Ensign John Beyernheimer’s destroyer almost hit an aircraft carrier during night maneuvers

John Beyernheimer went aboard the destroyer James C. Owens in Norfolk, Va. in 1951 shortly after obtaining a degree in physical education.

At this point in his Naval career the young ensign wasn’t certain if he was going to continue playing football for the Navy in Norfolk or go aboard ship. The dilemma was resolved when the skipper of his destroyer welcome him aboard.

The most exciting part of his two year career in the Navy took place during fleet maneuvers off the east coast of the U.S.

“My destroyer was running at night with lights out,” Beyernheimer recalled. “It was during these lights out maneuvers we almost ran into a aircraft carrier. The whole fleet was in a turning exercise in the dark when one of our junior officers gave the wrong instructions during the turn. Our destroyer was headed in the wrong direction right toward the carrier.

“We got close enough to the carrier in the dark that she turned all her lights on,” he said. “The skipper of the carrier came screaming out of his cabin. It was a big deal. Everybody caught hell including Bob Early, the captain of our destroyer.

Shortly after the night maneuver incident I ended up in Portsmouth Naval Hospital. I was diagnosed with ulcers.

“When I went back aboard ship the captain made me the destroyer’s electronic supervisor,” Beyernheimer said. “I knew nothing about electronics.”

“The captain said that didn’t matter. All I had to do was follow a particular ensign around who was an Annapolis graduate and some of what he knew should rub off on me. It didn’t happen.”

Shortly after being discharged from the Navy, Beyerheimer got a job teaching elementary school in a Long Island grade school. Thirty-four years later he retired and moved to Florida with his wife Frances. The coupe has three daughters, Elizabeth, Bonnie, and Marie, who were special education teachers who all taught at the same school and are now retired themselves. Their son, Phillip, is a home builder.

Name: John Odin Beyerheimer
D.O.B: 20 May 1929
Hometown: Elizabeth, NJ
Currently: Englewood, FL
Entered Service: 3 Sept. 1951
Discharged: 2 Oct 1953
Rank:  Ensign
Unit:  Destroyer: James C. Owens

This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, April 30, 2018 and is republished with permission.

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