Pioneer Days Disaster, Ogden blasted by missiles


I got the hat!




Talk about getting no respect.

Here it is, Pioneer Days when all the world celebrates Ogden, and what do we get?

A barrage of Harpoon cruise missiles.

Although, technically, not at the city of Ogden. No, the missiles were fired at the USS Ogden, a naval ship named for the city, which was sitting in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, minding its own business, when suddenly the ocean became anything but pacific.

The USS Ogden, long may its glory wave, now sleeps with the fishes, 6,000 feet down.

When I first came to Ogden I saw, in city hall, a framed picture of the USS Ogden displayed in a trophy case by the main stairwell.

“Cute,” I thought, “we have our own ship!”

Thar’ she blows!  Cruise missile explodes inside the USS Ogden

In the mid-80s I was fortunate enough to visit the USS Ogden, which was a “Landing Platform Dock,” a sort of delivery ship for US Marines.

The idea was to let Marines load into their landing craft without having to climb down the side of the ship on rope ladders. The Ogden had a dock inside it from which landing ships full of Marines could be sent to shore.

The internal dock  opened out the rear of the ship. The Ogden saw duty in Vietnam and, I suspect but it was never confirmed, the first Gulf War.

Posing for a last photo before the bombs come

It could also land and launch helicopters.

The Ogden was launched in 1964 and decommissioned in 2007. She was replaced by a new class of ships with similar duties but bigger and, one hopes, better.

When they decommissioned the Ogden I was told the US Navy planned to sell her to the Mexican Navy. Apparently that didn’t happen.

Tuesday I came to Union Station and Archivist Lee Witten showed me a news clip from a friend in Hawaii. It’s a Honolulu Star-Advertiser from July 14 and there was our dear old USS Ogden, in flames.

“High-priced firepower bombards target ship” reads the headline.

Target ship? Us? Yike!

But it’s true.

The Navy needed something to shoot at to test out a new class of Harpoon cruise missile. The Ogden was sitting around rusting away, so it got picked.

It sounds as if it was quite the battle, albeit a bit one-sided. The Ogden was unmanned, unarmed, a sitting duck, but still gave a good showing.

The USS Ogden in better days

First a South Korean submarine launched a Harpoon cruise missile. Then a Norwegian Frigate hit it with a Naval Strike and Evolved Sea-Sparrow missile. The US cruiser USS Chosin weighed in with another Harpoon.  F/A 18 and P-3 aircraft smacked it with missiles.

Hawaiian Air National Guard F-22 Raptors peppered it with 20mm cannon. Finally, a B-52 bomber dropped a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb onto it.

You can watch video of it being blasted here (click).

I gotta tell ya, either the Ogden was particularly sturdy or the US Navy’s cruise missiles aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. According to the Star-Advertiser, the barrage started at 8 a.m. and it wasn’t until 4:30 p.m. that the Ogden finally capsized. It didn’t sink until 7:28 p.m.

So it took nearly 12 hours for three navies and the US Air Force to sink one pathetic, unarmed ship sitting dead in the water.

A sad end, but, it could have been worse.

Union Station Archive news stories

of first USS Ogden’s Christening.

This is not the first ship named for our fair city.

During World War II the Navy named a patrol frigate for Ogden. She was launched in June of 1943, part of the massive effort to crank out ship for the war effort.

A delegation from Ogden, including Mayor Harm Peery,  attended the launching. Pioneer Days Rodeo Queen Margaret Shelton smacked her nose with a bottle of champaign.

That USS Ogden went on to win three battle stars as a convoy escort. In one battle a Japanese bomb missed her by 50 yards, and her gunners were credited with helping shoot town two torpedo planes.

But then her glory days were over. The Ogden was given to Russia in 1945 as part of the lend-lease program. Russia kept her until 1949.

Here’s where sad irony strikes. The US Navy, not feeling further need for the USS Ogden, gave her to Japan — the same Japan that tried so hard to sink her — where she served out her final days as the Kusu.

I have no idea what Japan did with the first USS Ogden when it was done with her. Probably melted her down and made her into Toyotas.

So perhaps being sunk, after absorbing a barrage of missiles and cannon fire, is a better fate.

June 1943 news story of first USS Ogden’s launch

(Union Station Archive)