John Henry Towers
- born on 30 January 1885 at Rome, Georgia - graduated with the Naval Academy
class of 1906 and was commissioned ensign in 1908, while serving in Kentucky
(Battleship No. 6). He was later assigned to Michigan (Battleship No. 27)
before being sent to Hammondsport, N.Y., in 1911 for aviation duty, where,
under the tutelage of Glenn Curtiss, he 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 travelled 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. William 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 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 Tampico on board
Birmingham (Cruiser No.2). In August 1914, one month into World War I, 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 and, while commanding NC-3, led the division
from Trepassy Bay, Newfoundland. Though their ultimate destination was
Lisbon, Portugal, NC-1 and NC-3 encountered dense fog off the Azores and had
to land to take bearings. Due to the heavy seas, however, neither could take
off again, and the latter soon began shipping water. Towers and his crew
managed to keep the NC-3 afloat for 52 hours and eventually made Punta
Delgada on Sao Miguel Island. NC-4 went on to complete the transatlantic
crossing, reaching 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 (CM-3) and as the
commanding officer of destroyer Mugford (DD-105), which had been serving as
an aircraft tender. Then, after a tour as executive officer at NAS Pensacola,
he spent two and one-half years (March 1923-September 1925) - as an assistant
naval attache, serving at the U.S. 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 that investigated the loss of the rigid airship Shenandoah (ZR-1).
Towers next commanded the aircraft carrier 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 Rear Admiral Harry E. Yarnell, Commander Aircraft, Battle Force,
in June 1931. Over the next few years, Towers then served in a variety of
billets ashore and afloat: he completed the senior course at the Naval War
College in 1934; commanded NAS San Diego; again served on the staff of
ComAirBatFor; commanded the carrier 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 air 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, he received command of the 2d Carrier Task Force and
Task Force 38, Pacific Fleet. On 7 November 1945, he broke his flag in the
battleship New Jersey (BB-62) as Commander, 5th Fleet. On 1 February 1946, he
hoisted his flag in carrier 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.
Towers (DDG-9) 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.,
daughter of the late Admiral Towers; and commissioned on 6 June 1961 at the
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., Comdr. Lawrence D. Cummins in
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.
Towers arrived at Sydney, Australia, on 30 April 1962 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; Keelung, Taiwan; and Bangkok, Thailand. She
then returned home via Guam and Hawaii.
Following a routine schedule of local operations out of San Diego (1
January-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 rapid-fire
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 1965. En route to the Hawaiian Islands, she participated in
Operation Sailor Hat, a special test to determine explosive shock wave
effects on modern ship construction techniques, 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 Gray Ghost (12-22 April), an exercise that dealt with air
control intercept tactics and antiaircraft warfare (AAW) measures to prepare
the ship for her upcoming deployment to the Gulf of Tonkin. 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 1966, Towers steamed west, via Pearl Harbor,
Guam, and Subic Bay, to Vietnam. She expended some 3,266 rounds of 5-inch
ammunition between 2 and 17 July, off target areas that 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 motor torpedo boat countermeasures before she returned to the
Gulf of Tonkin to take up her position on the northern SAR station on 1
August 1966. For the next month, she deployed with destroyer Wiltsie
(DD-716), keeping on the alert to spot downed pilots and to direct friendly
helicopters to the rescue.
On 6 August 1966, 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
Towers' most daring rescue came on the last day of her tour on the SAR
station. On 31 August 1966, 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 guided missile frigate King (DLG-10) closed to
within visual range of Haiphong. 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 nose.
After a brief rest and recreation period, Towers returned to the SAR station
again on 1 October 1966. However, flying weather turned out to be poorer at
this time of year, and sharply curtailed air operations. Hence, Towers spent
much of her time on this tour patrolling Tonkin Gulf.
Sailing for home on 21 November 1966, 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, she 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 battleship New Jersey
(BB-62), the world's only active ship of her kind. Departing San Diego on 5
September 1968, 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 1968, 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
A4-F Skyhawk had been hit while spotting gunfire for New Jersey.
Following upkeep at Subic Bay, she planeguarded on Yankee Station for carrier
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
1968. She again provided anti-rocket support out of Danang (21-25 November).
In addition, she provided gunfire for Korean marines and troops of the Army's
Towers then sailed north to the Philippines for upkeep at Subic Bay before
proceeding to Singapore for rest and recreation. She arrived back on Yankee
Station three days before Christmas of 1968, to assume the role of escort
commander for antisubmarine warfare support carrier 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
New Year's Day 1969 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 3d Marine Division, operating north and south of
Danang, blasting enemy troops and structures, again in support of Korean
marines and the 101st Airborne. Towers furnished gunfire support for South
Vietnamese Army units in January 1969 and shelled shore targets for the 3d
Marine Division and the U.S. Army's101st Airborne Division, both north and
south of 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, bunkers, footbridges, and supply-carrying sampans.
Shifting again to Yankee Station, Towers joined the screen of carrier Hancock
(CVA-19), on station with TG 77.5, until 7 February 1969. 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
that WestPac deployment to a close when she sailed into San Diego harbor on 4
Towers spent the remainder of the year in restricted availability or
conducting weapons tests, including an evaluation of the Standard missile
system during the late summer and early fall. Local operations continued in
1970, and were interspersed with two yard periods, before Towers began
preparations for a WestPac deployment in July. 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
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 company, escort ship 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 the fleet tug Quapaw (ATF-110) arrived and
took over the task.
Towers arrived back on the gunline on 8 February 1971 and provided gunfire
support until the 21st, when she moved to Yankee Station to provide plane-guard
service for carrier 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 carrier Kitty Hawk
(CVA-63). She departed WestPac on 1 July 1971. Arriving at San Diego on 15
July, Towers operated out of her home port into the early spring of 1972.
Gunnery exercises, underway training evolutions (with emphasis on ASW and AAW
tactics); planeguarding for carrier 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 1972, she departed the west coast on 20 June 1972, 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 USAF Boeing 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 1972 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 Lam Son-72. 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 1972 being re-gunned. 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 1972. She supported the ARVN 22nd Division
near Qui Nhon and around Quang Tri. She then again visited Subic Bay and
Kaohsiung, Taiwan, before returning to the gunline again (3-8 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 that period.
She finished the year 1972 again serving as plane guard for Constellation on
Yankee Station and closed out her gruelling 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 guided missile 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 Mid-Link 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 (6-12 January 1977) and Bangkok (29
January-4 February), Towers engaged in a coordinated ASW exercise, Sharkhunt
XX, with the Taiwanese Navy (22-25 February). She returned to San Diego on 21
March to complete a seven-month, three-week deployment. A port visit to
Vancouver, British Columbia, for the annual Sea Festival (9-17 July)
highlighted her post-deployment operations off the west coast. Towers' last
significant operations at sea for the year occurred when she conducted naval
gunfire support exercises on the range at San Clemente Island (12-16
September). 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 systems 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 began 1979 in Long Beach Naval Shipyard, Long Beach, California where
she underwent her fifth regular overhaul in preparation for her upcoming
deployment. The warship departed Long Beach Naval Shipyard ten days ahead of
schedule on 9 October, and, after embarking Commander, Destroyer Squadron 21,
made her way to Seattle, Washington, for a short port visit before returning
to San Diego on the 19th. Refresher training in southern California operating
areas followed, including sensor and sonar equipment checks, combat systems
qualifications and live fire exercises with anti-submarine rockets (ASROC),
MK 46 torpedoes and surface-to-air missiles before starting holiday leave and
upkeep on 19 December.
In January 1980, Towers' ships' company received news that the ship's home
port would change to Yokosuka, Japan, in October. The crew spent the next
nine months preparing for the homeport change, which required passing a
series of service inspections, repairing engineering casualties and preparing
for overseas deployment. In July, Towers underwent a special availability at
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, arriving on the 13th for repairs to her missile
launcher system. The repairs only took two weeks since replacement parts were
obtained from the decommissioned guided missile cruiser Chicago (CG-11).
Departing San Diego on 14 October, Towers sailed for Japan, arriving in
Yokosuka via Pearl Harbor on 10 November. Following an upkeep period through
12 December, the warship conducted a short familiarization cruise in Japanese
waters until the 19th whereupon she began a holiday leave and upkeep period.
After a series of local operations and exercises, including an ASW exercise
with Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) warships, Towers sailed to
the Middle East in mid-April to relieve guided missile cruiser Reeves (CG-24)
as radar picket ship in the Arabian Gulf. Concluding operations on 14 May,
she slowly made her way home, visiting Thailand, Singapore, and Subic Bay, as
well as rescuing 138 Vietnamese refugees from three small craft in the South
China Sea before putting in to Yokosuka on 11 June. Less than a month later,
Towers was on hand for another rescue on 4 July, this time picking up 26
survivors from a South Korean freighter that had gone down in bad weather 25
miles east of Hong Kong. A planned restricted availability at Yokosuka
followed, during which the yard replaced both propellers as well as the
sandblasted and repainted the hull. Maintenance problems hampered the warship
over the next few months, but the guided missile destroyer managed to conduct
multiple training evolutions with two aircraft carrier battle groups as they
transited the area.
Towers resumed local operations in early February 1982 with an ASW exercise
off Sasebo with JMSDF ships Kurama and Sagami. During the exercise, the
warship successfully fired practice torpedoes at submarine Blueback
(SSN-581). After a cruise to Okinawa and Hong Kong later in the month, Towers
joined carrier Midway (CV 41) and the rest of Battle Group Alpha for an
operational "tune-up" prior to Exercise Team Spirit '82 in
mid-March. Operations with the battle group continued off and on until 5 May,
when the guided missile destroyer shifted to the carrier Ranger (CV-61) Battle
Group. Over the next three days she conducted close-in AAW defense and plane
guard duties for Ranger during "war-at-sea" exercises. In company
with Reeves, Towers successfully fired two SM-1 missiles before steaming to
Subic Bay on 22 May for a two-week upkeep period. Following Naval Gunfire
Support (NGFS) qualifications, the guided missile destroyer returned to
Yokosuka on 18 June.
Following a restricted availability through July 1982, Towers resumed the
familiar pattern of operations out of Yokosuka. These included battle group
training evolutions with Midway, ASW exercises with Japanese warships as well
as investigating and shadowing Soviet warships in the northern Pacific, a
regimen that lasted through September. On 12 October, she got underway with
Battle Group Alpha for a voyage to the Indian Ocean, stopping at Subic Bay
the next day and then sailing for Singapore. While enroute, the warship
rescued 65 Vietnamese refugees from a small craft in the South China Sea and
transfered them to Midway for further processing. The warships then conducted
exercises with Singapore naval and air units in late October, visited Pattaya
beach, Thailand, in early November, and conducted battle group operations
while enroute to Japan, arriving at Yokosuka via Hong Kong on 10 December.
In mid-January 1983, Towers commenced Team Spirit '83, a joint exercise off
South Korea, followed by the periodic Nuclear Weapons Certification
inspection. After a short period at Yokosuka (10-27 February 1983), the
warship conducted another set of battle group operations. Unfortunately,
during the afternoon watch on 2 March, while en route to Chinhae, Korea, a
ruptured steam line in number one fire room inflicted serious injuries on FNs
Pino and Jones and BT2 Dyer; all were mede-vaced by helicopter to Midway.
Towers subsequently returned to Sasebo for repairs between 2-19 March.
Following more battle group operations, the ship returned to Chinhae for a
Nuclear Technical Proficiency Inspection (23-27 March), thereafter
participating in FleetEx 83-1, a major northern Pacific exercise involving
carriers Enterprise (CVN-65), Coral Sea (CV-43) and Midway. Gunnery exercises
in April, a joint midshipmen cruise with the JMSDF out of Kure and Valiant
Usher 83, a combined amphibious assault exercise off the coast of Korea,
rounded out the summer. After a maintenance availability in Yokosuka (13-25
August), Towers sailed south with DesRon 15, bound for the Indian Ocean.
During the transit, the guided missile destroyer helped track a Soviet Echo II
guided missile submarine and her escorts through the Malacca Straits. On 20
September, she arrived at Diego Garcia to refuel, subsequently transiting to
Phuket, Thailand, for a five-day visit. After a stop at Subic Bay on 11
October, the warship supported the final salvage stages of salvage work at
the Korean Airlines Flight 007 crash site (22 October-6 November) before
reaching Yokosuka on 9 November.
Towers underwent a major overhaul at Yokosuka during most of 1984, receiving
the Harpoon anti-ship missile system, improved electronics equipment and
major work on boiler tubes and brickwork. Conducting her first sea trials
after the overhaul (4-7 September), she departed Yokosuka ahead of schedule
on 17 October for two months of combat systems certification in the Hawaiian
Following a series of service inspections in January and February 1985,
Towers conducted refresher training off South Korea and out of Subic Bay
before sailing south for Cobra Gold '85, a joint training exercise with the Thai
military held 7-16 July. During her transit south, Towers rescued another
group of Vietnamese refugees, her fourth such humanitarian rescue in her
career. Subsequent to Cobra Gold, the guided missile destroyer steamed to the
North Arabian Sea via Singapore and Diego Garcia, arriving on station on 4
August. Battle group operations remained fairly quiet, with the warship
tasked to track Soviet or Indian aircraft on a periodic basis. Tragedy struck
on the night of 7 August, however, when Liberty 603, an E-2C from VAW-115,
impacted the water off Midway's flight deck. The search and rescue effort, in
which Towers participated, yielded three of the five crew members; Lt.(j.g.)
Kevin R. Kuhnigk, USNR, and Ens. Christopher Mims, USNR, however, perished in
the mishap. After a "war-at-sea" exercise in the Indian Ocean,
Battle Group Alpha steamed southeast to western Australia, where Towers
enjoyed five days of liberty in Geraldton, Australia (13-19 September).
Thereafter, she participated in Valiant Usher '85, a joint exercise with
Australian forces, and AnnualEx 85, a joint U.S.-Japanese operation, before
reaching Yokosuka on 15 October.
After a series of local operations and individual ship exercises, Towers
participated in Exercise Team Spirit 86 off Korea in late February and early
March 1986. Upon her return home on 3 April 1986, the guided missile
destroyer underwent and passed four major inspections; a command security
inspection, (24 April) a combat systems readiness test (14-19 April), a Board
of Inspection and Survey visit (5-9 May) and a boiler inspection (12 May).
After celebrating her 25th anniversary on 29 May, Towers hosted a celebration
in her home port for crew and their families, as well as local dignitaries.
She then returned to certifications, service exams and inspections, tasks
that kept the crew busy until mid-September when she sailed for Guam. After
participation in multinational exercise CrowEater '86, the guided missile
destroyer sailed south for a series of port visits in eastern Australia,
stopping at Cairns, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane before returning home on 15
November via Cairns and Guam.
The new year got off to a good start with the crew receiving
"outstanding" in all areas during the 5-8 January 1987 command
inspection. Local operations followed, including training for the annual
March-April Exercise Team Spirit '87. On 15-19 May Towers took part in the
Shimoda Black Ship Festival, celebrating the visit of Commodore Matthew
Calbraith Perry's squadron to Japan in July 1853. She spent the rest of the
summer in preparation for another Indian Ocean deployment, upon which she
embarked on 15 October. After a stop at Subic Bay in November, the warship
sailed to the Arabian Gulf, beginning the new year moored alongside the
destroyer tender Cape Cod (AD-43) for availability at Masirah, Oman.
Upon completion, Towers, in company with frigate Francis Hammond (FF-1067),
sailed to Karachi, Pakistan, for a five day port visit (14-18 January 1988)
during which the commanding officer called upon the CNO of the Pakistani
Navy. The guided missile destroyer subsequently made her way to the Republic
of the Maldives for a four-day port visit and then to Diego Garcia for five
days. After a stop at Pattaya Beach, Thailand, in mid-February, Towers
accomplished her fifth rescue of Vietnamese refugees on 29 February, picking
up 126 survivors of a "grossly overloaded" boat with a broken-down
engine and no food or water. Continuing on home, the guided missile destroyer
stopped at Subic Bay and Hong Kong before participating in the annual
bilateral exercise Team Spirit 87 off South Korea (16 March-3 April).
Following local exercises, Towers participated in a joint exercise with the
Japanese in the Philippine Sea (13-19 May), an ASW exercise in the Sea of
Japan (11-14 June), before putting to sea on the 23rd for Exercise Mekar 88
alongside ships of the Royal Malaysian Navy (7-13 July). She combined that
operation with Exercise Cobra Gold 88 off Thailand (24 July-1 August), upon
completion of which she returned to Yokosuka for a 90-day restricted
Upon completion of repairs, which included replacing both 5-inch gun mounts,
the warship conducted sea trials and gunnery drills starting on 9 November
1988. During those evolutions, however, some shells fell both within Japanese
territorial waters and near a Japanese Maritime Safety Agency ship. The Japan
government protested the incident and the Navy relieved Towers' commanding
officer "for cause without relief." Despite the embarassing
incident, the warship resumed local operations soon after.
Departing Yokosuka on 6 January 1989, Towers sailed south for refresher
training out of Subic Bay. Engineering trouble hampered these evolutions,
however, and the guided missile destroyer put in to the Ship Repair Facility
(SRF) there for repairs in late January. Detailed inspections quickly
determined that the guided missile destroyer had suffered damage to turbine
blades as well as both propellers. "It was amazing," one technician
commented later, "that the whole turbine did not disintegrate." The
guided missile destroyer finally put to sea for exercises with the Midway
Battle Group in June. After a month-long stay at Yokosuka starting on 15
July, Towers sailed south for more exercises with the battle group. While in
transit to Pattaya Beach in late August, however, the warship received the
news that Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, USMC, kidnapped by Iranian-supported
terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon, the previous February, had been murdered.
Ordered to the Indian Ocean for contingency operations, as well as to oversee
the end of tanker convoy operations in the Arabian Gulf, Towers patrolled the
those waters until early October. She then sailed south for a port visit to
Mombasa, Kenya, 18-21 October, before arriving in Subic Bay on 27 November.
Although Towers departed 1 December, an attempted coup d'etat in the
Philippines kept here there for a week of contingency operations before she
arrived home on 11 December.
Although the guided missile destroyer continued intermittent local operations
in early 1990, Towers received word of future decommissioning and began
inactivation inspections in April. She got underway for the last time on 18
June, to serve as plane guard for Midway, and visited Pusan, South Korea,
before returning to Yokosuka on the 30th. On 17 July the ship moved to
drydock for inactivation procedures and she was decommissioned at Yokosuka on
1 October 1990. Later towed to the Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at
Pearl Harbor and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 26 May 1992, she
was, ultimately, sunk by guided missile frigate Sides (FFG-14) in a fleet
training exercise (SinkEx) off the coast of California on 9 October 2002.
Commanding Officer Date assumed Command
CDR Lawrence D. Cummins 6 Jun
CDR Chandler E. Swallow, Jr. 18 Apr 1963
CDR Harmon C. Penny 23 Dec
CDR Stanley T. Counts 6 Jul
CDR Edward W. Carter III 20 Jul
CDR William A. Walsh 2 May
CDR Marshall B. Brisbois 27 Aug
CDR James J. McGrath 2 Mar
CDR Orrin L. Morrison 18 Dec
CDR Joseph J. Andrilla 2 Oct
CDR John M. Meyers 23 Sep
CDR William J Hancock 24
CDR Lawrence V. Fairchild 26 May
CDR Barry V. Burrow 23 Sep
CDR Frederick H. Michaelis 22 Dec
CAPT Gary L. Bier 1 Dec
CDR James M. Wylie Jr. 8 Jan
Unit Awards Received
Meritorious Unit Commendation 31 Jul
1966 - 6 Sep 1966
Meritorious Unit Commendation 1 Oct
1966 - 6 Nov 1966
Meritorious Unit Commendation 6 Sep
1968 - 4 Mar 1969
Meritorious Unit Commendation 27 Jul
1982 - 1 May 1984
Meritorious Unit Commendation 20 Oct
1983 - 5 Nov 1983
Meritorious Unit Commendation 8 Sep
1988 - 11 Dec 1989
Humanitarian Service Medal 3 Jun
Humanitarian Service Medal 15 Oct
Navy "E" Ribbon 1 Jul 1977
31 Dec 1978
Navy "E" Ribbon 1 Jan 1985
30 Jun 1986
Towers also received four battle stars for her Vietnam War service.