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  • Sighted target....sunk by same

    As I stated in the last story, the U.S.S. Dixie AD-14, was a Destroyer Tender, an auxiliary ship, not a warship. (Thus the A in her designation.) Now it isn't easy to see in this old photo taken in 1976 from the Naval Archives, but the Dixie actually had four 5 inch naval guns.

    It was 1979, we had just left Subic Bay Naval Station for the Indian Ocean, when we spotted a naval gunfire target floating freely in the ocean. These targets are usually rafts fitted with a bulls eye used to train gunnery crews on warships in a designated gunnery range. Since this one had apparently broken loose from its moorings, it was considered a "hazard to navigation", so the Captain decided to radio for permission to sink the target.

    Why radio for permission? Well, the United States Navy is pretty particular about how its ammunition gets used up, and what its ships shoot at. We weren't involved in any wars or 'police actions' at the time, and since we were in international waters, we didn't want another vessel thinking we were shooting at them.

    Permission was granted and the forward gunnery crews readied their guns. The bridge crew steered the ship within range and BOOM...BOOM...BOOM...BOOM went the five inchers. [The Gunner's Mates were having a ball. Usually all they did was clean and oil these guns once a month.]

    Four confirmed hits. And still the target just continued to float like nothing had happened.

    BOOM...BOOM...BOOM...BOOM! Four more confirmed hits. The target is still floating along.

    So what now? Okay, so the five inch diameter naval shells didn't do the job, let's see if small arms fire can do something. The bridge crew steers the ship even closer to the target and the designated boarding party appears on deck with two Thompson sub-machine guns. I have no idea why they thought a .45 caliber bullet would do the trick when a five inch naval shell couldn't. After a couple of hundred rounds were fired away with that classic Thompson sound (believe me, nothing else sounds like a Thompson machine gun), there were several befuddled looks and the Captain and his officers were looking vexed.

    And its starting to get out of hand. The divers, most of whom are Explosive Ordinance & Demolition qualified, are wanting to play frogman and rig it with explosives. The underwater welders want to dive and cut holes in the hull. And just about everyone in the crew is on deck, so absolutely no work is getting done.

    Finally the Captain decides we have wasted enough time. The consensus among the officers was that enough damage had been done to the target so that it would eventually sink with no further help on from us. The word came across the 1MC (the ship's on board announcing system) to get back to work. The crew on the bridge put us back on course for Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

    I was off watch at the time, so I joined a few of the other petty officers at the stern to watch the target as we sailed away. When we were over a mile away, we took turns looking through a set of binoculars at the target. It showed no signs of sinking.

    I wonder if it's still floating around out there today?

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