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
"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.
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
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."
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
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
"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.
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."
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.