USS CONCORD (AFS/TAFS-5) Veterans Association

MEMBER SPOT LIGHT

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This Members Spot Light page highlights a particular association member and shares their memories while stationed aboard. 

The story about the great Concord fire event came about in an unexpected way.  This past August I received an email from Robert Charlie informing me of the passing of his father, one of our crew members. Robert knew of our ships fire, and had pictures of the fire his dad had kept. Robert found our site and found Roach's photo page which had the same fire pictures that Roberts dad kept. He asked if Thomas knew his dad and the story of the fire pictures. I contacted Thomas about this puzzel and here's what we found out.

Roach/piershot.jpg

Thomas said he didn't remember Robert's dad but provided this information concerning the pictures. "Here's the background on the pictures, after the fire the person who took them offered a set to anyone who wanted them".  Below is Thomas' spot lighted feedback to the fire, and his time on-board our ship. This provides a unique look into the ships life during those tragic days. Enjoy Tom's input below.

Roach/topside2.jpg

 

1.   What years did you serve and what was your rate/rank while on Concord:

        I was onboard 1977 – 1981 GMG-3

2.   What department and division were you assigned and who did you work for: 

       >  D-3 Weapons. I worked for Chief Cotman and GMG-1 Anderson.

3.  Who did you hang out with:

> Kevin Santos, Pat Marley, Carlos Rivera, George Oliver Jerry McKeever

4.  List any cruises or deployments during your assignment:

        > 3 med cruises, one ending up in the Indian ocean via the Suez Canal and a short trip to Guantanamo bay and Port-Au-Prince Haiti.           

5.  What is your fondest memory of Concord:

      > Every homecoming.

6.  What is your worst memory of Concord:

      > The 78 Cruise from hell. Starting with the sabotage of the refer units, a kid was almost decapitated by a package conveyor, disbursing was    robbed 40.000 and some one set the ship on fire. 

 7. Any additional thoughts / memories i.e. commissioning Concord etc.:

        >  1978 Cruise was something you had to live to believe. The two significant incidents were the disbursing robbery and the fire.

                     On the morning after the robbery we were at sea and were told by the captain that we would remain so until the money was found. Rumor had it that someone had broken into the disbursing office, got into the safe and stole $40,000.00 and supposedly left a note for the Captain. The entire ship was searched all of our lockers, bunks and work spaces. NIS agents we flown aboard. I can’t recall how long they kept us at sea. I heard the money was never recovered. When we finally were able to go ashore it was common practice to search everyone leaving and checking each sailor’s wallet to see if they were carrying any of the cash. 

          Toward the end of the cruise we pulled into Palma De-Majorca. The day before the fire event, I remember seeing on the POD, they would be conducting fire drills the following day for the duty section. The morning of the fire I was in my bunk when they sounded the alarm it sounded like they were conducting several drills on different sections of the ship. I was attempting to sleep through it as I wasn’t on duty and so were most in my berthing area. I then heard someone come by my bunk and tell us we needed to get off the ship, it wasn’t until some said they could smell smoke everyone started to get up. We were herded to the pier, after a while we were told to go to the tender, docked in front of us and we were told to have breakfast and come back. As we were just getting to the chow line we were told to get back to the ship. The fire was much worse that they had thought.  The major part of the fire was between hold 1 and 2 there were pallets of solvents, grease and petroleum products on fire. My Chief’s (GMGC Cotman) main concern was the automatic sprinkler systems in the ammunition magazines forward of the fire. The forward magazine had about 500 rounds of 3 in 50 ammo. and the deep magazine below it had about 1000 rounds. Our job was to get to the horseshoe passage way and activate the manual sprinkler system.  (we discovered after the fire, that the automatic system had worked.) At one point, there was talk about towing the ship out of the harbor. To get the fire out took most of the day it was an all hands effort.   There was some serious structure damage we couldn’t see, but I remember walking on the 01 level forward of the superstructure toward the forecastle, the winch deck looked like a washboard. During the cruise, the D-1 Division had been working to convert a storage shack, located behind the gun mounts into a boatswain office space. The work had just been completed and the shack was completely destroyed, not by the fire but from the heat below. 

       The Captain came over the 1-MC to tell us that the fire was out you could tell by his voice that he was quite shaken. He told us that the Master at arms would have a force patrolling the ship throughout the night and if you were on deck you had better have a good reason. We were also to that these fires were intentionally set. One was started in the T&E room and one outside the Captain’s cabin and the big one over hold 2. The next morning, we were informed that the culprit had been caught attempting to pour JP-5 on one of the helicopter’s. His name escapes me, he was arrested and placed in he old fire tech room until he could be flown off. Rumor had it the ship was in such bad shape that it could not make the crossing to CONUS and we might end up in a repair yard somewhere in the med. Needles to say morale was quite low. It was later determined that we could make the crossing and after a brief stop in Norfolk we would be heading to Philadelphia Naval ship yard. I know everyone was concerned about the crossing, hitting a big storm, but I remember how happy everyone was to see the Chesapeake bay bridge tunnel.          

 

If you know of a member that you would like to recognize as "Spotlighted" or have input your self that you wish to nominate, contact the webmaster below with the name and reason.

The USS Concord AFS/TAFS 5 Association is a not-for profit and tax free organization IAW 501(c) 19. Dues \ donations however are non tax deductible.
All of our membership dues and other contributions directly fund the association functions, events, and necessary expenditures associated with maintaining our organization.

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