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Memories of the Bristol

Crossed Paths

In September 1947 the USS Bristol DD 857 received orders to proceed to Trieste. Leaving her mooring at Genoa, Italy, the destroyer steamed down the west coast of Italy, until Sicily was insight. As we prepared to enter the straits of Messina, a radio message was received to reverse course and steam back toward Sardinia and go to Magdelena Bay. On arriving at her destination the Bristol found the USS Fox waiting to take on the supplies that the Bristol carried. All of the ammunition, jeeps, extra food and the orders to go to Trieste were taken by the Fox. New orders had been prepared for the Bristol and she was to go back to the states while the Fox proceeded to Trieste. This was great news to the Bristol crew and the transfer of supplies was quickly made and soon the Bristol was on her way to Gibraltar—on her way home.

As the USS Fox was entering the port of Trieste she struck a floating mine and about forty feet of her stern was blown off. Fortunately she was under watertight integrity (all compartments and areas are sealed off one from another) because she was entering a port. Despite the loss of life and the severe damage, the ship survived and was towed into port.

Most of the crew on the Bristol had the thought that it could have been our ship—or the part of the ship that was blown off was where I slept and except for the change in orders I wouldn’t be here.

Because naval ships were still in great demand it was decided that the Fox would be towed to Boston for rebuilding and repair. As soon as the decision was made a new stern was put under construction in the Boston Navy Yard. When the Fox arrived the new section (about forty feet) was ready to be welded to the ship.

While all the problems with the Fox were being decided, the Bristol had settled in for the winter at Davisville, Rhode Island—a part of Quonset Point Naval Air Station. Watches, duties and liberty made the time pass, but the real fun for a few of the men was playing basketball at the Air Station. Although the Bristol's team was just a pickup team and without a coach, it was good enough to win the league and defeat the other teams at the Air Station. As a result, the Bristol Team was chosen to be the representative in a tournament at Newport, Rhode Island. The tournament started with a flourish (for the Bristol crew) as the team won its first two games handily. The third game was going to be more of a challenge—the USS Yosemite. This team had regular uniforms a band to offer support and an Officer to coach the team. The only thing they didn't have was better players. After a hard fought game the Bristol team once again was the winner.

That night the talk was all about the next tournament which was to be held in Norfolk, Virginia.

The Navy was going to fly the winner of our tournament down to Norfolk, and they would get leave, and the food would be great, and — on and on. The one thing that was forgotten was the game tomorrow. To the players it was only a game with a team from another Destroyer. After defeating all the big teams, surely there would be no problem with a team from another Destroyer. But we failed to take into account that this team was from the USS Fox—yes, the same Fox that had struck the mine. The Bristol team was without a doubt the better team, but not on that day. The Fox team outhustled, outscrapped, and outplayed the Bristol team. Although the final score was close the Fox team went to Norfolk. Perhaps it was justice, perhaps it was over-confidence, or perhaps it was just meant to be, but in a sense the Fox had crossed paths once again with the Bristol and this time she was the winner.

Paul L. Steiner BT3
Bristol 1946 to 1948

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