Saturday, October 27, 2012

10/28/2012-Sailing Into The Abyss


 The Story of the Largest Single Loss of Life to the U.S. Merchant Marine during the Vietnam War by William Benedetto

 There were quite a few more fatalities and even losses of entire ships in the U.S. Merchant Marine during the Vietnam war than the American public ever imagined. The American Merchant Marine even lost one major ship before the Gulf of Tonkin incident made Vietnam a household word in the United States.

                                                                        USS Card (CVE-11)

The USNS CARD an old aircraft carrier converted to an air craft transport ship (no flight deck operations) was manned by U.S. Merchant Mariners employed as civil service mariners by the Navy. She was sunk by a North Vietnamese frog man in Saigon harbor before the Gulf of Tonkin incident. However most, but not all of her 74 crew members got off the ship alive reserving for a future day the title of "worst Merchant Marine loss of the war". That title would fall in 1969 to the former WW II freighter SS BADGER STATE and her unfortunate crew, most of whom would not escape with their lives. For a complete list of all known U.S.Merchant Marine war casualties  of the Vietnam conflict click on the provided link to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and scroll down:

 We recently became aware of and reviewed a 2006 book that addressed the largest single day loss of the U.S. Merchant marine during the Vietnam War. The book was an award winner and enjoyed five star reviews from Amazon readers. In an earlier post where we lamented the latest attack on the U.S. Merchant Marine by Senator John McCain we told a little bit of the story of the U.S. Merchant Marine's contributions to the support of our troops on the ground in Vietnam and we outline the story of the SS BADGER STATE. We want our visitors to strongly consider this book. So we take the unusual action of presenting our review here in the blog postings so everyone can see it vice just posting it to the Merchant Marine Interest section where it is posted and will remain for as long as it is in print.

Sailing Into The Abyss     

by Bill Bennetetto

Tells the story of the loss of the U.S.Merchant Vessel BADGER STATE with the loss of 26 crew men, the largest single U.S.Merchant Marine casualty of the Vietnam War.

AAB: RECOMMENDED for all who enjoy gripping true stories of adventure on the high seas and a must for marine safety professionals.

 254 pages (some photos)
 ISBN -13- 978-0806526491

 There are only two ways to get bullets, bombs, or beans to U.S. troops in war zones they either have to be carried by the tiny number of transport ships out right owned and operated by the U.S. Navy or they have to be carried on U.S. Merchant Marine ships chartered by the Navy. The usual carriers of U.S. commerce today, ships registered in Panama, Liberia, Singapore, Cypress, the Marshal Islands and other "open registries" generally are of little use to America when war supplies have to be transported to "hot" theaters of military operations. Foreign crews generally are reluctant to put their lives on the line for what they perceive as "American interests". Foreign ship owners and even American owners operating under these open registry flags are reluctant to put their ships at risk. Every cargo carrier the Navy builds, eats "blue dollars" that are desperately needed in these tight budget times to built combatant ships. It has always been this way. When the bullets, bombs and beans have to go in harms way we call on the U..S. Merchant Marine, by law a "naval auxiliary" to do the heavy lifting. They have never failed us, but that is not to say they never lost a ship or a man in trying to get the supplies through to the troops.

 This is the gripping story of the disaster that over took the SS BADGER STATE, a WW II era freighter still sailing under the American flag in 1969 while attempting to deliver a ship load of bombs to South Vietnam. Five thousand bombs were loaded at the Bangor Munitions Depot into the hold of the BADGER STATE and undetected by the ship's officers some were inadequately secured. This book is a gripping account of the chain of events that over took the ship in the Pacific when she encountered a storm that caused at first a single bomb to break loose then in chain reaction a major portion of the bomb cargo was soon rolling about unrestrained. Captain Charles Wilson and a crew inspired by his leadership heroically but unsuccessfully fought the weather and the loose bombs. When the situation became hopeless Captain Wilson successfully abandoned ship ahead of the explosion that sank the BADGER STATE, but unfortunately the story doesn't end there. In an incredible example of how Murphy's Law sometimes exacts a death penalty on the brave and innocent only 14 of the 40 crewmen would live to tell the tale. You'll have to read the book to see how it all ends or the news accounts from 1969. The book is easier to come by and more comprehensive. Winner of the 2006 Maritime Book Award for non fiction. Click on the book cover icon above to order or learn more.


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