Gulf of Tonkin, Last Voyage

My name is Tracy Birch, and I had the pleasure to serve aboard the USS Turner Joy as my first ship out of Naval Training School in Chicago, IL (my hometown also). I reported aboard in April 1981, and was immediately put to work as an Electricians Mate Fireman Apprentice (E2). Our first tasks were passing the OPPE (and subsequently OPPRE) and fire control testing in order to deploy on our Westpac ’81.

I have fond memories of being aboard her, although I was only 18 when reporting aboard. After weeks and weeks of engineering testing, and retesting, we finally departed on what would be the Turner Joys final voyage.

The story I would like to share happened (how ironically) in the Gulf of Tonkin. I believe it was a Sunday evening, as we were relaxing on the fantail. The ship was to identify a radar contact in the vicinity of us. As we passed the contact at a range of approximately 1500 yards, the contact shot a flare across the bow of the Turner Joy, sending us to General Quarters. I was on the fantail at the time, and when the alarm came, dashed down the nearest hatch (which was leading to the HT’s shop) and manned my GQ station (aft repair locker).

As we approached closer to the contact, the craft opened fire with 30mm machine gun fire, with one round penetrating at the officers’ wardroom. Even though I was below decks, the adrenaline was flowing.

We stayed at GQ til early morning, never firing a round back, although we were cruising with the USS Lynde McCormick, which also was fired upon.

It wasn’t until recently, that I learned about the historic background of the Turner Joy, and since have been studying the T.J.’s past. I hope that this story will give you a little insight as to the T.J.’s final voyage.