A Tin Can Sailors
Destroyer History


The third USS WAINWRIGHT (DLG-28) was launched at Maine’s Bath Iron Works on 25 April 1965 and was commissioned on 8 January 1966 in Boston. By April 1967, she was WestPac bound and in August was with Task Force 77 off South Vietnam in the Tonkin Gulf. Her assignment there involved radar surveillance of U.S. Navy air operations over the gulf and North Vietnam, a station identified as a Positive Identification Radar Advisory Zone, or more simply, PIRAZ. Her duties included tracking U.S. Navy and Air Force aircraft and those of Soviet origin. PIRAZ ships also controlled combat air patrols and coordinated strike information with the air force center in Da Nang, which was responsible for surveillance of air activity around North Vietnam’s border with China.

After a return home, the WAINWRIGHT was back in Vietnam in July 1968 for forty-one days on PIRAZ station and another twenty-seven in October and November. She subsequently served on Search and Rescue (SAR) stations in the Tonkin Gulf before returning home to Charleston. Local operations and exercises along the Atlantic Coast took her into the fall of 1970 when she was again outbound for the Pacific. She spent November 1970 on PIRAZ and SAR stations in the Tonkin Gulf and supported Son Tay raid operations.

The WAINWRIGHT was back home in April 1971. In the ensuing months, she received the Light Airborne Multipurpose System (LAMPS), and her propulsion plant was converted to burn heavy distillate fuel. Routine operations along the East Coast and in the Caribbean took her into December 1972, when she left Charleston for her first tour of duty in the Mediterranean. On her homeward voyage in July 1973, she ventured across the Arctic Circle.

Following a year of routine operations along the southern Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean, she got underway in March 1975 for the Mediterranean. In June, she passed through the Straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles into the Black Sea and was the first American ship to visit Constanta, Rumania, in 49 years. She spent a brief period keeping the Soviet helicopter carrier LENINGRAD under surveillance. On 30 June, the WAINWRIGHT was re-classified as the guided missile cruiser CG-28.
The year 1976 found the WAINWRIGHT in New York for the U.S. Bicentennial. She served as flagship for the International Naval Review and as the Operation Sail reviewing ship and entertained Vice President Nelson D. Rockefeller, Secretary of State Kissinger, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Admiral James L. Holloway, III, Chief of Naval Operations, and Admiral Shanahan, Second Fleet commander.
She began her third Mediterranean deployment in March 1977 and ended the year with routine operations out of Charleston, which continued into 1978 when she underwent a 13-month overhaul. Her usual routine was interrupted in 1979 with special operations in the Pacific during the Nicaraguan Revolution. In November the WAINWRIGHT left Charleston for her Mediterranean cruise and Black Sea operations. A highlight of 1980 was a North Atlantic cruise. In June 1982, during her Mediterranean deployment, she was a key participant in the Lebanon Contingency Operation and stood escort duty during the PLO evacuation from Beirut. She, then, transited the Suez Canal for operations in the Indian Ocean before returning to Charleston in November.

In March 1983, she entered the Charleston Naval Shipyard where she became the first ship in the fleet to receive the SM2-ER Extended Range missile system. Her 1984 Med cruise included operations in the Black, Aegean, Tyrrhenian, and Ionian Seas. In 1986, during her eighth Mediterranean cruise, she participated in Operation Sea Wind with the Egyptian navy.

A highlight of 1987 was the NATO exercise OCEAN SAFARI 87 in the North Atlantic with ships from Canada, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain. In January 1988, she was the lead ship of the Middle East Force. That February, she entered the Persian Gulf with the SAMUEL. B. ROBERTS (FFG-58), JACK WILLIAMS (FFG-24), and SIMPSON (FFG-56) and, there, the ROBERTS hit a mine. In April 1988, during Operation Praying Mantis, the WAINWRIGHT and SIMPSON helped destroy the Sirri gas-oil separation platform with naval gunfire. After an unsuccessful missile attack on the WAINWRIGHT, the U.S. ships sank the Iranian gunboat JOSHAN with missiles and gunfire. Subsequently, the WAINWRIGHT fired long-range missiles at an Iranian F-4 Phantom for a kill. She arrived home in June, a “battle tested and battle proven” warship.

In April 1989, the WAINWRIGHT participated in Caribbean Sea law-enforcement operations. She returned to Charleston that September for Hurricane Hugo repairs and was underway again in October for the Mediterranean. There, she was a support ship during the Malta presidential summit between President Bush and Soviet President Gorbachev. An overhaul took her into 1992 when she was assigned to the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY Battle Group. Her 1992 Mediterranean deployment took her into the Adriatic for the NATO Operation Provide Hope.

The USS WAINWRIGHT was decommissioned in November 1993 at Charleston. During the ceremony, she was recognized as the most decorated surface ship in the Atlantic fleet, earning her the title “World Class Cruiser”. She was subsequently towed to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard where she remained until 12 June 2002 when she was targeted by two Harpoon missiles. She remained afloat overnight and was finally sunk by two torpedoes.



From The Tin Can Sailor, July 2007

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