D 561 ITS Fante / ex USS Walker (DD 517):
Service history (USS Walker)
The second Walker (DD-517) was laid down on 31
August 1942 by the Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, Maine; launched on 31 January
1943, sponsored by Miss Sarah C. Walker, and commissioned on 3 April 1943,
Comdr. O. F. Gregor in command.
The first seven months of Walker's service took place in the Atlantic where she
was engaged in Caribbean escort duty and training exercises in preparation
for Pacific combat duty. The highlights of this period included the capture
of 43 survivors of a Nazi U-boat 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 Casablanca to participate in the Moscow
Conference of October 1943.
Walker transited the Panama Canal on 1 November 1943 and proceeded to join
the forces engaged in the conquest of Tarawa. After a month of operations in
that area, the destroyer took Dart in the Marshall Islands campaign from 29
January through 8 February 1944. She joined forces at Funafuti for the
invasion of Kwajalein; and, as part of a heavy cruiser bombardment unit, she
participated in numerous neutralization bombardments at Wotje and 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 Guadalcanal to Bougainville and from various
points in New Guinea. Other ports visited during this period were Purvis Bay,
Tulagi; Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville; Milne Bay and Buna, New Guinea.
The Marianas operation involved the invasion of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam by
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 Harbor for rehearsals of scheduled landings on
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 Gulf on 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
Dulag area. 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 Gulf from 24 to 25 October 1944.
The group proceeded to Morotai to 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 Eve 1944.
The most memorable part of Walker's combat service began in mid-March 1945
when, fresh from navy yard overhaul, she joined Admiral Marc Mitcher's famed
Task Force (TF) 58 at Ulithi, Caroline Islands. This force proceeded to
Kyushu and Honshu, Japan, for air strikes designed to neutralize and weaken
Japanese air power.
Following these strikes, TF 58 proceeded to Okinawa to 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 kamikaze
attacks. One suicider crashed dangerously close, its wing parting a lifeline
on the forward portion of the shin. Another plane dropped a torpedo just
after dark which passed close astern. During that night, Walker's agile
maneuvers and accurate guns beat off three more such attacks.
After 80 days at sea, the task group returned to port. During this period,
Walker towed Haggard (DD-555) to Kerama Retto near 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, Honshu, Japan, on 18 July and made a similar attack at
Hammahatsu and a return trip to Kamaishi. The coming of peace resulted in
Walker entering Tokyo after a period of air-rescue duty during the airborne
phase of the occupation.
On 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. The ship remained in "mothballs" until 15 September 1950
when she was recommissioned and converted to an escort destroyer. From the
time of her recommissioning until 27 February 1951, Walker remained in yard
Following a shakedown cruise, the escort destroyer departed San Diego and
participated in the atomic Exercise "Greenhouse" at Eniwetok until
June 1951. The next month, the ship joined the newly formed Escort Destroyer
Squadron 1 based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She remained in Hawaii until
November 1951 when she sailed for the western Pacific and joined the United
Nations Blockading Force assisting 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 1952 and 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 Navy and 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 Konlya, Amami Oshima, which had suffered major damage from a
raging fire in September 1958 and as a recovery ship for the space flight
project "Mercury" on 28 September 1962.
On 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 Shipyard for overhaul. The completion of yard overhaul
on 30 April marked 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 preemployment inspection and an
operational readiness inspection which was concluded on 20 November, three
days prior to departure for a western Pacific deployment.
On 3 December 1964, Walker arrived at Yokosuka, Japan, where she joined in
Exercise "Tall Back" with the carrier Yorktown. (CVS-10), followed
by duties on the junk patrol which combatted the infiltration of arms into
South Vietnam from North Vietnam and communist China. During this period, the
escort destroyer performed a month of uneventful duty on the Taiwan patrol.
Walker departed Vietnam waters on 27 April and, after a brief stop at
Yokosuka, Japan, arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 13th of 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.
January 1966 saw 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 Island 10 days later. Duty in
the South China Sea began on 28 February with assignments as a planeguard and
as a naval gunfire support ship. Walker's first offensive actions of the
Vietnam War occurred on 5 March in support of United States and Allied
forces. This assignment was interrupted by patrol duty in the Taiwan Strait
and rest and rehabilitation at Keelung, Taiwan; and Hong Kong.
Walker returned to Qui Nhon, South Vietnam, on 22 April and began support
missions, shooting direct fire at the Vietcong coastal 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
II that Walker had been subjected to hostile fire.
On 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 Danang to Phu Bai on 28 April. On the 1st of May, the ship
detached and proceeded independently for repairs at Sasebo, Japan, via
Buckner Bay, Okinawa.
Walker set course on 17 May for Manila Bay, Philippines, where she joined in
SEATO antisubmarine warfare Exercise "Sea Imp" which lasted until 6
June. The ship next joined Taylor (DDE-458) 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 Japanese 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 July as a shadow against the Soviet Elint
(electronics intelligence) trawler Izmeritel.
On 1 August 1966, Walker detached and proceeded to Yokosuka from whence she
began the transit to Hawaii. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 10 August and
made preparations for a yard overhaul. Walker entered the Pearl Harbor Naval
Shipyard on 19 September and 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
On 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 Tonkin on 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 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
Walker joined Operation "Beacon Guide" as a naval gunfire support
ship on 20 July and provided preparation fire for the amphibious and
helicopter assault south of Hue. After a brief tender availability at Taiwan,
Walker returned to the Tonkin Gulf on 9 August and 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 September and was detached three days later to
proceed to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea and conduct
surveillance and gather intelligence data about the Chinese communist-held
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.
On 1 October 1967, the escort destroyer returned to antisubmarine warfare
exercises, then headed for upkeep at Yokosuka prior to preceding to the
eastern Pacific. Walker arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 23d of October and
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 1968 in 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 Island and Guam on 18 August, then proceeded to
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 December as part of Operation "Handclasp." The ship returned
to Subic Bay on 22 December for 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).
On 5 January 1969, the escort destroyer departed for visits to Hong Kong and
Subic Bay. The ship joined three other destroyers and sailed for Australia
and New Zealand. Walker and Taylor visited Wollongong and Melbourne,
Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand before arriving back at Pearl Harbor on
the 28th of 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. She was sold to the
Italian Navy as Fante (D-516). Fante was retired from service in 1977.
Walker earned six battle stars for World War II engagements, two for service
in Korea, and three for Vietnam service.
source: US Naval History &
no service history from ITS Fante
(D 561) at this time