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WRECK OF 7 U.S. DESTROYERS AT POINT HONDA

Dear Do-It Man: I have been going through pictures that belonged to my mother. One has me very curious. The picture is large and is rolled up on very heavy paper. It states "Wreck of 7 U.S. Destroyers, Hondo Point, Sept. 1923."

The ships were the USS Chauncey, Young, Woodbury, Fuller, Delphy, Nicholas and S.P. Lee.I looked up Hondo in the dictionary. It said "Honshu." When I looked up Honshu, it said "largest island forming Japan, also called Hondo."

I'd surely like to know what caused seven of our destroyers to be wrecked.

The picture was sent to my mother by her nephew who was a sailor on the USS Kennedy.

I would appreciate any information you could give me.

- L.P., Orem.

Dear L.P.: The incident took place off Point Honda (hondo is listed as an alternate spelling to honda in our dictionary), also known as Point Perdernales, nicknamed the Devil's Jaw, on the California coast Sept. 8, 1923.

The destroyers, considered very fast ships at the time, were doing a high-speed engineering run. They changed course at 9 p.m. to make their approach to Santa Barbara channel. The flagship Delphy made the turn too soon and became stranded on rocks.

The Delphy signaled to the column of ships behind it but its signal apparently was impeded by the rocky shoreline. Seven destroyers piled up on rocks that night.

The Navy salvaged what it could and sold what it could for scrap. There are remnants of the wreckage that some people claim can still be seen at times.

This, of course, is a simplified version of the story.

The definitive treatise on the subject is a book called "Tragedy at Honda" by Charles A. Lockwood and Hans C. Adamson, published by Chilton (Philadelphia) in 1960.

A copy of the book is available at the Marriott Library at the University of Utah.

An article in a recent issue of the quarterly magazine Naval History also discusses the incident. Naval History is published by the Naval Institute in Annapolis, Md. The editor was kind enough to send us a copy of the article, which we are forwarding to you.

You need to keep in mind there was no radar in those days, the destroyers were traveling relatively fast and it was dark.

It's probably safe to assume the ships were following the flagship rather than keeping track of their own positions.

Six repeated her navigational error and followed the Delphy onto the rocks.