A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS BLACK DD-666
The Tin Can Sailor, January 2007
The USS BLACK (DD-666) was launched on 28 March 1943 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company of Kearny, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 21 May 1943. By late November, she was headed for the Pacific and Tarawa. She was assigned screening duty off the entrance to Tarawa Lagoon and escorting transports until 22 January 1944. An interruption came on 15 January 1944, when the BLACK was sent to rescue the survivors of two downed PBY aircraft 50 miles south of Jaluit. Escaping detection by enemy destroyers prowling the crash area, she rescued 22 crew members from the two PBYs and carried them to safety.
Her first combat duty came during the invasion of Majuro Atoll in the Marshall
Islands from 29 January to 8 February 1944 and between 22 April and 7 May, she supported the landings at Aitape and Hollandia, New Guinea. On 11 June, she took part in the invasion of Saipan where, on the 15th, she fought off an air attack, dodging two torpedoes in the process. She subsequently took part in the capture of Guam and, on 24 July, took aboard nineteen men wounded when their landing ship was struck by mortar fire and transferred them to a hospital ship. She was in the thick of the Leyte operation in October and November, providing screening and shore bombardment. While delivering night harassing fire on 21 October, she was grazed by friendly fire but suffered no serious damage to ship or personnel.
The destroyer returned to San Francisco for an overhaul, which lasted until February 1945 and sailed again for the Pacific in March. With Task Force 58 on 18 March, she screened carriers during air strikes against mainland Japan and crashed an enemy bomber. She was one of seven destroyers assigned to escort the damaged carrier FRANKLIN (CV-13) under tow by the PITTSBURG (CA-72) out of the area. Her charge delivered, she proceeded to Okinawa and on 26 March began picket duty and her group’s constant battle against kamikaze attacks. En route to her station, she was targeted by a lone bomber which was downed by the CHAUNCEY (DD-667). That was just the beginning. At 0935 on 16 April an enemy bomber dove on the BLACK, crashing ten yards off her bow. Shrapnel rained on her decks but inflicted no damage. The next day, the BLACK damaged one attacker and crashed another. After a stint with the carriers launching raids on southern Japan, she was back off Okinawa until 30 May.
Following a return to the Leyte Gulf, she took part in the Third Fleet’s advances against Japan from 10 July 1945 to the end of hostilities. The BLACK served with occupation forces off Japan, Korea, and China until 10 November 1945 when she returned to the United States.
The BLACK was out of commission from 5 August 1946 to 18 July 1951 when she began operations along the eastern seaboard and in the Caribbean. She was on her way to the Pacific in January 1953 and arrived in the Korean war zone on 4 March. On the bomb line off Korea’s Nando Island, she provided call fire for U.S. Marine spotters, monitored Korean boat traffic, and shelled enemy positions ashore. Her Korean operations ended in June 1953 when she headed for Norfolk via the Suez Canal. Training, fleet operations, and plane guard duties along the East Coast and in the Caribbean occupied her until January 1955.
She, then, transferred to Long Beach and the Pacific fleet with the OWEN (DD-536), PRITCHETT (DD-561), COWELL (DD-547), CUSHING (DD797), JARVIS (DD-799), WATTS (DD-567), and TRATHEN (DD-530). Over the ensuing years, she alternated operations along the West Coast with tours of the Western Pacific where she earned the nickname “Steaming Demon”.
February 1965 found the BLACK escorting units of an amphibious force off the mouth of the Saigon River. Beginning in mid-March, she and the HIGBEE (DD-806) spent eighty percent of the their seven-month deployment at sea as the first U.S. warships to use the infiltration surveillance methods that came to be known as Operation “Market Time”.
The BLACK spent the months of June and July 1965 shelling Vietcong positions and was one of the first ships to demonstrate the effectiveness of naval call fire by airborne spotters. Back home for overhaul at year’s end, she was off South Vietnam in July 1966, this time on Dixie Station screening the INTREPID (CV-11) as she launched strikes against targets in the Mekong Delta region. She later provided fire support during an assault against Vietcong infiltration in the III Corps area and moved up the Dong Son tributary of the Saigon River to bombard supply and infiltration routes and enemy positions.
In early August 1966, the destroyer moved on to Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf to screen the FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CVA-42) as she launched strikes against enemy positions in North and South Vietnam. In mid-August, the BLACK conducted gunfire support missions in the Vung Xuan Dai area inflicting considerable material and personnel damage on the enemy. At one point, during refueling operations with the ROOSEVELT, the BLACK successfully diverted a Soviet intelligence-gathering trawler, the GIDROFON, away from the U.S. formation.
November found her homeward bound, escorting the ORISKANY (CV-34), crippled by a fire on her hangar deck that claimed 44 of her crew. Upon her arrival in San Diego, she began routine operations until her decommissioning in 1969. The BLACK was stricken from the navy’s list on 26 September 1969 and sold for scrap on 17 February 1971.