John Joseph Kirwin was born 4 July 1918, in Newport, R.I., and enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve 11 December 1935. Kirwin was appointed Midshipman 11 August 1937, and commissioned Ensign 7 February 1941, reporting for duty aboard Savannah (Cl-42). During World War II, Kirwin was appointed Lieutenant (j.g.) 16 June 1942, and saw action aboard Savannah in the North African and Sicilian campaigns. He was promoted to Lieutenant 1 December 1942.
On 11 September 1943, while bombarding German shore defenses in Salerno Bay, Sicily, Savannah and her sister cruisers came under heavy aerial attack. The cruisers and British spitfires drove off nearly 60 German bombers before 1 aimed a secret-type bomb at Savannah. The radio-controlled, armor-piercing bomb struck Savannah's number three turret immediately in front of the bridge.
For his part in this action, Lt. Kirwin was awarded the Navy Cross with the following citation: "For extraordinary heroism as a turret officer. . . . When the detonation of an enemy bomb set off numerous fires and filled the turret with dense smoke and toxic gases, Lt. Kirwin promptly ordered the area abandoned and despite the imminent danger, stood by his station in the turret booth. With full knowledge of the serious hazards involved and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, he calmly supervised evacuation and deliberately remained behind to aid in saving the lives of as many of his command as possible ... he eventually succumbed in the stricken booth, gallantly sacrificing his own life in order that his men might live."
(APD-90: dp. 1,650; l. 306'; b. 36'10" ; dr. 9'8" ; s. 24 k.; cpl. 186; a. 12 20mm.; cl. Rudderow)
Kirwin (DE-229) was launched 15 June 1944, by the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia ; sponsored by Mrs. Andrew J. Kirwin, mother of Lt. Kirwin; reclassified APD-90, on 7 July 1944; and commissioned 4 November 1945, Lt. Comdr. Lloyd G. Benson, USNR, in command.
After shakedown in the Chesapeake Bay, Kirwin cleared Norfolk 29 January 1946, and arrived Green Cove Springs 2 days later. Kirwin decommissioned there 6 April 1946, and was assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
Kirwin recommissioned 15 January 1965, and in February sailed to Newport News for overhaul. She got underway for Guantanamo Bay 6 July and spent the next 5 weeks on atomic-defense, antisubmarine, and gunnery exercises. The destroyer escort visited San Juan, Puerto Rico, en route to Little Creek, Va., arriving 22 August. She sailed 29 November for the Caribbean to join Task Force 184 for amphibious and antisubmarine exercises. She returned to Little Creek 16 December.
In 1966 Kir win operated out of Little Creek, Va., on training- exercises along the Atlantic Coast and the Caribbean until heading for the Mediterranean 15 August. Arriving Rota, Spain, 10 days later, she visited Italy, Malta, Greece, Tunisia, Spain, and Morocco before returning home 3 December. She operated along the West Coast in 1967 preparing for future assignments.