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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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John R. Pierce

 

John Reeves Pierce, born in Cristobal, Canal Zone, 3 November 1906, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1928. Following flight training and submarine instruction, he served in Submarine S-29 and studied marine engineering at the University of California. After serving in Nautilus (SS-168) and Narwhal (SS-167), he assumed command of S-23 (SS-128) 15 February 1941. Appointed Lieutenant Commander 2 January 1942, Pierce on 22 June took command of Argonaut (SM-1), a transport submarine, which participated with Nautilus in carrying out the famed, diversionary Makin Island Raid from 17 to 19 August. On her third war patrol In the Southwest Pacific, Argonaut sighted an enemy convoy protected by planes and destroyers. Built as our first large minelaying submarine, she lacked proper submerged maneuverability during combat operations. When detected, she came under a vicious enemy attack. The gallant Argonaut surfaced and pressed home an aggressive counter attack, severely damaging a Japanese destroyer before succumbing to heavy enemy fire 10 January 1943. For his demonstration of courageous leadership and unyielding devotion to duty Lt. Comdr. Pierce was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

 

(DD-753: dp. 2,200; l. 376'5"; b. 41'1"; dr. 15'8"; s. 34 k.; cpl. 336; a. 6 5", 12 40mm., 11 20mm., 10 21" tt, 6 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. Sumner)

 

John R. Pierce (DD-753) was laid down by the Bethlehem Steel Co., Staten Island, N.Y., 24 March 1944; launched 1 September 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Mary Taylor Pierce, widow of Lt. Comdr. Pierce; and commissioned 30 December 1944 at Brooklyn Navy Yard, Comdr. C. R. Simmers in command.

 

Following shakedown off Bermuda, John R. Pierce operated out of Norfolk during the spring of 1945, training destroyer crews and conducting ASW patrols along the eastern seaboard. She sailed 17 June for duty in the Pacific, arrived Pearl Harbor 6 July. Departing 12 August as escort for a carrier-cruiser striking force sent to attack Wake Island, she was ordered to cease offensive operations on the 15th. She then proceeded via Eniwetok to Japan and arrived Wakayama, Honshu, 15 September as escort for a convoy of occupation troops.

 

For the next 3 months she operated in the Japanese Inland Sea, covering occupation landings and assisting in the liberation of Allied POWs. She sailed 21 December from Kure, Honshu, to Shanghai, China, to support the Chinese Nationalists in their struggle with the Communists for control of the mainland. She also conducted the "North China Omnibus Courier Run" between China and Korea until 6 March 1946, when she departed Tsingtao, China, for the United States.

 

Arriving San Francisco 27 March, she deactivated 16 September. John R. Pierce then sailed for San Diego 17 January 1947, decommissioned 24 January and entered the San Diego Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet, 1 May.

 

John R. Pierce recommissioned 11 April 1949, Comdr. O. W. Goepner in command. Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, she departed 11 July for Norfolk. Arriving 5 August, she commenced 12 months of Atlantic operations that extended from Greenland to the Canal Zone. Under the command of Cmdr. J. R. Wadleigh she cleared Norfolk 8 August 1950 for duty with the 6th Fleet. Before returning to the United States 23 January 1951, she operated in the Mediterranean from Gibraltar to Crete and along the western coast of Europe from England to Norway.

 

For more than 15 months John R. Pierce operated out of Norfolk along the Atlantic coast; then she departed 15 May 1952 for duty in the Far East. Sailing via the Panama Canal, San Diego and Pearl Harbor, she arrived Yokosuka, Japan, 18 June. With Comdr. O. C. Foote, Jr., in command she sailed on the 20th for blockade and bombardment operations against Communist forces along the east coast of Korea. From Chongjin to Songjin she conducted interdiction firing and "anti-mine, anti-junk and anti-fishing" patrols. While engaging enemy shore batteries at Songjin 6 August, she sustained three hits from enemy fire but continued interdiction patrols until 11 October. She then departed for the United States via the Indian Ocean, Suez and Gibraltar, arriving Norfolk 12 December.

 

From 5 January 1954 to 1 April 1962 John R. Pierce deployed to the Mediterranean on six cruises of varying duration. When not conducting operations with the 6th Fleet, she operated out of her home port on training exercises and readiness operations in the Atlantic and the Caribbean. When in the Mediterranean, fleet operations carried her the length and breadth of the sea, and deployments in 1954 and 1956 sent her, in addition, to the coast of Western Europe.

 

Engaged primarily in conducting ASW barrier patrols and screening carrier flight operations, John R. Pierce responded quickly to international crises that threatened world peace. When the Communist-controlled Syrian Army threatened King Hussein's pro-Western government of Jordan during August and September 1957, destroyers, including John R. Pierce, patrolled the ancient sea lanes of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea to guard against possible intervention by Nasser's Egypt. She returned to the same area in December 1958 to bolster the security of Lebanon, recently threatened by the Soviet-backed United Arab Republic. And following the assassination of General Trujillo 27 May 1961, this versatile destroyer patrolled off the Dominican Republic, thus helping to stabilize a potentially explosive situation.

 

Returning to Norfolk 1 April 1962 from her seventh Mediterranean cruise, she sailed 15 May to participate in Project Mercury Recovery Operations following Comdr. M. Scott Carpenter's scheduled three orbital flight in "Aurora 7." On the 24th she steamed 206 miles at flank speed from her designated position in the Atlantic Recovery Area east of Puerto Rico and recovered the floating space capsule. After delivering it safely at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, the next day, she returned to Norfolk 28 May before resuming duty in the Caribbean.

 

Navy pilots discovered Russian offensive missile bases in Cuba 14 October. Deeming this Soviet capability a threat to our national security, President Kennedy ordered on the 22d an immediate sea and air blockade to prevent all offensive weapons from entering the island. In response to the President's call for a "quarantine of Cuba," the Navy deployed 90 ships into waters off Cuba to prevent further military buildup and to enforce American demands that the Russians withdraw their missile threat.

 

Under the command of Comdr. J. W. Foust, John R. Pierce departed Norfolk 22 October; joined the quarantine force on the 24th; and, during the next 5 days, investigated 13 ships. On 28 October the Soviets agreed to the American demands, thus alleviating a tense and crucial crisis. John R. Pierce departed from her assigned position the following day, but she continued a Caribbean sea-vigil from Jamaica to the Canal Zone until returning to Norfolk 14 December.

 

She departed home port 29 March 1963 for the Mediterranean and the Middle East. After 2 weeks of maneuvers with the 6th Fleet, she transited the Suez Canal 30 April and commenced an 11-week cruise through the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf. Returning to the Mediterranean 16 July, she resumed fleet operations. On 14 August she rescued three survivors of a plane that splashed off her starboard bow while attempting an emergency landing on Enterprise (CVAN-65). Departing Palma, Mallorca, 24 August, she arrived Norfolk 4 September.

 

John R. Pierce spent the next year operating out of Norfolk; and during off-shore surveillance patrols in January 1964 she escorted five Cuban boats, which were illegally fishing in U.S. territorial waters, to Key West for internment. Once again she departed Norfolk for the Mediterranean 8 October. Reaching Naples late in the month, she joined the 6th Fleet and through the remainder of the year operated along the western coast of Italy.

 

John R. Pierce returned to Norfolk 27 February 1965. She reported to Commandant of the 3d Naval District in Brooklyn, N.Y., for duty as a reserve training ship and began a schedule of 2-week training cruises for naval reservists. She continued this duty into 1967.

 

John R. Pierce received one battle star for service during the Korean War.