USS EDSON (DD-946)
(from my file as a former EDSON Public Affairs Officer)
CONSTRUCTION AND COMMISSIONING
The keel for the Forrest Sherman class destroyer USS EDSON (DD-946) was laid at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine on 3 December 1956. EDSON is one of the relatively few ships of the U.S. Navy named for a United States Marine, in this case Colonel (later Major General) Merritt Austin Edson who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism defending the U.S. airfield on Guadalcanal against a fanatical Japanese attack. Colonel Edson was Commanding Officer of the First Marine Raider Battalion. (See Endnotes 1 and 2)
A little over a year after the keel was laid, EDSON was launched on 4 January 1958 by General Edson’s widow, who broke the traditional bottle of champagne over the ship’s bow. EDSON’s final fitting out and sea trials occupied the next ten months, and on 7 November 1958 EDSON was officially placed in commission under the command of CDR Thomas J. MORIARITY, USN. She then sailed in early 1959 to the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal to reach her new homeport of Long Beach, California on 2 March 1959. For the next two decades EDSON served as a valuable member of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, earning a reputation as a “Top Gun” ship and the nickname, “THE Destroyer”. Her ship’s crest was the skull from the original emblem of General Edson’s 1st Marine Raider Battalion.
CDR MORIARITY was relieved as Commanding Officer by CDR C. B. COLLINS, Jr., USN, in November of 1959.
EDSON departed on 5 January 1960 on her first deployment to the Western Pacific. During the deployment she participated in Operation BLUE STAR, a large-scale search and rescue mission involving 70 ships, which eventually located 7 Marines who had been blown out to sea in a rubber raft while attempting a reconnaissance landing. While serving as plane guard for USS RANGER (CVA-61), EDSON successfully rescued three crewmembers of one of the carrier’s downed A-3D aircraft. EDSON was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for her participation in the QUEMON and MATSU Island operations in March 1960. She returned to Long Beach in May 1960.
In July of 1960 EDSON commenced her first major shipyard overhaul. After the overhaul and her post-yard shakedown cruise, EDSON was ready for local operations in February 1961.
In June of 1961 EDSON, together with the other ships of DESDIV 231, sailed to Portland, Oregon to represent the U.S. Navy at the annual Rose Festival. Thirty thousand Portland residents visited EDSON over a five-day period.
CDR COLLINS was relieved by CDR M. J. CARPENTER, USN as Commanding Officer on 4 August 1961. On 11 August 1961, EDSON sailed from Long Beach harbor to start her second WESTPAC deployment. She spent three months in operations with the attack carriers USS RANGER and USS TICONDEROGA and spent the month of December patrolling the straits between Taiwan and the mainland of Communist China. In January 1962, while en route from Kaoshiung, Taiwan to Yokosuka, Japan, EDSON was unexpectedly called upon to render emergency aid to a seriously wounded seaman aboard the Danish steamer MARGIT. In heavy seas, assistance personnel and medical supplies were high-lined to the civilian merchant vessel.
Returning to Long Beach on 10 February 1962, EDSON soon resumed a normal EASTPAC destroyer schedule of operations until November 1962 at which time she entered the U.S. Naval Shipyard, Long Beach for regular overhaul. This period lasted until February 1963. Upon leaving the shipyard, EDSON proceeded to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where she exercised in underway training. During the beginning of the training cycle on 17 March 1963, CDR J. J. HERRICK relieved CDR CARPENTER as Commanding Officer. Upon returning to Long Beach, EDSON became a unit of Destroyer Squadron 13.
On 8 June 1963, EDSON departed Long Beach for the first leg of a six-week cruise to Seattle, Washington and Alaska. She arrived in Seattle and spent two weeks conducting sonar trials in Carr Inlet and visiting the city. After a very warm farewell, EDSON departed the Pacific Northwest bound for Alaska.
Arriving in Hanes, Alaska on 27 June 1963, EDSON was just in time to take part in the very colorful Strawberry Festiva1. She visited Skagway where the crew participated in a train trip to the famous Yukon Trail of 1898. From Skagway, EDSON proceeded to Juneau where she spent the 4th of July. EDSON’s last port of call was in Ketchikan before returning to Long Beach in August.
In October EDSON embarked one hundred thirty relatives and guests of crewmembers for a dependents’ cruise off the southern California coast.
On Friday, 13 March 1964, EDSON departed for her third WESTPAC deployment. After the transit, EDSON began duties with the Taiwan Patrol Force, CTF 72.
On 27 April 1964, CDR K. G. HAYNES relieved CDR J. J. HERRICK as Commanding Officer.
The end of May and the months of June and July 1964 were filled with carrier operations, Gunfire Support Training in the Philippines, and operation LICTAS, a joint SEATO operation off the coast of the Philippines. August found EDSON in the Gulf of Tonkin on special operations. It was here she was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for exceptionally meritorious service in support of operations in the Gulf of Tonkin during the period 2-5 August 1964. EDSON participated in successful air strike counterattack operations against the North Vietnamese Torpedo boats and supporting facilities, while serving with T.G. 77.5.
On 13 September, after support roles with amphibious operations off the South Vietnamese Coast, EDSON departed for the United States. She arrived at her homeport of Long Beach on 2 October 1964.
In May 1965, EDSON entertained over 250 dependents on a local area dependents’ day cruise. First Fleet Exercise RAGWEEK was conducted on 1-7 October 1965 with EDSON participating and working with USS KITTY HAWK.
On 15 October 1965, EDSON departed for her fourth WESTPAC cruise in company with KITTY HAWK, and commenced Naval Gunfire Operations off the South Vietnamese Coast on 25 November 1965. As a member of CTU 70.8.9, EDSON spent a two-week period at gunfire support and it was here on 28 November 1965 that she first fired her guns in anger. EDSON’s 5”/54 cal. main battery soon became noted as a very accurate "long gun".
On 10 February 1966, CPR J. J. VERMILYA relieved CDR K. C. HAYNES as Commanding Officer.
Most of the remaining time of this fourth deployment was spent with the carrier USS HANCOCK as a member of CTC 77.3. On 19 February 1966, however, EDSON had the distinction of being perhaps the first ship assigned to escort a truck convoy when she escorted elements of the THIRD MARDIV from Da Nang to the vicinity of Hue. Other short periods were spent in SAR operations in the Gulf of Tonkin. EDSON was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal and National Defense Medal for her operations in the Vietnam combat zone. On 28 April 1966, EDSON entered Long Beach to begin a leave and upkeep period. On 20 June, EDSON families and friends enjoyed a dependents’ cruise to Avalon Bay, Santa Catalina Island.
Underway on 5 July, EDSON proceeded to San Francisco for regular overhaul. A rigorous Refresher Training period at San Diego commenced on 12 November and lasted until 23 December. EDSON greeted New Year 1967 by participating in Fleet Exercise SNATCHELOCK, the final preparation for her next WESTPAC deployment. Upon returning from this exercise, EDSON was formally adopted by the Ontario-Upland Council of the Navy League of the United States.
On 26 January 1967, EDSON departed for her fifth WESTPAC deployment.
EDSON’s first mission was the bombardment of enemy supply depots on the coast of North Vietnam as a unit of SEA DRAGON operations. This action set the tempo for the rest of EDSON’s deployment. The Commanding Officer, CDR J. J. VERMILYA, was awarded the Bronze Star for the heroism and professionalism that he displayed during these engagements.
In addition to her SEA DRAGON operations, EDSON also provided Gunfire Support for the First Division, Army of South Vietnam, and the Fifth U.S. Marine Regiment, in the I Corps Area of South Vietnam. During one of these Gunfire Support missions, EDSON took a direct hit from an enemy shore battery and sustained ten minor personnel casualties.
For her achievement during this deployment EDSON was awarded the Secretary of the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon. EDSON returned to Long Beach on 22 July 1967.
In October 1967 a dependents’ cruise for relatives and friends of EDSON personnel was held.
On 25 March 1968, EDSON departed once again for duty with the U.S. SEVENTH Fleet in the Western Pacific. On 31 March 1968 CDR VERMILYA was relieved by CDR J. S. HOLMES as Commanding Officer. With most of this sixth deployment being spent along the coast of Vietnam, it proved to be a most demanding and successful WESTPAC deployment. EDSON’s primary assignment was to provide Naval Gunfire Support for Allied Forces ashore in the I Corps area.
By the time EDSON made her final departure of the deployment from the Vietnamese coast, she had fired over 23,000 rounds on targets in both North and South Vietnam, rescued a downed South Vietnamese Air Force pilot, and had been named the “TOP GUN” Destroyer in South Vietnam by the Naval Gunfire Spotters of the First Anglico Company, Fleet Marine Force.
During her last period on the gunline, EDSON was again taken under fire by North Vietnamese artillery but sustained only minor damage.
EDSON was awarded a second Meritorious Unit Commendation for her outstanding performance during this deployment. Her Commanding Officer, CDR J. S. HOLMES, was awarded the Bronze Star for his leadership and professional ability while under fire during intense periods of Naval Gunfire Support.
EDSON ended her sixth deployment on 10 October 1968 when she returned to Long Beach and began a month-long leave period. On 7 November 1968 she celebrated her 10th birthday with a party held on board for her crew and their guests. The remainder of 1968 was spent on normal destroyer operations in the Southern California area. During one of these sea periods, she accomplished a highly unusual personnel transfer by highline from the submarine USS ROCK (AGSS-274).
In March of 1969, EDSON departed Long Beach for several days of rest and recreation in Acapulco, Mexico. She returned to Long Beach on 15 March 1969. One week later she conducted a dependents’ cruise for 339 dependents and guests.
In April of 1969 EDSON entered Long Beach Naval Shipyard for a period of restricted availability. During this period the EDSON commenced working on a new system of scheduling yard work during a regular overhaul. The new method is known as “Critical Path” or PERT. The EDSON was the first Pacific Fleet ship to use the Critical Path Method in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard.
During the middle of June the EDSON ended her Restricted Availability and commenced a Regular Overhaul period. The ship spent the entire month of July 1969 in Floating Dry Dock (AFDL-48) for major repairs to her hull and engineering plant. At the same time the EDSON was equipped with new sonar equipment that increased her underwater capabilities.
In August 1969 Commander HOLMES was relieved as Commanding Officer by Commander Henry F. BOYLE at a ceremony held at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. The next two months were engaged in completing the Regular Overhaul period.
On the 7th of October EDSON got underway for the first time in eight months. Various sea trials were conducted during the ensuing three weeks, and EDSON completed Overhaul at the end of October. The remainder of 1969 was spent conducting independent ship exercises in the Southern California operations area, training the officers and crew, and preparing for Refresher Training.
After spending a holiday leave period in Long Beach the EDSON got underway on 9 January 1970 for six weeks of Refresher Training in San Diego. During this period the ship was put through an exhausting training period that qualified her to carry out all the aspects of modern naval warfare. Upon departing Refresher Training, EDSON returned to Long Beach and commenced a Tender Availability period. A highly successful dependents’ cruise was conducted on 16 March.
On 18 March 1970 EDSON again departed her homeport for another six-month deployment to the Western Pacific as a unit of the United States SEVENTH Fleet. This was EDSON’s seventh deployment to date. During the first part of this cruise, EDSON was assigned as plane guard for several attack carriers including USS SHANGRI-LA (CVA-38). On 21 April 1970, EDSON was honored by a visit from RADM D. C. PLATE, USN, Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Force, U. S. Pacific Fleet. Admiral PLATE was transferred to EDSON by helicopter from SHANGRI-LA, had breakfast with EDSON’s officers, and then toured the ship.
EDSON also conducted special surveillance operations off the coast of Cambodia from 27 April 1970 to 17 May 1970. Her primary duties, however, during this cruise consisted of providing naval gunfire support along the entire coast of Vietnam from the DMZ (the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Vietnam) to the Gulf of Thailand. Arriving in Kaoshiung, Taiwan for the first liberty visit of the deployment on 30 June 1970, EDSON was forced to make an emergency sortie the next day because of the proximity of Typhoon Olga. She returned to the gunline in the II Corps area for the second and final gunline period of the deployment.
On the morning of 25 July 1970 while moored at the U.S. Naval Station Subic Bay, EDSON crewmembers witnessed the crash of an E-1B Tracker aircraft about 500 yards from the ship. EDSON’s alert gig crew quickly responded and rescued the two uninjured pilots of the downed aircraft within minutes.
On 13 August EDSON departed Kaoshiung for a patrol of the Taiwan Straits while en route to Yokosuka, Japan. She arrived in Yokosuka on 16 August and made preparations for the homeward transit. In company with USS LOFBERG (DD-759), EDSON departed Yokosuka on 19 August, refueled at Midway Island and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and finally returned to her homeport of Long Beach, California on 3 September 1970.
During this seventh deployment, EDSON steamed over 48,500 nautical miles, fired over 5,400 rounds of 5”/54 cal. ammunition, conducted 130 gunfire support missions, and was at sea for 133 out of 169 days. She was awarded “E’s” for excellence in all departments and the ASW excellence “A”.
EDSON departed Long Beach on 6 April 1971 under the command of Timothy McC. WALLACE, USN bound for Subic Bay in the Philippines and her eighth deployment to WESTPAC. As the flagship for Destroyer Squadron 35, EDSON was host during this deployment to Commodore Creighton D. LILLY, USN, and his staff.
After brief stops in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Midway Island, and Guam, she crossed the International Date Line on 17 April 1971 and on 20 April 1971 inchopped SEVENTH Fleet. Two days of in-port time for maintenance in Subic Bay were followed by goodwill visits to Port Swettanham, Malaysia (port city for the nation’s capital, Kuala Lumpur) and to Singapore. On 11 May 1971 EDSON crossed the Equator, and all pollywogs were duly initiated as trusty shellbacks.
On 13 May 1971 EDSON was assigned to Task Unit 70.8.9 as a Naval Gunfire Support Destroyer in the IV Corps area of Viet Nam until 23 May 1971 providing naval gunfire support to units of the South Vietnamese Army operating in the vicinity of the U Minh Forest. Following these gunfire duties, EDSON proceeded to Kaoshiung, Taiwan, for a three-day visit. She then participated in a joint convoy exercise with ships of the British, New Zealand, and Australian navies. After a short three-day upkeep period in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, EDSON assumed duties on 6 June 1971 as screen commander for the escorting destroyers of Task Unit 77.4.2 operating with the USS MIDWAY (CVA-41) as rescue plane guard ship in the Gulf of Tonkin on YANKEE STATION until 9 June 1971. During this time MIDWAY flew numerous combat sorties and then transited to Yokosuka, Japan.
In Yokosuka for two weeks, EDSON had her first major upkeep period of the deployment. During this time, some crewmembers took leave and climbed to the summit of Mt. Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain. EDSON re-entered the combat zone in company with MIDWAY on 29 June 1971 and the next day was assigned to Task Unit 70.8.9 as a Naval Gunfire Support Destroyer in the I Corps area until 29 July 1971. During this month, she conducted naval gunfire support missions for South Vietnamese troops operating just south of the DMZ between North and South Vietnam. The effectiveness of EDSON’s naval gunfire support received national publicity in many newspapers including The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.
Most of August 1971 was spent relaxing after the hard work of July. Eight days were spent enjoying the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong followed by two more weeks of upkeep time in Yokosuka.
On 24 August 1971 she was assigned to Task Unit 77.6.2 and operated with the USS ORISKANY (CVA-34) as rescue plane guard ship, escorting the carrier back to the South China Sea. On 30 August 1971 EDSON again entered the combat zone and the next day rejoined Task Unit 70.8.9 as a Naval Gunfire Support Destroyer in the I Corps area at the DMZ until 15 September 1971. These first two weeks of September were the busiest of the cruise. EDSON fired over 4,500 rounds during this period, averaging an underway replenishment every two days and a rate of fire of one round every five minutes.
Departing the gunline for the last time of this deployment on 15 September 1971, EDSON spent a two-day upkeep period in Subic Bay and then started a five-week transit back to Long Beach. This eleven thousand mile passage home included port visits to Darwin, Cairns, and Brisbane in Australia, Auckland in New Zealand, and brief stops at Suva in the Fiji Islands and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. On 21 September 1971 EDSON crossed the Equator for the second time of this deployment. Any new pollywogs were duly initiated. On 25 September she outchopped SEVENTH Fleet and crossed the International Date Line on 14 October 1971.
EDSON returned to Long Beach, California on 24 October 1971 after a cruise of 201 days covering 37,500 nautical miles. She spent 55 of those days on the gunline, firing 8,874 rounds during 1,200 missions.
EDSON is authorized to wear the Vietnam Service Medal for service while operating in the Vietnam area of operations. A bronze star is authorized to be worn on the suspension bar and ribbon for the XIII campaign from 1 May 1970 to a date to be announced. Crewmembers of the eight deployment are entitled to wear the Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon, the third MUC for EDSON.
General Notes and Subsequent History (Endnote 3)
Built by Bath Iron Works, Bath Maine, USS EDSON (DD-946) was one of 18 Forrest Sherman-class destroyers. Her keel was laid on 3 December 1956 and she was commissioned on 7 November 1958. Slightly different from the first eleven ships of the class, EDSON and six sisters are sometimes categorized as HULL-class destroyers.
USS EDSON is 418 feet in length, has a beam of 44 feet, and displaced about 4,050 tons at full load. As built her armament consisted of three 5"/54 guns, four 3"/50 guns, four 21" torpedo tubes, hedgehogs, and depth charges. Later in her career, only the 5" guns remained plus six anti-submarine torpedo tubes. Her bridge structure was also modernized.
Four 1,200 pound-per-square-inch boilers provided steam for two geared turbines. The 70,000 horsepower produced powered DD-946 at speeds of about 33 knots.
EDSON’s wartime complement consisted of 23 officers and 295 enlisted men. In her later years as a Reserve Training “can,” she had an assigned crew of 6 officers and 120 enlisted, plus whatever reserves were being trained at the time.
The ship was named for Major General Merritt Austin Edson, USMC. “Red Mike,” as he was nicknamed, directed experimental operations in 1941 which led to the formation of Marine Raider battalions. In August 1942, Edson’s battalion was assigned to defend the ridge that overlooked Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. For his leadership and courage in repelling a fanatic attack by a much larger Japanese force, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
USS EDSON was commissioned in Boston in 1958 and decommissioned in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1988. In her 30 years of service to our nation she earned a reputation for dependability bearing out her motto, “Three Guns, No Waiting.” This was exemplified by her eleven deployments to Southeast Asia. EDSON’s duties read as a chronology of history in that region from operations with USS TURNER JOY (DD-951) and USS MADDOX (DD-731) during the Tonkin Gulf in 1964, to the recapture of the SS MAYAGUEZ off Cambodia in 1975. In 1968 alone, she fired over 23,000 projectiles.
EDSON became part of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City in 1989. Because of her service, EDSON was dedicated by Mr. Zachary Fisher, the Intrepid Museum’s founder and benefactor, to the veterans of all the Armed Forces who served in South East Asia.
EDSON’s appearance is now so good that is often mistaken for an active duty US Navy ship, which has led to a few humorous situations. The ship was readied for public visitation by installing automated smoke and fire alarms and removing obstructions to meet insurance criteria. Entrances were modified and fireproof doors installed in several places to allow unrestricted public access. Several spaces have now been converted by Tin Can Sailors volunteers into the George T. Moore Destroyer Museum, dedicated to destroyermen everywhere.
DD-946 continues to serve the U.S. Navy in a way by serving as a command center for Navy activities during New York’s annual Fleet Week.
The Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum is open to the public seven days a week from May 1 to September 30. From October 1 to April 30, the museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Adult admission is $10, however, members of Tin Can Sailors and a guest are admitted without charge.
1. There have been 111 U.S. Naval Ships to date named for Marine Heroes. Of this total, 27 ships were named for WW II Marine Corps RAIDER Heroes. Two ships were also named for Naval Medical Heroes serving with the RAIDERS. Reference: Beau, J. J. C., The U. S. Marine Raiders of WWII: Those Who Served. American Historical Foundation, Richmond, Virginia, page 7, 1996, cited in World War II United States Marine Raiders Official Web Site at http://www.usmarineraiders.org/decorations.html
2. Colonel Edson’s citation accompanying his Congressional Medal of Honor reads as follows: "For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the First Raider Battalion, with Parachute Battalion attached, during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands on the night of 13-14 September, 1942. After the airfield on Guadalcanal had been seized from the enemy on 8 August, Colonel Edson, with a force of 800 men, was assigned to the occupation and defense of a ridge dominating the jungle on either side of the airport. Facing a formidable Japanese attack which, augmented by infiltration, had crashed through our front lines, he, by skillful handling of his troops, successfully withdrew his forward units to a reserve line with minimum casualties. When the enemy, in a subsequent series of violent assaults, engaged our force in desperate hand-to-hand combat with bayonets, rifles, pistols, grenades, and knives, Colonel Edson, although continuously exposed to hostile fire throughout the night, personally directed defense of the reserve position against a fanatical foe of greatly superior numbers. By his astute leadership and gallant devotion to duty, he enabled his men, despite severe losses to cling tenaciously to their position on the vital ridges thereby retaining command not only of the Guadalcanal airfield, but also of the First Division's entire offensive installations in the surrounding area." Cited at Id., http://www.usmarineraiders.org/medal_edson.html
3. Information from web site: http://destroyers.org/Memorial-Ships.htm#U.S.S. EDSON (DD-946)