Typhoon Susan – 1972

March 20, 2020

On Sunday morning 8 July 1972 we had just completed a gunfire mission in the vicinity of Cua Viet, just south of the DMZ.  7 minutes later we were detached from Task Unit 70.8.9 to proceed independently to the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong.  We were to proceed by way of the Southwest Typhoon Evasion course.  This was a relief to the crew since we never knew if we would ever leave this area.  This WestPac cruise of ’72 was supposed to have us visiting ports of call like Singapore, Sattahip, Thailand, Kaohsiung, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  Every time we were to head to one of these destinations, we would be called back to another gunfire support mission in Military Region 1 or plane guard duties out on Yankee Station.  Our presence was due to the huge invasion of North Vietnamese troops heading south over the DMZ in the spring of 1972.  We were excited to be able to see a foreign port other than Subic Bay during that WestPac cruise.

So we steam in an easterly direction across the South China Sea aware that a large tropical storm had just crossed the Philippine island of Luzon and was heading in a northwesterly direction.  I think our skipper thought we would just sort of chase it or follow it towards Hong Kong and it would be gone by the time we got there.  The storm itself was only moving across the sea at 2-6 knots and even meandering in loops in a couple of positions.


Typhoon Susan track as published in the 1972 Annual Typhoon Report by the Naval Weather Service and Air Weather Service.

From what I can tell of our posits and the storms tracked positions, the closest we ever got to the center or eye was around 180 nautical miles.  It was really amazing the strength of the wind and the sea state even at that distance.  We were sometimes taking water well over the bow of the ship.  At 0750 on the morning of the 10th it was logged that the starboard gyro fin stabilizer had suffered a casualty.  Without full stabilization the rough ride was amplified.  During this time it was pretty dicey being in my bunk on the first deck below the ASROC launcher.  That was nothing compared to being on watch up in CIC which was on the 01 level.  Up there the arc of a 40 degree swing was amplified, being further from the center of gravity.  So now we knew why the Chief was always pissin’ and moanin’ about “gear adrift” and “missile hazards”.  Ashtrays had to be secured and you had to hold your coffee cup with one hand while working the scope or the DRT with the other.  Something would inevitably have to give when it was necessary to hang on to something solid!

To watch the above video in “Full Screen” you may have to view it here.

About 10 hours after the gyro fin stabilizer problem, the engineers get it fixed.  We are still on our course for Hong Kong.  The following morning, 11 July, at about 1000 it’s announced that our port of destination has been altered to Subic Bay, PI.  It was this day that the storm was officially classified as a typhoon and was now located between Hong Kong and the island of Taiwan.  My guess is that even though past HK, it was still hitting them with high winds and a storm surge.

So we alter course southward towards Subic to anchor in the harbor there at 1005 the evening of the 11th.  After a short period there we depart for Pearl Harbor and eventually Long Beach, CA.  What a cruise!  So many memories of wartime chores aboard a man o’ war, with some good times relaxing in Olongopo and then capped off riding the edge of a terrifying storm.  Riding that storm was the closest that this writer came to getting seasick during my time in the Navy.  Not gonna lie, I may have got a little green, but chunkage was contained.

NOTE:  My motive for creating this animation was partially an exercise for myself to keep a hand in this sort of media, since I’ve been out of work for a few years.  Need some practical exercises to keep the skills honed!  The ship model came from a guy I met through YouTube almost 10 years ago.  He had created this model and an animation based on the Jesse L. Brown (DE-1089) .  I had asked the author (YouTube name “gramphamp”) if he would mind sharing his creation for some non-commercial ideas I had in mind.  He agreed and exported his model in a .FBX format which took me almost 10 years to get converted to be imported and editable in my 3D application.  Unfortunately, I can no longer reach this guy to thank him.  Over the years I would try a different way to import his geometry, but without success.  Last year I started looking at other conversion utilities that would work as a go-between.  I finally found something that worked!  I did some editing of the ship geometry to make it more “Hammond-like”, but it still needs a lot of work.  The apps I used to create this were 3D Studio Max, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro.