A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS BLANDY DD-943
The Tin Can Sailor, October 1999
The DD-943 was named in honor of Admiral William H. P. Blandy, an amphibious group commander during the World War II Pacific Island campaign. The new destroyer was launched on 19 December 1956 and was commissioned 26 November 1957. In May 1958, she carried the remains of World War II and Korean War unknowns for burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Upon her arrival in Washington, D.C., the two honored war dead left the ship with full military honors to rest beside World War I’s Unknown Soldier. Over the next two years, the BLANDY operated along the Atlantic Coast and in the Mediterranean earning the Battle Efficiency “E” in 1960.
Following her 1961 overhaul in Boston and refresher training at Guantanamo Bay, she spent 1962 in local and Caribbean operations and a Mediterranean deployment. On 15 February, while the BLANDY was stationed with the Mercury recovery forces about 500 miles east of Cape Canaveral, Seaman William E. Hunt was stricken with appendicitis. As the ship steamed through five-foot waves and twenty-knot winds, a team of army and air force doctors and navy corpsmen successfully removed Hunt’s appendix, using the BLANDY’s wardroom table for the operation. In October 1962, she was one of the first ships to get underway for the Cuban missile crisis and while enforcing the quarantine, she tracked a Soviet submarine until it was forced to surface.
A year later, the BLANDY participated in multinational exercises in the Indian Ocean, in antisubmarine exercises in the Mediterranean, and in various Caribbean operations. An overhaul at Boston, more Atlantic operations, and multi-national NATO exercises in Mediterranean waters took her up to 1968 and her first deployment in the Western Pacific. The BLANDY joined the gun line in the Gulf of Tonkin in May 1968 and returned four more times that year. While on the line, her responsibilities regularly put her in the thick of combat operations where she was constantly exposed to enemy artillery fire. Six times she was the target of intense enemy fire, and her crew functioned smoothly to maneuver their ship out of range and bring their guns to bear on the shore batteries. After eighty-three days, her guns had fired 28,000 rounds and claimed 148 enemy lives, wounded twenty-two more, silenced sixty-nine artillery pieces, destroyed or damaged well over 105 bunkers and other military structures and boats, and made fourteen bridges and seventy-six roads unpassable.
Following her 1971 Mediterranean deployment, the BLANDY began 1972 with surveillance operations in the Caribbean. There, she gathered intelligence on a Soviet destroyer and submarine and two Cuban submarine chasers and collected new data on electronic countermeasures. That summer, she was one of the initial ships to take young men on the highly successful “Go Navy” recruitment cruises. By 1972, Z-116 had rewritten the rule book for navy women and raised the issue of their serving aboard navy ships. As a result of the ensuing publicity, in August 1972, Maureen Connolly, a Portland Press-Herald reporter, made the trip from Newport to Portland, Maine becoming the first woman to take an overnight cruise on a destroyer. Later that month, Anne Bohan, with sixty-five other Women Officer Candidates aboard for orientation, got the ship underway for a day of routine exercises. Later, the BLANDY steamed south to Baltimore, Maryland, for the 176th anniversary of the frigate CONSTELLATION.
By 23 November 1972, the destroyer was again in Vietnamese waters, near the mouth of the Cua Viet River and at 2151 fired her first round at an enemy position north of Quang Tri City. Her gun crews manned their weapons around the clock, firing an average of more than 200 rounds a day from a position some five thousand yards off the beach. By the end of the year, the BLANDY’s guns had fired 5,687 rounds. They destroyed enemy bunkers, mortars, a 130-mm gun, and other targets.
New Year’s Day 1973 was quiet on the gun line until 1800 when the BLANDY began an attack on an enemy gun emplacement near Cap Lai. At 1802, the ship came under hostile fire. Her guns opened up with counter fire and after thirty-two rounds had silenced the enemy gun. As the cease fire drew near in late January, the pace of enemy activity increased. So did the BLANDY’s response. On 28 January, she fired her 10,000th combat round. Later that night, she completed her last mission in Vietnam. For the next two days, she patrolled the coast and then went on to Hong Kong for a week of liberty, a yard period in Singapore, and a stop in Yokosuka, Japan, before casting off the lines for the trip home. She was back in Norfolk on 6 April 1973. The BLANDY ended the year on a sad note. During antisubmarine warfare exercises in December, her crew joined the futile search for a sailor lost overboard from the amphibious command ship MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC-20).
Routine operations and a regular overhaul carried her up to 25 April 1976. While in dry dock, a fire started in one of the ship’s medical storerooms. After two and one-half hours, the BLANDY’s crew and Boston firemen had the fire under control. The blaze resulted in more than $500,000 damage, but the BLANDY’s overhaul continued close to schedule. In July, her crew enjoyed a ringside seat for the Bicentennial procession of Tall Ships into Boston Harbor and were on their way back to Norfolk in December.
Local operations, training and exercises in the Caribbean ,and a Mediterranean deployment occupied the BLANDY’s crew through December when she got underway for the Middle East. As tensions rose in Iran, she stood by in the Persian Gulf for the possible evacuation of American civilians and surveillance operations until 8 May 1979 when she was relieved by the ELMER MONTGOMERY (DE-1082). In the Caribbean that summer, she shadowed a Soviet exercise off the Virgin Islands and then steamed north for operations along the East Coast before entering the shipyard at Norfolk for a year-long overhaul. By June 1981, she was in the Caribbean for refresher training and exercises and then was in the Mediterranean for Christmas. The Blandy’s career ended with her decommissioning on 5 November 1982. She was transferred to Philadelphia and was stricken from the navy’s register on 27 July 1990.