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Volunteers on the USS Edson, Bay City's destroyer museum ship, clamber on scaffolding as they paint the ship's hull.

EDSON 9-1-1 ROLE: Destroyer Museum Ship Used as FBI "Command Cell"

May 5, 2016       1 Comments
By: Dave Rogers

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There is some credence to the constant reports that ghosts inhabit the 418-foot long steel hull of the Vietnam era destroyer USS Edson, a museum ship docked near the Independence Bridge in Bangor Township.

The fact that the Edson was the focus of a television "Twilight Zone" program in 1963 only adds to her eerie luster as a mystery vessel.

And, the ship was known in military circles as "The Grey Ghost of the Vietnamese Coast," for its multiple deployments to Southeast Asia and highly successful firefights with enemy shore batteries.

Ghost hunters are coming here regularly to prowl about the vessel with cameras and audio recording devices.

The Detroit area Metro Paranormal Investigations group has posted a series of haunted Edson visits that you can join for just $100 a pop if you are spectrally inclined.

You may have heard that a dedicated volunteer, Paul Spampanato, manager of tours aboard the Edson and the submarine Growler, died of a heart attack below decks in 1999 and another sailor committed suicide aboard the ship and are the target of much of the ghost hunting that goes on.

By now Paul is perhaps as famous as the ship's namesake, Maj. Gen. Merritt Edson, a Marine hero of World War II. Spampanato was posthumously awarded the Casper J. Knight Award from the Historic Naval Ships Association in a ceremony aboard the Edson in 2000.

Little is known of the suicide, reportedly a fireman E-3 whose death occurred below decks in the aft of the ship in 1967.

But now we learn something new and potentially even more newsworthy about the Edson. It seems the ship was used as an FBI command post in the hellish days after the 9-1-1 attack in New York City. And, a book of classified documents has been found aboard and turned over to NCIS.

The use of ships in New York harbor as command centers during 9-1-1 days is documented in the case of the carrier USS Intrepid, the key display at the Intrepid Air, Sea, Space Museum. Edson rode at anchor very near the Intrepid, that still reportedly is a secure law enforcement outpost guarding against any possible future attacks on the city.

Retired Master Chief Terry Rooney, a former policeman from the Detroit area and a regular volunteer here, found a book of classified documents in a space that had been cleared out and posted with a sign saying "Command Cell" still extant in the bowels of the Edson.

The documents were turned over to a representative of the famed NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigation Service) who happened to be visiting relatives in West Branch. The book ultimately was turned over to federal authorities at Selfridge Air Force Base, Mt. Clemens.

Were the classified documents really old, dating back to the ship's last deployment that ended in 1983, or were they from the 9-1-1 era of 2001? "I don't know, I don't have the clearance that would even allow me to look at the top secret classified papers," said retired Chief Petty Officer Mike Kegley, who runs the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum.

A total of several hundred volunteers work on the Edson, some shuttling back and forth from long distances, according to Kegley. Last year a former Edson crew member rode a motorcycle 2,500 miles from the state of Washington, stayed aboard ship, worked all summer and rode back.

The Edson was decommissioned on 15 December 1988 and towed to the Philadelphia Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility for storage. At the time of her decommissioning, she was the last all-gun destroyer in the United States Navy.

The ship's name is prominently displayed in episode 104 of The Twilight Zone, "The Thirty-Fathom Grave", first aired in 1963. While all of the action occurs on the Edson, the ship in the opening and closing stock shots is another Forrest Sherman-class destroyer, the USS Mullinnix.

The Edson served as a museum ship at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City from 30 June 1989 to 14 June 2004 when it was replaced by a Concorde airliner. The ship was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1990.

In 2004, the ship was towed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where hull repairs were completed, and then towed back to the Philadelphia Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility for storage. The Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum at Bay City, Michigan, and the Wisconsin Naval Ship Association at Sheboygan, Wisconsin both submitted applications to the Naval Sea Systems Command to relocate the Edson and reinstate her as a museum ship in their respective locations. The Bay City proposal was successful.

The Navy declared USS Edson seaworthy on 17 July 2012 [6] and it was cleared to begin its journey to Michigan on 18 July with arrival at the museum site on 7 August 2012. On Tuesday, 7 May 2013 at 15:01 hours, the USS Edson arrived at her permanent mooring site in Bangor Township, MI.


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michael_myers Says:       On May 08, 2016 at 11:50 PM
I was navigator on board the Edson in 1967 when the fireman E-3 died. While I don't have direct knowledge of the death, I did her it discussed in the wardroom. We were in Subic Bay working tropical hours. The sailor had been missing for quite a while. His body was found in a void below decks aft. No one could prove it, but it appeared he may have been malingering and snuck into the void to sleep. Paint fumes had collected in the space and apparently he suffocated.

I would be interested to know if anyone else who was aboard at that time volunteers information. The suicide does make for a better story though.
Agree? or Disagree?

Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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