USS Duncan (DDR - 874)

" Galloping Ghost of the Korean Coast ".

Explosion Rocks Duncan - March 1, 1948

Documentation and personal accounts of the disaster

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Documentation courtesy of Bill Maslak, Verona, PA.

Duncan's skipper at the time of this incident, CDR. Paul Van Leunen, Jr., provides a general account of the event in a letter he wrote to Duncan Commanding Officer, CDR. S.W. Birch on October 31, 1967.

"I had detached orders to Washington in Jan. 48 and my last cruise in Duncan started in March, 1948, as the lone DD DesPac could spare to escort the A-Bomb team to Eniwetok.

We left Long Beach at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon escorting Albemarle and Princeton with our Div Com aboard. We had depth charges with pistols in them but set on safe and zigzagged ahead. After dinner I went to the forecastle and walkeda bit. The crew was in good shape and the ship was finally clean enough to satisfy me after much struggle.

The next morning we had dawn G.Q. and held a few drills. The last was a fire drill. Five minutes after piping down and going back to Condition Three, there was an explosion aft, shaking the entire ship. An acetylene explosion had occurred from a bottle used in a shop we had in the starboard quarter. Apparently it had not been well secured, had fallen from the rack and opened while the ship was shut up. On returning to normal condition, the gas was noticed by odor and the SF3/c who was opening up cautioned everyone in the after living compartment not to smoke, then went in his shop and closed the bottle and turned on a fan. That did it. He was killed, 6 had flash burns bad enough to be hospitalized, and 8 others were burned and injured. Holes were blown in the hull below the water line, the top of the after voids were punctured, the steering gear wrecked, depth charges blown over the side, and the main deck seams split and raised a foot. The starboard shaft was out of line by six inches but ran well enough. We limped back to port arriving at 2:30 am and only an ambulance, the Long Beach Red Cross and a Lieutenant Cdr. with the duty in the shipyard (plus some yard workmen) met us. A month later we were still in the yard and my relief took over a disabled ship instead of a live one in Eniwetok. I left a part of me on that ship especially on the day the kid's mother arrived from Texas driven by her 75 year old parents and asked to see the place her son died.

That was a hell of a way to leave a ship."

The Duncan (DDR 874) Official Ship's Log with the documented account.

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Additional photos of the Duncan accident of 1 March 1948.

from Pittsburgh Post Gazette and Los Angeles Times

Documentation courtesy of Bill Maslak, Verona, PA.

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Valiant Service in three Pacific Conflicts

World War II, Korea and Vietnam

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