CDR Roy R. Twaddle
(Capt-ret)
Commanding Officer
U.S.S. Connole (FF-1056)
February 1984 - May 1986








Baltic operations, major overhaul in Boston

Shortly after taking command, Roy Twaddle and crew departed for a three month cruise to the Baltic Sea to participate in joint operations with Navy units from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany.

The following is an excerpt from Roy's April 13, 1984 letter to the Connole families:

    "We made it! After forty days at sea CONNOLE moored alongside USS KIDD in a driving snowstorm in Aarhus, Denmark. The word, "Set the Special Sea and Anchor Detail" was a delight to hear. If not home from sea, at least her sailors were safe and secure in a friendly port. Actually, the weather and cold were not as bad as expected.

    We avoided a major storm in the Norwegian Sea by seeking protection in a fjord on the west coast of Norway. The next day CONNOLE, KIDD and JOHN RODGERS entered the Straits just north of the Danish jutland. The transit to Aarhus was uneventful: smooth seas, well marked channels and a pleasant anchorage to wait for permission to enter port.

    On April 4th, we entered the Swedish archipelago en-route to Stockholm, Sweden. Through the fog we could dimly see black rocks covered with green grass and snow slip by no more than one hundred feet away. Once again, the helmsman and lookouts were fully alert to warn CONNOLE of danger and keep the ship in safe waters. Though we couldn't see them on entry, we later discovered that the islands we passed among are some of the most beautiful in the world. On arrival we were met with one of the finest receptions I've ever experienced.

    Today, CONNOLE is in the Baltic Sea operating with ships from several countries that have military interests in these waters. One of the Signalmen said we ought to call this the Baltic Fog Operations. We've been pretty socked in since we left Sweden. For the first 60 hours visibility was zero; you couldn't even see the freshly painted blue nose of the ship. This emphasizes the importance and value of having well trained Boatswain's Mates, Operations Specialists, Quartermasters, Sonarmen and Electronic's Technicians. In one way or another, each of these men keeps the ship from danger. Even when equipment fails, the crew responds quickly and professionally. I haven't the time to relate the details here in the Family Gram; but, believe me, you should be proud of the deeds they've done."

The ship returned to Newport for the summer. For the Fourth of July celebration, the ship's crew and their families had a memorable "dependents cruise" to Bristol, Rhode Island which is famous for its expansive parade. The ship anchored in the harbor and the families received a boat ride to shore. The crew marched in the parade and Roy Twaddle and his wife, Gayle, formally of Bristol, were honorary marshals.

After a short visit to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the crew prepared (i.e. ,"stripped") the ship for third (and last) major overhaul. The contract for the 8 month $9 million project was awarded to a newly formed company, Boston Shipyard. Within the first month, the work quality and pace became a disaster. Ultimately, the Navy gave notice of contract cancellation and planned to move the ship to another yard nearby. Boston Shipyard retaliated by staging a "sit-in" and moved their cranes to block the ship on their pier. A federal judge then ordered US marshals to take control of the ship and the USS Connole was then moved to the other shipyard.

The overhaul was completed (somewhat behind schedule) by the summer of 1985 and the crew commenced a 6 month series of programs and tests to bring the ship into operating trim. During the winter months of 1986, the USS Connole made a number of voyages into the Atlantic to locate and track Soviet submarines.

In February 1986, she began the program of exercises that would lead to her next deployment. One of these exercises is known as Refresher Training (REFTRA) held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Part of the training program is gunfire operations which occurs in a naval gunfire range. The "target" island is temporarily inhabited by US Navy gunfire spotters who control and score a ship's gunfire program. These spotters are located in a reinforced Control Tower. Roy Twaddle recalled that the USS Connole's gunfire team made an outstanding score on the ship's first pass down the range. The crew then prepared for a second pass. The ship was on course, safety checks were made and the batteries were released for firing. The gun firing commenced .... prematurely, prior to the safe-fire bearing! Every one was shocked when the gun fired. Even worse, the gunner's mates realized that the five inch round was heading directly for the Control Tower! The crew held their breath many naval careers passed before their eyes heading for the drink! "Lady luck" was on their side. The round passed high over the control tower and landed in the water beyond. The spotters inside the Tower had no idea where the round came from and scored the hot as a "Round Lost." (!) The Connole gunfire team breathed a lot easier, although there was a bit of a discourse by the commanding officer regarding procedures to keep the gun target line between the safe-fire bearing.

In a letter to the author in June 1992, Roy provided some of his remembrances in "memory flash" form:

    "When Boston Shipyard Corp staged a sit-in on the fantail, I served lots of hot coffee to maintain a peaceful environment. This coffee helped to force them off the ship since no bathroom facilities were provided.

    My shiphandling frightened the Executive Officer, LCDR Bruce Beldon, so badly that he fell flat on his back trying to monitor the unengaged side.

    Two boiler operations in the Baltic Sea's zero visibility cannot be humanly endured for more than 96 hours. Raytheon makes a superb short-range radar.

    Regardless of what he may say today, then-LCDR Bill Ferree, used fin stabilizers primarily as a seasick avoidance device.

    Boiler Techs who repair main steam stops underway while homeward bound should be given Silver Stars.

    My CONNOLE Commanding Officer ball cap was captured in Gitmo, Cuba at "gun point" by the crew of a US Navy cruiser.

One ship, one crew, one family I loved that ship so completely that it took four years to get through the grief of leaving it."


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