The USS GEARING carried on the proud tradition of three
generations of navy men. Commander Henry Chalfant Gearing (1855-1926)
served on a variety of navy ships in the nineteenth and early twentieth
century. His son, Henry Chalfant Gearing Jr. (1884-1944), was a navy
Captain who spent most of his career in command of destroyers.
Lieutenant Henry Chalfant Gearing III (1912-1942) was aboard the cruiser
USS JUNEAU (CL-52) when she was lost in the Solomon Islands. He and all
but ten of the crew, including the ship's captain and the five Sullivan
brothers, were lost.
Fittingly, Mrs. Thomas M. Foley, daughter of the first
Henry Gearing, sponsored the destroyer when she was commissioned on 3
May 1945. The ship's shakedown cruise took her into waters off Cuba,
where at a later date she was the first ship to intercept a Soviet bloc
vessel during the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962.
For most of her career, the GEARING served with the
Atlantic fleet. She participated in a wide variety of U.S. and Allied
exercises from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and the
Persian Gulf. She sailed out of home ports that included Casco Bay,
Maine; Norfolk, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; Newport, Rhode
Island; and New London, Connecticut. Operations took her through the Red
Sea, up the Saint Lawrence Seaway, and into the South Atlantic.
Nicknamed 'Dux,' meaning leader, the new long-hull
version of the SUMNER set the standard for the rest of the ships of her
class. She joined the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean for the first
time in 1951. Her crews kept the ship at the ready as part of the U.S.
Navy's arsenal of anti-submarine weaponry. For her first
quarter-century, the GEARING fulfilled far-ranging duties in the
nation's defense, sailing for most of that time as part of Destroyer
Squadron Twenty out of Newport, Rhode Island, and as a unit of Destroyer
Squadron Twenty-four in the Mediterranean.
Whatever sea they sailed, the men of the GEARING honed
their skills in antisubmarine and antiaircraft warfare. They also
maintained their proficiency in ship-handling, underway replenishment,
engineering, damage control, and the many other operations necessary to
keep the ship at fighting trim. Their Mediterranean deployments
fulfilled the U.S. government's commitments to NATO and gave the GEARING
and other destroyers of the Atlantic Fleet the best training available
short of actual combat. Stateside, the GEARING's crew provided
invaluable practical training to Destroyer, Sonar, and Officer Candidate
School students, U.S. Naval Reservists, NROTC trainees, and U.S. Naval
On 11 July 1959, the GEARING made the pages of The
New York Times. Sailing near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay not far
from Norfolk, she collided with the coal steamer MALDEN of Mystic,
Connecticut. Damage to the MALDEN was minor, and no one aboard either
ship was hurt, but the collision left the GEARING with a gaping hole in
her starboard side. The destroyer's damage control team swung into
action as she headed for port and repairs.
In 1962, the GEARING underwent Fleet Rehabilitation
and Modernization (FRAM I) conversion at the Boston Naval Shipyard. In
mid-1966, an overhaul at the Boston Naval Shipyard gave the GEARING
improved sonar, engineering, and DASH capabilities. Because subsequent
operations demonstrated the ASROC system's superior stand-off
capability, her DASH system was removed three years later.
Beginning during operations in the Mediterranean in
1968, the GEARING and her crew were the subjects of the TV documentary 'Destroyerman.'
A combat camera crew spent the summer aboard recording everything from
shipboard routine to plane-guarding drama at sea. In August 1968, the
GEARING was on duty when one of the USS FORRESTAL's (CVA-59) F-4
Phantoms went down. The pilot was lost and the destroyer's crew shared
in the sad recovery of the plane's wreckage.
A year later, on 10 May 1969, the GEARING was in the
Mediterranean participating in NATO exercises. She continued to show her
stuff, scoring more submarine 'kills' than all other friendly surface
units combined. The accomplishment proved to be bittersweet. One of her
simulated strikes during those exercises was the USS SCORPION (SSN-589),
which disappeared with all hands less than a month later crossing the
In April 1970, the GEARING entered the Boston Naval
Shipyard for a major overhaul to upgrade and renovate her shipboard
systems. She spent her twenty-fifth anniversary in the yard's Dry Dock
Number 2, but that did not stop her crew from gathering for a ceremony
on the flight deck. Following her overhaul, the GEARING reported to New
London, Connecticut, in August. As part of Reserve Destroyer Squadron
Thirty, she because the first FRAM I destroyer to enter the Naval
Reserve Training program, once more living up to the nickname 'Dux.' Her
crew plunged whole-heartedly into the job of training a steady stream of
After twenty-seven years of service to the fleet, the
GEARING was beginning to show her age. In September 1972, the navy's
Board off Inspection and Survey found that she could not meet the navy's
requirements without costly repairs. As a result, the Chief of Naval
Operations ordered the USS GEARING to be struck from the Naval Vessel
Register on 1 July 1973. Over the ensuing months, her crew began the sad
and tedious process of stripping the ship of usable equipment. On 2 July
1973, the USS GEARING was decommissioned and sold for scrap.