USS IOWA TURRET EXPLOSION IN 1989

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aurora
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USS IOWA TURRET EXPLOSION IN 1989

Post by aurora » Fri Jan 02, 2015 1:42 pm

Although the Carrier Battle Group has drastically altered the doctrine of fleet operations in the modern age, four WW2 battleships which had been mothballed were given extensive modernization upgrades and returned to active duty during the Reagan years.One of these ships was the U.S.S. Iowa.

The chief armament of the Battleships are her sixteen inch guns. Little changed from WW2 days, they are loaded by first ramming, with a pneumatic ram, a mission specific projectile into the bore followed by the propellent. The propellent is bundled in silk bags, with the number of bags determining the total charge in the gun (normally 6). The propellent is rammed in behind the projectile and the breach is closed.Upon command to fire, the center gun on the number one turret fires, and radar tracks the projectile. A correction is computed and the remaining guns adjust themselves and fire.

On April 19th 1989 was 330 miles northeast of Puerto Rico on a training cruise. At 9:55 A.M. during the loading cycle, the center gun in the number 2 turret exploded with an open breach, sending a blast wave into the turret that killed 47 sailors.The combination of a close friendship with one of the dead sailors, Clay Hartwig, plus some lead foil and a "Gung Ho" magazine led the Navy to accuse 21 year old Seaman Kendall Truitt (who was married) of having been one half of a failed homosexual love affair with Clay Hartwig, with his jilted lover then committing suicide in the number 2 turret.

The ferocity with which the Navy pursued this line of investigation made it apparent that there was another line of inquiry being hidden. Deliberate press leaks by the Iowa's Executive Officer to the Washington Post painted a picture of an unhappy gay sailor blowing himself and 46 of his fellow seamen into eternity. The story was then picked up by The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. The Newport News Daily Press and Times Herald interviewed Truitt, promising him anonymity, then ran his name as page one news anyway.

Meanwhile, the Navy had discovered that the bags of propellent, dating from the Korean war, had been improperly stored for 5 months in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, the point at which the propellent becomes unstable The Navy's investigation also showed that the freshman sailor operating the rammer had over-rammed the propellent, 5 bags instead of the expected 6, slamming it into the warhead.

In response to accusations that the propellent was unstable, the Navy decided on a demonstration, and built a "drop test" rig. This was a simulated 16 inch gun barrel, with a ram at the base, that was dropped onto a concrete block to simulate over-ramming. The intention was to drop test the configuration again and again until it was evident that the propellent inside was safe from accidental detonation from over-ramming. Exactly the opposite was proven. On being dropped, the device detonated. The Navy then destroyed the remainder of the Iowa's propellent store and established new rules for the storing of propellent.

Despite this and other facts, the Navy's official report, issued on Thursday, September 7, 1989, concluded that the disaster was caused by a "wrongful intentional act ... most probably committed" by Clay Hartwig. This is the key point. Even with the correct cause of the explosion in hand, the Navy wilfully and falsely accused Clay Hartwig of a deliberate crime, and destroyed Kendall Truitt's life and career as well.

Is this a FAIR appraisal of this particular incident ???? I saw this report on the Internet but as I had not heard of it-I would be interested to see members comments as to the above's veracity

http://whatreallyhappened.com/RANCHO/CR ... /IOWA.html
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Jim

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Re: USS IOWA TURRET EXPLOSION IN 1989

Post by Steve Crandell » Fri Jan 02, 2015 4:25 pm

Bill Jurens knows quite a bit about the investigation, but I don't recall the findings except that I don't think the sailor was found to be responsible.

Personally, I don't see how the rammer operator could accidentally could ram 5 bags instead of 6, because the bags are dumped onto the loading tray 3 at a time. When the powder door opens, 3 bags roll out. A puzzle. Maybe if the sailors in the powder handling room loaded 2 bags instead of 3 on to the lift? Strange.

I know the navy repacked all of the powder bags, but IIRC that was because of accuracy problems after long term storage or some similar problem with how the powder was arranged in the bags. I don't believe that had anything to do with the explosion. I also know that at one time reduced charges were used, but that was discontinued because it occasionally resulted in misfires due to the ignition pad not being in direct contact with the primer.

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Re: USS IOWA TURRET EXPLOSION IN 1989

Post by aurora » Fri Jan 02, 2015 5:15 pm

Thanks Steve for your comment-it would appear the Hartwig's were not too happy about the outcome.
On 19 April 1991, the Hartwig family sued the Navy for "intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress" under the Federal Tort Claims Act. On 30 June 1992 the Hartwigs added another count of emotional distress to the lawsuit, after the Navy sent a letter to Hartwig's parents inviting the dead sailor to join the US Navy Reserve.

Extracted from Wikipedia in Lawsuits Section

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Iowa_turret_explosion
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Re: USS IOWA TURRET EXPLOSION IN 1989

Post by aurora » Sat Jan 03, 2015 2:12 pm

The New York Times in 1993 severely criticized the U.S. Navy for a series of botched investigations, including the Tailhook scandal, the Iowa explosion, security breaches at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, Russia, and a problematic investigation into the murder of a homosexual sailor in Yokosuka, Japan. The newspaper stated, "Each fumbled inquiry may have exposed a different U.S. Navy foible. The repeated bungling suggests a systemic problem in the Naval Investigative Service -- and a management failure at the highest levels"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Iowa_turret_explosion
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Re: USS IOWA TURRET EXPLOSION IN 1989

Post by Rick Rather » Mon Jan 05, 2015 10:28 am

Sandia National Lab was able to replicate the explosion. The key variables were the individual powder bags and how they were rammed into the barrel.

See this training film from 1955: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OmOQs0ziSU

The bags
Each powder bag was approximately 18 inches long and 18 inches in diameter. The bag itself was made of silk, because it burned completely with minimal residue. Inside the bags, the actual powder was in little cylindrical finger-sized pellets. Hundreds of these pellets were stacked neatly in the bags in tier on top of tier. Ideally, each bag would have an identical number of pellets - Indeed each one had the same number of tiers and the same number of pellets per tier. However, due to slight variations in the manufacture of the pellets, two bags with the same number of pellets might weigh slightly different amounts. Since an identical weight of powder was required for optimum performance, every bag was brought up to a standard weight by adding extra pellets to the top of the bag. That is, as the cylindrical bag sat upright, the extra pellets were placed on their side on the top tier, then the bag was sealed.

As you can surmise from the training film at 6:30 - 6:45, when the bags are horizontal on the loading tray, the extra pellets on the top tier of one bag will be pressed-up against the flat bottom tier of the bag in front of it. When the bags are rammed, the extra pellets are compressed. Compression generates heat. If there are a lot of extra pellets, then the pressure on each individual pellet is less. If there are just a few pellets, then the pressure - and heating - on each pellet is increased.

Ramming the bags
Note in the training film at 6:20, the projectile is rammed at high-speed to engage the copper seating ring into the rifle grooves in the barrel. Then the bags are rammed slowly into the breach. This is the proper procedure and was used safely for decades. However, in the aftermath of the Iowa explosion, the ramming lever was found in the fast-position. Sandia Labs found that if a powder bag with few extra pellets was rammed at high-speed, the compression could generate enough heat to ignite the pellets - and the rest of the bags. They were thus able to recreate the spontaneous ignition that occurred aboard Iowa.

Mind you, there is a whole lot more to the story, and the Wikipedia page gives a damning indictment against the command climate aboard the Iowa before the explosion and the botched investigations and cover-ups that followed. As a former Navy professional, I find the conduct of the men involved nauseating. :evil:
Just because it's stupid, futile and doomed to failure, that doesn't mean some officer won't try it.
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Re: USS IOWA TURRET EXPLOSION IN 1989

Post by aurora » Mon Jan 05, 2015 11:23 am

Thank you for the well researched reply Rick-which tells me a great deal of something that I had little or no knowledge of ie. the ramming of propellant charges.However I return to your final statement which says "there is a whole lot more to this story".Would you be so kind as to enlarge on this aspect please ?? :shock: :shock:
Quote Rick
"Mind you, there is a whole lot more to the story, and the Wikipedia page gives a damning indictment against the command climate aboard the Iowa before the explosion and the botched investigations and cover-ups that followed. As a former Navy professional, I find the conduct of the men involved nauseating" :evil:
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Jim

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Re: USS IOWA TURRET EXPLOSION IN 1989

Post by Rick Rather » Tue Jan 06, 2015 8:29 am

aurora wrote:Thank you for the well researched reply Rick-which tells me a great deal of something that I had little or no knowledge of ie. the ramming of propellant charges.However I return to your final statement which says "there is a whole lot more to this story".Would you be so kind as to enlarge on this aspect please ??
I was referring to the Wikipedia page about the Iowa turret explosion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Iowa_turret_explosion
Just because it's stupid, futile and doomed to failure, that doesn't mean some officer won't try it.
-- R. Rather

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Re: USS IOWA TURRET EXPLOSION IN 1989

Post by aurora » Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:46 pm

Thank you Rick-I did find the Investigation Reports in the Notes ie PARTS A &B
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Jim

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