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USS Towers (DDG 9)

- formerly DD 959 -
- decommissioned -
- sunk as a target -

USS TOWERS was the 8th CHARLES F. ADAMS - class guided missile destroyer and the first ship in the Navy named in honor of Admiral John Henry Towers.
USS TOWERS was last homeported in Yokosuka, Japan. Decommissioned on October 1, 1990, she was stricken from the navy list on May 27, 1992, and was tranfered to the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet, Benecia, Ca. On October 9, 2002, TOWERS was sunk as a target off the California coast.

General Characteristics:Awarded: March 28, 1957
Keel laid: April 1, 1958
Launched: April 23, 1959
Commissioned: June 6, 1961
Decommissioned: October 1, 1990
Builder: Todd Pacific Shipyards Corporation of Seattle, Seattle, Wash.
Propulsion system:4 - 1200 psi boilers; 2 geared turbines
Propellers: two
Length: 437 feet (133.2 meters)
Beam: 47 feet (14.3 meters)
Draft: 20 feet (6.1 meters)
Displacement: approx. 4,500 tons
Speed: 31+ knots
Armament: two Mk 42 5-inch/54 caliber guns, Mk 46 torpedoes from two Mk-32 triple mounts, one Mk 16 ASROC Missile Launcher, one Mk 11 Mod.0 Missile Launcher for Standard (MR) and Harpoon Missiles
Crew: 24 officers and 330 enlisted

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Crew List:

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

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USS TOWERS Cruise Books:

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Accidents aboard USS TOWERS:

May 22, 1982Subic Bay, Philippines
USS FLETCHER (DD 992) strikes the USS TOWERS and the USS FRANCIS HAMMOND (FF 1067) causing minor damage while attempting to moor alongside the two ships.
November 3, 1986Port of Cairns, northern Queensland, Australia
USS TOWERS hits the wharf in the port of Cairns in northern Queensland, Australia, damaging the wharf.

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About the Ship's Name:

John Henry Towers - born on 30 January 1885 at Pome, Ga. - graduated with the Naval Academy class of 1906 and was commissioned ensign in 1908, while serving in battleship KENTUCKY (BB 6). He was later assigned to battleship MICHIGAN before being sent to Hammondsport, N.Y., in 1911 for aviation duty.

Under the tutelage of Glenn Curtiss, Towers qualified as a pilot in August of that year and went on to supervise the establishment of the Navy's first aviation unit at Annapolis, Md., in the fall. He traveled to California where, in conjunction with the Curtiss Flying School at North Island in San Diego, he took part in developing and improving naval aircraft types.

After returning east thereafter, Towers was nearly killed in the summer of 1912. While he was flying as a passenger on 20 June, his plane was caught in a sudden downdraft and plummeted earthward. The pilot, Ens. W. D. Billingsley, was thrown from the aircraft and killed. Towers, too, was wrenched from his seat but managed to catch a wing strut and stayed with the plane until it crashed into the Chesapeake Bay. Interviewed by Glenn Curtiss soon thereafter, Towers recounted the circumstances of the tragedy; and the report and resultant recommendations eventually led to the design and adoption of safety belts and harnesses for pilots and their passengers.

On 5 March 1913, the Navy designated Towers Naval Aviator No. 3; and, in January 1914, he became the executive officer of the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Fla. When Vera Cruz was occupied by the Navy and marines that spring, Towers commanded the aviation unit carried to that port in battleship MISSISSIPPI and cruiser BIRMINGHAM. In August 1914, one month into World War 1, Towers was ordered to London as assistant naval attache - a billet he filled until he returned to the United States in the autumn of 1916. Once back home, he supervised the establishment of the Naval Flying Corps - then in its infancy - and went on to become Assistant Director of Naval Aviation with the establishment of the Division of Aviation within the Navy Department.

In February 1919, Towers was placed in charge of the proposed transatlantic flight of the NC-flying boats end, while commanding NC-3, led the division from Trepassy Bay, Newfoundland. Though their ultimate destination was Lisbon, Portugal, NC-I and NC-PI encountered dense fog off the Azores and had to land to take bearings. Due to the heavy seas, neither could take off again; and the latter soon began shipping water. Towers and his crew managed to keep the flying boat afloat for 52 hours and eventually made it to Punta Delgada on Sao Miguel Island. NC-4 went on to complete the transatlantic crossing, arriving at Lisbon on 27 May. For his part in the operation, Towers received the Navy Cross.

Between the autumn of 1919 and the late winter of 1922 and 1923, Towers served at sea - as the executive officer of AROOSTOOK and as the commanding officer of old destroyer MUGFORD, which had been redesignated an aircraft tender. Then, after a tour as executive officer at Pensacola Naval Air Station, he spent two and one-half years - from March of 1923 to September of 1925 - as an assistant naval attaché, serving at the American embassies at London, Paris, Rome, the Hague, and Berlin. Returning to the United States in the autumn of 1925, he was assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics and served as a member of the court of inquiry which investigated the loss of dirigible Shenandoah.

Towers next commanded LANGLEY (CV 1) from January 1927 to August 1928. He received a commendation for "coolness and courage in the face of danger" when a gasoline line caught fire and burned on board the carrier in December 1927. Towers personally led the vigorous and successful attempt to suppress the flames kindled by the explosion and thus averted a catastrophe.

After shore duty in the Bureau of Aeronautics - successively serving as head of the plans division and later, as assistant bureau chief - Towers joined the staff of the Commander Aircraft, Battle Force, Rear Admiral Harry E. Yarnell, in June 1931. He was among the staff which planned a successful "attack" on Pearl Harbor during the Joint Army-Navy Exercise No. 4 in the Hawaiian Islands in February 1932 - an operation which was to be duplicated on a larger scale by the Japanese in December 1941.

Between June of 1933 and June of 1939, Towers filled a variety of billets ashore and afloat: he completed the senior course at the Naval War College in 1934; commanded the Naval Air Station at San Diego; again served on the staff of ComAirBatFor; commanded SARATOGA (CV 3); and became Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics. On 1 June 1939, he was named Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics with the accompanying rank of rear admiral.

As bureau chief, Towers organized the Navy's aircraft procurement plans while war clouds gathered over the Far East and in the Atlantic. Under his leadership, the sir arm of the Navy grew from 2,000 planes in 1939 to 39,000 in 1942. He also instituted a rigorous pilot-training program and established a trained group of reserve officers for ground support duties. During Towers' tenure, the number of men assigned to naval aviation activities reached a high point of some three quarters of a million.

Promoted to vice admiral on 6 October 1942, Towers became Commander, Air Force, Pacific Fleet. From this billet, he wisely and effectively supervised the development, organization, training, and supply of the Fleet's growing aviation capability. For his sound judgment and keen resourcefulness, Towers received, successively, the Legion of Merit Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal.

In August 1945, Towers was given command of the 2nd Carrier Task Force and Task Force 38, Pacific Fleet. On 7 November 1945, he broke his flag in NEW JERSEY (BB 62) as Commander, 5th Fleet. On 1 February 1946, he hoisted his flag in BENNINGTON (CV 20) as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, a post he held until March of 1947.

After chairing the Navy's General Board from March to December 1947, Towers retired on 1 December 1947. After retirement, Towers served as President of the Pacific War Memorial, a New York-based scientific foundation; as assistant to the President of Pan American World Airways; and as President of the Flight Safety Council. Admiral Towers died in St. Albans' hospital, Jamaica, N.Y., on 30 April 1955.

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History of USS TOWERS:

TOWERS was laid down on 1 April 1958 at Seattle, Wash., by the Todd Shipyard Corp.; launched on 23 April 1959; sponsored by Mrs. Nathaniel Rotoreau, Jr.; and commissioned on 6 June 1961 at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., Comdr. L. D. Cummins in command.

Homeported at San Diego, Calif., TOWERS carried out trials and local operations off the southern California coast into September 1961. She then conducted her shakedown cruise to Callao and Lima, Peru; Balboa, Panama Canal Zone; and Acapulco, Mex., before she deployed to the Western Pacific (WestPac) for the first time in the early spring of 1962.

She arrived at Sydney, Australia, on 30 April to represent the United States during the 20th observance of the anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea and shifted to Melbourne a week later. She then continued her WestPac deployment with visits to Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan; Buckner Bay, Okinawa; Subic Bay, Philippines; Keeling, Taiwan; and Bangkok, Thailand. She then returned home via Guam and Hawaii.

Following a routine schedule of local operations out of San Diego from 1 January to 17 May 1963, TOWERS departed her home port on 18 May, bound for the Far East. En route, she stopped at Pearl Harbor and Midway and later took part in exercises and operations off Japan and in the Philippines. She returned to San Diego on 28 November 1963 and operated along the southern California coast through the end of 1964.

TOWERS departed San Diego on 5 January 1965, bound for her third WestPac tour. As American forces became increasingly involved in the Vietnam War - escalating from an advisory capacity to active combat - the Navy's role in Vietnamese coastal waters expanded. TOWERS participated in three main facets of the 7th Fleet's operations in the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea. She performed screening and plane-guard duties for fast carrier task forces on "Yankee Station", providing protection with her missiles and her rapidfire 5-inch battery. In addition, she conducted search and rescue (SAR) patrols on the northern station; and made interdiction patrols in conjunction with Operation "Market Time".

Upon the conclusion of this tour, the guided missile destroyer sailed for home on 10 May. En route to the Hawaiian Islands, she participated in Operation "Sailor Hat", a special blast test to determine deficiencies in modern ship construction, and arrived home at San Diego on 26 June.

From 31 January to 6 February 1966, TOWERS participated in Operation "Buttonhook", a joint United States and Canadian exercise off the west coast of Canada and the United States which emphasized antisubmarine warfare (ASW) techniques. Following availability at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard during March, TOWERS took part in Operation "Gray Ghost" from 12 to 22 April. This exercise dealt with air control intercept tactics and antiaircraft warfare (AAA) measures to prepare the ship for her upcoming deployment to the Gulf of Tonkin, off Vietnam. In addition, the ship trained to become proficient in tactics to utilize against possible motor torpedo (PT) boat attacks.

Departing San Diego on 4 June, TOWERS steamed west, via Pearl Harbor, Guam, and Subic Bay, to Vietnam. She expended some 3,266 rounds of 6-inch ammunition between 2 and 17 July, off target areas which included the "Rung Sat Special Zone". Her target assessment included the destruction of 17 enemy buildings and damage to 118 more, the sinking of three sampans, the killing of 11 Viet Cong soldiers, and the destruction of a bridge.

The guided missile destroyer returned to Subic Bay for upkeep and further training in PT-boat countermeasures before she returned to the Gulf of Tonkin to take up her position on the northern SAR station on 1 August. For the next month, she deployed with WILTSIE (DD 716), keeping on the alert to spot downed pilots and to direct friendly helicopters to the rescue.

On 6 August, TOWERS directed an HU-16 helicopter to the site of a downed aviator some 69 miles from the ship. The next day, TOWERS directed another HU-16 to a spot behind the enemy-held island of Cac Ba, where two Air Force men had bailed out. The chopper successfully rescued them from behind communist lines. In the next two weeks, the ship participated in two more rescues - picking up two more Air Force pilots in one and a Navy flyer in the other.

TOWERS' most daring rescue came on the last day of her tour on the SARA station. On 31 August, a Navy plane was hit by antiaircraft fire over Haiphong, and the pilot bailed out of his doomed aircraft directly over the enemy harbor. As he floated down under his parachute to face what seemed certain capture, TOWERS and KING (DLG 10) closed to within visual range of Haiphong harbor. Then KING's helicopter sped in under the guidance of TOWERS' experienced controllers and picked up the pilot, whisking him out of danger from beneath the enemy's very nose.

After a brief rest and recreation period, TOWERS returned to the SAR station again on 1 October. However, flying weather turned out to be poorer at this time of year, and air operations were sharply curtailed. Hence, TOWERS spent much of her time on this tom patrolling the Tonkin Gulf.

Sailing for home on 21 November, TOWERS departed Yokosuka and ran into heavy seas while en route to the west coast, suffering minor storm damage before she arrived at her home port on 3 December. After operations at sea from January 1967 to mid-March, Towers underwent a major overhaul at Hunters' Point Naval Shipyard from 14 April to 19 October. The guided missile destroyer then operated out of San Diego through the spring of 1968.

TOWERS then readied herself for her next WestPac deployment. Her preparation included screening and shore bombardment exercises with NEW JERSEY (BB 62), the world's only active battleship. Departing San Diego on 5 September, TOWERS made stops at Pearl Harbor and Subic Bay before arriving off the I Corps tactical zone to commence "Sea Dragon" operations.

While escorting and screening NEW JERSEY, TOWERS knocked out two artillery and three antiaircraft gun sites; destroyed 55 meters of trenches; sank two logistics craft; set off 19 secondary explosions; and killed an estimated 10 enemy soldiers. On 1 October, the ship rescued two downed airmen just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The flyers, Capt. James Spaith, USMC, and his observer, 1st Lt. U. S. Grant, USMC, had been shot down when their Douglas A4F Skyhawk had been hit while spotting gunfire for NEW JERSEY.

TOWERS furnished gunfire support for South Vietnamese Army units in January 1969 and shelled shore targets for the American 3rd Marine Division and the 101st Airborne Division, both north and south of Danang. From her anchorage inside Danang harbor, the guided missile destroyer fired frequent night harassment and counter-rocket site fire against communist positions in the surrounding countryside. Her damage assessments for this duty included destruction of targets such as troop concentrations, hunkers, footbridges, and supply-carrying sampans.

Following upkeep at Subic Bay, she planeguarded on "Yankee Station" for CONSTELLATION (CVA 64) and returned to the I Corps operating zone for urgent gunfire support duties. She provided support for Operation "Daring Endeavor", launched to destroy enemy troop concentrations south of Danang. Commended for her part in this action, TOWERS remained on the scene from 17 to 30 November. She again provided anti-rocket support out of Danang from the 21st through the 25th. In addition, she provided gunfire for Korean marines: and the Army's 101st Airborne.

TOWERS then sailed north to the Philippines for up keep at Subic Bay before proceeding to Singapore for rest and recreation. She arrived back on "Yankee Station" three days before Christmas, to assume the role of escort commander for INTREPID (CVS 11). After two days of this duty, however, the guided missile destroyer was back in the IV Corps operating area on night-harassment fire duties against the communist ground forces.

New Year's Day 1970 found the ship still engaging the enemy in the IV Corps' zone, supporting Vietnamese ranger battalions. During this period, TOWERS' 5-inch rifles wreaked havoc upon Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troop concentrations, bunkers, sampans, and footbridges. The ship then spent a few days at Hong Kong before she returned to the "gunline," once more at Danang. She supported the 3rd Marine Division, operating north and south of Danang, blasting enemy troops and structures, again in support of Korean marines and the 101st Airborne. During the latter period, she again stood duty at Danang, her guns ready to reply to communist rocket sites.

Shifting again to "Yankee Station", TOWERS joined the screen of HANCOCK (CVA 19) on station with TG 77.5 until 7 February. She then sailed for Subic Bay for three days of upkeep before proceeding on to Yokosuka. Departing Japanese waters on 21 February, TOWERS soon headed east and brought this WestPac deployment to a close when she sailed into San Diego harbor on 4 March.

TOWERS spent much of the year 1970 on routine local operations in the vicinity of her home port in preparation for future WestPac deployments. On 4 September, while conducting refresher training out of San Diego, the ship directed a helicopter to rescue the pilot from an F-8 Crusader that had crashed nearby. The embarked evaluation team from the Fleet Training Group gave the ship a grade of "outstanding" during this "unscheduled evolution".

Deploying again to WestPac on 7 January 1971, TOWERS proceeded to Vietnamese waters, via Pearl Harbor and Midway. While she proceeded west on the 20th, one of the other ships in her convoy, ROARK (DE 1053), suffered a major engine room fire which stopped her dead in the water. TOWERS turned-to and lent a hand. After the fire was extinguished, the guided missile destroyer took ROARK in tow until QUAPAW (ATF 110) arrived and took over the towing.

TOWERS arrived back on the gunline on 8 February and provided gunfire support until the 21st, when she moved to "Yankee Station" to provide plane-guard service for RANGER (CVA 61). On 6 March, a member of the carrier's flight deck force was blown over the side during launching operations. TOWERS quickly sped to the scene, rescued the sailor, and returned him to his ship.

A short visit to Subic Bay followed, as did another tour on the gunline and the northern SAR station. The ship then returned to Subic Bay for upkeep and then made still another tour as plane guard and screen for KITTY HAWK (CVA 63). She departed WestPac on 1 July. Arriving at San Diego on the 15th, TOWER operated out of her home base into the early spring of 1972. Gunnery exercises, underway training evolutions (with emphasis on ASW and AAW tactics); plane-guarding for MIDWAY (CVA 41); and an upkeep and inport period all followed as the ship prepared for her upcoming WestPac deployment.

Events in Vietnam, however, forced a change in plan for TOWERS and rapidly accelerated her return to the war zone. Although not scheduled for deployment until September, she departed the west coast on 20 June, bound once more for-the gunline. A massive Viet Cong and North Vietnamese assault had battered South Vietnamese forces in key Quang Tri province and resulted in emergency measures for the supporting naval forces offshore. During the voyage from the west coast to the South China Sea, the ship assisted in the rescue of six crewmen from a downed B-52 Stratofortress near Guam and received a commendation from the secretary of the Navy.

A curtailed two-day upkeep period at Subic Bay preceded the ship's sailing on 13 July for the gunline. Heavy commitments and long hours of gunfire support duty in support of ARVN troops followed from 17 to 28 July as TOWERS participated in Operation "Lamson72". From 29 July to 5 August, the ship operated on "Linebacker" strikes against targets to the northward of the DMZ, in North Vietnam, as part of Task Unit 77.1.2. On several occasions during this time, she came under fire from communist shore batteries.

The intense gunfire support duties assigned to the ship soon wore out the linings of her two 5-inch guns, so the ship sailed for Sasebo, where she spent the week from 9 to 15 August undergoing a re-gunning. She soon returned to the "gunline" and supported ARVN troops off Hue. The destroyer also fired night "Linebacker" strikes on 24 and 25 September, rounding out the month with gunfire support missions fired for the 1st ARVN division.

A visit to Hong Kong for needed rest and recreation for her crew soon followed, and an upkeep period at Subic Bay preceded the ship's return to Vietnamese waters on 21 October. She supported the ARVN 22d Division near Qui Nhon and around Quang Tri. She then again visited Subic Bay and Kaohsiung, Taiwan, before returning to the gunline again from 3 to 8 December. For the rest of the month, TOWERS fired gunfire support missions against North Vietnamese troop concentrations near Quang Tri. Spirited exchanges of gunfire with enemy shore batteries took place on numerous occasions during this period.

She finished the year 1972 again serving as plane guard for CONSTELLATION on "Yankee Station" and closed out her grueling seven-month deployment on the last day of the year, when she sailed for Yokosuka. From there, she returned home via Midway and Pearl Harbor.

This deployment turned out to be the destroyer's last in support of the Vietnam War. The "Vietnamization" plan placed the burden of self-defense on the shoulders of the South Vietnamese, as American land, sea, and air forces were withdrawn from combat in January and February of 1973. TOWERS operated out of San Diego from 1973 through 1976, pursuing a regular schedule of local operations, routine upkeep and overhaul periods, and underway training evolutions.

She departed San Diego on 30 July 1976 for her first extended overseas deployment in three years. She conducted exercises and local operations in the Far East, participating in Exercise "Sharkhunt XVII" with the Taiwanese Navy before shifting to the Indian Ocean for an extended cruise. She then took part in "Midlink 76" with units of the Iranian, Pakistani, British, and American Navies in mid-November before participating in "Multiplex/Missilex-76" with United States 7th Fleet units in the South China Sea.

Following port visits to Hong Kong from 6 to 12 January and Bangkok from 29 January to 4 February 1977, TOWERS engaged in a coordinated ASW exercise, "Sharkhunt XX", with the Taiwanese Navy from 22 to 25 February. She returned to San Diego on 21 March to complete a seven-month, three-week deployment. Post-deployment operations off the west coast were highlighted by a port visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, from 9 to 17 July for the annual Sea Festival. TOWERS' last significant operations at sea for the year occurred during the period 12 to 16 September when she conducted naval gunfire support exercises on the range at San Clemente Island. On 23 September, the guided missile destroyer commenced a four-month availability at San Diego which took her into the new year.

Post-availability trials commenced on 26 January 1978, and TOWERS spent the next nine months evaluating her radar detection and tracking system during numerous at-sea operations for that purpose. On 14 November, the ship got underway for Long Beach where she entered the Naval Shipyard on the 15th for commencement of a regular overhaul which took her into 1979.

TOWERS received one Navy Unit Commendation, one Meritorious Unit Commendation, and four battle stars for her service in Vietnam.

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