USS Turner Joy (DD 951) Timeline
- Class: Forrest Sherman Destroyer
- Builder: Puget Sound Bridge & Dredging Company, Seattle, Washington
- Awarded: January 27, 1956
- Keel laid: September 30, 1957
- Launched: May 5, 1958
- Commissioned: August 3, 1959
- Decommissioned: November 22, 1982
USS Turner Joy (DD 951) Technical Specs
- Length: 418.3 feet (127.5 meters)
- Beam: 45.3 feet (13.8 meters)
- Draft: 22 feet (6.7 meters)
- Displacement: 2,800 tons; 4,050 tons full load
- Propulsion system: four-1200 lb. boilers; two steam turbines; two shafts.
- Propellers: two
- Speed: 32+ knots
- Armament: Three 5-inch/54 caliber guns and two Mark 32 torpedo launchers that carry 3 Mark 46 torpedoes each.
- Aircraft: none
- Crew: 17 officers, 275 enlisted
The History & Story
Turner Joy (DD-951) was laid down on 30 September 1957 at Seattle, Wash., by the Puget Sound Bridge & Dredging Co.; launched on 5 May 1958; sponsored by Mrs. C. Turner Joy; and commissioned on 3 August 1959, Comdr. Ralph S. Wentworth, Jr. in command.
Following a pre-shakedown goodwill cruise to Central and South American ports and shakedown out of San Diego, Turner Joy began, early in 1960, duty as flagship both of Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 13 and Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 131. Based at Long Beach, Calif., she formed part of an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) task group built around Hornet (CVS-12). She conducted exercises along the California coast until 17 May when she sailed with the task group for the Western Pacific.
After stops at Pearl Harbor and Apra, Guam, she stood air-sea rescue duty near the Marianas for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s flight to visit several Asian nations. After returning to Apra briefly, the destroyer moved via the Philippines to Bangkok, Thailand. Turner Joy crossed the President’s path once more in July when the Red Chinese used the latter’s visit to Nationalist Chinese Taiwan as a pretext for shelling the tiny islands, Quemoy and Matsu. A tense month of duty with the Taiwan Strait patrol followed as the United States Navy demonstrated America’s support for one of her allies. In mid-August, the warship moved north for exercises with 7th Fleet carriers along the coast of Japan. That duty rounded out her first Western Pacific deployment, and the destroyer got underway for Yokosuka, Japan, and headed home.
Turner Joy returned to Long Beach on 16 November. Over the next 18 months, she completed an extensive overhaul and participated in numerous 1st Fleet exercises along the California coast. In October 1961, the destroyer was transferred to DesDiv 191 of DesRon 19 and assumed duty as flagship for both. On 2 June 1962, she stood out of Long Beach with an ASW task group built around Hornet (CVS 12). On her way to the Far East, the warship participated in exercises with Amphibious Squadron 5 in the Hawaiian Islands. Later, she joined the screen of Hancock (CVA-19), operating off the southern coast of Honshu, Japan. Her second deployment to the Orient was characterized by a series of exercises with ships of the 7th Fleet and of Allied navies. Areas of operations included the Sea of Japan, the Pacific east of Japan, and the South China Sea. After a final series of drills conducted with Bonhomme Richard (CVA -31), the destroyer completed that tour of duty at Yokosuka, Japan, early in December. On the 7th, she headed back to the United States where she arrived on the 21st. The ensuing 14 months brought another overhaul as well as further 1st Fleet exercises in the waters along the west coast. Those evolutions continued into 1964, and, in March the destroyer began preparations for overseas movement.
On 13 March 1964, Turner Joy departed Long Beach to embark upon her most celebrated tour of duty in the Far East. The third Western Pacific deployment of her career began routinely enough. After calling at Pearl Harbor on her way West, the destroyer joined a task group built around Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) for operations in the Philippine Sea, followed by a cruise through the South China Sea to Japan. Further training operations and port visits ensued, As the deployment continued peacefully. During late July, Turner Joy, while attached to a carrier task group built around Ticonderoga (CVA-14), began making “watch dog” patrols off the coast of Vietnam where a vicious civil war had been raging at varying levels of intensity since the end of World War II. In the afternoon of 2 August Maddox (DD- 731), engaged in a similar patrol, called for assistance when three North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats attacked her. As Maddox evaded the torpedo boats, aircraft from Ticonderoga joined her in knocking out two of the hostile craft. Meanwhile, Turner Joy raced to Maddox to provide additional surface strength. By the time she reached Maddox, the remaining boat had fled; but Turner Joy remained with Maddox, and the two destroyers continued their patrols of the gulf.
Less than 48 hours later, Turner Joy’s radar screens picked up a number of what appeared to be small, high-speed surface craft approaching, but at extreme range. As a precaution, the two destroyers called upon Ticonderoga to furnish air support. By nightfall, the unidentified radar echoes suggested that North Vietnamese small craft were converging upon the two American warships from the west and south. Turner Joy reported that she sighted one, maybe two, torpedo wakes, then rang up full speed, maneuvered radically to evade expected torpedoes, and began firing in the direction of the unidentified blips. Over the next two and one-half hours, Turner Joy and planes from Ticonderoga fired at the supposed hostile craft. Reports claimed that at least two of those were sunk by direct hits and another pair severely damaged, and that the remaining assailants retired rapidly to the north. Whether or not the North Vietnamese attacked the two ships on the 4th remains a mystery. Only they know for sure. It could well have been that bad weather and the freakish radar conditions—for which the Gulf of Tonkin is famous—caused radar echoes to appear on Turner Joy’s screen and prompted her captain and crew to take defensive action in consideration of the events two days earlier.
In any event, the “Tonkin Gulf Incident” prompted American retaliation. Constellation (CVA-64) joined Ticonderoga off North Vietnam the following day; and, together, they launched 64 sorties against the bases from which the attacks had been launched and against an oil storage depot known to have been used to support those bases. Planes from Constellation hit the communist motor torpedo boat bases at Hongay and Loc Chao in the north while Ticonderoga aircraft went after three targets in the south: the motor torpedo boat bases at Quang Khe and Phuc Loi as well as the Vinh oil storage depot. At the last-named target, American planes set fire to 12 of the 14 oil storage tanks sending almost 10 percent of North Vietnam’s oil reserves up in smoke. Of more lasting significance both to the warship and the country, however, the incident prompted Congress to pass the Tonkin Gulf resolution, the legal foundation for the direct involvement of the United States in a bloody and costly war in Indochina for the ensuing eight and one-half years. Throughout that period, Turner Joy served repeatedly in the conflict.
Following the excitement of the first week in August, the destroyer resumed more routine operations in the South China Sea. She concluded her deployment when she reached Long Beach on 2 October—two months to the day since she had rushed to the aid of Maddox. The destroyer conducted normal operations out of Long Beach until 18 December when she entered the naval shipyard for a three-month overhaul. Late in March, she began refresher training out of San Diego. West coast operations occupied her until 10 July, when she departed Long Beach with DesBon 19, bound once again for duty in the Orient. At the end of a 21-day transit, Turner JOY joined Coral Sea (CVA-43) near the end of the month. During August and the first three weeks of September, the destroyer served both as an escort for the carrier and as a detached radar picket ship.
On 23 September, she moved into the Gulf of Thailand near the west coast of South Vietnam to participate in one of the earliest naval gunfire support missions conducted along that section of the coastline. After a brief respite in Subic Bay for upkeep, the warship returned to shore bombardment duty in October, this time along South Vietnam’s southeastern coast between Cape St. Jacques and Chu Lai. On the 25th, she provided callfire for American and South Vietnamese forces operating ashore in the vicinity of Chu Lai itself. During the mission, her guns destroyed a number of enemy positions and figured prominently in the repulse of a Viet Cong attack. Near the conclusion of that 24-hour action, a 5-inch round misfired; and, during the ensuing efforts to clear the chamber, the shell detonated. The explosion damaged the gun mount, killed three sailors, and wounded three more. That event forced her departure from the combat zone. After landing the three casualties at Danang, Turner Joy set course for Subic Bay in the Philippines. After a week of repairs, the destroyer departed Subic Bay in company with Ticonderoga (CVA-14) for screening duty in the South China Sea, followed by port calls at Hong Kong and at Yokosuka, Japan. At the end of the year, she returned to naval gunfire support duty off the coast of South Vietnam.
On 3 January 1966, the destroyer resumed plane guard duty with Ticonderoga in the South China Sea. The destroyer patrolled with the carrier on “Yankee Station” until the 14th when she headed, via Subic Bay for Long Beach. Turner Joy arrived home on 1 February and, two weeks later, began a month-long restricted availability. From the completion of her overhaul in March through the end of May, the destroyer remained in Long Beach engaged in upkeep, repairs, and in training the numerous replacements who had reported on board. On 11 June, she put to sea once again to conduct a midshipman training cruise, during which she visited Pearl Harbor, Seattle, and San Francisco. Turner Joy concluded that operation on 29 July when she disembarked the midshipmen at Long Beach. Later that summer, she again visited Seattle in conjunction with that city’s annual Seafair celebration. Additional training and upkeep at Long Beach followed and occupied her until the second week in October. At that time, she returned to sea to participate in fleet exercise “Baseline II,” after which she proceeded to Long Beach for a series of repairs in preparation for another tour of duty in the western Pacific. Turner Joy stood out of Long Beach on 18 November and—after visits to Pearl Harbor, Midway, and Guam—entered port at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on 11 December.
Turner Joy’s fourth deployment to the western Pacific brought her three tours of duty off the coast of Vietnam and concluded with a visit to Australia. On 15 December, she departed Kaohsiung and headed for the coastline of the II Corps area of South Vietnam. The destroyer reached her zone of operations on the 18th and, for the next month, conducted shore bombardments in support of American and South Vietnamese troops operating ashore. She concluded that assignment on 17 January 1967 and headed for the Philippines. After two weeks of availability at Subic Bay and a five-day liberty visit to Hong Kong, Turner Joy returned to the Vietnamese coast on 10 February. For almost a month, she delivered gunfire support for troops ashore, this time in the I Corps zone of South Vietnam. That duty ended on 3 March, and a nine-day tender availability alongside Jason (AR-8) in Sasebo, Japan, followed.
On 21 March, the destroyer resumed station off Vietnam. This time, however, off the coast of North Vietnam. Instead of supporting American and South Vietnamese troops directly through shore bombardments, she did so by interdicting enemy logistical efforts in Operation “Sea Dragon.” Though primarily directed at the enemy’s water-borne logistics, “Sea Dragon” also struck wherever possible at the enemy’s overland supply lines. During her 26 days on station engaged in “Sea Dragon” operations, Turner Joy fired on a number of shore targets in addition to an even larger number of enemy waterborne logistics craft.
On 7 April, while firing on some enemy craft beached near Cap Mui Ron, the destroyer came under the fire of a North Vietnamese shore battery. During that exchange, she suffered a direct hit on the fantail and a near-miss air burst above the forward mast. The hit astern penetrated the deck to the supply office, damaging records therein as well as pipes and cables in the overhead. Several rounds of 5-inch VT fragmentation projectiles in mount 53 ammunition stowage area also suffered damage and had to be discarded. Shrapnel from near misses wounded a member of Turner Jog’s repair party and peppered her bow while the air burst above the forward mast put her air-search radar out of service except for its IFF aspect. The damage, however, was not severe enough to curtail her tour of duty, and she remained on station until relieved by HMAS Hobart on 16 April.
Two days later, the destroyer arrived in Subic Bay and she entered drydock, soon thereafter, for repairs to her strut bearing, the bow, the peak tank, and her air search radar antenna. Concurrently with this yard work, she conducted a tender availability with Piedmont (AD-17) to prepare her for visits to Australia and New Zealand during the forthcoming celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. Repairs and availability completed, she stood out of Subic Bay on 24 April in company with McKean (DD784). En route to Melbourne, the two ships stopped at Manus in the Admiralty Islands and at Brisbane, Australia. The ship reached Melbourne on 8 May and, while she remained there until the 13th, her crew enjoyed Australian hospitality in the city and replied in kind on board. Between 13 and 17 May, she made a rough transit of the Tasman Sea and arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, on the latter date for the second phase of her Coral Sea celebration. She remained in Auckland until 22 May at which time she and McKean put to sea to return to the United States. After a stop at Pago Pago, American Samoa, the two ships rejoined Gridley (DIG-21) and Maddox on 26 May to reconstitute DesRon 19 for the voyage home. After a brief fueling stop at Pearl Harbor on 2 June, the warships arrived in Long Beach on the 8th.
Between June and September, Turner Joy went through a month of post deployment standdown followed by training operations in the waters off southern California. On 18 September, she arrived at Bremerton, Washington for a two-month shipyard availability at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. In mid-November, she returned to Long Beach and resumed operations along the California coast. That duty continued until late February 1968 when she entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for a restricted availability in preparation for her fifth deployment to the Far East.
Turner Joy stood out of Long Beach on 12 March and after stops at Oahu, Midway, and Guam arrived in Subic Bay on 4 April. Over the following five months the destroyer conducted operations along the coast of Vietnam similar to those performed during previous deployments. She delivered naval gunfire support for American and South Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam and conducted “Sea Dragon” patrols along the coast of North Vietnam to interdict enemy waterborne logistics traffic. Her tours of duty on the gunline took her to the I, II, and IV Corps areas of South Vietnam. As during previous deployments, she punctuated assignments in the combat zone with visits to Subic Bay and to Buckner Bay Okinawa, for fuel, supplies, and repairs, as well as to Kaohsiung, Taiwan and Hong Kong for rest and relaxation. She completed her last tour of duty of the deployment off the Vietnamese coast on 4 September and, after a brief tender availability at Subic Bay, headed homeward on 8 September. Retracing her outward bound voyage with stops at Guam, Midway, and Pearl Harbor, Turner Joy entered Long Beach on the 26th. Upon her return to the United States, the warship began preparations for her regular overhaul. She entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 28 November and remained there until late February 1969.
When post-overhaul trials ended on 15 March, the ship resumed normal operations out of Long Beach. During April and May, she participated in a 1st Fleet combined ASW/AAW exercise as a part of her refresher training. She completed those operations during the latter half of May and, after a brief availability alongside Brvee Canyon (AD-36), she embarked NROTC midshipmen on 5 June for the two-month 1969 summer training cruise. At the end of the cruise, Turner Joy debarked the midshipmen on 1 August and resumed training in the southern California operating area.
On 18 November, she got underway from Long Beach to return to the Orient. Following a four-day layover at Pearl Harbor and brief fuel stops at Midway and Guam, she arrived in Subic Bay on 11 December. After a five-day availability alongside Prairie (AD-15), the destroyer stood out of Subic Bay bound for Danang, South Vietnam, and gunfire support duty off the coast of the I Corps zone. By New Year’s Day 1970 she was on her way to “Yankee Station” to act as plane guard for Task Force (TF) 77 aircraft carriers. On 4 January she headed back to Subic Bay where she remained until the 18th. She completed another three-week tour on the gunline on 10 February and then shaped a course for Sasebo, Japan whence she operated until early in March. After a liberty call in Hong Kong Turner Joy returned to the Vietnamese coast and resumed gunfire support missions until early April. On 3 April she rendezvoused with Shangri La (CVA38) and then made port calls at Subic Bay and Bangkok, Thailand before embarking upon her final gunline assignment on 19 April. She returned to Subic Bay on 10 May for a final visit before heading back to the United States on the 17th.
The destroyer arrived back in Long Beach on 1 June and began a three-month restricted availability in the naval shipyard. She completed the availability early in October and began sea trials and training in the Southern California operating area. Early in December Turner Joy reentered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard to be readied for her redeployment to the Western Pacific.
On 26 January 1971, she stood out of Long Beach on her way to rejoin the 7th Fleet. She entered Subic Bay on 16 February and went into drydock for several days while both her propellers were replaced. On 5 March, she exited Subic Bay for a tour of naval gunfire support duty along the Vietnamese coast. That assignment, carried out along the I Corps zone coastline near Danang, ended on 2 April, and she headed for “Yankee Station” and two weeks of plane guard duty with the TF 77 aircraft carriers. Following a five-day port call at Subic Bay, Turner Joy took up position at “Yankee Station” again on 27 April, this time as escort for the PIRAZ (positive identification and radar advisory zone) ship. She performed that duty until 30 April, then, after three days evading a typhoon, she moved in close to the I Corps shoreline to resume gunfire support duties. On 14 May, the destroyer shaped a course for Subic Bay. Following a five-day gunfire exercise at the Tabones range, she departed the Philippines to make liberty visits to Bangkok, Thailand, and Hong Kong. In late June, she did another tour of duty on PIRAZ station and provided plane guard services to Kitty Hawk (CVA-63). A brief liberty call at Subic Bay followed, and then, on 30 June, she embarked upon a voyage to Australia and New Zealand. During July, she made visits to the Australian towns of Brisbane and Sydney as well as the New Zealand port, Auckland. On the 26th, Turner Joy got underway for home. She arrived back in Long Beach on 10 August and conducted normal post-deployment evolutions through the remainder of 1971.
In February 1972, the destroyer began an extensive overhaul. Over the ensuing six months, she received entirely new 5-inch 54-caliber gun mounts, and her propulsion plant underwent conversion to enable it to burn Navy distillate fuel. Extensive other modifications, installations, and renovations also took place between February and August. From August to December, she busied herself with various trials and tests at sea, conducted refresher training, and prepared for her next assignment to the Far East.
Her voyage west began on 6 December and ended with her arrival at Subic Bay on the 29th. Two days later, she put to sea for her first tour on the gunline. It also proved to be her last. She delivered gunfire support intermittently for 28 days. Then, on 28 January 1973, American participation in the Vietnam conflict ended with a negotiated ceasefire. For the remainder of that deployment, Turner Joy participated in a variety of operation, including Operation “Endsweep,” the removal of American mines from the waters around Haiphong harbor, as well as antisubmarine warfare exercises and carrier operations in the South China Sea. She punctuated those assignments with port visits to Subic Bay, Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and Sasebo, Japan. On 13 June she headed home via Yokosuka and arrived in Long Beach on the 22nd. She spent the period from then until mid-October engaged in upkeep and a restricted availability.
On 17 October, she departed Long Beach and set course for her new home port, San Diego. Upon arrival there she began normal operations, engineering and gunnery exercises at sea, alternated with upkeep in port. That routine continued until April 1974, at which time she began preparations for her first peacetime deployment to the Western Pacific in a decade.
She stood out of San Diego on 6 May, reached Pearl Harbor on the 12th, and completed a brief assignment with Rander (CVA-61) in the Hawaiian operating area on the 24th. On that day, she departed Oahu and continued her voyage west. Turner Joy arrived in Subic Bay on 4 June and, for the next two months, conducted local operations in company with Ranger. On 1 August, the destroyer departed the Philippines for a goodwill visit to Surabaja, Java and a liberty call at Hong Hong. She returned to the Philippines on 31 August and conducted local operations out of Subic Bay for two months before heading homeward on 3 October. The warship arrived in San Diego on 22 October and, after a month of post-deployment leave and upkeep, began a normal schedule of operations in the Southern California operating area.
Turner Joy ended 1974 and began 1975 engaged in a rather extensive availability which was completed in mid-April. At the conclusion of that repair period, she resumed operations along the coast of Southern California. Refresher training, FleetEx 2-75, and a midshipman training cruise occupied her from April through August.
On 2 September, she departed San Diego for the 11th deployment of her career to the Western Pacific. However, after a two-week stop at Subic Bay, her Western Pacific assignment was transformed into a tour of duty in the Indian Ocean. On 13 October, she departed Subic Bay in company with Midway (CV-41), Fanning (DE-1076), and Sacramento (AOE-1) bound ultimately for Bandar Abbas, Iran. Along the way, she visited Singapore and Sri Lanka and participated in exercises with the Singapore Navy. The destroyer arrived in Bandar Abbas on 13 November whence she and her sailing companions participated in the CENTO exercise, “Midlink.” During that operation, she joined units of the British, Iranian, and Pakistani navies in practicing a broad spectrum of naval tactics—ASW, AAW, surface engagements, gunnery drills, and missile shoots “Midlink” ended on 25 November, and Turner Joy briefly stopped again at Bandar Abbas before heading for the Philippines on the 29th. She arrived back in Subic Bay on 12 December and remained there until 9 January 1976. Routine operations in the Philippines, exercises in the South China Sea and the Sea of Japan, as well as visits to ports in Taiwan and Japan, characterized the remainder of that deployment. On 17 March, she stood out of Yokosuka to return to the United States. After stops at Midway and Pearl Harbor, she reentered San Diego harbor on 4 April.
Following post-deployment standdown, the destroyer reverted once more to training operations out of San Diego. As a result of long years of service in Vietnam and two delays in a scheduled overhaul, however, Turner Joy was unable to successfully complete her Operational Propulsion Plant Examination. This deficiency made it necessary for the ship to spend the remainder of 1976 in port correcting propulsion deficiencies. The year 1977 was spent largely in port due to recurring material problems. In September, however, Turner Joy was underway briefly for local operations. Pre-overhaul standdown began in mid-October; and, on 7 November, the ship was towed to the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for a regular overhaul designed to completely renovate her entire engineering plant. The entire year of 1978 was spent in overhaul.
After an extended period in dry-dock at Long Beach, Ca. the ship went to San Diego mid-1979 for crewing to test the work done. After Engineering Quals were passed the ship was provisioned for a Westpac/South Pac goodwill cruise. The tour consists of going to Hawaii for more Quals in all departments. Then on to the Philippines for repairs on needed items. After 2 weeks there it went on to Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. During this time the ship did sea trials with the Navy’s of Australia and New Zealand. Upon departing the ship stopped at the American Samoa Island of Pago Pago on the way back to Hawaii before returning to the USA. The ship arrived in San Diego, Ca. in November 1980.
In 1982, as the new Spruance-class destroyers joined the fleet, the Navy announced the retirement of Turner Joy and her sister ships saying, “…the cost of modernizing them is far greater than the benefits that could be derived from continued service.” The Bremerton Historic Ships Association obtained Turner Joy from the inactive fleet and after refurbishing her and constructing appropriate access to the ship, opened her to the public in 1992.
The USS Turner Joy received nine battle stars for her Vietnam service.
Recovery: 1978 – 1982. By 1978, USS Turner Joy was completing a major overhaul at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard where the ship was given a new life. The crew rallied behind its leadership and successfully passed the CINPACFLT Propulsion Examining Board’s Light-Off Examination to begin the process of returning to full operational capability as it returned to its homeport in San Diego. That was realized in 1979 with the ship’s successful passing of two critical Pacific Fleet inspections: the Operational Propulsion Plant Examination in which USS Turner Joy once again demonstrated full power steaming capabilities; and the Underway Material Inspection by the Board of Inspection and Survey that found the ship fit for further service. In the workup to deployment, the ship successfully fired its three 5” guns simultaneously, was evaluated fully combat ready for deployment, and achieved the Battle Efficiency (Battle “E”) award for best ship in its destroyer squadron. It was also the oldest. In 1980, USS Turner Joy departed San Diego for the western Pacific with not one piece of major equipment out of commission. Over the next six months, the ship remained under the operational control of Commander US Seventh Fleet performing numerous underway duties including providing services to a US nuclear-powered submarine in Hong Kong harbor while the sub’s crew enjoyed liberty ashore. After a very successful deployment, Turner Joy returned to San Diego and remained an operational asset for Commander US Third Fleet until 1982.
Additional History from VADM Edward S. Briggs, USN Retired (The Ship’s 5th Captain)
“Of all the tools the Navy will employ to control the seas, in any future war, the most useful of the small types of combatant ships — the destroyer — will be sure to be there. It’s appearance may be altered … but no type, not even the carrier or the submarine, has such an assured place in future Navies.”
ADMIRAL CHESTER W. NIMITZ
In reference to the quotation by Admiral Nimitz, USS Turner Joy (DD-951) is just such a destroyer, a general purpose ship of the line, named in honor of the late Vice Admiral Charles Turner Joy whose distinguished career by every measure marked him a naval leader. A “fast ship” in the John Paul Jones tradition, at 3,900 tons she was capable of a broad range of combat operations. Her weapons array of torpedoes, 3″ – 50 and 5″ – 54 naval guns, search and detection radars, sonar, fire control systems, and electronic suites enabled mission assignments including anti-air as well as anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, battle force screening, intelligence gathering, long-range shore bombardment, and naval gunfire support of land troops.
Indeed, her most unique and extensive naval employment came during the Vietnam conflict when, assigned to the U.S. Seventh Fleet in the western Pacific Ocean, Turner Joy continually engaged from coastal waters tactical targets ashore and close-in enemy maritime logistic support traffic. Her three 5″ – 54 dual purpose naval guns, capable of extended ranges to 12 miles, suited her well for such assignments. At decommissioning in late 1982 the Commander-in-Chief U.S. Pacific Fleet summed up her service: “USS Turner Joy has played a significant role in the success story of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. A veteran of many deployments — both in war and peace — Turner Joy will long be remembered for her heroic actions off the coast of Vietnam. She was there in the beginning when she sank two attacking North Vietnamese torpedo boats … and in the closing chapter … is reported to have fired the Navy’s last round in the Vietnam conflict.”
USS Turner Joy was built by Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company, Seattle, Washington. Christened by Mrs. C. Turner Joy, May 5, 1958 and placed in commission August 3, 1959, the ship became an active unit of First, Third and Seventh Fleet Task Forces, conducting training exercises and executing tasks associated with the forward deployment and presence of both carrier and surface battle groups in the Western Pacific. During the period 1960-1964 she won both Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Force and Flotilla Battle Efficiency awards for excellence in performance and deployed three times to western Pacific waters.
Midway through the third deployment in 1964 Turner Joy joined the Ticonderoga (CVA-14) carrier task group, part of Fast Carrier Striking Force, Seventh Fleet (TF-77) operating in the South China Sea approaches to the Gulf of Tonkin. She and US Maddox (DD-731) found themselves on “watchdog” patrols in international waters southwest of the Communist Chinese island of Hainan and along the coast of South and North Vietnam. Such reconnaissance patrols were common practice in troubled times, conducted for the purposes of observing naval activity, assisting South Vietnam naval patrol intercepts of enemy infiltration attempts, and in gathering necessary intelligence on North Vietnamese forces. On August 2, 1964, Maddox was attacked in international waters by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. Maddox sank or damaged two of the Russian-built PT boats; a third and fourth suffered similar fates at the hands of jet fighter aircraft from Ticonderoga. Turner Joy joined Maddox after that sea engagement concluded, and the two ship unit remained on patrol in the Gulf. On the evening of August 4, 1964, after earlier indications of impending attack, the two-ship patrol unit was again engaged by as many as six North Vietnamese PT boats in a prolonged sea battle lasting more than two hours. The enemy reportedly fired torpedoes and their rapid-fire guns in a series of attacks against both ships. Once again jet fighter and attack aircraft of the carrier task group joined the fight and coordinated their efforts with those defensive measures of the two ships. In the end, two PT boats were believed sunk and two badly damaged. Maddox and Turner Joy gave a good account of themselves.
It was, then, the beginning of a period of distinguished combat service for the Turner Joy. Over the next eight-plus years of the Vietnam war she earned nine separate battle stars on her Vietnam Service Medal. Including the “Gulf of Tonkin incident”, she deployed to the Vietnam war zone during a part of each year from 1964 through 1973. Her principal tasks in each of those deployments were long-range shore bombardment and naval gunfire support during long periods of Task Group 70.8 “gunline” operations off the coast of South Vietnam. These tasks included destruction of fixed elements of Viet Cong infrastructure, logistic targets of opportunity, enemy troop and weapons concentrations, close support of friendly troops, and night harassing fire. When assigned to “Sea Dragon” operations under Task Force 77, primary tasks included shore bombardment against North Vietnamese strategic targets, maritime logistic traffic, and counterbattery fire against coastal artillery and air defense batteries located proximate to the coastline.
Some examples illustrative of these missions help tell the story. In 1965, Turner Joy conducted the first ever naval gunfire support mission of South Vietnam’s west coast, while operating in the Gulf of Thailand. During some 100 missions of the 1966/67 deployment the ship fired over 9,000 rounds of 5″/54 and 3″ 50 ammunition at targets located in both South and North Vietnam. During Sea Dragon operations the ship received counterbattery fire from coastal defense batteries, suffering minor damage to the superstructure and several spaces below the main deck. In the six months of Gulf of Tonkin operations during 1968, Turner Joy expended nearly 24,000 rounds of 5″ and 3″ gun ammunition during some 200 assigned missions accomplishing a variety of tasks in both South and North Vietnam.
Regunned in 1972 with the first 5″/54 Mod 10 mounts in the Pacific Fleet, Turner Joy was there at the end of the Vietnam conflict. During the last month of the war, the ship fired over 10,000 rounds from the new rapid fire mounts supporting the combined military effort in South Vietnam at the DMZ and conducting Sea Dragon naval gunfire strike operations against enemy targets and shore batteries in North Vietnam. Turner Joy fired the last naval gunfire against opposing forces as the ceasefire began on January 27, 1973.
She steamed on as part of the Seventh Fleet for two additional deployments during the years 1974-1976, participating in a succession of fleet operations and exercises as well as combined operations from the Sea of Japan to the Tasman Sea, into the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. Even as the newer, more capable Sprunce class destroyers entered the fleet in 1975, Turner Joy remained a Battle Group mainstay in both Third and Seventh Fleets.
During the years 1977-1979 the ship underwent extensive overhaul and repair to rehabilitate primarily the 1200 lb steam propulsion system. In 1980 she was once again an active element of both Fleets of the Pacific, exercising in joint and combined operations from California waters to the South China Sea. In 1982 the Navy decided to decommission the Forrest Sherman class ships. It marked the end of an era — the end of the sleek “gunships” that performed so well in open ocean combat as well as providing naval gunfire support and long-range bombardment in the war years. In November 1982 her commissioning pennant was hauled down. She had earned her place in history, and performed with distinction. During her 23 years of service she earned the Navy Unit Commendation, three Battle Efficiency “E’s”, numerous Force and Flotilla departmental awards, and the respect of those who served her so well — the destroyermen who made her heart beat in the face of wartime challenges and peacetime naval operations in the troubled waters of the world.
And she lives on, as the Flagship of the Bremerton Historic Ships Association, and a permanent educational Navy memorial. She honors now not only the men and women of our modern U.S. Navy, but also recognizes the accomplishments of those who help to build and maintain the Navy’s ships as well. She took her place in the long line of destroyers characterized by Admiral Nimitz — from Bambridge (DD-1) in 1902 to Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) in 1991. Turner Joy (DD-951) was sure to be there when called upon to serve.