USS Berkeley (DDG-15) - USN Operational History - 1960s


After fitting out at Philadelphia, Berkeley set out for her assigned homeport of Long Beach, California, mooring there on 16 March 1963 after visits to Port Royal, South Carolina; Kingston, Jamaica; and Acapulco, Mexico. Designed primarily to provide long-range anti-aircraft cover for task forces at sea, Berkeley devoted the next six weeks testing her Tartar anti-aircraft missile system's proficiency in that role. The warship's crew also conducted gunnery, engineering, and communication systems trials. In early May, the guided-missile destroyer demonstrated her capabilities to President John F. Kennedy, knocking down two jet drone targets with two TARTAR missiles. At the end of a short visit to the Rose Festival at Portland, Oregon, in early June, Berkeley entered the San Francisco Naval Shipyard for a three-month availability. At the end of the repair period, she became a unit of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 12 and spent the rest of the year engaged in local operations in the Long Beach area.

The warship remained in southern California waters for the first 10 weeks of 1964, preparing for a Far East deployment. On 13 March, Berkeley stood out of Long Beach in company with USS Topeka (CL-67) and 11 other destroyers bound for her first tour of duty with the 7th Fleet. After calling at Pearl Harbor, where USS Midway (CV-41) joined company, the task group steamed to the East China Sea for a month of training. Detached on 18 April, Berkeley proceeded to Hong Kong, where she embarked Vice Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, and sailed on to Bangkok, Thailand, for the annual Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) conference. After rejoining her task group in late April, the guided-missile destroyer spent the next two months screening USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) and USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) and participating in a SEATO landing exercise in the Philippines.

After spending Independence Day in Sasebo, Japan, she put to sea with the Ticonderoga task group on 5 July for routine operations. This quickly changed, however, when the warships received orders diverting them to the South China Sea where they joined other Navy units off the South Vietnamese coast and in the Gulf of Tonkin. As part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's effort to limit North Vietnamese attacks on Laos and South Vietnam, the carrier launched Vought F-8 "Crusader" jet aircraft to reconnoiter suspected communist infiltration routes in eastern and southern Laos.

Berkeley continued to screen Ticonderoga throughout that summer. On 2 August, she provided antiair protection to the task group during air strikes against North Vietnamese missile boats during the Tonkin Gulf incident. After American warships reported more attacks on the 4th, the guided-missile destroyer again screened the carrier during extensive retaliatory strikes on North Vietnamese gunboats and torpedo boats on 5 August. Berkeley remained in the South China Sea during the relative lull that followed, patrolling the region during the slow buildup of American naval forces in Southeast Asia. The warship joined USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) while there and sailed for home on 10 October, mooring at Long Beach, via Yokosuka, Japan, on 21 November.

After leave and upkeep, the guided-missile destroyer entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for a restricted availability. Following these repairs, Berkeley spent the next six months carrying out training missions, passing various communications and engineering inspections, and preparing for her next deployment to the Far East. This pattern of activity—combat service in Vietnamese waters followed by repairs and training to prepare for her next deployment—characterized her service for the next ten years.

Underway with USS Hancock (CV-19) in late November 1965, Berkeley made a brief stop at Subic Bay in the Philippines before proceeding to the South China Sea for combat operations off Vietnam. Upon arrival on "Yankee Station" on 16 December, Berkeley joined Task Force (TF) 77 in support of Operation Rolling Thunder. This naval air campaign, begun the previous March, sought to cut the flow of munitions and supplies to the Viet Cong insurgents in the south by interdicting North Vietnam's logistics pipelines through Laos and across the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Assigned to the northern search-and-rescue (SAR) station in the Gulf of Tonkin, Berkeley, in company with USS Topeka (CLG-8) and USS Brinkley Bass (DD-887), patrolled the area through the end of January 1966.

Following minor repairs at Sasebo in early February, and a port visit to Hong Kong, the guided-missile destroyer returned to the Gulf of Tonkin for a second SAR tour on 26 February. Her first rescue mission took place on 14 March when Berkeley received notice that a McDonnell F-4C "Phantom" had ditched off Hon Me Island. In company with USS Arnold J. Isbell (DD-869), Berkeley coordinated rescue helicopter flights, and those of fighter aircraft from Ranger and Kitty Hawk, as the two warships closed the ditch site. Before they arrived, an Air Force HU-16 "Albatross" amphibian—which had landed to pick up the two "Phantom" crewmen—was taken under fire by North Vietnamese shore batteries. The amphibian was hit shortly thereafter, killing two crewmen and the aircraft burned and sank. Berkeley then closed Hon Me Island, drawing the enemy fire to her, and engaged in a 22-minute gunnery dual with the coastal batteries. At the same time, her combat information team directed friendly air strikes against enemy gun emplacements and coordinated three SH-3 helicopters from Yorktown and England as they retrieved the six survivors from the water. Although repeatedly straddled by enemy fire during this action, Berkeley suffered only minor damage from shell fragments.

Relieved two weeks later by Coontz, the guided-missile destroyer proceeded to Qui Nhon, where she joined Operation "Sea Dragon" for a week of call-fire missions against communist supply craft and coastal infiltration routes. After completing this mission on 8 April, she steamed to Subic Bay where the crew began preparing the warship for visits to Australia and New Zealand. Departing the Philippines on 17 April, Berkeley crossed the equator north of the Admiralty Islands and moored at Sydney, Australia, on the 29th. Over the next three weeks, the warship's crew took part in the annual "Coral Sea Celebration"--which honored the victory won by the Allied navies in May 1942—and visited Sydney, Adelaide, and Hobart in Australia as well as Auckland, New Zealand. Underway for home on 22 May, the guided-missile destroyer stopped at Suva in the Fiji Islands and at Pearl Harbor before arriving at Long Beach on 6 June.

Subsequent to a leave and upkeep period, Berkeley entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for a restricted availability on 19 July. During that yard period, workers installed the new Standard missile system, including launch rails and guidance equipment. Upon leaving the shipyard on 25 August, the warship commenced a three-month missile development test and evaluation program. This entailed weekly cruises in southern California waters and the firing of Standard missiles at air and surface targets. Following the removal of test equipment in mid-December, the guided-missile destroyer spent the rest of the month getting ready for upcoming fleet exercises.

Following the early January 1967 Exercise "Snatch Block," which was devoted to SAR and electronic countermeasure (ECM) procedures, Berkeley spent the next three months preparing for another Far East deployment. This included many local evolutions—such as shore bombardment, carrier screening, and ASW exercises—as well as numerous operational readiness inspections. During this period, her engineers and technicians busied themselves maintaining and improving the warship's complex electronic and fire-control systems, a task abetted by a three-week tender availability in early February.

Underway for the western Pacific on 29 April, the guided-missile destroyer crossed the central Pacific; and, after a short liberty period at Yokosuka, Japan, the warship headed south to Subic Bay, arriving there on 24 May. Underway again three days later, Berkeley sailed with Constellation to the Gulf of Tonkin before joining Saint Paul and TU 77.1.1 for a "Sea Dragon" patrol. The task unit cruised off North Vietnam near Hon Me and Hon Matt Islands, searching for enemy waterborne logistics craft and firing on designated targets ashore. This pattern—small craft search in the morning followed by shore bombardment missions later in the day—became the daily routine of Berkeley's later "Sea Dragon" patrols.

After routine upkeep and replenishment at Subic Bay in late June and early July, the guided-missile destroyer commenced her second "Sea Dragon" patrol on 12 July. Detached 10 days later, she sailed north to the Tonkin Gulf SAR station where she monitored daily strikes over North Vietnam. During three weeks on station, Berkeley participated in seven SAR incidents and helped to rescue four pilots. Relieved on 11 August by William V. Pratt, the warship sailed to Hong Kong for a week of rest and recreation.

Following a tender availability at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the guided-missile destroyer returned to the gunline on 22 September. Berkeley alternated duty between gunfire support for the 3d Marine Division in the I Corps area and night harassment and interdiction missions against coastal infiltration routes. Detached on 1 October, the warship visited Nagoya and Yokosuka before departing Japan on the 12th. Berkeley arrived at Long Beach on 25 October and spent the remainder of the year conducting post-deployment maintenance and preparing for various service inspections.

The guided-missile destroyer carried out local operations through April 1968 before moving into Long Beach Naval Shipyard for a maintenance overhaul. Upon completion of these repairs on 3 June, Berkeley loaded supplies and ammunition before steaming west on 5 July. After fuel stops at Pearl Harbor, Midway, and Guam—as well as a diversion south to avoid a typhoon near the Philippines—the warship arrived at Subic Bay on the 28th. Four days later, the guided-missile cruiser departed for the coast of Vietnam and duty on "Sea Dragon" patrol. Over the next two months, Berkeley conducted three gunline patrols—firing nightly interdiction missions, searching for waterborne logistics craft, and bombarding supply routes—off both North Vietnam and the Vung Tau Peninsula. In between these missions, she retired to Subic Bay for upkeep. Her best hunting took place on the night of 10 and 11 September, when she and Harwood combined to sink or damage 58 enemy supply boats.

After calling at Keelung, Taiwan, in late October and at Hong Kong in early November, Berkeley sailed back to Vietnam on the 11th. The rest of November passed uneventfully, with the warship on planeguard duty on "Yankee Station." Departing the area on 1 December, she stopped at Guam and Pearl Harbor before mooring at Long Beach on 20 December.

Aside from a few periods of underway training, which included her annual missile-firing exercises in late February, the warship spent the first three months of 1969 preparing for an extensive overhaul. Entering the Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 27 March, Berkeley received new weapons and communications systems as well as a general rehabilitation of all internal spaces in the warship. With this work completed, the guided-missile destroyer commenced sea trials and post-overhaul refresher training on 24 July. The warship also tested her new Standard missile system in September before turning to preparations for another Far East deployment which took up the remainder of the year.

Read more about this topic:  USS Berkeley (DDG-15), USN Operational History

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