USS Conyngham Visit to
Aalborg, Denmark, July 1988
The visit of the USS Conyngham (DDG-17) to Aalborg in
northern Denmark on July 2-5, 1988, could have been a routine port
visit. Following only two months after the so-called
election, which was provoked by a parliamentary majority instructing the
minority government to inform visiting warships of Denmark's ban against
nuclear weapons on Danish territory in peacetime, USS Conyngham's visit
instead became a test of Denmark's willingness to continue to accept
nuclear weapons in its ports.
USS Conyngham was
a nuclear-capable destroyer. A sister-ship to the USS Buchanan (DDG-14)
that was used to test New Zealand's nuclear ban in February 1985, the
USS Conyngham was equipped with the nuclear-capable ASROC
(Anti-Submarine Rocket) weapon system. ASROC could carry either a
conventional or a nuclear warhead, but it was not possible to tell from
a distance what type was on board the ship. Therefore the USS
Conyngham's nuclear "fingerprint" was all that could give an indication.
And there were plenty of nuclear indications.
During the 1980s, the years prior to the visit in
Aalborg, USS Conyngham passed eight nuclear weapons certification
A briefing paper on the USS Conyngham's armament and history was
published in Denmark by Greenpeace shortly before the visit. The
briefing paper included a description of the ship's nuclear profile as
revealed by official navy documents. (download briefing paper from
What was not known at the time, however, was that USS
Conyngham in the months immediately prior to the arrival in Denmark
underwent additional nuclear weapons certification in connection with a
weapons onload following a brief dry-dock period. The last inspection, a
(Navy) Technical Proficiency Inspection (NTPI), was held on April 26,
1988, only two months before the destroyer arrived in Aalborg. The
following is a chronology of the nuclear weapons related events on the
ship in the months prior to and following the port visit to Denmark:
Conyngham Nuclear Work-Up Prior to Denmark Visit, 1988
Description & Remarks
At Yorktown Naval Weapons Station (NWS), VA,
for weapons onload following dry-dock period.
(02/08) 21:45 SM2 Tartar missile dropped on deck of the 01
level aft. 21:47 Manned all General Quarters Station fwd of
frame 134. Material condition Zebra set. 21:55 Notified
DESRON 2 of incident. 22:01 Fire department arrived on the
scene. 23:12 E.O.O. team arrived. 23:20 D.C. Central reports
all secure and missile safe to remove from topside. 23:25
D.C. Central reports missile being removed by weapons
personnel. Both dolly and missile are being removed from
topside at this time. 23:37 Crane in position to remove
dolly and missile. 23:49 Broken dolly removed from
ship. 23:52 Preparing to move missile. 23:55 Missile 4 ft.
off deck. 23:56 Missile removed from ship. 23:59 Set
material condition Yoke throughout ship. 0011 Secured from
general quarters. (02/09) 2:26 Onload completed. To commence
at 0900 10 Feb 88. (02/10) 8:43 ASROC magazine alarms 84, 85
and 86 de-energized for ammo onload.
Inport Norfolk Naval Station, VA.
9:08 FZ (electronic warning for nuclear weapons area) alarm
de-energized. 9:19 FZ alarm re-energized.
Norfolk Naval Station, VA.
The ship passed a Nuclear Weapons (Navy) Technical
Proficiency Inspection (NTPI) with outstanding final grades.
(04/26) 8:34 84, 85 & 86 FZ alarms switches have been
de-energized. 14:56 DESRON TWO logged aboard. 19:03 Commence
Fire Drill. 19:25 Secure from Fire Drill. (04/27) 7:25 ASROC
alarm has been de-energized.
Inport Norfolk Naval Station, VA.
Deck log: 8:29
Daily magazine temperature report location 3-178-0-M, max.
78 deg. min 70 deg. Duty GM GMM1 Cole.
Norfolk for Northern European cruise.
(Note: during the cruise, magazine temperatures were
reported daily in the Deck Log).
to Aalborg, Denmark. First U.S. post visit since Danish
election in May provoked on the issue of nuclear port
visits. A Greenpeace anti-nuclear demonstration awaited ship
and prevented docking for more than eight
hours. "CONYNGHAM's measured response to the demonstrators
was lauded by CINCUSNAVEUR, and greatly enhanced the image
of the U.S. Navy in Europe," according to the ship’s
(07/02) 6:25 Sounded one prolonged blast. Greenpeace
demonstrators in water port bow. 6:26 Captain has the conn. 6:29
Man in the water off the bow. 6:30 Standby to charge water
hoses. 2 additional men in water off bow. 6:32 Men in water,
clear on port side. Man in water, stbd bow. 6:36 Additional
man in water port bow. Man is clear port side. 6:38 LtJC
Chambers has the conn. 6:46 Permission granted to charge
water hoses port side/stbd side aft. 6:51 Hosing down stbd
side to fend off boats. 6:54 Small boat port side,
attempting to attach banner. 6:56 Hosing down port side to
fend off boats. 6:59 At this time Danish police boat
delivered coffee to Greenpeace demonstrators. 7:00 Small
boat port side attempting to attack to side of ship-fochsle
area. 7:03 Small boat attached flag to ship's port
side. 8:19 Diver clear port bow, attempting to reattach.
Diver reattached to knifedge. 8:20 Attempting to
anchor. 8:21 Lost steering way. 8:22 Diver clear, safe to
anchor. 8:23 Let go port anchor. Captain has the conn. 8:24
Hold anchor at 15 fathoms. 8:25 Diver attached to anchor
chain. Anchor holding. 8:31 US Naval Attaché Denmark
arrived. 8:43 Demonstrators attached banner to ship's
knifedge. 8:47 Police boat removed banner. 8:56 US Naval
Attaché Denmark departed. 9:03 Small boat tied up to anchor
chain. 9:05 Small boat detached from anchor chain. 10:15
Diver is off the anchor chain. 15:05 Lowering anchor to
remove Greenpeace boat. 15:43 Moored.
to Cobh, Ireland.
Participated in NATO exercise Teamwork 88.
Port visit to Trondheim, Norway.
Arrived in Norfolk Naval Station, VA.
9:41 Received ASROC daily temperature sheet.
After the visit to Denmark, USS Conyngham continued to
Cobh, Ireland. Like Denmark, Ireland also has a policy against nuclear
weapons on its territory (including ports), but furthermore prohibits
visits by warships taking part in naval exercises. USS Conyngham sailed
straight from Cobh to the large-scale Teamwork 88 NATO exercise in the
Norwegian Sea. After the exercise, the ship visited Trondheim in Norway,
a country which like Denmark and Ireland do not allow nuclear weapons on
In 1989, the U.S. Navy began the process of retiring
three tactical naval nuclear weapons systems (SUBROC, Terrier, and
ASROC). The USS Conyngham formally lost its nuclear capability in March
1990, when the nuclear ASROC was omitted from the ship's updated list of
Two months later, in May 1990, USS Conyngham suffered
a major fuel oil leak and fire in the forward boiler room,
killing one person and injuring 18 others. The cost of
repairing the old destroyer prompted the navy to scrap the ship. USS
Conyngham was decommissioned in October 1990 and broken up for scrap by
J+L Metals in Wilmington, NC, in 1995.
M. Kristensen |
www.nukestrat.com | 2004-2005