On Feb. 19, 2012, several crewmembers from USS Truxtun (DDG 103) traveled to Newfoundland for a special ceremony. The event was to honor the heroic efforts by residents of two towns there to save Sailors from two ships that went aground off the coast in 1942.
The day of the disaster was marked by a strong, North Atlantic winter storm — seas were high, the winds were strong and bitter cold, and the visibility was very poor. The coast of Newfoundland where the ships ran aground, is barren, marked by cliffs and rocky shores. Both ships were quickly stuck on the rocks while the high surf pounded the hulls, eventually ripping each ship apart. The seas and temperature made the escape for the crews extremely hazardous, and many succumbed to the cold waters or were killed in the surf crashing on the cliffs. Those that did make it ashore were still not safe, as they were cold, wet, and outside the sight of any apparent help.
Enter the local residents of St. Lawrence and of Lawn, who after the first contact with one of the survivors, came to the aid at each shipwreck site. Rescuers placed themselves at risk to the elements and the cliffs as they rigged ropes and waded into the surf. The surviving crew members were taken into the residents’ homes, where they were warmed, cleaned, and looked after in the beds of the rescuers. The heroic rescue efforts saved the lives of 46 men of the TRUXTUN’s crew of 156.
It is easy to forget among today’s challenges, that as mariners and as Sailors, we follow in the footsteps of many Sailors before us. Being assigned to the current USS TRUXTUN (DDG103) makes that point especially clear as we follow those who served aboard previous TRUXTUNs.CDR John Ferguson Commanding Officer USS Truxtun (DDG 103)
This past weekend I attended the 70th anniversary memorial remembering the disaster and unbelievable rescue of the USS TRUXTUN (DD 229) and the USS POLLUX (AKS 2) off the coast of Newfoundland. It was an honor and privilege to be there and the most humbling experience. I had the opportunity to hear about the courage and sacrifice of the Sailors and townspeople from Lanier Phillips, one of the survivors of USS Truxtun, as well as Gus Etchegary and Levi Pike, two of the original rescuers.
To be physically there at the Chambers Cove and see what those Sailors and rescuers experienced – rough seas in foreign waters – and the great dedication and courage it took from the Sailors and townspeople. It speaks volumes of the people of Newfoundland on that fateful day that they risked their lives to rescue the Sailors. But it’s even more meaningful now, especially that the people of Canada took time to commemorate those lost lives and to honor those heroes. I witnessed first hand the kindness of the people while taking part in this memorial. It is a story I will continue to share with the crew aboard my current command USS TRUXTUN (DDG 103).CMDCM Paulette Brock Command Master Chief USS Truxtun (DDG 103)