A personal story by Jon Grimm
I was aboard the USS Iowa when Turret #2 exploded. At that time
I was a very young MS3(Mess Management Specialist
3rd Class Petty Officer). I was also the DCPO (Damage Control Petty Officer)
for S-5 Division (responsible for the Officer's Mess and living spaces). At the time of the explosion I was in IOWA's DC (Damage Control)
office. If memory serves me
right, I was trying to com-shaw some tools from them when the seconds turned to hours and
nothing that any of us could do would stop the horrific events that were about to happen.
. . .
For those of you that were never on a Battleship, when the
SIXTEEN INCH guns were fired they shake the entire ship. Everybody onboard from mast to
keel - and stem to stern could feel these compressions go through the ship and themselves.
These compressions are caused when up to 600 pounds of black-powder per gun barrell are
ignited to launch high-explosive projectiles over twenty-seven miles with pinpoint
After being onboard for a while, the shock-waves from the
big-guns became common-place. When I was on my way to the DC office, Turret #1 was
shooting. As I stood there, trying to com-shaw some tools, I felt the first shot from
turret #2. Directly after that, there was a kind of muffled explosion which was definitely
NOT the type of noise and compression that a SIXTEEN INCH gun made. I distinctly remember
that everybody where I was - stopped - what they were doing and saying. There was complete
silence as we all looked at each other with confused faces. This long moment of silence
and confusion was pierced when the GQ (Battle
Stations) alarm sounded.
Without a word exchanged, everyone ran to their station with a
seriousness that I had never seen before - for we all knew the deadly consequences of what
I remember almost every second clearly, from 9:55am to 3:00am
the next morning when I finally hit my rack. I remember waking up after a few hours of
restless sleep to the ship's Chaplain saying a prayer, and Captain Moosally talking to us
over the 1MC (ship's general announcement system).
Some memories fade with time, but the most distinct thing that I
remember was the smell. It became a constant reminder of that day which lasted for months.
You might want to know how it affected me. The absolute, most
difficult thing for me to do is match words to feelings and memories that have no direct
In the crisis of the moment, training and duty summoned up in me
the courage to fend off any anxiety and thoughts while I concentrated on the task at hand.
With the initial fire extinguished and the damage contained, I was tasked with manning a
charged fire-hose. I spent 3-1/2 hours performing this duty in the unlikely event that a
secondary fire would erupt. It was during this time that the natural adrenaline was
wearing off and I slowly begen to return to reality. I realized how normal the day was up
until the point when I was in the DC office.
I remembered striking up a conversation with Allen
Everheart, a messcrank
(person assigned to one of the ship's gallies for 90 days
temporary assignment) for S-5 division, just that morning. I
talked him into letting me borrow his playtex gloves because I needed to perform PMS
(Preventative Maintenance) on some of our
division's deck drains.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks - Allen's Gunnery station
was in Turret#2. The the man I had talked to only hours before, was now dead.
I keep his gloves to this day.
I apologize for rambling on, but the MOST IMPORTANT THING that
was lost in all the media hype and propagated lies, were the stories of all the REAL
PEOPLE that lived through it.
I was part of a team that carried the bodies. The dead were
moved in three stages. After the fires were out, the bodies were brought to the Medical
spaces for identification. After ID'd they needed to be moved aft to the freezer
compartments for storage. Due to the layout of the ship, it was decided to take the bodies
up to the main deck from medical and then aft to directly above where the freezer spaces
were located near the flight deck.
I helped carry bodybags from the hatch outside the XO's cabin to
the fantail, an experience which truly has no translation. Back in the states my wife, and
the wives and families of the other crew-members, went through hell for 2 days not knowing
if their loved one would ever return.
It seems that the REAL PEOPLE were lost in the circus that
became a national controversy. Sharing MY story and encouraging others to share and
publish their own personal experiences will help put this tragedy back in its PROPER
If you can just help me get that ONE message out - I'd
Thanks for your time.
This story is © 1999-2006 to the Veteran's
Association of the USS IOWA(BB-61) - All rights Reserved. Any further reprint of it
in part or whole is not authorized unless by direct permission of the story's author or