LOUIS F. ROSSI, LT, USN
Louis Rossi '59
Date of birth: December 19, 1937
Date of death: March 29, 1966
From the 1959 Lucky Bag:
Louis was lost on March 29, 1966 when the sailboat he was aboard sank off the northwest coast of Italy. He was serving as an exchange officer with the Italian Naval Academy; the sailboat was on the first leg of a four-legged, four-boat regatta when it went down for unknown reasons shortly before midnight.
Louis was a surface warfare officer (per Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps of 1966).
He was survived by his wife, two daughters, and brother Ralph.
Louis has a memorial marker in Arlington National Cemetery.
Lt. Bridget Riordan, class of 2009, was for a time assigned the same billet as Louis had been. At the request of Dr. Edgar Manton, '59, she researched and provided answers to the following questions:
1. How many sailboats were in the regatta?
There were four sailboats total, all of the 3rd R.O.R.C. (Royal Ocean Racing Club) Class:
- Orsa Minore
- Stella Mattutine
2. Was the regatta an annual event? Named event? Still held?
The name of the regatta was “Regata dei tre dipartimenti”. It was an annual event established in 1952 by Admiral Lorenzo Daretti. I do not know when the last race of this kind was held but I do not think it takes place anymore.
3. How many days/nights were scheduled for the regatta?
4. How long was the course?
There were four main legs of the race:
- Livorno – La Maddalena
- La Maddalena – Anzio
- Anzio – Naples
- Naples – Civitavecchia
Each boat had a total crew of 16. 4 crew members would participate for one leg. Then for the final leg the most skilled 4 out of the 16 crew members would participate in the finale: Civitavecchia – Livorno.
LT Rossi was to complete the first leg of the race, Livorno – La Maddalena which began at 1400 on the 29th March 1966.
5. How did the boat sink?
The four sailboats were escorted by a Corvette named Danaide. The skipper was CAPT Agostino Straulino (now Admiral) who also served as the regatta judge.
Around 2234 on the 29th of March the Orsa Minore disappeared from the Danaide’s radar screen. Immediately Danaide headed for the Orsa Minore’s last known position: 42°46’N 9°52’E (off the northwest coast of the Island of Elba), but there were no traces of the boat. Danaide began to search for survivors and after a few minutes they found ENS Ferdinando Sanfelice di Monteforte. Search and rescue efforts were aided by a cruiser Duilio and the frigates Fasan and Aldebraran, along with dredging vessels Quercia, Vischio and Mandorlo. Rescue helicopters also came from Ciampino Airport.
Rescue efforts continued continuously until the 1st of April when the Minister of the Navy called off the search.
The cause of the sinking is still unknown.
7. How many persons were on the crew? Positions? Rank?
- CO: LT Riccardo Gorla born in Milan on 25 December 1938
- XO: LTJG Giacomo Cavaliere born in Rome on 01 July 1939
- LT Louis Frank Rossi born in New York on 18 December 1937
- ENS Ferdinando Sanfelice di Monteforte born in Naples on 18 May 1944
- BM2 Domenico Maraventano born in Lampedusa on 10 August 1946
8. How many survived?
The only survivor was ENS Ferdinando Sanfelice di Monteforte.
9. Was the sailboat recovered?
The sailboat sank to a depth of 600 meters and would be difficult to recover. The only debris found was a portion of the aft bulkhead and a racing pennant.
10. How long had Lou been at the Naval Academy? How long was his assignment to be?
LT Rossi had been assigned to the Academy as an English and Navigation Instructor since 15 August 1964. I do not know how much longer he was to be there, however, now the PEP tour here is 2 years. LT Rossi, to my knowledge, was not officially involved with the sailing program but according to the article since he was an avid sailor he requested to be a part of the Orsa Minore crew for the regatta.
11. Is there a plaque in the Academy Chapel recognizing Lou? If so, what is the inscription?
The translation is: LT Louis Frank Rossi US Navy
English and Naval Science Instructor
In the sinking of Orsa Minore during the Regatta of the Three Departments was lost at sea with the crew from the Naval Academy
29 March 1966.
12. Are there any reports, newspaper articles, Academy newsletter articles, letter to relatives etc. in the Naval Academy files that might shed some light on the accident?
I have found various articles online and I am sure that there are more. I know that there were memorial services held in 1967 and 1968 at the Academy and there is a memorial regatta held every year in Livorno named for LT Riccardo Gorla. I have been in communication with Mrs. Rossi as I am helping to organize a 50 year memorial service to be held at the Naval Academy in March 2016.
Special thanks to Dr. Edgar Manton '59 and Mrs. Elane Stout ("technical support" and wife of Pete Stout '59) for providing the information on Louis' loss.