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COMMAND HISTORY

USS COLLETT, DD 730
WESTPAC DEPLOYMENT
1966-1968

THE SHIP

The USS COLLETT was built by the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine.  The keel was laid on 16 October 1943, and commissioning was on 16 May 1944.   COLLETT is named in honor of Lieutenant Commander John Austin COLLETT, a naval aviator whose aircraft was lost in the fierce Battle of Santa Cruz in the command of an Aircraft Torpedo Squadron at the time his plane went down.  The first Commanding Officer of COLLETT was Commander James COLLETT, brother of John COLLETT.

COLLETT is a 2200-ton Sumner class destroyer which has been modified by the FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Maintenance) program.  The ship is 376 feet in length, 40 feet abeam, and displaces 3100 tons fully loaded. Radar, sonar, and other detection equipment give the ship a wide variety of capabilities.  3 5”/38 twin mounts, fixed and trainable torpedo tubes, hedgehog mounts, and DASH (Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter) are the weapons delivery systems.  Twin screws can drive the ship at a highly maneuverable 33 knots.

OPERATIONAL HISTORY

After initial shakedown and training period, COLLETT headed for the Pacific, reaching the war zone in early November 1944.  The ship remained in the war zone for the remainder of the war providing gunfire support, radar picket patrol, anti-submarine patrol, and carrier escort and protection, all with the THIRD or FOURTH Fleet.

On 19 November 1944, COLLETT was serving as a radar picket for a carrier group near the Philippines.  About dusk, four Japanese “Betty” bombers were seen at starboard.  COLLETT immediately opened fire on the planes which launched two torpedoes.  Both missed, passing within 100 yards of the ship.  While maneuvering away from the torpedoes, the ship shot down two of the planes and damaged a third.  On 18 April 1945 COLLETT teamed up with the destroyer MERTZ and sank the Japanese submarine I-56, off Okinawa.  The sinking occurred after COLLETT made her fourth depth charge run on the submerged sub. 

The Korean War saw COLLETT performing missions very similar to those of WWII.  On 19 September 1950, COLLETT and her sister ships of DESDIV 91 entered Inchon harbor to provide gunfire support for the troop landings.  A running battle with the communist gun emplacement in the hills resulted in COLLETT receiving light damage from five shells but all the enemy guns were eventually silenced.  (The “sitting duck” squadron received the Navy Unit Commendation for this action.)

COLLETT participated actively in the Vietnam conflict.  Home-ported in Yokosuka, Japan, during a two-year tour of overseas duty, the ship performed a variety of  combat missions in the Gulf of Tonkin.  Her assignments included Search and Rescue (SAR), Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS), Operation Sea Dragon, and planeguarding for attack carriers.  During her deployment, COLLETT expended over 12,000 rounds of 5”/38 ammunition and was taken under fire by North Vietnamese shore batteries on five separate occasions.  The ship was on of the few American vessels to serve with both HMAS PERTH and HMAS HOBART of the Royal Australian Navy.

Returning to Long Beach, California, in late summer 1968, the ship expects to begin an extended yard period in the spring of 1969.

PLACES WE’VE BEEN

Hong Kong; South China Sea; Buckner Bay, Okinawa; Gulf of Tonkin; Danang, R.V.N.; Minimata, Japan; Sasebo Japan; Yokosuka, Japan; Subic Bay, R.P., Philippine Sea; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Korea Straits; Sea of Japan; Beppu, Japan.

THINGS WE DID

SEARCH AND RESCUE – To Navy and Air Force pilots flying strikes against North Viet Nam, destroyers on Search and Rescue (SAR) duty a few miles off the coast represent a real source of security to pilots.  Countless times, thanks to SAR ships, downed fliers have been snatched from the sea or from North Vietnamese soil, sometimes only moments before imminent capture.

PLANEGUARD OPERATIONS – One of the most powerful arms of the SEVENTH Fleet is the Attack Carrier Striking Force, which flies daily strikes against North Viet Nam from three  attack carriers on YANKEE station in the Tonkin Gulf.  One of the least glamorous, but most necessary, of all the destroyer’s jobs is escorting carriers, known as “planeguarding.”

During flight operations, a carrier must have a steady wind over her flight deck to launch and recover aircraft, and when there is no wind she must make her own by steaming on a steady course.

Throughout flight operations, often more than 12 hours a day, destroyers escorting carriers have “lifeguard” stations manned, ready to retrieve downed fliers from the water in the event of a landing or takeoff mishap.  Alert destroyermen at their lifeguard stations have saved many lives.

OPERATION SEA DRAGON – “Patrol the North Viet Nam coastline from the demilitarized zone northward and destroy North Vietnamese waterborne logistic craft carrying arms and  materials to the enemy troops in the South.”  These were the orders received by the destroyers MANSFIELD and HANSON on the morning of October 25, 1966 and they marked the beginning of Operation Sea Dragon.  In February 1967, the scope of Sea Dragon was increased to include military targets ashore in North Viet Nam.  Although waterborne logistic craft remain the primary targets of ships of Sea Dragon, anything that contributes to North Viet Nam’s military effort is a potential target.

At a predetermined time, the ships converge at one point and approach the coast together, some firing on North Vietnamese heavy gun positions which line the coast while others attack such targets as highways, bridges, petroleum storage areas, ferries, and causeways.

NAVAL GUNFIRE SUPPORT – Although there are many similarities between Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) and Operation Sea Dragon, they differ in two important areas: NGFS is normally fired at the request of troops ashore, instead of at predetermined targets and NGFS is always fired in South Viet Nam while Sea Dragon is conducted about the DMZ.

. . . and in the last two years we have:

Steamed 138,379 miles.
Been deployed 843 days.
Been at sea 63% of the time – 528 days.
Refueled and /or replenished 188 times.
Made six port visits.
Burned 12,088,012 gallons of fuel.
Served 188,639 meals.
Spent 96 days on Operation Sea Dragon.
Spent 21 days on Naval Gunfire Support.
Spent 126 days on Search and Rescues.
Spent 72 days on CVA operations.
Spent 16 days on Anti-Submarine Exercises.
Been fired upon by North Vietnamese coastal defense
batteries five separate times.
Fired 12,749 rounds of 5”/38 ammunition in combat.


(As transcribed from “Swede” Michaelson’s copy of the
“Welcome Aboard” brochure on 3/25/01.)