USS Macaw–Consclusion pt. 1

Posted by Rebekah
Feb 13 2010

While Flier was still wending her way back to the States to be repaired and overhauled, another storm hit Midway Islands.

Macaw had remained hard aground for nearly three and a half weeks, thwarting every attempt to budge her. Twenty-five feet of her stern projected into the carefully cleared channel, not obstructing it, but posing a grave threat in all be the calmest of weather.  Ships and submarines had to carefully nudge past her when they came for fuel or repairs.  During bad weather, many vessels chose to stay outside Midway until the weather cleared (sometimes days later) or pass Midway altogether.

Satellite Photo of Midway Island with a marker showing the approximate location of the Macaw (and earlier, Flier) wreck. Note how close it is to the channel, with the Eastern Buoys missing, it would be easy to think you were in the channel, when you were about to run aground.

Most of Macaw’s crew had long since evacuated, and some of their places were taken by salvage crews from Midway itself, and the salvage vessel USS Clamp (Which had already been en route to Midway for other salvage operations).  It was looking like Macaw might never come free, so the best option was to remove and salvage as much of her equipment as possible and disassemble the hull to clear the channel.

Then the storm hit, and accomplished what had been deemed impossible: move the Macaw.

First she listed, then she began to slide backward into deep water.  The crew onboard were told not to abandon ship, since it was feared that the men would be crushed on the reef, or killed by the violent weather before they could clear the Macaw herself, but soon, Macaw was sliding into the deep water of the channel, and the crew climbed higher and higher into her superstructure and pilot house.

Captain Paul Burton had twenty-two lives  and his own in his hands, and the best he could do was try to keep his crew high enough to keep clear of the pounding waves.  But as midnight approached, and Macaw slid deeper into the canal, the waves broke over her deck, her superstructure, and were licking their way up to the pilothouse where the men sheltered.

All those on Midway could do was keep spotlights on the Macaw and watch.

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