Decommissioned: November 22, 1982
USS TURNER JOY (DD-951) - HISTORY
I. THE MAN:
Charles Turner Joy was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on 17 February 1895. Commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy upon graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1916, he served in the battleship Pennsylvania for more than four years, including the period of the United States' participation in the First World War. In 1923, after receiving a graduate education in engineering, he began two years as Aide and Flag Lieutenant to Commander, Yangtse Patrol. This was followed by a tour as Executive Officer of the Asiatic Fleet destroyer Pope, an assignment with the Bureau of Ordnance, sea duty in the battleship California, and service at the Naval Mine Depot at Yorktown, Virginia. In the mid-1930s, Lieutenant Commander Joy was Commanding Officer of the destroyer Litchfield and was on the staff of Commander Destroyers, Battle Force.
Between 1937 and 1940, Commander Joy was an instructor at the Naval Academy. He then became Executive Officer of the heavy cruiser Indianapolis. In 1941 he was Operations Officer for Commander Scouting Force, Pacific Fleet and, for several months after the United States entered World War II in December of that year, helped plan and execute combat operations against Japan. Captain Joy commanded the heavy cruiser Louisville from September 1942 until June 1943, during which time she was active in the Aleutians and South Pacific war theatres. After an important war plans tour in Washington, D.C., Rear Admiral Joy became commander of a cruiser division, leading it through nearly a year and a half of intense combat service against the Japanese.
Commanding an amphibious group when Japan capitulated in August 1945, Joy was soon assigned to duty in China. He was in charge of the Naval Proving Ground at Dahlgren, Virginia, in 1946-49 and was then sent back to the Western Pacific to become Commander Naval Forces, Far East. Vice Admiral Joy held that position until mid-1952, directing much of the Navy's effort during the first two years of the Korean War. From July 1951 he was also the senior United Nations Delegate to the Korean Armistice talks. His final assignment was as Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. Retired in July 1954, Admiral Joy subsequently made his home in California, where he died on 13 June 1956.
The destroyer USS Turner Joy (DD-951), 1959-1991, was named in honor of Admiral Joy.
II. THE SHIP:
USS TURNER JOY was the last ship in the FORREST SHERMAN - class of destroyers and the first ship in the Navy to bear the name. Her keel was laid down on September 30, 1957 in Seattle, Washington by the Puget Sound Bridge & Dredging Company, launched on May 5, 1958, and commissioned on August 3, 1959, Comdr. Ralph S. Wentworth, Jr. in command.
Turner Joy's distinctive service included a double-duty role as flagship for Destroyer Squadron 13 and Destroyer Division 131 with several tours in the Pacific. She also stood air-sea rescue duty near the Marianas Islands for President Dwight D. Eisenhower's visit to several Asian nations. In terms of history, this vessel is most remembered for her participation in the Gulf of Tonkin incident which escalated the United States involvement in the Vietnam War.
On March 13th, 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, the Turner Joy, while attached to a carrier task group built around the Ticonderoga (CVA 14), began making "watch dog" patrols off the coast of Vietnam. On the afternoon of August 2nd, 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 or 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 operations in the South China Sea. During one of the Turner Joy's deployments in the vicinity of Chu Lai in October 1964, and after expending 700 rounds and being credited with the destruction of fifty-seven enemy structures, a dangerous hang-fire developed in one of her 5-inch guns. During an attempt to clear the muzzle, three men were killed and three others injured when the shell exploded unexpectedly. For her valued action primarily as a gunfire support vessel in Southeast Asia, the USS Turner Joy received a total of nine battle stars.
The Turner Joy returned to Long Beach in October, 1964, two months to the day since she had rushed to the aid of Maddox. The destroyer conducted normal operations out of Long Beach until December 18th when she entered the naval shipyard for a three-month overhaul. In July, 1965 she departed Long Beach with Destroyer Squadron 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.
The Turner Joy returned to Long Beach in February 1966 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 June 11th she put to sea once again to conduct a midshipman training cruise, during which she visited Pearl Harbor, Seattle, and San Francisco. Later that summer, she again visited Seattle in conjunction with that city's annual Seafair celebration.
In March of 1967 the Turner Joy 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 April 7th, 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 Joy'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 in April. For the remainder of 1967 the Turner Joy, after stops in Australia and New Zealand, returned to Long Beach in June. On September 18th, she arrived at Bremerton, Wash., for 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.
In 1968 the Turner Joy stood out of Long Beach in March and, after stops at Oahu, Midway, and Guam, arrived in Subic Bay on April 4th. 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 gun-line 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 in September and, after a brief tender availability at Subic Bay, headed homeward in September. Retracing her outward bound voyage with stops at Guam, Midway, and Pearl Harbor, Turner Joy entered Long Beach on the 26th of September 1968.
In January, 1973 American participation in the Vietnam conflict ended with a negotiated ceasefire. The Turner Joy engaged in peacetime deployment until 1976 when, 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.
A brief statement by the Navy in November 1982 announced the retirement of Forrest Sherman Class destroyers, including the USS Turner Joy on November 22nd. In 1988 the Turner Joy was selected as a Naval Memorial and is now a permanent public attraction on the Bremerton waterfront. While some of these ships were later converted to guided missile destroyers, Turner Joy remains close to her original 1959 configuration. The destroyer has been restored to reflect the appearance during her active years between 1960 and 1982.
Decommissioned on November 22, 1982, and stricken from the Navy list on February 13, 1990, the TURNER JOY was donated to the Bremerton Historic Ships Association on April 10, 1991. The ship now serves as a museum at Bremerton, Wash.