USS Yosemite: SINKEX

Nikki McCullough, a close friend, recently responded to a video of a ship in rough seas i had shared on Facebook, asking if i knew the aircraft carrier “Orosco,” which was sunk off of Florida to be an artificial reef for divers. i’m pretty sure the ship was the USS Oriskany (CV 34). Oriskany had a great reputation and was a major contributor in the Vietnam War. In 2004. she was sunk in 24 fathoms (144 feet).

Oriskany was in service during the early part of my Navy career, but i never sailed with her. She had a good reputation.

i prefer the way my last ship was sunk. The USS Yosemite (AD 19) after 50 years (1944-1994) of active service was sunk as a target in 2003 somewhere off of Cape Hatteras in more than 2300 fathoms, more than 14,000 feet, or over 2 1/2 miles of water. She was noble through until the end.

i began to provide Nikki with the link to my post i wrote about the Yosemite’s sinking when i realized that post had been obliterated by the great provider crash a couple of years ago.

Below is a reprint of that post.

One thought on this Memorial Day to honor those who sacrificed their lives for our country: It is hard for a seafaring man to explain the human qualities of a ship to anyone else. But for a true mariner, a ship has a soul. Every ship on which i served (and i served on eleven of them) had her own personality, her own quirks. They were all lady warriors. Even today over thirty years after i debarked from my last one, they remain in my mind as something special, something human.

Although Yosemite was not a warship, she was a noble lady, a repair ship we called a “destroyer tender.” And she served nobly. And she went down to the deep, all 14,000 tons of her, as she should have, in service to her country. When i walk up to the top of my hill later this morning and look down to the southern end of San Diego bay, i will study the ships of the US Pacific Fleet. I will think of friends who made the ultimate sacrifice to our country. I will also think of my noble lady warriors, for they, too, gave to our country.

God bless our fallen warriors.


USS Yosemite (AD 19): Good Ship Gone (2003)

 The news came, as expected, from the Commanding Officer, a man who has Navy blue for blood in his veins. I did not call him “CO” or the aviator term “skipper” – he would have chopped off my head with that insult. I called him “Captain.” Without fail. I now call him Frank and a friend.

The USS Yosemite (AD 19), destroyer tender par excellence is gone.

The Navy radio message, the means of communicating throughout my Navy career, was the bearer of the news, forwarded by the Commanding Officer in the new mode of communication: e-mail.

The message subject was “SINKEX,” as in gone. That means she was sunk as a target in a Naval exercise. Since the message came from a destroyer squadron commander,  I hope it was a surface ship that shot her down.

And I mean down. Two thousand, three hundred, and forty fathoms. That’s about 14,040 feet. Deep.

It is right that she went down that way, and hopefully it was shells from a gun mount, not a missile, but I suspect the latter sang the final hymn, read the final prayer for the good ship Yosemite.

Sailors use the feminine gender to describe ships. There is probably some politically correct group out there trying to neuter the tradition. That it is sad because the Yosemite and the other ships I served on were true ladies of the sea, elegant, practical, and fearsome in their different ways. I loved all of those that carried me as part of their wardrooms.

The Yosemite was special. I confess I had to learn to love her. I went to her to serve as executive officer in 1983 for the sole purpose of attaining the necessary qualifications to screen for command at sea. I did not like tenders: they did not go to sea enough. They did not land amphibious troops and equipment; they did not fire guns and missiles; they did not hunt submarines. They did not scream around at twenty-seven knots with the spume of a rooster-tail off the stern and the wake as wide as a four-lane highway extending to the horizon. They did not belch landing craft out of the stern of a well deck in rolling seas.

But Yosemite had been there when I first met the Navy in 1963. She was the flagship of Cruiser Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet, tied up at Pier One in Newport, Rhode Island. I was a midshipman on my way out of NROTC because I didn’t have good study habits nor good sense at nineteen. She seemed massive and imperturbable as I walked passed on my way to my destroyer and an eight-week cruise.

She was in Newport when I came back from deployment on my first ship after being commissioned from OCS in 1968. Her deserved reputation was such that we would figure out ways to get our repair work to her, rather than to take it to our “parent” tender.

And she was my last ship, the penultimate tour for me and the penultimate step toward my never achieved goal of command.

She could wheeze out fourteen knots with her four hundred pound boilers, but we steamed at ten knots most of the time. The fact sheet lists her top speed as nineteen knots but that was several tons and numerous years before I became her “XO.”

She steamed like a champion for my tour. We deployed for seven and a half months just a month after I reported aboard. She was the first ship with women as part of the crew who spent extended periods out of port (Most before had transited from port to port and provided repair and maintenance services pier side or moored). She provided repair availabilities for destroyers and cruisers while anchored off Masirah, Oman, and she accomplished in four days what normally took two weeks back in the states. She did that for fifty-five days, took a break and then did it again for forty-five days. She had a crew of 900, including 106 women, and a wardroom of 44, six of whom were female, and gave me a completely different perspective of women at sea: the Captain said it best when he announced, “We don’t have women on this ship. We don’t have men on this ship. We have sailors on this ship, and we are going to operate that way.”

She was given a letter of commendation for being a member of the Indian Ocean Battle Group, an unheard of honor for a repair ship.

She steamed as a member of the orange force in a Caribbean exercise, something tenders do not normally do.

She was in the middle of the eye of a developing hurricane, eventually escaping to the northeast before the winds and seas reached full hurricane strength.

She was proclaimed the best repair organization in the Atlantic Fleet.

Officers and crew on port bridge wing of Yosemite off of Masirah, Oman, 1983. Captain Frank Boyle, seated, consults with the goofy executive officer.

Her crew was an amalgamation of old sailors, repair personnel who had seldom spent any time at sea, and young wide-eyed men and women, learning how to be sailors. The first lieutenant was the best boatswainmate I knew in twenty years, even though he had outgrown the title. The doc was so new he didn’t know how to salute or how to dress in Navy uniforms. He has become the godfather of my daughter and one of my closest friends. And there was this special woman, the operations officer, a lieutenant, who was one of the best officers with whom I served. And there were many others who had an impact on my life.

Yosemite was commissioned in 1944, the year I was born. She was decommissioned in 1994. Fifty years, a half century of service.

It is fitting that she went down the way she did. She spent her life supporting the fleet. She was sunk supporting the fleet, providing one last service.

And she and Davy Jones will sleep well together.

52 thoughts on “USS Yosemite: SINKEX

  1. A wonderful narrative worthy of such a Regal ‘Lady’ and you’re absolutely right about view from the top of your hill. Born and raised here in San Diego, to this day nothing catches my breath than the sight of the naval fleet @ 32nd Street and south. It’s a sight to behold.

    1. Thanks for so many nice words about my first ship. I still drink coffee from a mug with Yosemite Sam on the side. We did have some busy and memorable times on deployment. Not every ship got to burn trash off AlMasirah. Go Navy!

      Sharon Carrasco, CDR, USN, RET

      1. Cmdr. Carrasco! DS2 Chris Hyde from S-6. You were O4 when I laterally transferred from Saratoga. I’m unsure if you were Division Officer or Department Head. S-6 had an unusual status. I hope all is well with you.

        1. I was a DP3 on the yo-yo from 1974-77. Had a great group of guys in the shop. Had some really awesome DS’s to keep that UNIVAC 1500 going. Got onboard started keypunching on the 1701’s , moved to the Univac 1500 running it on 3rd shift running the maintenance status reports the ship had going. Good times . Did med cruise, Gitmo, drydocked in Boston , and the trips to Charleston and Norfolk and such. Had a great time in Mayport and Jax beach

      2. Remember the times on the “Yo-Yo” and you (a LT then). The I/O cruise was one I’ll never forget. S-6 division was a great group of people. I retired as a DPCS (SW) in 1988. Glad to see this. I remember Hyde and I am friends on Facebook with Ralph Miller (DS1 – retired DSC) from the Yosemite (he transferred just before the I/O cruise, but he was on board with you).

  2. You said it well. I started off my career on that ship as an HT when I was 17 years old in 1987. Went on to become an engineer as a merchant marine and recently retired.

  3. Would love to hear from anyone aboard durning 1973-1979 while stationed in Mayport Florida made some great friends I think of often

    1. Hi, I severed aboard the Yosemite from 1977 – 1980 as an MR2 I served with Master Chief Walls in the R-2 Division (Machine Shop) does anyone know what has happened to him after all these years.

        1. Hello there shipmate. I saw him a few years back at the flea market here in Jacksonville Fl

      1. I left Yo-yo in the Alabama yards in 7/81. I was a MR1 and ran the upper machine shop/lock and key- engraving shop. I changed to NC1 to go to career recruiting. Retired in 91 as NCC

    2. I was a stew burner on the yo yo from 1970 to 1971 . She was a great ship,
      my only ship. I think about yo yo often. My high school ring was at the bottom of the ship and I never found it.

      1. Your high school ring became a part of the Yosemite’s lore when again served her country in the missile exercise that her lie with Davy Jones.

  4. I served on the USS Yosemite 1983-1985 under Captain Frank Boyle. I believe, I also was aboard with Sharon Carrasco whom I believe was a lieutenant at the time. I learned a lot while aboard and it was definitely an experience.

    1. Cmdr. Jewell. You have a gift for prose. I had great respect for you as an officer. Capt. Boyle was special to you and your career so your affection is understandable. I served under Capt. Boyle and his predecessor. Delicately put, the previous CO may not have us man the rails for two hours while pulling into the shipyard in Mobile, AL. I think the yardbirds were more surprised than impressed by the gesture. Masirah? Staying positive, at least no one complained about Diego Garcia after that evolution. We also got our two beers twice! I served under five XO’s and you’re the only one I ever chatted with (not XOI lol!)
      and recall with as much fondness as one can for an Executive Officer.

  5. CMDR Jewell, please refresh my recollection. The hurricane you reference. Sept. 85? I’d bought a new touring motorcycle and was ready to leave for shore duty at NPRDC in San Diego. On what was to be my last day aboard Yosemite, I mistakenly lingered to say final goodbyes. Suddenly all liberty was secured and all hands called back to the ship to get underway to outrun a hurricane. We went out for 5-6 days? I got to throw another cover into the sea ( my last cruise) upon return to Mayport. I see you’re living in SD as am I. If you enjoy cigars, Liberty Tobacco is the place for sea stories. The owners brother retired O8 a couple of years ago. RADM Hennegan was CO of NavStaPtLoma for a time before the inevitable stint at DOD.

  6. Great stories! It’s good to see the S-6 computer room well represented here. Cmdr. J, is it a long way from Lebanon, Tn. to San Diego? (I was a Mt. Juliet Bear) The one time I recall what our 10knots really was……….when the New Jersey passed us in the Med, whoa, what a site. And gotta love Brit Telecom for that crystal clear phone call home on Christmas day at Diego Garcia, thirty bucks for 7 1/2 minutes, lol, “hello, Merry Christmas, next….” Funny the things we remember. Take care.

  7. I was an MS1 (The Cake Guy)on the decommissioning crew back in ‘93 at NavStaMayport. My Final “cake” contribution for the old girl was the 450lb replica of the YoYo (all in chocolate) added another NAM to my uniform. Great times! Great people for sure.

    1. George, I was with 17A Sheetmetal shop on our cruise to the gulf, 91-92. Is this the same MS1 that brought some cake decorating tips to us to be modified to do some special decorations. In return you surprised us with a cookie sheet full of fresh cold cuts, LOL! They were FANTASTIC!

    2. I remember that cake. It was huge and beautiful. Was SK2 Tyson in S-1 div that offloaded all those storerooms. We worked hard but had fun!

  8. I remember that 83/84 cruise well. I arrived just shortly before departure. I was a young torpedoman in weapons dept. I ended running the Armory due to a failure of a GMG2 to have the 20mm mounts ready for the first gun exercise on that cruise, they all jammed and broke down. TMCS Leichtnam put me, an inexperienced TM2SW in charge. Myself and 3 young torpedman/gunnersmates stayed up 24 hrs and tore down each of the 4 – 20mm guns and reassembled while reading the tech pubs line by line, as we had no training , to prepare for another gun exercise the next day. Commander Stremenski the weapons dept head did not want to be embarrassed again. Thankfully, by some miracle they all fired properly. It was a time I look back on with great fondness. Now 35 yrs later I am still in touch with several of my shipmates TM3 Watkins, TMSN Sharp(now retired Cdr), my ex wife HM3 Dabney( HMC retired), and friends with others on Facebook. They to a man or woman were and are some of the finest people I have ever met. I am honored to have served with them, proud to call them shipmates and friends. I feel we are all lucky to have served at the time we did. We were able see and go to ports that would be unthinkable today because of current attitudes and unrest throughout the world. Thank you for the memories to all that served.

    1. I was the first sailor to fire 20 mm guns from Yosemite. The last of the 5inch38 mount was removed and the new armament were the 20mm. I went to Damneck Va.for one week of school. The armory was moved from below the crews messdeck to what had been the upper handling room for the #2 5 inch gun. The armory was accessed from the bow. We also changed small arms from carbines,M1 and Thompson machine guns to M14 and M16. We kept the 50mm machine gun. We had four mm .mounts. permanently fixed (two forward and two aft) and six 20 mm guns that were kept in the armory when not used. I served aboard the Busy Lady 1971-1975 Mayport Fl.

  9. As a 17 year old SN Cook/striker ’61 & ’62, I still walk her decks in my minds eye, and sigh! Busy Lady; Lovely lady, The mighty “Y!” I’m a lifetime member of The USS Yosemite Association, & was Chaplain for 2 years! “God Bless America!” Amen! “…Down to the sea in ships…” ‘Salute!’

  10. Served on the “Busy Lady” as a Photomate from 76 – 79. Enjoyed a Med Cruise and a few others under RADM Donnelly. Assigned as his duty driver a few times and the insight was good for a young man. We joked about an airman on helm-duty while underway. He thought I was out of uniform with the green stripes. That lasted until they called away the Snoopy Team through the Straits of Gibraltar and I was on the Helm. After that, no duty while underway. Bless all that served on her and it was an honor, knowing her past…

  11. I was onboard the USS Yosemite from 1978 to Nov 82. I miss the Busy Lady almost every day. I was in the E&R Division worked Senior Chief Jones in DC Central what a great group on guys.

  12. I spent five years aboard her from 87-92, made Sailor of the Year in ’91 and Chief in ’92. We deployed 3 times to the Med during those years, the leader to the Persian Gulf. Great memories.

  13. Yosemite was my first ship. In April 1980 upon arrival I was assigned to R-5 and shortly after arriving the FT shop moved to SIMA Mayport. Unfortunately FTGSA Brandt stayed aboard. The Captain was Francisco Antonio Velasquez-Suarez and was terrifying to me. Since they had no place to put me I got sent mess cooking for the chiefs mess. Shortly after arrival in Mobile Alabama I was released from durance vile and since I was FTGSN I got sent to a Tiling and Lagging crew. About 3 months into the yard period I got sent to Weight Test and Rigging to work with HT1 Hart and GMG2 Parsons. I spent the remainder of my time there and left shortly after we returned from Gitmo. Many adventures along the way, got married and still am to the same girl. Retired in 2000.

    1. I was on the ship while you were. Jonathan Ramey in the repair division, Diving Locker. I too did my time on the mess decks during the Med Cruise in 1980 I believe . If I saw your younger face I am sure I would recognize you. I remember Vasquez Suarez too. I too was terrified by that man. He was a Puerto Rican . I remember he put a man in the brig on bread and water for 3 days. I can still see the 5 loaves of bread just inside his cell that was located on the port side fantail. I hope you are doing well shipmate!

  14. I was on board from 77 to 80. I was in dental, and made the dentures for anyone who needed them. It was captain Donnelly then. Good times, what an adventure! The best to all. Robert G. Heyworth DT1 USN (Ret).

    1. I was on the YOYO when you were. They told me I needed to get my 3 wisdom teeth pulled out. Its and adventure they said.
      I gotten puled by the LTJG or FNG. After 3 days I had my socket implode and I had a awful small of rotting whatever. I went back he pulled out a black smelly cotton ball he left in the socket that he forgot to pull out. He had sewed it up . Anyway cheers

  15. I was aboard 1952/1956 as mr2 Richard latimore wonder if any my friend are still living I will be 90.

  16. My last of seven Navy ships served on during my career. CMC from 1990 to 93.

  17. I served on the Yoyo in 1962-64. A lot happened in those 2 years. Cuban missile crisis, which we spent in Kingston Harbor, Jamaica, servicing destroyers that served on the blockade; The assassination of our C-in-C, John F. Kennedy; fires in the ASROC compartments as we were offloading ammo in New Jersey; an amazing storm off Cape Cod bouncing like a cork with all that ballast (ammo) missing; dry dock in East Boston, MA; the cruise up the Mississippi River and weeks to explore New Orleans, making ETN3 while in New Orleans (what a party on a side-wheeled river boat with a full dance band): service started on the deck force, made it to the ET shack but as junior guy and E-3, sent to mess-cooking but got a great job as warehouseman for the cooks, the finished Yoyo time in the ET Shack. Great memories, sad, memories, scary memories (now not then). Great life experience with mostly wonderful shipmates.

  18. Wow. What beautiful words. I served on board our great Lady from 1987 until 1991. I originally started as a fresh faced undesignated FN in the foundry and worked my way up to EN2. She had provided me with the most amazing memories and lifelong friendships.

  19. I reported aboard the Yo Yo in Aug. 1974 ant d left when she went to Mobile and at that time we had women on board officers. One which made admiral.
    However the Yosemite was not the first ship to have women aboard, that honor went to the USS Sierra (ad18). I remember they call her the love boat.

  20. Went aboard the YOYO on a cold day in October, October 10, 1960. She was tied up at pier one, Newport, R.I. Did my whole 4 ears aboard her. Discharged in Oct. 10, 1064. duty as a PN3, in the personnel office for 3 YRS. !st year as Deck crew. She was a great Lady,

  21. I have many great memories and some not so good ones from my short time on the Yosemite. I would not trade anything for any of those memories. Both good and bad. Although only there from 86-88 I met a lot of interesting people and miss the short periods I had at sea with a great ship. I still believe that A-Gang was the best division but then I guess I’m a little biased.

  22. I was on the yo-yo from 82-86 served on deck 1st div and 3rd. Some of the best times I had to date was on the yo-yo. I have a big framed picture of the yo-yo in my man cave and I look at it everyday. I truly miss her and the friendships I’ve made. God bless her and everyone served on the mighty yo-yo

  23. USS Yosemite AD-19 my first ship reported 1988, my last ship USS Elrod FFG-55 we help sunk my first ship USS Yosemite in SINKEX in 2003.

  24. I remember that cake. It was huge and beautiful. Was SK2 Tyson in S-1 div that offloaded all those storerooms. We worked hard but had fun!

  25. I have pictures from my grandfather in 1946. Can’t find much about their secret tour. I suspect they were secretly cleaning up and hunting fleeing Nazis! I can’t find much but have photos Labelled by him with crew mates in Greece, Italy, Japan (fukashima), Rio Grand And refueling at sea! Which was only ever done in emergencies or for special missions. Possibly for the baking atoll testing? My grandfather’s name was Russell Lembcke.

  26. The Yo-Yo was my first ship. I served on her from June 1983 as an E-2 until March 1985 as a BM-3, most of that time in the Boatswain’s Locker.
    I remember seeing a sign on the XOx office door that said something like, “Do not bring a problem through this door unless it is accompanied by a solution”. I’ve since found that requirement to be a great way to minimize employee complaints.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *