1967

USS Fletcher DD-445 Command History

February 1, 1967 - February 1, 1968

U.S.S. FLETCHER DD-445
FPO San Francisco 96601

In reply refer to: DD445/RLT:kn  10 March 1968

From: Commanding Officer, USS FLETCHER (DD 445)
To: Chief of Naval Operations (OP-09B9), Navy Department, Washington, D.C. 20350

Subj: Command History, submission of

Ref: (a) OPNAVINST 5750.12

Encl: (1) Chronology and Narrative History of the USS FLETCHER's 1966-1967 WESTPAC
1. In accordance with reference (a), enclosure (1) is forwarded.

/s/ F. L. Brady, Jr.
by direction

PART I: CHRONOLOGY

WESTPAC DEPLOYMENT

1 FEB to 5 FEB: Moored buoys 21 and 22 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, for Taiwan Patrol duties.
5 FEB to 8 FEB: Underway on Taiwan Patrol independently as TU 72.1.5.  During the afternoon of 6 FEB conducted shore bomb training on Mao Hsu Island
8 FEB to 17 FEB: Inport Kaohsiung moored alongside USS Piedmont (AD 7) for upkeep
17 FEB to 18 FEB: Enroute Hong Kong
18 FEB to 24 FEB: Moored in Hong Kong, British Commonwealth, to buoy 38
24 FEB to 25 FEB: Steaming independently toward Yankee Station, Gulf of Tonkin. While enroute investigated Russian trawler MPOTPAKTOP which was being shadowed by a U.S. fleet tug
25 FEB: Entered the combat zone and reported for duty TG 77.4 composed of the USS Ticonderoga (CVA 14), USS Keppler (DD 765)
25 FEB to 4 MAR: Assigned to plane guard for USS Ticonderoga (CVA 14)
4 MAR: Detached from TG 77.4 and proceeded to join TG 77.9
4 MAR to 7 MAR: Reported for duty TG 77.9 assigned plane guard duty for USS Bennington (CVS 20) 
7 MAR: Detached from TG 77.9 to TG 70.4 composed of USS Bauer (DE 1025), USS Benner (DD 807), USS Bennington (CVS 20), and USS Fletcher (DD 445) for transit to Sasebo, Japan
12 MAR to 21 MAR: Moored Sasebo, Japan, alongside USS Jason (AR 8) for tender availability 
21 MAR to 24 MAR: Drydocked in #3 drydock, Sasebo, Japan
24 MAR to 25 MAR: Moored India Basin, Sasebo, Japan
25 MAR to 26 MAR: Drydocked in #3 drydock, Sasebo, Japan
26 MAR to 30 MAR: Enroute Yankee Station in company with TG 70.4
30 MAR to 15 APR: At Yankee Station with TU 77.9.1
15 APR to 7 APR: Departed Yankee Station, enroute Subic Bay, Philippines, as part of TG 70.4
17 APR to 21 APR: Inport Subic Bay for tender availability alongside USS Piedmont (AD 17)
21 APR to 27 APR: Enroute Brisbane, Australia, as part of TE 70.6.1.0
27 APR to 29 APR: Detached from TE 70.6.0.1 with the USS Nicholas (DD 449) to proceed to Brisbane as TE 70.6.1.2
29 APR to 8 MAY: Inport Brisbane, Australia
8 MAY to 18 MAY: Enroute Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
18 MAY: Arrived Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Fletcher's home port having completed Westpac deployment
18 MAY to 1 JUN: Moored B-23, U.S. Naval Station, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
1 JUN to 19 JUN: Moored S-1B for upkeep using Sub Base facilities
18 JUL: Underway from B-24 for West Lock to on-and offload ammunition
24 JUL to 28 JUL: Underway for Barstur Range for test and evaluation of the range
31 JUL to 2 AUG: Underway for Barstur Range
4 AUG to 25 AUG: Alongside USS Prairie (AD 15) for tender upkeep period
25 AUG to 1 SEP: Underway for ASW and AA exercise in company with USS McMorris (DE 1036) and USS Queenfish (SS(N) 651)
5 SEP: Underway for local operations in gunnery and man overboard
6 SEP: Underway for engineering exercises and refueling drill with USS McMorris (DE 1036)
7 SEP: Underway for damage control drills
13 SEP: Underway for 25 knot economy run and communications exercises
14 SEP to 18 SEP: Anchored at Hilo Bay, Hilo, Hawaii
18 SEP: Enroute Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
29 SEP to 16 OCT: Alongside USS Prairie (AD 15) for tender upkeep period
16 OCT to 19 OCT: Underway for local operations in towing, AA and ASW
23 OCT: Underway for engineering drills and communication exercises
24 OCT to 26 OCT: Underway for local operations in damage control and ASW
30 OCT to 3 NOV: Underway for towing and gunnery exercises
9 NOV: Underway for FORAC range for calibration of electronic gear
24 NOV to 4 DEC: Enroute San Diego as a part of the First Fleet Exercise BLUE LOTUS
4 DEC to 7 DEC: Inport San Diego
7 DEC to 8 DEC: Enroute San Francisco
8 DEC  to 11 DEC: Inport San Francisco
8 JAN: Underway for final calibration of ECM gear
9 JAN and 11 JAN: Underway for damage control drills
15 JAN: Underway for Z-46-U ASW exercise
16 JAN: Underway for sonar calibration and horizon checks
17 JAN to 18 JAN: Preparation for final battle problem
19 JAN: Battle problem
20 JAN to 1 FEB: Inport Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

PART II: NARRATIVE

COMMAND ORGANIZATION AND RELATIONS

USS FLETCHER (DD 445), home ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is a unit of Destroyer Flotilla Five, Destroyer Squadron Twenty-five and Destroyer Division Two-Fifty-One, under operational control of Commander First Fleet

For the deployments to the Seventh Fleet covered in this narrative, FLETCHER, has been assigned to Antisubmarine Warfare Group One. Commanded by Commander Leslie A. Taylor, Jr., USN, since 12 November 1966, FLETCHER spent four of the twelve months covered in this narrative on deployment to the Western Pacific.

OPERATIONS

The year between 1 February 1967 and 1 February 1968 could hardly have been called a dull one for FLETCHER or her crew. With the mounting commitments and requirements for destroyers caused by the war in Viet Nam, FLETCHER'S home port period was shortened to eight months between deployments. One of these eight months was spent in a First Fleet exercise, BLUE LOTUS.  Following this exercise, type training gave FLETCHER little chance to rest before deploying once again.

WESTPAC DEPLOYMENT

1 February, 1967, FLETCHER entered her fourth month of deployment, having sailed from Pearl Harbor on 24 November, 1966. After relieving USS BAUER (DE 1025) in early January, in February FLETCHER was a full veteran of the Taiwan Patrol After spending the period of 1-5 February moored to buoys 21 and 22 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, FLETCHER got underway independently as TU 72.1.5.  During the afternoon of 6 and 7 February FLETCHER conducted shore bombardment exercises on Mao Hsu Island. Much practical experience was gained during the expenditure of 200 rounds of ammunition.

Looking forward to a much needed upkeep period, FLETCHER returned to Kaohsiung from 8 February until 17 February. On the morning of 17 February FLETCHER departed Taiwan and steamed independently for Hong Kong, British Commonwealth, for a period of rest and relaxation. The excitement of the crew was not dampened by the thirty minute boat ride to Fleet Landing or the rainy weather encountered. Before the special sea and anchor detail was secured, Mary Soo was aboard and making plans for giving the ship a complete paint out.

On the morning of 24 February, FLETCHER again sailed for Yankee Station. While enroute to Yankee Station, FLETCHER investigated a radar contact identified as the Russian trawler, MPOTPAKTOP, which was being shadowed by a U.S. Fleet Tug.  The tug informed FLETCHER that she had been following the Russian ship for over thirty days. At 1327 on 15 February FLETCHER entered the combat zone and was assigned plane guard duties for the USS TICONDEROGA (CVA 14) as TG 77.4. While forming the plane guard duties assigned, FLETCHER received word on the morning of 27 February that a plane from the USS TICONDEROGA had crashed on the flight deck and rolled off into the water. Before the FLETCHER could render assistance, a helo had picked up the downed pilot. After being detached from TG 77.4 on 4 March, the FLETCHER proceeded to join TG 77.9, composed of USS BENNINGTON (CVS 20), USS BAUER (DE 1025) and FLETCHER. While with the USS BENNINGTON, FLETCHER continued her plane guard duties until being detached on 7 March to proceed to Sasebo, Japan. Just after being detached from TG 77.9, FLETCHER's lookouts sighted a parachute.  Upon investigation, FLETCHER aided in the rescuing of the downed pilot. The pilot was picked up by helo with no apparent injuries while FLETCHER recovered the raft and the electronic equipment.

On 12 March FLETCHER arrived in Sasebo, Japan and moored starboard side to the USS JASON (AR 8) at India Basin. During the evening of 17 March a sudden storm hit India Basin where the FLETCHER was moored and broke four stanchions from the 01 level and three more on the main deck. The outboard ship  in the nest, JOSEPH STRAUSS, was not so fortunate and received damage to their captain's gig and the loss of their brow. During this upkeep period FLETCHER's crew had opportunities to visit the area immediately surrounding Sasebo by ship organized tours.

On the morning of 21 March, FLETCHER left India Basin under the power of two Navy tugs for dry dock number three. The main purpose of this dry-dock time was to repair a weld in a fuel tank (ASOBF) as well as give the ship's exterior a general inspection. On 23 March the fuel tank was air tested and found satisfactory and undocking was accomplished. The destination of FLETCHER was again India Basin, but the "freedom" was short lived. The 24th of March again saw the FLETCHER in drydock again for further repairs to the same fuel tank. This second attempt at repairs was successful and on the morning of 26 March FLETCHER was underway to India Pier four to load stores and fuel before departing for Yankee Station. After completing taking of stores, FLETCHER found herself six hours late in departing with TG 70.4 far off in the distance, a rendezvous that would require five days to effect.

The evening of 28 March rendezvous was made with TG 77.9.1, composed of the USS BENNINGTON (CVS 20), USS BENNER (DD 807), USS EVERSOLE (DD 789), USS NICHOLAS (DD 449), and FLETCHER. At 108°15'E and 17°53.5’N the task unit again entered the combat zone. During this time the 25 radar in the MK 37 director could not hold a target so as a result the MK 56 director was manned in accordance with prescribed condition III watches. MOTU was sent from Subic Bay and the JOSEPH STRAUSS sent one of their FTCS to render our ship's company assistance. The casualty to the MK 37 director was repaired on 2 April and the normal condition III watch was again set throughout the ship.

During this time, FLETCHER was plane guard for the USS BENNINGTON. Much time was devoted at general quarters for the purpose of damage control practice for the crew as well as underway replenishments. On 6 March, FLETCHER received word that a fishing boat had capsized in the area. Upon further investigation all that was sighted was fuel oil and debris in the water. The search was discontinued without any definite sightings to report after six strenuous hours.

8 and 9 April FLETCHER conducted ASW exercises to give the crew simulated attack procedures against the USS TIRU (SS 416). During the morning of 9 April, Rear Admiral Weymouth, COMASWGRUONE, arrived onboard by helo to observe the ASW exercises. Under the observation of the Admiral, FLETCHER and EVERSOLE (DD 789) made co-ordinated two ship attacks. FLETCHER departed the combat zone on 15 April and as a part of TU 77.9.1 in company with BENNINGTON and EVERSOLE steamed for Subic Bay, Philippines, for upkeep.

During the transit to Subic Bay, FLETCHER kept up her training schedule by firing a Z-6-AA on 15 April. The exercise was a joint effort with all three ships of TU 70.4 taking part. FLETCHER expended 116 rounds of five and three inch ammunition. On 17 April, FLETCHER moored alongside her sister ship, USS NICHOLAS (DD 449) in Subic Bay, Philippines.

The time spent in Subic Bay was used in general cleaning and painting of the ship in preparation for Brisbane, Australia, which would be the last stop in FLETCHER's WestPac deployment. The enthusiastic energy expended in this preparation was complete throughout the crew. For everyone the 21st of April was a turning point in the cruise; it meant the start of the final leg home.

The period of 21 to 27 April FLETCHER was enroute Brisbane, Australia, as part of TG-70.6.1.0, composed of USS EPPERSON (DD 719), USS NICHOLAS (DD 449), USS BENNINGTON (CVS 20) and FLETCHER. On the mornings of 26 and 27 April, FLETCHER participated in an air shoot, Z-9-AA and expended 109 rounds of three and five inch training ammunition. On 29 April, FLETCHER and NICHOLAS were detached to proceed to Brisbane under command of COMDESRON TWENTY-FIVE. The trip to Brisbane was highlighted by an unidentified radar contact on the 24th of April. Upon investigation this contact was identified by IFF as DAVY JONES, on his way to greet his friends the trusty "Shellbacks" and view with distaste the slimy "Pollywogs". As custom has always prevailed, at 1110 in the morning 150 newly initiated "Shellbacks" were born at 140° 00'E. By the time Australia was in view from the bridge, FLETCHER boasted of a complete crew of "salty" veterans.

The visit to Brisbane for the Twenty-fifth anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea was a time that will be cherished by the crew for a long time to come. FLETCHER held open house for the public, with special emphasis on the children. More than one hundred fifty white hats were handed out and literature about the past history of the ship to the visitors. The official estimates of the number of visitors varied, but it was agreed that the number ran into the thousands. The men of the FLETCHER were guests at many parties and functions from the first moment that we moored at the Naval Pier at Newfarm.

On Saturday, 6th of May, FLETCHER and NICHOLAS jointly hosted a cocktail party as a token of their appreciation for the individuals who had made their stay so enjoyable. The party was held at the Officers Club, Naval Depot, Brisbane, Australia. It was with saddened hearts that on the morning of 8 May, FLETCHER set the sea and anchor detail for the last time on her WESTPAC deployment, destination: Pearl Harbor.

The trip back across the equator on 14 May was hardly given a second thought by the "Shellbacks", a complete change over from the previous encounter. Rear Admiral Weymouth made a personal visit to FLETCHER on 16 May to express his appreciation of the job turned in by FLETCHER and to answer questions of the crew. Admiral Weymouth made a tour of the ship and personally gave the officers a "Well Done" upon completion of his visit. His departure marked the '"official" end to the cruise and final preparations were made for homecoming.

On 17 May at 2055 radar contact was obtained on the island of Hawaii, bearing 089° t, 173 miles. Thursday, 18 May, FLETCHER moored starboard side to B-23, Naval Station, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii after six months of WESTPAC deployment. The final tabulations of the cruise were as impressive as FLETCHER's past record:  171 days total deployment, 468 rounds expended in combat, 463 rounds expended in training, and a well done from Admiral Weymouth.

LOCAL OPERATIONS

The two months following her return from deployment were a period for leave and upkeep. This period was split between the Bravo piers and Sub Base facilities. The Sub Base facilities were made available to FLETCHER due to an unused allotment of money by the submarine command. The FLETCHER owes a great thanks to the Sub Base for the use of their facilities as well as for the assistance which was received during this time.

On the morning of 18 July, FLETCHER was underway for the Whiskey piers at Westloch to load and offload ammunition. Ammunition was off-loaded to meet MIDPAC's requirements and the quantity needed to fulfill FLETCHER's exercise requirements was added to her allowance.

The weeks of 24 July and 31 July was spent at the Barstur Range making the initial tests of the range for final evaluation of the hydrophones location. During this time five MK 37 and five MK 44 torpedoes were shot and tracked and a good evaluation of the effectiveness of the range was obtained. The nights were spent anchored in Waimea Bay or Port Allen, Kauai. During this time the five midshipmen onboard had an opportunity to gain valuable experience in ship handling and control.

After completing operations in the Barstur Range area, FLETCHER went alongside the USS PRAIRIE (AD 15) for a much needed tender upkeep period. The three weeks from 7 August to 25 August was a period of hard work for the crew. Besides the work accomplished by the tender, NOSSOPAC and MOTU gave valuable assistance to the Weapons Department. As the tender upkeep period progressed FLETCHER became increasingly ready for her strenuous training exercises.

On 28 August, in company with USS MC MORRIS  (DE 1036) and USS QUEENFISH SS(N) 651), FLETCHER was underway for ASW and AA exercises. The afternoon of 28 August was strictly concerned with ASW, the firing of torpedoes and general lAS training. Speed and efficiency was the target in setting the FLETCHER's ASW defenses. The 29th of August was spent in conducting basic gunnery exercises, Z-21-G and Z-24-G. After landing observers and spotters on Kahoolawe Island, FLETCHER fired shore bombardment exercises on the morning and afternoon of 30 and 31 August. FLETCHER expended more than 310 rounds of five and three inch projectiles on the different exercises which included the Z-42-G call fire mission, Z-43-G offset method and air burst call fire, the Z-44-G modified illumination call fire mission and the Z-46-G D-Day fire mission. The results of the exercises pointed out the experience and outstanding ability of FLETCHER in shore bombardment.

The week of 5 September again found FLETCHER sharpening up her gunnery as well as man overboard and engineering drills. On 5 September, FLETCHER again conducted Z-21-G and Z-23-G gunnery exercises. FLETCHER's junior officers got to try their hand at ship handling during man overboard drills that same day. Needless to say, Oscar was well worn and weary when the drills were secured for the day. Engineering had their opportunity to show their efficiency on the 6th of September. The drills ran from basic loss of steering control to loss of lube oil. The afternoon was spent in a refueling drill with the MC MORRIS (DE 1036).

During the week of 13 September FLETCHER got underway for Hilo, Hawaii, with communication exercises and a 25 knot economy run conducted enroute. The sights of Hilo, Hawaii, were the "p1an of the day" for 14 through 17 September; it was an all hands evolution. Plans were being made for the final tender availability upon the return to Pearl Harbor. This period of upkeep was begun on 29 September and continued to the 16th of October alongside the USS PRAIRIE (AD 15).

On the morning of 16 October, FLETCHER got underway for local operations covering a wide area in the Weapons Department. The afternoon was devoted to gunnery, with a Z-17-AA tracking exercise followed by a Z-6-AA air shoot in which 36 rounds of five inch and 35 rounds of three inch ammunition were expended. The NICHOLAS (DD 449) and FLETCHER teamed together for an exercise in towing. In the morning, FLETCHER was the towing ship in the Z-G-S exercise, and in the afternoon, the positions were reversed. The morning and afternoon of 19 October were devoted to ASW exercises with the NICHOLAS. General Quarters with ASW emphasis were set with hedgehogs and torpedoes fired during simulated ASW attacks.

The week of 23 October again was devoted to local operations. Communication and engineering damage control drills were given special emphasis. On 26 October, FLETCHER was engaged in ASW exercises as a submarine target vessel and attacking ship.

On 30 October, FLETCHER was assigned towing exercises Z-G-S, with the USS EPPERSON (DD 719). The morning of 31 October was spent shooting a Z-48-G modified shore bomb exercise in which 27 rounds of HEPD were expended. ASW exercises, Z-12-U took up the remainder of the afternoon. On 1 November, ASW and gunnery exercises filled the entire day. The exercise was a turn count masking and narrow weave followed by a Z-16-U, with the USS BLACKFIN (SS 322). A Z-48-G modified and a Z-23-G were completed in the afternoon followed by an illumination exercise with the USS EPPERSON and USS NICHOLAS. A Z-l 6-U was formed against the USS BLACKFIN (SS 322) with the firing of a MK 44 torpedo on the morning of 2 October and a Z-30-G basic gunnery exercise was fired in the afternoon with 25 five inch and 20 rounds of three inch expended.

For a calibration of electronic equipment, FLETCHER was assigned to run the FORAC range on the 9th of November. The tests took five runs to finally complete and the results were hardly what the ship had anticipated. Through an error in the results received from the range, the first reports had the fire control radars deficient as well as the sonar in the Weapons Department. A later summary of results corrected this error and placed that radar gear within the tolerable limits. On the morning of 24 November, FLETCHER departed Pearl Harbor, as a part of TU 15.2.2, comprised of USS COCHRANE and USS EPPERSON, for First Fleet exercise BLUE LOTUS being held on the coast of California. The transit to the operating area took six days in which heavy weather was constantly encountered. The first mission for FLETCHER was NGFS off the island of San Clemente. During this time, simulated P.T. boat attacks were encountered with the "destruction" of every attacker judged. Next, FLETCHER was detached to provide screening assistance for the amphibious operation that was preparing to make an actual landing of Camp Pendleton, California. On 2 December, FLETCHER was again assigned NGFS. Again, FLETCHER was challenged by four "hostile" P.T. boats and again the results were the same, destruction of the enemy without any damage being received. FLETCHER's next assignment was plane guard for the USS TICONDEROGA on 3 December. The final phase of the exercise for the FLETCHER was giving fire support for the actual invasion of the morning of 4 December. During the invasion, FLETCHER expended 16 powder charges and no projectiles for the camera coverage on the beach. To add realism to the invasion, explosive charges were timed to explode on the beach during the surface gunnery exhibition. After completion of the exercise, FLETCHER moored in San Diego until 7 December.

The 7th of December was spent enroute to San Francisco for four days R & R. In conjunction with the USS EPPERSON, FLETCHER held general visiting for the public on 10 December. On the morning of 11 December, FLETCHER was underway for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, after completing her first West Coast visit in more than a decade.

The Christmas holidays were spent preparing for ORI and other pre-deployment inspections. On Monday, 8 January, FLETCHER was under way for final calibration of the ECM gear. The 9th and 11th of January were spent underway for damage control drills, simulating running a minefield and general quarters. FLETCHER took time out from damage control drills on 15 January to conduct ASW training for the crew. A Z-46-U was conducted with the firing of one MK 44 torpedo. The morning of 16 January was set aside for horizon checks and sonar calibration but due to poor weather FLETCHER was forced to return to port. This was our last bit of slack time until after the final battle problem held on 19 January. The morning of 19 January was spent alongside NAD OAHU for final loading of our WESTPAC ammunition allowance after which FLETCHER attacked her final challenge before WESTPAC. With the Commanding Officer of the EARNEST G. SMALL as the senior observer, FLETCHER again distinguished herself as a true veteran. She passed the battle problem with highest marks received in DESRON 25 with an accumulative average of good. The grade received made the hard work put forth by the crew worthwhile, and it instilled more pride in being "FIRST IN CLASS".
 
LESSONS LEARNED, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from FLETCHER's activities during the past year is that the age of a ship has little to do with her success in meeting her commitments. FLETCHER through the hard work and dedication of her officers and men met every one of her diverse commitments during the past year.

It is imperative that if older ships are to be kept on the line well past their, maturity, adequate funds must be made available for proper and thorough overhauls. The natural reticence to expend large sums of money on ships destined for deactivation in a few years is understandable, but if they are to continue to operate effectively a better trade-off between needs of the ship and available funds must be achieved. The "thorough overhaul" concept is presently a myth and increasing the work load on the ship's force will not correct this problem. A decision must be made in the case of an aging ship like the FLETCHER that she will be properly modernized and over-hauled, or she must be relegated to some less demanding status. A ship's crew can work miracles, but only for so long.

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