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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Arnold J. Isbell

 

Arnold J. Isbell—born on 22 September 1899 in Quimby, Iowa—entered the Naval Academy on 24 July 1917 and graduated on 3 June 1920 (a year ahead of schedule due to acceleration of midshipman training during World War I) with class 21A of the Class of 1921. Isbell then served successive tours of duty in Melville (AD-2), Bath (AK-4), and the fast minelayers Ingraham (DM-9) and Burns (DM-11) before beginning flight instruction at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla., on 30 June 1923. He then briefly served as an instructor there before reporting to Observation Squadron 1, based in the minelayer Aroostook (CM-3) which was then serving as an aircraft tender in November 1924. In March of the following year, he was transferred to the aviation unit of the battleship Tennessee (BB-43). Following two years of postgraduate work in ordnance back at the Naval Academy between the summers of 1926 and 1928, he received further flight instruction at Washington, D.C., under the supervision of the post graduate school, before going to sea with Torpedo Squadron IB in aircraft carrier Lexington (CV—2).

 

Isbell then served in the Aviation Ordnance Section of the Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) in Washington before reporting to Newport News, Va., on 16 September 1933 to participate in the fitting out of the Navy's first aircraft carrier to be built as such from the keel up, Ranger (CV-4). Following a brief tour of duty in that ship, he served from 6 June 1934 to 9 June 1936 in carrier Saratoga (CV-3) as gunnery officer on the staff of Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Henry V. Butler, Commander, Aircraft, Battle Force.

 

Isbell subsequently flew as executive officer of Patrol Squadron (VP) 7F based in aircraft tender Wright (AV-1) from 9 June 1936 to 1 June 1937 before commanding one of the five squadrons of the Aviation Training Department at NAS Pensacola, VN-4D8. While at Pensacola, he won the coveted Schiff Trophy, "emblematic of maximum safety in aircraft operation."

 

In the early summer of 1939, Lt. Comdr. Isbell assumed command of VP-11 (later redesignated VP-54). The German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 found VP-54 based at Norfolk, Va.; engaged in biennial maintenance of its dozen PBY—2 flying boats. Eight days later, a detachment of six planes departed Norfolk and arrived at Newport, R.I., their assigned base, that same day. The entire squadron resumed operations on Norfolk on 14 November 1939, relieving VP-53 on the Middle Atlantic Patrol.

 

During one of the flights his squadron conducted in the initial selection and survey of Army and Navy base sites in Newfoundland in the autumn of 1940—sites obtained in the "destroyers-for-bases" deal of the summer before—Isbell found himself in the path of a hurricane. In an attempt to evade the storm, Isbell skillfully maneuvered his aircraft in the murk until exceptionally strong headwinds forced him to make an emergency night landing on Prince Edward Island. Isbell took off before daybreak, despite fog and violent winds, and reached his destination without mishap. After completing his inspection over uninhabited regions and seacoast areas, Isbell returned to Newfoundland to carry out an aerial survey of Argentia, a place soon to become famous as the site of the "Atlantic Charter" conference. Isbell's expert airmanship and tenacious devotion to completing his mission resulted in his receiving the air medal.

 

Relieved of command of VP-54 on 15 April 1941, Isbell then served successive tours of duty in a staff capacity—first for Commander, Patrol Wing, Support Force (16 April-2 October 1941) as that command's planes escorted North Atlantic convoys; then as chief of staff and aide for Rear Admirals E. D. McWhorter and A. D. Bernhard, Commander, Patrol Wings, Atlantic Fleet (3 October 1941-11 June 1942)—before assuming command of NAS, Sitka, Alaska, on 5 June 1942. Promoted to captain during his time in the Aleutians, Isbell then served briefly in BuOrd before assuming command of the escort carrier Card (CVE-11) on 17 April 1943.

 

For the next year, Card ranged the essential lifeline across the Atlantic to North Africa, earning together with her escorting destroyers, a Presidential Unit Citation under the resourceful "Buster" Isbell, who believed firmly in the potential of the CVE, maintaining that such a ship, together with her escorts, "could most effectively whip the submarine menace—as an independent offensive group rather than as a mere tag-along protector of a single convoy." Isbell used the year he commanded Card wisely to vindicate his belief. As antisubmarine task group commander between 27 July and 9 November 1943, Isbell developed his escort carrier-destroyer unit into a powerful combat force, refining tactics to meet the operational demands imposed by a wily and tenacious foe and wresting the initiative from his hands. Card sought out the enemy undersea craft with relentless determination m a vigorous offensive and struck with a devastating coordinated action that destroyed eight U-boats between 7 August and 31 October 1943.

 

Detached from Card on 9 March 1944, Isbell—who had been awarded a Legion of Merit for his important work in Card—took his intimate knowledge of combatting U-boats to Washington, where he served in the 10th Fleet—a shipless "fleet" set up to research and develop tactics for antisubmarine warfare. Following this tour of shore duty—which lasted into 1945—Isbell was slated to receive command of a fast carrier. On 26 February 1945, he was ordered to the Pacific for temporary duty in Franklin (CV-13). On 13 March 1945, further orders directed him to relieve Capt. Thomas S. Combs as commanding officer of Yorktovm (CV-10). However, Capt. Isbell perished when a Japanese plane scored two bomb hits that touched off a conflagration in Franklin—the carrier in which he was embarked as a passenger—off Kyushu on 19 March 1945.

 

(DD-869: dp. 2,425; l. 390'6"; b. 40'10"; dr. 18'6"; s. 34.6 k.; cpl. 345; a. 3 5", 12 40mm., 8 20mm., 2 dct., 6 dcp., 10 21" tt; cl. Gearing)

 

Arnold J. Isbell (DD-869) was laid down on 14 March 1945 at Staten Island N.Y., by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 6 August 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Arnold J. Isbell, the widow of Capt. Isbel; and commissioned on 5 January 1946, Comdr. Carl-ton B. Jones in command.

 

Following a shakedown cruise to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the destroyer joined the Atlantic Fleet and operated off the east coast through the end of the year. In January 1947, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and homeported at San Diego, Calif. In May, Arnold J. Isbell departed California on her first western Pacific (WestPac) cruise. She visited Tsingtao and Shanghai, China; Hong Kong; Tokyo and Yokosuka, Japan; Okinawa; and Apra Harbor, Guam, before returning to San Diego in December.

 

During 1948, the warship engaged in hunter/killer training and served as a training ship for Naval Reserve personnel. In February 1949, she sailed to Bremerton, Wash., for two months of upkeep. Following this work, she departed San Diego in April, bound for the Far East. The destroyer was in port at Shanghai and at Tsingtao, China, when each of these cities fell to communist forces. She evacuated the American consul and his family from Tsingtao. She returned to San Diego in December.

 

Arnold J. Isbell was operating out of San Diego when communist forces invaded South Korea on 27 June 1950 and promptly began preparations for an active role in the conflict. She joined Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 52 and sailed for Korean waters on 6 November. Some of her duties in the combat zone included acting in the screen of Task Force (TF) 77, visiting Taiwan as part of the 7th Fleet display of strength, and escorting the troop transports that brought the 45th Army Division to Hokkaido, Japan. In May 1951, the destroyer was reassigned to TF 95 and participated in the bombardment of enemy troop concentrations, highways, and railroads at Songjin, Chongjin, and Wonsan before returning to San Diego in August for repairs and training exercises along the west coast.

 

In January 1952, the ship again got underway for Korean action. Between 19 February and 10 August, she acted as a unit of TF 77, the 7th Fleet striking force. Arnold J. Isbell also operated with TF 95 and took part in hunter/killer operations. For a short time, she was a member of the Taiwan Strait patrol and joined St. Paul (CA-73) in bombarding Songjin before she returned to the United States in August. Arnold J. Isbell then began a three-month overhaul at Bremerton, Wash., in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

 

The destroyer sailed on 21 July 1953 for more operations off the embattled Korean peninsula. Upon her arrival there, shejoined TF 95 for patrols along the Korean coast. A highlight of the cruise was her escorting New Jersey (BB-62) into Pusan harbor, where President Syngman Rhee presented the 7th Fleet with a unit citation from the Republic of Korea. Arnold J. Isbell also served a brief stint as a training ship for the Nationalist Chinese Navy at Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Returning to the Korean coast, she acted as a rescue and communications ship at Pusan during a major fire. In January 1954, the ship and her sister members of DesDiv 112 escorted released Nationalist Chinese prisoners of war to Keelung, Taiwan.

 

February found Arnold J. Isbell back in the United States and being overhauled by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Mare Island, Calif. Her next six and one-half months were devoted to yard work and refresher training. In September, Arnold J. Isbell returned to the Orient. She again served as a training ship for Nationalist Chinese naval forces and then steamed with the fast carrier task force in Philippine waters. The destroyer played a key role in the evacuation of the Tachen Islands in January 1955, as Nationalist forces shortened their lines of defense. She sailed from the area on 25 February for San Diego, arriving in her home port on 13 March.

 

Following repairs and training, Arnold J. Isbell sailed on 27 September for the Far East. The destroyer visited various ports in Japan and Taiwan, and served on the Taiwan Strait patrol. During this tour, she also participated in successful search and rescue operations for a downed Navy patrol plane. Arnold J. Isbell concluded her duties and arrived back in San Diego on 11 March 1956.

 

After completing repairs at Mare Island in July, Arnold J. Isbell resumed operations with DesDiv 112 off the coast of California. On 25 September, she sailed, via Pearl Harbor, for her eighth WestPac deployment. Heading south from Hawaii, the destroyer crossed the equator on 3 October, bound for Samoa. Upon leaving Pago Pago, her next stop was Wellington, New Zealand, en route to Manus in the Admiralty Islands. Following a brief visit to Guam, she finally reached Yokosuka, Japan. There, the ship joined TF 77 for operations in the area between Hong Kong and Japan. She stopped in the Philippines before returning, via Midway and Pearl Harbor, to San Diego where she arrived in March 1957.

 

The warship had a brief availability period and then took part in a fleet training exercise. She later operated with the Navy's first nuclear powered submarine, Nautilus (SSN-571). Arnold J. Isbell also visited Portland, Oreg., for that city's Rose Festival celebration. An 18-day nonstop voyage from San Diego to Brisbane, Australia, initiated the destroyer's ninth Far Eastern cruise. She made stops at the Admiralty Islands, Guam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Okinawa, and Japan before returning to California in June 1958. The destroyer received an overhaul at Mare Island from June until September and then conducted refresher training and prepared for her 10th WestPac cruise.

 

Arnold J. Isbell got underway on 18 December for WestPac. She operated with the Taiwan Strait patrol and took part in training exercises off Guam, Taiwan, Japan, and Okinawa before returning to San Diego on 29 May 1959 for operations in the southern California area. The vessel participated in numerous fleet exercises and, from 27 June to 15 August, held a midshipman training cruise.

 

The ship once again sailed for the Orient on 6 February 1960 and made stops at Pearl Harbor, Yokosuka, Kaohsiung, Hong Kong, and Subic Bay. At midnight on 20 April, she received orders to steam toward a sinking merchant vessel in the South China Sea. After reaching the scene of the disaster, Arnold J. Isbell was able to rescue 104 people. After delivering the survivors to Subic Bay, she proceeded to Hong Kong for three weeks as station ship at that port. A final stop at Yokosuka preceded her sailing for San Diego, where she arrived in June. The destroyer spent the next 12 months in local operations. In June 1961, her home port was changed to Bremerton, Wash. Later that month, she entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for a fleet rehabilitation and modernization overhaul.

 

Arnold J. Isbell emerged from the yard with her new configuration on 4 May 1962. On 7 June, she reported to her new home port of Long Beach, Calif., and commenced refresher training. In October, the ship sailed with Destroyer Squadron 11 for the Far East. During this deployment, she took part in Operations "Red Wheel," "Glass Door," and "Sea Serpent." The destroyer also served as a unit of the 7th Fleet hunter/killer groups. Upon returning to Long Beach in June 1963, she participated in another fleet exercise, Operation "Saddle Soap."

 

In January 1964, the warship left Long Beach for her 12th tour in Oriental waters. During this deployment, she operated with a carrier force and later joined the Taiwan Strait patrol. Arnold J. Isbell visited Pearl Harbor; Subic Bay, Philippines; Hong Kong; and Sasebo, Japan, before returning to Long Beach in May. She began a regular overhaul at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard in August. Upon completing her yard work in November, the destroyer proceeded to San Diego for six weeks of extensive underway training.

 

Shortly after finishing her underway training, the ship took part in Operation "Silverlance." In March 1965, she received a drone antisubmarine helicopter (DASH) system and held trials of her new equipment off San Clemente Island. A midshipman training cruise occupied a large part of her summer. The destroyer sailed on 19 October for the Western Pacific. Following stops at Pearl Harbor and Subic Bay, Arnold J. Isbell relieved Brinkley Bass (DD-887) on 30 December on the northern search and rescue (SAR) station in the Gulf of Tonkin and began her first duty in the combat zone off the coast of Vietnam. The warship then became a unit of TF 77.

 

Search and rescue duties occupied the vessel until she was relieved on 31 March 1966 and sailed to Hong Kong for four days of rest and relaxation. On 12 April, she got underway to return to the United States. After fuel stops at Midway and Pearl Harbor, Arnold J. Isbell reached Long Beach on the 28th and commenced a leave and upkeep period. She returned to sea on 11 June with a midshipman training cruise to Hawaii and several fleet exercises. The destroyer unloaded her ammunition at Seal Beach, Calif., on 29 July and entered the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on the 31st for overhaul. Refurbished, the ship began a training period on 16 September and spent the remainder of the year in exercises along the southern California coast and in upkeep during the Christmas holidays.

 

Arnold J. Isbell held refresher training out of San Diego in March 1968 and then conducted local operations until getting underway for the western Pacific on 15 July. She arrived on station off the Vietnamese coast on 12 August and carried out duties as a gunfire support ship. Her routine was broken only by brief periods in port for repairs and liberty for the crew. The destroyer spent the Christmas holidays patrolling off Vietnam and then visited Subic Bay, and Yokosuka.

 

On 20 January, Arnald J. Isbell headed home. Upon her arrival at Long Beach on 31 January, she commenced a three-month period of leave and availability. She got underway again on 21 April for brief cruise to Acapulco and Manzanillo, Mexico, but was back in home port on 5 May. The vessel joined Task Group 10.1 on 9 June for a midshipman training cruise. Ports visited during this assignment included San Francisco, Seattle, and Pearl Harbor. This cruise terminated on 31 July, and she returned to Long Beach. A tender availability alongside Isle Royal (AD-29) ensued, and the destroyer then took part in Exercise "Bell Express" from 16 to 22 September. Her next underway period lasted from 17 to 21 November while she took part in Computex 31-69. She was also involved in gunfire support, antisubmarine warfare, and electronic warfare exercises before ending the year 1969 in port at Long Beach.

 

The destoryer sailed on 13 February 1970 for the Far East. While in the combat zone, she performed SAR duty on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin, provided gunfire support, and served as escort for five aircraft carriers. She made four port calls to Subic Bay, visited Hong Kong for two weeks, and spent four days in Singapore. En route back to the United States, the ship paid goodwill visits to Sydney, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand. A one-day stopover at Pago Pago was also included in the voyage to Pearl Harbor. Arnold J. Isbell finally arrived in home port on 29 August and spent the rest of 1970 in local operations out of Long Beach.

 

From February to May 1971, Arnold J. Isbell went through an extensive yard period in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. Six weeks of rigorous refresher training followed; and, on 9 September, she began what proved to be her final WestPac deployment. During this deployment, the vessel acted as a carrier escort and a naval gunfire support ship in Vietnamese waters. The destroyer also paid a visit to Devonport, Tasmania. On 7 April 1972, she dropped anchor at San Diego.

 

Then preparations to place the destroyer in the reserve training fleet were carried out. Arnold J. Isbell began her trainingduties on 16 June by sailing for Hawaii. She returned to California on 17 July and began operations off the west coast. A trip to Mazatlan, Mexico, varied her routine in early November.

 

Arnold J. Isbell remained in her role as a reserve training ship until 1 February 1974, when she was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list. The destroyer was then transferred to the government of Greece and entered the Greek Navy as Sachtouris (No. 214). She continued serving Greece into the 1980's.

 

Arnold J. Isbell earned six battle stars for Korean service and two for Vietnamese action.