USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA

The K-Gun Incident

By Roger E. Ekman Capt. U.S.N. Ret.


LTJG Roger Ekman ca 1953

Roger Ekman Capt. USN Ret

(Mr. Ekman was Gunnery Officer of Whitehurst at the time of the incident. mc)


It was early November 1952 when a message arrived directing USS Whitehurst to join other vessels and escort a task force of ships. These ships were returning from the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests. Upon joining the group, USS Whitehurst went into condition III with all ammo ready boxes filled, armed hedge hogs mounted on the spigots, pistols inserted in the depth charges, and K-guns loaded and primed.
The escort proved uneventful, and all the ships arrived safely in San Francisco Bay. Some moored at San Francisco and others, including Whitehurst, moored at the Naval Air Station, Alameda, Oakland.

Prior to mooring, all ammo was struck below. The ship was made fast, and the cold iron watch set. At this time many of the crew went on annual leave. After about two weeks, the ship was ready for its return to Pearl Harbor. Stores were loaded, fresh water and fuel tanks were topped off, and mail bags taken onboard for delivery to the postal station in Pearl.

USS Whitehurst was moored, starboard side to. Across the pier was a Presidential class transport which, at the time, was one of the largest transports in service. At 0900 the transport cleared the pier and put to sea. Later that same morning, routine activities continued on Whitehurst which included securing the depth charges for sea and cleaning the K-guns. It was at this time that GM striker, Max Crow, removed the bonnet of number 1 K-gun and pulled the lanyard.

KABOOM! Someone had neglected to unload the firing charge. The teardrop shaped depth charge, the arbor, and the securing chain flew threw the air. Everything from the K-gun went across the pier and thru the air space that only an hour earlier was occupied by a transport. One prank was heard to remark: "So that's what it looks like to fire a depth charge."

The explosion of the K-gun spewed soot and gas all over the area. Max took the brunt of most of it and was a mess! Without batting an eye, Max immediately went to the after showers to clean himself. (To this day, shipmates still wonder if he only took a shower to clean off the soot, or was there also some brown stuff??) After this, Max immediately put on his dress blues so he would be ready for his court-martial.

Incidentally, the depth charge had been armed to explode at a depth of 50 feet. The charge landed in 43 feet of water. UDT gingerly removed the charge and returned it to the ship.

Well Max was not court-martialed but others were not so lucky. So the next time you see Max Crow, ask him if he is still pulling lanyards.

This picture of a K-Gun was published in the Tin Can Sailors News July 2000.



Max Crow ca 1953

Meet Roger Ekman                                                 Meet Max Crow

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