The plan for Sunday, 6 May 1956 began simply enough. The Navy was to parade a small task group for politicians during a routine weekend cruise 50 miles off the Virginia Capes. What was not planned was the day's chaos, confusion, and destruction.
The heart of the formation consisted of the aircraft carrier Coral Sea (CVA-43), battleship Wisconsin (BB-63), and heavy cruiser Des Moines (CA-134). They were ringed by four Fletcher-class destroyers from Escort Destroyer Division 22 refitted for antisubmarine warfare: the Eaton (DDE-510), Bache (DDE-470), Beale (DDE-471), and Murray (DDE-576). The Eaton was flagship for the division commander, Captain Terrell H. W. Conner, who was called commodore by custom and courtesy. I was the Eaton's gunnery officer.