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A ceremony in Morro Bay honored those who lost their lives in the Honda Point Disaster

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Posted at 8:09 PM, Sep 10, 2023

A ceremony was held in Morro Bay to honor those who lost their lives in a disaster involving several Navy ships.

Leaders from local museums, military veteran organizations, and community members gathered to remember those who died.

“Still known today as the US Navy's worst peacetime disaster on record,” Scott Mather, a member of the Morro Bay Maritime Museum, said.

The U.S. The Navy deployed 14 destroyers from San Francisco Bay to San Diego for training exercises on September 8, 1923.

After heavy fog and miscalculations by the captain, the ships sailed into sharp rocks near Santa Barbara. Seven destroyer ships were lost and 23 sailors died.

According to the U.S. Naval Institute, five destroyers avoided the rocks; nearby fishermen and ranchers conducted rescue and search efforts to find survivors.

On Sunday more than 50 people attended the event at the Maritime Museum in Morro Bay.

“When something like that happens and 23 young sailors lose their lives, it means a lot to me to honor them and give them the respect they deserve,” Mather said.

The ceremony included ringing a bell for every person who died that day.

“It’s just a way to stop and take a breath and honor the 23 men that lost their lives in service to their county,” Belmont said.

Bill Bowes is a retired Naval Aviator with 33 years of service. In opening remarks, Bowes said that the Point Honda Disaster impacted him in an indirect way.

“From that point, the navy really learned the importance the captain of every ship must know where their position is and make sure they don't end up running aground or having a major tragedy,” Bowes said.

Chuck Belmont works at the Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum and says it is important to know the history.

“For us locally, it’s really important for us to know the history that unfolded here on the coast just south of us..not very fast, just off of Santa Barbara,” Belmont said.

Belmont says he participated in the event to remember those who are no longer with us.

“We will never forget. We never forget about those who have fallen and those tragedies that have happened in the past,” Belmont said.

Honda Point is near what is now Vandenberg Space Force Base and is inaccessible to the public.

While the disaster occurred on the 8 of September, the last of the sailors were not rescued until the afternoon of September 9.