A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS HULL DD-945
The Tin Can Sailor, January 2001
The HULL was commissioned at Boston on 3 July 1958. Her first Far East deployment in April 1959 took her to Taiwan and operations with hunter-killer and attack carrier task groups before returning to San Diego. Two more WESTPAC deployments, fleet operations off Southern California, an overhaul, and engineering school ship duties carried her into the autumn of 1962. Her routine was interrupted that October to escort California-based amphibious forces to the Canal Zone during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She was in Hong Kong when her crew received news of the Kennedy assassination. In April 1964 she headed for home with the JOHN R. CRAIG (DD-885), and INGERSOLL (DD-652) and finished the year operating along the West Coast with the PREBLE (DLG-15), DENNIS J. BUCKLEY (DD-808), and HANSON (DD832).
She steamed west again in April 1965 and by June she was in the war zone on screening and plane guard duty with the BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA-31). Later that month she and the HOEL (DDG-13) left their Tonkin Gulf station and steamed at flank speed for the successful rescue of a pilot from the CORAL SEA (CVA-43) downed off the coast of North Vietnam. In August the HULL’s long-range guns supported troops at Danang and Chulai. The following month she helped rescue a helicopter pilot from the GALVESTON (CLG-13) and soon after was homeward bound with the FLOYD B. PARKS (DD-884), and BRAINE (DD-630).
She again left San Diego for Vietnam in August 1966 and assumed flagship duty with Destroyer Squadron One responding to calls for fire from ground troops in Vietcong territory. In September, the U.S. Marines at Quang Ngai, and the HULL, HOLDER (DD-819), JOHN R. CRAIG (DD-885), and HMS ST. FRANCIS—the ex-WELLES (DD-257)—were congratulated by General William Westmoreland for their “judicious use of accurate naval gunfire” in a well coordinated and successful operation. She spent most of November through early January 1967 on the gun line. During that patrol, the HULL fought heavy seas as her crew coordinated six helicopters, a flare aircraft, and other rescue craft in the salvage of the tug SAM TAM and evacuation of six men from the vessel it was towing.
Early in 1968 the HULL steamed west with the PREBLE and JOUETT (DLG-29) and in February began shore bombardment near Nha Trang. Supporting units of the Third Marine Division around the DMZ, she came increasingly under fire from enemy coastal batteries, and in March, with the cruiser NEWPORT NEWS (CA-148) made a coordinated attack against the enemy’s offending guns. During one twenty-four hour period of shore bombardment, the “Hustlin’ HULL” fired over 300 rounds of 5-inch shells. Some days crewmen unloaded 100,000 pounds of shells and powder during a single replenishment. On 29 May she steamed to the aid of the HARWOOD (DD-861), which had taken a direct hit during a heavy enemy artillery barrage, and covered the ship as she moved out of range. On 15 June she fired the 25,000th round of her deployment, a feat unequaled by any other destroyer in a six-month cruise. Relieved two days later by the BLUE (DD-744) she headed for home.
By September 1969 she was back on the gun line, supporting U.S. Marines and Korean units in the Nha Trang area. Plane guard duty on Yankee Station with the CONSTELLATION (CVA-64) in 1969, a return to the Tonkin Gulf with the MANSFIELD (DD-728) and OSBORNE (DD-846) in 1970, and a stint of search and rescue duty with the STERETT (DLG-31) ended her Vietnam tour. She was relieved by the DEHAVEN (DD-727) and proceeded to Okinawa with the CORAL SEA (CVS-43), HOLLISTER (DD-788), and TUCKER (DD-875) before returning to San Diego. In 1971 the veteran destroyer returned to the gun line and plane guarding on Yankee Station. During her 1972 Vietnam deployment, she engaged in gunfire support, Linebacker raids, and surveillance operations.
Beginning her eleventh WESTPAC deployment in July 1973, she traveled with the GRAY (DE-1054), and MCCORMICK (DDG-8). Escort duty in the Gulf of Tonkin was followed by a month of excellent typhoon evasion experience. On her return home with the ROARK (DE-1053), the HULL picked up three survivors from the tugboat MARPOLE, sunk by rough seas. In 1974 the HULL gained the distinction of having the “biggest navy gun in the world” when she became the test ship for the 8-inch 55-caliber light-weight gun. The navy’s most heavily armed “all gun” destroyer left for the Far East on 31 July 1976. Joined by the TOWERS (DDG-9), the HULL steamed for Taiwan. She participated in exercises with the Republic of China Navy and other exercises in the Philippines.
The next three years included final tests on the 8-inch gun and eventual removal of the big gun, which was abandoned by the navy. Rearmed with three 5-inch, 54-caliber semiautomatic guns, two triple-tube antisubmarine torpedo mounts, and two 50-caliber machine guns the HULL headed for the Far East in 1981 with the BAINBRIDGE (DLGN-5), HENRY B. WILSON (DDG-7), and HEPBURN (FF-1055) for operations with the Japanese and South Korean navies. The HULL’s 1982 WESTPAC deployment was her fifteenth and last. Under the watchful eyes of Soviet ships and aircraft, she operated in the Sea of Japan with the MIDWAY (CVB-41) and REEVES (DLG-24). En route to Singapore in October, she rescued five Vietnamese boys adrift in a battered fishing boat. On 11 July 1983, the navy’s last Pacific Fleet destroyer armed only with guns was decommissioned at San Diego. The MULLINNIX (DD-944), the last all-gun destroyer in the Atlantic Fleet retired a month later. The HULL was struck from the navy’s list on 15 November 1983 and later sunk as a target.