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Hull Number: DL-4

Call Sign: NCAA

Voice Call Sign: BLACK CATTLE

Other Designations: DD-929


Class: MITSCHER

MITSCHER Class


Namesake: WILLIS AUGUSTUS (CHING) LEE, JR.

WILLIS AUGUSTUS (CHING) LEE, JR.

Wikipedia (as of 2024)

Willis Augustus “Ching” Lee Jr. (May 11, 1888 – August 25, 1945) was a vice admiral of the United States Navy during World War II. Lee commanded the American ships during the second night of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (November 14–15, 1942) and turned back a Japanese invasion force headed for the island. The victory ended Japanese attempts to reinforce their troops on Guadalcanal, and thus marked a turning point in both the Guadalcanal Campaign and the Pacific War.

Lee was also a skilled sport shooter, and won seven medals in the 1920 Olympics shooting events, including five gold medals, tied with teammate Lloyd Spooner for the most anyone had ever received at a single Olympic Games. Their record stood for 60 years. He was the most successful athlete at the 1920 Olympics.[1]

The son of Judge Willis Augustus Lee and Susan Arnold, he was known as “Mose” Lee to family and friends.[2][3]

He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1904. While at the Naval academy, his Chinese-sounding last name, compounded by his fondness for the Far East earned him the moniker “Ching” Lee.[4] Among his classmates were several future admirals including: Harry A. BadtPaul H. BastedoJohn R. BeardallAbel T. BidwellJoseph J. BroshekArthur S. CarpenderJules JamesWalter K. KilpatrickJames L. KauffmanThomas C. KinkaidWilliam R. MunroeWilliam R. PurnellFrancis W. Rockwell, and John F. Shafroth Jr., and Richmond K. Turner.[5]

Following graduation, Lee joined the academy’s rifle team twice. He was assigned to the battleship Idaho from October 1908 to May 1909, before returning to the naval academy and re-joining the rifle team. From November 1909 until May 1910, Lee served aboard the protected cruiser New Orleans, and then transferred to the gunboat Helena. Upon being detached back to the United States, Lee re-joined the academy shooting team a third time. In July 1913, Lee re-joined Idaho, and in April 1914 he transferred to the battleship New Hampshire to participate in the occupation of Veracruz.[6]

During World War I, Lee served on the destroyers O’Brien and Lea.

Lee participated in 14 events at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. He won 7 medals (5 gold, 1 silver, and 1 bronze), all in team events.[7] His teammates for the various events were Dennis FentonLawrence NuessleinArthur RothrockOliver SchriverMorris FisherCarl OsburnLloyd Spooner, and Joseph Jackson.

Lee and Spooner ended the 1920 Olympics with 7 medals each, the most anyone had ever received in a single year’s games. Boris Shakhlin was the next person to reach 7, in 1960. It would not be until Alexander Dityatin in the 1980 games that anyone would beat the record.

Lee attended the Naval War College in the late 1920s,[7] and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1936.

During the 1930s and early 1940s, Lee was several times assigned to the Fleet Training Division, commanded the light cruiser Concord, and served on the staff of Commander, Cruisers, Battle Force. In early 1942, following his promotion to the rank of rear admiral, Lee became Assistant Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet.

Lee’s specialty in life was gunnery. At the age of 19 in 1907 “he became the only American to win both the US National High Power Rifle and Pistol championships in the same year.” In 1914 during the Veracruz campaign in Mexico he drew the fire of three enemy snipers, thereby exposing their positions and then shot them at long range.[4] He understood the powerful guns of a battleship as an extension of the law of ballistics and adapted his expertise to the new age of technology.[8] When Admiral Lee engaged the Japanese Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondō‘s battleship Kirishima on the evening of 14 November 1942 in the waters off Guadalcanal, he became naval history’s first battleship commander to conduct a “gunfight” primarily by radar remote control.[9]

In August 1942, Rear Admiral Lee was sent to the Pacific to command Battleship Division Six, consisting of the battleships Washington and South Dakota. Flying his flag in Washington, Lee engaged an Imperial Japanese Navy surface fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Kondō during the second night of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on the night of 14–15 November 1942. While riding in the battleship Washington, which served as his flagship during this sea fight, Lee’s battleship decisively shelled the battleship Kirishima into a wreck, resulting in her scuttling shortly afterwards. With 300 Imperial sailors still entombed within her hull, she slid into Ironbottom Sound,[10] leaving Admiral Lee’s flagship Washington the only American battleship during World War II to sink an enemy battleship in a “one on one” gunfight.[11]

Lee, who “knew more about radar than the radar operators”,[12] used the SG radar installed aboard Washington to skillfully maneuver his ships during the night.

To Willis Lee went many accolades. “Audacious planning and execution” marked his operations, commented Halsey… Unlike Callaghan, Lee never allowed the action to degenerate into a nautical brawl, because he formulated a workable plan and adhered to it, even after every ship in his task force except Washington was sunk or forced to retire. Lee was never more incisive than in his own evaluation of his success: “We realized then and it should not be forgotten now, that our entire superiority was due almost entirely to our possession of radar. Certainly we have no edge on the Japs in experience, skill, training, or performance of personnel.”

— Richard B. Frank, [13]

Lee was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions at the battle, promoted to vice admiral in 1944 and placed in charge of the Pacific Fleet‘s fast battleships, as Commander, Battleships, Pacific Fleet (ComBatPac).

In May 1945, he was sent to the Atlantic to command a special unit researching defenses against the threat of Japanese kamikaze aircraft, the Composite Task Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. While serving in that position on 25 August 1945, Vice Admiral Lee died suddenly after suffering a heart attack, ten days after the Surrender of Japan. He collapsed and died in a motor launch that was ferrying him out to his flagship, the gunnery training ship USS Wyoming (AG-17), in the harbor of Portland, Maine.[14] Lee was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[15]

Willis Lee Jr. was a distant relative of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and the third Attorney General of the United StatesCharles Lee.[16] He married Mabelle Allen Elspeth (1894–1949) on July 14, 1919. They had no children. Willis’ father, Judge Willis Augustus Lee Sr., was one of fourteen children of Nathaniel Wiley Lee (aka Nat Lee, founder of Natlee) and Frances Abbott, of Owen County, Kentucky. While in the Pacific theater, Lee unofficially adopted two Korean children in Vietnam after the children’s family requested that Lee take the children to the United States.[17]

His great-grandparents were early Kentucky settlers, Joseph R. Lee and Mary Wiley.[18] His grandfather Nathaniel W. Lee operated a distillery at his namesake village of Natlee. In 1893, Nat Lee’s sour mash whiskey was taken to the Chicago World’s Fair where it won the Gold Medal over 5000 other entries.[19]


Disposition:

Stricken 5/15/1972. She was sold to the Union Minerals and Alloys Corp., of New York City, and taken under tow for her final voyage on 6/5/1973. She was subsequently scrapped.


A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History

USS WILLIS A. LEE DL-4

The Tin Can Sailor, October 2007

The MITSCHER-class destroyer USS WILLIS A. LEE was laid down as DD-929 on 1 November 1949 by the Quincy, Massachusetts Shipbuilding Division of the Bethlehem Steel Company, but was reclassified destroyer leader, DL-4, on 9 February 1951. She was launched on 26 January 1952 and commissioned at the Boston Naval Shipyard on 5 October 1954. Following shakedown, the LEE operated out of Newport, Rhode Island, with the Atlantic Fleet. In July 1955, she became the first ship of her type to operate with the Sixth Fleet.

The LEE was reclassified as a frigate in February 1956 and, shortly thereafter, sailed south to the Dominican Republic where she represented the United States in American Day festivities at Cindad Trujillo. By November she was home and engaged in antisubmarine warfare exercises when she answered the call of the distressed fishing vessel AGDA off Montauk Point, Long Island. Her crew fought and extinguished a blazing oil fire saving several lives.

In February 1957, the ship carried King Ibn Saud, of Saudi Arabia, to New York City for an official visit. Later that spring, while on exercises in the North Atlantic, she became a “movie star” in the cinerama production, Windjammer. Highlighting that summer was the International Naval Review at Hampton Roads, Virginia, followed by a large combined NATO fleet exercise in the North Atlantic in the fall. During those maneuvers, the LEE crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time on 20 September 1957.

Two more Mediterranean deployments and local operations out of Newport, in the Caribbean, and off the Florida coast took her into the summer of 1959 and Operation Inland Sea. As Task Force 47 flagship, she transited the newly opened St. Lawrence Seaway through the Great Lakes, visiting Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Erie, and Cleveland. That autumn, she resumed her schedule of maneuvers and exercises in the North Atlantic.

In February 1960, with the Commander, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet, embarked, the LEE conducted an inspection cruise of Atlantic Fleet ports and installations in San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; and Cindad Trujillo. The warship subsequently took part in Operation Springboard, in the Caribbean. Subsequent operations included a midshipmen’s training cruise, fleet exercises, visits to Montreal and New York City , and refueling-at-sea and replenishment exercises as part of LANTFLEX (Atlantic Fleet Exercise).

The LEE then participated in Operation Sword Thrust, a NATO fleet exercise in the North Atlantic with more than 60 British, French, Norwegian, Canadian, and American warships. While carrying out simulated attacks on the European continent during the course of the maneuvers, the LEE again crossed the Arctic Circle. She returned to Newport and, in November 1960, entered the Boston Naval Shipyard for her Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) overhaul.

During her FRAM overhaul, the ship underwent significant changes, and when she left the yard almost a year later, she displayed a distinctly altered silhouette. She had a helicopter hangar in place of the after 3-inch twin-gun mount to accommodate the DASH helicopter system. She also had received topside antisubmarine torpedo armament. Her two Weapon Alfa mounts had been removed. Chief among the new equipment installed in the ship was a bow-mounted sonar dome, using revolutionary new concepts in underwater sound-ranging.

Shortly after emerging from the shipyard in September 1960, the LEE was called to a rescue operation, embarking the crew from the storm-endangered Texas Tower No. 2, off the coast of Massachusetts. She then stood guard over the early-warning tower, holding her own against Hurricane Esther to remain in the vicinity of the abandoned Texas Tower.

Over the next two years, the destroyer was involved in sonar evaluations of her bow-mounted system. She ranged from the mid Atlantic to the Caribbean, frequently operating with submarines and, upon occasion, visiting Bermuda. Her normal routine was interrupted in the fall of 1962 when the United States and Soviet Russia stood at the brink of a possible nuclear
confrontation over the issue of Soviet missiles in Cuba. She took her place in the blockading force for 10 days in the Caribbean until President Kennedy called off the operation.

After spending January and February 1963 at the Boston Naval Shipyard for alterations and improvements to the experimental sonar system, she proceeded to the waters off Haiti in March. She left her sonar evaluation duties for a brief in-port visit to Port-au-Prince during the troubled political situation there. That summer, the LEE was attached to Destroyer Development Group (DesDevGru) 2, a group of ships engaged in experimental work of various kinds, and finished out 1963 in the Boston Naval Shipyard undergoing extensive boiler repairs.

Repairs complete in April 1964, she got underway in May for training and further sonar evaluations before she participated in Exercise Steel Pike, the largest peacetime amphibiousexercise in history. During those maneuvers, she served as the flagship for Rear Admiral Mason Freeman, Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 2. Continued sonar testing operations took her to Key West and the Bahamas, followed by operations off the Virginia Capes and in the Narragansett Bay area. She was deployed to the Mediterranean for the fourth and last time in November 1966, returning to Newport in May 1967 for a period of routine operations.

Placed out of commission in December 1969, the WILLIS A. LEE was struck from the navy’s list on 15 May 1972. She was sold to the Union Minerals and Alloys Corp. of New York City and taken under tow for her final voyage on 5 June 1973. She was subsequently scrapped.

USS WILLIS A. LEE DL-4 Ship History

Wikipedia (as of 2024)

USS Willis A. Lee (DD-929) was a Mitscher-class destroyer in the United States Navy. She was named for Vice Admiral Willis A. “Ching” Lee USN (1888–1945).

Willis A. Lee was laid down by the Shipbuilding Division of the Bethlehem Steel Company at Quincy in Massachusetts on 1 November 1949, reclassified as a destroyer leader and designated DL-4 on 9 February 1951, launched on 26 January 1952 by Mrs. Fitzhugh L. Palmer, Jr., niece of Vice Admiral Lee and commissioned at the Boston Naval Shipyard on 5 October 1954.

Willis A. Lee participated in quarantine operations during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. Willis A. Lee was decommissioned on 19 December 1969, stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 15 May 1972 and sold for scrap to the Union Minerals and Alloys Corporation of New York City on 18 May 1973.

Following her shakedown at Guantánamo BayWillis A. Lee returned to her homeport, Newport, R.I., and began a career of operations with the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. She was deployed to the Mediterranean for the first time in July 1955, cruising with the 6th Fleet—the first ship of her type to operate with that force. Upon the conclusion of her first tour with the 6th Fleet later that year, Willis A. Lee returned to the east coast and operated off the eastern seaboard in air defense exercises.

In February 1956, Willis A. Lee — reclassified as a frigate in 1955 — sailed southward to the Dominican Republic, where she represented the United States in American Day festivities at Ciudad Trujillo, the capital city of that West Indian nation. She was driven onto rocks at JamestownRhode Island, in a storm on 18 March 1956.[1] The frigate then spent considerable time at the Boston Naval Shipyard on Boston, Massachusetts, before resuming active operations. In November 1956, while participating in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) exercises, Willis A. Lee assisted the distressed fishing vessel, Agda, off Montauk PointLong Island, fighting and extinguishing a blazing oil fire and thus saving several lives.

In February 1957, the ship carried King Ibn Saud, of Saudi Arabia, to New York City during his official visit to the United States. Later that month, she sailed to Washington, D.C., to participate in ceremonies honoring the birthday of George Washington. That spring, Willis A. Lee played “movie star”, when she was filmed by the Louis de Rochemont studios for a part in the cinerama production, “Windjammer”, while she operated on ASW exercises in the North Atlantic. She subsequently participated in the International Naval Review held that summer at Hampton Roads, Virginia, before becoming part of a large combined NATO fleet that conducted intensive ASW and air defense exercises in the North Atlantic that autumn. During those maneuvers, Willis A. Lee crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time on 20 September.

Over the next two years, Willis A. Lee was twice deployed to the Mediterranean for operations with the 6th Fleet, separating those tours with local operations out of Newport and in the Caribbean and off the coast of Florida, primarily on ASW and air defense exercises. In the summer of 1959, she participated in Operation “Inland Sea” as flagship for Rear Admiral E. B. Taylor, Commander, Task Force 47, on a cruise on the Great Lakes. During that historic voyage, she transited the newly opened St. Lawrence Seaway and visited the ports of Chicago, Illinois; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Cleveland, Ohio. That autumn, Willis A. Lee returned to her schedule of maneuvers and exercises in the North Atlantic.

Willis A. Lee, with Commander, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet, embarked, conducted an inspection cruise — commencing in February 1960 — of Atlantic Fleet ports and installations that took the ship to San JuanPuerto RicoSt. Thomas, Virgin Islands; and Ciudad Trujillo. Upon the conclusion of that cruise, the warship took part in Operation “Springboard”, an annual exercise in the Caribbean.

In the summer of 1960, Willis A. Lee conducted a midshipmen’s training cruise while participating in more fleet exercises. She subsequently visited Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and New York City before she took part in various refueling-at-sea and replenishment exercises as part of LANTFLEX (Atlantic Fleet Exercise) 2-60.

After a brief trip to Charleston, S.C., in August, Willis A. Lee participated in Operation “Sword Thrust,” a NATO fleet exercise in the North Atlantic which combined the efforts of more than 60 British, French, Norwegian, Canadian, and American warships. While carrying out simulated attacks on the European continent during the course of the maneuvers, Willis A. Lee again crossed the Arctic Circle. After calling at Le Havre, France, Willis A. Lee returned to Newport. In November, she entered the Boston Naval Shipyard for an extensive overhaul, part of the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) program.

During her FRAM overhaul, Willis A. Lee was altered significantly to enable her to perform her designed role more efficiently. When she finally left the yard almost a year later, she displayed a distinctly altered silhouette. She then had a helicopter hangar in place of the after 3-inch twin gun mount to accommodate the Gyrodyne QH-50 DASH helicopter system. She had also received topside antisubmarine torpedo armament. Her two “Weapon Alfa” mounts had been removed. Chief among the new equipment installed in the ship was a bow-mounted sonar dome, utilizing revolutionary new concepts in underwater sound-ranging.

Emerging from the shipyard in September 1961, Willis A. Lee participated in a rescue operation soon thereafter, embarking the crew from the storm-endangered Texas Tower No. 2, off the coast of MassachusettsWillis A. Lee then stood guard over the early warning tower, fighting off Hurricane “Esther” as she remained in the vicinity of the abandoned “Texas Tower.”

Willis A. Lee spent much of her ensuing career involved in sonar evaluations of her bow-mounted system. She ranged from the mid-Atlantic to the Caribbean, frequently operating with submarines, and upon occasion visited Bermuda. There were highlights, though, of that normally routine duty, such as in the autumn of 1962 when the United States and the Soviet Union stood at the brink of a possible nuclear confrontation over the issue of Soviet missiles in CubaWillis A. Lee operated on the Cuban “quarantine line” for 10 days, deploying in the Caribbean until President Kennedy called off the operation. She then resumed her sonar evaluations.

After spending January and February 1963 at the Boston Naval Shipyard for more alterations and improvements on the experimental sonar system, Willis A. Lee operated in Haitian waters during March, conducting further sonar evaluations. She varied that duty with a brief in-port visit at Port-au-Prince during the troubled political situation there at that time.

That summer, Willis A. Lee was attached to Destroyer Development Group (DesDevGru) 2, a group of ships engaged in experimental work of various kinds, and finished out the year 1963 in the Boston Naval Shipyard undergoing extensive boiler repairs.

With the exception of two brief trips to Newport, Willis A. Lee remained at the Boston Naval Shipyard until 29 April 1964, when she returned to her home port to prepare for a southern cruise. Underway on 6 May for type training in Guantánamo Bay, the frigate conducted further sonar evaluations later that month en route back to Newport before returning to her home port on 26 May. Willis A. Lee subsequently conducted three more evaluation cruises before she participated in Exercise “Steel Pike,” the largest peacetime amphibious exercise in history. During those maneuvers, Willis A. Lee served as the flagship for Rear Admiral Mason Freeman, Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 2. To then round out the year, the frigate conducted another sonar evaluation cruise, calling twice at Key West during the voyage. She returned north on 11 December and spent the remainder of the year under restricted availability at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, East Boston, Mass.

Willis A. Lee resumed sonar testing operations in 1965 and operated twice in the Bahamas area. She subsequently conducted type training off the Virginia capes and in the Narragansett Bay area before arriving at the Boston Naval Shipyard on 30 June to commence a lengthy overhaul to her engineering plant and modifications to her sonar system.

For the remainder of her career, Willis A. Lee continued in her routine of sonar development and testing, home-ported out of Newport with occasional periods of yard repairs at Boston. During her final years, the frigate operated off the Virginia capes, in the Caribbean, and Narragansett Bay areas, and was deployed to the Mediterranean November 1966. She returned to Newport on 20 May 1967, thus completing her first extended deployment since 1961. She was deployed again to the Mediterranean January 1968, returning to Newport in May of that year. In August 1968, she was deployed to the Red Sea as the flagship for COMMIDEASTFOR. However, what was to be a 10-month deployment was cut short when she developed propulsion problems while in transit off the coast of Brazil. After undergoing two weeks of repair in Recife, Brazil, she was relieved by USS Luce (DLG-7), and returned to Newport. In January 1969, she transited from Newport to the Boston Naval Shipyard via the Cape Cod Canal for what was to be her final overhaul prior to decommissioning later that year.

Placed out of commission in December 1969, Willis A. Lee was struck from the Navy list on 15 May 1972. She was sold to the Union Minerals and Alloys Corporation, of New York City, and taken under tow for her final voyage on 5 June 1973. She was subsequently scrapped.

Awards