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USS Decatur (DDG 31)

- formerly DD 936 -
- decommissioned -
- sunk as a target -

Commissioned as a FORREST SHERMAN - class destroyer, the USS DECATUR entered the Boston Naval Shipyard, Mass., in the mid-1960s for conversion to a guided missile destroyer. During the conversion, the DECATUR had 90% of her superstructure replaced and received the Tartar surface-to-air missile system and the ASROC antisubmarine rocket system. In addition, her engineering equipment was completely overhauled, and she received a lot of additional electronic gear.

USS DECATUR was decommissioned on June 30, 1983. Stricken from the Navy list in March 1988, the DECATUR was subsequently converted to a Self-Defense Test Ship. In this role the DECATUR served from 1994 to 2003 and conducted trials of various systems for countering anti-shipping cruise missiles and other threats. The DECATUR was sunk as a target on July 21, 2004, during RIMPAC 2004.

General Characteristics:Keel laid: September 13, 1954
Launched: December 15, 1955
Commissioned: December 7, 1956
Decommissioned: June 30, 1983
Builder: Bethlehem Steel, Quincy, Mass.
Propulsion system: four-1200 lb. boilers; two steam turbines; two shafts
Propellers: two
Length: 418.3 feet (127.5 meters)
Beam: 45,3 feet (13.8 meters)
Draft: 22 feet (6.7 meters)
Displacement: approx. 4,150 tons full load
Speed: 32+ knots
Aircraft: none
Armament: one Mk-42 5-inch/54 caliber guns, Mk-32 ASW torpedo tubes (two triple mounts), one Mk-16 ASROC missile launcher, one Mk-13 Mod.1 missile launcher for Standard MR missiles
Crew: 25 officers, 339 enlisted

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Crew List:

This section contains the names of sailors who served aboard USS DECATUR. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.

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USS DECATUR Cruise Books:

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Accidents aboard USS DECATUR:

August 29, 1959Naples, Italy
The USS DECATUR suffers an engine room fire while docked in Naples, Italy. The fire is extinguished after two hours during which the ammunition stores are flooded as a precautionary measure.
September 27, 1963Newport, RI.
The USS BARRY (DD 933) accidently discharges a torpedo into the deck house of the USS DECATUR moored alongside. There are no injuries or significant damage.
May 6, 1964150 miles east of Cape Henry, Va.
The USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CVS 39) and USS DECATUR collide in the Atlantic. The DECATUR sustains heavy damage to its superstructure, but there are no personnel injuries.

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History of USS DECATUR:

USS DECATUR, a FORREST SHERMAN - class destroyer built at Quincy, Massachusetts, was commissioned in December 1956. In 1957, she made her shakedown cruise through the Caribbean area, ran special trials, and steamed to northern Europe. Early in 1958 the new destroyer again crossed the Atlantic to begin her first Sixth Fleet tour in the Mediterranean Sea. DECATUR made more such deployments during the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as serving as a spacecraft recovery ship in September 1961 and taking part in Cuban Quarantine operations in November and December 1962. On 6 May 1964, her superstructure was was heavily damaged in a collision with the aircraft carrier LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CVS 39). The unrepaired DECATUR was placed "in commission, in reserve" later in the year to await modernization, and was formally decommissioned in June 1965.

During the next two years DECATUR was extensively modified at the Boston Naval Shipyard, Massachusetts. She was reclassified as a guided-missile destroyer in September 1966, receiving the new hull number DDG 31, and was recommissioned in April 1967. In September of that year she transferred to the Pacific Fleet, her assignment for the remainder of her commissioned service. DECATUR's first Seventh Fleet deployment, in the Western Pacific, took place between July 1968 and February 1969. In this, and her next two Far Eastern tours in 1970 and 1971-72, she engaged in Vietnam War operations and visited southern Pacific nations. Further "WestPac" cruises took place in 1973, 1974-75, 1976-77 and 1978-1979. The last deployment also took her into the Indian Ocean, an area of increasing interest to the U.S. Navy as the Persian Gulf region became unstable.

In 1981 and again in 1982, DECATUR steamed across the Pacific for more duty with the Seventh Fleet and, in 1983, in the Persian Gulf. At the end of June 1983, several weeks after returning from her last deployment, she was decommissioned and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet. USS DECATUR was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in March 1988. Her name was cancelled sometime thereafter. However, the ship had a long career ahead of her as Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS), a role for which she was converted in the late 1980s and early 1990s. From 1994 into 2003 she has been employed along the Pacific Coast, conducting trials of various systems for countering anti-shipping cruise missiles and other threats.

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About the Destroyer’s Name, about Commodore Stephen Decatur:

Born in Maryland and raised in Philadelphia, Decatur showed evidence of the bold and courageous man he would become: he was known to dive from the tips of jib booms and, at the age of 14, defended his mother against a drunken ruffian. Commissioned a midshipman in 1798, within a year he was promoted to acting lieutenant of the UNITED STATES.

Praised for a decisive style of leadership during the encounter with the PHILADELPHIA, Decatur became the most striking figure of the Tripolitan Wars. He subsequently received the commission of captain, commanding the CONSTITUTION and later the CONGRESS. Responsibility for the gunboat flotilla in the Chesapeake, management of the Norfolk Navy Yard, and command of all U.S. Naval forces on the Southeast coast followed. He also presided over various courts of inquiry for naval affairs.

During the War of 1812, Decatur fought and defeated the MACEDONIAN, the second of his three famous frigate encounters. Other notable encounters include the battle between the PRESIDENT and a British blockade of New York harbor, where Decatur was able to destroy the enemy frigate ENDYMION. The PRESIDENT was later captured and Decatur wounded, but the victory over ENDYMION earned him high praise.

In 1815, Decatur commanded a nine-ship squadron headed for Algiers to settle conflicts which had persisted since 1812. Decatur's abilities as a negotiator were recognized after he secured a treaty with the Algerians and extracted compensation from the Tripolitans. During celebration of the truce with the North African States, Decatur declared his famous line: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country right or wrong."

From November 1815 until his death, Decatur served on the Board of Navy Commissioners. Successful Naval leaders of Decatur's time were rewarded financially for their exploits; Decatur invested his ample prize money in the Washington, D.C. area, building Decatur House which still stands today in Lafayette Square.

Decatur's death was predictably both heroic and tragic. As Navy Commissioner, he opposed the reinstatement of Captain John Barron whom he had suspended from service much earlier while serving on an inquiry board. Barron responded with a challenge to duel with the much younger Decatur. Ever the honorable warrior, Decatur allowed only a short distance of eight paces out of respect for Barron's faulty eyesight and claimed he would not fire to kill. At the first exchange, Barron was shot in the thigh, Decatur received a fatal shot. All of Washington turned out to mourn the hero who remains today a prominent figure in U.S. Naval history.

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Photos of DECATUR as DD 936

Photos of DECATUR as DDG 31

Photos of the decommissioned DECATUR as Self-Defense Test Ship

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