Princeton Mine Strike…

After celebrating Veterans Day 2013 yesterday, I thought it apropos that I would share one of my own ‘veteran stories’ from my days serving in the U.S. Navy. First let me say this story as really not something on the order of a Battle of the Bulge, Midway or D-Day or anything of that sort, but for me at least, was as exciting a time as I’ve ever experienced during my five years of active duty service as a commissioned officer after graduating from the Naval Academy.

You will see after reading this story that I have the unique distinction to have served onboard one of two ships that was struck by mines during the Gulf War in 1991 while participating in Operation Desert Storm.   My ship was the USS Princeton (CG-59) and the other ship that struck a mine was USS Tripoli (LPH-10).  This story will give you the reader the first person’s perspective of what it’s like to operate a ship in “harms way” which is what the US Navy was and remains designed to do in defense of our country’s national security.

The mission of the US Navy is “…to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.”  An application of that mission came to bear during the Gulf War in 1990-1991.   Our ship was one of the latest of the Ticonderoga class Aegis Cruisers at the time, and was assigned the Air Warfare Commander role in the northern Persian Gulf in support of the pending ground war with Iraq.  This particular cruiser was equipped with vertical launched surface to air missiles housed in silos on the fore and after part of the ship that could all be simultaneously launched if needed. These missiles would be controlled the then state of the art air/surface radar system employing steerable beam tracking that permits the ship to actively track hundreds of airborne contacts and engage  incoming hostile aircraft or missiles to include low flying surface to surface ones if necessary in full “automatic mode”.  As this made us the most capable Anti-Air warfare platform in theater, we were particularly well equipped to handle practically any kind of shipborne, air or land based attack by the Iraqi military forces. Thus the decision by the fleet commander to  assign us the mission to provide air warfare protection for the over 30 ship Amphibious Task Force operating off the coast of Kuwait and Iraq in support of the Theater Commander, Norman Schwarzkopf’s strategy to deceive the Iraqi military commanders into thinking we planned to amphibiously land on the beaches of Kuwait.   The strategy’s intent was to force the Iraqi military to stay locked down in that locale while permitting our ground forces to do an “end-around” into Iraq directly and trap those forces in a pincer movement that turned out to work perfectly.

I thought I would first share some background leading up to the events that make up the main story.   In August 1990, the USS Princeton was en route to visit Vladivostok, USSR.   We were one of two ships, the other being USS Reuben James (FFG-57), to visit this port since before World War II (1938). As the war with Japan and later the Cold War with USSR precluded our US Navy ships to visit this strategic Russian port, this was quite an exciting historical milestone to be part of.  The year prior to this visit, the wall between East and West Berlin was tore down symbolically representing the end to this Cold War between our two nations and the start of the “Glasnost” era that began toward the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency who worked closely to achieve this “detente” with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russian premier. With this as a historical back drop, our ships visit was part of an exchange visit with Russian vessels visiting San Diego similarly to help further the new found peace between our two nations.

Unfortunately, in the midst of our visit symbolizing the end of this near 45 year stalemate between our countries, Saddam Hussein, the leader of Iraq, decided his own country would annex the nation of Kuwait, an oil-rich country near the northeast corner of Saudi Arabia and just south of their own Iraqi port of Basra at the northern tip of the Persian Gulf. The United States having strategic economic interests in both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait immediately took Saddam Hussein to task for this invasion as an act of war on a sovereign nation. The United Nations agreed with then president George H.W. Bush and gave him the authority to put in immediate economic and military sanctions on Iraq as what became known as Operation Desert Shield. That Operation which lasted until January 15, 1991 had the main purpose to provide ample time for the US and her allies to build up military ground, air and sea forces in the area to first be able to defend Saudi Arabia from being invaded and later to then forcibly remove Iraq from Kuwait if other economic sanctions did not succeed in getting Saddam to leave Kuwait.

Rather than cancel our visit to Vladivostok, the 7th fleet commander, Admiral Charles Larson, who was traveling with us on USS Princeton chose to complete this historic visit.   Admiral Larson still had the task to then ready us and the rest of the Pacific Fleet to support our preparations to support Operation Desert Shield and later once the air war began Operation Desert Storm. We finished our landmark visit of Vladivostok then quickly returned to the United States to ready our ship to be deployed back to the Persian Gulf by year end. In that time, the crew of USS Princeton had to take care of personal business and ready themselves for war. On December 7, 1990 our ship got underway from her home port of Long Beach Naval Station and began the cross Pacific transit to the Persian Gulf. After a brief visit to Subic Bay, Phillippines for the New Year, we steamed at top speed to enter the Persian Gulf on January 13, 1991, two days before the beginning of the air war and the official start of Operation Desert Storm. For the first 3 weeks, we steamed closely behind USS Midway (CV-41)  on assignment to provide air guard duty.   Midway was launching and landing aircraft nearly continuously for these first few days of the air war and we kept close astern of the carrier in case one of the aircraft were to ditch upon launch or landing.   USS Midway was one of two aircraft carriers operating in the Persian Gulf launching aircraft attacks on Iraq (the other was USS Ranger (CV-61) who we had steamed across the Pacific with en route for the Gulf.   The aircraft aboard these carriers along with those the Air Force stationed in Saudi Arabian bases were used to methodically destroy all the above ground radar, anti-air SAM and gun emplacements for this phase of the air war against Iraq.   Our other role was to ensure Midway was protected from any air attack by Iraqi jet or land based missiles. With warnings that Iraq had at its disposal chemical/biological weapons, I remember this being a particularly stressful time and we did several drills where we practiced donning chemical protection suits and discussed how we would self administer antidotes to any kind of biological weapon like anthrax should Iraq choose to use such weapons.  Also during this Air war phase of the Gulf War, our ship was ordered to launch three Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise missiles on Iraq.

The air war, though quite effective at neutralizing any Iraqi Air Force threat, did not succeed at convincing Iraq to exit their ground forces from Kuwait, so by mid February, plans were made to begin readying for a ground offensive. Our ship was reassigned to the aforementioned Amphibious Task Force under the direction of the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), the command ship in charge of overseeing the “feint” amphibious landing of Kuwait being planned. On February 18, 1991, three days before the ground war would begin, knowing we were the ship most ready and able to take an incoming missile attack, and given there were intelligence reports indicating that some surface missile batteries had gone active on the Kuwaiti coast, our Commanding Officer (CO), Captain Ted Hontz, directed our ship to operate as close to the coast of our Kuwait that are operating box would allow us to be.  Captain Hontz was well aware that if one ship could react and engage an incoming threat it would be Princeton with its sophisticated suite of Aegis radar and surface to air missile systems.  Given the relative vulnerability the balance of the amphibious ships were to such an attack, Captain Hontz view was both quite brave and the most practical use of his command.

It was in this tactical situation, that I found myself, the Officer of the Deck (OOD) coming on watch at 7am in the morning of February 18th. As OOD, I am accountable directly to the CO for directing the watch team on the bridge to maneuver the ship per the CO’s orders. I had been OOD qualified since we first came into the Gulf and was accustomed to being in charge on the bridge when the CO was not there, but this morning was different.  Captain Hontz was already on the bridge, and as I was coming up to the bridge to stand my watch, I learned why.  Before taking the watch, I made my standard visit to Combat Information Center (CIC), the compartment just below the bridge where one gets the tactical situation based on the various radar systems and other intelligence available.  That particular morning, I found out that the USS Tripoli (LPH-10) had been struck by a submerged moored mine just below the waterline punching a hole in her hull. Though there was flooding on the ship, it had been contained and so they were still operational if somewhat compromised. The disconcerting part of this information was that Tripoli was 10 nautical miles further out from the Kuwait coastline then we were.   Our location was consistent with the CO’s orders to be closer to the known threat of surface missile batteries becoming active on that coast. Basically, that meant we, like Tripoli, were in the middle of a minefield…

So, as I came to the bridge to take the watch at 7am, the CO was on the bridge. It was clear to everyone the risks were high and so we were only moving at a minimal 3 knots to keep from drifting while still giving us maximum opportunity to spot any other mines under the surface akin to what hit the Tripoli. After I assumed the watch, the CO knowing we were as close to the edge of our operating box as he was permitted to bring us, commanded me to bring the ship around on an easterly course about 180 degrees from the direction we were heading.   When a ship is traveling this slow, it is equally slow to come about, so to speed our turn, I ordered the conning officer to back the starboard (right) engine 1/3 while forwarding the port (left) engine 1/3.   What this does to a two propeller ship is to cause it to pivot in place rather than actually turn through the water. Given that we wanted to proceed cautiously to avoid mines, this maneuver made quite a bit of sense.   In fact, that decision may have very well have saved the ship.

The problem was that we were actually unknowingly between two submerged Italian made “manta” mines that were lying on the bottom of the water which was roughly 60 feet in the area we were operating.   This type of mine is not set off by contact but by pressure typical of a caveating propeller or bow wave caused by a ship moving through water.   The closer mine was off our port quarter and as we pivoted our stern in the direction of that particular mine, the pressure wave caused by our propeller detonated that mine and began to lift our stern out of the water.  That mine set off a second mine off our starboard bow sympathetically and caused us to rock vigorously back in the other direction.   The combined trauma to the ship severely damaged the stern of our ship and one of the propeller shafts thereby making us dead in the water.   Additionally, several pipes internal to the ship burst and we eventually had to secure air conditioning which meant a temporary shutdown of our air defense radars and thus missile systems.  In sum, we became a big metal sitting target and extraordinarily vulnerable to missile attack.  Further, three of our crew on either end of the ship were thrown around quite violently and had to be airlifted off the ship for medical treatment.   Why I said above that the decision to pivot might have saved the ship was that these mines had they been set off amidships (center of the ship), we might have been completely lifted out of the water thus breaking our keel in two and thus sinking rapidly.  Rather, we ended up only turning into the mine rather than going over it and so the damage was thus deflected.

Through the valiant reaction of a well trained crew on damage control, the ship’s air conditioning and thus defense systems were restored and we were able to resume Air Warfare Commander role for approximately 30 hours until were relieved later by another cruiser in the area, USS Horne (CG-30).   Until then, without the ability to turn our port shaft/propeller, we had to await to be pulled out of the area by a salvage and rescue ship, USS Beaufort (ATS-2) preceded by a mine sweeping ship, USS Adroit (MSO-509), who ensured the area around us was cleared of any other mines.  It was a pretty stressful time as I remember being in a modified General Quarters status for all that time living with the very real threat that we actually might still lose our severely damaged stern and possibly sink.

Fortunately, we were safely towed out of harm’s way and eventually found ourselves in Bahrain where we were provided sufficient repairs to continue our journey further south first to Jebel Ali to offload our weapons and then on to Dubai, UAE to a dry dock for further repairs for an additional 8 weeks.

In late April, we were finally back underway under our own power again after being awarded the Combat Action Ribbon for our wartime action.  En route back to the Long Beach, we made a trip down below the equator after passing Singapore so we could hold a Shellback ceremony, then stopped again in Subic Bay Philippines, Hong Kong, and then Pearl Harbor Hawaii where we picked up family members for a Tiger Cruise which included my Dad, a former Navy veteran himself.   When we arrived back in Long Beach, we received a hero’s welcome that I’m sure seemed well deserved to those who greeted us upon arrival.   Despite the earned accolades, it still seems to this day humbling to those of us on the crew knowing we had simply heeded the call to serve our country during wartime and had in fact encountered military action.

Though it was a harrowing experience to hit a mine, none of us went into this thinking we would be heroes.  Mostly we were grateful that we were able to serve our country and return safely to our loved ones.   I am in particular grateful to have served alongside all the sailors and officers of USS Princeton and will remember fondly the time I called these men my shipmates.   We have plans as a crew to have a twenty-five year anniversary reunion on February 18, 2016 to memorialize the events that day we struck the mine.  I am looking forward greatly to seeing these shipmates once again!

Persian Gulf showing path Princeton took from mine strike to dry docking in Dubai UAE
Showing approximate location of Princeton mine strike relative to Kuwaiti/Iraq Coastline
Steaming near USS Midway (CV 41)
Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile launch on Iraq!
View of Port stern where steel girders were welded to support heavily damaged fantail
Picture of superstructure cracked by the violent trauma to ship by two mini strikes
Starboard side view of buckled deck near fantail
View of Mine Damage from fantail showing metal rope welded to superstructure and deck to further support heavily damaged fantail
Dad and me in Pearl Harbor as we pull out of Port for the last leg of the trip home...
My wife Leah crying tears of joy upon my safe return to Long Beach
Welcome home sign for me and my Dad who joined me for the last leg of the cruise from Pearl Harbor back to Long Beach...
Welcome home sign for me and my Dad who joined me for the last leg of the cruise from Pearl Harbor back to Long Beach…

ADDENDUM:   February 18, 2017… on the occasion of our 26th anniversary of the mine strike on USS Princeton.   A year ago we celebrated our 25th anniversary by visiting our ship homeported in San Diego.  We were blessed to have the chance to visit her current crew and get a VIP tour of the ship we once fought to keep afloat and ready for combat during the ongoing Gulf War.   I share here the memories of that visit and the reunion last year on this NEW Princeton Mine Strike Crew Website where I hope we get to share many future memories in the years ahead.  

84 thoughts on “Princeton Mine Strike…

  1. Jerry- you and the crew are a rock stars. Hard to believe our nation will create a made for tv movie within weeks for serial killings but these truly inspirational stories are kept hidden.

    I admire your service and commend you for sharing this story.

    • Thanks Mike! I don’t know we felt like ‘rock stars’, but to be fair we were treated quite well when we returned to Long Beach Naval Station. Apparenlty the LA Lakers Dance Team were out on the pier to greet us with our families. Didn’t notice… too busy hugging my wife. šŸ™‚ As for inspirational stories, I sense that Hollywood is increasingly sharing the story of the sacrifices our soldiers and sailors make with Captain Phillips, Zero Dark Thirty, Act of Valor, Hurt Locker and soon Lone Survivor out in December about the 4 Seals who got caught in a firefight in Afghanistan. I read that book, that’s going to be an awesome movie! Besides, I’m not sure our story about Princeton would make for 2 hours of compelling drama either… The story might make for a nice “Military Channel” show perhaps? ….also who could possibly play me… I might have to portray myself to catch the nuances of my character. Ha ha! šŸ˜€

      • Great article but not quite factual. It was USS Beaufort ATS 2 that did the tow, not the Adroit. They lead the two of us out of that minefield safely, but it was the Big Deuce that did the tow.

      • Thanks, Thomas, for catching my miss on who towed us out of harms way on February 18th. My apologies for not properly recognizing USS Beaufort in my story. I have since corrected this in my write-up. Appreciate you much for getting us out of that minefield!

      • I was a crew member of HMCS ATHABASKAN (Royal Canadian Navy). we were specifically asked by the CO of Princeton to come to her rescue as we had forward mine detection and 2 Sea king Helo’s with mine detection. We steamed from Bahrain to the Princetons position at 31kts..through the same mine field she had transited….not knowing this until we arrived. 2 of our CF 18 Hornets also provided CAP. There is a painting that I posted to the Desert Storm Navy vets FB page.

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  3. Thanks for posting this Jerry, I am honored to know you and been able to meet you a few times. Blessings to you, your wife and daughters.

  4. Hello Shipmate…..A very nice article….I was MS2 Kuhre the Port shift watch captain of the general mess. That day was an exciting, harrowing day for all of us onboard…..with only three major physical injuries I think we all felt very lucky…….and with the broken firemain ….extremely lucky we had no fires. thank you again sir for your words.

  5. Jerry,
    Thanks for not letting this event slip away into history. I was DC3 Radel, Greg when the mine went off, I was down in CCS as the DC Console watch and later responded as repair 2 Scene Leader. I am currently still on active duty as the Command Master Chief of one of the Navy’s newest Destroyers USS SPRUANCE. I tell the story of that day at every Command INDOC to remind Sailors that we always have to be prepared. I plan on attending the reunion for the 25th Anniversary hopefully we will run into each other there.

    Take Care,

    Greg Radel
    Command master Chief

  6. I was on the Princeton up until this past summer. Pretty awesome to hear a first person account of what happened during the mine explosions.

    • THanks IT2… I would like to visit Princeton again someday. I’m sure being on board would bring back a lot of fond memories. Fair winds and following seas. Jerry DIckerson

      • Jerry, in all my online searches for material relating to the events of that day, your story by far is the most compelling with regard to atmospheric detail! I too, was on board the Princeton that day (OS2 Chris Peterson) and was standing next to OS1 Bernard Brown who was seated at the Surface Radar Control console in CIC. I had just reported for watch and was receiving a turn-over from Brown, while simultaneously listening to Captain Hontz briefing the entire ship about the Tripoli mine hit over the 1MC. Shortly thereafter, “ka-booooom”! Such irony! It is an experience that I will never forget as long as I live. More importantly, I am excited to hear about the planned reunion and would definitely like to attend. Unfortunately, I don’t do Face Book or any other social networks due to my current employment. I am a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI currently assigned to a covert unit out of Quantico, Virginia. Yes, I am still in the business of National Security and aid in the service of justice to some really bad individuals. If you could include me in any future lines of communication regarding the reunion, I would greatly appreciate it. I’m looking forward to seeing and sharing stories with all of my Princeton comrades again. Thanks for the good read! (202-309-8941)

      • Hello Chrisā€¦ Thanks for the kind comments on my sharing of our story of 23+ years ago. I will be sure to pass on your contact information to those who are coordinating the event. Would it be ok to share your e-mail and phone # to those gents? The only real way I can get a hold of them is through the Facebook page where a number of them actively post updates on the Princeton.

    • Thanks Joe for sharing your mine destruction video. Very interesting to hear about that aspect of your operations. We appreciated having USS Horne near by when we had to shut down temporarily our combat systems in lieu of the mine damage repairs. By the way do you remember an officer on Horne named LTjg Patterson? He was a buddy of mine from USNA. I remember he was on your ship when I was on Princeton.

      • Yep, that’s him. We both played Ultimate Frisbee together at Annapolis and we were in fact co-Captains of the same club team. I think in fact that both our CO’s knew that and talked about having a game between the two ship’s teams. That never worked out but I thought how cool that we were basically within line of sight of one another’s ship there in the middle of all the war stuff going onā€¦

  7. Thanks for sharing this Jerry. I was an FC2 in CF division onboard Princeton at the time, working on the Aegis system. That was quite a day and one I will never forget. If I recall correctly, the “modified GQ” you mentioned included all non essential personnel staying above the main deck in case we hit another mine. I also remember seeing the minesweeper marking mines at night with lighted chem light markers. I felt like we were sitting on top of a birthday cake there were so many candles lit up.

    These stories are important to share so they are not forgotten. Thank you!

    John M
    FC2 1986-1992

    • Hello John,

      Thanks for your message and affirmation. As I wrote in a reply to an earlier comment, I don’t know that I realized that this story would have been seen as far and wide as it has. It is a joy and privilege to hear how this has helped remind us all of the experiences we had together on Princeton during the Gulf War. I had originally planned this to be something I shared with non-Navy friends but the reaction of you shipmates like you has been an added blessing.

      I do remember the modified GQ and it being somewhat surreal that we were all topside for that time we weren’t sure what might happened to the ship.

      I also remember finding how many potential mines were around us and wondering why we decided to send the mind sweepers AFTER we were there already?? Well, you know what they say, every ship is a minesweeper at least once. We in fact cleared two mines that day and our ship survived to tell the tale. I”m proud it remains one of the active Aegis cruisers int he fleet. She bounced back well, didn’t she… šŸ™‚

      Fair winds and following seas shipmate,

      Jerry Dickerson
      Former LT and ASWO, USS Princeton, 1990-1991

  8. Nice write up LT. I pre-commed Princeton and was on board during the mine hits. When they hit I was hanging out in the NAV/EX berthing compartment listening to the Skipper talk about the mine hit on the Tripoli and how we need to be extra vigilant when watching for mines. Next thing I know I’m blown off my feet, I regained my balance and looked over to the guy I was standing next to, his eyes were as big as pancakes. My first thought was the aft 5″ gun, my second thought was nope, not the aft 5″. I looked at Smitty and said what was that, he was quiet for a second and said MINE, right after that GQ went off. I ran out in to the P-way and the fire main was cracked and blowing water all over, there was around 2-3 inches of water on the deck already. I was thinking that I must be crazy because I had to go down another deck to get to CCS. I don’t remember how long we were at GQ before the cooks were clear to bring some food around but to this day, that hacked up platter of ham and bread, is the best meal I’ve ever had. I’ve wondered several times how we avoided the first mine going off midships, after reading your account of what happened on the bridge it makes sense. If that son of a gun would have popped under the midships quarterdeck and the second one went off in the same way, I have no doubt that we would have sunk. Some days it’s better to be lucky than good. You are dead on when you said hero’s welcome. Vlad was a blast and we were rock stars but Long Beach was even better. I’ll keep my eye on the 25th reunion. I would be fun to see my old friends and swap stories.

    PN3 Tim O.

  9. Thanks Jerry! That was a great accounting of FEB 18th. I was one of those Shipmates medivac’d off the ship. It was a day that I will always remember. Mount 52 rained down paint flakes for what seemed like minutes after the blast. To have a fractured vertebrae and body full of bruises was a miracle. Again the days aboard the Princeton will be days that I will always cherish and reflect. Fair Winds and Following Seas Princeton alumni.

    GMM2 (SW) Michael P.

  10. Jerry, David Black here. I was an RM3 onboard the USS Princeton. I was in Radio when we took those hits. I remember it like it was yesterday. I am working at the Fresno VA now as an AMVETS Service Officer. I notice you are located in the Fresno/Clovis area as well. Stop by the Fresno VA when you get a chance. I retired from the Navy in 2010 and moved back to where I grew up. Ok, email when you can. Stay encouraged shipmates..

  11. I want to come to the reunion…please let me know where. I remember that day well I was an OS1 in CIC. I retired an LDO LT …a few years later Ted Hontz and I worked together at a company I Dahlgren VA….I left to work for the government and still am in Dahlgren VA….and see and talk to Ted often. Great recount of the whole time Jerry…thank you

    Jerry Papenfuss

  12. I remember the time well, I left the Princeton for another Precom, USS George Washington (CVN-73). Later followed by three years as an Instructor at the newly opened Damage Controlman “A” School in Great Lakes. I also remember talking and showing video from that day to my students. You never expect it to happen to you….. But are always prepared. I admit the crew of the Princeton at that time was by far the best crew I ever served with. I left the Navy in 2002 and continued to serve this great country work for the Central Intelligence Agency for the last 13 years. I look forward to seeing our crew members again.
    Thanks for the article.

    • Hello Lowellā€¦ Great to hear from you. I hope it works out that we can all see each other once again next year for our 25 year anniversary. I appreciate that you continue to serve our nation faithfully!

  13. Great article. I was LPO of Deck Division when this happened. From my vantage point, the two things I remember most from that day was of us pulling the towing hawser out and wrapping it around the stern midships to midships to help hold it in place….and us using the forward most bitts to tow the ship in because we couldn’t use the anchor chain/capstain and sleeping on the foc’sle to man the tow. Looking forward to seeing everyone in 2016.

  14. FC3 Lonnie Caldwell here. I was the 28th crew member to show up at Pascagoula while the ship was being built. I was on board until June of 1992. I remember the mine blasts intimately. I would like to know more about the reunion too. I do not Facebook either. My contact info is 386-774-2703 or 386-473-0809. Feel free to pass this along to any of my Princeton shipmates.

  15. Hello all Princeton shipmates. I was OSC (SW) Miller. Mr. Dickerson I remember the mine strike quite well. I heard the bridge details from EWCM (SW) Gallagher who was your JOOD, but yours’ are much more salient and interesting. I remember you would always stop in to CIC to get briefed on what was going on before you went on watch. I was on watch at 0400 when Tripoli struck the floaters and I kind of breathed a sigh of relief because I knew it was just am matter of time before “some poor dumb bastard” hit a mine. Who knew that 17 minutes after getting relieved choking down chow and jumping in my rack that I’d get bounced out and be right back up in CIC for another 30 hours. I remember helping the Airdales wrap the chilled water pipes outside radio just like in Damage Control school. I remember Captain Hontz paying out of ships training funds to send the air det to go to DC shipboard training and it paid off quite well that day. When we stopped bouncing up and down I do not remember getting out of my rack or getting dressed, just showing up in CIC before the GQ alarm went off. . My divo LTjg Chuck Gooding, showed up with flash gloves on his feet. The Chaplain Gordy went from DC Locker to DC locker with his Mark V gas mask bag filled with peanut M &Ms.
    I and my wife Colleen who was the ombudsman for that deployment would love to attend the reunion. I retired from the Navy in 1997. I am now an RN working at various ERs in and around Chicago.
    My contact number is 708-309-6228. Please pass it along to whoever is coordinating the reunion.
    Thanks for your memories., your service and your humor. Fair Winds and Following Seas.

  16. I was on the ship that day..I worked in radio.. but I was part of repair 5 for general quarters. After everything was secured, and still at general quarters, I dozed off and started dreaming of being on the ship and a mine was following us.. we kept trying to dodge it, but it would follow us no matter what maneuver we took.
    It was an honor and privilege to serve on board with each shipmate! That day will be forever embedded in my memory!

  17. Hey Jerry,

    John Sawyers here. I was the MPA at the time of the mine hit and was also the EOOW on watch that morning. I’m really glad you did this write up and captured a moment in history that effected so many.

    I remember that morning being so tired. Next thing I know, I’m standing up through no effort of my own. The thing that surprised me the most was that the only alarms we got were the two A/C plants that were online tripped. I remember the first thing I did was ask all the engineering spaces to just report in to make sure everyone was Ok. The guys in AUX1 never responded.

    I also remember trying to contact you guys on the bridge through the bitch box to report the status of the engineering plant. I’m sure it was crazy but after what seemed to be an eternity someone answered.

    One thing that got buy me right after the mine hit was the fire pump(s) running at the time of the mine hit tripped. I remember the DCA, Rick Breaux, coming into CCS and realizing this and was not happy with me for not starting additional fire pumps. Maybe Master Chief Radel could comment on this.

    Right after the DCA entered CCS, Jim Richardson, came in to relieve me as EOOW so that I could go up to Repair 5. I remember that when the mine sweep started locating other mines, we moved Repair 5 up to the midships quarterdeck. We cracked open one of the QAWTD’s and saw all the flares in the water were potential additional mines were being marked.

    But through it all the worst part was the shipyard period. It’s funny because I don’t remember a lot of specific things during that period. The only thing that I really remember was doing all the fuel storage tank close out inspections.

    Well, everyone take care.

  18. Thank You So Much, I was a battle damage specialist on board USSJason AR8, This is the best told telling of the story I’ve herd having seen the devastation myself. Again thanks shipmate!

    • Hello HT2… thanks for the kind words about the minestrike story I shared. It was a privilege to work alongside the crew of the Princeton through this experience. We appreciate you all aboard USS Jason helping us get repairs done quickly in Qatar before we went down to dry dock down in Dubai UAE. Your CO, Captain Tobin was my Dad’s CO back here in Fresno when they were doing recruiting duty together back in the 70’s when he was still a LT. I was only around 7-10 years old back then. Small world, huh?

  19. This is really interesting. However, what about HMCS Athabaskan? I used to know a person who served on the ship and I recall him talking about delivering damage control supplies to the Princeton after it hit the mine. Anyone have any further information?

    • Yes, I do remember the Athabaskan being nearby after the mine strike. We were blessed to have ships from multiple nations making up the UN Coalition fighting in Operation Desert Storm cooperating with one another.

  20. Outstanding read. Great attention to detail. It is good that you sailors all stayed in touch. Semper Fidelis and. Anchors Away.

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  22. Captain Ted Hontz, USN is a great American and we were blessed to have served with him as our skipper. I will always be grateful to the hard charging crew of USS Princeton for their amazing actions following the mine explosions. I will never forget the PRC deck undulating in the wardroom passageway as the mine impacted our ship. BZ to all who assisted to save Princeton and allow us to return to Long Beach, CA.

    • Hello Steve! Great to hear from you after all these years! I agree Captain Hontz was a great skipper of our ship. His discipline and training of the crew ensured we were ready to respond to the mine strike!

  23. I was on the USS JASON AR-8. Our DC teams actually worked on the Princeton in order to get her seaworthy enough to be towed to Abu Dabi’s drydock.
    It was my understanding, being a RM3, that the Princeton hit the mines before the USS TRIPOLI. The JASON completed 80% of the repairs to the Tripoli before our sister ship replaced us.

    • Hello Ann… Appreciate what all you and the crew of USS Jason did for us! I remember when we pulled in to Bahrain and your team all came aboard to stabilize our fantail! It was the first time we had the chance to go ashore in over 7 weeks, and I went down the pier and ran into your CO, Captain Roy Tobin. To show what a small world it is, I introduced myself to him because I recognized him as the Officer in Charge of the recruiting detachment my Dad, then GMCS Robert Dickerson served under him at in Fresno, CA back in the mid-70’s. I was around 10 years old back then, but I definitely remembered then LT. Tobin well.

      As for the timing on when Tripoli hit her mine vs when we hit ours. I can assure you it was Tripoli who hit hers (a submerged mine below the waterline) before we set off the two that struck Princeton. I know this as I was the OOD at the time and was coming up on watch just before this all went down, and I remember going through CIC on the way to the bridge and the watch down there telling me about Tripoli being hit. It was definitely dissettling to see where they were compared to us relative to the Kuwaiti coastline and know were were further into the minefield then them.

  24. Jerry…I was on HMCS Terra Nova, DDG 259.
    It was our turn to be on patrol so we were in the area. They sent the Athabaskan out from port as she had the helos. I think that was the only time we were together since we arrived on-theatre. We had all hands on deck that day as we sailed past you. Our CO woke everyone up. I guess he believed we all should have that piece of history as a memory. The list and crew running around with hoses while under tow was eye popping. You mates had it under control though. We were all wondering how our ship would have faired out had it been us. I still talk about that day often. Bravo Zulu!!

    • Hello James… great to have you guys nearby in case needed. It was definitely a day to remember. Tomorrow is our 31st anniversary in fact, so I’m sure there will be lots of comments exchanged here and elsewhere on social media about that!

  25. Ahoy,
    By coincidence I got on this site. Very interesting story of the incident. I was captain on the Dutch salvage tug ā€œSmit New Yorkā€ during the Desert Shield/Storm period. The ā€œSmit New Yorkā€ was part of the NAVSEA SUPSALV salvage fleet.
    Feb 19 the ā€œSmit New Yorkā€ took over the ā€œUSS Princetonā€ from the ā€œUSS Beaufortā€ the day after the incident and towed her Feb 21 into Bahrain. Later that day I visited the ā€œUSS Princetonā€ with Cdr Jim Evans, the US Navy liaison officer I had on board my tug to visually see the inflicted damages.
    The next day we went to sea and relieved the ā€œUSS Beaufortā€ who was performing towing escort services for ā€œUSS Tripoliā€.
    It is good to read how former crewmembers remember that day and keep in touch.
    Best regards,
    Kees Pronk


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