Point Conception is NO JOKE, that is where the real ocean begins,most sailors in Southern California are way unprepared for Point Conception/Point Honda etc...the following article is is an excellent reminder that even "professionals" have a bad day:
This Point Honda Research subsite documents the research effort dealing with the naval shipwrecks, which occurred on September 8, 1923 at Point Honda, California—also known as Pedernales Point and La Honda, now Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Additional information on the Point Honda accident is available on the Point Honda Memorial web site Point Honda Memorial
When our labor at research for more than a year fails to produce new discoveries, it's time to close shop and face reality. There may not be any more new stuff out there. The web page entitled "Dead-End" is devoted to this end. If you are interested solely in those areas where questions still remain unanswered concerning the circumstances surrounding the Point Honda accident, click on this Dead-End link. Once there, you'll find background information based on research and a list of unanswered questions. If you know of or have found an answer to a question, please send an email and we'll spread the word on this site.
The following major topics appear in this section: Chronology of the Last Hours and Main Cause of the Accident.
The day after the accident, an aerial view of the scene was captured on a U. S. Navy Air photo—wing tips of a bi-plane shown—which is currently stored at the National Archives. Seven naval destroyers were wrecked at Point Honda within an area of about 500 yards.
Beginning in the foreground at the bottom edge, the photo shows the Fuller. From there and toward the center, the Woodbury's bow is shown touching Woodbury Rock. On a straight line path from these two ships, and heading toward shore, is the overturned hull of the Young—with only about two feet of her port side exposed. Still in a straight line path from these three ships, and closest to shore, lies the barely visible wreck of the Delphy. To the right of the Young, and closer to shore, stands the Chauncey in an upright position. Finally, in the upper left corner, the bow of the Nicholas appears to be heading seaward, while the dark mass to the right of the Nicholas is the S.P. Lee.
Between 2105 and 2115, on that day, seven destroyers out of a total of fourteen, steaming in column formation with the Eleventh Destroyer Squadron, Pacific Battle Fleet, on a 20-knot, high-speed, endurance test of their cruising turbines, were trapped in a web of sharp, volcanic spires along the rocky California coast and were stranded.
The attached line drawing of the California coast, near the western entry into the Santa Barbara Channel, shows the Delphy's actual position at 2100, where she executed the fatal turn to 95° true and led seven destroyers to the bluff of Point Honda.
Captain Edward H. Watson trusted LCdr. Donald T. Hunter to do the navigating for the entire squadron and to lead them home safely to San Diego. And probably because of this unquestionable trust, LCdr. Hunter was able to convince Capt. Watson that the Delphy was at or near the D. R. (dead reckoning) position at 2100 and able to turn safely into the Santa Barbara Channel. He believed navigating by dead reckoning—the "old-fashioned" way—was more reliable than by following radio compass bearings sent by "new-fangled gadgets" from a naval shore station .
The Destroyers page lists the fourteen squadron ships and the order in which they steamed in column formation, while the Photos page contains more detailed pictures of the accident. Two destroyers received minor damages, while five maneuvered away from danger. The estimated loss of Government property was $13 million. Twenty-three sailors perished in the worst, peacetime accident in U. S. Navy history.
Many years of research by this author produced numerous documents which would be wasted, if not shared. Future naval historians may choose to build upon the findings published on this web site, and hopefully, add new information about the accident, and the conduct of key personnel at the time.
The Associated Press (AP) was in the forefront reporting the accident in practically every major city in the country. The Newspaper Articles page of this site contains relevant extracts from articles which describe the accident in the early stages. It also contains extracts which reported the unusual currents in the Pacific before the accident, and the proceedings during the Court of Inquiry and the General Courts-martial. When warranted, the author's comments are included.
The Navy Department page shows an organizational chart at the highest level, dated July 1, 1923. At that time, Edwin Denby was the Secretary of the Navy under President Calvin Coolidge. This page also contains organizational charts of Destroyer Squadrons, Battle Fleet, Rear Admiral S.E.W. Kittelle, Commanding and Destroyer Squadron Eleven, Captain Edward H. Watson, Commanding.
Links to the Court of Inquiry and the Court Martial also appear on the Navy Department page. Copies of documents from these legal proceedings were obtained from the National Archives, with one exception, the record of trial case of Lieutenant (j.g.) Lawrence F. Blodgett, which failed to be delivered to the National Archives by the Navy Department. However, after over five years of diligent searching and thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, on October 18, 2004, a copy of Lt. Blodgett's record of trial was received by this author from the Navy-Marine Corps Appellate Review Activity, Office of the Judge Advocate of the Navy. Relevant extracts from these documents are included on these pages followed by this author's comments.
The Court of Inquiry, investigating the circumstances surrounding the accident, convened on September 17, 1923 in the Administration Building of the Naval Air Station on North Island, California, and questioned witnesses for 19 days. The Navy Department wanted the Inquiry to be a secret session—no press or public allowed. However, public opinion prevailed, and Secretary Denby was pressured to open the doors to the Inquiry. Newspapers all over the country carried articles covering the legal proceedings.
A seven-member General Courts-martial board began their proceedings—conducted at the Eleventh Naval District Headquarters in San Diego, California—against eleven defendants named by the Court of Inquiry, with the first trial, that of Capt. Watson, on November 5, 1923. The proceedings were also opened to the press and public.
One can only speculate why the Navy Department opened the Court of Inquiry and the General Courts-martial to the press and public when the records of these proceedings were classified for 50 years and not declassified until the 1970s. The Freedom of Information Act required the Navy Department to turn these records over to the National Archives and make them available to the public.
Once the newspapers published the results of the General Courts-martial, interest in Point Honda subsided. In early 1924, the final review by the Assistant Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Navy was completed, and the JAG of the Navy signed the endorsements of the record of trials by direction of the Secretary of the Navy. The Navy Department classified all legal documents and took custody for the next 50 years.
Years later, books and magazine articles began to appear as naval historians sought to find the missing links in the Point Honda accident. And practically every author made a contribution in the quest for the truth.
The first magazine article I was able to locate was published in U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings in January 1957. It was written by Lieutenant Commander Richard B. Hadaway, U. S. Naval Reserve. The Magazine Articles page contains a list of articles and extracts which prompt comments from this author.
This magazine article may have stimulated the publication of the first book in 1960 entitled "Tragedy at Honda" by Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, USN (Ret.) and Colonel Hans Christian Adamson, USAF (Ret.). The Preface and Acknowledgements page in this book shows evidence of extensive cooperation with the Navy Department, while the authors gathered "long-forgotten incidents, charts, photographs, and records". Furthermore, the authors claim that the "entire story of that nightmare voyage" has never before been told.