USS America
The amphibious assault ship USS America in the Pacific Ocean. Navy photo

The San Diego-based amphibious assault ship USS America departed Singapore Sunday after concluding its support for the USS John S. McCain, which was involved in a deadly collision at sea last week.

The America’s departure came as Navy and Marine Corps divers found the bodies of all 10 sailors who died in the collision with a commercial tanker in the South China Sea.

The McCain sustained heavy damage to its port side, but was nevertheless able to sail back to dock in Singapore, where it was met by the USS America.

While in Singapore, America provided support to the McCain crew including berthing for 155 sailors, daily supplies, counseling, medical and dental services and communications support, Navy officials said.

Sailors aboard America also assisted with damage control efforts by providing additional watch-keeping personnel and extra equipment, and coordinated with authorities in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia in a search for the missing McCain crew that spanned over 2,100 square miles.

Helicopters searched several days for missing sailors in the waters near the Straits of Malacca where the collision occurred. That search was called off Thursday after it was determined that human remains found by the Royal Malaysian Navy were not those of a McCain sailor.

The Camp Pendleton-based 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Marine Aviation Combat Element and America’s embarked helicopter squadron, Helicopter Combat Squadron 23, flew 17 sorties for over 60 combined hours in support of search-and-rescue operations.

Camp Pendleton-based Marine divers also assisted Navy divers in searching flooded compartments on the McCain where it is believed the bodies of eight sailors still remain.

The McCain collision is the second time a Navy ship has collided with a merchant vessel in recent months.

The USS Fitzgerald struck the Philippines-flagged ACX Crystal in June, killing seven sailors, including two from the San Diego area.

The twin collisions resulted in an extremely rare, single-day “operational pause” across the U.S. Navy being ordered on Monday.

Navy officials also said Wednesday that Seventh Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin was removed from his position after Admiral Scott Smith, Pacific Fleet commander, lost “confidence in (Aucoin’s) ability to command.”

–City News Service