Memoirs of a Navy Brat






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RPS Rajah Soliman Capsizes Off Bataan 




June 1962..... we woke up one Monday morning after a whole night of battering by a super-typhoon, to a news report that the RPS Rajah Soliman (D-66), the biggest ship in the fleet, sunk off the ship repair facility in Mariveles, Bataan, at the height of  the typhoon. I recall that Dad, who was the skipper of that ship, had to hurry back to Mariveles the day before via the hydrofoil service, to be with his ship before the typhoon hit land.

There was no mention of the crew's fate in the flash report. An eerie silence pervaded the house that morning. Nobody was talking. You could feel the tension as we sat silently everywhere, waiting for further news, or a phone call from the naval operations center. All throughout this, Mom was a picture of coolness and courage, probably silently praying inside, and never went into any hysterics that would have broken further our spirits. It was only, I think, about noon, that we got news that Dad and the rest of the crew were all safe and alright, relieving us all of the excruciating anxiety. I believe it was only after a day or two that Dad finally got home, unshaven, to the waiting arms of his loving family who had waited anxiously for his return. Like the rest of the crew, he brought nothing home but the clothes he had on. All their personal belongings went down with the ship. The good news, however, was that none perished in the incident.

Dad was court martialed for possible culpable neglect, but was eventually cleared of the charges. However, his career suffered as he was bypassed in the promotions for the next higher rank of naval captain while the court-martial proceedings were ongoing.

Years later, I learned from some of Dad's former crewmen that there was nothing they could have done to prevent the ship from being battered repeatedly against the concrete sea wall and pier by the big waves. They fought hard to keep the ship afloat and as close as possible to land by pulling the towlines inland, but they were no match to the typhoon's fury and strength. They said Dad didn't want to leave the ship after giving the order to "abandon ship", but they pulled him out moments after a big chunk of metal, which broke off from the mast, nearly hit him as the ship started to list.

At the time of the typhoon, the ship was undergoing repairs and had its engines taken out. I overheard Dad say in one of his conversations with some officers years later, that had the engines not been removed, he would have taken the ship out to the open sea where, he said, they would have had better chances of weathering the typhoon and saving the ship. On the other hand, I surmised that it was a blessing in disguise that the engines were removed, for if they had failed in the open sea, it was possible that a lot of them would have perished. God is really good, for He did not allow lives to be lost in that incident.

It was rather ironic that the super-typhoon's codename was "Dading", incidentally the same alias or nickname by which Dad was often dearly referred to by his relatives in the province.

I had the opportunity to board that ship one time when Dad, who was at home not feeling well, asked me to go to the ship, which was anchored at Canacao Bay, to draw his salary from his finance officer, then Lt. Danilo Pizarro. I took a smaller boat from the pier, together with other passengers, which ferried us to the ship and back later on.

{Please refer to blog post: RPS Rajah Soliman [D-66] - Conflicting Dates Of Sinking}

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