Trailing the Trailers

The following article is contributed by Dave Donaldson, PGRA Historian, and taken from
TIME MAGAZINE, March 15, 1971 Vol. 97, No. 11

The U.S. Navy has long been annoyed by the fact that its aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean are being trailed by Soviet cruise missile ships, and with good reason. If war broke out, the Russian vessels could sink the carriers with surface-to-surface missiles before they could launch their aircraft. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Chief of Naval Operations, disclosed last week that he has assigned patrol gunships on a trial basis to trail the ships that trail his ships. The Asheville-class craft being tested have Only 3-in, guns, which can scarcely harass the Soviet ships, and they ride so poorly that the U.S. crewmen have to strap themselves to their stations with safety belts. Still, the Navy hopes eventually to equip them with surface missiles that could pose a serious threat to the Soviet trailers.

The doomsday scenario, then, would have the Russian trailer getting in just one shot at the 1,000-ft. carrier, presumably not enough to knock it out, before the 450-ft. trailer is attacked by the 164-ft. U.S. patrol craft and must defend itself. The Russians could, of course, assign a smaller boat to trail the U.S. trailer. Eventually a long line of vessels of diminishing size would string out over the Mediterranean. Each would wheel to fire its heavier weapons at the less lethal boat astern. The final casualty might well be a lone U.S. Navy bosín, brandishing a .45-cal. revolver as his canoe sinks into the sea.

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