A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS JOHN PAUL JONES DD-932
The Tin Can Sailor, October 1999
|Born in Kirkcudbright, Scotland, John Paul Jones, is best remembered for refusing to surrender his ship, the BON HOMME RICHARD, to the British warship SERAPIS with the words ‘I have not yet begun to fight.’ Jones is buried beneath the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis.
The JOHN PAUL JONES (DD-932) was launched on 7 May 1955 and commissioned at Boston on 5 April 1956. Later that year, she visited the birthplace of her namesake. There, her captain and crew presented a bronze copy of the ship’s emblem to the people of Kirkcudbright.
In March 1957, she joined the Sixth Fleet, which in May patrolled the eastern Mediterranean during a governmental crisis in Jordan. Later, NATO maneuvers took her to the North Atlantic. In 1958 and 1959, the JONES took part in fleet exercises in the Caribbean, maneuvers with Canadian ships in the Atlantic, and another Mediterranean deployment. During 1960, she circumnavigated the continent of South America, visiting several countries and taking part in exercises with their navies.
Antisubmarine exercises in the Caribbean and along the Atlantic coast filled much of 1961 and 1962. In 1962, she led a column of forty destroyers during a fleet review for President Kennedy, took a midshipmen cruise, stood by for possible space capsule recovery, and patrolled off the coast of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Over the next two years, the JONES engaged in fast-carrier operations and antisubmarine and amphibious exercises in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and served as school ship for the Fleet Sonar School in Key West, Florida. Early in 1965, she was part of the recovery team for a Gemini space flight, and then, in June, deployed to the Mediterranean for the last time as DD-932. She was decommissioned on 20 December 1966 and spent the next eighteen months in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for conversion to a guided missile destroyer. The JONES was then recommissioned as DDG-32 on 23 September 1967.
She began 1968 en route to Long Beach, California, and by summer, was on her way to the Western Pacific. In January 1969, the JONES was in the Tonkin Gulf as plane guard for the CORAL SEA (CVA-43). She also spent time in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Japan. During a storm en route to Yokosuka, a sailor on the PORTERFIELD (DD-682) was washed overboard, and fighting twenty-five-foot seas, the JONES’s crew found the man, alive and afloat thanks to a pair of inflated dungarees.
The JONES returned to Yankee Station in 1970. There, at various times, she screened the carriers CONSTELLATION (CVA-64), CORAL SEA, SHANGRI-LA (CVA-38), BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA-31), ORISKANY (CVA-34), and AMERICA (CVA-66), and spent a week on the gun line. Returning to the states, the JONES’s MK 68 Gun Fire Control System and ASROC launcher were modified to fire a Standard missile at a surface target from the ASROC launcher. She then underwent an overhaul at Long Beach until July 1971. Following weapons systems tests, refresher training, and exercises, she steamed for the Western Pacific on 7 January 1972 in company with the HANCOCK (CVA-19), HIGBEE (DD-806), and FRANCIS HAMMOND (DE-1067).
She entered the Gulf of Tonkin in early March for duty with the CORAL SEA and later, the CONSTELLATION. On the gun line north and south of the seventeenth parallel, her gunners fired over 5,400 rounds of 5-inch 54-caliber shells against more than 550 enemy targets and on 24 May, supported the landing of the South Vietnamese marines north of Hue. Her gun crews continued shelling North Vietnamese positions until early July. On fifteen separate occasions enemy guns fired on the JONES but without success.
Headed for the Western Pacific again on 9 May 1973, the JONES was accompanied by the FRANCIS HAMMOND, COOK (DE-1083), and EDSON (DD-946). She assumed antiaircraft picket duty and also took part in minesweeping operations in the Gulf of Tonkin, participated in war games with ships of the United Kingdom, and dodged a typhoon, before leaving the Gulf of Tonkin for home on 26 September 1974.
Later that fall, the JONES was back in the Far East in response to renewed hostilities in Vietnam. Escort duty with the ENTERPRISE and MIDWAY continued into 1975 and was interspersed with missile shoots, gunnery and ASW exercises, and joint operations with the Seventh Fleet and Japanese naval forces. The military situation in Vietnam continued to deteriorate and for two weeks in April 1975, the JONES’s guns covered the evacuation of South Vietnam. In the course of the pull-out, the destroyer moved in close to the coast to cover amphibious forces against air attack. At one point, she encountered 400 refugees packed aboard a small boat. Her crew supplied them with food, medical supplies, and a compass to help them on their dangerous voyage to the Philippines. She later escorted a refugee convoy before heading for home on 17 May.
The JONES spent 1976 in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for overhaul and the following year in training, inspections, and routine operations. The beginning of 1978 was anything but routine. During exercises off San Diego, the CREE (ATF-84) was accidentally struck by three 500-pound bombs. The JONES’s crew was immediately on the scene with damage control equipment and assistance. They helped with disposing of one unexploded bomb and towed the CREE back to port. That spring, in Far Eastern waters, she participated in exercises and on the way home in October, rode out four typhoons.
Local operations, exercises in the Northern Pacific, and another deployment in the Western Pacific took her through 1979. In 1980, she patrolled the Persian Gulf during the hostage crisis in Iran and then steamed home for a 15-month overhaul in Long Beach. Sea trials, inspections, and refresher training, carried her to November 1982 when the ship received orders to stand down and cease all operations in preparation for decommissioning on 15 December. The following day, she was towed to the Inactive Ship Facility at Bremerton, Washington. She was struck from the navy’s lists in April 1986.