A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS HAWKINS DD-873
The Tin Can Sailor, July 2001
The HAWKINS (DD-873) was commissioned at Orange, Texas, on 10 February 1945, and after shakedown, proceeded to Norfolk for conversion to a picket destroyer. She was bound for the Pacific with the CHEVALIER (DD-805) and DUNCAN (DD-874) in June. Hostilities had ended by the time the HAWKINS reached Iwo Jima where she picked up mail, freight, and passengers on 25 August and headed for Japan. Included in the freight were a saddle, boots, gloves, and spurs from the citizens of Colorado, which she delivered to Admiral Halsey aboard the MISSOURI (BB-63).
The destroyer operated off the coast of Japan as part of DesRon 10. In November, she was operating off Honshu with the carriers LEXINGTON (CV-16) and INTREPID (CV-11) and rescued a crashed pilot. Her picket duty was interrupted for a quick trip to the China Sea to escort the carriers ANTIETAM (CV-36) and BOXER (CV-21) back to Yokosuka and on to Saipan, Guam, and Manila. She operated in the Philippines and Marianas until March 1946 when her destroyer squadron, including the MYLES C. FOX (DD-829), CHEVALIER, FRANK KNOX (DD-742), and BENNER (DD-807), was ordered to San Diego carrying marines bound for home.
Following operations in the San Diego area, the ship served in the Far East during 1947 and 1948 with patrols off Korea and in the Tsingtao area supporting marine units attempting to stabilize the explosive China situation. While stationed off Hong Kong, she joined the MYLES C. FOX (DD-829), HMS HART, and the Russian SS NAHODKA to assist the steamer HONG KHENG, which was grounded on a rocky island shore and breaking up. The steamer was flooding rapidly and as the British boarding party maintained order among frightened crew and passengers, the HAWKINS’s and FOX’s motor whaleboats and pulling boats from the HART braved the rough seas to carry passengers to safety. The three ships delivered between 1,800 and 2,000 passengers to Hong Kong. Back in the U.S. in 1949, the HAWKINS was home ported in Newport, Rhode Island.
War in Korea took her back to the Far East in January 1951. In May, the HAWKINS’s captain took command of Task Group 95.21, which consisted of the LEONARD F. MASON (DD-852), DUNCAN, JOSEPH P. KENNEDY, JR. (DD-850), and various smaller craft. The group began a steady day and night bombardment of shore batteries and troop concentrations in the Wonsan area, shelling the gun caves at Kalmagak that had hit the BRINKLEY BASS (DD-887) and NEW JERSEY (BB-62) at an earlier date. With planes and helicopters to spot their fire, the destroyers made several successful bombardment missions in the area around Wonsan. In June, the FECHTELER (DD-870) replaced the MASON, and the NEW JERSEY escorted by the BLUE (DD-744) and FRANK E. EVANS (DD-754) joined the gun line. On 8 June, the HAWKINS left Wonsan and was back in Newport in August. Operations in the Caribbean and Florida and patrol duties during the 1956 Suez Crisis while on her annual Mediterranean deployment took her through 1959.
Between 1960 and 1962, she engaged in NATO exercises, patrolled the coast of Central America, deployed to the Mediterranean, stood by for space capsule recovery, underwent overhaul, and conducted Sonar School operations. From 20 October until 3 December 1962, she was at sea with Task Force 135 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A Mediterranean cruise, Polaris missile tests, Sonar School duties, and rescue duty with the LEXINGTON highlighted 1963. She underwent FRAM I conversion in 1964 and in September 1965, deployed with DesRon 24, the first East Coast destroyer squadron to serve off Vietnam. While on station in Vietnam, she served with the ENTERPRISE (CVAN-65), screening Seventh Fleet forces in the South China Sea and Gulf of Tonkin and supporting troops ashore with her gunfire.
She fought a forest fire while visiting Eastport, Maine, in 1967, returned to the Mediterranean in 1968, and in 1969 was involved in Polaris missile tests. She supported the 1969 Apollo 12 Lunar Mission and in 1970, engaged in NATO operations and recovered the remains of a pilot killed after his plane crashed on take-off from the FORRESTAL (CVA-59).
Training, routine operations, and Sixth Fleet deployments carried the HAWKINS into 1973 when she, the SAMPSON (DDG-10), and WILLIAM M. WOOD (DD-715) engaged in surveillance operations in the Black Sea. She was the first U.S. surface combatant to photograph the Soviet guided missile cruiser, KARA. In 1974, the HAWKINS was en route to the Red Sea when several crew members were injured on deck by a freak wave that hit during an underway replenishment. Following medical care at Diego Suarez, Malagasy Republic, all but two sailed with the destroyer for Red Sea surveillance operations. Her 1975 Sixth Fleet deployment included surveillance of Soviet ships and in 1977, she was the last GEARING-class destroyer to complete a Mediterranean cruise. In December of that year, she was transferred to the Naval Reserve Force in Philadelphia. She was struck from the navy’s list on 1 October 1979 and was transferred to Taiwan on 17 March 1983 and renamed the TSU YANG. She has since been retired.