USS Walker (DD-517)
USS "Walker" (DD-517), a "Fletcher"-class
destroyer, was the second ship of the United States Navyto be named for Admiral John Grimes Walker( 1835– 1907).
"Walker" was laid down on
31 August 1942by the Bath Iron WorksCorp., Bath, Maine; launched on 31 January 1943, sponsored by Miss Sarah C. Walker; and commissioned on 3 April 1943, Commander O. F. Gregor in command.
The first seven months of "Walker"'s service took place in the
Atlanticwhere she was engaged in Caribbeanescort duty and training exercises in preparation for Pacificcombat duty. The highlights of this period included the capture on 7 Augustof 43 survivors of German U-boat"U-615" which had been damaged by Navy air units off Cuba, and the responsibility of escorting the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Casablancato participate in the Moscow Conference of October 1943.
"Walker" transited the
Panama Canalon 1 November 1943and proceeded to join the forces engaged in the conquest of Tarawa. After a month of operations in that area, the destroyer took part in the Marshall Islands campaignfrom 29 Januarythrough 8 February 1944. She joined forces at Funafutifor the invasion of Kwajalein; and, as part of a heavy cruiserbombardment unit, she participated in numerous neutralization bombardments at Wotjeand Taroa. The only Japanese resistance encountered came from shore batteries which failed to hit their mark.
From March through June 1944, "Walker" operated in the South Pacific escorting troops and transports from
Guadalcanalto Bougainville and from various points in New Guinea. Other ports visited during this period were Purvis Bay, Tulagi; Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville; Milne Bayand Buna, New Guinea.
The Marianas operation involved the invasion of
Saipan, Tinian, and Guamby forces under Admiral Raymond A. Spruance. "Walker" began service assigned to an escort carrier unit providing air support for the amphibious forces headed for Guam. The group departed from Kwajalein in June; but, due to the bitterness of the campaign for Saipan, the Guam landings were postponed, and the ships returned to Eniwetok. After the need for further naval support had passed, "Walker" proceeded to Pearl Harborfor rehearsals of scheduled landings on Yap Island.
Leaving Pearl Harbor in September, "Walker" was transferred to the 7th Fleet as a fire support ship for the invasion of the Philippines. This group of transports and destroyers sailed from Manus and arrived at
Leyte Gulfon 20 October. During this operation, "Walker" experienced her first air action and downed one enemy fighter plane as well as provided gunfire support in the Dulagarea. The transports were rapidly unloaded and departed with "Walker" and other escorts prior to the arrival of the Japanese naval forces and the ensuing Battle of Leyte Gulffrom 24 to 25 October 1944.
The group proceeded to
Morotaito reload support troops for Leyte. At Morotai, nightly Japanese air attacks harassed the ships but caused little damage. The group then returned to Leyte and unloaded its troops. Suicide air attacks and torpedo bombers were encountered during this trip, but no damage was suffered. After a brief stop at Palau, "Walker" received orders to return home, and she reached the Mare Island Navy Yard, San Francisco, Calif., on Christmas Eve1944.
The most memorable part of "Walker"'s combat service began in mid-March
1945when, fresh from navy yard overhaul, she joined Admiral Marc Mitscher's famed Task Force 58(TF 58) at Ulithi, Caroline Islands. This force proceeded to Kyūshūand Honshū, Japan, for air strikes designed to neutralize and weaken Japanese air power.
Following these strikes, TF 58 proceeded to
Okinawato support the amphibious assault launched there on 1 April 1945. While alone on picket duty 12 miles from the main group, "Walker" was subjected to persistent Japanese kamikazeattacks. One plane dropped a torpedojust after dark which passed close astern. During that night, "Walker"'s agile maneuvers and accurate guns beat off three more such attacks. On 7 April 1945, Paul Klahr, Gun Captain of 40 mm Gun 43 (starboard midship position), vividly recalls that a Zeke fighter circled the stern and began diving for the bridge from the starboard side of the "Walker". The Zeke passed forward of Klahr's gun position by about 20 feet allowing him and his crew to see the face of the pilot. He remembers the pilot's look of fear, facing his impending death. One member of his gun crew actually threw his helmet at the plane as it passed. The plane flew over the ship between the positions of the five inch guns Gun 1 and Gun 2 at an altitude low enough to part the lifelines on the port side before wheeling into the ocean and exploding, sending a solid sheet of water over the "Walker" mixed with debris from the plane and the shredded remains of its pilot.
After 80 days at sea, the task group returned to port. During this period, "Walker" towed "Haggard" (DD-555) to
Kerama Rettonear Okinawa after she had been damaged by kamikaze hits.
The destroyer continued operations through July and August with the 3d Fleet and encountered no Japanese air opposition. "Walker" was among the ships which bombarded Kamaishi, Honshū, Japan, on
18 Julyand made a similar attack at Hammahatsuand a return trip to Kamaishi. The coming of peace resulted in "Walker" entering Tokyoafter a period of air-rescue duty during the airborne phase of the occupation.
1 November 1945, "Walker" arrived from the forward area at San Pedro, Calif.; and, on 31 May 1946, she was placed out of commission, in reserve, at San Diego.
1950 – 1963
The ship remained in "mothballs" until
15 September 1950when she was recommissioned and converted to an escort destroyer. From the time of her recommissioning until 27 February 1951, "Walker" remained in yard overhaul.
Following a shakedown cruise, the escort destroyer departed San Diego and participated in the atomic
Exercise Greenhouseat Eniwetokuntil June 1951. The next month, the ship joined the newly formed Escort Destroyer Squadron 1based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She remained in Hawaiiuntil November 1951 when she sailed for the western Pacific and joined the United Nations Blockading Forceassisting UN ground troops in the Korean War. She escorted the fast carrier task forces which were supporting ground units with strategic air strikes. Thus ended "Walker"'s Korean War service.
"Walker" returned to Pearl Harbor during March
1952and conducted type training and routine exercises for the next several months. On 2 June, the escort destroyer sailed for her second western Pacific deployment. From that time until 29 December 1963, "Walker" completed nine such deployments. These very active years were spent, for the most part, conducting antisubmarine warfare exercises and various operations with her task group and elements of the Republic of Korea Navyand the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. "Walker"'s many "People to People" visits during this period helped to spread American good will abroad. Highlights of these years included assistance to the town of Koniya, Amami Ōshima, which had suffered major damage from a raging fire in September 1958and as a recovery ship for a Project Mercuryspace flight on 28 September 1962.
1964 – 1965
4 January 1964, "Walker" commenced a two-week tender availability at Pearl Harbor with "Bryce Canyon" (AD-36). On 31 January, the ship officially entered the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyardfor overhaul. The completion of yard overhaul on 30 Aprilmarked the commencement of local exercises in preparation for refresher training. On 19 May, "Walker" took part in the filming of the movie " None But The Brave" at the island of Kauai. After a month of refresher training and an administrative inspection, the escort destroyer underwent upkeep which took her through June.
The summer months found "Walker" engaged in local operations. On
17 August 1964, the ship continued her movie career with a supporting role in Otto Preminger's production of " In Harm's Way". During October and November, the escort destroyer underwent a pre-employment inspection and an operational readiness inspection which was concluded on 20 November, three days prior to departure for a western Pacific deployment.
3 December 1964, "Walker" arrived at Yokosuka, Japan, where she joined in Exercise Tall Backwith the aircraft carrier"Yorktown" (CVS-10), followed by duties on the Junk patrol which combatted the infiltration of arms into South Vietnamfrom North Vietnamand the People's Republic of China. During this period, the escort destroyer performed a month of uneventful duty on the Taiwan patrol.
Vietnamwaters on 27 April 1965and, after a brief stop at Yokosuka, Japan, arrived at Pearl Harbor on 13 May. The remainder of May and June was spent in leave and upkeep. The escort destroyer spent the rest of the year in local operations. On 8 December, "Walker" was drydocked and spent the holiday season in leave and upkeep.
1966saw the ship taking part in local operations and making preparations for an upcoming deployment. On 7 February, she commenced a six-month cruise, arriving at Yokosuka via Midway Atoll10 days later. Duty in the South China Seabegan on 28 Februarywith assignments as a planeguard and as a naval gunfire support ship. "Walker"'s first offensive actions of the Vietnam Waroccurred on 5 Marchin support of United States and Allied forces. This assignment was interrupted by patrol duty in the Taiwan Straitand rest and rehabilitation at Keelung, Taiwan; and Hong Kong.
"Walker" returned to
Qui Nhon, South Vietnam, on 22 Apriland began support missions, shooting direct fire at the Vietcongcoastal supply areas and troop concentrations. The second ship on station, "Walker" received sporadic machine gunfire from the enemy ashore while a gig was returning with spotters and advisors to the ship for a briefing. This was the first time since World War IIthat "Walker" had been subjected to hostile fire.
26 April 1966, the escort destroyer supplied direct, indirect, harassment, and interdiction support for Operation Osage, a combined amphibious assault at Chu Lai. These duties were interrupted to escort a Marine Corps motor convoy from Danangto Phu Baion 28 April. On 1 May, the ship detached and proceeded independently for repairs at Sasebo, Japan, via Buckner Bay, Okinawa.
"Walker" set course on
17 Mayfor Manila Bay, Philippines, where she joined in SEATOantisubmarine warfare Exercise Sea Impwhich lasted until 6 June. The ship next joined "Taylor" (DDE-468) for a month of patrol duty in the Taiwan Strait during which time she rescued a Nationalist Chinese fishing boat adrift for 48 hours. The escort destroyer returned to Yokosuka, Japan, on 8 July.
Instead of departing for home, "Walker" received orders to replace "Walke" (DD-723) in antisubmarine exercises in the
Sea of Japan. These exercises included the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and naval units of the Republic of Korea. On 24 July, a Soviet"Kotlin"-class destroyer was sighted as it commenced shadowing the Allied group. "Walker" was designated to shoulder the Russian destroyer, and she was successful in preventing the attempted penetration of the screen by the Russian ship and her replacement. "Walker" also assumed duty on 29 Julyas a shadow against the Soviet electronics intelligence(Elint) trawler "Izmeritel".
1 August 1966, "Walker" detached and proceeded to Yokosuka from whence she began the transit to Hawaii. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 10 Augustand made preparations for a yard overhaul. "Walker" entered the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard on 19 Septemberand remained in overhaul status for the rest of calendar year 1966.
Regular overhaul was completed on
3 February 1967, and type training exercises, refresher training, and an operational readiness evaluation followed. On 18 April, "Walker" departed Pearl Harbor en route to Japan. From 4 to 17 May, the task group embarked on a transit of the Sea of Japan to demonstrate antisubmarine and antiair capabilities with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
10 May 1967, "Walker" relieved "Taylor" (DDE-468) of screening duty for "Hornet" (CVS-12) from the Soviet "Kotlin"-class destroyer (DD-022) which was attempting to close "Hornet" and harass the task group. A collision occurred between the two ships with minor damage sustained by both ships. The next day, "Walker" was again involved in screening duties with a Soviet ship. Late in the afternoon, a Soviet "Krupnyy"-class destroyer (DDGS-025) began to maneuver in an attempt to close "Hornet"; "Walker" effectively maneuvered the ship away. The Soviet destroyer than signaled a left turn. "Walker" signaled "do not cross ahead of me." The Soviet ship came left and collided with "Walker" causing minor damage to both ships. Following exercises with the Republic of Korea Navy, "Walker" returned to Sasebo, Japan, and held a news conference and interviews on board concerning the Sea of Japan incidents.
The escort destroyer arrived at the
Gulf of Tonkinon 25 May 1967. "Walker" served in several capacities: providing call fire, harassment, and interdiction fire for airborne spotters; acting as a rescue destroyer for "Hornet" (CVS-12), "Bon Homme Richard" (CVA-31), and "Constellation" (CVA-64); and firing around-the-clock missions for numerous Army and Marine units.
On the evening of
15 July, while providing gunfire support south of Cape Batangan, "Walker" received notification that a North Vietnamese naval trawler(459) carrying arms was expected to attempt a landing in the vicinity. "Walker" provided gunfire support for the attack on the trawler and suppressed enemy fire from the beach. The trawler was beached by the crew and abandoned with large quantities of arms, ammunition, and demolition equipment recovered by American forces.
Operation Beacon Guideas a naval gunfire support ship on 20 Julyand provided preparation fire for the amphibious and helicopterassault south of Hue. After a brief tender availability at Taiwan, "Walker" returned to the Tonkin Gulfon 9 Augustand operated with "Intrepid" (CVS-11) for a week prior to departure for Hong Kong.
The escort destroyer rejoined "Hornet", and the task group arrived at Hong Kong on
16 August, then transited to Sasebo, Japan, for repairs. "Walker" returned to the Gulf of Tonkin on 7 Septemberand was detached three days later to proceed to the Paracel Islandsin the South China Sea and conduct surveillance and gather intelligence data about the Chinese communist-held islands.
Upon her return to the waters off Vietnam, "Walker" reported to "Coral Sea" (CVA-43) for duty as her escort and spent the majority of September in various antisubmarine warfare exercises. On
27 September, "Walker" rejoined "Hornet" and rescued four survivors of an aircraft which had plunged into the water after losing an engine during launch.
1 October 1967, the escort destroyer returned to antisubmarine warfare(ASW) exercises, then headed for upkeep at Yokosuka prior to preceding to the eastern Pacific. "Walker" arrived at Pearl Harbor on 23 Octoberand spent a month in post-deployment leave, type training, and a reserve cruise. Holiday leave commenced on 15 December.
"Walker" spent the first seven months of
1968in her home port conducting type training and preparing for a final western Pacific deployment. On 5 August, the escort destroyer got underway on the fourth western Pacific deployment since the beginning of the Vietnam conflict. She arrived at Subic Bay, Philippines, via Midway Atoll and Guam on 18 August, then proceeded to Vietnam.
Planeguard duty with "America" (CVA-66) was "Walker"'s first assignment. During her first night on station, she rescued a man overboard from "America". On
13 November, "Walker" was relieved and proceeded to Subic Bay for upkeep. On 1 December, the escort destroyer arrived at the area north of Vung Tau for gunline duty which ended on 15 December.
After a fuel stop at Subic Bay, "Walker" continued to Cebu, Philippines, arriving on
18 Decemberas part of Operation Handclasp. The ship returned to Subic Bay on 22 Decemberfor a five-day tender availability alongside "Samuel Gompers" (AD-37). On 29 December, "Walker" returned to Vietnam for a week of planeguard duty with "Constellation" (CVA-64).
5 January 1969, the escort destroyer departed for visits to Hong Kong and Subic Bay. The ship joined three other destroyers and sailed for Australiaand New Zealand. "Walker" and Taylor visited Wollongongand Melbourne, Australia; and Auckland, New Zealand, before arriving back at Pearl Harbor on 28 February. March was spent in leave; and, at the end of the month, "Walker" received word that she would be decommissioned.
May was spent in port at Pearl Harbor; but, on
2 June, "Walker" got underway for San Diego, the designated decommissioning site. On 2 July 1969, "Walker" was decommissioned and stricken from the Navy list.
The ship was sold to
Italy, where she was renamed "Fante" (D-561). "Fante" was retired from Italian Navy service in 1977, and broken up for scrap.
"Walker" earned six
battle stars for World War IIengagements, two for Korean War, and three for Vietnam Warservice.
See USS "Walker" for other ships of the same name.
* [http://history.navy.mil/danfs/w2/walker-ii.htm history.navy.mil: USS "Walker"]
* [http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/517.htm navsource.org: USS "Walker"]
* [http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd517txt.htm hazegray.org: USS "Walker"]
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