Naval Destroyer Gains Infamous Reputation
In a brief period of only eight months, the U.S.S. Robert H. McCard DD822 gained a reputation that would be hard to live down. While transferring fuel from a U.S. Naval tanker on the high seas, the McCard, which had fuel lines connecting the two ships, steered too close and damaged its hull in the process. The McCard returned to its recently departed dock in Naples, Italy for repairs. The crew was given liberty and enjoyed their excursions into Naples and Rome.
Once again, they would depart Italy and head out to sea. While exciting the harbor, however, the ship blindsided a small fishing vessel. The McCard had two sister ships that she traveled with which were destroyers as well. The McCard's mishaps were being well noticed by her sister crews.
Needless to say, the ship's captain was given new orders and proceeded to port in Charleston, S.C. to await the arrival of a new ship's captain.
While still attached by lines (ropes) to the pier something unusual happened in the engine room that made the ship start moving. I was personally on the stern (rear of the ship) with head phones over my ears awaiting my orders from the helm to tell the crew members attending the lines to begin pulling them in after the new skipper boarded. These lines are extremely thick and heavy and you can well imagine what would happen if the ship moved away and the lines began to snap.
Our new skipper was walking down the pier towards our gangway in time to see the first line snap and come flying across the stern. I literally could have had my head chopped off if I were in the right spot. I started yelling through my phones to the person in the helm. The sailor on the bow of the ship with head phones and the one in the engine room were all panicking as the lines continued to give way and the Robert H. McCard began to sail out into the harbor.
I looked back from my prone position that I had taken during the excitement in time to see the new skipper standing on the pier with hands on hips in total shock.
Before the crew in the engine room could correct the problem we ran right through three barges floating in the bay. We finally came to a stop and slowly began to make our retreat to tie up once again alongside our sister ships.
As we headed into the port a sailor on one of our sister ships got on the loud speaker address system and announced to all that could hear throughout the port, "All hands clear deck! Crash McCard is coming!"
I continued to hear those remarks throughout my duty aboard the McCard. We took it in stride and jokingly made it our fighting motto.
Robert H. McCard was a marine who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for saving the lives of his tank crew during the Battle of Saipan while defending against the enemy with grenades and the tank machine gun he had dismounted from the tank.
I believe Robert would have found humor as we did in this small period of our ship's history.
God bless all our fallen heroes.
The photo below is actually my ship in the Mediterranean Sea in 1961. I am one of those sailors standing topside as we all did when approaching another ship at sea. It still gives me goosebumps when I see it.