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USS Dahlgren and USS Spruance
Visit to
Århus, Denmark, September 1988
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The double-visit of the USS Dahlgren (DDG-43) and USS Spruance (DD-963) to Århus in central Denmark took place only two months after the visit of the USS Conyngham (DDG-17), which was used to test Denmark's continued acceptance of nuclear weapons in its ports following the so-called port visit election in May 1988 that was provoked on the issue of visits by nuclear-capable warships.

Both USS Dahlgren and USS Spruance were capable of carrying nuclear weapons and in addition had been inspected and certified to store nuclear weapons prior to their departure from the United States.

The USS Dahlgren was a Farragut (DDG-37) class guided-missile destroyer. It was able to stow and fire nuclear-armed ASROC anti-submarine warfare rockets and nuclear Terrier anti-air warfare missiles. During the 1980s the ship was regularly inspected and certified to carry out its assigned nuclear mission. Such inspections were given to major combatants to ensure that the ships were ready to fulfill their nuclear weapons missions in accordance with approved war plans.

The inspections and certifications of the USS Dahlgren were documented in a briefing paper which was released to the media in Denmark prior to the visit. The briefing paper showed that the latest inspection and certification prior to the arrival in Århus, a Navy Technical Proficiency Inspection (NTPI), was successfully held and passed on June 26-27, 1986.

What the briefing paper did not show, because it was not known at the time, was that the USS Dahlgren prior to its departure from the U.S. east coast loaded nuclear weapons onboard. The details of the nuclear loadout, the schedule for the ship's operations in the Middle East and Northern Europe, and the visit to Aarhus follow below:

USS Dahlgren Nuclear Onload Prior to Denmark Visit, 1988


Description & Remarks

07/30-31/87 Conducted weapons onload in NWS Yorktown, VA., following dry-dock period.
Deck Log: 07/30/87: 0940 - Commence handling special weapons; 1037 - Secured from handling special weapons; 1302 Commence special weapons handling.
Jul-Sep 1987 Inport NORVA (Norfolk, Virginia) and various local exercises.
09/16/87 Inport NORVA. [Deck Log]
Deck Log: Moored at Pier 24. 0850 - Commenced handling weapons. BRAVO hauled up; 0951 - Crane YD-214 along side for weight test; 1005 - Secured from weapons handling.
09/29/87 Inport NORVA where a Terrier nuclear weapons exercise was held. [Deck Log]
Deck Log: Moored at Pier 25. 0901 - Accident/Incident Drill fire on Terrier deck; 0910 - Fire on Terrier deck out. Reflash watch HT2 Sweeney.; 0920 - Injured man evacuated to DECON station; 0922 - Ship's safety team mustered to clear path to weapon; 0955 - Secured from Accident/ Incident Drill; 1005 - DC Central reports Accident/ Incident Drill still in progress; 1017 - Security alert; Missile House Guard under DURESS. Reported by GMM' Brannon; 1040 - Secured from security alert.
09/30/87 Inport NORVA where an ammunition onload occurred. [Deck Log]
Deck Log: Moored at Pier 25. 1000 - Late Entry: Commenced ammunition onload; 1015 - Secured from ammunition onload.
10/19/87 Inport NORVA where a Terrier weapons accident exercise was held. [Deck Log]
Deck Log: Moored at Pier 24. 0755 - Terrier accident.  Terrier accident. A dropped weapons on the Terrier deck (Drill).
10/30/87 Ammo onload at NWS Yorktown, VA.
11/03/87 Inport Roosevelt Roads, P.R.
Deck Log: Moored at Pier #3. 1445 - Commenced handling ASROC and Torpedoes; 1510 - Secure from handling ASROC and Torpedoes.
01/09/88 At NWS Yorktown for an ammo onload.
Jan 1988 Participated in local exercise simulating ASW in Norwegian Sea.
01/31/88 Inport NORVA. [Deck Log]
Deck Log: Moored at Pier 21. 1400 - DC Central reported all  conditions normal with the exception of high temperature alarm in the missiles house and WSN-5 alarm in forward.
Feb 1988 Inport inspections and various sea trials.
03/03-04/88 Inport NWS Yorktown for ammo onload prior to overseas deployment.
04/30/88 Enroute Mediterranean from Bermuda steaming as part of the Forrestal battle group, the ship assisted in recovering a missile canister that had been dropped overboard from the USS Forrestal (CV-59). [Deck Log]
Deck Log: 1451: Stopped to recover missile canister lost from USS Forrestal (CV-59); 1512 - Swimmer Fields, Kenneth (...) in water to assist recovery of missile canister; Missile canister revered, on board.
05-08/88 Operated in Med., Red Sea, and Gulf of Oman as part of the Forrestal BG.
08/27/88 While at anchor off Benidorm, Spain, a temperature alarm was sounded in the magazine. [Deck Log]
Deck Log: 1522 - Magazine high temperature alarm sounded.
09/00/88 Participated in operation Teamwork 88.
09/16/88 Operating in Solbergfjord near Sorreisa, Norway.
09/25-29/88 Inport Karlskrona, Sweden. "The first visit by a U.S. Warship to that country in over 12 years." While inport Karlskrona, magazine reports were issued daily. [Deck Log]
09/30-10/03/88 Inport Århus, Denmark. While inport Aarhus, magazine reports were issued daily.
10/03-08/88 Participated in operation Baltops 88.
10/25/88 Arrived back in Norfolk.
02/24/89 Underway for operation North Star 89.
04/02-05/89 Arrived at NWS Yorktown, VA, for a complete weapons offload prior to a three month Phased Maintenance Availability (PMA) at Norfolk shipyard.

The USS Spruance is the lead ship in the Spruance class of destroyers. It was originally outfitted with ASROCs, and from 1979 to 1985 the ship was regularly inspected and certified to stove and launch nuclear ASROCs. In 1986, the ASROC launcher on the forward deck was removed and replaced by a vertical launch (VLS) system capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles. During 1987, after the installation of the VLS, the Spruance tested out and trained with its new capability. By August 1988, it was certified for Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The briefing paper did not mention, because the details did not become available until later, that the Tomahawk certification included an intense series on nuclear weapons inspections in the months prior to USS Spruance's visit to Århus. They includes as many as five nuclear-related inspections and as well as a live (unarmed) nuclear Tomahawk launch in the Gulf of Mexico. The detailed follow below:

USS Spruance Nuclear Work-up Prior to Denmark Visit, 1988


Description & Remarks

06/24-26/87 In Yorktown for weapons onload following ROH.
Deck Log: 06/24/87: 0903 - Received daily magazine report.  All arms present and accounted for.
12/00/87 Tomahawk Training/TTQT.
12/14-17/87 A Nuclear Weapons Assist Team (NWAT) came aboard as part of preparations for an upcoming inspection.
01/28-29/88 Another Nuclear Weapons Assist Team (NWAT) visit took place.
02/04-05/88 A Nuclear Weapons Acceptance Inspection (NWAI) was passed.
02/09-12/88 Tomahawk Training/TTQT.
03/16-18/88 In NWS Charleston for weapons onload.
Deck Log: 03/17/88: 0850 - Commenced ordnance handling.
03/26-27/88 In Gulf of Mexico for Operational Test Launch of nuclear Tomahawk from VLS.
Deck Log: 03/25/88: 1630 - Simulated launching one Tomahawk missile; 03/27/88: 1007 - Launched one Tomahawk missile.
09/26-28/88 Inport Helsinki, Finland.
09/30-10/03/88 Inport Århus, Denmark.
Deck Log: 10/01/88: 0826 - Received daily small arms/magazine temperature report; 10/03/88: 0853 - Received daily magazine temperature/small arms report.
10/03-08/88 Participated in exercise Baltops 88 in the Baltic Sea.
10/25/88 Returned to Mayport, FL.
12/04-06/88 After returning to Mayport on 25 October, the ship sailed to NWS Charleston for weapons offload.
Deck Log: 12/05/88: 1015 - Commenced Tomahawk handling.
01/03/89 Nuclear Weapons Assistance Team (NWAT) visit.  The ship successfully met the requirements.
01/89 A Nuclear Weapons 923 Course was held.
03/08-10/89 The ship successfully completed a Nuclear Weapons Assistance Team (NWAT) visit while inport Mayport, FL.  This visit followed a grounding and brief dry-dock period.
04/11/89 A Nuclear [Navy] Technical Proficiency Inspection (NTPI) was conducted onboard.

A copy of the briefing paper was delivered to the Danish government, which responded that it did not wish to comment on the "speculations" in the paper. "I do want to point out," Defense Minister Knud Enggard later stated in the Parliament, "that the ships' certification to use nuclear weapons does not mean that they have nuclear weapons onboard." Once again, the Danish government chose to turn a blind eye to violations of its nuclear ban.

Even when a much larger report on U.S. Naval Nuclear Weapons in Sweden was published in 1990, the Danish government told reporters: "No comments." In Sweden, meanwhile, the Defense Ministry's research unit (FOA) acknowledged that the report was credible and the Swedish ruling Social Democratic Party voted -- against the will of the Foreign Minister -- to begin enforcing Swedish non-nuclear policy.

The visit of the USS Spruance was also noteworthy because of its loadout of Tomahawk cruise missiles. One year prior to the visit, the Danish government praised the INF-agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate intermediate-range land-based nuclear missiles. It was ironic that at the same time the INF-agreement began removing the land-based Tomahawk (the Ground Launched Cruise Missile) from Europe, the Danish government welcomed the sea-based Tomahawk onto its own territory.

© Hans M. Kristensen | www.nukestrat.com | 2004-2005

download documents:

» Department of the Navy, USS Dahlgren (DDG-43), "Command History for the year of 1988," February 23, 1989. (0.51 MB)

» Department of the Navy, USS Dahlgren (DDG-43), "Command History for the year of 1987," n.d. [1988]. (0.29 MB)

» Department of the Navy, USS Dahlgren (DDG-43), "Deck Log" (excerpt), July 30, 1987. (0.32)

» Department of the Navy, "Shot Manpower Document (SMD) for USS Dahlgren (DDG-43)," OPNAVINST 5320.355A, October 12, 1984. Excerpt. (0.28 MB)

background reports:

» Joshua Handler, "A Briefing Paper on the Destroyers USS Spruance (DD-963) and USS Dahlgren (DDG-43) Making Port Calls to Denmark, September 1988," Greenpeace, September 26, 1988. (107 KB)

» Hans M. Kristensen, et al., "U.S. Naval Nuclear Weapons in Sweden," Greenpeace, Neptune Papers No. 6, September 1990.
(3.4 MB)

» Hans M. Kristensen, "The Neither Confirm Nor Deny Policy," unpublished working paper, August 2004. (0.4 MB)

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