MOUNT PLEASANT -- The two survivors of the destroyer Hobson disaster who threw the memorial wreath into the water off the aircraft carrier Yorktown Sunday were a poignant reminder of what the world lost when 176 fellow crew members died.
Those two survivors alone went on to raise 15 children between them. One of the two developed biomedical products sold around the world, while the other was a leader in the steel industry.
The Hobson, a destroyer based in Charleston, collided with the aircraft carrier Wasp during a training exercise April 26, 1952. The Wasp was damaged, but the much-smaller Hobson sank.
Sunday was the first time surviving crew members of both ships came together for a joint remembrance ceremony.
Don Cummings, 86, of Bethlehem, Pa., was one of the two men who tossed the wreath Sunday. He graduated from Yale, worked as a steel engineer, and raised seven children.
"You can only grieve so much," Cummings said Sunday after the ceremony. "I turned my life over to the Lord when I was swimming away from there."
Frank O'Connor, 80, was the other Hobson representative. After the war, he went on to graduate from Boston University, developed biomedical products and raised eight children. Now he's living in Montana.
Of the 61 Hobson crew members who survived the collision, 14 are still alive, and four of them attended Sunday's ceremony.
Dozens of former Wasp crew members attended, many wearing Navy blue-and-gold caps.
Ronald Baker, 78, of Buffalo, N.Y., also wearing a Wasp cap, had tears streaming down his face after the ceremony.
"It's the mortality," said Baker, who started serving on the Wasp about a year after the accident. "I could be next. … Every time I hear this, I break down. Taps usually gets me. Taps is tough."
The ceremony included reading the names of dozens of former Wasp crew members who died since their reunion last year in Green Bay, Wis.
Fleet Reserve Association National President James Scarbro spoke during the part of the ceremony that was in the Yorktown's Smokey Stover Memorial Theater. Almost all the 220 seats were filled.
Scarbro reminded the audience that even with today's technology, the crew is the soul of any ship. As government officials consider cuts to the military budget, they should make sure they don't reduce manpower so much that the crew carrying out the mission is endangered, he said.
All those who risk their lives for their country should be "treated with the dignity and respect they deserve," he said.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.