Racing against time on the river

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The morning of May 18, 1980 found myself and the crew of the USS Rogers (DD876) on our way back from reserve training San Diego CA to her home port in Portland Oregon.

Crossing the Columbia River bar just shortly after the eruption, the captain was given direction to make an attempt to get the ship to Portland as mud and debris flows from the Toutle River would surely block her passage. It was clear from the wake in her bow that the ship was traveling faster than normal navigation rules would allow. A freelance photographer taking pictures of the eruption near Rainier, Oregon captured the ship against one of the most dramatic backdrops of modern time.

The scope of the devastation was not known as we sailed upstream toward Portland although the ash cloud was clearly visible to the north. We arrived safely to Swan Island later that day however river traffic was closed for some time after the eruption. The USS Rogers was decommissioned less than a year later but she will be forever tied in my mind to the massive eruption that day.