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George K. MacKenzie DD-836
George K. MacKenzie
George K. MacKenzie, born 30 May 1910 in Brooklyn, N.Y., graduated from the Naval Academy in 1931. He attended the Submarine School and Deep Sea Diving School and the advanced course in the Submarine Officers' School in addition to serving in Raleigh, Bonita, and Plunger and commanding Falcon and Triton. Lt. Comdr. MacKenzie was killed in action 15 March 1943 when three Japanese destroyers sank Triton in waters just north of the Admiralty Islands. For heroism and courageous devotion to duty he received the Navy Cross.
( DD-836: dp. 1,620; 1. 347'9"; b. 36'1"; dr. 17'4"; s.
37.6 k., cpl. 276, a. 6 5", 16 40mm, 10 20mm., 5 21" tt.
6 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. Gearing)
George K. MacKenzie(DD-536) was launched 13 May 1943 by the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine; sponsored by Miss Donna MacKenzie, daughter, and commissioned 13 July 1945, Comdr. Alvin W. Slayden in command.
After shakedown off Cuba, Mackenzie returned to Boston 15 September 1945 and subsequently participated in the Navy Day celebrations 27 October at Savannah, Ga. She served with the Operational Development Force at Norfolk, her home port, and conducted training exercises and escort duties along the Atlantic seaboard until sailing 5 January 1948 on a goodwill tour to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Mackenzie returned to Norfolk 9 February after these duties as a "steel grey diplomat" and continued peacetime operations, highlighted by a Midshipman cruise June to July 1948 to Portugal, Italy, North Africa, and Cuba. In October 1948 the destroyer sailed for the Near East, where she supported the United Nations Palestine Patrol and the allied occupation of Trieste, returning to Newport for Christmas.
After overhaul at Boston until April 1949, George K. MacKenzie continued peacetime training on the eastern seaboard, and made a "Med" cruise from January to May 1950. When the uneasy truce in the Far East was shattered by the North Korean aggression, George K. Mackenzie was transferred to the Pacific. She arrived Pearl Harbor 1 July 1950 to prepare for wartime service.
During her first tour in Korea, 26 July 1950 to 30 January 1951, she screened attack carriers during strikes on North Korean targetd and provided close support for advancing Allied armies. After a repair period at San Diego 15 February to 17 July 1951, she returned to perform the same vital screening and support duties until April 1952.
George K. Mackenzie provided antisubmarine screening and fired several important bombardment missions at Wonsan Harbor, 16 to 17 January and again 23 February to 21 March 1953 in support of United Nations forces. She lent effective fire support to troops in the vicinity of Suwon Dan 15-19 April 1953 in company; with Los Angeles and demolished sections of the enemy's railroad along the eastern coast of Korea in May.
Homeported in San Diego and Long Beach, Calif., she completed a total of nine tours of duty in the Far East, including training exercises and duty with the Taiwan patrol between 1953 and 1959.
George K. Mackenzie's homeport was changed to Yokusuka, Japan, 15 February 1960 as she continued her peacetime training duties, visiting Hong Kong, the Philippines and other Far Eastern ports, including those in Japan. In 1961 George K. MacKenzie sailed from Subic Bay, P.I. 23 March to rendezvous with carriers Midway and Lexington in the South China Sea to act during the Laos crisis as a powerful on-the-spot force, if needed. Fortunately, the crisis passed; and after further operations George K. MacKenzie put in at her new home port of New York 11 December 1962. She entered Brooklyn Navy Yard for modernization, returning to sea in October 1963. George K. Mackenzie then made preparations to return to her new homeport of Long Beach, Calif., where she arrived 28 January 1964 to prepare for extended duty in the Far East. She left the West Coast 26 May and reached Yokosuka, Japan, 13 June to begin over 2 years of continuous service in Oriental waters operating alternately in Japanese waters and off Vietnam fighting to repel Communist aggression. She specialized in screening aircraft carriers and shelling Communist positions ashore. The battle-tested destroyer returned to Long Beach 3 August 1966 for a major overhaul to prepare for future action. In mid-1967 she was again in the Far East aiding in the struggle to save Southeast Asia. On 29 July she was screening Forrestal (CVA-59) when fire broke out on the carrier's flight deck. After helping to put out the flames, she escorted the stricken flattop to Subic Bay for repairs.
George K. MacKenzie was awarded six battle stars for Korean service.
The table below contains the names of sailors who served aboard the USS George K. MacKenzie (DD 836). Please keep in mind that this list does only include records of people who submitted their information for publication on this website. If you also served aboard and you remember one of the people below you can click on the name to send an email to the respective sailor. Would you like to have such a crew list on your website?
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There are 111 crew members registered for the USS George K. MacKenzie (DD 836).
Select the period (starting by the reporting year): precomm &ndash 1963 | 1964 &ndash 1971 | 1972 &ndash now
|Castelveter, David||E3/SM||1972 &ndash 1973||Signal Communications||Big Mac, best damn ship in the Navy. Fast, mobile and home. And what great ports of call: Sublic Bay, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Sasebo, Kaohsiung, Jakarta, Midway Island, Guam, Pearl Harbor, San Diego, Coos Bay.|
|Ott, Lee (Punky)||OS2||1972 &ndash 1974||OPS||Never got the Presidential Unit Citation that was earned in Vietnam for Operation End Sweep. Did a swap to the USS Barbey FF 1088 because my wife was due to have our first child, transferring with captains permission.|
|Scalf, Sam "squirrel"||MMFN||Jan 5, 1972 &ndash Jan 20, 1974||M||Greatest bunch of engineers ever!|
|Shaw, Tommy||RM2||Apr 1972 &ndash Sep 1976||oc||enjoyed my time on this tin can. made a lot of friends. will always remember the BIG MAC1|
|Hamn, Ronald||FTG3||Jul 5, 1972 &ndash Oct 1976||weapons|
|Lambert, Paul||Midn 3/c||Aug 1, 1972 &ndash Sep 15, 1972||MIDTRA||Did my midshipman 3/c cruise on the Mac. Bags was the GMG2 I worked for the most. Helluva sailor. Got to take the ship to Coos Bay OR.|
|Bellavance, Edward||FA||Sep 1972 &ndash Nov 1973||mm||served in aft engine room|
|Shaw, Thomas||rm2||Sep 1972 &ndash Sep 1976||oc|
|Adams, Andy||Ens||Sep 1972 &ndash Sep 1975||MPA|
|Johnston, Armand||ICFN||Oct 10, 1972 &ndash May 17, 1974||R Div||I am interested in finding a few shipmates, one is Teresa Johnson from Memphis Tn. Teresa was in school at NTC San Diego during 1974|
|Kelly, Pat||YN3||Nov 14, 1972 &ndash Jul 30, 1975||I spent my whole Navy caeer on the Mac. Saw a lot of the world.|
|Pliley, Jim||IC/FA||1973 &ndash 1973||R DIVISION||MORE LATER|
|Boyd, Raymond||sm3||1973 &ndash 1976||communications||just thinking about all the places overseas that our crew went too phillipines guam hongkong Singapore Mombasa Kenya Ceylon sri lanka Taipei Taiwan kind of miss being out to sea with the crew lot of sights to see that fi|
|Fritz, Gary||GMG2/GMG1||Mar 1973 &ndash May 1974||weapons|
|Ramos, Roberto||SM3||Oct 1973 &ndash Dec 1975||OC||Broke my cherry as SMSA on the Big Mac. I'll always be a tin can sailor. I remember the Cruise that went to the Indian ocean -- makining stops in Mombasa, Africa Sri Lanka, India and Iran amongst a few rare port calls at the time.|
|Caufield, Edward||EM3||1974 &ndash 1976||R|
|Fleming, Randy||seaman awaiting hospital corps 'A' school||Apr 18, 1974 &ndash||supply||I was assigned to work in sick bay after I put in a special request chit , starting with supply officer Ensign Lancaster up through to Cdr Buck commanding officer. I was assigned to work for HMC Victor V. Hernandez.|
|Mrvich, Steve||E-3||May 10, 1974 &ndash Mar 25, 1975||electrical|
|Coghlan, John||MM3||Jun 22, 1974 &ndash Sep 30, 1976||Engineering|
|Rotunda, Marcello||BM3||Dec 6, 1974 &ndash Oct 26, 1976||DECK DIV|
|Humphreys, Chip (Alfred Taylor>||BTFN||Mar 12, 1975 &ndash Sep 30, 1976||B Div||I came on board as a Bootcamp and started as a EM striker but soon found myself mess cooking and then in aft fireroom as a BT. My Southern accent and attitude most likely put me there. Feel free to contact me.|
|Izzo, Anthony||en3||May 5, 1975 &ndash Oct 22, 1976||R||See you on the fantail after knock off ships work :-) LOL|
Select the period (starting by the reporting year): precomm &ndash 1963 | 1964 &ndash 1971 | 1972 &ndash now
George K. MacKenzie DD-836 - History
A Tin Can Sailors
USS GEORGE K. MACKENZIE
George K. MacKenzie was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 30, 1910, attending local schools until his admission to the Naval Academy. Upon graduation with the class of 1931, MacKenzie was assigned to the "silent service" after serving in USS RALEIGH (CL-7) and representing the United States on the Navy’s Olympic track team.
Following training at the Submarine School in New London, Connecticut, which included instruction in deep diving and submarine rescue techniques, MacKenzie served aboard USS BONITA (SS-165) and USS PLUNGER (SS-179). As commanding officer of USS FALCON, MacKenzie was instrumental raising the ill-fated USS SQUALUS (SS-192), which sank during a practice dive in the summer of 1939.
A highly qualified submarine commander, MacKenzie achieved command status early in World War, II. He was given command of USS TRITON
(SS-201), a TAMBOR class fleet submarine. On March 15, 1943, TRITON reported chasing two convoys between the Shortland Basin and Rabaul. Another sub operating in the area, USS TRIGGER (SS-237), reported hearing Japanese destroyers depth charging a sub in the distance. TRITON was never heard from again. MacKenzie was awarded the Navy Cross "for extraordinary heroism and courageous devotion to duty as commanding officer of the USS TRITON . . ."
USS GEORGE K. MACKENZIE (DD-836) was launched by Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine on May 13, 1945, and placed in commission two months later. Lieutenant Commander MacKenzie’s daughter, Donna, sponsored the ship.
DD-836 was a GEARING class destroyer, one of a proposed class of 105 state-of-the-art super destroyers improvements over the fourteen foot shorter ALLEN SUMNER’s that they succeeded. Although all were not completed, GEARING class "cans" were to form the mainstay of U.S. destroyer forces well into the 1970’s.
As launched, USS GEORGE K. MACKENZIE was 391" long, with a beam of 40" and a draft of 23’. Her designed displacement was 3,160 tons, but her standard displacement at commissioning, 2,450 tons, was more representative of her "true" weight heavier than some World War I cruisers. Her offensive fire-power included 6 - 5" 38 cal. "naval rifles" in three twin mounts. Anti-aircraft protection was provided by sixteen 40mm, three in "quad" mounts and two in twins, along with ten twin 20mm weapons. She still carried 5 - 21" torpedo tubes in a single mount, amidships, between her twin stacks. Six "K" guns and two depth charge "racks" composed her anti-submarine capability.
By the time the MAC had completed her shakedown cruise off Cuba, World War II was over, so, like most of her sisters, she settled into a series of training tours, interleaved with "showing the flag." MAC participated in Navy Day celebrations in October Force, where she conducted training cruises until 1948. In January of that year, DD-836 left on a "goodwill tour" to South America, spending most of her time at Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Returning to Norfolk, MAC resumed her career as an educator and Cold War diplomat. Frequent, relatively short, cruises out of Norfolk throughout the early spring were replaced by a Midshipman cruise in June to Portugal, Italy, North Africa, and Cuba. By October, she was back in the Mediterranean, this time supporting the United Nations Palestine Patrol and screening allied forces engaged in occupying Trieste. The MAC returned to the United States in time for Christmas, this time to be celebrated in Newport, RI. DD-836’s crew became familiar with Fall River, MA, as a "liberty port" during this period moored at a buoy within sight of Newport’s Naval War College, most of the crew seemed to enjoy the change of scene that the Spindle City afforded.
Following an overhaul in Boston, when hedgehog projectors were added to the 01 level slightly forward of the bridge, DD-836 continued her service as a training vessel on the East Coast, with a second Med cruise in the winter of 1950.
North Korean forces surged across the border into the south in the spring of 1950, plunging the United States in a "police action" which became typical of the post-war world. By July 1, 1950, the MAC had been transferred to Pearl Harbor to prepare for service in Korean waters.
Destroyers have always been multi-purpose ships, and the GEORGE K. MACKENZIE proved true to that tradition in Korea. In her first tour, DD-836’s duties alternated between fire missions and screening and plane guard duties for the fast attack carriers of her task group. After a short repair period in San Diego, she returned to action.
Once again, the MAC took up her duties as a combination "big gun-good Samaritan." On the "bomb line", off Wonsan, the MAC fired 3,533 five inch projectiles in slightly less than a month as Cliff Boyd, ex-chief of CIC points out, "an average of roughly one every ten minutes" as a part in the longest naval bombardment in American military history. Yet, the same crew of the MAC also contributed six hundred pounds of clothing to North Korean orphans. Nineteen United Nations pilots also owed their lives to the skill of the "mighty MAC’S" crew.
The USS GEORGE K. MACKENZIE was responsible for successfully directing helicopters in the rescue of ten pilots, while vectoring seven other airmen to emergency fields. One pilot was picked up by USS GREGORY (DD-802) after being directed by the MAC, and Lieutenant Joseph Pendergast of the carrier USS ESSEX (CV-9) was fished out by DD-836 herself. The end of the Korean War did not mark the close of operations for DD-836. The MAC completed nine tours of duty in the Far East between 1953 and 1959. Cruises included training voyages and a stint with the Taiwan patrol.
By 1960, the MAC, then home-ported in Yokusuka, Japan, took up a role in Southeast Asian "power politics", serving as a screen for a carrier task force "showing the flag" in the waters near Laos. That time, pressure worked, and in 1963, DD-836 was rotated home for a Type 1 FRAM rebuilding as a part of the largest reconstruction program ever undertaken by the Navy.
The vast fleet of FLETCHER, ALLEN SUMNER, and GEARING class destroyers built during World War II were in dire need of repair and modernization. Fiscal restraints made the construction of an entire new fleet impractical, however, so selected hulls were extensively modified.
The MAC’s "upper works" were stripped at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and rebuilt along different lines using lighter weight materials. One five inch turret and all secondary anti-aircraft armament disappeared the "traditional" torpedo tubes amidships were replaced by ASROC, an anti-submarine rocket-launched torpedo and two triple "high tech" torpedo tubes were added to the 01 level, forward of the remodeled bridge. Gone were the "K" guns, hedgehog batteries, and "roller racks" of "ash cans" which destroyers had carried since the First World War. A large hanger and raised platform dominated the waist of the ship, providing facilities for the MAC’s DASH helicopter.
DASH was to be the answer to the threat presented by the newer, faster, and quieter Soviet submarines. The small, remotely-controlled helicopter could carry two torpedoes or a nuclear depth charge well beyond the range of MAC’s more "conventional" weapons, extending a screen of safety for many miles around the vulnerable carriers of a 1960’s task group. Unfortunately, DASH proved to be unreliable. Within three years of extensive fleet deployment, more than half of the DASH’s were out of operation. The MAC’s hanger and landing deck were neither sizable enough nor strongly built enough, to service manned helos, so DD-836 suddenly had a fine movie theater. By the time the GEORGE K. MACKENZIE and her crew became adept at handling the new technology, the "Mighty MAC" was scheduled for another war.
For the next several years, DD-836 alternated between Japanese waters and a new "bomb line," screening carriers and adding her firepower to another fight, this time in Vietnam. Once again, GEORGE K. MACKENZIE’s five-inch weapons supported Army and Marine actions along the Southeast Asian coast. She was also instrumental in rescuing downed fliers and helping to fight an extensive flight deck fire on USS FORRESTAL (CVA-59). Escorting the FORRESTAL back to Subic Bay for repairs was one of her last duties in the Far East.
Like most of her kind, DD-836 was relegated to the Naval Reserve Training fleet after the Vietnam War. Many GEARINGS served on with foreign navies, going to Turkey, Pakistan, Portugal, and other American "friends." FRAMing had been a success their useful service had been extended to nearly forty years, truly a remarkable longevity. For the GEORGE K. MACKENZIE, however service was not to be. After extensive inspection, Bureau of Ships decided the MAC was "worn out " On October 1, 1976, the "mighty MAC" was stricken from the active service list and ended her life as a target for the missiles, bombs, and guns of the US fleet.
USS GEORGE K. MACKENZIE gallantly served her country CONTINUOUSLY for more than thirty-one years, a tribute to the ship and to her dedicated crew.
From The Tin Can Sailor, January 1990
Copyright 2001 Tin Can Sailors.
All rights reserved.
This article may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from
Tin Can Sailors.
GEORGE K MacKENZIE DD 836
This section lists the names and designations that the ship had during its lifetime. The list is in chronological order.
- Gearing Class Destroyer
Keel Laid December 21 1944 - Launched May 13 1945
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George K. MacKenzie was born on 30 May 1910 in Brooklyn, N.Y.. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1931. MacKenzie attended the Basic Enlisted Submarine School and Deep Sea Diving School and the advanced course in the Submarine Officers' School in addition to serving on USS Raleigh, USS Bonita and USS Plunger and commanding USS Falcon and USS Triton. Lieutenant Commander MacKenzie was killed in action 15 March 1943 when three Imperial Japanese Navy destroyers sank Triton in waters just north of the Admiralty Islands. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.
George K. MacKenzie was launched on 13 May 1945 by the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine sponsored by Miss Donna MacKenzie, daughter and commissioned on 13 July 1945, Commander Alvin W. Slayden in command.
After shakedown off Cuba, MacKenzie returned to Boston, Massachusetts on 15 September 1945 and subsequently participated in the Navy Day celebrations on 27 October at Savannah, Georgia She served with the Operational Development Force at Norfolk, Virginia, her home port, and conducted training exercises and escort duties along the Atlantic seaboard until sailing on 5 January 1948 on a goodwill tour to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
MacKenzie returned to Norfolk on 9 February after these duties as a "steel grey diplomat" and continued peacetime operations, highlighted by a Midshipman cruise June to July 1948 to Portugal, Italy, North Africa, and Cuba. In October 1948 the destroyer sailed for the Near East, where she supported the United Nations Palestine Patrol and the allied occupation of Trieste, returning to Newport, Rhode Island for Christmas.
After overhaul at Boston until April 1949, George K. MacKenzie continued peacetime training on the eastern seaboard, and made a "Med" cruise from January to May 1950. When the uneasy truce in the Far East was shattered by the North Korean aggression, MacKenzie was transferred to the Pacific. She arrived Pearl Harbor on 1 July 1950 to prepare for wartime service.
Korean War, 1950–1953 Edit
During her first tour in Korea, from 26 July 1950 to 30 January 1951, she screened attack carriers during strikes on North Korean targets and provided close support for advancing Allied armies. After a repair period at San Diego, California from 15 February to 17 July 1951, she returned to perform the same vital screening and support duties until April 1952.
George K. MacKenzie provided antisubmarine screening and fired several important bombardment missions at Wonsan Harbor, 16 to 17 January and again 23 February to 21 March 1953 in support of United Nations forces. She lent effective fire support to troops in the vicinity of Suwon Dan from 15 to 19 April 1953 in company with USS Los Angeles and demolished sections of the enemy's railroad along the eastern coast of Korea in May.
Homeported in San Diego and Long Beach, California, she completed a total of nine tours of duty in the Far East, including training exercises and duty with the Taiwan patrol between 1953 and 1959.
George K. MacKenzie's homeport was changed to Yokosuka, Japan. Throughout various periods of 1960 and 1961, while otherwise home ported at Yokosuka Japan, the Mac would often be deployed for patrol in the Straits of Taiwan, not infrequently steaming the Straits while the Taiwanese Army traded cannonade with the Communist mainland the Mack also challenged shipping headed to Communist ports and conducted shipboard inspections for armaments disallowed the enemy. (please edit). During on 15 February 1960 as she also continued her peacetime training duties, visiting Hong Kong, the Philippines and other Far Eastern ports, including those in Japan. In 1961 MacKenzie sailed from Subic Bay, P.I., on 23 March to rendezvous with carriers Midway (CV-41) and Lexington (CV-16) in the South China Sea to act during the Laos crisis as a powerful on-the-spot force, if needed. Fortunately, the crisis passed and after further operations George K. MacKenzie put in at her new home port of New York on 11 December 1962. She entered Brooklyn Navy Yard for modernization, returning to sea in October 1963. MacKenzie then made preparations to return to her new homeport of Long Beach, California, where she arrived on 28 January 1964 to prepare for extended duty in the Far East. She left the West Coast on 26 May and reached Yokosuka, Japan, on 13 June to begin over two years of continuous service in Oriental waters operating alternately in Japanese waters and off Vietnam fighting to repel Communist aggression. She specialized in screening aircraft carriers and shelling Communist positions ashore. The battle-tested destroyer returned to Long Beach on 3 August 1966 for a major overhaul to prepare for future action. In mid-1967 she was again in the Far East aiding in the struggle to save Southeast Asia. On 29 July she was screening Forrestal (CVA-59) when fire broke out on the carrier's flight deck. After helping to put out the flames, she escorted the stricken flattop to Subic Bay for repairs.
George K. MacKenzie again changed homeport from Long Beach to Yokosuka, Japan, in July 1968 with Destroyer Squadron Three. The next two years were mostly spent in the waters off Vietnam serving on Yankee Station and providing naval gun fire support to forces in South Vietnam with some time in the Sea of Japan off North Korea. Port visits included Subic Bay, Kaohsiung and Keelung, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Bangkok. CAPT Sherwin J. Sleeper was relieved as Commanding Officer by CDR James A. Allen in May 1969. In July 1970 the entire squadron returned together to San Diego with homeward-bound pennants flying, to be greeted at the pier by Governor Reagan, Senator Murphy, the COMCRUDESPAC Band and several hundred family members and well-wishers. The ship received a Navy Unit Commendation for this period. After a short break the ship moved to the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for a five-month overhaul.
George K. MacKenzie was deployed to Vietnam in 1971 again with the mission of fleet defense and shore bombardment with other vessels, including the cruiser Oklahoma City (CLG-5) USS Newport News> In the Spring of 1972 she participated in Operation Freedom Train conducting shore bombardment of targets in North Vietnam and in operation Linebacker 1 and Linebacker 2 it may be noted here that during this arduous tour of duty she fired 16,549 rounds of 5"/38 ammunition. She returned home to San Diego in August 1972, three months later than planned. She received a second Navy Unit Commendation for this deployment. After a brief stand-down period, she was again selected to conduct a midshipman training cruise with 20 third- and first-class midshipmen embarked. During this training period, the MacKenzie was ordered to perform plane guard duty for the Ranger (CV-61) , due to soon rotate back to Vietnam. George K. MacKenzie put to sea to await a rendezvous with the carrier, which was still in port. However, Ranger never sailed because of damage to the #3 main engine reduction gear due to sabotage. To provide at-sea time for the midshipmen, and a time for R&R for the crew, MacKenzie was given permission to sail to Coos Bay, Oregon for the annual Salmon Festival, she then deployed again back to Vietnam to provide NGFS to South Vietnamese forces and saw the war end later the year.
George K. MacKenzie was decommissioned on 30 September 1976, and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 October 1976. She was sunk as a target off California on 15 October 1976. [ citation needed ]
George K. MacKenzie was awarded six battle stars for Korean service.
Another story of USS George K. Mackenzie
Another story of USS George K. Mackenzie
April 17, 1972. It has been 44 years. Amazing. There are many days I remember in the Vietnam War. I try to remember this one every year. It was not the most intense day of combat but it was noteworthy in the excitement and in the loss.
We were young and sailors once. I was overdue in returning from a 1971-1972 WESTPAC deployment as a 25-year-old Operations Officer and General Quarters (GQ) Officer of the Deck aboard USS George K. Mackenzie (DD-836).
After refueling on the 17th we joined the Task Unit (77.1.2) made up now of USS Buchanan (DDG-14), USS Benjamin Stoddert (DDG-22), USS Hamner (DD-718) and us. We were conducting gunfire operations near the city of Vinh about 175 miles north of the DMZ. Vinh was a priority target because of its airfield, fuel storage sites and military installations including a PT boat base in the harbor area. There were also three offshore islands, Hon Mat, Hon Nhieu (Ngu) and Hon Me, known to have coastal artillery.
The southernmost of these islands was Hon Mat suspected to have long range artillery hidden in caves.
We began our run at Vinh in a line abreast at GQ around noon in a circuitous route from the north to a point offshore of the mouth of the Lam Song River where we were to begin firing and then regress seaward. Mackenzie was the northernmost of the Freedom Train ships.
At 1255, we opened up on Hon Me Island about 5 miles on our starboard beam from which we had been receiving what we believed was heavy machine gun or 20mm fire. We ceased fire about 5 minutes later noting secondary explosions on the island. Having now turned to our firing course, our job was to protect the column to the north from counter battery fire which had begun from a position ashore. We engaged the counter battery while Buchanan and Stoddert continued their direct fire on the principal target, the PT boat base, with their longer range 5”54 guns (approximately 6000 yards’ greater range than ours). Incoming hostile fire was noted all around our formation but all ships held steady with the mission.
We noted secondary explosions in the vicinity of the target which we believed might have been coming from the oil storage area. Almost immediately the lookouts and I observed two incoming PT boats at a distance of 11000 yards, our maximum effective gun range. I identified these boats as Soviet-style North Vietnamese Project 183 (P-6) boats. The boats were equipped with two twin 25mm cannons forward and aft (range about one mile) and banks of torpedo tubes port and starboard. The latter was the biggest threat. The torpedoes were advertised as having a maximum range of about 3 miles (6000 yards). To be effective they had to be launched much closer.
This meant the boats would be under the arc of our radar controlled guns. Being the closest ship with the best angle, we shifted targets with our aft gun mount (Mt. 52) with its two barrels from the counter battery ashore to the incoming boats which were being tracked at a speed of 45 knots. We held our speed in the firing formation at 17 knots. Because of this, the PT boats were closing fast.
At the Captain’s directions, I maneuvered Mackenzie slightly to starboard toward the coast in order to bring Mt. 51 to bear on the boats. Now we could fire at them with four 5 inch guns instead of two. With the barrels nearly pointed back toward my position on the Bridge of the ship I looked down and saw the Mt 51 Mount Captain Boatswain Mate First Class Salada with his head poking out of the hatch atop his mount he looked at me, smiled, gave a thumbs-up and commenced fire on the PT boats.
Aft in Mt. 52 as Mount Captain was Stanley “Bags” Baggett, a 2nd Class Gunners Mate. Stan had already opened up on the boats. Stan and I have talked about this engagement over the years. We are friends to this day. He was in the best firing position aft and told me Salada loved the extra angle he got from me so he could bring his mount to bear on the PT boats. Over the course of the next few minutes, we poured considerable 5-inch ammunition down on the boats in a mix of variable time fuse ammo set to trigger off the mechanical time fused explosions from the high capacity ammo we were firing. We were creating a wall of steel designed to kill the personnel on board and/or sink the boats.
The lead boat soon went up in an explosion and the second boat turned to shore. By this time, the primary firing mission had completed, the task group commander ordered a turn and we were racing from the coast at a speed of 34 knots, weaving furiously as we were taking considerable incoming fire from the installations ashore and from the offshore islands. We continued firing at the second boat as we turned away. But we could not confirm a kill because we shifted our attention and fire counter-battery at the coastal artillery sites. We later received confirmation of the second PT Boat kill.
We were receiving incoming on our port and starboard quarters and astern, as were the other U.S. ships. The closest of these rounds was impacting within 25-50 yards so that we were getting sprayed by some of the fragmentation. We had no direct hits. Captain Anderson was moving from one Bridge wing to the other while I was ordering the maneuvers for the ship and executing the weave. Occasionally he would ask, “How are we doing Jimmy?” I would respond, “Real good Skipper”. The energy level among the Bridge team members was high. I tried to remain calm and concentrated on the task at hand with incoming landing seemingly everywhere.
At 1337, about 1 ½ hours into the operation on the way out of the area, Buchanan reported being hit by incoming. The shell penetrated the superstructure between the aft gun mount and missile launcher and exploded in the middle of the damage control party killing Seaman Leonard R. Davis and slightly wounding seven other personnel. Damage was isolated. Leonard Davis had received the full impact of the incoming artillery blast.
Just before 1500, the ships were far enough from the coast to slow down and regroup. One thing was clear and that was these daytime strikes without air cover could be hazardous to your health. Mackenzie had fired nearly 350 rounds of 5-inch ammunition. Buchanan left for Da Nang for repairs and for transfer of Seaman Davis’ remains. The remainder of the ships regrouped for another raid that evening. And so it went.
I salute you Leonard Davis and I remember you this day and every day. You made the ultimate sacrifice.
The author is a retired career US Navy Surface Warfare Officer whose assignments at sea include duty in all Line Departments in the Destroyer and Auxiliary Forces up to and including command of a Frigate. Ashore he served in key national policy positions on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations.
MacKenzie and the Forrestal Fire
MacKenzie and the Forrestal Fire
USS George K. MacKenzie Association
MacKenzie and the Forrestal Fire
“Oh shit!” was the Executive Officer’s reaction when he learned that the “boom” that he had just heard had come from the aircraft carrier off the port quarter, about six miles away. He was at the Ship’s Store when he heard the explosion, and asked the sailor in line behind him what the sound was.
Brian Moe, a Machinist’s Mate, was just outside the port door to the athwartships passageway at the aft end of the deck house. He pointed out the aircraft carrier that was the source of the sound, that now was showing bright orange flames and an enormous column of dense black smoke from pools of burning jet fuel, and was having additional explosions as a total of four one-thousand pound bombs exploded on the flight deck in the first minutes of the fire.1
USS Forrestal (CVA 59) was having a very bad day. A Zuni rocket on an F-4B Phantom had fired accidentally and struck an external fuel tank on an A-4E Skyhawk awaiting launch at 1052 on Saturday, 29 July 1967.2
USS George K. MacKenzie (DD 836) had been having a more benign day. They were six weeks into a six month cruise in the Western Pacific. It was their only six-month cruise in the decade of the 1960s. Not that they didn’t deploy. They would spend six and one-half years of that decade homeported in WestPac. But right now they were homeported in Long Beach, California.
They had just returned to Yankee Station after a short period supporting the Third Marine Division in I Corps. MacKenzie was operating with USS Oriskany (CVA 34) and USS Samuel N. Moore (DD 747) as Task Group 77.8.3
Operating with carrier groups on Yankee Station was a duty of intermediate intensity for a WestPac destroyer. Not as intense as direct combat on the North Vietnamese coast in Operation Sea Dragon, but more intense than picket duty on Search and Rescue station deeper in the Tonkin Gulf. Carrier duty involved operating in formation with the carrier at high speed and the accompanying frequent refueling, and required a relatively high degree of vigilance and readiness, since bad things could happen quickly. The main function was to serve as plane guard, following in the wake of the carrier, ready to rescue anyone unfortunate enough to go in the water.
Today MacKenzie had been in plane guard position behind Oriskany all morning, and things were apparently peaceful enough that the XO could take a trip to the Ship’s Store.
Forrestal Needs Assistance
Forrestal had already requested assistance, and MacKenzie had turned left to respond and increased speed to 30 knots. Ordinarily Forrestal would have two destroyers of her own nearby. She did have two destroyers, Rupertus (DD 851) flagship of Destroyer Division 32, and Henry W. Tucker (DD 875), another DesDiv 32 ship, operating with her as Task Group 77.6. But they weren’t both available.
Late during the midwatch this morning Forrestal had lost a man overboard. A helicopter was launched, found Seaman Kenneth Dyke and lowered a rescue chair. He had gotten in the chair, but as the chair was being hoisted he fell out and disappeared.
Rupertus and Tucker were assigned to search for him. When Forrestal began flight operations around 0600, Rupertus returned to serve as plane guard, while Tucker continued the search. So Tucker was not nearby when the fire began, and MacKenzie would be the next closest destroyer after Rupertus.
Rupertus observed the initial fire at 1053. Captain Burke assumed the conn, ordered all back full and launched their motor whaleboat. At 1055 they observed high order detonations sending equipment, planes and men over the side and went to General Quarters, leaving the whaleboat to retrieve survivors and proceeding to approach Forrestal through a wake filled with personnel, life jackets, fuel tanks, crates and other debris.5
MacKenzie Moves to Assist
On the way to Forrestal, MacKenzie stopped to pick up three survivors that had been recovered by Rupertus’ motor whaleboat. Captain Sherwin J. Sleeper assumed the conn at 1118, went to General Quarters at 1144, launched MacKenzie’s motor whaleboat at 1151 to pick up more survivors, embarked three more survivors at 1154 and proceeded to assist Forrestal with firefighting at 1155.
Destroyers’ Assistance Needed
Forrestal required firefighting assistance from destroyers because there were portions of the fire that could not be reached by Forrestal’s own fire parties. The destroyers were fast and maneuverable enough to put water on those fires. Captain John Beling of Forrestal gave the destroyers permission to move in as close as possible, but did not order them to do so. He left that decision, and that assumption of risk, to the destroyer commanding officers.6
Here the superstructure of George K. Mackenzie can be seen as the ship maintained station on the carrier starboard quarter and poured water onto sections of the fire that could not be reached by Forrestal’s firefighters.
The Risks of Steaming Alongside
Steaming alongside another ship is an inherently dangerous activity. The ships are within seconds of a collision at speed, which can be caused by any number of common occurrences: steering casualties, propulsion casualties, instrumentation casualties, human error, etc. MacKenzie had significant recent experience at steaming alongside. Since beginning this cruise six weeks earlier she had conducted sixteen underway replenishments, all of which involved steaming alongside another ship for an extended period.7
This was different. First, underway replenishment is conducted with a distance on the order of 100 feet between ships, closer when sea conditions are more benign, farther when conditions are more sporty. This firefighting would require maintaining station ten to forty feet off Forrestal.
Then there was the normal risk of steering or propulsion casualties, magnified on Forrestal. (In case you think that a flight deck fire would not affect steering, you might want to consider the fact that all three sailors in port after steering on Forrestal died in the fire, but not before, as their last act, transferring steering control to starboard after steering.)8
Added to this was the fact that Forrestal sailors were jettisoning anything they could, including bombs and whole aircraft, by pushing them over the side, requiring evasive maneuvers by the destroyers.9
And there was one more thing. Forrestal was on fire. With ordnance exploding. MacKenzie sailor John Martin remembers one of the jettisoned bombs detonating, covering Rupertus with smoke and spray.10
Aircraft carriers are different from other ships, so perhaps some preliminary description is in order for the benefit of destroyer sailors like myself.
The main deck of a carrier like Forrestal is the hangar deck. Everything above this deck could be considered superstructure, although it doesn’t look much like it. The aftermost part of the main deck is the fantail, like a conventional ship, aft of the superstructure and under the overhang of the flight deck. The flight deck is on the 04 level, four levels above the main deck. The hangar bays are three levels high. There is one full level of compartments between the ceiling of the hangar bays and the flight deck, the 03 level, called the gallery deck, which contains operational spaces amidships and berthing spaces at the fore and aft extremes. (Having a bunk directly beneath the arresting gear or the catapult would seem to be less than desirable, but that’s what is there). The 01 and 02 levels exist mostly forward and aft of the hangar bays.
Below the main deck the interior of the hull is conventional, with berthing, messing and office spaces on the second and third decks and engineering spaces, store rooms, tanks and magazines below.
The exterior of the hull has some additional aircraft carrier features. Because the flight deck is devoted to, well, flight, other functions requiring deck space, like weapon mounts, mooring, underway replenishment, boats, etc., have to be accommodated differently. They are accommodated by adding structures on the outside of the hull called sponsons. These provide small areas of deck at the main deck, 01 and 02 levels, and contain additional office, workshop and storage spaces.
The flight deck and the hangar deck are connected by four aircraft elevators, all at the edge of the flight deck. Elevator number one is forward of the island on the starboard side, number two is forward on the port side, both accessing hangar bay number 1. Elevator number three is aft of the island on the starboard side, accessing hangar bay number two, and elevator number four is further aft on the starboard side, accessing hangar bay number three.11
Forrestal’s starboard quarter after the fire, showing the fantail and the sponson supporting two 5’/54 gun mounts.12
Forrestal’s starboard quarter after the fire, showing the sponson and the forward of two 5’/54 gun mounts, aircraft crane and aircraft elevator number 4 accessing hangar bay number 3.13
The position of helmsman is conventionally considered part of the job of the Quartermaster rating, and the helmsman for General Quarters and Special Sea Details would be a senior Quartermaster. The enlisted billet description for a destroyer GQ helmsman when MacKenzie was commissioned called for a Quartermaster First Class.14
That’s not how it was done in MacKenzie in 1967. Quartermasters spent most of their time navigating, not steering. The helmsman, like the lee helmsman, the lookouts and most of the other sailors in the bridge watch were non-rated sailors or Petty Officers of other ratings.
In fact, many of the jobs in the manpower-intensive World War II destroyers were filled by first-term enlisted men, mostly non-rated. The two 5”/38 gun mounts required about 70 men, only a handful of whom were rated Gunner’s Mates. Similar situations existed in the fire rooms and engine rooms, the repair parties, etc.
The title for a non-rated man in the deck occupations was Seaman. Today they would have to demonstrate that this was more than just a name, but a description they had earned.
The General Quarters helmsman today was Seaman J. D. Bigham from Pickneyville, Illinois. He was 20 years old and had been on the ship for less than a year. He had come to the bridge watch from the deck force, and he had been assigned as GQ helmsman because he was good. His relief was Ricky Davis, a Torpedoman, an excellent helmsman and a frequent flyer at Captain’s mast.
The job of helmsman demands concentration. The helmsman must continuously scan the gyrocompass repeater, the magnetic compass, the rudder angle indicator and the outside, maintaining situational awareness and hearing, responding to and acknowledging the commands from the conning officer.
Keeping the ship on course is not a simple matter of pointing. There is a lag between a command and its execution, another lag between the movement of the helm and the movement of the rudder, another bigger lag between the movement of the rudder and the movement of the ship due to momentum and inertia.
Keeping the ship on a heading requires constant adjustment. The degree of precision required varies with the situation. Independent steaming in calm seas might tolerate a few degrees of variation around the intended course. Steaming in formation would require greater precision and therefor greater concentration. Steaming alongside during underway replenishment requires the greatest precision and concentration ordinarily experienced. Today would require unprecedented precision and concentration.
Precise control of speed is just as critical as steering. The engine order telegraph allows the conning officer the order the exact shaft rpm he desires, with adjustments as small as one rpm up or down. No automatic device makes this happen. Skilled throttlemen in each engineroom regulate the speed of their respective shaft manually, making continuous small adjustments to achieve the ordered rpm, while Boiler Technicians in each fire room manually control
their burners to maintain the required steam pressure. Most of these “hole snipes” are also young sailors in their first enlistments.
Fire hoses are manned by sailors in the General Quarters repair parties, composed of sailors from various departments and ratings. Today MacKenzie would deploy six fire hoses, three on the forecastle and three on the 01 level forward of the bridge. The smoke was intense enough that the hose crews required continuous relief, with men cycling from the rear of the hose to the nozzleman position, then taking a break.15
MacKenzie and Rupertus Alongside
In the first two minutes of the fire, long before either destroyer got near the Forrestal, four one-thousand pound bombs had exploded on the flight deck, created massive holes in the flight deck and creating shrapnel that the perforated compartments a great distance away from the explosions. For example, shrapnel had penetrated the port steering gear power room on the third deck under the fantail and injured all three sailors in the compartment, severing the arm of the electrician’s mate, penetrating the bottom of the ship and mangling the access to the compartment. Burning fuel was flowing into various compartments, spreading the fire and trapping men in various places.16
By 1129 Rupertus was on station 30 to 50 feet off Forrestal’s starboard quarter using fire hoses rigged on their foc’sle, torpedo deck and signal bridge to put water on burning aircraft on the flight deck aft of the island. At 1142 Rupertus moved to Forrestal’s port quarter, where they would continue fighting fires until 1309.17
Captain Sleeper brought MacKenzie up to Forrestal’s starboard quarter, dodging debris and survivors. By 1229 MacKenzie was maintaining station ten to forty feet off Forrestal’s starboard quarter at 15 knots.18 Areas that MacKenzie could reach included the fantail and the starboard quarter sponson, which included isolated decks on three levels containing two 5”/54 gun mounts, including magazines containing 5”/54 ammunition, and the boat and aircraft crane.
MacKenzie applied fire hoses to fires in those areas as Forrestal slowly changed course to port. Six fire hoses were manned, three on the forecastle and three on the 01 level forward of the bridge. An Associated Press newspaper story reported that four sailors on one of those isolated decks were saved by MacKenzie spraying water on them for an hour.19 MacKenzie sailors remember asking Forrestal sailors on the starboard sponson if they were going to jump. They said no, then waited until MacKenzie’s fire hoses had cooled the aircraft crane enough that they could climb up it to the flight deck.
Forrestal’s stern looking across from port to starboard showing MacKenzie on starboard quarter.20
At 1335 MacKenzie moved forward to put water on fires in Hangar Number 3.21 At this point MacKenzie was maneuvering adjacent to elevator number 4, the most extreme overhang on Forrestal, and the destroyer’s mast was within five feet of the edge of the elevator.22
At 1342 all fires on Forrestal were reported to be under control, although additional fires were reported throughout the afternoon and into the evening.23
At 1305 ComDesDiv 32 in Rupertus, acting as CTU 77.6.2, assumed tactical command of Rupertus, Tucker, Moore and MacKenzie as on scene search and rescue (SAR) commander.24
At 1343 Forrestal directed MacKenzie to break away, and MacKenzie increased speed to 27 knots, proceeded to retrieve the motor whaleboat, and
joined the SAR formation at 1503. Shortly thereafter MacKenzie left the SAR unit and returned to Oriskany.
The SAR unit was later augmented by the cruiser USS Saint Paul (CA 73) and destroyers Blue (DD 744), Barney (DDG 6) and Fecheteler (DD 870). Tucker was detached from the SAR unit to rejoin Forrestal. The SAR operation was terminated at 0231 on Sunday and Rupertus joined TG 77.8.25 A total of 47 men went overboard.26
MacKenzie Returns to Oriskany
MacKenzie rejoined Oriskany at 1615 as Oriskany was recovering her boats. At 1628 MacKenzie was sent back to Forrestal at 27 knots, transferring the six survivors to a helicopter two at a time and taking station on the port quarter of Forrestal again, this time to transfer firefighting foam and OBA canisters. At 2103 Mackenzie returned to station on Oriskany, who was following three miles astern of Forrestal.
USS Repose Arrives and Forrestal Departs
During the first watch Forrestal, Oriskany and escorts proceeded to rendezvous with the Hospital Ship Repose, who had come from the Danang area, and Forrestal’s dead and injured were transferred to Repose from 2253 Saturday to 1410 on Sunday. Forrestal then proceeded at 27 knots to Subic Bay, escorted by Henry W. Tucker and Baussel (DD 845).27
Just after noon on Sunday, MacKenzie detached from TG 77.8, refueled from USS Cacapon (AO 52), and proceeded to the vicinity of Quang Tri, South Vietnam for her next assignment.28
The balance of the six-month cruise included more naval gunfire support, more carrier operations and service in Operation Sea Dragon.
The Forrestal fire left 134 sailors dead and 161 injured. The dead are memorialized on panel 24E of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. None of the casualties received the Purple Heart, because this event was considered an accident, not a combat action.29
Rear Adm. Harvey P. Lanham, Commander, Carrier Division Two, embarked in Forrestal, commended MacKenzie and Rupertus on the spot for “the most magnificent ship handling I’ve ever seen.”30
The Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation (MUC) award was established on July 17, 1967, just twelve days before the Forrestal fire, to recognize conduct by a unit that would merit the award of the Bronze Star Medal for an individual.31
MacKenzie and Rupertus each received the MUC for the Forrestal fire.32 The citation for MacKenzie’s MUC reads as follows:
The Secretary of the Navy takes pleasure in presenting the MERITORIOUS UNIT COMMENDATION to
USS GEORGE K. MACKENZIE (DD-836)
for service as set forth in the following
For meritorious achievement on 29 July 1967 in significantly contributing to .firefighting efforts during a major fire in USS FORRESTAL (CVA-59).
When the after area of FORRESTAL erupted into flames due to widespread fire from aircraft fuel and bomb explosions in armed aircraft which were about to be launched for a strike against North Vietnam. USS GEORGE K. MACKENZIE proceeded close aboard FORRESTAL and, in the face of extreme hazard, effectively streamed water on the raging fires and hot bulkheads of munitions spaces.
The team effort and alert professionalism of MACKENZIE’s crew contributed greatly in containing the fire and in saving lives.
By their gallant performance, the officers and men of MACKENZIE upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
George K. MacKenzie DD-836 - History
3rd Korean Cruise
November 1952 - July 1953 Cruise Book
Bring the Cruise Book to Life with this Multimedia Presentation
This CD will Exceed your Expectations
A great part of naval history.
You would be purchasing an exact copy of the USS George K Mackenzie DD 836 cruise book during this time period. Each page has been placed on a CD for years of enjoyable computer viewing. The CD comes in a plastic sleeve with a custom label. Every page has been enhanced and is readable. Rare cruise books like this sell for a hundred dollars or more when buying the actual hard copy if you can find one for sale.
This would make a great gift for yourself or someone you know who may have served aboard her. Usually only ONE person in the family has the original book. The CD makes it possible for other family members to have a copy also. You will not be disappointed we guarantee it.
Some of the items in this book are as follows:
- Ports of Call: Hawaii , Yokosuka , Sasebo , Nagasaki , Wonsan , Kaohsiung and Hong Kong .
- Formosa Patrol
- Task Force 77 (Korean War operations)
- Divisional Group Photos with Names
- Many Crew Activity Photos
- Plus Much More
Over 145 Photos on Approximately 41 Pages.
Once you view this book you will know what life was like on this Destroyer during this time period.
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The USS George K. MacKenzie Association planned a Reunion for October 2020 that we unfortunately had to cancel due to COVID-19. We still want to have our next Reunion as soon as we reasonably can. So we are very tentatively planning for our next reunion to be in October 2021 in the vicinity of Newport RI/Fall River MA.
Whether we will be able to accomplish this is uncertain. COVID-19 transmission will have to be under control, an outcome that cannot be predicted at this time. (“Predicting is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” Attributed to Niels Bohr, Yogi Berra, many others.) But we do want to be proactive.
So our very tentative, aspirational goal is to have a Reunion in October 2021 in the Newport RI/Fall River MA area. We will not attempt to make any further decisions about this until after the first of the year, and would hope to be able to make the contractual commitments by about March 2021, six months in advance of the event.
Please stay tuned, and feel free to share your thoughts.