texas tower 4

What really happened: The Tragedy of Texas Tower 4

On January 15, 1961, the United States coastguard raced through the darkness toward a small tower 84 miles southeast of New York City.

There, 28 team members of Texas Tower 4 were waiting desperately to be evacuated from their station. As huge swells and high winds pounded the hull of the ship, their radios got a frenzied transmission from the tower: “We’re separating.” And with that, Texas Tower 4 and all of its residents were pulled beneath the waves.

Built in 1957, the 5 Texas Towers were intended to become part of the USA’s sophisticated early warning system against Soviet bombers. Called for their similarity to oil platforms found in the Gulf of Mexico, the towers were radar platforms designed to be positioned out to sea. Towers 1 and five were never constructed. Towers 2 and three were located on the rocky seabed off Nantucket and Boston respectively. Tower 4 positioned a much more significant challenge, as it had to be placed in waters two times as deep and on a soft bed of sand and mud. However, engineers described the last design as a “triumph.” The 3,200-ton triangular structure based on three legs, each 100m long and 4m thick. These were supported by cross braces and were hollow so that they could be utilized to store fuel and freshwater. It cost $21 million and would be manned by 50 Air Force officers and enlisted males.

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Nevertheless, floated out to the location in 1957, things failed instantly. Foreshadowing what was in store, the pulls towing the structure were hit by a vicious gale. Throughout the storm, two of the big leg braces were detached. Engineers decided it would be much better to repair the rig at sea instead of tow it back to the coast for repair work. Scuba divers attached brand-new braces to the legs, but the first team members found the entire tower unstable, rolling and bucking in the swell. In August of 1959, Hurricane Daisy battered the separated base, causing extreme damage. The crew was left while $500,000 of repairs were carried out. You can see the adjustments on your own– in the video and illustration three slender legs are above the waterline; while the other pictures show a skirt of metal reinforcements included at a later date. The list below year, Hurricane Donna pounded the tower with 130mph winds, compromising the legs even more. By this point, Texas Tower 4 had acquired a brand-new name: Old Shaky told with grim humor. As well as rocking from side to side, the platform twisted and leaned, creaking terribly as it did. The hollow legs amplified the sound of waves slapping against them, creating a consistent thriving cacophony. Visitors were cautioned not to shave with straight-edged razors lest an abrupt stumble cause them to slit their throat. Texas Tower 4 was an unpleasant, frightening place to live, with the team in constant worry that they would be pitched into the freezing ocean.


In November 1960, all but 14 team members were left from the tower, and 14 civilian workers were generated to perform emergency repair work.

They attempted to fill the legs with sand and concrete, wanting to stabilize the platform. Conditions got worse throughout the winter season. The tower bucked and heaved, tossing the airmen and contractors to the ground. The motions were so violent the welders couldn’t deal with the harmed legs. Commanding officer Captain Gordon Phelan made repeated demands to have the platform left, fruitless. Air Force heads chose not to desert the tower, fearing that close-by Russian trawlers harbored spies eager to steal the radar technology. Commander Sheppard later composed “you do not simply stroll off and leave countless dollars of radar devices lying around untended.”.”


On January 14, weather report warned of squalls developing with winds reaching 60 knots.

Onboard Texas Tower 4, a loud crack echoed throughout the platform, and Old Shaky began to sway terribly– another brace had snapped. An evacuation order was lastly given at 4 pm, too late. Coastguard and Air Force rescue helicopters were grounded, awaiting a lull in the storm. Nearby vessels rushed to the stricken tower’s aid. At 6:45 pm, Texas Tower 4 made its last transmission. From the bridge of the Navy supply ship T-AKL 17, just a few miles away, Captain Mangual viewed the radar picture of Tower 4 fade from consideration as the structure crumbled into the sea. When the rescue ships got here, just one body was pulled from the water. The remaining 27 had been dragged to the bottom with the remains of Old Shaky.

The regional commander in charge of the Texas Towers dealt with a court-martial however was acquitted.

A subsequent Senate examination discovered severe mistakes and lapses in judgment along the whole command chain. To make matters worse, nearly as quickly as they were built, the Texas Towers had been rendered obsolete by the development of Soviet long variety missiles. Towers 2 and three were decommissioned and taken apart in 1963. The wreck of Tower 4 still lies under 60m of frigid water, occupied by sharks, dolphins, turtles, and the periodic visiting scuba diver. In 1999, a plaque was fixed to the submerged leg of the tower. It notes the names of the 28 victims who perished on that cold January night, victims of military and engineering hubris.