Home » Foreign Forces » Notable U.S. Navy Ships Lost Since World War II


Notable U.S. Navy Ships Lost Since World War II

By:
Published:
Updated:

After an arsonist caused $450 million in damage to the USS Miami on March 2012, the U.S. Navy considered scrapping the submarine. The eventual decision to repair the Miami and return it to service in 2015 means that the Navy will not have to add to a rather short but fateful list – ships lost since WWII. Between December 1941 and September 1945, over 350 U.S. Navy warships and patrol craft were sunk or damaged beyond repair. In the nearly seven decades since, fewer than 30 ships have been lost directly due to enemy action or accidents. These are a few of the notable incidents:

USS Bullhead

On the same day that the city of Hiroshima was reduced to ash by the first atomic bomb, the USS Bullhead (SS-32) became the last U.S. Navy ship sunk by the enemy during WWII. The submarine is thought to have been hit by depth charges dropped by a Japanese plane on Aug. 6, 1945 off the coast of Bali. The wreck of the submarine has never been found.

Church service in the torpedo room of the USS Bullhead while on patrol in the Pacific, 1945

Church service in the torpedo room of the USS Bullhead while on patrol in the Pacific, 1945

PC-815

Commissioned in 1943, PC-815 would go on to earn the name “The Jinxed Sub-Chaser”. Lt (j.g.) L. Ron Hubbard (the future founder of Scientology) was the first man to take the helm, only to be relieved of command three months later following a series of embarrassing incidents (including the shelling of Mexican territory) that caused his superiors to lose faith in his ability. The next few years were uneventful for the PC-815 until Sept. 11, 1945 when it collided with the destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724), burst into flames and sank.

PC-815 running trials on the Columbia River in Oregon, 1943

PC-815 running trials on the Columbia River in Oregon, 1943

USS Magpie

USS Magpie (AMS-25) blew up after striking a mine off the coast of Korea on Sept. 29 1950, claiming the lives of 21 members of the crew. Ships hitting mines during the Korean Conflict would also cost the U.S. Navy the USS Pirate (AM-275), USS Pledge (AM-277), USS Sarsi (ATF-111) and USS Partridge (AMS-31). Mines continue to be the biggest threat to the world’s navies and account for most ship losses other than accidents.

USS Partridge, c. 1947

USS Partridge, c. 1947

USS Thresher

The first ship in a new class of advanced nuclear “hunter-killer” submarines, USS Thresher (SSN-593) was lost at sea near Cape Cod on 10 April 1963. An inquiry concluded that leaking water likely shorted out electrical systems, leading to a loss of propulsion that caused the sub to exceed its test depth and implode. The tragic loss of the Thresher with all 129 hands resulted in the Navy launching the SUBSAFE program, which was developed to assure that submarines were able to recover from flooding. In 2008, oceanographer Bob Ballard revealed that his search for the Titanic in 1985 was actually the cover for a secret mission to further investigate the wrecks of the Thresher and the USS Scorpion (see entry below).

USS Thresher underway, 1961

USS Thresher underway, 1961

Wreckage of USS Thresher on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean

Wreckage of USS Thresher on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean

USS Liberty

In an incident that still evokes heated debate today, 34 crewmen were killed and 171 were wounded when USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was attacked by Israel Defense Forces on June 8, 1967 while conducting intelligence operations in the Mediterranean near Sinai. The Liberty returned to the US after emergency repairs, but the severity of the damage resulted in the ship being decommissioned and scrapped. The U.S. government officially accepted the Israeli position that the attack was purely an accident due to confusion in a tense environment, but many maintain that the Israelis intentionally targeted the Liberty because the ship could intercept and inadvertently share information concerning Israel’s activities during the Six-Day War.

The scarred USS Liberty shortly after the attack in 1967

The scarred USS Liberty shortly after the attack in 1967


usni-emblem-pms
Join the U.S. Naval Institute.


USS Pueblo

On Jan. 23, 1968, North Korean forces swarmed and captured the USS Pueblo (AGER-2), claiming that the intelligence ship had violated its territorial waters. The Pueblo was taken to the port of Wonsan and the U.S. crew was forced to sit for propaganda photos in which they posed with extended middle fingers, telling their North Korean captors that the gesture was “a Hawaiian symbol for good luck”. The crew was released almost one year later, but the North Koreans kept the Pueblo and still display it as a trophy. In 2007, Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) proposed trading a Korean battle flag captured during the largely forgotten US -Korea War of 1871, but the deal was never officially offered.

USS Pueblo at sea, 1967

USS Pueblo at sea, 1967

The captured crew of the USS Pueblo giving the “Hawaiian symbol for good luck,” 1968

The captured crew of the USS Pueblo giving the “Hawaiian symbol for good luck,” 1968

USS Scorpion

While returning to the U.S. from a Mediterranean deployment in May1968, the USS Scorpion (SSN-589) disappeared near the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. The Navy conducted an extensive search, but on June 5 declared that the submarine and crew of 99 were presumed lost. The wreckage was eventually discovered, but the cause of the sub’s destruction still has not been determined. Some investigators believe that a malfunctioning torpedo may have been to blame, but others theorize that the sub was involved in a confrontation with a Soviet sub in which the Scorpion was fatally damaged in a collision. A more extreme theory holds that the Soviets suspected that the U.S. was responsible for the sinking of the K-129 earlier in the year, so the Scorpion was sunk in retaliation.

scorpion

USS Frank E Evans

During an exercise in the South China Sea on 3 June 1969, inexperienced officers standing watch aboard the destroyer USS Frank E Evans became confused while making emergency maneuvers and placed the ship directly in the path of the Royal Australian Navy carrier HMAS Melbourne. The Melbourne split the Evans in two, sending the bow to bottom of the ocean along with 74 sailors. 199 personnel were rescued from the stern that fortunately had managed to stay afloat. The subsequent investigation put a strain on U.S.-Australian relations because the Australians believed the U.S. Navy tried to attribute too much blame to the Melbourne’s commander. The Melbourne’s commander was cleared of wrongdoing in the accident but three officers from the Evans were charged with dereliction of duty.

USS Frank E Evans after the bow had been cut away in a collision with the HMAS Melbourne

USS Frank E Evans after the bow had been cut away in a collision with the HMAS Melbourne

Damage to the HMAS Melbourne after colliding with the USS Frank E Evans

Damage to the HMAS Melbourne after colliding with the USS Frank E Evans

Other Navy ships lost since WWII

USS Solar (DE 221) scuttled after being damaged in an accidental explosion, April 30, 1946

USS Chehalis (AOG-48) capsized after a gasoline tank exploded and killed 6, Oct. 7, 1949

USS Benevolence (AH-13) sunk after colliding with the SS Mary Luckenbach, April, 25 1950

USS Hobson (DMS 26) broke in half and sunk after collision with USS Wasp (CV 18), 176 killed, April 26, 1952

USNS Mission San Francisco (T-AO-123) collided with the Liberian freighter Elna II and exploded, March 7, 1957

USNS Mission San Miguel (T-AO-129) ran aground Oct. 8, 1957 and declared unfit for further naval service

USS Stickleback (SS-415) sunk in collision with USS Silverstein (DE-534) off Hawaii, May 29, 1958

USS Grouse (AMS-15) ran aground on Sept. 12, 1963 and then destroyed with explosives when attempts to dislodge failed

USS Bache (DD-470) wrecked and abandoned at Rhodes during heavy seas, Feb. 7, 1968

USNS Sgt. Jack J. Pendleton (T-AKV-5) ran aground on a reef and abandoned, Sept. 23, 1973

USS La Moure County (LST-1194) ran aground in Chile and damaged beyond repair, Sept. 12, 2000


More U.S. Naval Institute Photo Galleries

Photo Gallery: Sea Dogs
USNI-dog-6

The Smooch that Ended World War II
kissing_5

  • JAMES W. LAWRENCE

    ODE TO THE JINXED SHIP

    SHE SHELLED A MEXICAN TERRITORY

    OH, WHAT AN ERROR SHE DID GIVE

    TO THE SUBCHASING FLEET

    AND FOREVER HER JINXED NAME WOULD LIVE

    L. RON HUBBARD AT HER HELM

    WHEN SHE FIRST DID FLOAT

    GAVE A FAULTS REPORT

    IN A NAVAL NOTE

    OF A SUB HE SANK

    IN THE MONTH OF MAY

    AND AFTER ATTACKING MEXICO

    SOMETHING HAD TO GIVE WAY

    SO THE JINXED SUB-CHASER

    A COMMAND CHANGE WAS SET

    BUT SHE WAS A JINXED SHIP

    WAS EVERY SAILORS BET

    ON PATROL WITH THE LAFFEY

    THE JINKED 815 SET SAIL

    IN A SEA COLLISION FORCE

    THE JINXED SHIP AGAIN DID FAIL

    ONE SAILOR WENT MISSING

    OVERBOARD FROM THE BOW

    PLACING THE JINXED SUB-CHASER

    IN HISTORY SOME HOW.

    JAMES W. LAWRENCE 2012