USS Spiegel Grove (LSD-32)

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USS Spiegel Grove (LSD-32) with a LCAC returning
USS Spiegel Grove (LSD-32) with a LCAC returning.
Name: USS Spiegel Grove
Namesake: Spiegel Grove
Awarded: 18 March 1954
Builder: Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi
Laid down: 7 September 1954
Launched: 10 November 1955
Commissioned: 8 June 1956
Decommissioned: 2 October 1989
Struck: 13 December 1989
Nickname(s): "Top Dog"
Fate: Sunk intentionally in 2002 off Key Largo to form artificial reef
General characteristics
Class & type: Thomaston-class dock landing ship
  • 8,899 long tons (9,042 t) light
  • 11,525 long tons (11,710 t) full load
Length: 510 ft (160 m)
Beam:   84 ft (26 m)
Draft:   19 ft (5.8 m)
Propulsion: 2 steam turbines, 2 shafts, 23,000 shp (17 MW)
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
Troops: 330 enlisted troops
Complement: 18 officers, 300 crew
Aircraft carried: up to 8 helicopters

USS Spiegel Grove (LSD-32) was a Thomaston-class dock landing ship of the United States Navy. She was named for Spiegel Grove, the home and estate in Fremont, Ohio, of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States.


Spiegel Grove was laid down on 7 September 1954 by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp., Pascagoula, Miss., launched on 10 November 1955; sponsored by Mrs. Webb C. Hayes, and commissioned on 8 June 1956, Captain S. Filippone in command.

Spiegel Grove sailed for Hampton Roads and arrived at Norfolk, Virginia, on 7 July 1956. She headed for the Guantanamo Bay area on her shakedown cruise on 26 July 1956 and returned on 15 September. The ship was in the yard during October 1956; then in November she participated in amphibious exercises off Onslow Beach, North Carolina.

On 9 January 1957, Spiegel Grove, with other ships of Transport Amphibious Squadron 4 (TransPhibRon 4), sailed from Morehead City, North Carolina, with elements of the 6th Marines embarked, for a tour with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. She returned to Norfolk on 3 June and operated along the east coast for the remainder of the year. In November, she transported 364 Army troops to Labrador. In January 1958, the LSD was deployed with her squadron to the 6th Fleet on an extended tour which did not end until 6 October. On 22 October, Spiegel Grove was assigned to PhibRon 10, the new Fast Squadron. The years 1959 and 1960 saw the LSD participating in numerous operations along the east coast and in the Caribbean.

Spiegel Grove stood out of Norfolk in April 1961 with Task Force 88 (TF 88) for "Solant Amity II", a good-will tour to the African coast. The force carried tons of medical supplies, food and disaster supplies, toys, books, and seed. During the four-month cruise, the ships visited Gambia, Durban, the Malagasy Republic, the Seychelles Islands, Zanzibar, Kenya, the Union of South Africa, Togo, and Gabon before returning home on 8 September. She then entered Horne Brothers Shipyard, Newport News, Virginia, for an overhaul that was not completed until early January 1962.

Spiegel Grove conducted refresher training and then spent March and April in amphibious exercises in the Caribbean. In May, she took part in operations supporting Malcolm Scott Carpenter's manned space flight in Mercury-Atlas 7. In July and August, she returned to the Caribbean for "Phibulex 2-62". On 1 December 1962 a tender availability period was begun to prepare the ship for "Solant Amity IV". The LSD loaded supplies during January 1963 and sailed, on 15 February for her second good-will tour which lasted until late May. The ship steamed over 21,000 miles (39,000 km) and visited nine countries before returning home. Spiegel Grove next deployed to the Caribbean from July to September with PhibRon 8.

The landing ship has spent the greater part of her active service participating in amphibious exercises along the eastern seaboard and in the Caribbean. Spiegel Grove was deployed to the 6th Fleet from January to June 1964, 3 November 1966 to 11 May 1967; and from 17 April to 9 October 1971. She participated in "Operation Steel Pike I" off Spain in October 1964 and made a midshipman cruise to England and Denmark in 1970. On 22 July 1974, she participated in the evacuation of American citizens from Cyprus along with several other ships of the U.S. Sixth Fleet.[1] She repeated this service in 1976, this time in Lebanon, during "Operation Fluid Drive".

In 1983, she won the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award for the Atlantic Fleet.

Post-commission career

Spiegel Grove was decommissioned 2 October 1989 and her name struck from the Navy list on 13 December 1989. The vessel was transferred to the United States Maritime Administration in the James River "mothball" fleet.

In 1998, title passed to the state of Florida, with the plan of sinking the hull to make an artificial reef off Key Largo. To achieve this, the EPA had to increase the acceptable amount of PCB (a toxic chemical substance) remaining in future wrecks from 2 ppm to 50 ppm. On 13 June 2001, the Spiegel Grove was transferred to the State of Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Largo, Fla., by the Maritime Administration, so that the ship could be sunk as an artificial reefing and to become a tourist attraction for divers.[2]

Sinking for reef

Red tape and financial problems delayed the sinking of USS Spiegel Grove for several years, but the ship was finally moved from Virginia to Florida in May 2002. The total preparation and reefing cost was $1 million. The ship sank prematurely on 17 May 2002.[3] During the planned sinking, volunteer work crews dropped her 12-ton anchors and flooded her ballast tanks with water. But the ex-Spiegel Grove settled too soon and suddenly started rolling to her starboard side, forcing workers to abandon ship - and their equipment. She sank several hours ahead of schedule, ending up upside-down on the sea bottom and leaving her bow protruding slightly out of the ocean and her stern resting on the ocean floor.

On 10–11 June 2002, at an additional cost of $250,000 dollars, the ship was rolled onto her starboard side by Resolve Marine Group which pumped air into the port side hull tanks to displace at least 2,000 tons of water, used air bags with 350-400 tons of buoyancy, and two tugboats.[4] On 26 June 2002 the wreck was finally opened to recreational divers. In the next week, over a thousand divers visited the site. There were 50,000 dives a year done on the ship during just the first two years.[5]

The ex-Spiegel Grove is located on Dixie Shoal, 6 miles (10 km) off the Florida Keys in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Her exact location is Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.. For a scuba diver, this ship is a whopping 510 feet long and 84 feet wide; it is said you can dive this wreck 100 times and still never see the entire thing.[6] Her top deck is about 60 feet below the water's surface. The vessel's hull, which is a labyrinth inside, is as much as 135 feet under water, and silt can get kicked up and reduce visibility inside to almost zero, which can cause disorientation.[7] The depth of the wreck requires that divers have an advanced diving certification.[6]

In July 2005, Hurricane Dennis shifted the former USS Spiegel Grove onto her keel, right-side-up, which was the position originally intended when she was sunk.[8]


In April 2003, Eunice Lasala, 48, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, died from a medical condition after surfacing, after diving the Spiegel Grove.[5][9]

On 20 April 2005, Tarik Khair-el-din, 44 of Indiatlantic, Florida, made it to the surface after running out of air but drowned, after diving the Spiegel Grove.[5]

In February 2006, David Hargis, 48, of Kansas City, Missouri, died from a medical problem after making it back to the surface in distress, after diving the Spiegel Grove.[5][10]

On 16 March 2007 three divers (Kevin Coughlin, 51; Jonathan Walsweer, 38; and Scott Stanley, 55 – all from New Jersey) died while attempting a penetration dive down inside the remains of the Spiegel Grove.[5][7][11]

On 17 October 2013, Captain Joseph Dragojevich, 43, of Lake County Emergency Medical Services, Florida, went missing in a penetration dive deep inside the wreck, and was found the following day by rescue teams in a room inside the Spiegel Grove far from any possible exit.[5]

On 18 June 2015, Arne Berg, 65, of Dallas, Texas, surfaced after diving the Spiegel Grove and became unresponsive. He was taken aboard a dive vessel, where crew members performed CPR. Berg was taken to shore at the Port Largo subdivision and transported to Mariners Hospital, where he was pronounced dead just before noon. This brings the total number of diver fatalities at the wreck to eight.[5][12]



  1. "All Hands, October 1974" (PDF).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "USS Spiegel Grove (LSD 32)".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Barnette, Michael C. (2008). Florida's Shipwrecks. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-5413-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Spiegel Grove raised a foot higher, plans unveiled for turning the ship over". Miami Herald. 20 May 2002. Retrieved 2014-03-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 "Missing diver found dead in the wreck of the USS Spiegel Grove in the Keys". Miami Herald. 19 Oct 2013. Retrieved 2014-03-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Diving The Spiegel Grove: A Little Piece of Heaven Underwater". Cafe Baby Boomers. Retrieved 2007-10-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Lemire, Jonathan (18 March 2007). "Death dive: Adventure off Fla. turns to horror for 3 N.J. men". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2007-11-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Spiegel Grove upright: Hurricane Dennis fixes Florida flop". CDNN – Cyber Diver News Network. 13 July 2005. Retrieved 2007-11-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "48-year old woman dies while scuba diving". Monroe County Sheriff's Office Daily Crime and Information Report – April 2003. 14 April 2003.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Man dies while diving on Spiegel Grove". WPLG - Miami. 6 February 2006. Retrieved 2014-03-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Autopsy: Spiegel Grove scuba diving victims drowned". CDNN. 19 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Texas man dies diving off Key Largo". KeysInfoNet. 18 June 2015. Retrieved 2015-06-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links