Sep 8

Honda Point Wreck: 8 September 1923

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 12:01 AM


Today is the 87th anniversary of the 1923 grounding of seven destroyers at Point Perdanales, California, also called Honda Point. Following a day of maneuvers and a high-speed run south from San Francisco Bay, the fourteen destroyers of Destroyer Squadron 11 turned east toward the Santa Barbara Channel, soon entering dense fog. However, the force was north of where they thought they were, and a few minutes after the turn the flagship USS Delphy (DD 261) ran aground at 20 knots, quickly followed by six other ships. Twenty-three sailors died, and the seven ships were left in place to be pounded apart by the surf. The site is now part of Vandenburg Air Force Base, and a memorial marks the site.

  • Jim Valle

    Interestingly the “first responders” in this disaster were the officials and personnel of the Coast Division of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Coordinated by the telegraph station at Surf, the railroad organized relief trains with doctors, nurses, food, medicine and tent shelters and dispatched them to the wreck site. as soon as practical they evacuated the sailors and transported them to various navy bases and hospitals. The destroyers were so tightly jammed into the rocks than nothing could be done to salvage them.

  • Joyce C. Rusch

    I am the great great granddaughter of Dutch Huebel. We don’t know what ship he was on. He survived the tragedy on September 8, 1923 of the destroyers that hit the rocks off of California. We know he helped some of the crew that were trapped in the engine room. He was a machinist. If anyone knows of him please contact my father Arthur R. Lee 106 Western Ct Santa Cruz Ca 95060. I am from a Naval family 4th generation, please contact my father. God Bless all of you heroes that have served our country.

  • Shelly Ann LPN(ret)

    I am a 2nd generation US Navy veteran, from a long line of sea going folks. With the 94th anniversary of the incident just passing, I have been researching the Honda Point groundings of nine ships out of a Squadron of 14 ships with seven being total looses, two being able to back off of the beach under their own power. Other than the loses, I cannot find much information on the locations and what happened to the surviving Tin Cans during this incident. Can anyone help in finding more information on the Honda Point Incident, especially the location of the other ships during the event. Also looking for any modern photos of the remains of the seven ships left in place to be broken by the sea.

    Thank you,
    Richelle A Kemnow, LPN (ret),
    Mdn/USNSCC, HM2c(FMF)/USN, Sgt/USAR, ACM/olc, 1965-1994

  • Michael Ray

    Check out the book Tragedy at Honda by Lockwood/Adamson. It goes into a lot of detail about what happened and why. The fourteen ships were traveling at high speed in single file formation, at night in fog. The first nine hit the rocks, while the others were able to turn away. If you visit the site today (you would need an escort, as it’s on Vandenberg AFB property) all you’ll see is a hunk of rusted metal below the bluffs that is supposedly one of the old boilers. The guide we spoke with told us that there’s nothing else left of the ships, although I’ve seen other sources saying that diveable wrecks are still out there off shore. There are no surviving examples of any Clemson class destroyers. Most were retired before WW2, although some were still in use then. (The famous Caine Mutiny took place on a repurposed Clemson class destroyer.) They used a Clemson class destroyer for bombing practice in the south bay of San Francisco; some unrecognizable wreckage from that can still be seen sticking up from the water. There’s some interesting aerial video footage of the Honda Point wrecks taken not long after they happened. You might be able to track that down. Also, there were two destroyer squadrons that made the run that day from SF to San Diego. The second squadron was more cautious and didn’t try to make the shortcut through the Santa Barbara channel. The flagship of that second squadron (I forget its name off the top of my head) made a brief appearance the following year in the Buster Keaton film The Navigator.