Death at sea: the tragedy of Texas Tower 4


On January 15, 1961, the US coastguard raced through the darkness toward a tiny point 84 miles southeast of New York City. There, 28 crew members of Texas Tower 4 were waiting desperately to be evacuated from their station. As huge swells and high winds pounded the hull of the ship, their radios picked up a frantic transmission from the tower: "We're breaking up". And with that, Texas Tower 4 and all of its occupants were pulled beneath the waves.

Built in 1957, the five Texas Towers were intended to become part of the USA's advanced early warning system against Soviet bombers. Named for their resemblance to oil platforms found in the Gulf of Mexico, the towers were radar platforms designed to be placed out to sea. Towers 1 and 5 were never built. Towers 2 and 3 were situated on the rocky seabed off Nantucket and Boston respectively. Tower 4 posed a much greater challenge, as it needed to be placed in waters twice as deep and on a soft bed of sand and mud. Nevertheless, engineers described the final design as a "triumph". The 3,200 ton triangular structure stood on three legs, each 100m long and 4m thick. These were supported by cross braces and were hollow so that they could be used to store fuel and freshwater. It cost $21 million, and would be manned by 50 Air Force officers and enlisted men.

However, floated out to location in 1957, things went wrong immediately. Foreshadowing what was in store, the tugs towing the structure were hit by a vicious gale. During the storm, two of the huge leg braces were torn off. Engineers decided it would be better to fix the rig at sea rather than tow it back to shore for repairs. Divers attached new braces to the legs, but the first crew members found the entire tower unstable, rolling and bucking in the swell. In August of 1959, Hurricane Daisy battered the isolated base, causing severe damage. The crew were evacuated while $500,000 of repairs were carried out.  You can see the modifications for yourself - in the video and illustration three slender legs are above the waterline; while the other pictures show a skirt of metal reinforcements added at a later date. The following year, Hurricane Donna pounded the tower with 130mph winds, weakening the legs further. By this point, Texas Tower 4 had acquired a new name: Old Shaky, told with grim humour. As well as rocking from side to side, the platform twisted and leaned, creaking horribly as it did. The hollow legs amplified the sound of waves slapping against them, creating a constant booming cacophony. Visitors were warned not to shave with straight edged razors lest a sudden lurch cause them to slit their throat. Texas Tower 4 was an unpleasant, scary place to live, with the crew in constant fear that they would be pitched into the freezing ocean.


In November 1960, all but 14 crew members were evacuated from the tower and 14 civilian workers were brought in to carry out emergency repairs. They attempted to fill the legs with sand and concrete, hoping to stabilise the platform. Conditions worsened throughout winter. The tower bucked and heaved, throwing the airmen and contractors to the ground. The movements were so violent the welders couldn't work on the damaged legs. Commanding officer Captain Gordon Phelan made repeated requests to have the platform evacuated, in vain. Air Force heads refused to abandon the tower, fearing that nearby Russian trawlers harboured spies eager to steal the radar technology. Commander Sheppard later wrote "you don't just walk off and leave millions of dollars of radar equipment lying around untended".


On January 14, weather forecasts warned of squalls developing with winds reaching 60 knots. On board Texas Tower 4, a deafening crack echoed across the platform, and Old Shaky began to sway horribly - another brace had snapped. An evacuation order was finally granted at 4pm, too late. Coastguard and Air Force rescue helicopters were grounded, waiting for a lull in the storm. Nearby vessels rushed to the stricken tower's aid. At 6:45pm, Texas Tower 4 made its final transmission. From the bridge of the Navy supply ship T-AKL 17, just a few miles away, Captain Mangual watched the radar image of Tower 4 fade from view as the structure crumbled into the sea. When the rescue ships arrived, just one body was pulled from the water. The remaining 27 had been dragged to the bottom with the remains of Old Shaky.

The regional commanding officer in charge of the Texas Towers faced a court martial but was acquitted. A subsequent Senate investigation found serious errors and lapses in judgement along the entire command chain. To make matters worse, almost as soon as they were built, the Texas Towers had been rendered obsolete by the advent of Soviet long range missiles. Towers 2 and 3 were decommissioned and dismantled in 1963. The wreck of Tower 4 still lies under 60m of frigid water, inhabited by sharks, dolphins, turtles, and the occasional visiting diver. In 1999, a plaque was fixed to the submerged leg of the tower. It lists the names of the 28 victims who perished on that cold January night, victims of military and engineering hubris.


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@Katie Lunn

Texas Tower 4 was a US military radar station. Nether the greed nor the stupidity of business had anything to do with it. If I had to guess, the tragedy would be properly attributed to fear of a sworn enemy along with a healthy dose of pride and ass saving from general officers....along with mother nature.

I would add a link to my source but all you really need to do is read the post you are commenting on.

: )

Amazing story. What futility. Especially in light of the fact that the towers were almost instantly rendered obsolete by ICBM technology...yet they struggled to continue using them anyway. What a waste of manpower and resources. I can hardly imagine the struggle and hardship of the workers, like the welders, as they attempted repairs in such highly dangerous conditions, ultimately in vain. Another fascinating chapter in the annals of military history.

Michael Firstman

True enough that neither greed nor stupidity of business were at fault. The engineering was flawed and untested for the most part and the military was trying to get it done on the cheap, as the cost increased due to the greater water depth of the site where it was placed. The result was predictable and warnings were most likely unheeded, and after all was said and done, the generals pointed fingers until confusion resulted and the investigations stopped due to the confusion.

That is the case today with Major Hasan, the butcher of Fort Hood. Neither the Army nor the White House are allowing Senate inquiry as to how Hasan, a known malcontent, was allowed to continue serving, let alone be promoted.

Basically, when it's your hind end you've got to cover, you and your cronies will point the finger until no one can know what really occurred and the matter can never be sorted out.

There is a record of the congressional investigation of
the TT4 debacle which makes for great reading and sheds
much light on the failures of AF high brass. Unfortunately there were several dedicated and honest, and highly capable officers whose careers were ruined by the mistakes of their superiors. I left the tower 368 days before it failed after serving a year aboard it.

By F.M.Chilcott (not verified) on 17 Jan 2011 #permalink

@7 F. M. Chilcott
Thanks for the comment, interested to know what your experiences of TT4 were like. I wonder where the division lay between those who thought it should remain and those (with a first hand experience most likely) who thought it should be abandoned.

Saw Don Slutsky Lecture tonite at the NAS (Naval Air Station) in Wildwood, NJ. Am glad for those who perished finally got closure from the higher Ups.
Thank you Sen Kerry

Merrimack River

PS would like more info on the USCG Cutter W127 that was there; Where did she originate berth from ?? (history lesson)

By Downeasta (not verified) on 28 Jun 2011 #permalink

I was in the USAF stationed at Stewart AFB New York when Texas Tower 4 went down. That evening I was in the Communications Center and was taking calls at the telephone switch board. A few days before I knew the tower was in trouble and I would call them via the switch board and talk to some of the Airmen. If my memory serves me right, some of them were from Bristol CT. I was then from New Britain CT and very interested in their problem.
The evening the tower went down, a call from the Captain came into the switch board asking for Col. Banks. I plugged into Col. Banks port and rang his phone. The Captain asked permission to evacuate. Col. Banks gave him the OK but stated all material and equipment must be destroyed before evacuation. By this time it was too late. A few hours later I was told Texas Tower 4 went down.

By Donald Rio (not verified) on 03 Aug 2011 #permalink

Downeasta: The OLD USCGC Alert (W127) was a "buck and a quarter", i.e. "125 footer" She's still afloat as a museum! See video:

A recently deceased friend of mine was on a CG 95' Patrol Boat that also responded. The Alert was either homeported in Cape May, NJ or St. George Staten Island at the time.

Frank Gorman

By Frank Gorman (not verified) on 05 Mar 2012 #permalink

I was out in that horrific storm that night, very near that area where the tower went down. I was aboard the "Atlantis" out of Woods Hole and we were on our way to San Miguel in the Azores. I was taking a break from college (UNH) and It was my first trip aboard the beautiful old 142 ft Woods Hole Oceanographic sailing ketch. What a baptism for a 20 year old kid from Cape Cod! I was aboard as a member of the deck crew assigned to sail the vessel and we spent that night in absolute fear of losing our own ship. The seas were frightening and the winds were hurricane force with the rain and sleet stinging right through our foul weather gear. The "jumbo", a storm jib used to stabilize the boat while she was "hove to" (abeam of the seas) , broke free from her clew and in the violent wind, the heavy canvas sail shredded like it was a kleenex tissue. After we managed to get it under control, we saw that the spliced eye on the sail had completely turned within it's splice 180 degrees! That was one powerful storm!
There was no GPS, or modern navigation aids or radio contact so we did not know about this tragedy until much later on in the voyage.

By Barry Crawford (not verified) on 25 Jul 2012 #permalink

I was closely involved with one of the families whose loved one was lost at sea that night and none of the explanations or excuses served to help at that terrible time.

By Lee Jackson (not verified) on 14 Sep 2012 #permalink

Tomorrow marks the 62nd anniversary of the loss of USAF TEXAS TOWER #4 and lives of the airman and civilians lost at sea. May God have mercey on their souls. These men have not been forgotten by the close family of the 4604th Support Sq. families. I had the honor to serve aboard Texas Tower #3 from Jan 1960 to Apr 1961.

By Jerry Sinanian (not verified) on 14 Jan 2013 #permalink

I was in the 5th grade when the Texas Tower 4 went down. My neighbor and friend Mark ?? was the son of one who served on that deathtrap. Mark moved away soon after the disaster. I never knew what happened to him and his family until I saw a video about the Tower and Mark's brother was prominent in the film.

My mother and father organ ized a fundraising drive by making small replicas of the Towers and distributing them all over Cape Cod at diners, convenience stores, shopping markets, and other places. I remember seeing a picture in the Falmouth Enterprise of myself and my brothers in our Cub Scout uniforms painting the miniature Towers in preparation for the fundraising effort. I think a decent amount of money was raised, but can't remember how much or how if was distributed to the families of the dead service men and contractors.

Does anyone know the names of those who died? I'd like to track down my friend even though we are both 60 years old now.


Scott Denman

By Scott Denman (not verified) on 23 Mar 2013 #permalink

I was stationed at Otis AFB Mass. the home of the Texas towers. All of the Airman who worked the towers lived on or near Otis.
I was on duty as an aircraft mechanic the evening the tower went down. Helicopters did indeed fly that night in a rescue attempt. As was stated earlier, to late. We all knew before we went home that night that it was gone with all hands. One was a good friend and neighbor. I woke the next morning to here his wife scream as she got the news. The Russian trawlers were not the only Russian vessels in the area that night. There was talk at the time it may have been rammed by a Russian sub. It had been reported very close a short time earlier. We will never know, but I will never forget..

By John Hofeling (not verified) on 15 May 2013 #permalink

My grandfather was lost at sea in this tragedy...his name was Edward Thomas Robertson and those men never should've was pure negligence and ignorance

Otis AFB must have been cursed! In the middle 60's, three Lockheed Super Constellation 121 planes running radar guard duty over the north Atlantic off Otis were lost in oversea explosions, the third and last being 4-25-67. In these three losses, a total of fifty men were lost. The book, "Fifty Fallen Stars," by MSG A.J. Northrup, USAF tells the whole sorry story. Our cousin, USAF Navigator Captain Frank R. Ferguson, II, was one of those lost, bodies never recovered. These stories need to be told, now that the Cold War is over. Back then, these things were hush-hush, due to national security. Don't let it be said that all our military dead died in "War." We don't even know how many of our people perished in the "Cold War" defending our American shores.

I'm grateful a family member of E.T. Robertson, above, found this site, and left us his name to remember. God Bless your family.

By Joe Ferguson (not verified) on 29 May 2013 #permalink

I was an E-3 at Otis when Tower 4 went down. I was the only enlisted person detailed to duty with the Board of Officers convened at Otis for an inquiry about the collapse of this Tower. I was with Board members daily, doing errands for the 3-Star general in charge, driving officers to and from Board hearings, and driving officer staff to a helicopter pad for takeoff and return from the Carrier Wasp. Many contributing factors leading up to the stark tragedy include engineering decisions proven to be fatal, an unbroken chain of errors and mistakes in judgment by both civilian and military personnel, and particularly bad weather in 1960 and 1961 on the ocean seas. Most disturbing to me were the pleas and prayers by men stationed on Tower 4, "Old Shaky," that went on for many months and years without critical action being taken by "higher ups." This entire experience is a classic example of lack of decisive leadership and action by those entrusted with great responsibility. The regional commander in charge of Tower 4 was charged with dereliction of duty in not keeping closer watch on Tower 4. He was found not guilty in a court martial.

By Capt USAF-Ret … (not verified) on 31 May 2013 #permalink

My great uncle,M/Sgt Roald Bakke, was the only body recovered from tower #4. Several years ago his brother, Hans, petitioned the state of MA to have a mountian in MA renamed after Roland....check it's in the Berkshires....

My mother's brother, Eddie Robertson, was a crane operator on tower 4. His death had a devastating effect on his entire family, especially his wife Rita and their four children. My soon to be 90 year old mother, still weeps for her brother.

Once again, thanks to everyone who has shared their personal story here in the comments.

Just weeks after this tragic loss, I reported aboard USS PROTECTOR(AGR-11), a Navy picket ship which worked for NORAD, based in Davisville, RI, as Asst. Combat Information Officer and Met. Officer. The loss of the TT was on everyone's minds and tongues in our whole eight-ship squadron.
By September, I being now the CIC Officer, with Hurricane Esther approaching, we were on a picket station due East of Boston, due South of Cape Sable, NS (the southwest tip of Nova Scotia), and were about to head South to dodge Esther, which was curving up East below New England. With the outermost winds of Esther already rising, we were ordered to prepare to evacuate the TT just on George's Bank, due East of Cape Cod's N-S arm. Over the chart of the area, my Captain asked whether I thought I could radar-pilot the ship into the deep water just West of the tower close enough to launch our whale boat to ferry the tower crew to us but far enough away not to risk hitting the tower. I said I thought I could, but that keeping us in the narrow deep section would be difficult in rising winds, and that I couldn't see how we could then turn the ship around and exit in water deep enough not to go aground. He nodded and agreed and so informed our command ashore and the Air Force officers at Otis AFB on the E-W part of Cape Cod charged with whether and how to evacuate the tower (PROTECTOR or helicopters based at Otis). The commander of the tower opined that he preferred helicopters, given our evaluation, but said that it wasn't his decision. After some screwing around, the Otis folks decided to send out the helicopters but had us stand by in case that failed. Flying in some bad stuff, they just managed to evacuate the tower. We proceeded North along the Cape and West and then South into Cape Cod Bay and anchored there in rain so heavy we couldn't see anything on radar except buoys whose location was questionable. Fortunately, daylight showed we were over the good anchorage the buoys were intended to mark; and the anchor had held. The storm hauled out East below the Cape, then did a 270 and passed directly over us as we headed South later that day and it headed straight North until nearly to Maine, where it made landfall, eventually blowing itself out over Labrador. Both PROTECTOR and the tower and their respective crews survived this time, perhaps in part because of the cautionary events of earlier in the year. I was personally witness to a waterspout about a mile from us, and glad it didn't wipe out our 42 antennae. And very thankful I didn't have to radar-pilot the ship in a storm in waters like those off George's Bank, with tower's and ship's crews depending on my radarmen's and my skills and the Captain's formidable ship-handling skills for their safety.

By S.J. McMurray, III (not verified) on 17 Aug 2013 #permalink

I had a supervisor at one of my assignements back in the mid-1970s. I tracked him down after I retired in 2001. He told me a story about TT4. He was the last person to leave TT4 just before it collapsed. He told the commander he wanted to stay and continue to work but said the commander ordered him onto the helicopter to go to the school he was scheduled to attend. He said the commander told him he needed him to get qualified on the equipment and get back to the Tower. He said his departure was just several hours before the collapse. He said it tore him up for years... Had he been allowed to remain he would've been the 29th victim. I left his name out of my comment intentionally.

By Charlie Hopkins (not verified) on 04 Sep 2013 #permalink

i was stationed on texas tower #4. And when i left it About 4 months later it went down with a lot of my friends and my commanding officer aboard it..

By Howard GLEN Hu… (not verified) on 11 Nov 2013 #permalink

nd i believe it should have been abaonded and tore down/.we lost an lot of good men on that piece of junk..and i lost a lot of friends on it...

By Howard GLEN Hu… (not verified) on 11 Nov 2013 #permalink

i was stationed on it in the 50s and i was an radar operator on it.i believe i was off of it about 5 months and it went down. and i lost an lot of friends and an commanding officer that i thought was an exceptional man,,u can say all u want to about who was at falt.and u could be right but thats not going to bring all those men back.i just know that i lost an wonderful commanding officer an al nlot of friends..god rest their souls..


By Howard GLEN Hu… (not verified) on 11 Nov 2013 #permalink

I had the miserable honors of riding out two hurricanes at the same time on Texas Tower three. We rode out the first hurricane and had plans on coming to shore before another hurricane hit us in a few days. The first hurricane turned around and hit us big time. We gave our weather report to shore that morning and they told us to stop the jokes. They had no idea of the hurricane turning around. Choppers couldn't get us because of the winds, our supply boat couldn't rescue us and was battling the waves getting back to shore. The second hurricane hit us big time. For over 30 hours estimate 78 of us knew we were going to die. We knew once hitting the cold water and high waves, we could only live maybe 5 minutes. Our dear Generals in DC stated we volunteered to ride the storm out, just to save their tails. Many of us had a clause on our life insurance if we volunteer to ride a hurricane out on the towers, our insurance would be invalid. That didn't help our morale out.
Anyway, we lived and they closed all the Texas Towers after long discussions in DC.

By Donald Baker (not verified) on 22 Nov 2013 #permalink

It's been years and let me correct one thing of the above. We did come back to shore before the first hurricane hit us. Afterwards we came back to our tower. That's when the first hurricane turned around and hit us. Many fishing boats went down with a lot of fishermen losing their lives. No weather alert was given, because the weather people had no idea of the hurricane turning around.

By Donald Baker (not verified) on 22 Nov 2013 #permalink

My dad was on the TT in the late 50's. I wonder if anyone remembered him? Joseph Clancy from Brockton MA. He was a carpenter by trade. He never talked much about his time on TT2 but I do remember he was very affected by the TT4 tragedy.

By Kathleen Baird (not verified) on 01 Dec 2013 #permalink

I was a 22 year old sailor aboard the U S Destroyer Lloyd Thomas DDE 764 that was dispatched along with the rest of the squadron by the USS Wasp to head to TT4 as we were to attempt to lend any assistance needed to rescue.
A friend was on Radar duty and said they watched the Tower disappear from the scope. The whole disaster still brings tears.
20 years ago I was in contact with several of the family members of the people lost at sea that day. I still have a Ball cap that was sent to me from members of the TT4 Association.
52 years later and it is still vivid

By Wilbur Lww (not verified) on 08 Dec 2013 #permalink

From A Grateful Nation

In Remembrance

Mr. David W. Abbott

Mr. Milton D. Leo

Captain Gordon T. Phelan

S/SGT. Harry M. Shaffer

Mr. Vincent G. Brown

Mr. Raymond D. Martell

Captain Lewis V. Barker

S/SGT. John R. Bradstreet

Mr. Samuel Buccheri

Mr. Anthony Opalka

C.W.O. Owen L. Morgan

A/1C. William E. Krause

Mr. Chester J. Cudnik

Mr. Edward T. Robertson

M/SGT. Roald Bakke

A/1C. Larry V. Woolford

Mr. Thomas J. Evans

Mr. Henry Schutz

M/SGT. Troy F. Williams

A/2C. Domenic V. Giurastante

Mr. Aram Haroutunian

Mr. William Smythe

T/SGT. Bishop O. Foster

A/2C. Leland H. Jones

Mr. Arsen S. Haroutunian

Mr. Vincent A. Yavoroski

T/SGT. Donald R. Wait

A/2C. Louis M. Laino

Mr. William C. Ide

S/SGT. Kenneth H. Green

A/2C. David K. Parker

S/SGT. Wilbur L. Kovarick

By Tom Robertson (not verified) on 10 Dec 2013 #permalink

I was stationed on tower 4 from 58 to late 59 the squadron was based at Otis air force base Cape Cod Mass. I was a s/gt supervisor in the radar dept. that tower was always shaking and we all dreaded going there i also was on tower 2. the squadron was 4707th i knew capt Phelan in fact my dd214 and my promotion to s/sgt were signed by him i still have them. I knew many of the people lost.

By chet gates (not verified) on 19 Dec 2013 #permalink

It is 53 years ago to the day that Tower 4 went down. My father, Raymond J. Martel (incorrectly spelled as Raymond D. Martell on the underwater plaque) was on the that Tower when it went down...I was 8.5 years old, my old brother was 11.5 years old and my younger brother was 18 months old. My mom was 33.5 years old at the time of his death. It was a life changing tragedy for our family and all the other families whose loved ones perished that cold winter night. My younger brother never new his dad ....he visited the site in the summer of 2013. Our memories of our father will always be present in our lives and the strength and love our mom exhibited and showered upon her three sons without a father.

By Robert Martel (not verified) on 15 Jan 2014 #permalink

Hi Robert I wish I could post some pictures .I have a good one of the civilian workers and your Dad might be in it..Never Forgotten

By Tom Robertson (not verified) on 15 Jan 2014 #permalink

Great suggestion Tom - if anyone has photos feel free to add links, or email them to me at scienceblogs (at) frankswain . com and I'll add them myself.

My father Aram (Rum) was on Tower 4 (old shakey) went it
went down that dark and stormy night..I just turned 4 years
old,my sister Gail 6 years old and my mother Alice 35 yrs. old.
In 1959 I lost my uncle Arsen in an accident on Tower 3.

It really is too bad there was such lack of communication,
on Jan 15, 1961 between the Tower and Air Force Base.
It's a shame the men were ordered to throw off all the
technical equipment fisrt before they were even thought of.
It's such a shame.

By Robert Haroutunian (not verified) on 16 Jan 2014 #permalink

Robert - do you mean that the rescue was delayed in order to destroy the equipment? That's not something I was aware of.

By sciencepunk on 16 Jan 2014 #permalink

In reply to by Robert Haroutunian (not verified)

Thanks Frank Swain for keeping the memory of the 28 men and families alive

By Robert Haroutunian (not verified) on 16 Jan 2014 #permalink

I was sent to TT2 after TT4's demise (1961-1962) as a SAGE radar opr. Each time I reread about that tragedy, I'm angered by our own USAF treatment, considering the dangers. We STILL were not evacuated in time to avoid hurricanes and nor'easterns afterwards!! There must still be great incompetence or ignorance among USAF commanders!
Would love to hear from any of you who served on the towers.

By (A/2C) Russ J… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2014 #permalink

My stepfather, Rolland Jaynes was a cook on that tower. Luck was with him as he was ashore when it was lost. He was very upset as you can imagine. He had often called that tower "Old Shakey". I don't think the public knew how dangerous it was to be there. As his family we didn't know.

By carol frizzell (not verified) on 18 Feb 2014 #permalink

My first overseas tour - I was assigned to TT3 in Sep., 1956 as an E-2 radio operator. I first went to sea on the famous ice breaker USS East Wind (we spent the night on the East Wind and were lifted at day break the 110 feet from the deck of the ship to the deck of the tower in the scarey "dough nut", a giant truck inner tube with seats attached). We were the first Air Force personnel on the tower and there were about 60 civilian construction workers finishing up the construction phase. The only equipment on the tower was a BC-610 radio transmitter and an R-3xx receiver, plus a manual type writer. Since I was a Communications Center Specialist I also became the tower administrative clerk.

It was a stressful year. The system initiated only had two personnel on board for each assigned job which meant we worked 12 hours on/12 hours off, 7 days a week with absolutely no time off - moreover, when we weren't at our assigned jobs, during our "rest" periods, we also faced several hours of detail work.

The tower constantly moved and with high winds and seas it was like riding a rocking horse. We had a pool table but it was difficult to play because the balls would roll around.

Most of our subsequent transportation to and from shore was in a dilapidated underpowered gas engined H-3 "Flying Banana" helicopter which, besides leaking fluids over the passengers, frequently suffered engine failures. On one occasion we had to jettison all of our gear into the North Atlantic in order to limp onto the beach of Nantucket Island - this action was fairly normal.

By Smsgt H. Dean … (not verified) on 20 Feb 2014 #permalink

I was a radar and SAGE system technician at Charleston AFS in Maine when the tower went down. Communication between the towers and land was by tropo-scatter which did not work well over water because of reflections. Just before I was discharged in May of 1961 a few airmen who had been on Tower 4 at one time were TDY at Charleston and were to appear at a hearing. I have no idea why they were quartered in the wilds of Maine.

By (A/1C) William… (not verified) on 29 Apr 2014 #permalink

I dont see many people mentioning the akl-17 that was headed to the tower when the storm hit close, my dad was on that ship ext to sixto manguel, capt of the akl17. Dad was the navigator and they remained in contact with the tower till it went dead andthe tower sunk into the ocean. He knew all the crew aboard the tower, no one thinks about them trying to help, and the horrible conditions they endured. My dad never forgot ever!

By Linda Westergard (not verified) on 07 Aug 2014 #permalink

I was a bit surprised to find that there were still conversation about TT 4.
I was there when it went down, aboard the USS Lloyd Thomas DDE 764.
To this day over 50 years later the tragedy still brings tears.
I have a book on the tragedy that I put together that included family members of the deceased that were aboard the Tower when it went down.

By Wilbur Lee (not verified) on 30 Oct 2014 #permalink

I was married to Louis Laino not quite 2 years when the Tower fell. I spoke to Lou the day before it fell and he was so happy thinking he was getting off the tower the next day. He told me equipment, beds, etc. was being taken off the tower. I never heard anything about destroying equipment before they took the men off. It has been so many years and I remember it like it was yesterday. Lou had asked me that day if I thought I might be pregnant. I didn't know at the time, but I was pregnant with Lou's daughter, Louann. I only wish he had known I was. It was such a horrible tragedy that everyone knows should never have happened. The government certainly did not care about human life because they took most of the equipment off before it went down. My husband was only 21 and after he was killed, I received papers stating he had leave during the time the tower fell. He had told me that he had a reason for doing it. He wanted to be home on our 2nd Wedding Anniversary since he was on tower on our First anniversary,. We only lived together after we were married for 9 months. We lived in Manassas, Va. If it wasn't for being pregnant with my daughter, I really don't think I would have wanted to live without Lou. It had to be such a horrible and most frightening way to die and what made it worse was it didn't have to happen. No one cared about those men or they would have been taken off the tower before it collapsed. I took my two grandchildren out to the tower sight when the plaque was placed on the tower and we threw flowers into the ocean where the site was. I know someday my daughter, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren will all be with Lou in HEAVEN!

By Jeanette Laino (not verified) on 13 Nov 2014 #permalink

My Uncle, S/Sgt Kenneth H. Green, was on the tower when it went down! I was not yet born at the time (I was born a year later) but I have grown up knowing the pain of losing him that my family has endured! I think of him every time I see a morning glory (it was his favorite) and I remember my mom telling me of his last words to my grandfather, " we won't see each other again, I have a bad feeling about going back to the tower but it is my duty. Please look after my girls." He had two young daughters. He had been home for Christmas, one last time. His wife followed him shortly in death, leaving his daughters without either parent. If anyone has pictures of him, please contact me through my email. Thank you. Thank you to all who have kept the memories alive of these brave men who committed their lives to keep us safe! God Bless!

By Susan Stojakovich (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

Mrs. Jeanette Laino, together we will keep their memories alive! Bless you! Could you let me know where the memorial site is? We took our kids all over the Jersey coast a few years back in search of a memorial and could not find it. Now since I live in South Jersey I will have more access to search. Thank you.
Mr. Wilbur Lee, you mentioned you have a book of memories. I wonder if you would be willing to share through email? My name is Susan and my uncle Kenny (S/Sgt Kenneth H. Green) was on tower 4 when it went down, his daughters Patty and Kande have grown up without him and I still see the pain in their eyes when we talk of him. I have been pulling old photos of him from various family members to share with my cousins and I know they would absolutely love to be included in the reunions that take place. The girls have sadly been forgotten over the years, perhaps because their mother passed shortly after Uncle Ken and records get lost. I would like very much to give my cousins a small sense of closure by taking them to the memorial site and providing them with the updated information on reunions of families. Please contact me at my email: or Facebook me at Susan Stojakovich, thank you so very much. Have a Blessed holiday season.

By Susan Stojakovich (not verified) on 20 Nov 2014 #permalink

Came across your very detailed article while "googling" tt4 to look for copy of dvd that was made a few years ago. Thank you for such an insightful article. I grew up listening to stories about "old shakey", my Dad was a civilian contractor who worked on the tower, who would have been on the tower that night, save for the fact that he had work in Boston, and my brother on the way.. I am thankful to that contractor in Boston who had enough work to keep him , I can hear his voice in my head as I am writing the words here, telling how he said he had a baby on t he way and needed to go back to the tower if there was not enough work to keep him. The tragedy of the tower, losing his friends and colleagues, stayed with him , retelling the stories to us over and over, and his grand children as well. He and my brother went on the boat when the plaque was instillled. He died on Jan 15, 2012. We were all amazed that he died on the anniversary, 51 years later.

54 years to the day and NEVER FORGOTTEN.
The horror that night for those 28 souls.....guts, honor and love they all had!

My mom passed away January 25th, 2014 at the age of 86.5 years old. She lived 53 years without the man she loved.
So many lives affected. The sorrow never abates....what could have and should have will never be.....

I believe that my mom is finally with the man she loved and lost 54 years ago and hope that someday I will see them

It is amazing how 28 souls affected so many people for so many years..

By Robert Martel (not verified) on 15 Jan 2015 #permalink

God bless all the families and friends of the 28 brave men and heros of the USA
who served there country and gave their lives for our freedom.
54 years today that Old Shaky TT4 fell.

By Robert Haroutunian (not verified) on 15 Jan 2015 #permalink

My father was a diver's tender. Had my sister not been getting married that February, he would have been on the tower that tragic day. God bless those men lost and their families.

By Lori Rowe (not verified) on 23 Jan 2015 #permalink

I served on Tower 4 in 58 & 59 Got off in Dec. 1959. Knew most of the guys that went down with it.

By Ron Henderson (not verified) on 25 Jan 2015 #permalink

Rest in peace,
To the 28 brave men of TT4 who risked and gave their lives
55 years ago on the front lines of USA defense
during the cold war 1961.

By Robert Haroutunian (not verified) on 15 Jan 2016 #permalink

I wrote my first email in 2014 because there has been no list that includes my father Alfred Westergard Sr. Who was on the ak-l7 at the time it sunk into the ocean. He was a navigator who worked for military sea transportation, atlantic. Dept of the navy. could you please tell me why he hasn't been listed? He was on that ship for a while and was given a certificate of 20 yrs of service in April 1967. Total years of service was 33.

By Linda Westergard (not verified) on 20 May 2016 #permalink

2013 was my last comment. Glad to see so many commenting.Tower Three still remember getting hit with two hurricanes within a short time. Waves would wash up and lift the tower up. That was the last of the Towers, because we had so much damage as did Tower Two. Only a few of us had to go back afterward packing things up. Six months later, DC made a decision to close them once in for all.

By Donald Baker (not verified) on 10 Apr 2017 #permalink

It has been a long time and hurts as bad today as it did the day I was there

By Wilbur Lee (not verified) on 21 Aug 2017 #permalink