Graphic by Martin

Operation Musketeer

( Operation Mousquetaire )

Part 4

U.S. 6th Fleet during the Crisis

U S A in the Mediterranean

The United States, was caught by surprise during the presidential campaign in October 1956, by the dual invasions short before the US President Elections. The Soviet Union, which at the time was ruthlessly suppressing an anti-Communist uprising in Hungary, threatened to intervene on Egypt's behalf. President Eisenhower of the United States pressured Britain, France and Israel into agreeing to a cease-fire and eventual withdrawal from Egypt.. The USA was more concerned with the Soviet war in Hungary and the Cold War than with Britain and France's dealings involving the Suez Canal. The last thing President Eisenhower wanted was a wider war over Suez.

The U S A Role in the Mediterranean

Britain and France undeterred by U.S. diplomatic manoeuvring began to make their move during October.. Admiral Walter F. Boone, U.S. Commander Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, ordered the Sixth Fleet on 30th October to assist evacuating U.S. nationals from both Israel and Egypt. the 6th Fleet began to implement evacuation the U.S. nationals from both countries during October too. Keep clear of British naval units

The fleetís two attack carriers that were already operating in the eastern Mediterranean, were directed to keep clear of British naval units operating there, meanwhile were directed to the southern Mediterranean . The Navy In Norfolk, Va., ordered one attack carrier, one heavy cruiser and one destroyer squadron to get ready to sail to the Mediterranean to augment the Sixth Fleet. A second CVA and a division of destroyers were to be ready on 72-hour notice. Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Arleigh Burke ordered on 7th November, the attack Aircraft Carriers Forrestal (CVA 59) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA 42) to sail from Norfolk toward the Azores, together with a heavy cruiser and three divisions of destroyers, to act as a standby augmentation to the Sixth Fleet. U.S. Navy forces were directed to maintain readiness to execute emergency war plans.

The Soviet Union ( USSR)

The Soviet Union hoping to divert the western attention from the Hungary crisis, sent diplomatic notes to Britain, France and Israel threatening to crush the aggressors and to restore peace in the Middle East through the use of force, as it noticed that the Suez Crisis increased in intensity and the tension has escalated dramatically. The Soviet military tactical moves continued during the next few days. The USS Coral Sea and U.S.S Randolph and their escorts shifted to an operating area Southwest of Crete in order to improve their readiness posture for a general emergency. And so, ships of the Sixth Fleet found themselves conducting non-combatant evacuations during some of the heaviest fighting environment of the conflict from 31 October through 2 November 1956.

Whose side are we on ?
"Situation tense; prepare for imminent hostilities."

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Arleigh Burke signalled the following day, Vice Admiral Charles R. "Cat" Brown, Commander Sixth Fleet a warning message - "Situation tense; prepare for imminent hostilities."- to which Vice Admiral Brown signalled back: "Am prepared for imminent hostilities, but whose side are we on?"

In classic Admiral Burke style, the CNOís return response was, "Keep clear of foreign op areas but take no guff from anybody."

USS 6th fleet and Israel

The small fast transport USS BURDO, and the destroyers USS Harlan R. Dickson, and USS Hugh Purvis went into Haifa as the Israelis were engaged with the Egyptian destroyer IBRAHIM EL AWAL in a 45 minutes gun attacks with the Egyptian destroyer Ibrahim El Awal just outside port, assisted by the French destroyers Kersaint

D 622 and Surcouf D 621, and crippled her, in addition increased irritating messages between the Israeli war ships and the Sixth Fleet ships before attacking the Egyptian destroyer were one particular characteristic in this

daring Egyptian-Israeli naval battle infront of the Haifa Skyline.

The French CC Cruiser Georges Leygues C 604 was bombarding the Egyptian defence positions in Rafah with all its guns including the 15 inch guns to force the garrison to surrender, endangering the U.S.S. attack transport Cambria off the Gaza strip during evacuating United Nations truce observers whose position between the Israeli and Egyptian troops was under fire, not only from the fighting enemies but also from the French heavy Cruiser

USS 6th fleet enters Egypt's Alexandria

The worst situation happened to the 6th fleet ships in Alexandria in Egypt, when the following 4 US Attack ships and Destroyers - Attack transport U.S.S. Chilton

- Attack cargo ship U.S.S. Thuban

- Destroyers U.S.S. Charles S. Sperry

- Destroyer U.S.S. Allen M. Summer DD-692

accompanying the amphibious force ship U.S.S. Fort Snelling made an uninvited approach on Alexandria to conduct the evacuation there. The Anglo-French attacks on Egypt have already began at dusk on 31st October with a series of large-scale air strikes. Once those US 6th fleet ships were inside the harbour nearly 40 air raids, opposed by heavy anti-aircraft fire, occurred in the immediate vicinity of these ships, with shells passing directly over Attack transport U.S.S. Chilton. Then, once again, upon sortie on 2nd November, during yet another air raid on the port, force commander Commodore Laing was confronted with taking over 4500 non-combatants through an inadequately swept minefield.

Back  Index

© 2000 Yahia Al Shaer. All rights reserved.

This web site is maintained by