The Flag and the Albatross, The shipwreck of the USS REGULUS (AF-57) in Typhoon Rose
The USS Regulus left San Francisco for Vietnam in March 1971. In the following months it provided supplies to 84 ships in the war zone, skirted two typhoons, hailed King Neptune at the equator, and visited six countries. Then it was shipwrecked by Typhoon Rose, the worst to hit Hong Kong in many years. Was it the fault of an arrogant captain? Was its fate foretold by two omens five months earlier? More
On March 11, 1971, and the USS Regulus was en route to the Western Pacific for a seven-month deployment in support of the Vietnam War. With the Golden Gate Bridge just a few miles astern, the superstitious among the crew were uneasy; two bad omens in three days! First the American flag fell and hit a chaplain at the moment the ship got its new captain. Then a sailor threw a welding rod at a rarely seen albatross and injured the fabled bird. Some aboard worried that those omens foretold their ship would never return to San Francisco.
This account by the ship’s second in command covers a seven month period in the life of a proud Navy ship with an excellent crew and record. Three days before she sailed from San Francisco the ship got a new captain. In a matter of weeks some of the officers knew he was arrogant and, perhaps, should not be in command. In the following months the Regulus provided supplies to 84 ships in the war zone off the coast of Vietnam, narrowly missed two typhoons, visited six countries, held a Crossing the Equator initiation for the crew, and finally encountered Typhoon Rose – one of the strongest to ever hit Hong Kong.
The first warning for the typhoon was received on August 10th as the ship neared Hong Kong for a long anticipated visit to that exotic port. In the following days Rose grew ever closer, while the captain persistently refused to avoid the storm by going to sea – despite a strong recommendation by the British naval officer in charge of the port and the example set by many other ships. Battered by waves forty-five feet high and winds over 160 miles per hour, will the ship and its crew survive? Can a captain with questionable skills save them? The Flag and the Albatross is the true story of events leading to and following Regulus’ encounter with the worst nature can offer.
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