Excerpt From “Striking Eight Bells: A Vietnam Memoir.”
“Another story on what most Americans don’t know about the Navy’s role in the Vietnam War?”
Many Americans probably believed that by 1972, the war in Vietnam was essentially winding down. However, for the U.S. Navy in Vietnam, 1972 would prove to be a busy year of conducting numerous and dangerous combat operations.
My ship, USS Rich (DD 820) docked on November 18, 1972 at the Subic Bay Naval Station in Subic Bay Harbor at 0710. The ship would remain in Subic Bay for six days while making the necessary preparations and alterations to enter the combat zone of Vietnam. From our berth, USS Warrington (DD 843) was clearly visible where she was moored at another berth in the ship repair facility. The ship was abandoned now and had a mystic look about her similar to that of an empty and deserted old house.
On July 17, while operating in company with USS Hull (DD 945) and USS Robison (DDG 12), Warrington came under the rapid and heavy fire of North Vietnamese shore batteries; but she took prompt evasive action and avoided damage. Later that same afternoon, though, the ship was rocked by two underwater explosions close aboard on her port side. It turned out that the ship had disregarded warning messages and entered a known area where U.S. aircraft jettisoned bombs and mines, so the mines the ship had stuck were ours. It may also have been a case of where aircraft dropped the mines where they shouldn’t have and Warrington simply stumbled onto mislaid mines. She had suffered serious damage in her after fire room, engine room, and in the main engine room or main control.
Warrington’s crew had been able to control the damage and flooding from the mine explosions, which enabled the ship to retire from the area under her own power. Ultimately, it was determined that the ship was so badly damaged that she had to be towed to Subic Bay. Once the ship was back at Subic Bay, the Navy’s initial intent was to repair the ship and return her to service, but in August, an inspection and survey found her to be unfit for further naval service. Warrington was decommissioned on September 30, in Subic Bay. The now deserted and dark USS Warrington stood as a stark reminder to me and many in our crew of what could happen to any ship operating in the waters along Vietnam’s coast…If you would like to read more stories in “Striking Eight Bells,” use one of the following links to booksellers: Amazon.com: Books, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, BAM –Books A Million and Smashword.com eBooks.