30 Years Ago Today a U.S. Navy Battleship Exploded in Live-Fire Training Exercise

Task and Purpose, Jeff Schogol

Task and Purpose, Jeff Schogol

Security,

It's been 30 years since an explosion inside the number two gun turret on the USS Iowa killed 47 American sailors, but for Mike Carr, it still feels like yesterday.

30 Years Ago Today a U.S. Navy Battleship Exploded in Live-Fire Training Exercise

Up to 300 former Iowa sailors are expected to attend Friday's ceremony, which has proven to be a catharsis for veterans still trying to cope with past trauma, he said.

It's been 30 years since an explosion inside the number two gun turret on the USS Iowa killed 47 American sailors, but for Mike Carr, it still feels like yesterday.

"I knew all 47 guys inside that turret because as part of the ship's policy we had rotated between all three turrets," Carr, who served as a gunner's mate in the Iowa's aft 16-inch turret, told Task & Purpose. "We all knew each other rather intimately."

On April 19, 1989, the day of the blast, the ship was preparing for live-fire training at Vieques, Puerto Rico Naval Training Range.

Carr was wearing headphones that allowed him to hear what the crews in the other turrets were saying.

"At 10 minutes to 10 a.m., somebody came over the phones and said, 'We're having a problem, Turret 2, center gun,'" Carr recalled. "Then approximately two minutes later, I recognized Senior Chief [Reginald] Ziegler, who was the chief in charge of Turret 2, yell into the phones: 'Fire, fire, fire! Fire in center gun, turret 2. Trying to contain it.'"

Then came the blast, which was so strong that it ripped the headphones right off Carr's head.

The entire ship shook.

Black smoke poured out from the burning No. 2 turret as Carr and other sailors donned their firefighting gear. Then they found two sailors who had been blown from the turret onto the deck.

"I held one [sailor] in my hands as he passed," Carr said. "He died in my arms."

Read full article