How the Russians buzzed my destroyer in 1956.

The recent simulated attack of the U S ship in the Baltic Sea brought to mind an incident that I experienced in 1956.

Our ship, the USS English DD 696, was on its way to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf via the Suez Canal and we had been warned there was a rumor that the British and French were going to attack Egypt over a dispute about the Canal. No one really thought this was true intelligence since the source was questionable.

The Russians were helping the Egyptians build the Aswan Dam as well as helping them train their military and aviators. We were warned that if this intelligence was correct we could get trapped at the other end of the canal and would have to stay there for an uncertain length of time.

The same message that alerted us to this problem also said that we should have weapons near the bridge in case of a random sniper attack from the shore as we passed through the canal.

As Gunnery Officer, I elected to put a BAR on the bridge out of sight of the Egyptian pilot who was on board guiding us through the canal. The Captain, in his own wisdom, countered this logic and instead insisted that we use a Thompson sub-machine gun. He even ordered us to test fire the sub-machine gun off the fantail at floating garbage while we were anchored in Port Said.

In my opinion the Thompson machine gun would fire bullets that might not even reach the side of the canal and even if it did would not be accurate. I put both the BAR and the Thompson in a locker at the back of the bridge along with a gunner’s mate who had weapon experience.

Fortunately, we did not have to use either weapon but while passing through a narrow part of the canal with high sand dune banks on either side, a Russian MIG came up over one side of the canal, passed directly over our stacks and disappeared over the other side in less than 20 seconds. It got our attention like I am sure it was intended to do.

The rest of the transit and a two week stay in the Persian Gulf and return trip through the canal was uneventful.

One day later, while at port in Greece we were ordered to sea and spent the next 40 days at sea with 39 other U S ships. The British and French flew as many as 40 bombers at a time over us to bomb Egypt and the canal shut. We were ordered to fly the largest American flag that we had on board and to illuminate it at night with flood lights so we wouldn’t be mistaken for Egyptian ships and accidently bombed by these fleets of aircraft.

At least one of the destroyers that relieved us in the Persian Gulf was forced to return home by going around Africa and across the Atlantic to get home almost two months after we reached Norfolk.

Jack Amendt



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