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Off Quonset Naval Air Station, RI Disaster Hits U.S.S. BENNINGTON, May 1954

U.S.S. BENNINGTON

DISASTER HITS USS BENNINGTON OFF NEW ENGLAND.

Quonset Naval Air Station, R. I. (INS) -- The worst peace-time fire disaster in U.S. naval history today took the lives of 79 men in a fire aboard the famed aircraft carrier USS BENNINGTON off the New England coast. The Navy listed 220 other casualties among the BENNINGTON'S personnel.
Worst previous peacetime disasters were an explosion and fire aboard the carrier LEYTE in Boston Harbor when 37 lives were lost and 39 were injured, and an explosion aboard the battleship Mississippi off the California coast, which took 48 lives in 1924.
Late reports from the BENNINGTON, as the 27,100 ton carrier with a normal complement of 2900 officers and men approached Quonset, stated the fire involved high octane gas. The report remained unconfirmed by naval officials, who clamped down on information regarding the cause of the fire until all facts were checked.
Secretary of Navy C. S. THOMAS hurried to Quonset by airplane.
The first patient from the fire-stricken carrier was removed from the vessel by helicopter. THe helicopter landed in Newport on privately owned land. Observers said the injured man, swathed in sheets, was removed to a hospital-bound ambulance.
The carrier radioed for medical aid to await her arrival at Quonset.
The BENNINGTON reported that the fire was under control but added few details.
The big craft was returning to Quonset Point Naval Air Station from Norfolk, Va.
The tragedy which struck the BENNINGTON was the second within 13 months. A boiler explosion on the vessel off Guantanamo, Cuba, on April 27, 1953, killed 11 crewmen.
The latest bulletin, in correcting the number of dead and injured, read:
"Seventy-nine are dead and 220 injured aboard the BENNINGTON, according to a final check made as she approached port."
The Navy said the BENNINGTON casualty list would be compiled, but not made public until the next of kin were notified.
The Navy flew medical personnel to the stricken vessel and doctors, nurses and other medical personnel were ordered to stand by at dockside for the arrival of the BENNINGTON at Quonset Point.
Plans also were made to remove the more seriously injured to shore by plane if necessary.
As the BENNINGTON neared port it was announced that the fire was under control and being extinguished.
The BENNINGTON was returning to port from a routine training mission when the fire broke out.
The first announcement of the tragedy by the Navy said there were an unknown number of casualties. A later bulletin said:
"The USS BENNINGTON, CV20, has informed commander, Fleet Air, Quonset Point, that she is returning to port with approximately 100 casualties from a fire on board."
"Latest reports indicated 10 dead. Fire damage is under control."
"The BENNINGTON is due to arrive at NAS Quonset Point shortly afternoon (EDT) today."
Naval officials clamped down on information regarding the cause of the fire until the BENNINGTON arrives and all the facts are known.
The news of the fire came unexpectedly. The blaze apparently had been smoldering before it was discovered.
News of the tragedy spread quickly and the Naval air base was beseiged with telephone calls from relatives and friends of the hundreds of naval personnel aboard the aircraft carrier. Within minutes orders were issued not to accept incoming calls and outgoing calls were monitored.
A small army of newspaper and radio reporters and cameramen, including TV moviemen, raced over the road to the gates of the air station. Aircraft also carried others to the scene for an attempt at closeup views.
Helicopters were used in carrying, medical supplies to the BENNINGTON as she came up Narragansett Bay.
U. S. destroyer Potter stood by ready to aid in the medical work if needed.
Medical services also were organized in Boston, Providence, Newport and several Connecticut cities.
Four ambulances were manned and equipped with medical supplies at the Chelsea, Mass., naval hospitals. They were ready to leave as soon as word from the BENNINGTON indicated they would be needed.
As the big carrier approached Benton Reef lightship, the Navy sent four helicopters to the BENNINGTON with extra medical equipment for serious cases.
R. Adm. JOSEPH H. WILLINGS, Newport naval base commander, notified Quonset authorities that full facilities of the base were at the disposal of the fire-damaged carrier. This help included doctors, nurses, small boats, ambulances and helicopters.
At Quonset, plans were made for rushing critical cases by small craft to the Newport naval hospital if doctors deemed such action advisable.

Marysville Journal-Tribune Ohio 1954-05-26

List Of Those Who Died.
LT. GEORGE ALBERT ABROGUST.
AN CHARLES EDWARD ADAMS.
SD3 CORNELIUS ALEXANDER.
LT. JOSEPH F. ARRIGONI.
TN FRANCIS SYLVESTER BACON.
PFC DELBERT BAIRD.
LTJG. CYRON MELVIN BARBER.
LTJG. ROGER EARL BARNES.
AA WILLIAM NASH BASKIN.
CHPHOT GUY MORTON BEMISS.
AN RUSSELL BOYD.
LTJG. TERRY WILLARD BRYAN.
TN GEORGE W. BYERS.
CHPMLK STANELY LEO CAPISTRAND.
TA LLOYD COLEMAN.
SD2 JAMES CROMARTIE.
TN PRINCE ARTHUR DAVIS.
CHGUN ALBERT PENTON DEAN.
RELE RAYMOND C. DEMERS.
SD2 CHARLES JOSEPH DOLL.
LT. HENRY JACKSON DREW.
LTJG ROBERT JAMES DUFFY.
CHSCLK DOMINICK J. EOVINO.
AB3 ROBERT D. EPPS, JR.
TN JOSEPH LOUIS FAVRE.
CHBOSN LEO FRANCIS FIX.
FP3 FRED WALTER FORE.
LCDR PAUL EUGENE FOURNIER.
AOU3 FLOYD W. GOINS.
AB1 EDWRD JOHN GOLASZEWSKI.
SD3 LEON GONZALES.
TN DOUGLAS GOODRUM.
AO3 JESSE NELSON GREEN.
AO3 THOMAS C. HACKBARTH.
AB3 GEORGE JOSEPH HART, JR.
DT2 DONALD PAUL HILLYER.
LT DELOIS VERGIL HOLLOWAY.
SD3 ALFRED PUNNEL HOOKER.
LTJG CHARLES EDWARD HOPPER.
AO1 ALEXANDER HUBETSEL.
CHCARP JAMES WALTER HURD.
ME3 HAROLD ROGER HUSTOFT.
LTJG ROBERT PAUL INGE.
LT. BILLY GLEN JACKSON.
SD3 CHARLES JACKSON.
SN PAUL B. JEFFERSON.
LTJG ORLO HAMLIN KANE.
AB3 RICHARD HENRY KEIR.
CHGUN MAX KING.
CHSCLK DOMENIC JOSEPH KOVINO.
ADE3 CHARLES EDWARD KRASSY.
LT. DEWEY W. LAMBDIN.
MM3 ALBERT LAKATOS.
SK2 GEORGE WILLIAM LENZ.
AO3 ELLIOT STANLEY LEWIS.
H. L. LOUKIS - civilian from Westinghouse.
PFC FREDERICK DAVID MARCHISELLI.
AM1 ERNEST SIMMS MARTIN.
EM3 ALBERT JOSEPH MATTHAIS.
PFC BOBBY LEE MAYES.
AN CHARLES HUNTER McGHEE.
CHMACH LLOYD McNATT.
LTJG GORDON R. MILLER.
SN ARTHUR GEAN MILLS.
AN THADDEAUS EUGENE MOODY.
LT. J. CLYDE MORTON.
LT. ROGER RAYMOND O'DONNELL.
SN WALTER ISSIAH O'NEAL.
ENS EMORY DEAN PENDELL.
LTJG MSC DONALD LEE PHELPS.
SN FRANCIS JOSEPH PRAMEK.
PACT WILLIAM HOWARD PUGH.
EM2 JESSE HERBERT RAMEY.
LCDR MARVIN REED.
SD3 JUAN REYES.
LT. WALLACE RICH.
SK1 CLAUDE PATRICK RILEY.
SD2 JESSE ELMORE RIVERS.
TN ALTO LEE ROBINSON.
LTJG CHARLES EDWIN SCHMUCKER, JR.
SD2 BENIGNO SICO.
LT DANIEL JOSEPH SMITH.
AMC RALPH C. SMITH.
SD3 ROBERT KENT SMITH.
IC3 CANTRELL WALLACE SOMMARS.
PFC JAMES T. STANFORD.
LTMC CLYDE DANA THOMAS, JR.
SD1 ERIC ALFRADO THOMAS.
LTJG DAVID R. THORNHILL.
CHSCLK EARL THORNTON, JR.
AO3 EARL CRAWFORD TINNEY.
LT PAUL S. TONDO.
SD2 HOWARD M. TRIPLET.
AOC JOHN VAN DER HOONING.
AB3 KELLEY BRUCE WAGES, JR.
TN MARION WILLIAMS.
SD1 HERBERT LEE WILLIS.
TN WILLIE WILLIAM.
LTJG GERALD JAMES WITVOET.
PT3 PAUL DALLAS WONSETLER.
TA LONNIE GENE WOODUM.
SD3 HAROLD HENRY WRIGHT, JR.
LT. ROBERT REID WRIGHT.

Comments

Men on Ship

My Dad ( Edward Wayne Wilkins) Service Number 976 77 47(820)S.S Number 412-16-2247 (went by E.Wayne Wilkins) was on This Ship I Don't Know Much about When or Where ? It Could have been in 1945-47 or in the Korean War ? Not Sure. any one who Knows anything that They can Tell me about Him while on this Ship With Him he is buried in Jacksonville Florida Please Contact me at edwwjr_60@yahoo.com

Herbert Lee Willis

I just ran across your comment from2009 about your uncle.

I'm trying to get more info into the U S Navy Memorial about the guys we lost on the Bennington

Do you happen to have a photo of him in uniform ?

Gene Maresca.

U.S.S. Bennington

My mother was talking about her Uncle who was killed aboard a Navy ship in the 1950. With the information I got I found out that my great uncle, SD1 Herbert Lee Willis, was one of those 103 who died.

ENC Mike Turnage
U.S. Navy

U.S.S. Bennington

There were 103 killed aboard the Bennington that day, 201 injured. The cause was determined to have been from fluid in one of the catapults exploding which set off a series of secondary explosions.
My father, CHSCLK EARL THORNTON, JR. was one of those 103 who died.
Kathy Hughes

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