The USS ELLIOT (DD 967) will be remembered for its exceptional material condition, its consistently high motivation, its operational excellence, the outstanding leadership of fifteen Commanding Officers, and the dedication and hard work of numerous crews. By the Sailors that have lived and worked in ELLIOT, the ship will be remembered as bits and pieces of a life experience.
On January 22, 1977 in Pascagoula, Mississippi eighteen officers, seventeen chiefs, and two hundred and twenty crewmembers commissioned USS ELLIOT (DD 967), the fifth of thirty-one SPRUANCE CLASS Destroyers. Attending the ceremony was former Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., LCDR Arthur Elliot's commander in Vietnam. During the ceremony U.S. Congressman, The Honorable David Emery, R., Maine concluded his speech by saying, "This is a fine ship. As modern as tomorrow and as capable of fulfilling its role as the fine men and women who built it and who will sail it."
Those that served in ELLIOT during its first two years will remember transiting through the Panama Canal in route to their homeport of San Diego, California. Upon arrival they immediately completed an intense period of "Shakedown Training", accuracy tests for the weapons systems, and participation in a War-At-Sea exercise with twenty-eight other ships. Perhaps most memorable during those early years was the voyage ELLIOT made to the hometown of LCDR Elliot, Rockland, Maine. Warmly welcomed by the Elliot family and local citizens tours were offered and the crew visited LCDR Elliot's gravesite, paying tribute to his heroism and ultimate sacrifice.
ELLIOT's maiden deployment in 1979 involved a great deal of contact with the Russian Navy. During a port visit to Seychelles, the Commanding Officer, RADM (Ret.) Stephen Clarey, invited the Captain of a Soviet Ship anchored in port to ELLIOT for an afternoon lunch. The invitation was politely declined by the Soviets, but ELLIOT was again offered the chance to observe the Soviet Navy when it took Alpha station astern of the Soviet Aircraft Carrier MINSK conducting operations with a KARA CLASS cruiser the PETROPAVLOVSK. ELLIOT's Captain stated, "When we left them, PETROPAVLOVSK was following smartly in MINSK's wake, maintaining plane guard station. She wasn't doing that when we arrived. They learned that from us."
After completing a year-long workup and training cycle, ELLIOT's second deployment would be remembered for RECONEX 81-2 including a Marine Reconnaissance Battalion's insertion and extraction off of Luzon Island. After memorable port visits to Hong Kong and Pattaya Beach, Thailand, ELLIOT was tasked with a no-notice surveillance operation that required a thirty-six hour full power run to report on station. ELLIOT provided Naval Gunfire Support for a SEAL delivery exercise.
In 1982, ELLIOT was notified of its second consecutive Battle "E", completed an availability, and continued training and improving shipboard systems with the addition of the ECM Suite including SLQ-32, topside and magazine armor plating, and enhanced passive sonar. Those that were onboard for the third deployment might remember racing to the sight of the downed KAL 007, a Boeing 747 enroute to Seoul, South Korea that had strayed off course and was subsequently shot down without warning by a Soviet SU-15. ELLIOT was the first United States ship to reach the sight. One crewmember was quoted saying, "It was a much needed show of force." The 1983 deployment ended with humanitarian efforts in Korea and the rescue of sixty-eight refugees. Truong Hue Phoc, one refugee, said about his plight, "Freedom is more valuable than anything- worth risking my life."
ELLIOT began 1984 with a weapons offload in Seal Beach and continued the year with Southern California exercises, a Selected Repair Availability, and a fantastic trip to San Francisco for Fleet Week.
ELLIOT's forth deployment commenced in 1985 and would be remembered by Sailors for various storm/typhoon evasions, an ENCOUNTEREX exercise with the NEW JERSEY Battle Group and the KITTY HAWK, ELLIOT's assistance to the submarine DARTER after a collision with a merchant ship, and exercises with the Thai Navy.
ELLIOT was again afforded the opportunity to attend San Francisco Fleet Week in 1986, which offered rest and relaxation during a busy year of deployment preparations. Early 1987 marked the beginning of the fifth deployment that took the crew north to the Bering Sea. ELLIOT rescued Vietnamese refugees from the Gulf of Thailand and manned battle stations several times a week having been reminded of the importance of quick response after the attack on the USS STARK in the Persian Gulf.
After returning from deployment, ELLIOT removed the ASROC Launcher from the Foc'sle and was refitted with a Vertical Launching System (VLS) capable of firing the Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC) and Tomahawk Cruise Missiles.
As ELLIOT moved into a new decade, the crew once again departed for the Western Pacific. Having participated in PACEX-89, the largest major exercise to be held in the Pacific since the close of World War II, ELLIOT headed to the Gulf of Alaska and then into the Bering Sea. For many of those Sailors, the rough weather between San Diego and Pearl Harbor is quite memorable. As the ship pitched and rolled, the crew's mess line fell over on the mess decks presenting challenging repairs. ELLIOT rescued thirty-five Vietnamese refugees and took them to Singapore.
During 1991, the crew completed rapid training and availability in time to turn around for the ship's seventh deployment. ELLIOT headed to the Arabian Gulf. Having just ended the Gulf War ELLIOT's cruise book describes the WESTPAC by saying, "Diversions were few, although quite welcome. They came in varied forms, some a bit gruesome. These distractions to the daily dullness of Gulf operations included escort duties into a Kuwaiti harbor, witnessing the oily, blackened skies from the still burning oil wells; bombed-out Iraqi off-shore oil platforms, leaking crude oil into the sea; the myriad of Dhows, sailing vessels dating back to Sin Bad; wrecked and sunken ships, grim reminders of the recent Gulf War." The crew watched closely the Islamic Iranian Navy and were ever on the lookout for mines. ELLIOT reported on scene when a French Research ship reported one such mine. The Explosive Ordnance Department was flown in and ELLIOT crewmembers watched as the mine was detonated.
In 1993 ELLIOT attended the Portland Rose Festival. After workups and training, ELLIOT returned to the Arabian Gulf this time participating as flagship for the Commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. On September 1, 1993 ELLIOT proceeded on station in the North Arabian Gulf for immediate Strike tasking. ELLIOT remained on station for the majority of its deployment, but received no calls for fire. On November 28, ELLIOT conducted a boarding on the first cargo vessel inbound to Iraq since the end of the Iran-Iraq war.
In February of 1995 ELLIOT participated in CNO Project 251 and fired Tomahawk Cruise Missiles from the Pacific Missile Test Range to a target at China Lake Weapons Facility. The 1995 Deployment included port visits to Australia and American Samoa. During 1996 ELLIOT had the privilege of visiting Bremerton, Washington; Vancouver and Victoria B.C.; San Francisco, California; and Seattle, Washington for the annual SEAFAIR. By the end of 1996 ELLIOT was entering the shipyards for dry-dock and a major availability.
ELLIOT's '98 deployment involved the now standard Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS), but later ELLIOT was chosen as one of six ships to proceed in an attack on terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Sudan. The attack was in retaliation to the American Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The Tomahawk launch conducted by ELLIOT and the other ships in theater was an early attack on terrorist camps. Three years later after ELLIOT had completed yet another WESTPAC deployment, terrorists would again require ELLIOT's attention as the crew was directed to conduct homeland defense in Operation Noble Eagle. Shortly thereafter ELLIOT headed out for its final deployment. As letters of support flooded in from the public, ELLIOT spent long days in the Arabian Gulf conducting VBSS, searching for smuggled goods, and possible terrorists.
During the summer of 2001, ELLIOT welcomed aboard the ship's first assigned female officers. LTJG Lesley Smith recalls that day, "It was a late Friday and the Quarterdeck Watch was so surprised. They thought we had the wrong ship." Today, that number has grown to seven. The enlisted crew remains all male due to a lack of berthing modification.
ELLIOT's final eighteen months have been spent training its decommissioning crew for an upcoming deployment aboard the USS FLETCHER (DD 992) as part of the Navy's Sea Swap program. ELLIOT, the first ship to be named for a hero from the Vietnam War, has completed twelve deployments, visited over twenty ports of call, welcomed hundreds of Sailors, and participated in combatant operations. While the ship itself will now rest in Pearl Harbor, HawaŁ, its memories will be carried on by those that have proudly sailed USS ELLIOT.