Expanded story from “Striking Eight Bells: A Vietnam Memoir.”
“Another story 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. Another example of events that year happened in mid-July 1972, to USS Warrington (DD 843) a Gearing class destroyer while assigned to Operation “Linebacker.”
Warrington had departed from her homeport in Newport, RI on June 5, and headed, via the Panama Canal and Pearl Harbor, for Guam in the Mariana Islands. Arriving at Arpa Harbor, Guam on June 30. The ship departed Apra Harbor the following day, bound for Subic Bay, Philippines. She departed from Subic Bay early on July 6, reaching Vietnamese waters later the same day. During her first period on the Vietnam gunline, Warrington conducted naval gunfire support (NGFS) missions along the coast of the I Corps zone of South Vietnam. On July15, she briefly put into port of Da Nang, after departing Da Nang, she headed for the coast of North Vietnam to participate in Operation “Linebacker.”
On July16, she relieved Hamner (DD 718) of “Linebacker” duty and began her primary mission; the destruction of North Vietnamese small craft and observation of communist Chinese merchant shipping. The following morning, while operating in company with USS Hull (DD 945) and USS Robinson (DDG 12), Warrington came under the rapid and heavy fire from enemy shore batteries; but she took prompt evasive action and avoided damage.
Later that same afternoon at 1316, off the coast of North Vietnam, near Dong Hoi, the ship was rocked by two underwater explosions close aboard on her port side. There are accounts that the ship did not receive any messages warning about laid mines in the area. None-the-less the ship entered an area where U.S. aircraft jettisoned bombs and mines, so the mines the ship had stuck were ours. It also could have been the case that some bombs and mines were not dropped where they should have been, 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.
Hull came alongside Warrington to transfer repair personnel, pumps, and shoring equipment to Warrington to address continuing flooding. Before returning to station, Hull also transferred boiler feedwater to help the ship to maintain boiler operation. Later, the damage forced her to shut down her propulsion plant and ask USS Robison for a tow.
Throughout the night of July 17 and 18, the crew struggled against flooding caused by ruptured fuel oil and fresh water tanks, but she remained afloat. The next morning Robison turned the tow over to USS Reclaimer (ARS-42) for the first leg of the passage to Subic Bay. On July 20, USS Tawakoni (ATF-114) took over the tow from Reclaimer and arriving in Subic Bay on July 24. Throughout the six-day passage, Warrington’s crew worked to control the flooding and keep their ship afloat.
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.
“A stark reminder of what could happen.” 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 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.
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…To read “Striking Eight Bells,” use one of the following links to various booksellers: Amazon.com: Books, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, BAM –Books A Million and Smashword.com eBooks.
©2018 George Trowbridge
The stories in these posts and the book; “Striking Eight Bells: A Vietnam Memoir,” reflect the author’s recollection of events. Some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed to protect the privacy of those depicted. Dialogue has been recreated from memory. Dates, times, and locations were recreated from declassified U.S. Navy records and others. Photographs used are either public domain or owned by the author. Illustrations and maps used were either created by the author or in the public domain. The stories in these posts and the book are solely the opinion of the author and not the publisher, Richter Publishing, LLC.
*Image was found in public domain or it could not be established after reasonable search, that any claim existed to the image. Image used for illustrative purposes only and is not the property of the author. Where ever possible credit for the image is indicated in the caption.
Source materials referenced:
2. USS Warrington DD-843. Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command. https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/w/warrington-iii.html
3. https://www.angelo.edu/content/files/22070-a. The Warrington Incident (a true account) by Michael Gonzales, Jr. Mineman Chief Petty Officer (Surface Warfare) U.S. Navy, retired. Source: War Stories Collections, Dr. Ralph R. Chase West Texas Collection, Angelo State University, San Angelo, Texas.
4. http://www.eaglespeak.us/2013/06/sunday-ship-history-minestrike-uss.html. Mark Tempest, Captain U.S. Navy Reserve, retired.