September 11 and 12, 1960

One of my memories of the USS FRED T. BERRY days was Hurricane Donna that hit Newport on September 11th and 12th of 1960. Initial preparations were made to move us from Pier 2 into the bay to weather out the storm on Sunday evening, Sept. 11th. We were moored to USS NORRIS and a tug took us out to a buoy in the bay. Since we left the pier on Sunday night, many of the crew were ashore on liberty and missed the departure. The captain and XO were aboard though.

The storm hit in the middle of the night and the two ships started rolling in the chop in the bay. Eventually the ships stopped rolling in unison and started coming together very hard, despite the bumpers between the two ships. It was decided to part with the NORRIS and anchor alone in the bay with engines running to maintain position. That was the way the situation played out until the storm abated. I remember having to take an axe to the hawser on the fantail to cut it, as it was almost impossible to handle it with your hands due to the roll of the ship.

The storm eventually abated and we returned to the pier with minimal damage although I believe there were some buckled areas so the hull.

That was the way I remembered the event until I had the opportunity to discuss the event with Capt. Sharp during one of our many email communications during the period from April 2003 to his death in January of 2006. His email follows, completely unedited. I also received an email from John Vantol, XO at the time. His email is also included here, totally unedited.

"more on hurricane donna. next morning when w hove up the anchor the power cable to jamestown island was wrapped around it - tight. i was all for cutting the anchor free with an oxy acetylene torch - i did not see how it was going to be possible to unwind that 6" metal wrapped cable. but a young bm2 whose name i forget persuaded me to let him try and i said go ahead but in about an hour they are going to be asking what we are up to out here and the last thing i wanted to say was we were about to cut off the power to jamestown island - a fashionable resort. anyhow this resourceful young fellow pulled it off and away we went. you remember the bullnose that the cable to the buoy rode thru broke off. i got a bad time from one of the admirals about that. why i have never figured out
i will see if i can get van tols e mail address, i will have to call him directly for that. its good to hear from you - even about my incredible hand writing. and all best wishes to you and yours george sharp"

"Greetings: I have just had a telephone call from Capt Sharp during which
he related to me your recollections of the hurricane episode in Newport. I
will agree that it was a pretty hoorendous experience, one a lot of us will
never forget. Thanks for your inquiry about me, as you recall I left Berry to take
command of USS Rhodes, it was an extremely successful tour of duty, full of
good cruises, wicked storms and the Cuban missile crisis. I later had two
other destroyer commands (Borie DD 704 and Beatty DD 8560, was the XO on
Josephus Danials DLG 26 and retired from the Navy in 1969 and returned to
West Virginia, where I currently reside. Thanks for remembering me, John Van Tol"

One of the things about Capt. Sharp was his total candidness when talking about Navy matters. I learned a lot of protocol and the captain's obligations to his superiors. Unbeknownst to most of us enlisted crew, he was always under scrutiny from the Squadron Commodore as well as COMDESLANT himself. More than once, he received criticism for actions of the ship. After all, he was the captain and ultimately responsible, even though the running of the ship was the duty of the XO.

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