Disaster at 19.32.3N 64.56.3W
 

As our shipmates and their families find our virtual homeport, the most frequently asked question is "What ever happened to the RICH?"   The following information has been assembled from a variety of sources and in no way is an official accounting.


On July 12, 1977 RICH was steaming in the Atlantic Operations Area preparing for an underway replenishment as part of a Selected Refresher Training program.  A rendezvous was planned with USS CALOSSAHATCHEE, one of the fleet's super ships weighing in at 88,000 tons with an ice-breaker prow. The rendezvous took place about noon and called for the standard plan of 14 knot speed at a 100 foot separation distance.

Following an uneventful replenishment, the Boatswain of the Watch passed "Breakaway" over the 1MC.  The Engine Order Telegraph was rung up from 14 to 22 knots. "Right standard rudder" was ordered. What was later determined to be reversal of polarity in the trick switch in After Steering caused the bridge to lose control of the ship. At that time the right standard rudder became a left standard rudder turning RICH into the path of CALOSSAHATCHEE.

The first two impacts heeled RICH over at least 50°.  The fact that she had just refueled made her bottom heavy and most likely prevented her from simply rolling over and sinking. In all,  RICH was hit fourteen times by CALOSSAHATCHEE.

The resulting damage was severe.  One hit forward of the break exposed the mess deck.  Most parts of the 01 level experience major damage including the complete demolition of the weatherdeck support stanchions.  The ASROC magazine was opened by the CALOSAHATCHEE's anchor.  The helo deck was severely damaged.  The portside hull had been penetrated numerous times below the waterline. General Stores, B Division and M Division berthing areas were flooded with fuel oil.  The Supply Office and Ship's Store sustained major damage. Additionally, the port screw had sheared a blade and the other blades were severely damaged.

Despite the damage, RICH was able to steam to Mayport under her own power.  While enroute, the crew worked round the clock to make a presentable ship for entering port.  The following message was sent:

 

 

 

VZOZCLMDB0274P
1324 13 JUL 77
FM COMNAVSERVFLT NORFOLK VA
TO CINCLANTFLT NORFOLK VA
 COMSECONDFLT
CTG TWO ONE PT FOUR
USS RICH 
USS CALOOSAHATCHEE
NAVSTA MAYPORT FL
INFO CNO WASHINGTON DC
CMDINFO WASHINGTON DC
COMNAVFCRCARRR ROOSEVELT ROAD PR
COMSERVSRU TWC
COMSERVRON FOUT
COMCRUDESGRU TWELVE
COMDESRON THREE ZERO NRF
COMFOUR PHILADELPHIA PA
COMFIVE NORFOLK VA
COMSIX CHARLESTON SC
NAVSUPLANT REASUPPGPI MAYPORT FL
ST
UNCLAS //N2455343//
PRESS RELEASE ON CALOOSAHATCHEE/RICH COLLISION
1.  THE FOLLOWING PRESSREL ON CALOOSAHATCHEE/RICH COLLISION WAS
RELEASED TO NORFOLK MEDIA 12 AND 13 JULY:
QUOTE
THE DESTROYER USS RICH AND THE FLEET OILER USS CALOOSAHATCHEE HAD
COLLIDED UPON COMPLETING REPLENISHMENT OPERATIONS OFF PUERTO RICO.
THERE WERE NO PERSONNEL INJURIES. DAMAGE TO BOTH SHIPS IS STILL BEING
ASSESSED.  HOWEVER, PRELIMINARY REPORTS INDICATE RICK EXPERIENCED
DAMAGE TO THE SUPER-STRUCTURE AND THE MAIN DECK AREA.

RICH IS IN NO DANGER AND IS PROCEEDING TO MAYPORT FLORIDA UNDER HER
OWN POWER.  MOR EXTENSIVE ASSESSMENT OF DAMAGE AND EMERGENCY
REPAIRS WILL BE MADE TO RICH WHILE IN MAYPORT.
CALOOSAHATCHEE IS CONTINUING ON HER SCHEDULED OPERATIONS HAVING
EXPERIENCED ONLY MINOR DAMAGE.  THE INCIDENT IS UNDER INVESTIGATION
BY THE NAVY. USS RICH IS A NAVAL RESERVE FORCE SHIP HOMEPORTED IN
PHILADELPHIA PA. THE COMMANDING OFFICER IS CDR GEORGE STEFENCAVAGE.
CALOOSAHATCHEE IS COMMANDED BY CAPTAIN JAMES H. FLATLEY III AND IS
HOMEPORTED IN NORFOLK.
UNQUOTE
2. REQUEST NAVSTA MAYPORT PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER BE PREPARED TO
HANDLE PUBLIC AFFAIRS ASPECTS OF RICH'S ARRIVAL MAYPORT.
COMNAVSURFLANT PAO WILL PROVIDE AMPLIFYING INFORMATION AS IS BECOMES
AVAIL.
3. PROVIDING CO RICH CONSIDERS IT SAFE, HAVE NO OBJECTIONS TO
PRESS FILMING DAMAGE ONBOARD RICH AFTER ARRIVAL MAYPORT IF
SUCH REQUEST ARE RECEIVED. ALSO HAVE NO OBJECTIONS TO INTERVIEWS WITH
CO, XO OR OTHER PERSONNEL, PROVIDING COMMENTS ARE LIMITED TO PERSONAL
EXPERIENCES AND CAUSE OR RESPONSIBILITY.

After a stay in Mayport, RICH returned to her homeport of Philadelphia to prepare for an INSERV which would determine her fate.  The crew had less than three months to accomplish this.

Typical of RICH crews, everything was completed on schedule for the INSERV except the repair of the damaged screw. It proved to be too large and too expensive of a job for a 31 year old ship. The INSERV Inspectors recommended the ship be stricken.

On December 15, 1977 at 0911 the USS RICH was officially decommissioned.

In 1979, RICH was broken up as scrap.
 

The metal and material that made the physical ship are long gone.  The spirit that made the USS RICH is alive and well in the hearts of each man who served aboard her.  That spirit will remain alive here on RICH virtual homepage for generations to come.
 

 
 

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