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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Custom motorcycle revealed on national TV
Mark Angle shares first photos of bike
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Photo by Morris Stephenson: Mark Angle and his wife, Judy, of Rocky Mount, stand behind the $35,000 memorial motorcycle that was revealed on June 26 on the History Channel.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

By MORRIS STEPHENSON - Special to the News-Post

Mark Angle, a retired Rocky Mount pharmacist, had to wait until after Tuesday night's airing of "Counting Cars" before photographs of his $35,000 custom motorcycle could be published.

Angle commissioned Danny "The Count" Koker in Las Vegas to build a custom motorcycle to honor the seven sailors who perished aboard the cruiser USS Belknap when it was struck by the USS John F. Kennedy almost 40 years ago. One sailor aboard the Kennedy was also killed.

The feature on the History Channel told Angle's story from the time when he and his wife, Judy, journeyed to Las Vegas on March 26 for the commissioning of the bike to the show's final taping in California on June 12.

Angle first saw the bike on June 12 at a special ceremony aboard the USS Iowa at San Pedro near Long Beach, Calif. The motorcycle was shipped June 24 to the Angle's home.

Angle served aboard the USS Belknap in 1972-73 and was friends with six of the soldiers who perished in the fire following the collision. Over the years, he has researched and collected all the articles, information and photos of the tragedy that he could find.

Angle said the two ships were on the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Italy. The smaller cruiser was about 1,000 yards behind the carrier when it made a "J turn" and was lost from sight by the officer on the bridge of the Belknap.

"The flight deck overhang on the carrier cut the top of the Belknap off from the bridge up," Angle said. "Ruptured fuel lines on the Kennedy dumped about 2,000 gallons of jet fuel on the Belknap."

When the aircraft carrier made its turn, its navigation lights could not be seen by the cruiser's personnel, Angle said.

The Belknap was later repaired and returned to duty. President George H.W. Bush stayed on the ship in December 1989, during the Malta Summit with Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev.

It served as the 6th Fleet's "flag ship" before it was retired. The Belknap was put to rest on Sept. 24, 1998, when it was towed some 350 miles off the Norfolk shore and sunk in 6,000 feet of water, Angle added.

"My wife and I are both so proud that Count's Kustoms made the decision to build this memorial motorcycle," Angle said. "I know the sailors who died that night will be always remembered, especially by me. They were my friends."

 
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