Honda (Pedernales) Point, California, Disaster, 8 September 1923
Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy

The outstanding disaster of the year, and of many years, was the loss of seven destroyers on the coast of California. This disaster, the causes of which have been carefully probed by a court of inquiry, and one result of which is the pending court-martial of certain officers, cost the Navy 23 lives and shipping to the value of $13,000,000. Compared with the destruction of the Trenton, Vandalia and Nipsic, in Apia Harbor in 1889, which was the last outstanding disaster of the service, the loss of life was significant; and it was exceeded in the explosion in the turret of the Missouri in 1904, and in other disasters needless to enumerate.

Like most other Navy disasters, however, our sorrow at the death of our comrades and our regret at the property loss leave us still with a feeling of great pride in the conduct of the officers and enlisted men.

After the destroyers struck at Honda Point there was no incident to mar the perfect conduct of the personnel. Discipline, self-sacrifice, and courage characterized all officers and men, and, due to these qualities which mark our men upon every sea, the loss of life was greatly minimized. I trust those who have been bereaved will find some comfort in the fact that neither dishonor, nor cowardice, nor failure to do all that becomes a seaman appears in the distressing record.

One thing more that may lessen the hurt in the heart of every man connected with the naval service is that out of this disaster, as out of many human misfortunes, much good will come. Every officer will study more closely the doctrines of command. He will appreciate more fully his responsibility for the safety of his own ship in time of peace, no matter in what formation steaming or what his general orders may be.

The service does not seek to mitigate whatever was blameworthy in connection with this tragedy nor must it confess shame for any unworthy act. Out of the turbulent waters in which our destroyers were broken to pieces on Honda Point still rises the spirit of the Navy, to fight to the end, and, if need be, to die like men.

In conclusion, Sir, I feel that there is little in the history of the service under review for which I need to offer to you or to the American people apologies, and I feel that the service we have inherited from generations of brave and honorable men has lost nothing of its courage, its honor, or its usefulness at the hands of those who devote their lives to it to-day.

EDWIN DENBY.

Source: United States. Navy Dept. Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Fiscal Year (Including Operations to November 15, 1923). (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1924): 79.


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