A Tin Can Sailors
Destroyer History


Launched 20 October 1945, the THEODORE E. CHANDLER (DD-717) was named for Rear Admiral Theodore E. Chandler. When suicide planes struck his flagship, the USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28), in December 1944, the admiral was caught in an explosion on the flag bridge. He fought the fires alongside his men but died of his burns the next day.

Commissioned on 22 March 1946, she served in the Pacific, sailing out of San Diego in January 1947 for her first Far Eastern deployment. Her second tour of duty in the western Pacific was cut short on 24 November 1948 when she collided with the USS OZBOURN (DD-846) during high-speed, darkened-ship night maneuvers off Tsingtao. A five-month repair period and operations along the West

Coast ended when the North Korean People’s Army invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950.

The CHANDLER joined Destroyer Division 111, which was the first unit dispatched from the West Coast to the Asian conflict. With her division, she patrolled the Taiwan Strait and then, in August, proceeded to the Korean coast. There, her gun crews fired in support of the beleaguered forces at the northeastern end of the Pusan perimeter. On 15 August, she and the USS HELENA (CA-75) maintained steady gunfire support for the mass evacuation of the ROK Third Division at Chongha. She continued shore bombardment and plane guard duties along Korea’s east coast until 15 September when she steamed to the Yellow Sea and Korea’s western coast to support the American amphibious landing at Inchon. For October and November, she was back along Korea’s east coast, and her gun crews concentrated on enemy supply lines. They were on station off Hungnam in December to cover the desperate evacuation of U.N. troops.

Following two months of shore bombardment and screening the fast carriers of Task Force 77, the CHANDLER returned to San Diego. She was back in Korea, however, for the winter of 1951-52. There, she operated again with Task Force 77, screening the carriers while their planes struck deep into North Korea. She also engaged in escort duties and coastal blockade and bombardment. The destroyer’s 1953 Korean War deployment was much the same as her previous tours and ended in late July with the cessation of hostilities.

A variety of peacetime operations for the CHANDLER filled the decade between the end of the war in Korea and the entry of the United States into the conflict in Vietnam. In addition to seven more deployments with the Seventh Fleet in the

Western Pacific, her crews kept busy stateside with routine operations and antisubmarine warfare drills with hunter-killer carrier groups. Starting in February 1961, the CHANDLER began her Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization conversion at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard.

Her Far Eastern deployment in June 1964 coincided with the beginning of America’s buildup in Vietnam and the North Vietnamese torpedo boat incidents involving the USS MADDOX (DD-731) and TURNER JOY (DD-951) in the Gulf of Tonkin. The CHANDLER was ordered to the area to screen U.S. carriers delivering retaliatory strikes on North Vietnamese torpedo-boat bases. For most of the next eight years, the destroyer engaged in shore bombardment, carrier screening, search and rescue, and antiaircraft warfare picket duties off North and South Vietnam. During that time, she screened the carriers FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CVA-42), BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA-31), KITTY HAWK (CVA-63), CONSTELLATION (CVA-64), HANCOCK (CVA-19), FORRESTAL (CVA-59), CORAL SEA (CVA-43), and INTREPID (CVS-11).

On 13 November 1966, the CHANDLER was the first navy ship to answer the call of the Victory ship SS RUTGERS VICTORY, which was burning furiously in Nha Trang Harbor north of Saigon. While two army tugs concentrated on cooling the ship’s hull, the CHANDLER’s damage control party led the struggle against the fire burning deep in the stricken ship. The combined efforts of the CHANDLER, USS PRIME (MSO-446), army tugs, a U.S. Air Force firefighting team, and the RUTGERS’ own crew eventually conquered the blaze.

Working with navy spotter planes in June 1967, the CHANDLER and the ALLEN M. SUMNER (DD-692) escaped hostile fire from shore batteries to catch and destroy several enemy cargo barges. The two ships went on to destroy depots and marshaling areas and silence several North Vietnamese shore batteries. She later supported the U.S. Marines’ Third Division in major amphibious operations, and then was on hand to offer assistance during a disastrous fire aboard the USS FORRESTAL (CVA-59). Burning fuel from one of the carrier’s A-4 aircraft started fires and explosions that turned her stern into an inferno and tore a hole in her armored flight deck. The CHANDLER was among the ships that assisted in removing the carrier’s wounded and dead and readying her for the trip to Subic Bay and temporary repair.

While firing on enemy supply traffic on 6 May 1968, the CHANDLER came under fire from a shore battery. The enemy guns scored two 85-mm hits. One shell penetrated the destroyer’s hull and caused extensive damage in the crew’s shower aft and wounded one man. The other glanced off the hull and exploded in the water close aboard. Emergency repairs enabled the ship to return to duty in only three hours. She made a quick run to Subic Bay for repair of the battle damage and was back in the Tonkin Gulf by 20 May.

Her last deployment in the western Pacific was in 1973, but soon after her arrival in the Far East, the Vietnam cease-fire ended American involvement in the conflict. The CHANDLER returned to the United States and on 1 October 1973 began Naval Reserve Training duty at Seattle, Washington. She continued that duty until her decommissioning on 1 April 1975. On 30 December 1975, the navy sold the THEODORE E. CHANDLER to General Metals in Tacoma, Washington, for scrapping.


From The Tin Can Sailor, January 1999

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