USS Ranger aground? : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

Can anyone provide information on the stranding of the aircraft carrier USS Ranger in SF Bay? It occured sometime around 1961.

-- John Martini (, January 14, 2002


Ranger left her homeport, Alameda Naval Air Station on 11 Aug 61. There is no mention in Ranger History of being grounded or stranded at that time. She did not return until 8 March 62, Capt William N. Leonard, commanding. This data is not definitive, but from Official Records 1993 when Ranger History was assembled. No official records report damage to the hull during this time period as well. This is not to say, she could have rubbed the bottom, only that there is no official record of actual grounding. I hope this helps.

-- Ken Estes (, January 22, 2002.

I don't know about the USS Ranger but it is very possible it may have got stuck on that sand bar coming into the Alameda Naval Air Station harbor. There have been a number of navy ships that have become stuck on that sand bar the most famous of which was the USS Enterprise in about 1983. That was one of the worst embarrassments the navy has ever had. You had this absolutely magnificient ship, the largest ship of the US Navy which was the crown jewel and flagship of the entire Navy which no country in the world would dare face. It had spectacular press coverage with every newspaper and TV station being present and thousands of spectators watching as it made its royal entrance into the Alameda harbor only to come to an abrupt halt completely stuck in a muddy sandbar. What no other country was able to do to that ship, nature did. It was a total embarrassment to the Navy and navy brass wanted to bury their heads in the sandbar as well. They might as well have pulled down their pants in front of everyone. That's how embarrassing it was. I remember that what happened was that the captain relied on the navigator's information on tide, current and channel depth. The problem was the navigator was wrong. The Alameda inner harbor channel sandbar where the ship ran aground averages 38 feet deep. And the draft of the Enterprise was between 37 and 39 feet. So they could only come into harbor at high tide. And the Enterprise came in at the wrong time. So what would happen if the Enterprise was in a real battle situation and couldn't get their tides right and got stuck. This is what the Navy asked themselves. The result was that heads began to roll. The navigator was given another job and the captain was assigned a desk job. If I recall correctly, that sandbar was getting higher and higher and I think they got some dredging machine of some sort to try and give ships more space. So that is most likely how the USS Ranger got stuck.

-- Harry Murphy (*), February 07, 2002.

I just met a retired Navy Captain who had skippered Enterprise in the late 70s, early 80s. I didn't want to ask him if he ran the Big E aground. Do you know who was skipper of the Big E when that happened? Thanks. Doug

-- Douglas E Starns (, March 25, 2004.

The USS Coral Sea ran aground there about 1963, and its captain, Bob Elder, was relieved of duty.

I am trying to find the details about the Enterprise grounding, but the only thing I have learned about the captain that was given a "desk job" was that he may have become Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet.

There is a story going around that President Reagan was the "unsung hero" who got the vessel freed, at least in a fairly timely manner.

When he was told in the morning briefing of the situation, and that the Enterprise would be in that embarrassing predicament for several more days until the tide would be great enough to lift it out of the sand, Reagan asked to consult with the skipper.

He asked if the ship had ballast tanks to keep the ship level during operation, and he was told that it did, and they had emptied them, first thing, to try to gain buoyancy.

He ordered that they be filled to capacity during the next low tide. They dutifully, but reluctantly, followed orders.

He then told them at the next high tide, blow all tanks, and try to break free, using full power and the help of any tugs available.

They did so, and much to their surprise, the ship was easily moved out the deep depression in the sand left when they had taken on the extra ballast.

Later, his military staff asked him where he had learned to do such a brilliant maneuver.

“Oh, when I was a kid in Hollywood, that was the climax of an old “Tugboat Annie” movie I was in, where we had to try to salvage a barge.”

“I always wondered if it would really work…”

The whole incident was not included in the final report, but it would explain the subsequent promotion of all involved.

-- Norman A. Woodward (, June 30, 2004.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ