12 July, 1987
“All ahead two-thirds,” Hanily ordered. Smoke continued to linger in the southern sky off the starboard bow, even though source of the smoke had already slipped beneath the waves and was now sliding towards the bottom of the Atlantic.
“Ahead two-thirds, aye,” the OOD responded crisply. In under thirty seconds, Scott’s turbine engines cranked up. Her speed increased gradually as the engines moved to provide the necessary power. The tail of the convoy was not that far away, but Hanily wanted to catch up as soon as possible. He stepped out onto the bridge wing and took one last look at the fading smoke that marked the grave of HMCS Iroquois. A single torpedo had struck her, tearing a wide gash in her hull. Damage control efforts had failed to save the ship but did manage to keep her afloat long enough for an orderly evacuation of casualties and surviving crew.
Scott had been off to the north when the attack happened, working a possible submarine contact with another destroyer. That contact turned out to be nothing but a ghost. Or worse, a decoy. At the same time, a second Russian submarine had slipped into the inner perimeter of the convoy before being detected. Instead of getting a shot off at the merchant ships, the sub’s skipper had to settle for firing a pair of torpedoes at the closest escort ship. After the launch, two helos came charging in and dropped a pair of torpedoes, but the sub managed to escape.
He would be back, Hanily was sure. The convoy was too juicy a target to pass up, and first blood had already been drawn.
As the burning Canadian destroyer sat in the water, Scott received orders to move in and assist. Barely half of Iroquois’ complement of sailors and officers had survived the attack. One hundred and twenty men were recovered from the water. Fifty were now onboard Scott and the remainder on Aylwin. Brooks was waiting for orders regarding what to do with them. Iroquois also had one of her Sea King helicopters airborne at the time of the attack. It was currently staked out on Pollux, one of the SL-7 container ships.
Hanily scowled. The convoy had come so far before suffering its first. They were so damn close to the end of the journey. In under twenty-four hours the convoy would be under the watchful eye of air cover from the European mainland. In thirty-six, the convoy’s merchantmen would be turned over to a combined UK/French escort force. Changes had been made in the schedule over the past few days. Amsterdam was now the debarkation port for the convoy. After a short stop in Le Havre to replenish, Scott and the other escorts would shepherd a gaggle of empty container ships back across the Atlantic in the opposite direction.
“Howdy, skipper.” The greeting made Hanily turn around. The XO was stepping out onto the bridge wing.
“Afternoon, Bob. How are our guests doing?”
“As comfortable as possible,” the XO said. “But we’re crammed pretty tight.”
“I know. We’ll get some direction on that topic from the commodore once we rejoin the convoy. I expect our Canadian friends will be placed on one of the merchies for the rest of the trip. Having them here doesn’t exactly help our combat capabilities.”
“True.” The Executive Officer shook his head and moved in a step closer. “Damn shame about Iroquois, though,” he said quietly.
Hanily nodded his head in agreement. “I thought she could handle damage control better. Her skipper and crew seemed competent enough. Wonder what the hell happened.”
“I was thinking the same thing. God forbid, but if we’d have taken the same hit, we’d still be afloat.”
“Exec,” Hanily breathed, taking in the cool sea air. “We don’t go to war with the equipment and people we want. We go with whoever, and whatever is on-hand.”
“Damned if that isn’t the truth, skipper.”
Author’s Note: One more War Excerpt on Tuesday and then it’s back to the war. 😊 – Mike