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Hull Number: DDG-76

Launch Date: 10/04/1997

Commissioned Date: 04/24/1999

Call Sign: NMEG





Wikipedia (as of 2024)

William Richard Higgins (January 15, 1945 – died July 31, 1989; declared dead July 6, 1990) was a United States Marine Corps colonel who was captured in Lebanon in 1988 while serving on a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission. He was held hostage, tortured[1] and eventually murdered by his captors.[2][3]

William Higgins was born in Danville, Kentucky, on January 15, 1945. He graduated from Southern High School in Louisville and earned his bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. A scholarship student in the Navy ROTC, he received the Marine Corps Association Award and was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1967. He later obtained master’s degrees from Pepperdine University and Auburn University. He graduated from the Army Infantry Officers Advanced Course, the Air Force Command and Staff College, and the National War College.

As a lieutenant, he participated in combat operations during 1968 in the Republic of Vietnam as a rifle company platoon commander and executive officer with C Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment3rd Marine Division. He also was aide-de-camp to the Assistant Commander of the 3rd Marine Division.

Returning to the States, Lt. Higgins served at Headquarters Marine Corps in 1969. In 1970, he served as the Officer-in-Charge of the Officer Selection Team in Louisville, Kentucky.

He returned to Vietnam in 1972, serving as an infantry battalion advisor to the Vietnamese Marine Division. In 1973, he served as a rifle company commander with B Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, in Vietnam.

From 1973 to 1977, Captain Higgins served at the Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy and Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia.

Returning to the Fleet Marine Force in 1977, Capt. Higgins was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he again served as a rifle company commander with A Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. Upon promotion to major, he was reassigned as the Logistics Officer for Regimental Landing Team 24th Marine Amphibious Brigade.

After completion of the Air Force Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base in 1980, designated a distinguished graduate, Higgins returned to Washington, D.C., where he served at Headquarters as a Plans Officer until his selection to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

During 1981 and 1982, he served as Military Assistant to the Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, then as Assistant for Interagency Matters to the Executive Secretary for the Department of Defense. After graduation from the National War College in 1985, he returned to the Pentagon as the Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, where he served until he was transferred to his United Nations assignment in July 1987. He was promoted to colonel on March 1, 1989, while in captivity.

In 1982 the situation started to become more chaotic and violent.[4][5][6] Just three years before the kidnapping of Higgins, another retired American lieutenant colonel working for the CIA had been kidnapped, tortured, and murdered.[7][8] This situation essentially repeated itself with Higgins, and on February 17, 1988, he disappeared while serving as the Chief, Observer Group Lebanon and Senior Military Observer, United Nations Military Observer Group, United Nations Truce Supervision Organization.[9] He was driving alone on the coastal highway between Tyre and Naqoura in southern Lebanon, returning from a meeting with a local leader of the Amal movement, when a car blocked the road in front of him and forcing him to stop,[10] after which he was pulled from his vehicle by armed men suspected of being affiliated with Hezbollah.[1][11][12]

As a reaction to his abduction, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 618, demanding his release.[13][14]

During his captivity, he was interrogated and tortured.[1][15][16] On April 21, 1988, a public statement in Arabic, along with black-and-white pictures of a disheveled and scruffy Higgins, was sent by the terrorists to the news agency Reuters in which they proclaimed that Higgins was a war criminal and would be tried by a “tribunal of the oppressed”; the kidnappers who claimed responsibility for Higgins’ capture claimed to form part of a Shia Muslim terrorist organization called “The Organization of the Oppressed on Earth”, which was in reality a pro-Iranian wing of Hezbollah.[16] Higgins was eventually charged with “spying for the criminal United States on our Lebanese and Palestinian peoples” plus having an “active participation in American conspiracies against our Muslim people”. Higgins, the statement went on to elaborate, worked in Lebanon supervising a “Pentagon team to combat Lebanese and Palestinian Islamic organizations in Palestine and Lebanon”. The accusations were rejected by American governmental officials as “nonsense” after noting how he had not even been working on behalf of the United States government, but for the United Nations and on a peacekeeping mission.[16]

After his kidnapping, rumors and unconfirmed reports about Higgins’ death began to circulate. For instance, on April 18, 1988, a Lebanese radio news outlet named Voice of Lebanon and controlled by Maronite Christian (and thus, unlikely to be influenced by Muslim extremists), claimed that Higgins had died in southern Lebanon in the crossfire of an armed clash between pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian militias as both Syria and Iran fought a proxy war on Lebanon for control of said country;[16] additionally, sources from the United Nations in the region claimed that Higgins had died under torture after he had tried to escape.[17]

On 31 July 1989, the group announced that it had executed Higgins by hanging, and publicly released a videotape of the murder along with a statement calling the graphic footage “an opening gift” for Israel and the United States.[18][19] This was in retaliation for the abduction of Hezbollah leader Sheik Abdul Karim Obeid by Israeli commandos in South Lebanon, 27 July 1989,[20] during which two other people accompanying Obeid also were taken and a neighbour killed.[18] The operation had been planned by Israel’s then Minister of Defence, Yitzhak Rabin.[21]

The footage showed images of his body, hanging by the neck as he slowly suffocated to death,[18] and were televised around the world.[16] FBI experts analyzed the footage and concluded the body hanged was indeed Colonel Higgins.[22] The video was also examined by Israeli security services, who raised doubts about its authenticity. Among other things, Higgins is seen in the video wearing a coat and winter clothes, which does not match the summer weather in July in Lebanon. Afterwards, with the return of his body to the Americans, knife cuts were discovered in his throat – which was likely the cause of death. According to the researchers who examined all the evidence, Higgins was murdered in December 1988.[23][24][25]

Higgins was eventually declared dead on July 6, 1990, and his remains recovered on December 23, 1991, by Major Jens Nielsen of the Royal Danish Army, who was attached to the United Nations Observation Group in Beirut.[23][26] The remains were found in an advanced state of decomposition[27] beside a mosque near a south Beirut hospital;[28] however, the body had been buried for several months prior. After Higgins was murdered, his kidnappers had buried the body then dug it out almost a year later with their public statements.[17] Once recovered, Colonel Higgins’ body was flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where it was conclusively identified[24] and then he was interred at Quantico National Cemetery, Triangle, Virginia, on December 30, 1991.[29] A memorial and religious service for Higgins had previously been held in November, 1989 at Louisville’s Southern High School, from which Higgins had graduated in 1963.[24]

On February 16, 1992, Israeli troops assassinated Hezbollah leader Abbas al-Musawi.[30] Hezbollah responded one month later by attacking the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, killing 29 people.

In 1999, Higgins’ widow filed a civil suit against Iran as the main sponsor of Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard in United States Federal district court. The court ruled in her favor and issued a default judgement ordering the defendants, including the Islamic Republic Iran, to pay over $55 million in compensatory damages, the court further ordered an additional $300 million in punitive damages be paid by the Revolutionary Guard.[31] Any compensatory amounts recovered were shared among family members, attorneys’ fees, and a non-profit organization. The punitive amounts are considered to be unrecoverable.[citation needed]

USS HIGGINS DDG-76 Ship History

Wikipedia (as of 2024)

USS Higgins (DDG-76) is a United States Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (Flight II). Higgins is the 26th ship of her class, and the 15th of the class to be built by Bath Iron Works of Bath, Maine. Construction began on 14 November 1996 and she was launched and christened on 4 October 1997. She was commissioned at a ceremony in Port Everglades, Florida on 24 April 1999. She is part of Destroyer Squadron 15 within the Seventh Fleet, and is homeported at United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka in Yokosuka, Japan.

Higgins was built by Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. The ship was christened on 1 October 1997 by the wife of Colonel Higgins, Lieutenant Colonel Robin L. Higgins, USMC (retired), who is also the ship’s sponsor. “In the name of all that is good and right in the world – Semper Fi – Always Faithful – I christen thee HIGGINS”.

On 16 August 1999, Higgins conducted Spotter Services off San Clemente Island. The following day, Higgins shot her first FIREX and earned an amazing 105.92, the highest score on the range that year and the highest in DDG history. Higgins score later proved enough to win the Chezek Award for Excellence in Naval Gunnery (the “Top Gun” award), which Vice Admiral Edward Moore Jr. presented to the crew in October. [4]

After a port visit in Hong Kong during her maiden deployment, Higgins was the first ship off the coast for the Hainan Island incident that occurred on 1 April 2001, when a United States Navy EP-3E ARIES II signals intelligence aircraft and a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) J-8II interceptor fighter jet collided in mid-air, resulting in an international dispute between the United States and the People’s Republic of China on her maiden deployment.

Upon returning to San Diego in April 2004, Higgins completed a safe and efficient ordnance offload and fuel transfer and headed into a nine week Selected Restricted Availability. This time in the shipyard enhanced Higgins capabilities including the installation of the Tactical Tomahawk weapons system, the refurbishment of the Mk 45/5-inch Lightweight Gun Mount and Mk 41 Vertical Launch systems, and an enhanced Combat Systems suite.[5] December 2004 marked the beginning of a busy upcoming year for Higgins. She became a member of the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, in the company of Nimitz, the cruiser Princeton, the destroyer Chafee, and the submarine Louisville. In the three-week Composite Unit Exercise that followed, Higgins stood out in all mission areas and, along with the other ships in the Nimitz Strike Group, was now certified “surge ready” to deploy.[5]

In February 2005, the ship conducted the Congressionally-mandated inspection by the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). This complete material assessment of the ship was successfully completed and was highlighted by a one-day underway demonstration which showcased Higgins high levels of combat readiness with near-perfect grades in nearly every category.[5] The next pre-deployment milestone consisted of Higgins ordnance onload at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. Once the ship was outfitted with her deployment load of ammunition, Higgins was once again underway with the Nimitz Strike Group in March for a Joint Task Force Exercise. Coincident with that two-week exercise, Higgins sent three teams to the recently instituted Non-Compliant Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure school and, as a result, became one of the first ships to deploy to the Fifth Fleet AOR with an organic non-compliant boarding capability, greatly enhancing her effectiveness in waging the Global War on Terrorism.[5]

With only thirteen months since the previous deployment, Higgins commenced a second deployment on 6 May 2005 in company with the Nimitz Strike Group. A brief stop at the North Island Naval Weapons Station provided Higgins with several new combat capabilities, particularly the new Tactical Tomahawk Cruise Missiles and the High Explosive Electronically Timed (HE-ET) and Kinetic Energy Electronically Timed (KE-ET) 5-inch projectiles. While the TACTOM missiles significantly enhance Higgins Strike warfare capabilities, the HE-ET and KE-ET rounds provide the ship more capable defense against an asymmetric surface threat.[5]

In the second half of January 2006, Higgins conducted Mobility-Navigation and Seamanship (MOB-N and MOB-S) training while transiting to Puerto Vallarta for a three-day port visit. February and March saw various phases of the pre-deployment training cycle, including exercises or assessments in Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection, Engineering, Combat Systems Training Team capabilities, Supply and Medical Readiness, Damage Control, and Search and Rescue.[5] In April 2006, Higgins offloaded ammo in Seal Beach and completed a Mobility-Engineering (MOB-E) assessment in preparation for the ensuing Selected Restricted Availability (SRA) period, which brought with it many equipment upgrades that enhanced Higgins warfare capabilities.[5] In August 2006, Higgins returned to Naval Station San Diego from the shipyard and kicked off the pre-deployment “workups”, which included various inport scenarios involving Damage Control, Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS), Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), Undersea Warfare (USW), and Strike Warfare (STW). Later in the month, Higgins returned to Seal Beach to take on weapons required for the following year’s deployment.[5]

The ship performed logistical support for United States Coast Guard helicopters undergoing relief operations for the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[6]

On 14 April 2018, she fired 23 Tomahawk missiles from a position in the north Persian Gulf as part of a bombing campaign in retaliation for the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against people in Douma.[7] On 27 May 2018, she, alongside the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam patrolled the 12-nautical-mile (22 km; 14 mi) zone surrounding the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, which Vietnam has claimed as its territory, in an act to ensure freedom of navigation. Some[who?] say the patrol was in response to the deployment of H6-K bombers by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. That act was considered by the Pentagon to be an act of aggression, leading to rising tensions in the area.[8]

On August 16, 2021, Higgins arrived in United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka as her new homeport and part of DESRON 15. [9]

On 20 September 2022, Higgins, alongside the Canadian frigate HMCS Vancouver transited the Taiwan Strait.[10]