back to incidentsCollision startDale photos

Accounts posted on this page are personal recollections of the sender and may differ from
official Court Martial records

Mack A Sigman
USS America

Hello, I just ran across your web site and while I wasn’t on either ship, I was on the USS AMERICA (CV-66) and was on watch in Surface Plot when the collision occurred. My day job, I was the Repair Officer on AMERICA so I was the LT that led the three man team that was helo’d over to AMBUSCADE (sorry about blowing that guy overboard) to assess the damage, help with shoring up the bulkhead, stabilize what was left of the bow and such. I was also the guy that led all the repairs efforts on DALE. Fun times

Frank Demmers, Jr.

I was a young 3rd Class Machinist's Mate working in the aft engine room when the collision happened.  I had just come out of the engine room entrance and into the fore/aft passageway when the collision alarm went off.  We all braced for the collision, then went to general quarters.  I remember the USS AMERICA sent a piece of sheet metal over by helo and Hull Technicians welded it over the gash in the ship's hull (above the waterline, thankfully!).  Once back in the US, we went into Jacksonville Shipyards and had repairs completed.  One of the most memorable events of our deployment!

Gary Gagnon
Technician third class (DS3)
USS Dale '82 to '86

Hey Shipmates. Hi, my name is Gary Gagnon , born on Long Island New York and now hail from Maryland USA. I once was stationed in Mayport Florida homeport of the Lean Mean USS CG -19. I served aboard the USS Dale from 1982 until 1986 and I was aboard her on 27 April 1983.

It was on a beautiful calm glass sea morning in the middle of the Indian Ocean and I was a fresh boot Data System Technician third class (DS3). I was just twenty three and on my first ship assignment. I was manning my station. The Data Systems shack, which housed the main computer room of the ship, it was located on the 02 level starboard of the mid ship break. Well all of us, the DS technicians are in our space when we heard an alarm. For a second being a boot. I did not understand the significance of the collision alarm! As a small group of us opened the hatch onto the mid ship break to get a peek. Well I got maybe, one or two steps out, but it was enough. I caught a glimpse of the AMBUSCADE Bridge, not 100 yards away! Man it seemed close, believe me, and on the port side coming straight for mid ship! (Be funny if someone on the bridge remembered seeing a small group of sailors peaking out the DS shack mid ship break that day). I was the third or fourth guy in back in of that line that was trampled as we rushed back inside, Raced to the starboard side and braced for collision. We all were yelling we’re going to get hit we’re gonna get hit. Books fell off the shelves and we bounced around a little as we collided. Thank god it was nothing like the scenarios that were running in my mind at the time. We feared the worst for a moment, since the last time we saw the AMBUSCADE it was heading straight at mid ship! However the skills of our Captains (Crash La Rue) and helmsmen saved the day, no one was hurt and they avoided a potentially deadly collision.   This all happened on an extremely beautiful day in the middle of the Indian ocean during Leap frog exercises. We heard it was due to a steering problem your ship encountered and she could not complete her maneuver? Well that’s my story. I’m fifty one now and look back on those NAVY days as some of the best and most memorable. I remember one of my shipmates an Electronics tech that was a fanatical Heavy metal fan, found a piece of your ship on the fantail. The collision has molded it into the shape of a corn chip. My friend kept it. He used it for a number of years as a door stop and it became his piece of “British Steel”.  He offered it to me once, but it was quite heavy and I declined. I regret that now as I write this because we have come a long way and the world just got a little smaller for me…Cheers and FB..Peek a boo I see all you X DALE shipmates on here….Ahoy…ya all

Click on Dale Damage link to see my photographs of the incident.

Chris Varner
USS Dale '82 to '84

I was onboard the USS Dale when we collided with the HMS Ambuscade! It was early morning just after breakfast, and I was on duty as the Electronics Technicians Comm Branch supervisor in the division office. I was sitting in my chair which had wheels, reading a magazine I believe as I was waiting for the rest of the gang to show up for our morning meeting. Suddenly the entire ship shifted sideways about four feet, and I rolled across the floor of the office compartment and slammed into the bulkhead on the other side. "What in the Hell was that!!!" I remember yelling, with a little bit of fear. I think I might have banged myself against something, but in general wasn't hurt at all. It didn't take me too long to run outside the compartment and up the ladder to the deck, along with nearly everybody else down below who were also running topside to see what was going on.

I remember seeing the Ambuscade just pulling away from the Dale, with that huge gaping gash in the bow. Wow, what a sight! I also saw the damage that the collision had done to the Dale, with several bollocks knocked loose from the fantail and big scrapes where the Ambuscade had "tried to take a bite out of" the Dale. I believe the Ambuscade took much more damage than the Dale did in this encounter!

I had heard when talking later with those on duty in the wheelhouse, that what had likely happened during what I was told were "tick-tack" maneuvers that both the Dale and the Ambuscade were taking part in, was that the Ambuscade suddenly lost power and was drifting towards the Dale. The Ensign on the Dale who was had control of the steering tried to maneuver away from the Ambuscade which was drifting toward the Dale. But instead of turning to port which would have caused the fantail of the Dale to move away from the Ambuscade, he turned the ship towards the starboard, which would have been appropriate maneuver if he were driving a car, but since a ship steers from the aft instead of the bow, this maneuver caused the fantail of the Dale to smash directly into the Ambuscade.

I heard that no one was hurt seriously on either the Ambuscade or the Dale. That was quite a relief. On the Dale, I know of several machinist's mates that got knocked out of their racks which were very close to the collision site and they were asleep after being on duty the previous night. I'm sure they all remember that morning well!

After the collision, the USS Dale sailed to Diego Garcia for about a week while repairs were made. I remember that being a nice break for most of the ship's company from the Indian Ocean maneuvers we were doing before then.


QM2 (SW) Jared Harvey

As a Quartermaster (Navigation), I was on the bridge (though not on watch) during the collision incident. If I remember correctly, we were doing NATO signal flag maneuvers when the HMS Ambuscade came up our port side very fast as if to take the lead in our single line formation. She then went hard port in a tight circle as if to take up a position on our stern (I remember watching her and wondering what her intention was because her actions seemed somewhat odd) when she appeared to either loose steerage or made a very bad maneuvering decision. Anyway, I ran to the port bridge wing and noticed that she was still moving fairly fast and was surprised at how close she was. (I remember hearing her gas turbines wining loudly ¦reversing screws) ?

I ran back into the bridge and the OOD yelled a helm order (cannot remember what it was) and told the bridge crew to sound the collision alarm. I grabbed the 1MC near the Captains chair and started saying "Collision alarm, collision alarm", all hands brace for collision port side -this is not a drill, this is not a drill!! On my second repeat I realized that the collision alarm had already been sounding and thus killed my 1MC announcements. At the moment the Captain came bursting onto the bridge and yelled an order and took the con. At the same time I felt a slight shutter at impact on the port side. All hell broke loose and I believe that we went to GQ, primarily for damage control reasons. I looked out on the bridge wing again (GQ station was the bridge) and was shocked by the deep bow imprint on the HMS Ambuscade as she drifted away from us slowly. I quickly started wondering about our own damage. First reports from DC central were of some smoke in some engineering spaces and the loss of our stern capstan and other deck equipment, a fuel leak as well as some minor damage to the hull in the area. Overall, I was surprised that our damage was so little when compared to our British friend. We soon were able to maneuver safely away from the damaged British ship and hold station from her in case the Ambuscade needed damage control assistance. I believe that we were with the USS America Carrier Group at the time and the group commander soon came to have a look see in a H-3 Sea King and sent another to assist.

Eventually the Ambuscade secured her damage (luckily, the seas were very calm) and got slowly underway. I always thought that the HMS Ambuscade headed for Djibouti for repairs but it appears it was Bombay (must have been a long haul with that kind of damage). I also thought that this incident occurred in the Gulf of Aden and not the Gulf of Oman as the web site states.

As for the lean mean CG-19, we sent our HTs over the side with some plate steel and after some magic welding, we continued on with our deployment without any further operational limitations.

Alas, I was sad to learn that the Dale ended its fine naval career in a SINKEX ¦she was a good ship.

Larry Malloy
CDR, USN Retired

I saw on the Dale web site that you were looking for recollections of Dale sailors who were on board during the collision with HMS Ambuscade in June of 1983. I was an Ensign aboard the Dale during that cruise and remember the collision very well.

When the Officer of the deck ordered the collision alarm to sound, our boatswains of the watch hit the alarm before announcing where the collision would occur. In talking to shipmates afterward who were below decks, the thing that bothered them the most was hearing the alarm go off, the ship begin healing hard over, hearing the engines speed up - so they all new this was not a drill - and no one told them where the collision would occur - so no one new were to get away from!

Our first concern after the collision was for our after lookout whose normal position is on the stern of the ship on our port side. He was missing, we couldn't raise him on the sound powered phone he wore and he wasn't visible from the bridge. We found him on the starboard side amidships with his sound powered head phones still on his head. He had run so fast the he had snapped the cord connecting him into the communication system.

There were stories that right after the collision there were with beer cases on our fantail. Spewed out from Ambuscade's bow. Serving in an unfortunately dry Navy - it was amazing how fast that beer disappeared. No evidence was ever found.

On a side note, HMS Ambush (I believe the British were trying to tell us something with the names) was part of out task group for part of that deployment. I had the privilege of being sent over to her to spend the day with the Royal Navy. I still remember that visit fondly


Gunners Mate Missiles SN Tom Terry

I was in the aft missile house when the accident occurred and have some really good stories about it. One of my close buddies was in aft steering at the time and is really lucky he did not get killed. It knocked him out of his seat and threw him about ten feet to starboard.
My division officer was at the helm.
Glad to hear no one was seriously hurt on your ship.

Larry Thomas

I was on the USS Dale during the collision I've never forgotten that day. Someone rang the chemical alarm. I knew that the ship had been hit by the way it felt. I was kind of nervous because the Chemical alarm rang.
It happend during my shift. My station was the throttle.

Ew1 Jervis Mobley
USS Dale 1980-84

I was on board the USS Dale when it collided with the Ambuscade. I was on watch in the Combat Information Center when I heard the collision alarm sound. There was a hatch close to the EW shack and I walked out to the signal deck to see what was happening. At first it appeared that the Ambuscade would hit us amidships (in which case there would have been casualties) but as the alarm was sounded the officer of the deck ordered the Dale to make a hard Starboard turn so that the Port Rear Quarter of the Dale took out the Ambuscade's bow.
I have a very clear memory of the poor guy who was our after lookout as the collision occurred. He was running across the deck with the bow of the Ambuscade chasing right behind him. It almost looked like the shark in the movie JAWS. The bow must have chased him 15 or 20 feet and he fell at least twice all the time taking advantage of both his hands and his feet to keep moving away. When the force of the impact was spent the Ambuscade pulled away and ripped a very large (several tons) capstan off of the deck. There was also a bunch of rope and tackle out of the Ambuscade's boatswains locker left on our deck.
After the collision we had some small holes in the hull below the waterline but they were easily plugged and we made preliminary repairs in Diego Garcia.
At the time it occurred, there was a Soviet May aircraft overhead. It is very possible that somewhere in the Kremlin archives there are soviet pictures or film of the collision.
Thank you for maintaining this website. This is one of my best sea stories.

Kevin Krepps AKA MSSN Krepps

My name is Kevin. Concerning the collision. I was onboard Dale when this occurred. (I had just returned from topside admiring all the ships sailing together.) I, being a cook didn't see anything outside, but, we the Galley cooks heard the alarm. All I could think was........ Training?..... Oh.... No! This is not training! The experience I was about to witness made me shudder. In my head I'm thinking...... BRACE FOR SHOCK!! Then our watch Capt. yelled... move away from any outside bulkheads!! I grabbed the nearest pole and hung on. Three or four sideway jolts and the ordeal was over. My face was hot from fright; next thought was HOW BAD IS IT!!! By now other alarms were sounding. I can't remember if G Q WAS sounded, or if we were in relaxed G Q? Anyway sailors were running in all directions. The smoking lamp was out I know that. A jp5 fuel line was ruptured (helo. fuel). Not long after this the Capt. came on and announced that we had just collided with a British ship (The HMS AMBUSCADE). His voice was breaking up.
Later that day we were all invited one at a time to view the HMS AMBUSCADE. She was motionless in the water........looking like the shark from...JAWS.

P.S I am inserting two photos taken shortly after the incident.  (see photos button top of page)      

Martin Blankinship, formerly FC2 (FTM2, USN) 1983

I was stationed as a Fire Control Technician aboard the USS Dale during that time.  The correct date had to be in late March 1983 at about 10:35 local time in the Arabian Sea. The two ships were doing maneuvers. The Dale was maintaining a steady course at around 14-18 knots, and the Ambuscade was "leapfrogging" the Dale at a faster speed, when the Ambuscade suddenly lost steering control. This resulted in the collision with the fantail of the Dale. 
I remember that the Lt. for the Gunner's Mates was on the bridge (I don't remember his name) when this happened.  To his credit, he ordered evasive maneuvers at the last minute, but it was too late.  The collision alarm sounded, but a number of us forgot the sound of that type of alarm.  I thought we ran aground.  The aft capstan shaft was bent in the collision. It was about 6" in diameter!  The ship's crew was somewhat unorganized after such an event, since General Quarters should have been sounded. 
Emergency repairs occurred while awaiting transit of the Suez Canal. We were back home in our homeport at Mayport Naval Station by late June 1983.  Ship repairs were conducted in floating dry-dock at the Jacksonville Shipyards around September 1983.  I remember quite distinctly the strong smell of roasted coffee from the Maxwell House Coffee plant across the street from the dry-dock.
Martin Blankinship

USS DALE 81-85
email Gary

"I was a boiler tech down in the aft fireroom at the time of the collision. One hell of a scary feeling hearing the collision alarm and not knowing where it was going to hit, being three or four decks below the waterline. As it turned out we did more damage to the British ship [HMS Ambuscade] than was done to USS Dale. We were able to complete our deployment then went into the shipyard. It is not anything i would care to do again but it does make for an interesting sea story-2 ships colliding in the middle of the Indian Ocean in the middle of the day. Anyway would love to here from other sailors aboard either ship,"
USS Dale Damage ?
Just ridded our aft deck a little bit, and a few punctures in a couple of my fuel tanks, I was what they called the oil king handled all fuel transfers and refueling.


Robert L Lucien Jr

I was on the Dale and it was wild. We heard the alarm and I was below. Everyone was wondering what was that alarm. We had never heard it before. Then someone said collision. Collision? With all that ocean out there? BAM, we were hit. I had only been on the Dale for maybe two week and it was very exciting to me.

STG2 Barry Berger
USS Dale 1981-1984

Had we stopped to think about the fact that you had beer on board, and that it needed rescuing, I'm sure we would have helped a lot more than we did!

I was off watch and enjoying the view and sun from the signal bridge on that day. I and several of the signalmen stood and watched as the Ambuscade came closer - there were some comments about how maneuverable the Ambuscade was, and something about being 'showoffs'. Since we were on a straight course, nobody really thought you would actually hit us.

About 10 seconds before impact, those of us on the signal bridge, and several others that had wandered out from the bridge realized that the Ambuscade would not pass to our stern and there wasn't a whole lot we could do about it. We hit the deck, not knowing what to expect. On the signal bridge, it seemed that the Dale barely shuttered - I felt a bit foolish lying on the deck and missing the actual collision. However, I
can't speak for anybody in the area of the fantail.

I was a sonar operator on the Dale and I must say that you did a fine job on the shield protecting the winch we used to trail and retrieve our torpedo counter-measures devices. The winch itself, was still operational though. Other than that and the damage mentioned by Gary, the damage to the Dale wasn't significant but did give us a couple of months in dry dock once we returned to the states on schedule.

I was on the USS Dale that memorable morning when we made “contact” with our Royal Navy friends.

Mark McLellan

Leonard Wilson Electronic Warfare Technician

I was on the USS Dale CG-19 the day of the collision, I was on my sleep time since I worked port and starboard shifts (8hrs on, 8hrs off) I slept in the forward part of the ship. And I awoke to the collision alarm......I jumped out of my rack and got to the center part of the ship knowing I was in the front of the ship, I expected the collision to be there. I just didn't know which side was going to be impacted.   After what seemed like less than  minute, I felt our ship shake a lot. I still did not we had been run into. I thought we had gone hard into reverse to avoided a collision. It wasn't until I came topside a few minutes later that I saw what had happened. 

I think We made some repairs in Diego Garcia and once we were back in the United States. We were dry docked in Jacksonville Florida for more extensive repairs.

I'm glad there were no injuries or worse.......

Jon Madden OS1

I wasn't on the Dale but I was on USS McInerney (FFG-8) off of Dale's port quarter. She was from my homeport of Mayport, Florida. I was the surface detector/tracker on watch and in communication with the lookouts and bridge. I noticed the radar plot of your ship and Dale merging on radar, and when they began to fully merge i was asking the forward lookout; "forward lookout combat the Dale and Ambuscade are awfully close what do you see"? At that instant the lookout exclaimed, "Bridge forward lookout the Dale and Ambuscade just collided"! Well, pandemonium ensued as I'm sure it did everywhere! Unfortunately I have no photos of the event or aftermath, but I do remember we were overflown several times by a Soviet May Recon aircraft and many lads were mooning (showing their bums to) it. Anyway, do with this email as you will and feel free to contact me if you wish. Ah, memories! USN

USN STG3 Bill "Wild Bill" McNeil
Mk. 114 Under Water Battery Fire Control Tech.
I was up in the Mk. 114 fire control room in CIC with STG3 Conway when an alarm sounded. Conway mistook the alarm for an NBC alarm and I said Conway that's not the NBC alarm that's the collision alarm and right when I said that I thought that's strange there's no "This a drill, this a drill." in front of the alarm. I said to Conway "grab on to something" and we took a little shudder and barely a one degree roll (we saw worse than that in the North Atlantic on a good day!) and I went to the hatch in the space that opens out to the port side and opened it and saw the jagged smile of the front end of a ship coming off of our fantail area on the port side. I said "Holy shit we been hit!"  "and they don't look to good either." and Conway and others came out of the hatch to see what had just happened.

Bill McNeil

I was a new U.S. Navy ensign and junior officer of the deck (JOOD) on the bridge of the USS Kidd (DDG-993) on April 27, 1983.  

Kidd was underway directly astern USS Dale.  We were doing manuvering drills from the NATO signalbook.  I can't remember the sequence of commands, but I believe we were in a Form 1, a line formation, at the time.  Ordered speed was 12 knots, I believe.  I can't remember what the interval was, maybe 200 yards.

We were in our position behind Dale.  I remember Ambuscade making some extreme turns, kicking up some white water left and right across the line of the Form 1, before steaming into the port quarter of the Dale at a 90 degree angle to the ordered course.  It was a WTF moment.  

After the collision the whole formation stopped.  A Soviet IL-38 "May" maritime patrol aircraft, probably operating out of South Yemen, had the luck to be flying out to see us just at this moment, and of course made several low passes over the ships..  

Thomas Doherty

Repairing damage to USS Dale top of page