Today in 1943, a US Navy ship almost caused a gigantic tragedy… by inadvertently launching a torpedo at the president of the United States.
The ship was officially known as the USS William D. Porter, nicknamed the “Willie Dee” by sailors.
It was an extremely new ship with an extremely new crew.
But it was chosen to be part of an extremely important mission: accompanying President Franklin Roosevelt on a trip across the Atlantic Ocean to meet in Tehran, Iran with the other leaders of the Allied Powers.
Before the trip even began the Willie Dee backed into a neighboring ship and knocked out some important equipment with its anchor.
The next night, while at sea, someone on board accidentally set off a depth charge.
But the worst was still to come.
The president was on the USS Iowa, and, as a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he wanted to see how the ships did what they did.
He asked to see how the Iowa would respond to a simulated air attack, and the ship fired its guns at weather balloons.
6,000 yards away, the crew of the Willie Dee started a simulation of its own, taking practice torpedo shots at the Iowa.
The crew set up the tubes so that the torpedoes would just explode once launched… except that the men in charge of those safety measures forgot to prep one of the torpedo tubes.
So when they fired on the Iowa, they actually fired on the Iowa.
What’s worse, the entire four-ship convoy had been maintaining radio silence while at sea.
So the Willie Dee hesitated in warning that it had just accidentally tried to torpedo the ship carrying the president.
Finally they did radio in, the Iowa sped up and the live torpedo detonated in the water.
But it was still a very close call.
The military arrested the entire crew of the Willie Dee, but President Roosevelt insisted that because it was just a mistake, no one should be punished.
By the way, when the president heard that there was a torpedo headed right toward his ship?
He asked that his wheelchair be brought right up to the railing, so he could see what was happening.
This month in 1932, the UK’s Home Office got a complaint about the Cerne Abbas Giant, a 180 foot tall unclothed male figure carved into a hill in Dorset.
The writer asked the government to do something about the figure and its “impassioned obscenity.”
The authorities wrote back and said there was nothing they could do.
This WWII Naval Ship Was So Unlucky, It Almost Killed FDR (Task and Purpose)
To Whom It May Concern (Futility Closet)