Monday, April 23, 2012

Only 61 survived USS Hobson

N.J. soldiers who endured a naval catastrophe spill their stories of survival 60 years later
Published: Sunday, April 22, 2012

By Kevin Manahan
The Star-Ledger

On a Saturday afternoon in April 1952, two days before his ship would leave for duty during the Korean War, Joseph Torrisi dashed off a two-page letter to his older sister, Rose, on embossed U.S. Navy stationery. A three-cent stamp brought it from Charleston, S.C., to the 400-room Hotel Douglas in Newark, where she was living at the time.

A week earlier, he had sent a note to his mom in Bloomfield, proudly announcing he had found, in Charleston, a Catholic church and, more miraculously, a restaurant that served homemade ravioli.

In tidy penmanship that would have made his grammar-school nuns beam, the 32-year-old wrote that he was spending more money than he had planned, but he wasn’t sweating it. Thanks to a payday aboard ship, he would be flush when he reached Spain, France, Italy, Sicily and Greece.

His destroyer, the USS Hobson, was scheduled to visit 20 Mediterranean ports — a cushy assignment welcomed by Torrisi, a career Navy man who, curiously, disliked life on the sea.

"The next time I write will be from some place I haven’t been to," he told his sister.

But he never made it.

Five days after his final letter arrived in New Jersey, Joseph Torrisi was asleep in his lower-tier bunk at 10:21 p.m., when, during a deadly war-games blunder, the Hobson was sliced in two by the 40,000-ton Wasp, a U.S. aircraft carrier.

Seven hundred miles from the Azores, in cold, turbulent North Atlantic seas three miles deep, the Hobson sank in four minutes or less, taking 176 men with her. Only 61 survived.
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