverstein.

The weather was clear and bright, with light seas and very little breeze. The Sonarmen, Radarmen, Radiomen, Operations Officers, Engine Room, Pilot House, and Boiler room crews had been at General Quarters several hours when the incident occurred.

The Combat Information Center (CIC) was manned by Operations Officer, LTJG Mel Cook, CIC Officer Ens Roger Ekman, Radarman 3/c Rod Storz, and Sonarman 3/c Bill Chung on the Sonar repeater. SO 3/c Phillip Chantz was in the Sonar Shack manning the tracking gear. EM2 Russell Thomas was on the throttles in the after Engine Room. LCDR Marvin D. Jones, Commanding Officer, was on the Bridge. Addison "Mississip" Harris was a bridge lookout. Sonarman Charles Robb was serving as observer aboard the Bugara.

By mid afternoon the intensity of the exercises had taxed everyone. Whitehurst would make a run on one sub and then the other, while trying to keep both subs too off balance to complete a successful torpedo attack. There was noisy underwater turbulence from the activity, making it very difficult to locate either sub on the sonar repeater.

When the last run prior to the collision was complete, CIC Officer Ekman left for a much needed break. Bill Chung could no longer find the second sub on the CIC repeater. Captain Jones decided to double back on Bugara (he knew where it was) while sonar searched for the other.

Memories of Henry V Bohm who was an LTJG at the time.
I believe the collision took place in late summer/early fall 1952, not 1953 as one of the accounts states. I'm sure because I was JOOD under John Soltes on the bridge when it happened, and I qualified as OOD underway before the end of 1952. As I remember it, the collision occurred because the skipper was a superb ASW commander. We were in a (new, untried or rarely tried at the time, I believe) training exercise of two SSs vs one DE because we had such a good record in the many exercises preceding this one. The two SSs crossed under each other at an acute angle - with the shallow one going very slowly to minimize noise, and the deep one at higher speed - in an effort to have us follow the deeper one out of the crossing so that the shallow SS could come to periscope depth and take a shot at us. M.D.Jones at the conn saw through the maneuver and stayed with the shallow sub to prevent his attack. That's why there was no formal inquiry or formal blame placing. It was not a common exercise. HVB

note: Roger Ekman recalls that Lt. Cook left the ship in late 1952. I have changed the first sentence of this story to read. "The year was 1952"  mc/webmaster 10 Mar. 2009

(Charles Robb related the following to Bill Chung.) After the attack just prior to the collision, an officer aboard Bugara, gave the command to bring the sub to periscope depth. Robb heard the sub's Sonarman tell the officer that Whitehurst had shifted to short scale. (indicating final phase before dropping depth charges) We do not know if the officer didn't hear the sonar man's warning or if perhaps he thought the short scale indicated an attack on the other submarine. What ever the case the periscope provided a very brief view of bow number 634 bearing down upon him at about 15 knots. Robb and several others were knocked off their feet. He thought, "It is rough coming to periscope depth!"

On the Whitehurst, lookout Harris Shouted "submarine ahead!" Captain Jones said "Where away?" about the same time a jarring thump shook the ship from stem to stern. Harris replied in his Deep South accent, "Too late. You done hit 'em!"

The impact rolled the submarine violently. The Whitehurst keel scraped its entire length across the sub, wiping out the sonar dome and damaging propellers.

EM2 Russell Thomas on the after engine room throttles, had been responding to commands from the Engine Order Telegraph faster than he could keep them logged, felt the ship crash across Bugara's conning tower. His first thought was, "my ass is grass", meaning he would be in hot water when the logs were needed in an investigation. He was greatly relieved upon learning the responsibility lay with the sub commander.

RD3 Rod Storz, senior rated man in CIC then says, "In the excitement of the moment, I grabbed the radio telephone and reported to Silverstein, that we were involved in an underwater collision. Later, I got a good chewing for an unauthorized transmission, but no formal reprimand."

Operations Officer, LTJG Mel Cook, rushed to the Radio Shack and put out an alert message to Rescue Pearl. He was criticized for this but later the criticism was retracted and Captain Jones recognized that he'd done the right thing.

After the collision, Whitehurst stopped all engines and as she lay "dead in the water", Quartermaster 3/c Robert Carter, who was the helmsman, walked away from the wheel long enough to see the damaged conning tower break thru as the sub surfaced.

From topside on the DE many sailors were surprised to see the Bugara surfacing at a steep angle very near us. The periscope and top part of the conning tower were mangled. Both ships immediately headed for their berths in Pearl Harbor.

There were no investigations or charges involving the Whitehurst. There were no physical casualties among the crews of either vessel. Both ships required considerable repair. The Sub's damage seemed to be confined to the Conning Tower and periscopes. Whitehurst spent several days in dry-dock where the sonar dome was replaced and propeller damage was repaired. There were rumors that the Captain of the sub lost his command.

Collision as observed by, Bugara Veteran, Jerry Talbert
from his station in the Submarine's Control Room

The following story received 19 July 2008 mc

 


Jerry Talbert ca 1953


Jerry Talbert, Just off Patrol


A regular Submariner

I was a Seaman 1st stationed at the stern planes which controlled the
angle of the boat and kept it level from bow to stern . There was a large
depth gauge in front of me and a level gauge .
Just as we came to periscope depth we were hit by the Whitehurst on our
port side . The boat rolled over with the crash . Guys in the after
torpedo room later said they walked across the bottom of the bunks to
close the watertight doors while the collision alarm was sounding . The bunks
were folded up 90 degrees when not in use , to give you an idea of how
much we rolled over . I had the stern planes wheel to hold on to and
everyone else in the control room was holding on to what they were close
to . We were at periscope depth or about 60 feet and started going down .
The diving officer was young and new, and he froze . We had an old Chief
Petty Officer who had been in WW-2 on submarines who started barking
orders to blow all tanks and to pump the trim tanks dry . We went down to
about 350 feet before starting back up . Test depth was 412 feet as I
recall .
Water started spraying in to my left and over my head and sparks were
flying . I took my shirt off and threw it to the auxiliaryman next to me
who was opening and closing valves to blow and pump tanks dry. I had a
bench to stand on to stay out of the water . I was sure the guys in the
conning tower , above the control room , were gone . Turned out it was
only radar cable packing glands leaking .
All during the incident the only talking was the Chief giving orders and
everyone in the control room was as cool as a cucumber until we were back
to the surface . But then I didn't see anyone that could hold a cup of
coffee our hands were shaking so much .
I can not remember the name of the chief that took over and gave the
orders , but will always know he saved all of us that day . He should
have gotten a medal for that .
Anyway , thought you may be interested in what happened in the control
room that day.
I stayed on the Bugara from 1951 until 1955 and was discharged as an EM-2
.
Jerry Talbert

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Collision as observed by, Bugara Veteran, Randolph Bruner

I was a crew member on the USS Bugara SS-331. We were on an ASW with USS Whitehurst DD. At that time, I was an auxiliary electrician and had just taken readings on the pilot cells in the after battery. I had just made it into the crew's mess and headed back to the control room when the collision alarm sounded and the water tight doors were shut.  We were in a collision and were heading down fast. Jerry Talbert told me that he was on the stern planes. He had lost his bubble.  While in the crew's mess, I heard a shipmate utter,  "I'm getting out of here!" He made a mad dash for the after battery ladder. We pounced on him with a toe hold, ankle hold, leg hold, and body clamps. Even if he had arms like Popeye, he wouldn't have been able to open the hatch. 44.4 applies here.  Everybody in my compartment was very quiet.  We headed for the Deep Six.  Sharp submariners like Jerry Talbert were able to control the boat. We finally surfaced.  This was one day that "The Creator" was looking out for all of us, and we never met Davy Jones.  Many years later I thanked him. This is wisdom.   

I think of the other boats that were lost: the USS Thresher, the Kursk, and the USS Stickleback. I was then  headed for the Philadelphia Navy Yard to pick up the Stickleback.  She was later lost in a collision off Pearl Harbor.  By luck, though, I had been diverted to the USS Menhaden SS-377 from Treasure Island to Mare Island, a good boat.

Randolph Bruner EM3(SS

 
Randolph Bruner and friend
 
 Randolph Bruner aboard Bugara                              Civilian Randolph Bruner                                                                                                                 

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Richard Farris Remembers

I was onboard, alone on 'motor room' watch when the Bugara Incident occurred. When we were hit there was a loud, ongoing crashing sound, as the DE, Whitehurst passed over. A few very anxious minutes then ensued. The impact caused the boat to roll severely, take a steep down angle, and plunge deeper - giving every indication a forward compartment had flooded and we were headed for the bottom, 9600 feet below. Even the old, salty, WW 2 vets on board were highly impressed!! Finally, 'control' stopped the downward movement, and we eventually surfaced without difficulty. Damage was fairly serious. The small 'pump room' flooded, both scopes required replacement, the upper half of the sail and shears needed extensive repairs, etc. We were in the yard several weeks, and the cost was, I'm sure, substantial.
The photograph of Bugara underway pictures extensive modernization - which eliminated the deck gun, and added a snorkel and a sail over the shears. Also, the Bugara Captain did not lose his command over this incident, because he was 'properly adhering to accepted naval strategy', but he was court martialed, and relieved of his command, several months later, when we ran aground on a coral reef while laying mines.

In Oct, 1970, while being towed near Cape Flattery, Washington, the Bugara was swamped and accidentally sank.

View of damage from port side. The undamaged periscope was not raised at time of the collision.

Bugara damage as seen from the Bow

USS Greenfish, second sub in the exercise

Torpedo Data Computer (TDC) on Greenfish. Used for plotting attacks and computing appropriate torpedo settings. A closely guarded secret until well after WWII. It is located port side of conning tower.

Empty torpedo (or mine) rack at lower left. Lines up with the tube so the stored torpedo or mine can be hoisted directly into the tube. Both torpedo rooms also serve as crew quarters. Crewmen's bunks are also shown.

Torpedo Tube. The inner door in the foreground opens for loading torpedoes or mines. This shot could be starboard side in Forward Torpedo Room which contains six tubes, or port side in the After Torpedo Room which has four tubes.

Bow plane control wheel, right, and stern plane control wheel and various gauges for reading "plane angle", "boat angle", "boat depth" when submerged. These are used for "flying" the bow and stern through the water. A fleet type boat cannot hover for long. It must be moving to maintain the desired angle and depth.
This is located in the Control Room, port side.


The following newspaper article was preserved by Phil Chantz. It carries no date, byline, or name of the paper from which it was clipped.

Destroyer Escort Runs Over Sub; No One Injured

A destroyer escort ran over a submarine south of Barber's Point yesterday but nobody got hurt.
**********
The accident occurred about 3:30 p.m. in the local navy exercise area while two submarines were practicing how to track down a target. However, somebody got mixed up and the target, USS Whitehurst, ran smack dab over the Bugara, a submarine.
*********
Nobody was injured but the periscopes on the submarine got bent out of shape and some of the superstructure was torn loose. The keel and bow of the DE were slightly damaged. Both ships returned to Pearl Harbor under their own power.

 
In 1971 The Whitehurst was sunk by the USS Trigger with first "war shot" of the new Mark 48 Torpedo.  That story is posted at the following link.
Last Hours Hours of Whitehurst   RJ Hansen, one of the Trigger Crewmen who contributed the story, has found that there was another Whitehurst connection to Bugara.  Read the e-note posted below.
 
Ed & Max:
 
I hope this finds you doing well.
 
Last month I attended the Squadron 11 Submarine Birthday Ball down in San Diego.  An impressive affair with over 700 sub sailors, wife's and girlfriends.  It was a formal dress affair.  I decided to wear my mess dress uniform.  so, I spent the bucks to get a new white mess dress jacket due to the "Closet Shrinkage" (wool/polyester shrinks over time if keep in a closet).  I recalled from the past that the change over from blues to whites in San Diego was usually at Easter, so I "thought" it would be "whites"....wrong.  As my wife and I were having a drink at the hotel lobby bar, I keep seeing others arriving carrying their "mess blue" jacket.  Ah shit, the only guy in whites.  However, I was saved by one boat's wardroom.  They had just got in from Pearl from a deployment and did not have time to get their blues together, so they were "granted" permission to wear mess dress whites.  So, I was not alone....
 
At my table was a Sub Vet who was a Storekeeper on the Bugara (SS 331) from 66 thru 70 out of San Diego.  I also recalled that one of our shipmates had served on the "Bug" before Trigger.  As we talked, we discovered that the "Bug" was the fleet boat that we were suppose to sink with the last  48 war shot, but the weather was to rough to make the shot.  She then sunk by her self while being towed back in.  Was flooding by the stern and when they slowed to take in some tow line to enter the straits, she slipped under by the stern and they had to cut the tow line.
 
We were already in port at Bangor and 3/4 of the crew were up on base at the party being hosted by the two torpedo companies ( I had the duty).  I recall a flash message came in for the CO, stating the sub had sunk and wanting Trigger to get underway immediately to try to locate it as it may be a hazard to navigation.  The CO came back from the party and we learned from the OD that the CO basically told command to pound sand as his crew indisposed due to the party (and mostly drunk) and suggested that they dispatch some skimmers destroyers to go find her for ASW practice.  which they did and found her floating at neutral buoyancy about 400 feet.  They then sunk her using ASW weapons.  
 
I knew the name of the boat back then, but, forgot it over the years.  I also met a sub vet years ago who was on her before decommissioning.  He said that they slammed bottom stern first on a shallow water dive and that it tweaked on of the shaft and damaged the packing.  Since she was so old, they decided to decommission her rather than pay to repair her.  That was probably the reason for her sinking by the stern.
 
But, here is the trivia  -
 
I looked her up on line and www.wikipedia.org stated only that after decommissioning in 1970, "While under tow near Cape Flattery, WA, Bugara swamped and sank accidentally.  At www.bugara.net/history  on 1 Jun 1971 that she sank in a towing accident 4 mile off Cape Flattery.  She was being "towed to Washington for use as a target for a new weapon".  It then describes how she sunk by the stern and the crew had to cut the tow lines.  There is also a copy of a newspaper article about and some AP news quotes.   A reserve destroyer, the USS Uhlman, found her. 
 
However, according to the ships web site history in 1953, the Bugara was run over by a destroyer at periscope depth while on exercises near Pearl Harbor.  Guess which destroyer....yep....the USS Whitehurst  DE 634!!!!  There are pictures showing both the Whitehurst and the Bug's mangled sail.
 
Small world...
 
Take care and enjoy the summer,
 
R.J. Hansen  

And yet another Trigger Vet has verified the co-incidence in an e-note June 22, 2012.  mc

...Last but not least in the Its a small world category, I belong to the Appleton Wisconsin Sub Vets chapter and recently we had a new member who has been stationed on the USS Bugara SS331. He was telling us that he had heard that after the Bugara was decommissioned it was to be used as a target for some test, but sank while under tow. I asked him when this took place and he said some time in the spring of 1971 up around Seattle in the Strait of Juan De Fuca. He thought it was probably a BS story, I told him I bet the Bugara was the boat that was to be our 4th test shot but sank while under tow.  Bob Heintz ETC SS Retired.


 

 

Bugara Site
 

The Bug Dollar

Sunday a.m. 26 October 2008, I received and interesting e-note with a picture of
a dollar bill signed in 1952 by several Bugara sailors.  Did you sign it?  Perhaps you were the owner.  See the picture and how to claim it at the the link:
Bug Dollar

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