A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS JONAS INGRAM DD-938
The Tin Can Sailor October 1999
|Launched on 7 August 1956, the JONAS INGRAM (DD-938) was named for Jonas H. Ingram, a World War I veteran and a World War II commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. She was commissioned on 19 July 1957 and from her home port in Mayport, Florida, she operated in the North and South Atlantic and Mediterranean. In the fall of 1959, as flagship of the South Atlantic Forces commander, she visited nine African countries and led joint exercises with the French and South African navies.
Spring 1960 found her dodging icebergs in the North Atlantic while covering President Eisenhower’s flights to and from the Paris Summit Conference. A year later, she was in warmer waters supporting United Nations peace-keeping efforts in the Congo.
For the next two years, the INGRAM alternated Mediterranean deployments with operations out of Mayport. In 1964, she represented the U.S. at Independence Day ceremonies for the island of Malta and embarked Turkish naval officers as part of a NATO exchange program. In 1964 and ‘65, she served as on the recovery force for the Gemini space shots. Antisubmarine exercises in the North Atlantic and a people-to-people Middle Eastern cruise rounded out 1965. During 1966, she joined the first Apollo recovery team and operated in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, where in September, she and the STRIBLING (DD-867) were the first U.S. warships to visit Egypt since 1952. The INGRAM operated out of Mayport and then steamed with the Sixth Fleet into the fall of 1967.
Following her eighteen-month antisubmarine warfare conversion in Philadelphia, she was recommissioned on 1 August 1970, and put her new capabilities to the test operating with the nuclear submarine NAUTILUS (SSN-571) and tracking Soviet naval activity in waters around Cuba. During her 1972 deployment to the Mediterranean, she was assigned to surveillance of nearly a dozen Soviet units in addition to several search and rescue operations to recover wreckage from downed aircraft.
In the spring of 1973, en route to the Middle East, she refueled in Angola, which turned out to be a unique experience. Fuel was delivered to the ship at pierside by gasoline trucks. Forty of them took nearly seventeen hours to deliver 168,000 gallons of fuel. On station in the Gulf of Aden in June, she received a distress call from the Indian merchant and passenger ship, the SAUDI, which was sinking 130 miles to the southeast. Racing into stormy seas, the INGRAM didn’t locate the first survivor until 0300 and then with a better fix on the spot where the SAUDI went down sharpened the focus of her search for the merchantman’s ninety-eight passengers and crew. Apparently, a large wave had hit the Indian ship causing a permanent list when her cargo shifted. She floated for another forty-five minutes and then capsized. The INGRAM searched through the night, eventually recovering six bodies and forty-four survivors clinging to debris and a few life rafts. Another fourteen survivors were picked up by a pair of merchant ships, one Israeli, one Japanese. Several of the destroyer’s crew performed heroically. Braving hazardous conditions, SN Sword, STG3 Martinez, GMG2 Bellucci, and Lt. jg Parker went into the water to bring people aboard, and on deck, HM1 Gabrielson, ENFN Imlay, and Lt. Taylor saved several lives with CPR. The INGRAM took fifty-four of the survivors to Djibouti, Somalia before proceeding to Bahrain. There, the INGRAM’s crew discovered that during their rescue efforts, debris from the sunken ship had seriously damaged one of the ship’s propellers. A new ten-ton prop was flown out from the states by an air force C5A Galaxy and then local divers worked underwater to replace the damaged propeller in record time.
Routine rotations occupied the INGRAM over the next three years, then in 1976, she participated in NATO exercises that ranged from Norway through Europe to the Mediterranean. While in the Baltic Sea on 3 October 1976, the INGRAM again went to the rescue of sailors in distress. This time it was the seven-man crew of a small Finnish vessel.
Early in 1977, the INGRAM joined the TRIPPE (FF-1075) for a series of diplomatic visits to West African ports. During the ship’s visit to Accra, Ghana, crew member SK3 John Donkor, a former citizen of Ghana, was reunited with three of his children. Later, en route to Mombasa, Kenya, she escorted the USNS KINGSPORT and several other units as they conducted hydrographic tests and surveys. The INGRAM spent most of May in surveillance operation in the Gulf of Oman and in visits to Iranian ports. She ended her 35,000-mile journey in July.
In the Mediterranean on 21 August 1978, severe boiler problems interrupted the ship’s operations and required extensive repairs in Naples until mid-September. During exercises in early October, a violent storm off Southern France sent the INGRAM and other ships in search of shelter. During her Mediterranean deployment, her communicators were the only ones to discover and report a serious fleet-wide interference problem that was subsequently corrected.
The INGRAM moved to Charleston in March 1979 for her regular overhaul, which continued through May 1980. While engaged in refresher training at Guantanamo Bay in August, her crew rescued twenty-eight Haitian refugees from their crippled sailboat. The Haitians and their boat were taken to Guantanamo to repair their boat and continue on to Miami. For fleet exercises in December, the INGRAM embarked two women officers for Surface Warfare Officer training. During 1981, she operated in the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, and Northern Europe, and took part in contingency operations off the Dominican Republic.
In 1982, the INGRAM was first in the Persian Gulf and then in the fall, spent forty-one days off Beirut supporting the multinational peacekeeping force. News of the ship’s upcoming decommissioning reached her crew in the Eastern Mediterranean and they returned home to prepare for the ceremony marking the end of the JONAS INGRAM’s career on 4 March 1983. She was then towed to the inactive ship facility in Philadelphia where she was struck from the navy’s list on 15 June 1983. She was sunk as a target in July 1988.