A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS HUGH PURVIS DD-709
The Tin Can Sailor, January 2000
Commissioned on 1 March 1945, DD-709 was named in honor of marine private, Hugh Purvis, whose outstanding heroism during the Korean Expedition in 1871 won him the Congressional Medal of Honor. With her shakedown cruise behind her, the PURVIS was assigned to the Norfolk naval base as a training ship. She then spent several months in the Pacific followed in the spring of 1947 by a stint in Northern Europe where she and the BEATTY (DD-756) represented the United States at the funeral of the King Christian of Denmark. She sailed for her first Mediterranean deployment in September 1948.
Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, between July 1949 and December 1950, the PURVIS trained reservists in Caribbean and Central American waters. She was then transferred to Newport, Rhode Island. Refresher training at Guantanamo Bay, Mediterranean deployments, a midshipman cruise, and annual Springboard exercises in the Caribbean took her through the spring of 1955. In addition to routine operations in the Atlantic and Mediterranean in 1956, the PURVIS also patrolled the Red Sea and Persian Gulf and escorted vessels evacuating refugees from Israel and Gaza.
Operating on both sides of the Atlantic over the next two years, she became a unit of Destroyer Development Group Two in August 1958. The PURVIS began 1960 undergoing Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) and ended the year with refresher training at Guantanamo Bay. During fleet exercises in January 1961, heavy weather damaged her forward five-inch gun mount, which put her in the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard for repairs. She was ready for her sixth Mediterranean deployment in March, however.
In January 1962, the ship was one of the recovery ships for the orbital space flight of Colonel John Glenn who was finally recovered by the USS NOA (DD-841). That spring, she was fitted out with a remote control Destroyer Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) and a variable depth sonar system. Following sonar tests off Key West, she hurried back to serve as the navy’s host ship during the America’s Cup Races off Newport. Late in October, the PURVIS patrolled Guantanamo Harbor during the Cuban Missile Crisis and then steamed north for eight months of operations off the Virginia Capes to test the newly installed DASH system.
DASH system tests, small craft rescue, ship surveillance, antisubmarine warfare exercises, type and refresher training, and project operations took her up to January 1965 and Operation Springboard. Later that spring in Key West, she served as a Fleet Sonar School ship. In July, the destroyer was involved in evaluating gunfire practices to be used against North Vietnam’s small, high-speed vessels. Culminating this effort was the first successful “kill” in the Atlantic Fleet of a remotely-controlled Ryan Firefish.
Over the next six years, the PURVIS was a platform for experiments with antisubmarine radar and variable depth sonar equipment, perfecting techniques and weapons in use throughout the destroyer force. Engaged in such tests off the Bahamas early in 1966, she rescued a disabled fishing boat and towed it to safety. Divested of test equipment, she was back to normal operations by the fall and in November headed for a Mediterranean deployment. Routine exercises and operations upon her return to Newport brought her to the end of 1967.
In August 1968, she and the DAVIS (DD-937) headed for the Western Pacific and Vietnam. After her crew had done a commendable job in salvaging the SAFEGUARD (ARS-25), she joined the gun line on 12 October. Five days later, her crew drew further commendations when they succeeded in freeing and towing a navy ship beached in enemy-held territory to safety. At month’s end, she surveilled enemy vessels around Nui Lo, North Vietnam. Making radar contact with two waterborne logistics craft at 0200 on 31 October, her gunners sank one and drove the other onto the beach. Her gunners then directed their fire at targets ashore. Coastal guns began firing on the PURVIS at 0635 expending about ninety rounds before the destroyer steamed out of range, returning fire as she went.
She was again under fire on 1 November as she shelled gun emplacements on Hon Matt Island. After three months of search and rescue operations in the Tonkin Gulf, carrier plane guard duty, and gun fire support near Qui Non, she left Vietnam on 3 February 1969. During her Vietnam tour, the PURVIS had fired 4,972 rounds. On 11 April, she was home in Newport. That fall, she was awarded her third consecutive Battle Efficiency “E”, as well as operations, engineering, and gunnery departmental “E”s.
From November 1969 to June 1970, the PURVIS was in non-operational, modified cadre status, during which the remaining crew kept her in material readiness for her new crew and her return to sea after six and one-half months. They were ready for the ship’s eleventh Mediterranean cruise that fall, which was followed by news of her proposed decommissioning in July 1972. She was struck from the U.S. Navy’s list on 1 February 1973 and transferred to the Turkish navy.
The HUGH PURVIS was recommissioned as TCG ZAFER (D-356) and served there until 1993.