USS Fletcher DD-445 Command History
February 1, 1966 - February 1, 1967
U.S.S. FLETCHER DD-445
FPO San Francisco 96601
In reply refer to: DD445/AM:ts 5750 ser: 92 14 Mar 1967
From: Commanding Officer, USS FLETCHER (DD-445)
To: Chief of Naval Operations (OP-09B9)
Subj: Command History, forwarding of
Ref: (a) OPNAV INST 5750.12 of 8 Nov 66
Encl: (1) Command History of USS FLETCHER (DD-445) from 1 FEB 1966 to 1 FEB 1967
(2) Cruise Book of USS FLETCHER (DD-445) 1965-1966 WEST PAC
1. In accordance with reference (a) enclosures (1) and (2) are here with forwarded.
2. Due to the POST FACTO nature of the 1966-1967 command history, the requirement for original documentation and photographs is best satisfied by enclosure (2).
/s/ F. L. Brady, Jr.
COMMAND HISTORY USS FLETCHER (DD-445)
1 FEBRUARY 1966 to 1 FEBRUARY 1967
I. WESTPAC DEPLOYMENT
A. 1 FEB to 3 FEB: On Yankee Station off Viet Nam with ASW Group ONE
B. 3 FEB to 8 FEB: Enroute from Yankee Station to Yokosuka, Japan
C. 8 FEB to 17 FEB: Moored Yokosuka, Japan alongside USS ISLE ROYALE (AD-29) for Tender Availability
D.17 FEB to 20 FEB: Enroute from Yokosuka, Japan to Guam, M.I. as part of Operation Heritage
E. 20 FEB to 21 FEB: Moored Apra, Guam
F. 21 FEB to 1 MAR: Enroute from Apra, Guam to Sydney, Australia. Crossed the equator 23 FEB at 151° 53' E
G. 1 MAR to 7 MAR: Moored Garden Island Dockyard, Sydney, Australia
H. 7 MAR to 11 MAR: Enroute from Sydney, Australia to Suva, Fiji
I. 11 MAR to 12 MAR: Moored Suva, Fiji
J. 12 MAR to 17 MAR: Enroute from Suva, Fiji to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
K.17 MAR: Arrived Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, FLETCHER's homeport having completed WESTPAC DEPLOYMENT
II. LOCAL OPERATIONS
29 Mar: Underway for West Loch, Pearl Harbor for ammunition transfer and bumper drills
30-31 MAR: Underway in local operating areas as submarine target vessel for USS SEADRAGON (SSN-584)
14-16 APR: Inspection of FLETCHER by Sub Board of Inspection and Survey, Pearl Harbor. Ship found not ready for war due to casualty to MK 25 Fire Control Radar and generally poor condition of ship's weapons systems.
26 APR to 5 MAY: Underway for daily operations including submarine target vessel duty, gunnery exercise, SAR mission off the island of Kahoolawe, Naval Gunfire Support exercises at Kahoolawe and Sonar noise level test.
5 MAY to 23 MAY: Moored alongside USS FRONTIER (AD-15) for tender availability
24 MAY to 7 JUN: Underway for daily local operations including ASW, gunnery exercises, full power run, and submarine target vessel duty. On 2 JUN conducted on range phase of FOPACS
pre-overhaul calibration at FORACS III, Nanakuli, Hawaii.
III. SHIPYARD OVERHAUL
A 8 JUN to 10 JUN: Off loading of ammunition, spare parts and fuel and water prior to commencing overhaul
B. 10 JUN to 1 JUL: Moored alongside USS FRONTIER (AD-25) for pre-overhaul tender availability and ship to shop yard availability
C. 1 JUL to 4 AUG: Dry docked in Dry Dock No.1, U.S. Naval Shipyard, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
D. 4 AUG to 15 SEP: Moored Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for overhaul
E. 15 SEP: First Sea Trial and structural test firing of new 3" and 5"' mounts
F. 23 SEP and 24 SEP: Second Sea Trials
G. 24 SEP to 5 OCT: Making preparations to get ready for sea and refresher training
H. 5 OCT to 7 OCT: On loaded repair parts from SOAP Team and ammunition from West Loch
IV. REFRESHER TRAINING
A. 8 OCT: Preliminary Training. Readiness Inspection held
B. 10 OCT: Underway for horizon checks on newly installed five inch mounts
C. 11 OCT: Granted a yard extension due to being found not materially ready for training by Fleet Training Group, Pearl Harbor
D. 17 OCT: Final Training Readiness Evaluation was. held and FLETCHER was found ready to commence training
E. 18 OCT: Underway for independent ship exercises including running the measured mile in the local operating areas
F. 19 OCT: Underway for the on range phase of FORACS calibration, post-overhaul at FORACS III, Nanakuli, Hawaii
G. 20 OCT: Underway for Z-24-G, Z-17-AA, Engineering Casualty Control drills, yearly test firing of warshot MK 108 Rocket and plaster hedgehogs, and test of the ship's water washdown system
H. 24 OCT to 9 NOV: Interim Refresher Training in Pearl Harbor local operating areas, including Gunnery, Operations and Navigation, Engineering, Damage Control and Naval Gunfire Support
I. 10 NOV: REFTRA Final Battle Problem. FLETCHER, although she had had no preliminary battle problem successfully completed this one
V. PRE-DEPLOYMENT PREPARATION
A. 14 NOV to 25 NOV: Moored alongside USS PRAIRIE (AD-15) for final tender availability
VI. WESTPAC DEPLOYMENT
A. 28 NOV to 8 DEC: Underway enroute from Pearl Harbor to Yokosuka, Japan with ASW Group ONE in USS BENNINGTON (CVS-20)
B. 8 DEC to 11 DEC: Moored Yokosuka, Japan. ASW Group ONE relieved ASW Group FIVE and FLETCHER relieved USS RENSHAW (DD 499)
C. 11 DEC to 14 DEC: Enroute from Yokosuka, Japan to Bashi Channel for Operation SLEWFOOT
D. 14 DEC to 19 DEC: Operation SLEWFOOT
E. 20 DEC to 21 DEC: Participated in SAR mission for downed F-4 enroute from Operation SLEWFOOT to YANKEE STATION
F. 21 DEC to 23 DEC: Arrived on Yankee Station and commenced ASW training with USS NICHOLAS (DD-449) and USS SEADRAGON (SSN-584)
G. 24 DEC to 31 DEC: Assigned to TU 70.8.9 for Naval Gunfire Support. From 26 DEC to 30 DEC FLETCHER was on station off Cape Mai, just south of Chu Lai providing gunfire support to III MAF
H. 1 JAN to 2 JAN: Assigned to night plane guard for USS ENTERPRISE (CVAN-65). Also assigned was the USS BAINBRIDGE (DLGN-25) making three "Firsts in Class" in the same task group
I. 3 JAN: Detached from ENTERPRISE to rendezvous with USS ADVANCE (MSO-510) to provide gun support for the minesweeper as she proceeded far to the North to conduct a sweep of the PIRAZ station, W-4
J. 4 JAN to 10 JAN: Assigned to USS BENNINGTON (CVS-20) for night plane guard
K. 10 JAN to12 JAN: Enroute from Yankee Station to Kaohsiung, Taiwan for Taiwan Patrol Duty
L 12 JAN: Relieved USS BAUER (DE-1025) of Taiwan Patrol Duties
M. 17 JAN: Underway for first patrol. Remained in the lee of the Penghus due to heavy weather in the straits. Scheduled to go to Keelung, but diverted to Kaohsiung to receive assistance from USS HECTOR (AR-7) in correcting casualty to emergency switchboard
N. 21 JAN to 25 JAN: Moored buoys #21 and 22, Kaohsiung
O. 25 JAN to 30 JAN: On Taiwan Patrol
P 30 JAN: In port Kaohsiung
Q 31 JAN: On Taiwan Patrol
COMMAND HISTORY USS FLETCHER (DD-445)
1 FEBRUARY 1966 to 1 FEBRUARY 1967
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 two deployments to the Seventh Fleet covered in this narrative, FLETCHER has been assigned to Antisubmarine Warfare Group One, in Task Groups composed of one CVS and eight destroyers.
Commanded by Commander Robert L. Morgan, USN from 1 February 1966 until relieved by Commander Leslie A. Taylor, Jr., USN on 12 November 1966 FLETCHER has spent four of the twelve months covered in this narrative on deployments to the Western Pacific.
The year between 1 February 1966 to 1 February 1967 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. Three of these eight months were occupied with a shipyard overhaul. Following the overhaul, interim refresher training gave FLETCHER little chance to rest from her overhaul exertions before deploying once again.
First WESTPAC Deployment
1 February 1966 found FLETCHER entering her sixth month of deployment, having sailed from Pearl Harbor on 13 September 1965. ASW Group ONE then had the responsibility of Surface Subsurface Surveillance (TG 77.9) of the Yankee Station area just south of the Gulf of Tonkin, and FLETCHER occupied station 7 of the 7V1C disposition with responsibility for surveillance of the sector which extended north and east of the Yankee Team formation center. In order to accomplish her mission FLETCHER was assigned advisory control of S2E and E1B aircraft from HORNET's CVSG-57 during their sweeps of the sector which extended over one hundred miles to the east. Each contact detected in FLETCHER's sector was designated and reported to CTG 77.9 in SITREPS which were sent every six hours. These contacts ranged from small Nationalist Chinese fishing trawlers which always traveled in pairs and doggedly faced the roughest seas with the Chinese flag boldly painted on the side of their pilot house, to large merchant ships headed for Da Nang. None of the contacts detected during this period in FLETCHER's sector were evaluated as hostile.
On the night of 2 February, FLETCHER was assigned as night plane guard for HORNET in preparation for departure from Yankee Station. On 3 February these two were joined by USS MC CAIN (DL-3) and USS NICHOLAS (DD-449). Later that same day USS EVERSOLE (DD-789), USS O'BRIEN (DD-725) and USS CUNNINGHAM (DD-752), units of DESDIV 232 also joined. The remaining two units of ASW Group ONE; USS EPPERSON (DD-719) and USS BENNER (DD-807) were on Taiwan Patrol at the time and transited independently to Yokosuka where the entire Task Group was to be relieved by ASW Group THREE.
During the transit FLETCHER conducted a Z-1 7-G radar tracking and acquisition exercise with aircraft from HORNET. She also refueled underway twice; once from HORNET on 4 February and once from USS ASHTABULA (AO-51) on 6 February.
On 8 February FLETCHER moored in Yokosuka, Japan in a nest of destroyers alongside USS ISLE ROYALE (AD-29) for a nine day tender availability. During her stay, FLETCHER was visited on 16 February by RADM F. L. JOHNSON, USN the then Commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Japan and an ex-commanding officer of FLETCHER. During his two hour visit RADM JOHNSON toured the ship with her present Captain and reminisced in the wardroom with her officers over his war time experiences aboard FLETCHER.
Her relief complete, her duties in WESTPAC completed, FLETCHER sailed with HORNET and the other units of DESDIV 251 from Yokosuka on 17 February for Sydney, Australia, and DESDIV 232 sailed independently for the West Coast. The trip to Australia had been the source of many rumors throughout the cruise, and a source of mixed emotions, but once undertaken it was enthusiastically accepted.
Aside from the obvious rest and recreation purpose, transit south also had two other important purposes. The route selected, purposely took the group close aboard many of the famed battlegrounds of World War II's "island hopping" campaign and each battle was commemorated by the ships who had either themselves participated in the battle, or been named after ships or persons who had participated. The group viewed Chi Chi Jima and Ha Ha Jima from the vicinity of which USS HORNET (CV-8) had launched the historic raid on Tokyo. Iwo Jima was also visited and a helicopter from HS-2 landed a group of marines atop Mt. Suribachi where they raised a commemorative flag twenty-one years to the day after the first American Flag had been raised there.
Tinian Island was viewed and Guam visited on 20 February by the group, less HORNET. HORNET did not require fuel therefore remained at sea.
The twenty-third of February 1966 is a day which will not be soon forgotten by those who approached it as Pollywogs. For on that day, at 1936 (LMT) FLETCHER crossed the equator at 151° 53' E and over two hundred were initiated into the mysteries of the deep in the traditional ceremony which began before dawn and did not end until late afternoon. Due to mature supervision no real damage was done, except to the pride.
On the following day, FLETCHER and NICHOLAS refueled from HORNET and were detached for an independent transit of "the slot" in the Solomon Islands where both had first seen battle in 1942 during the battles of Guadalcanal and Savo Island. Commodore Busick made this transit alternating between FLETCHER and NICHOLAS, his purple heart having been won during these battles and serving to remind everyone that today's peace was won only through the struggles two decades ago.
A minute's silent prayer, followed by gun salutes highlighted the group's commemoration of the naval battle of the Coral Sea which was transited on 26 February.
At dawn on 28 February, the ASW Group was given a rare opportunity to prove its capability at Anti-Air Warfare as it was attacked by aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force in a joint exercise which proved to be a stimulating experience for all participants. As the day drew to a close, anticipation of the following day's arrival in Sydney was heightened by intercepted Australian radio broadcasts telling of the American ships arrival in Sydney.
The hospitality, warmth and friendship of the Australian people is fabled throughout the fleet, but after their first day in Sydney, 1 March, few if any of the group's officers and men had any cause to doubt the truth. Invitations from Australian families for individual enlisted men and groups to come into their homes for dinner and parties provided the entree in many cases, but in equally as many, the white hat's ingenuity sufficed quite well in a city seemingly void of anyone who was not young. The officers of the task group were feted at a reception held by the Australian-American Association of Sydney which proved a huge success. The remaining five days of the group's stay were filled with fascinating activity and discovery from sightseeing.
All too soon for most, the task group sailed on the morning of 7 March for home. During the morning a joint ASW exercise was held with the Royal Australian Navy carrier HMAS MELBOURNE, destroyer HMAS YARRA and two British submarines. Although this exercise was not prosecuted with as much vigor as it could have been had the task group not just indulged in "six days of concentrated self-destruction" (the words of the Australian Commander who briefed at the pre-sail) it was an effective exercise in joint tactics and communications
During the transit to Pearl Harbor, DESDIV 251 held a fifteen knot, twenty and twenty-five knot economy runs and division tactics before putting in at Suva Fiji for refueling and an overnight stay on 11 March. Underway again on 12 March, FLETCHER and the other destroyers spent the remaining five days of the cruise readying the ship for return to Pearl Harbor. Detached from HORNET on 15 March, DESDIV 251 entered Pearl Harbor on the morning of 17 March having completed their 1965-1966 WESTPAC Deployment.
The month directly following her return from deployment was a period for leave, and upkeep. This period was split by three days of operations on 29, 30 and 31 March. On the first of these days, the ship went to West Loch, Pearl Harbor for ammunition transfer and spent two hours in the afternoon at Victor piers while her junior officers made landings and departures as part of their training for qualifications as Officer of the Deck.
The following two days FLETCHER was assigned to SUBFLOT FIVE for duty as submarine target vessel. On both days FLETCHER serviced USS SEADRAGON (SSN-584) and was assisted by NICHOLAS and USS GRAPPLE (ARS-7).
The following two weeks were spent preparing the ship for inspection by the Sub Board of Inspection and Survey, Pearl Harbor which took place on 14 through 16 April. The thoroughness of this inspection could not be questioned, nor the efficiency and dedication of the inspectors. Although many minor, or part II discrepancies and a number of major, or part I discrepancies were found, only two were considered major enough to render the ship unfit for war. The first of these was the Mk 25 Fire Control Radar which was inoperative, and the second was the result of a large number of major discrepancies throughout the weapons systems, especially the 3" and 5" guns. The findings of the INSURV inspection set the tone for the yard overhaul which was to follow in two months.
From 26 April to 5 May daily local operations occupied the FLETCHER. Once again assigned as submarine target vessel on 26 April, FLETCHER operated in the Sierra areas to the west of Oahu. After embarking a photo team in Pearl Harbor, FLETCHER conducted a Z-24-G, photo-calibration exercise on 27 April as well as an anchoring exercise in the anchorage area just east of the entrance to Pearl Harbor.
Although originally scheduled for more exercises on 28 April, FLETCHER was diverted to a Search and Rescue mission off the island of Kahoolawe, south of Maui in the Hawaiian chain. Four marines had been seen adrift on a raft made of four barrels and wood planks near Smuggler's Cove on the south coast of Kahoolawe earlier in the day. When FLETCHER arrived late in the afternoon, she relieved the Coast Guard Cutter Cape Rosier as On Scene Commander and started sweeping the area. USS RADFORD (DD-446) also joined in the search. Although the area along the direction of drift was thoroughly covered during the night, no results were obtained. Early the following morning a coast guard SAR aircraft from Oahu spotted the four marines and what was left of their raft and RADFORD who was closest to the position was directed to make the pick-up. The four marines were taken aboard and found to be in good condition.
After the SAR mission was completed, FLETCHER returned to local operating areas and conducted Z-23-G and Z-21-G basic gunnery exercises the next day. FLETCHER returned to Kahoolawe on 30 April where she fired Shore Bombardment exercises throughout that day and the next morning. Little of the expertise she had developed on the gun line in Viet Nam had been lost and the exercises went very well, including 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 missions.
While making the approach to Pearl Harbor buoys #1 and 2 three people were sighted signaling from a small pleasure boat which appeared to be adrift. After passing close aboard and determining that they needed assistance, FLETCHER passed a line to the boat and gently towed the bobbing craft up the channel into Pearl Harbor. The boat was taken in tow by the harbor patrol boat at Alpha docks and the civilians were given appropriate assistance by the Pearl Harbor authorities.
Duty as submarine target vessel occupied 2 May and the morning of 3 May, after which FLETCHER proceeded to West Loch to re-arm. On 4 May engineers from the Combat Systems Division of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard came aboard and conducted the pre-overhaul sonar noise level tests.
On 5 May FLETCHER moored alongside USS FRONTIER (AD-25) at berth F-1, Ford Island for an eighteen day tender availability.
SUBFLOT FIVE reciprocated on 23 and 24 May and provided services for a minor ASW exercise for FLETCHER, USS COCHRANE (DDG-21), USS RENSHAW (DD-499) and USS EPPERSON (DD-719). The purpose of the exercise was to stop two transiting submarines and, unfortunately, FLETCHER had little success in detecting the transitors.
FLETCHER's last three days of local operations prior to overhaul were 25 and 27 May and 1 June. Damage Control Drills, Engineering Casualty Control Drills, Sonar Calibration using the "peanut buoy", Z-6-G Anti-Air towed target shoot, Z -24-G photo calibration gunnery exercise, submarine target vessel duty and full power run were conducted during these days.
In a joint experiment, FLETCHER spent the second of June on the Nanakuli range of Fleet Operational Readiness Accuracy Check Site (FORACS) III. FLETCHER was scheduled for work on her sonar, fire control radar and search radars during the yard The running of FORACS III before the overhaul gave some indication of the errors which were then present in the various systems and set a standard against which a post overhaul FORACS run could be checked.
Overhaul by Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard
Although FLETCHER did not actually enter the shipyard until 1 July, the planning and inspecting stages of the overhaul were already well underway by 1 June. On 6 and 7 June time was taken from submarine target vessel duty to test the port cruising turbine which had been blanked off since August 1965. Under the watchful eyes of shop planners the turbine was tested and found to be in need of a new cruising turbine reduction gear.
On 7, 8 and 9 June FLETCHER off-loaded all her ammunition, torpedoes and other weapons, her entire stock of repair parts and her fuel and water. She was moved by tugs to a berth alongside USS FRONTIER (AD-25) for a pre-overhaul tender availability on 10 June where she remained until 1 July. During this period she also commenced her ship to shop yard availability. From 1 July until 4 August FLETCHER rested on keel blocks in Dry Dock #1, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and from 4 August until her first sea trial on 15 September she was berthed at a shipyard pier.
During the overhaul the following work was completed by the shipyard:
A. The entire hull was hydro blasted and repainted.
B. All FRESH and FEED WATER TANKS were sand blasted, audio-gaged, weak areas repaired and repainted.
C. Approximately 15 feet of the "E" strake, port side, frames 93-96 was removed and replaced along with a section of the longitudinal.
D. All sea chests were audio-gaged and repaired as necessary.
E All valves 7" in diameter or larger were overhauled.
F. The main deck was replaced at frames 109-111, 167-168½, and 168 - 178 on the port side.
G. All fuel oil tanks were wheelerized and all leaks repaired. As was the leak in the lube oil storage tank B-301-L.
H. The wire way recesses at frames 92½, 110, and 130½ were repaired by the use of double plates and DEVCON.
I. A 2' high section of bulkhead 3-54 was removed and reinstalled.
J All hull zincs were replaced.
K. All replenishment highline stations were load tested and certified.
L. All standing rigging on the foremast was renewed.
2. The entire steering system was overhauled.
3. The gyro compass and associated equipment was overhauled.
4. Both anchors and their chains were inspected and repainted and the anchor windlass was overhauled.
5 The insulation under the reefer decks was replaced.
6 #2 low pressure turbine after bearing was realigned.
7. #2 cruising turbine reduction gear was replaced.
8. Both main condensers were audio-gaged and the expansion joint on #1 was repaired.
9. Both 250 GFM fire and flushing pumps were overhauled and reinstalled as no 400 GPM pumps were available.
10. Main steam stop valve MS-15 was overhauled.
11. All safety valves on the H.P. air compressor were overhauled and the H.P. air main was cleaned and tightened.
12. Sections of all four boilers were rebricked, all internals sandblasted, all soot blowers overhauled, casings on all boilers were repaired, uptakes were patched, and manhole openings and seats were resurfaced.
13. Forced draft blowers shaft assemblies #5 through 8 were rechromed.
14. The mechanical cooling system was overhauled.
15. #1 and 2 ship-service generators were resurfaced in place.
16. #1 ship-service generator bull gear was replaced.
17. Navigational lights were checked for compliance with rules of the road.
18. The electromagnetic underwater log was overhauled.
19. The sonar dome was cleaned and painted.
20. The following electronic equipment was overhauled.
A. AN/SPS 10 and antenna.
B. AN/SPS 6 and antenna.
C. AN/UPA 24.
D. Two AN/SPA 4 repeaters.
E. One AN/SPA 8 repeater.
F. AN/SQS 29.
G. AN/WRT 1 tuner and coupler.
H. One TED-2.
I. AN/BLR 1 components.
J. ECM antennas AS-571 /SLR and AS-605/SLR.
21. Complete battery alignment was accomplished.
22. The MK 36 gun director was replaced and the train and elevation amplidines were repaired.
23. The following fire control gear was repaired:
A. MK 37 director.
B. MK lA-MOD 13 computer and MK 1-MOD Ø starshell computer.
C. MK 42-MOD 26 range finder was replaced.
D. MK 4-MOD Ø analyzer.
E. MK 12 angle solver.
F. MK 6-MOD 7 stable element.
G. MK 5 plotter system.
H. MK 1-MOD 1 position keeper.
I. MK 59 computer.
24. 3"/50 mounts 31 and 32 and 5"/38 mounts 51 and 52 were replaced.
25. MK 108 rocket launcher components were repaired.
26. The degaussing system was repaired and certified.
27. A keel rest for the 26' plastic MWB was installed.
28. The low pressure air compressor was overhauled.
29. Both 400 cycle MG sets were overhauled.
Though in time the two periods overlap, it could be said that the shipyard overhaul ended on 8 October and Interim Refresher Training began. FLETCHER's first experience with the Fleet Training Group, Pearl Harbor was not an entirely pleasant one. In order to ascertain the material readiness of the ship for training a Training Readiness Evaluation (TRE) was held. At the Preliminary TRE on Saturday afternoon, 8 October, many discrepancies were noted - a sufficient number that FLETCHER was considered not ready for training. Because of this preliminary report, the independent exercises scheduled for the following week were canceled and FLETCHER was given a restricted availability to the yard to correct her major discrepancies for one week and her training was delayed one week.
The week's work was effective, and FLETCHER was found ready for training at the final TRE held on 17 October. During the week which followed, she conducted such finishing trials as were required upon completion of the yard period. This included running the measured mile and repeating the on-range phase of FORACS III calibration, and vigorously conducted independent exercises to warm up the crew, which was almost one-half new, for the refresher training to follow.
During refresher training itself, which lasted from 24 October through 9 November and included six full working days per week, FLETCHER successfully completed all required exercises. Although some difficulty was experienced in the field of damage control, all other areas went well. In Engineering Casualty Control and Navigation FLETCHER received grades of EXCELLENT, and during the course of a Z-9-G exercise on the afternoon of 4 November FLETCHER won the coveted award of a drone propellor by shooting down not one, but two KD drone units with target triggered bursts of five rounds of 5"/38 VT FRAG ammunition. In both cases the drones were destroyed before sufficient runs had been completed to receive a better than average score on the exercise, a somewhat ironic development. On 28 October, FLETCHER returned to Kahoolawe to fire her shore bombardment exercises for qualification. Her new guns combined with experienced and enthusiastic personnel manning all positions for the exercise enabled her to achieve indeed an enviable record. The scores were as follows: Z-42-G Indirect Call Fire SFCP or air spot - 91.3, Z-43-G Point Oscar and Offset Method of Fire - 94.5, Z-44-G Indirect Illumination and Destructive Fire - 89.6, and Z-46-G D-Day Fires - 74.19. These exercises were observed by Commanding Officer, First Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific Fleet who said after we had finished firing that it was some of the best shooting he had seen that year.
The final challenge of Refresher Training was the Final Battle Problem, conducted on 10 November, Due to the short period of time allotted for training, it was found to be impossible to give FLETCHER an initial battle problem to detect her weak areas. The final battle problem was entered without the benefit of counsel and training which usually proceeds such an experience. Nevertheless, FLETCHER managed to earn a score of satisfactory or better on all phases of the battle problem save one and to pass the test with a HIGH SATISFACTORY. Taking into account the assurance of our training supervisor that we would never pass it, this is an achievement of which FLETCHER is justly proud.
Ready For Sea
In order to insure that FLETCHER was ready for deployment to WESTPAC again, a Prospective Overseas Movement Inspection was conducted by COMDESRON 25 and USS EPPERSON (DD-719) on 5 November with the result that FLETCHER was found ready for deployment.
On 12 November, Commander Leslie A. Taylor, Jr., USN, relieved Commander Robert L. Morgan, USN, as Commanding Officer, USS FLETCHER (DD-445). On 14 November, FLETCHER proceeded to West Loch to receive her deployment allowance of munitions. Upon completion of taking on ammunition, FLETCHER moored in a nest alongside USS PRAIRIE (AD-15), at Ford Island for a final eleven day tender availability prior to deployment. On 25 November she shifted to Bravo piers for her last three days in Pearl.
WESTPAC Deployment II
When FLETCHER sailed on 28 November, the composition as well as the command of DESDIV 251 had changed. Captain T. E. Walsh, USN, had relieved Captain W. S. Busick as COMDESRON 25 when the latter became COMDESFLOT FIVE.
As in her last deployment, FLETCHER sailed as a unit of ASWGRU ONE, but again the flag ship had changed, USS BENNINGTON (CVS-20) having replaced USS HORNET (CVS-12). In addition to DESDIV 251, DESDIV 232 also was part of the ASW group.
The transit to Yokosuka, although characterized by bad weather, was uneventful, FLETCHER refueled underway from BENNINGTON on 3 December and from USS SACRAMENTO (AOE-1) on 5 December. To counter the rising threat of North Vietnamese PT boat activity, the group conducted a "Z-50-G"exercise during which helicopters from HS-8 embarked in BENNINGTON simulated PT boats and conducted coordinated, simulated torpedo attacks on all the destroyers.
ASW Group 1 arrived in Yokosuka on 8 December. FLETCHER berthed outboard of the USS O'BRIEN at berth 6.
The turnover period between ASW Group FIVE and ASW Group ONE in Yokosuka was brief. The group remained in Yokosuka only three days, from 8 to 11 December. FLETCHER relieved USS RENSHAW (DD-499) of DESDIV 252 and sailed on the morning of the eleventh. Although FLETCHER was the oldest destroyer of the group which had not undergone FRAM, she was the only one in DESDIV 251 which was able to get underway on time, NICHOLAS and EPPERSON being delayed by necessary repairs.
During the transit from Yokosuka to Yankee Station, the group conducted a minor fleet ASW exercise in the area between the Bashi Channel and the South China Sea. The name of the exercise was called SLEWFOOT. The purpose of this exercise, conducted between 14 and 19 December was twofold. During the first phase of the exercise, the group was to sweep the area and destroy any submarines they might find. Three U.S. submarines were to be the opposition, USS CARBONERO (SS-337), USS SEADRAGON (SSN-584) and USS SCULPIN (SSN-590). During the second phase of the exercise the group was to ensure the safe passage of a CVA, USS TICONDEROGA (CVA-14) from Yankee Station to the Bashi Channel. Exercise SLEWFOOT was completed on 19 December.
A foretaste of missions to come was received on 20 December as the group undertook a SAR mission for a downed F-4 near the Paracel Islands. During a routine group underway refueling on the afternoon of the twentieth from USS PONCHATULA (AO-148) FLETCHER, BENNER, NICHOLAS, EPPERSON and O'BRIEN were dispatched to the area to conduct the search with helicopters and S2E's from BENNINGTON's air group. Though one pilot had been recovered by USS WIDGEON (MSC-208) shortly after the plane went down, a thorough search was conducted throughout the night by the destroyers for the other member of the crew. The search was abandoned on the morning of the twenty-first with negative results.
ASW Group ONE joined the Yankee Team on 21 December and became Task Group 77.9. FLETCHER and NICHOLAS were immediately assigned to ASW training with USS SEADRAGON (SSN-584) in the southwest area of the Tonkin Gulf. While conducting similar training to the north on the twenty-second, EPPERSON believed she gained contact on an unidentified submarine in the vicinity of a Soviet AGI, the BARROGRAPH, which was operating in the area. She signaled for assistance, and FLETCHER was dispatched as NICHOLAS underwater fire control system was inoperative at the time. Through some confusion in determining exactly the type of assistance required, NICHOLAS, with her capability for in-flight refueling of helicopters did not join immediately, but soon relieved FLETCHER on station as COMDESRON 25 considered this capability more necessary than an operable fire control system. FLETCHER returned to the ASW training area, where a goodly percentage of the time was occupied in replenishing from USS FIREDRAKE (AE-14), USS PICTOR (AF-54) and USS PONCHATULA (AO-148).
While both FLETCHER and BENNINGTON were alongside PONCHATULA on 24 December six junks were spotted closing the UNREP group. When it was determined that they were Chinese Communist junks FLETCHER was dispatched to make a close inspection and take intelligence photographs. Although no evidence of weapons or hostile intent was discovered, the fishing junks with their many smaller embarked row boats made a fascinating sight for the crew.
FLETCHER was detached on 24 December to report to CTU 70.8.9 for gunfire support duty along the coast of South Vietnam in the I Corps area. On Christmas Day, FLETCHER rendezvoused with USS HULL (DD-945), with COMDESRON ONE (CTU-70.8.9) embarked for briefing and turnover of gunfire support material. Upon completion of the turn-over, FLETCHER was dispatched to an area just five miles south of the seventeenth parallel. In this position she was to provide gunfire support for a small group of marines on the beach who were protecting a grounded Philippine tug under contract to the Navy. Arriving on 26 December, FLETCHER kept watch throughout the morning while the waves worked on and finally broached the small tug. FLETCHER was relieved on station by HULL and ordered to proceed south to the vicinity of Cap Batangan about twenty-five miles south of Chu Lai.
Arriving on station 27 December, the Christmas truce had ended and USS CARRONADE (IFS-1) was already at work with her five inch rockets softening up the beach prior to a vertical assault later in the morning. Throughout the following week between the Christmas and the New Year's truce FLETCHER's 5 five inch guns pounded the area surrounding the prominent hill which marks Cap Mai in an otherwise quite flat area of the coast. In all she expended 468 rounds of high explosive and illuminating projectiles. During the NGFS operations FLETCHER accounted for forty-one Viet Cong killed, four Viet Cong wounded, fifteen structures destroyed, twenty-eight structures damaged, fifteen boats damaged, one boat destroyed, one secondary explosion, one concrete structure destroyed, two mortar positions silenced and numerous bunkers and trenches devastated. Working with numerous ground and air spotters of the III Marine Amphibious Force, FLETCHER's fire was enthusiastically received. On the final day, the Naval Gunnery Liaison Officer for the operation sent to the FLETCHER the following message: "Thank you for the fine and outstanding job you did while you were with us. My compliments to the crew. Good luck, smooth sailing, and hurry home soon."
FLETCHER's initial schedule called for remaining on gunfire support station until 31 January and then proceeding independently to Kaohsiung, Taiwan for assumption of Taiwan Patrol Duties. On 31 December, however, message traffic ordered FLETCHER to remain in vicinity and relieve USS EVERSOLE as night plane guard for USS ENTERPRISE (CVAN-65).
When FLETCHER joined TG 77.8 on January first an interesting "First" was achieved. FLETCHER, "First in Class" of the famed 2100 ton World War II destroyers joined two other firsts in class, ENTERPRISE and USS BAINBRIDGE (DLGN-25). Unfortunately due to very bad weather this historic event could not be recorded photographically.
On 2 January, FLETCHER received another assignment -- gun support for USS ADVANCE (MSO-510). The USS ADVANCE was assigned to proceed to the W-4 PIRAZ (Positive Identification and Radar Advisory Zone) station of the Yankee Team to conduct a sweep for a possible mine dropped by a North Vietnamese steel-hulled trawler the previous day. W-4 is the northernmost of the picket stations in the Tonkin Gulf, and FLETCHER led the bobbing ADVANCE north with a taught setting of Condition of Readiness III. Arriving on station on the morning of 3 January, FLETCHER went to Condition II as she ordered ADVANCE to commence her sweep. After only one hour on station, FLETCHER was relieved by USS EPPERSON (DD-719). FLETCHER proceeded south to rejoin ENTERPRISE. After only one more night of plane guard duty for ENTERPRISE, FLETCHER was detached to join BENNINGTON and Task Group 77.9 again as night plane guard. She retained this assignment until 0200 on 10 January when she was detached to proceed to Kaohsiung, Taiwan to assume Taiwan Patrol duty with TG 72.1.
Arriving in Kaohsiung 12 January, FLETCHER and her crew were understandably well worn. Thirty-two continuous days at sea, most of them spent at Condition III and in heavy weather with little time for maintenance had taken their toll, and the ensuing five day period in port was a needed and welcome break in the hectic routine of WESTPAC deployment. FLETCHER's crew looked back with pride, however, to the accomplishments of her first month and a half of deployment as she had met every commitment she had received.
Relieving USS BAUER (DE-1025) on 13 January, FLETCHER relieved USS EVERSOLE (DD-789) on station in the Formosa Straits on 17 January. Due to extremely high winds and heavy seas, FLETCHER patrolled in the lee of the Penghu Islands for her first four days at sea while her crew continued with maintenance they had begun in Kaohsiung. Scheduled to put in at Keelung, Taiwan's northern sea port on 21 January, FLETCHER sustained a casualty to her emergency electrical switchboard on 19 January which was considered serious enough to require her to return to Kaohsiung and obtain assistance from USS HECTOR (AR-7). HECTOR's response to FLETCHER's request for assistance was both extremely prompt and extremely effective. When FLETCHER arrived on Saturday evening, the Electrical Repair Officer from HECTOR was waiting to board, and the job was completed in three days.
FLETCHER remained in Kaohsiung until 25 January when she again relieved the EVERSOLE in the Straits, but this time the weather was sufficiently calm that FLETCHER was able to cross the straits and conduct her patrol along the coast of mainland China in the area of Kinmen Island. As she steamed back and forth along the coast, her electronic countermeasures intercept receiver equipment, manned by a highly trained electronic intelligence team, intercepted and recorded many Chinese Communist surveillance and fire control radars located in the area.
Returning to Kaohsiung on 30 January, FLETCHER again got.underway on 1 February for direct fire shore bombardment practice on a small island set aside by the Chinese for this purpose, but again foul weather rendered this project impossible and FLETCHER steamed south along the coast toward O Luan Pi during her one day patrol while Commanding Officer, USS NICHOLAS (DD-449) relieved Commanding Officer, USS EVERSOLE (DD-789) as CTG 72.1 in Kaohsiung.
During the year FLETCHER was in home port area for eight months, and deployed for four months. She was underway one hundred and eleven days. During this time she conducted twenty-one underway replenishments, and visited six different ports. She covered a triangular section of the world with a total length of all three sides of over 10,000 miles. She fired over 750 rounds of 5"/38 and 3"/50 caliber ammunition in training and 468 5"/38 rounds in actual Naval Gunfire Support in Viet Nam.
PART III: 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, with one notable exception. The fact that FLETCHER Interim Refresher Training had to be delayed one week due to unsatisfactory material condition brings up the second most outstanding lesson to be learned from her experience.
Though much useful work was accomplished by the yard, many necessary projects in both the engineering and communications areas were rejected due to lack of funds and were attempted as ship's force or tender jobs. In some cases this was an adequate if undesirable solution, but in others it was not. 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 overhauled, or she must be relegated to some less demanding status. A ship's crew can work miracles, but only for so long.