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June 21, 2012
HMAS Hobart, an integral unit
of the US Seventh Fleet, was
participating in Operation Sea
Dragon, interdicting coastal
traffic off North Vietnam when she
was hit by three air-launched missiles
on June 17, 1968.
After the first hit, the ship had
closed up but not assumed full action
stations when, three minutes later, th
other two missiles hit.
Fired from close range on the sta
board quarter, with the aircraft ver
low over the water, they hit almo
The first missile was estimated t
have impacted just aft of the forward
personnel boat davit.
The expanding rod warhead pen
etrated 01 deck into the CPO mess
pantry, penetrating the screen into
the SPS-52 radar room and missile
director control room.
The body of the missile passed
through the outer skin of the after
funnel damaging both uptakes.
Ordinary Seaman Ray
Butterworth was hit by flying
metal and killed and AB John
Parker and Ordinary Seaman
Russell Davidson were wounded.
The second missile penetrated
the transom just below the upper
deck, passing through the gun-
ner's store, continuing through
the athwartships bulkhead to the
It is believed to have broken
up there without the warhead
The third missile exploded in
same area as the first.
Some of the warhead penetrated
the forward end of the CPO mess,
killing CPO Ray Hunt and wound-
ing several sailors closing up at their
Two observers described the air-
craft as a "swept wing jet fighter" as it
crossed over the ship and made a tight
turn climbing to starboard.
Because it appeared to be turning
for a third attack, Mount 51 in local
control fired five rounds of VT at a
range of about 8000 yards, causing
the aircraft to turn away.
Former Ordinary Seaman Peter
Manoel was in his bunk in the aft sea-
man's mess when Hobart was hit.
He said they were not initially
aware what had attacked the ship, but
Crew recalls fatal attack
The 44th anniversary of the attack on HMAS Hobart brought back vivid memories for some of her surviving crew,
SGT Dave Morley reports.
WELL EARNED: Crew enjoy a beer "prescribed
by the captain" the evening after the attack.
Photo: Former PO Peter McGurk
the general consensus was it was an
aircraft as they were too far off shore
for shore batteries to hit them.
"From memory, it was during the
morning when it was indicated we
may have been hit by 'friendly fire',"
"The general feeling was not too
well disposed toward the Americans as
by this time we had been informed two
of our crew had been killed and seven
Former LS John Polley, who was
on duty in the Combat Information
Centre (CIC) at the time of the attack,
said the crew's reaction depended on
how much of the story they knew.
"Those in the CIC or areas that
understood what actually happened
took the attitude that 'shit happens',"
"Many others who could not under-
stand how it happened just blamed the
"Some were bitter, and there were
several Aussie/Yank incidents ashore
in the first couple of nights in harbour."
Mr Polley said there was conjec-
ture concerning reported sightings
and night attacks on surface ships and
patrol craft during this period by what
were supposed to have been North
Vietnam Army helicopters.
"At 0313 the aircraft approaching
the ship fired two missiles at what the
pilot believed to be the lead helicopter
of a three-flight formation," he said.
"The 'lead helicopter' was in fact
Hobart, the lead ship of three patrol-
ling the area.
"It is still believed that two missiles
were fired in each attack; the normal
F4/A4 procedure was to fire one from
each wing pod in a bracket."
Mr Polley said this would also
account for the massive hole in the king
post, constructed of a least 1-inch thick
aluminium, that was peeled back like a
banana just forward of the aft stack.
Former PO Cliff Raatz, CPO Brian
Smith and PO Ken Franklin were cho-
sen by Hobart's first lieutenant to recov-
er the bodies of the two crewmen killed.
"We were selected because of our
DAMAGE CONTROL: Tactical Operator Ray Davis indicating
damage to Hobart's forward superstructure. Inset, the attack
made the front page of Navy News in 1968.
Photo courtesy of Seapower Centre
''- CO HMAS Hobart CAPT Ken
Shands in his 1968 report.
At 0313, course 305,
speed 12 knots, the
ship was struck on the
starboard side amidships
by an air-launched missile.
seniority and because he didn't want
any young members of the crew to be
confronted by it," Mr Raatz said.
"Good heavens, I was only 30
years old myself!"
Engineering Mechanic Graeme
Sculley received the Distinguished
Service Medal, the only medal award-
ed during Hobart's deployment, for
taking over talker duties in Repair 5.
This was despite severe trauma that
included a broken leg and witnessing
the death of CPO Hunt.
Former PO Peter McGurk said he
took a photo of "the boys collecting
missile shrapnel early next morning".
"One of the bits of a Sparrow mis-
sile actually had a serial number on it,"
"We were assured by the never-end-
ing Yank brass that kept plaguing us
while being repaired in Subic Bay that
the missile was traceable to the 'offend-
ing' aircraft, a Phantom F4 as I recall.
But we never heard of any repercus-
sions to the offending pilots.
"The captain 'prescribed a beer
ration' the following evening at sea."
The repairs took about six weeks to
complete after which Hobart returned
to gunline duties off the coast of
Vietnam until completing her second
deployment on October 11, 1968.
As the sequence of events were
reconstructed, it became clear there
had been many cases of calm and cou-
rageous actions and a minimum of dis-
CO HMAS Hobart CAPT Ken
Shands later said, "I was very proud of
my ship's company."
The missiles were eventually traced
to the USAF 432nd Tactical Fighter
Wing operating out of Royal Thai
AFB, Udorn, Thailand.
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