|The RICHMOND K. TURNER (DLG-20) was a guided-missile frigate—a “double-ender” with missiles at both ends and no guns for surface warfare—commissioned on 13 June 1964. Sailing from San Diego on 4 June 1965, she entered the Tonkin Gulf as missile support ship for the CORAL SEA (CVA-43), INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62), and ORISKANY (CVA-34) during air strikes against Vietnam. She later engaged in search and rescue missions in the Tonkin Gulf in which eight aviators were rescued.
She was at home in San Diego from December to October 1966 and then steamed west for her second Southeast Asian deployment. Operations along the West Coast and in Hawaii were followed in June 1968 by another tour off Vietnam. Duty as an antisubmarine warfare school ship occupied the TURNER until January 1970 when she returned to the Western Pacific and operations in the Sea of Japan and off the coast of Vietnam. She was back in San Diego in August 1970.
In 1971, she underwent modernization at the Bath Iron Works, in Bath, Maine, and spent much of 1972 in refresher training along the East Coast and in the Caribbean. In 1973 she operated with the FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CVA-42) off the Virginia Capes and in May headed for Cuba. En route, she rescued the two pilots from a downed plane. In the Chesapeake Bay in July, the TURNER’s crew aided a pleasure craft floundering in dangerously high seas. She finished out the year in Caribbean and South American waters with the TATTNALL (DDG-19), VESOLE (DD-878), CLAMAGORE (SS-343), R. A. OWENS (DD-827), and R. H. MCCARD (DD-822) in exercises with the Colombian, Peruvian, Brazilian, and Uruguayan navies.
After shifting her home port to Norfolk in February 1974, the TURNER operated along the East Coast and in the Caribbean where outstanding performance in missile and other weapons exercises earned her the Atlantic Fleet’s “Top Shooter” Award. In November 1974 she began her first Mediterranean deployment, operating with the VREELAND (DE-1068), SAMPSON (DDG-10), and VESOLE (DD-878), often under observation by Soviet ships and aircraft. In July 1975, the TURNER emerged from overhaul as guided missile cruiser CG-20. Following August operations off Puerto Rico, she deployed to Northern Europe with the ALBANY (CG-10) and FORREST SHERMAN (DD-931), and the oiler KALAMAZOO (AOR-6).
A cruise to Jacksonville, Florida, with the AMERICA (CV-66) and GLENNON (DD-840); exercises off Halifax, Nova Scotia; a Caribbean cruise with the DALE (CG-19), MACDONOUGH (DDG-39), JOSEPHUS DANIELS (CG-27), and WILLIAM H. STANDLEY (CG-32); and a deployment to the Mediterranean and Black Sea took her through 1977. In 1978, she changed home port to Charleston, South Carolina, underwent overhaul, and participated in weapons exercises in the Caribbean and fleet exercises in the Eastern Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. She deployed to the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas in 1979 and the next year went to Boston for OPSAIL 80 with the JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV-67), FARRAGUT (DDG-37), JOHN HANCOCK (DD-981), and GARCIA (FF-1040). In 1981 operations took her to Puerto Rico, the North Atlantic, and Baltic Sea. She spent 1982 undergoing an overhaul.
Following training exercises in the Caribbean with the INDEPENDENCE (CV-62), CARON (DD-970), and CLARK (FFG-11), the TURNER, INDEPENDENCE, MOOSBRUGGER (DD-980), and CARON were ordered to the island of Grenada in October 1983. The TURNER remained until 3 November providing surface interdiction and surveillance as well as escort services for the INDEPENDENCE. The four ships then went on to the Mediterranean in November and joined the multi-national peacekeeping force in Beirut, Lebanon. The TURNER returned home in April 1984. By August 1985 she was underway for NATO exercises and a Mediterranean deployment. Off Libya on 24 March 1986, she became the first U.S. ship to fire a Harpoon missile in combat when she apparently sank an enemy vessel that was firing on an F-14.
In September 1987 she began a six-month deployment with the Middle East Force, most of it spent in the Persian Gulf. Returning on 26 October, she crossed into the Gulf of Oman where everyone aboard became eligible for “Imminent Danger Pay.” The next day, the ship went to general quarters in the Strait of Hormuz, steaming at twenty-five knots to get out of the “Worm Hole” as soon as possible. At Sitrah, Bahrain, she became antiaircraft warfare commander for the Persian Gulf and through December, performed radar picket duty and screened American and NATO-flagged ships as well as minesweeping operations in the northern gulf. Regularly covered by American media, the ship became widely known as “America’s Battlecruiser” and her crew began receiving thousands of morale-boosting Christmas cards and letters. A visit by Bob Hope and his troupe also helped to boost spirits before the ship returned to the Persian Gulf on 27 December 1987.
The year 1988 began with participation in a study to determine the effects of fatigue caused by long periods at general quarters. On 11 February the crew spent a final six hours at general quarters while transiting the Strait of Hormuz on her way back to Charleston, ending a deployment of 181 days. Two months later she was in Pascagoula, Mississippi, for an overhaul that ended in August 1989. When Hurricane Hugo struck Charleston in September 1989, the TURNER was in port on her own power and maintained communications for the entire Charleston area. Her crew coordinated relief efforts, assisted navy and civilian families with food, water and other supplies, helped clear debris, and generally volunteered wherever needed.
In August 1990 the TURNER went on stand-by in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and by December, was headed for the Arabian Gulf. She arrived in January 1991 for Operation Desert Shield and, subsequently, Desert Storm. In addition to escorting the THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71), she performed anti-air picket duties off Kuwait, monitored aircraft activity over Iraq, Kuwait, and Iran, and controlled combat air patrol stations while maintaining a twenty-four hour mine watch. During her deployment, crew members answered over 10,000 letters from home, many of which were addressed to “Any Sailor.” Two months after the February 1991 cease fire, she left the Arabian Gulf for the Red Sea to organize an interdiction effort to enforce the U.N. sanctions against Iraq. In April she assisted in the massive relief effort for the Kurdish refugees and in June headed for home.
In the Caribbean in 1992, she entered the “war on drugs” to interdict drug traffic out of South America. She began her sixth Mediterranean deployment in March 1993 and joined the combined UN and NATO effort in the Adriatic to enforce sanctions in certain parts of the former Yugoslavia. Back home in August, she returned to drug traffic interdiction in the Caribbean.
The RICHMOND K. TURNER was decommissioned on 27 June 1995 and on 9 August 1998 was sunk by missiles and laser-guided bombs fired by ships and aircraft of the ENTERPRISE (CVN-65) Battle Group.