Tragedy at Honda

May 22, 2014 – May 22, 2014

113 Harbor Way, Suite 190

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Where: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 113 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, California

When: Thursday, May 22, 2014 from 5:00 – 7:00pm

What: A newly upgraded exhibit re-opens honoring the twenty-three sailors who lost their lives on September 8, 1923, known as the largest peace-time disaster in U.S. Navy history.

Cost: Free to the Public

Wine and Cheese Reception

Please RSVP below or  call (805) 962-8404 x115

Opening reception sponsored by Steve Epstein and John Woodward

On a foggy night in September 1923 twenty-three U.S. Navy sailors lost their lives as seven Clemson-class destroyers crashed into the jagged rocks at Honda Point, just above Point Arguello. To this day, it is considered the largest naval disaster during peacetime in United States history. This tragedy caused great embarrassment to our Navy, which just fifteen years before had sent the Great White Fleet around the world to demonstrate our naval superiority.

That day Destroyer Squadron Eleven, consisting of fourteen destroyers, was headed from San Francisco to their home base in San Diego. A series of events led to their fate upon the rocks, including the sinking of the SS Cuba at 4:00 a.m. the same morning on San Miguel Island. The destroyer captains feared turning too late, thereby missing the entrance to the Santa Barbara Channel and experiencing the same fate as the Cuba. In addition, the navy had just begun using radio navigation technology, but the lead commander, Captain Watson, did not trust the readings he received, and instead relied on “dead reckoning” to calculate his position. All of this and more led to the fateful decisions made that evening.

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum’s upgraded exhibit, Tragedy at Honda, will honor the lives of those brave sailors who lost their lives that evening, and those who struggled courageously under extreme conditions to keep the loss of life at a minimum. The exhibit features artifacts from the destroyers, photos and aerial footage of the wreck site, and interviews with Gene Bruce, the last living survivor of the tragedy (now passed away) and a telegraph operator working the night of the disaster.

The exhibit is funded by the Outhwaite Foundation and will honor The Writer Family. George Writer’s grandfather, Lieutenant Commander Leslie E. Bratton commanded the USS Stoddert, the last destroyer in the column, and also served as the Judge Advocate at the Court of Inquiry and Court Martial. This exhibit will be part of the revitalized Ed and Helen Wilson Family Military Exhibit.