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Overconfident Naval Officer Loses His Way in the Fog

During a 1923 training exercise, a naval destroyer called the USS Delphy led a flotilla of seven vessels down the California coast. The USS Delphy was captained by Lieutenant Commander Donald T. Hunter, an experienced navigator and instructor at the Naval Academy. Without warning, about half way on their training mission, a thick blanket of fog descended on the ships. In the midst of the fog (Hunter claimed it looked like "pea soup"), Hunter couldn't get an accurate evaluation of his location. Contrary to Hunter's calculations, the lead ship was headed right into Devil's Jaw, a scant two miles off the California coast. But that didn't stop Hunter from plowing ahead. That is not surprising, for Hunter was known for his self-confident decisiveness and what others called his "magic infallibility" to guide his ship.

Traveling at 20 knots, suddenly the USS Delphy smashed broadside into the rocky Point Arguello shoreline. The force of the massive collision of welded steel and jagged rock split the hull of the USS Delphy in half. One by one, the other destroyers followed the Delphy's lead and smashed into the rocks. Twenty-two naval men died. The accident resulted in the loss of all seven ships. It still stands as one of the worst peacetime naval disasters in history.

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