A Tin Can Sailors
Destroyer History


Submitted by A. C. Edmunds
USS HIGBEE (DD-806), 1945-1946

USS HIGBEE (DD-806), a Gearing-class destroyer built by Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine was commissioned 27 January 1945, and entered the shipyards in Boston for conversion to a radar picket ship.

HIGBEE, a unit of Destroyer Squadron 37, is the only American warship named in honor of a woman. Mrs. Lenah S. Higbee was Superintendent of the Navy Nursing Corps during World War I, and for "distinguished service in the line of her profession and conspicuous devotion to duty" was awarded the Navy's highest decoration, the Navy Cross. Mrs. Higbee was the only woman to receive that award while still living.

Following her shakedown cruise, HIGBEE sailed for the Pacific War Zone, where she joined Carrier Task Force 38 in July 1945. Six days later, a suicide plane narrowly missed striking her number one gun mount.

She proved her worth during the engagement by shooting down six enemy planes - four within a period of 22 minutes. The Battle Flag HIGBEE flew during that action was on display in the headquarters of the Navy Nurse Corps in Washington, D.C. and 3 December 1953 was presented to the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland for more permanent preservation.

After the war, HIGBEE continued in service with the Pacific Fleet and made many cruises to the Far East. When hostilities erupted in Korea, she rendezvoused with Carrier Task Force 77 in August 1950 and participated in the launching of air strikes against North Korea. After an overhaul in the States, HIGBEE returned to the Korean area and served as a gunfire support ship in the landings at Po Hong Dong and at Inchon.

Following the Korean War, HIGBEE resumed her varied peacetime duties both in the Eastern and Western Pacific. In May 1960, she deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, where she operated for 27 months as a permanent part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. As a unit of that fleet, HIGBEE was active in fast carrier operations, amphibious exercises, joint training with many allied navies and extensive people-to-people efforts.

HIGBEE entered U.S. Naval Shipyard, San Francisco in April 1963 to undergo FRAM Mark I conversion to an antisubmarine warfare specialist.

In the waters off Vietnam, HIGBEE pioneered work as the Task Group Commander for the original Market Time patrol and, in the midst of the Pueblo Crisis in 1968, spent many days patrolling the seas off the Korean coast.

HIGBEE was among the first ships to bombard North Vietnam in Operation Freedom Train in April 1972. She is credited with sinking a North Vietnamese patrol boat in her first week of action.

HIGBEE became a bombing victim of the Vietnam conflict in the first air-surface action of the war. A direct hit by a MIG destroyed the after gun mount. Although no personnel were either killed or seriously injured, repairs were extensive. Upon termination of the Vietnam conflict, HIGBEE returned to peacetime duties of training and support as a member of Destroyer Squadron 27 homeported in Long Beach, California.

Following completion of another major overhaul and modernization in Todd Shipyard, Seattle, Washington in May 1975, HIGBEE was transferred to Destroyer Squadron 37 and homeported in Seattle - reflecting on 31 years of proud history.

HIGBEE was decommissioned at the Inactive Ship Facility, Bremerton, Washington 15 July 1979. In 1980, her hull was prepared for target ship duties and, in July 1980, she was transferred to the Pacific Missile Test Range where she served for the next six years, receiving impacts from the dummy warheads of 25 cruise missiles. The old ship succumbed to a live warhead test 26 April 1986. Her final resting place is in 1,000 fathoms of water approximately 35-40 miles SSW of San Nicholas Island, California.


Keel Laid: 26 June 1944, Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine.
Commissioned: 27 January 1945 - converted to Radar Picket
     Destroyer (DDR).
Completed FRAM Conversion: 3 January 1964 - U.S. Naval
     Shipyard, San Francisco.
Full Load Displacement: 3,378 Tons.
Overall Length: 389' 10.5". Beam: 41' 2".
Speed: 34.5 Knots.
Armament: Two 5"/38 cal. dual purpose twin gun mounts; two
     anti-submarine torpedo launchers; one ASROC
     anti-submarine rocket launcher.
Complement: 18 Officers - 262 Enlisted Men.
Decorations: Battle Star - Third Fleet operations against Japan
     - July-August 1945; American Campaign Ribbon;
     Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; Victory Medal - WWII;
     Navy Occupation Service Medal; China Service Medal;
     National Defense Service Medal (star); Korean Service
     Medal (7 stars); Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal;
     Vietnam Service Medal (6 stars); United Nations Service
     Medal; Phillipine Liberation Medal; Korean Presidential Unit
     Citation; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; Combat
     Action Ribbon.


From The Tin Can Sailor, July 1995

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