The keel of the USS Coontz was laid at Puget Sound
Naval Shipyard in March 1957, just 39 years after Admiral Robert E. Coontz
left his post as the shipyard’s commander. The first guided-missile
frigate to be built on the West Coast, and the second ship to bear the name
of the Navy’s first chief of naval operations, Coontz was christened by Mrs.
Robert J. Coontz, wife of the admiral’s grandson, on December 6, 1958.
Commanded by Commander H.H. Reis, USS Coontz was commissioned on July 15,
1960 and completed post-shakedown training in April 1961. USS Coontz
then reported for duty as a unit of the Cruiser-Destroyer Force U.S. Pacific
Fleet and joined the First Fleet as flagship of Destroyer Division 152, home
ported in San Diego, California. Commander, Destroyer Squadron 15 flew
his flag on USS Coontz from May 4 to July 12, 1961.
USS Coontz departed from San Diego on August 10, 1961 and joined the U.S.
Seventh Fleet as a unit of the fast carrier task force. Remaining with
the Seventh Fleet for more than seven months, USS Coontz steamed 55,000 miles
and visited ports in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, B.C.C, Australia and American
Samoa. While conducting training exercises to maintain full combat
readiness, USS Coontz received the coveted “E” award for excellence in
USS Coontz returned to the United States on March 23, 1962 to rejoin the U.S.
First Fleet and became the flagship of the Commander, Destroyer Squadron 17
in April 1962. On the second anniversary of her awards for excellence
in Operations, Engineering and Gunnery, USS Coontz flew the flag of the
Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 11 from August 1 to November 11, 1962,
when she again became the flagship for Commander, Destroyer Squadron 17.
Commander James R. Collier relieved Captain Ries in July 1962. The USS
Coontz sailed with the Seventh Fleet in Asiatic waters, visiting Yokosuka,
Kobe, Kure and Beppu in Japan and Hong Kong, B.C.C in China. During
this time the USS Coontz was also designated a stand-by recovery ship for
NASA’s Mercury-Atlas 8 space mission. During the space flight on
October 3, 1962, Wally Schirra orbited the Earth at an altitude of 100
miles. Although USS Coontz was listed as a stand-by ship for recovery
operations, it was not activated. The USS Coontz returned to the U.S.
in May 1963. In June 1963, the USS Coontz demonstrated the kill
capability of the Terrier surface-to-air missile in a sea power demonstration
for President John F. Kennedy.
USS Coontz was overhauled and her missile weapons systems extensively
modernized from October 1963 to April 1964 at the Long Beach Naval
Shipyard. Commander Eugene C. Kenyon, Jr. relieved Commander Collier on
March 7, 1964.
Upon rejoining the Pacific Fleet in April 1964, USS Coontz successfully
completed comprehensive weapons systems qualification trials and refresher
training. Prior to departure for the Western Pacific on August 5, 1964,
USS Coontz was awarded the Missile, Gunnery and engineering “E” award for
combat excellence in these areas. On August 3, 1964, USS Coontz again
became the flagship for Commander, Destroyer Squadron 17.
USS Coontz joined the U.S. Seventh Fleet on August 16, 1964 as a unit of the
fast carrier task force for six months. It steamed 41,000 miles and
visited Subic Bay, Philippines, Hong Kong, B.C.C., Sasebo and Yokosuka,
Japan. In December 1964, USS Coontz was awarded the Armed Forces
Expeditionary Medal for support of Vietnam operations in the South China
Sea. Her third Western Pacific tour completed, USS Coontz returned to
the operational control of the Commander, First Fleet and returned to the
United States on February 6, 1965.
Operations in the First Fleet included participation in the 1965 summer
midshipmen training cruise. USS Coontz visited Bellingham, Washington;
San Francisco, California; and Hilo and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii during this
cruise. The “E”, “C” and “A” awards were received during this period
for excellence in engineering, communications and anti-submarine
warfare. On August 14, 1965, Commander W. Cummings relieved Commander
Kenyon as commanding officer.
From December 1965 to January 1966, the USS Coontz received a Helicopter
Landing and Handling Capability in San Diego. This conversion included
relocation of deck vents, clearing all fantail obstructions, installation of
a JP-5 fuel handling and purification system, and the introduction of
equipment to provide Helicopter Starting and Service power. USS Coontz
was the first of her class to receive the conversion and proudly boasted the
addition of a helicopter to her many-faceted capabilities.
USS Coontz departed San Diego in January 1966 for a regular deployment as a
unit of the U.S. Seventh Fleet for a total of six months. USS Coontz
visited Shimoda and Yokosuka, Japan; Subic Bay, Philippines, and Kaohsiung,
Formosa. In March 1966, USS Coontz was awarded the Unit Commendation
Ribbon for her WESTPAC performance. After completing her fourth Western
Pacific route, USS Coontz changed operational control of Commander, First
Fleet and returned to the United States August 1, 1966.
After departing Long Beach Naval Shipyard, USS Coontz returned to San Diego
and commenced a training and upkeep period. While deployed in the
Western Pacific, USS Coontz was again attached to the U.S. Seventh Fleet and
spent two 30-day periods on search-and-rescue duty as well as carrier
operations and special assignments. Brief visits were made to Hong
Kong, B.C.C; Yokosuka, Japan, and Subic Bay, Phillipines.
Commander E. Dale Geiger relieved Commander Cummings as Commanding Officer on
July 28, 1967 while USS Coontz was en route to WESTPAC on her fifth tour with
the U.S. Seventh Fleet.
In August 1967, USS Coontz made an operational visit to Djakarta, Indonesia;
the first U.S. Naval warship to visit the nation since early 1963.
USS Coontz then spent two 30-day periods in the Northern Search and Rescue
Station in the Tonkin Gulf and participated in the rescue of nine
aviators. After a brief visit to Hong Kong, B.C.C., USS Coontz headed
for her homeport, San Diego, via Sydney, Australia and Wellington, New
Zealand and arrived home February 8, 1968.
During the leave and upkeep period a Test and Evaluation Monitoring System
(TEAMS) was installed for evaluation during operations with the First
Fleet. This was the first automatic test system to be installed in the
surface fleet. The operations included participation in the summer
midshipmen cruise. Ports visited during this cruise were San Francisco,
Seattle, and Pearl Harbor. USS Coontz then took part in First Fleet
operations; including exercise Beat Cadence until Deploying on November 15,
USS Coontz arrived on Yankee Station one month later and spent Christmas on
the line. On February 8, 1969, Commander Donald P. Roane relieved
Commander Geiger as Commanding Officer before USS Coontz made a visit to Hong
USS Coontz returned to the Gulf of Tonkin for another Search and Rescue
mission before going north for upkeep in Yokosuka, Japan. After an
EC-121 aircraft was shot down by North Korean jets, USS Coontz was rushed
into the Sea of Japan. From that assignment, USS Coontz returned to San
Diego via Subic Bay on May 18.
Leave and upkeep followed. In September 1969, USS Coontz participated
in a HUKASWEX operation at sea as a unit of the First Fleet. After
several more sea periods, USS Coontz went into an extensive upkeep
period. During the year of 1969, USS Coontz won awards for excellence
in Supply, Operations and ASW. The upkeep continued until deployment on
March 3, 1970. On July 8, 1970, Commander Roane was relieved as
Commanding Officer by Commander T.J. Bowen.
In January of 1971, shortly after her last Seventh Fleet tour, USS Coontz
departed San Diego via the Panama Canal for Atlantic waters and a major
overhaul and modernization at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. In conjunction
with this work, USS Coontz DLG-9 was decommissioned on 23 February 1971.
After extensive Anti Air Warfare modification, USS Coontz was recommissioned
on 18 March 1972 and transferred to her new homeport of Newport, Rhode
Island. Commander T.R.M.Emery is assigned to the Coontz as its Commanding
Officer on March 8, 1972.
After a six month test period in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and other operations in
the Caribbean, USS Coontz sailed on a "show the flag" cruise to
South America and Africa. Subsequently she entered Boston Naval Shipyard for
a three month Post Shakedown Availability. Following extensive training and
preparation, USS Coontz departed on 6 July 1973 for her first deployment with
the US Sixth Fleet, operating in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean
Sea. Commander Emery is relieved as Commanding Officer by Commander F.N.
Howe on December 20, 1973.
In January 1974 USS Coontz changed homeport from Newport to Norfolk VA. She
departed 15 November 1974 for a Mediterranean deployment, participating in
numerous US and NATO exercises.
As part of a major re-designation of several classes of ships, USS Coontz was
designated guided missile destroyer 40 (DDG 40) on 1 July 1975. The
ship’s next deployment was on 17 January 1976 as part of the Standing Naval
Forces Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT). The force operated in Caribbean, US and
Canadian waters with ships from 4 NATO navies prior to a transit to Northern
Europe where USS Coontz visited 8 countries and participated in numerous NATO
exercises. Commander Howie is relieved as Commanding Officer by
Commander S.O. Nunn III on March 6, 1976. Nunn was later relieved as
Commanding Officer by Commander W. P. Martin on April 8, 1978.
After a one year regular overhaul in Norfolk Naval Shipyard, USS Coontz
departed on 21 July 1978 for comprehensive gunnery, missile and Harpoon
system qualifications and refresher training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
After returning home, USS Coontz participated in six months of local
operations including GULFEX 78 in November 1978. In 1979 she served again
with STANAVFORLANT, as flag ship, hosting more than 35,000 visitors in 8 NATO
countries and participating in various exercises with over 30 NATO ships.
STANAVFORLANT operations included areas above the Arctic Circle, in the
Baltic Sea, North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. Commander Martin was relieved as
Commanding Officer by Commander C.P. Willoz on September 28, 1979.
In the fall of 1981, USS Coontz deployed again. This cruise included port
visits in western Africa as part of the West African Training Cruise,
operations in the Mediterranean Sea and a transit into the Black Sea followed
by a port visit to Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia. Commander Willoz was relieved
as Commanding Officer by Commander J.P. Reason on September 6, 1981.
USS Coontz participated in operations around the Eastern coast of Central
America in mid 1982 making the first visit to Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
by a US Navy ship in more then 13 years. In July of that year USS Coontz
entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for a one year regular overhaul,
undergoing various configuration changes and equipment additions. During this
yard period, Commander Reason was relieved as Commanding Officer by Commander
L.P. Brooks, Jr on December 17, 1982. USS Coontz completed overhaul on
time in July of 1983.
Three months out of overhaul in October 1983, USS Coontz steamed to the
Caribbean Sea for weapons systems testing. While undergoing tests, USS Coontz
received immediate tasking and altered course to join Operation Urgent Fury,
the liberation of Grenada. The ship provided gunfire support and small boat
interdiction for ten consecutive days in support of the amphibious assault.
For this action, USS Coontz was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary medal
and the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
In 1984 Coontz under went pre-deployment work up including refresher training
and a major fleet exercise. Upon completion, USS Coontz deployed to the
Mediterranean Sea in October conducting operations in the Eastern
Mediterranean off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon and in the Black Sea.
Commander Brooks was relieved as Commanding Officer by Commander Charles H.
Gnerlich on February 25, 1985. USS Coontz returned to Norfolk in May
From August to October of 1985, USS Coontz under went her first Phased
Maintenance Availability, a new concept involving short periods of intense
industrial work designed to maximize operational availability rather then
placing ships in prolonged overhauls.
In November 1985 USS Coontz participated in Operation Bold Eagle, a joint
exercise conducted with the US army and US Air Force in Florida and the Gulf
of Mexico. COONTZ was a vital link in maintaining air defense, coordinating
with airborne Air Force AWACS aircraft and Army ground units.
USS Coontz’s next joint exercise was Ocean Venture '86. Coontz, along with
Navy ships and Coast Guard cutters conducted quarantine operations exercises
in the Caribbean operating areas. During this time Coontz requalified her
Naval Gunfire Support Team at the Vieques Island Range near Puerto Rico.
In November 1986 USS Coontz was awarded her first and only Battle Efficiency
In addition she earned all eight line department awards in the areas of
Navigation/Deck Seamanship, Main Propulsion, Damage Control, Anti-Air
Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Surface Warfare, Electronic Warfare,
In late 1986 and early 1987, Coontz under went a work up period in
preparation for deployment to the Persian Gulf on 5 February
1987. During her deployment, she served under the Commander,
Middle East Forces. USS Coontz was tasked with ensuring the safe passage of
all U.S. vessels as well as maintaining US presence in the Gulf during the
escalation of the Iran-Iraq war. Commander Gnerlich was relieved as
Commanding Officer by Commander William W. Cobb, Jr. on April 11, 1987.
During deployment in the Persian Gulf, USS Coontz provided firefighting teams
which aided in the rescue of the USS Stark and her crew after she was struck
by Iraqi Exocet missiles.
USS Coontz returned to her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia on 5 August 1987.
Following a three month maintenance availability (SRA) she operated as part
of the US Second Fleet. Commander Cobb was relieved as Commanding
Officer by Commander W.E. Cox on July 21, 1989. Commander Cox oversaw
the decommissioning of the USS Coontz in Philadelphia, PA on October 2,