USS Bordeon DDR/DD 881
There are good ships, and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea.
But the best ships are friendships, and may they always be.
The Bordelon was a Gearing class destroyer (DD), the last class of US Navy destroyers to see combat in World War 2.
The Gearing class was a modification to the previous Sumner class, a modification which added 14 feet to the length for additional fuel storage to increase the operating range for the vast areas of the Pacific. With the increased length, the Gearing class was marginally faster than the Sumner class.
These destroyers were to be the mainstay of the US Navy for over twenty years.
The ship was named in honor of Staff Sergeant William J. Bordelon, USMC, who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery during the battle of Tarawa (Gilbert Islands).
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Built by the Orange, Texas yards of Consolidated Steel Corp., Bordelon slid from the ways on 3 Mar. 1945. The USS Bordelon was commissioned on 5 June 1945, with Cdr. Michael J Luosey USN, as her first commanding officer. Upon completion of outfitting and provisioning, Bordelon stood out from Galveston on 22 June 1945 for shakedown in the area of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, arriving there on the 25th. Upon completion of these maneuvers she cleared the Caribbean on 22 July enroute for Norfolk Navy Yard for post shakedown availability.
In the summer of 1945 Bordelon underwent conversion to a Radar Picket Destroyer (DDR) at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. This change removed the torpedo tubes and added additional 40 mm guns. Most visible was the addition of a tripod after-mast supporting the large antenna for the altitude-measuring radar (SP). Departing Norfolk 5 Sept., she sailed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for gunnery practice and sea trials. On the return trip to Norfolk, in a smooth sea, an eight-hour shakedown run was made during which she traveled at over 38 knots. After several days spent conducting tests on a new product to lay down smoke screens, Bordelon sailed for Casco Bay, Maine. As part of the Casco Bay Training Program, exercises were conducted off Nova Scotia and the crew was given training in extinguishing shipboard fires. The ship held an open house, in observance of Navy Day, in Portland.
In November 1945, Bordelon returned to Norfolk to prepare for a trip to Japan. The squadron arrived at Coca Sola, Canal Zone, on Nov. 11th and the next day transited the canal, en route to San Diego to load supplies. Three days later, with Dennis J. Buckley as flagship of Destroyer Div 16, the Bordelon, Leary and Dyess and the other Div. of destroyers were underway for Pearl Harbor, arriving on the 28th. After several days in Pearl Harbor, the eight destroyers continued toward Japan. On the way, a typhoon was encountered and the SP radar antenna had to be secured, as the rotation motors were unable to control the heavy antenna. At one point the Bordelon was rolled 54 degrees. Surviving the typhoon, they reached Yokosuka with less than a day's supply of fuel.
After Christmas, the ships went to Kure, Japan for repairs from the tender, Vulcan. The storm had lifted the forward 5" gun mount of the Bordelon and the rotation gears had been crushed. After repairs, the eight destroyers joined the Navy's first peacetime task force and then spent many days in training between Guam and Saipan. The first mission of Task Force 77 was to make an official call on the port of Hong Kong. Following a week in Hong Kong the ships went up the Yangtze River, into the Wangpoo River, to Shanghai for a week of liberty. In May 1946, the Bordelon, along with the Brinkley Bass DD 887, the Vesole DD 878, the Leary DD 879, the Dyess DD 880 and others, was engaged in maneuvers, torpedo runs, and tactical exercises. In late June the Task Force was sent to Manila to take part in Philippine Independence Day.
In Dec. of 1946 Bordelon returned to the Atlantic Fleet, carrying over a hundred Navy and Marine veterans, as her homeport was shifted to Newport, Rhode Island. During April 1947 she was in Brooklyn Navy Yard. In the summer the ship made a Midshipman Cruise to Argentia, Newfoundland and Bar Harbor, Me. During the winter she made a northern European cruise, operating out of Plymouth, England for 6 months as part of the Northern European Task Force. The summer of 1948 saw another Midshipman Cruise to France, Portugal and Algeria. In 1949 she operated along the East Coast of the U.S. and then made her 1st Mediterranean Cruise. In Sept., along with the USS Stribling, the USS Juneau and USS Columbia, the Bordelon entered the port at El Ferroll, Spain. This marked the first official visit by USN ships to Spain in over 20 years. In Nov. the Bordelon, with Vesole, Leary and Dyess, took part in a cold weather cruise as part of a task fleet in the North Atlantic, crossed the Arctic Circle and all hands received the Order of The Blue Nose.
On May 3,1950 the Bordelon left Norfolk for Lisbon, Portugal to again become part of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. After various port visits and fleet exercises, Bordelon left Suda Bay, Crete on July 19, for Trieste, Italy. Transit of the Adriatic Sea was made at nine knots, in a narrow swept channel, due to the minefield remaining from WWII and, it was said, from WWI. On occasion mines, which had broken loose from their moorings, were observed floating on the surface. Upon being shot by the gunners, these mines usually sank rather than exploded. Bordelon arrived in Trieste on July 23 and stayed for ten days to support the Allied forces of the U.S. and Great Britain, who occupied the city, along with Russia. August 3rd through the 8th was spent in Venice, from which a quick return could be made to Trieste. After more port visits and maneuvers, Bordelon sailed into Orinca Bay, Sardinia, on Sept. 22 to meet the relieving ships and depart the Sixth Fleet, headed for home.
To celebrate the 4th of July 1951, Bordelon held open house in New Bedford, MA. During Aug and Sept., as part of DesRon 4, she hosted a group of ROTC Midshipman on their annual training cruise to Guantanamo Bay. Returning to the Mediterranean in Jan. 1952, Bordelon met the homeward bound ships in Gibralter. In March, after various port visits and exercises, including "Grand Slam" in Feb., the starboard propeller struck a submerged object, causing the shaft to vibrate. Bordelon entered an English dry dock in Malta, the propeller was replaced and the rudder was repaired. After a visit to Istanbul and then, Bari, Italy, Bordelon was one of the first American ships to make a post-war port visit to Yugoslavia. Visiting Split in April, the officers and crew entertained a group from the embassy in Belgrade and the senior class of the Yugoslavian Naval Academy, as well as the children from the local orphanage. After visiting Trieste and Venice, she sailed to Gibralter to be relieved by the incoming ships and returned to Norfolk.
In April 1953 Bordelon again went to the Med. In Oct., shortly before she was to return to the states, Bordelon hit a submerged log while backing to a refueling pier, in Caligliaria, Sardinia. This time there was extensive damage to the port propeller. A diver reported one blade with about 10 inches broken off and the tips of the other blades bent from 20 to 30 degrees. Bordelon limped to Gibralter at 8 knots for repairs at an English drydock, and then sailed for home.
In Dec. 1953 Bordelon served as one of two Presidential guardships to cover the route of the president on the way to the Big Three Conference in Bermuda. In 1954, Bordelon entered the Navy Yard at Norfolk and the after tripod mast was removed. A new height finding radar was installed with an antenna on an after-deck house. The 40 mm guns were replaced by 3" 50s.
From 1956 through 1959 Bordelon was deployed with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean three times and took part in two Northern European cruises. During this period Bordelon was awarded the coveted Battle Efficiency "E" and the ship's homeport was shifted to Charleston, South Carolina. The 1958 cruise enabled the crew to visit the World's Fair in Brussels, Belgium. The summer of 1959 saw the Bordelon evaluating new electronic gear which had been installed. From 1959 to 1963 Bordelon was again deployed with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, and participated in most of the Second Fleet and NATO air defense exercises that were conducted to develop new techniques of fleet anti-air warfare.
In February 1962, the Bordelon participated in "Project Mercury" and the recovery of LTCOL John Glenn and his Mercury spacecraft from a US Manned Orbital Flight. Bordelon also participated in the Cuban Quarantine Operation. In Oct, Bordelon was positioned directly off Havana with the primary mission to alert Boca Chica if aircraft taking off from Havana airport did not make an immediate right turn after departing. Then the search radar at GTMO failed and Bordelon was ordered to proceed to GTMO at flank speed to serve as their back up air search radar system. The crisis ended while Bordelon was approaching GTMO. In Feb.1963, Bordelon entered the Charleston Naval Yard to undergo a Navy program designed to extend the useful life of many of the ships constructed during WW II.
As part of this Force Reconstruction and Modernization, (FRAM 1), the earlier bridge with the portholed inner wheelhouse was replaced with the roomier, single structure with full windows (with windshield wipers in front of the Captain's and OOD's chairs). This bridge added a lot of windage and slowed her down to approx. 27 knots, but in heavy seas the squadron FRAM II "Allen Sumner"'s, "James C Owens" (DD776) and "Strong" (DD758) would be forced to slow down to protect their older style bridge. Two ASW torpedo tubes replaced Mount 52 and the handling room became the forward officer's country. Bordelon received improved radar, sonar and communication gear. Amidships was mounted the ASROC launcher. Aft of the second stack was the ASROC magazine/DASH hanger. 4th Div bunked in the hanger bay. Above the hanger stood an ECM room with the array on a tower/mast.
Sonar Control was moved from below the mess decks to portside behiind CIC. The compartment below the mess decks was expanded and housed OC, OI and S Divisions. The sonar equipment (twice as much as in 1952) was moved to an air conditioned compartment, portside of the compartment just forward of the mess decks, and one deck down. The starboard side housed the 3rd Div Sonar Techs and ASROC GMs.
Bordelon was re-designated as a DD, and re-assigned to Desron Four. Jan. 1965 saw her off to the Med. and the Red Sea. In July and August she was off the coast of Santo Domingo during the insurrection there. Oct. 1965 saw her in New York City for the Worlds Fair. In August 1966 she participated in the North Sea NATO Operation, "Straight Laced". After this operation, the ship visited Wilhelmshaven, Germany. The ship again deployed to the Mediterranean from Oct 1966 to Jan 1967. During Dec. 1966, she participated in the search and rescue operation for the victims of the stricken Greek ferry Heraklion.
Bordelon put into the Charleston Naval Yard for overhaul in the spring of 1967. Bordelon participated in the Vietnam conflict, as part of the US Seventh Fleet, while deployed to the Western Pacific from November 1967 to June 1968. The ship fired her first shots at an enemy, after twenty-two years of commissioned service, on 20 January 1968, while participating in Operation "Seadragon". In addition to Seadragon, Bordelon saw action on the gun-line near the demilitarized zone, delivering 5,700 rounds of ammunition and the ship was credited with inflicting considerable damage upon the enemy, so much so, that she became known as "The Bloody B". Bordelon operated with carriers on Yankee Station, rescuing four aviators and participating in the rescue of another in the Tonkin Gulf, and rescuing a landing craft from hostile enemy waters. For her outstanding performance in combat on this deployment, the Bordelon was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation by the Secretary of the Navy.
Citation: For meritorious service from 6 Dec 1967 through 12 May 1968 while deployed as a unit of the United States SEVENTH Fleet, in direct combat operations in support of free-world objectives in Southeast Asia. During this period,USS BORDELON demonstrated her superior ability while performing in Operation SEA DRAGON, naval gunfire support, "Yankee Station" Operations and various other combat assignments. BORDELON's responsive, accurate, and voluminous counterbattery fire during SEA DRAGON Operations contributed significantly to the success of each combat mission, in addition to preventing the enemy batteries from inflicting damage to herself and other SEA DRAGON units. In naval gunfire support, BORDELON delivered over 5,700 devastating rounds of ammunition in the face of hostile fire, attesting to the noteworthy unit excellence which has become her trademark. Continually operating well within range of enemy coastal defense sites to obtain optimum accuracy with minimum delay, BORDELON provided round-the-clock support for United States and Allied forces, thereby saving the lives of countless troops ashore. In addition, her exceptional performance was responsible for the rescue of five airmen in distress. The outstanding professional skills and dedication demonstrated by the officers and men of USS BORDELON while operating as a unit of the "YANKEE STATION" Aircraft Carrier Task Groups, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
All personnel attached to and serving on board USS BORDELON during the above-designated period, or any part thereof, are hereby authorized to wear the Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon.
After returning to Charleston, Bordelon participated in NATO operation "Silver Tower" off Norway. The ship visited Amsterdam upon completion of the exercise. In 1969 she again deployed to the Mediterranean, and in 1970 she was to be in the Middle East. Leaving Charleston in February, Bordelon crossed the equater and sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. Rounding the Cape, the ship was pounded by 40-ft seas, resulting in a 6-foot crack in the hull. This was repaired at the next port but the compartment that was flooded contained the ship's entire supply of toilet paper. Letters from home took on a new importance. While in the mid east, Bordelon was a back up recovery vessel for Apollo 13, along with the USS Vesole. In 1971 she operated with several South American navies as part of UNITAS XII, visiting 6 So. American countries and 17 ports, plus the Canal Zone and returning to Charleston to complete her 27th year of active service.
In late January 1972, Bordelon deployed to Guantanamo, Cuba assigned to "Operation Johnny Express" She escorted freighters past Cuba for approximately 30 days. One evening, Bordelon received a distress call from the USS Beacon, PG99 which had collided with a small feighter, was on fire and flooding. Maneuvering in 12-14 foot seas, Bordelon put men and equipment aboard Beacon and kept her afloat. During this activity, Bordelon and Beacon collided and Bordelon sustained a 4 foot diameter hole in her port bow. Bordelon was able to tow Beacon until a fleet tug could take over and Bordelon returned to Gitmo for repairs and resumed her mission several days later.
Returning to the Western Pacific in Oct. 1972, Bordelon participated in Operation Linebacker, one of the heaviest Naval actions in the Vietnam War. At one point, Bordelon lost her starboard turbine while shelling targets, leaving her exposed to shelling from the shore by 8" guns. With luck and cover fire from the USS Lawrence, Bordelon was able to withdraw with minimal damage. Bordelon went to Subic Bay to replace her turbine, fighting heavy typhoon seas while being able to make about 10 knots.
After the cease-fire, she left the Seventh Fleet on 12 March 1973, after serving in the Western Pacific for 121 days, and arrived home in Charleston, SC on 5 April 1973. CDR Carmody said the ship had steamed 40,000 miles and fired 4,000 rounds. The Bordelon participated in six strikes against the enemy and had a few thousand rounds fired at it by coastal defense forces. The ship also provided group support to forces in S. Vietnam and performed search and rescue duties on Yankee Station for aircraft. In July, although scheduled to return to the Med., the Bordelon was sent on a Central American tour as part of UNITAS XV. This included 5 days in Rio De Janeiro and a trip through the Straits of Magellan.
In April 1975, while re-fueling, the Bordelon collided with the USS Seattle AOE 3, resulting in only minor damage. Again in the Mediterranean in Oct. Bordelon completed anti-submarine operations in the Ionian Sea and rejoined the Task Force based on USS John F. Kennedy. During nighttime maneuvers in Nov., the Kennedy collided with the cruiser, USS Belknap CG 26. The USS Claude Ricketts, DDG 5, was ordered alongside upwind, to fight the midships fire on Belknap. When it was realized that little progress was being made with the fire, Bordelon was ordered alongside Belknap, downwind in the flame and smoke, to direct water on the area where no one else could reach. Cdr. George Pierce held Bordelon within 15 feet of the side of Belknap -in open seas- until the fires were brought under control. Bordelon then towed Belknap to Augusta Bay, Sicily and aided the Belknap crew with repairs for three days. The holiday period was spent in Palermo, Sicily.
During the summer of 1976, Bordelon participated in the USS Independence's ORI (Operational Readiness Inspection) and deployed to northern Europe as part of the largest maritime NATO exercise to date, "Teamwork 76". On 14 Sept., while refueling alongside the USS John F. Kennedy, the ships came together and collided. The Bordelon's port bow and some of the superstructure were damaged and the main mast snapped and fell on the signal shack, injuring some of the handling team.
Bordelon, escorted by USS Brumby FF 1044, sailed to the Devonport Royal Navy Yard in Plymouth, England. After 11 days getting repairs and a Pathfinder navigation radar, Bordelon, in company with the USS Kalamazoo AOR 6 and USS Luce DDG 38, proceeded under her own power to Charleston, SC.
On Jan 6th, 1977 XO George Ellis relieved CDR George Pierce. Due to the damage to the superstructure and electronics and the age and condition of the hull, the Bordelon was de-commissioned on Feb. 1, 1977. Cdr. Pierce was cleared of blame during the post-collision inquiry and later commanded the USS Cone DD 866.
Towed to Philadelphia by the USS Shakori ATF 162, the ex-Bordelon was stripped of usable equipment. Iran bought the remains, for boiler system parts, and had the hull towed to Iran. It was later sunk as a target.
Bordelon was deployed 26 times and received 2 Meritorious Unit Commendations.
Posted by Frank Doherty
Apr 05 2007 08:40:46:000PM