A Tin Can Sailors
Destroyer History


Samuel F. Du Pont commanded U.S. ships during the Mexican War and the Civil War. The third DUPONT, DD-941 was launched 8 September 1956 and commissioned 1 July 1957.

During 1958, she took part in antisubmarine exercises in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. In June 1959, she was in the Great Lakes for the celebration of the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway and that fall, visited Southampton, England, after serving as plane guard during President Eisenhower’s transatlantic flight. Her 1960 tour in the Mediterranean was followed by an overhaul in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard where she remained through February 1961.

Fleet exercises in the Caribbean, operations along the Atlantic Coast, and enforcing the quarantine during the Cuban missile crisis carried the DUPONT to April 1963 when she served as the command ship during the search for the THRESHER (SSN-593) that foundered off Boston on 10 April. She finished 1963 as the only destroyer in the Atlantic Fleet to win four successive “E”s in Engineering. Her fifth Mediterranean cruise began in November and continued into 1964.

After another Mediterranean deployment, she was the first ship to reach the Gemini V space capsule after it landed, and her crew stood by to ensure that both astronauts and capsule were recovered safely. She was also the first vessel ever to recover the booster section of a space shot launch rocket, which she carried back to Norfolk lashed to her fantail. While in Santo Domingo during the Dominican Republic crisis, the DUPONT earned a golden “E” to commemorate her sixth consecutive Engineering 'E'. Operations with the Sixth Fleet and NATO forces took up the first half of 1966, followed by a Caribbean cruise and the award of her seventh Engineering 'E', an unprecedented feat.

The DUPONT’s first Vietnam deployment began in August 1967 on the gun line in support of U.S. Marines fighting at the Demilitarized Zone. Under constant threat from enemy shore batteries, her gunners shelled enemy positions day and night. On 28 August, the enemy fired on the ROBISON (DDG-12), which was between the DUPONT and the beach. As the ROBISON maneuvered to seaward, the DUPONT returned fire, immediately replacing it as a target for some twenty 130-mm rounds. One shell found its target, hitting the Mount 52 gun. The burst sent shrapnel into the mount and down through the superstructure to the after deckhouse killing FN Frank L. Ballant and wounding eight others. Despite the casualties to men and ship, the DUPONT continued on station for another two weeks before heading for Subic Bay and repairs. Under fire once more when she returned to the gun line on 10 October, she successfully avoided being hit. On 10 November, the eight men wounded on 28 August received Purple Heart medals, and two days later, the ship left for her last trip to the gun line. At the end of seventy-five days in combat, the DUPONT’s 5-inch guns had fired 20,000 rounds. Returning to Norfolk in January 1968, she went into dry dock for repairs followed by operations with the Apollo recovery force, exercises in the Caribbean, and midshipman training. By summer’s end, her engineering department had racked up its ninth departmental excellence award.

Back in the Far East on 10 October 1968, she began twenty-six days on the gun line supporting SEAL reconnaissance teams and ARVN units in the Mekong Delta. Later in the Gulf of Siam, she fired on a Vietcong-held island, supported a swift boat sweep up the Van Song Ong Doc River, and provided gun fire support in the I Corps area and around Da Nang. In mid-December, her guns covered an amphibious landing to the south.

Returning to combat in January, her gunners supported the 1st Marine Division at Da Nang, covered a four-day amphibious landing to the south, and then again shelled enemy positions around Da Nang and in the Mekong River Delta. When she left Vietnam that spring, the DUPONT’s guns had fired 30,000 rounds, damaging or destroying more than 730 military structures, and 131 small craft, not to mention causing multiple fires and explosions. Following her return to Norfolk, she entered the Boston Naval Shipyard in May 1969 for decommissioning and antisubmarine warfare modernization.

Recommissioned on 9 May 1970, she returned to Norfolk and in April 1971, began antisubmarine warfare and routine operations along the Atlantic Coast, in the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. A similar pattern of operations and deployments prevailed over the next three years. Then in April 1974, passing under the Coleman Memorial Bridge en route to Norfolk from the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station, her after mast was damaged, and she spent a month at pier-side for repairs. Subsequent NATO operations in the North Atlantic took the DUPONT to Sunderland, England, where her fire fighting team’s rapid response to a nearby warehouse fire prevented extensive damage. She returned home in December.

Following a regular overhaul in 1975, she rejoined the Atlantic Fleet in January 1976 with a training cruise in the Caribbean. Fall took her to Saudi Arabia and Oman followed by exercises in the Indian Ocean and a visit to the United Arab Emirate of Fujairah. Visits to Kenya, Bahrain, Iran, Djibouti, Sudan, the Seychelles, and Pakistan completed the ship’s Mid-East deployment in March 1977. Over the next four years, the ship operated in the North Atlantic and along the Atlantic Coast from Nova Scotia to South America and underwent an overhaul at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard at Hoboken, New Jersey. Training exercises and operations out of Norfolk took her to the spring of 1981 and deployment to the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf, where she conducted surveillance operations. The DUPONT operated in the North Atlantic in September and cruised the Caribbean before returning to Norfolk in December.

In August 1982, the DUPONT began seventy-four days on station off Beirut, Lebanon where she provided naval gunfire support during the PLO evacuation and the withdrawal of U.S. Marines from Beirut.

Following the massacre of Palestinian refugees on 18 September, she escorted the U.S. contingent of the multinational peacekeeping force back into Beirut. The ship finally set sail for home on 7 December. The Beirut operations were her last. On 4 March 1983, the ship was decommissioned. Following her de-commissioning, the DUPONT entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard’s mothball fleet. She was struck from the navy’s list on 1 June 1990.


From The Tin Can Sailor, October 1999

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