A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS NEWMAN K. PERRY DD-883
The Tin Can Sailor, January 2001
The NEWMAN K. PERRY (DD-883) was launched on 17 March and commissioned 26 July 1945 in Orange, Texas. She carried the latest radar and antiaircraft weaponry with double the firepower of pre-war tin cans. By the end of November 1945, she was operating in Japanese waters. Nuclear bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, West Coast and Hawaiian operations, antisubmarine warfare training, and Pacific Fleet exercises took her into 1947 and an overhaul at Mare Island. During her next Western Pacific (WESTPAC) tour, she took part in exercises off Okinawa and visited Tsingtao and other Chinese ports. Back home, she engaged in reserve training cruises and hunter-killer exercises off California until April 1949 when she was transferred to Newport, Rhode Island, and Destroyer Division 182.
Reserve training, gunnery, and task force exercises occupied her crew until September 1949 when she began her first Mediterranean deployment. The crew spent Christmas in Genoa, Italy, and then headed for home. During her second Mediterranean cruise in 1950, she and the CHARLES P. CECIL (DD-835) patrolled the Aegean Sea. Routine East Coast operations, fleet exercises in the Caribbean, and a five-month overhaul at the Boston Naval Shipyard took her up to June 1953. Armed with new 3-inch/50-caliber guns and a modernized CIC, she spent January through May 1954 in the Mediterranean. Caribbean and East Coast operations; regular Sixth Fleet deployments; midshipman cruises; and duty with the Second Fleet during the Suez and Jordanian crises kept the PERRY busy through 1959.
By the early1960s, she was operating out of Charleston, South Carolina. She continued her regular Mediterranean deployments and in May 1961 participated in the first manned Mercury capsule recovery. Routine training operations ended abruptly in October 1962 when the PERRY and Destroyer Squadron 6 were ordered to the Caribbean as part of the quarantine force during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She became a casualty of heavy fog off the Florida coast and suffered severe damage to her bow in an early morning collision with a sulphur-laden barge in March 1964. The following month she went into the Boston Naval Shipyard for her FRAM I conversion. A second, more deadly collision occurred in September 1965 off the west coast of Italy when the carrier SHANGRI-LA (CV-38) crushed the destroyer’s bow, killing one sailor and injuring another.
In the fall of 1966, the PERRY served with the Seventh Fleet in the Gulf of Tonkin, Gulf of Thailand, and the South China Sea. In the Mekong Delta area of South Vietnam at 2115 on the night of 23 November, her gunners opened fire for the first time in combat and over the next three weeks expended more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition on enemy trenches, buildings, and supply routes. Her fire in support of friendly troops earned praise from air and ground spotters for outstanding accuracy. The PERRY left the Mekong Delta to fire in support of Green Berets and Special Forces on the island of Phu Quoc near the Cambodia-Vietnam border. By the time the ship headed back to the Mekong, her big guns had fired over 3,000 rounds. On one occasion she fired sixty-one rounds in seventeen minutes against an enemy shore battery. Her guns fired night and day, stopping only long enough for an underway replenishment of fuel, food, and ammunition. In twenty-six days on the gun line, the PERRY replenished nineteen times. She ended the year on Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf as support ship for the nuclear-powered cruiser LONG BEACH (CGN-9) and as standby search and rescue ship for downed pilots.
Her missions in 1967 involved plane guard duty for the fast attack carriers KITTY HAWK (CVA-63) and BON HOMME RICHARD (CV-31). Operations were a “true test of seamanship on the part of all hands” according to her skipper, Commander J. A. Smith. “It was monsoon season, and the weather was terrible with seas running so high that the ship was taking water on the decks most of the time. In spite of this, we had to be ready at any moment to rescue pilots having to ‘ditch’ before reaching the carrier’s flight decks.” Later she steamed north to provide gun support, fuel, water, and other supplies to smaller ships operating in the area. On her final combat mission, she operated with the MULLANY (DD-528) and the BON HOMME RICHARD in the Tonkin Gulf.
Operations out of Newport, in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic, and in the Caribbean took her into 1973 when she assumed duties as a reserve training ship steaming out of Fall River, Massachusetts, and Newport. While in Sandy Hook Channel in January 1975, the PERRY struck an uncharted object, which required a yard period to fix her starboard propeller and close a hole that flooded the forward engine room. Repairs completed, the destroyer returned to reserve training operations, serving at various times with the DACE (SSN-607), EDSON (DD-946), and CECIL and ended 1978 undergoing an overhaul. Regular duties took her to 27 February 1981when she was decommissioned and transferred to the South Korean navy as the KYONG-KI.