William Wister McKean, born 30 November 1800 in Huntington County, Pa., was appointed midshipman 30 November 1814; served in the Navy from the War of 1812 to the Civil War; rose to the rank of flag officer in command of the East Gulf Blockading Squadron; relieved from active duty 4 June 1862: and died at Binghamton, N.Y., 22 April 1865.
(DD‑784; dp. 2,425; l. 390'6"; b. 40'11"; dr. 18'6"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 336; a. 6 5", 16 40mm., 10 20mm., 5 21" tt., 2 dct., 6 dcp.; cl. Gearing)
The second McKean (DD‑784) was laid down by Todd Pacific Shipyards, Inc., Seattle, Wash., 15 September 1944; launched 31 March 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Thomas G. Peyton; and commissioned at Seattle 9 June 1945, Comdr. William D. Kelly in command.
After shakedown along the Pacific coast, McKean departed for the Far East 22 September and during the next 3 months operated in support of occupation operations off Japan. Although peace had come to the once turbulent waters of the western Pacific, McKean maintained a pattern of readiness and alert operations in response to the emerging menace of communism which threatened not only Asia and the blue Pacific but the entire free world.
Following the outbreak of Communist aggression against the Republic of South Korea in June 1950, McKean joined the mighty 7th Fleet to suppress the overt threat to world peace. She participated in the brilliant Inchon invasion which spearheaded the ground offensive operations against the North Korean Communists. Later, while steaming on patrol off the Chinnampo River, she discovered the first minefield reported during the police action in Korea. From November 1950 to January 1951, she joined patrolling destroyers in the Straits of Taiwan; thence, after rejoining TF 77 briefly, she began shore bombardment and blockade operations with TF 95 at Wonsan, Songjin, and Chinjou. She completed her deployment in the Far East in the spring of 1951 and returned to Long Beach in April.
For more than a year McKean operated out of Long Beach while training men of the modern Navy. She entered Long Beach Naval Shipyard 20 June 1952; was reclassified DDR‑784 on 18 July 1952; and during the next 7 months underwent conversion to a radar picket destroyer. Following shakedown, she joined Destroyer Division 131 and prepared for “keeping‑the‑peace” duty wherever she might be needed.
McKean returned to the Far East in June 1953 and carried out patrols and readiness exercises from Japan to the coast of Asia. Another WestPac deployment in 1956 sent her to the southwest Pacific and to Australia, and during the latter half of the following year she completed another cruise to the “land down under.” WestPac duty in 1959 sent her to the Straits of Taiwan where she resumed patrols of vigilance to protect Nationalist China from invasion by the Chinese Communists. And in 1960 she deployed to the restless waters of Southeast Asia and gave visible meaning to U.S. determination to protect and defend that troubled area of the world from the clutches of Asian communism.
Following 2 years of duty at Long Beach, McKean returned to the Far East in January 1962. Operating out of the Philippines, she conducted AAW and ASW exercises with Hancock, after which she rejoined the Taiwan Patrol in June. She completed her deployment and returned to Long Beach 17 July. Less than a year later, on 18 May 1963, she again deployed to WestPac. During the next several months she ranged the Pacific from the Aleutians and Japan to the Philippines and Hong Kong; thence, she returned to Long Beach 9 September.
Between 7 February and 9 November 1964 McKean underwent FRAM I conversion at Long Beach Naval Shipyard. She reclassified to DD‑784 on 1 Dec. 1963. She joined DesRon 19 1 July 1964; operated along the west coast and in EastPac during the next year, thence deployed to the waters off troubled Southeast Asia 10 July 1965.
McKean began duty with the mighty 7th Fleet in the South China Sea 5 August and during the next 4 months screened ships of the Attack Carrier Striking Group. She cruised off the troubled and inflamed Vietnamese coast and bolstered the might of American seapower as the United States increased the effort to protect and defend the independence and integrity of South Vietnam from overt external aggression of the North Vietnamese Communists. She closed the coast of South Vietnam 7 December to direct intensive, accurate shore bombardment against the invaders.
While patrolling the coast of I Corps area, McKean delivered a timely, effective shore bombardment 15 December during a night sneak attack by a superior force of North Vietnamese regulars against an outnumbered South Vietnamese Regional Force, gallantly defending an outpost at My Trang, Quang Ngai Province. The well-equipped PAVN troops struck hard at the outpost, and the defenders soon ran short of ammunition. However, within 20 minutes after the start of the attack, McKean took position offshore and delivered her first supporting fire. For 5 hours she accurately blasted enemy positions with white phosphorus, illumination and high‑explosive fire; this devastating bombardment repulsed the attack, caused heavy enemy losses, and saved the outpost.
Maj. Gen. Huang Xauw Lam, the commanding general of the 2d Vietnamese Infantry, praised McKean’s decisive action and stated: “Naval gunfire in this engagement was a major factor in defeating the enemy and making the battlefield so untenable that he abandoned his dead and wounded as well as arms and equipment.”
McKean continued her vital gunfire support missions until 20 December, then steamed to Hong Kong and Yokosuka. Departing Japan 31 December, she returned to Long Beach 13 January 1966. After completing preparations for further WestPac duty, she departed 18 November, reached Subic Bay 8 December, and on 22 December began SAR duty in the northern station of the Gulf of Tonkin.
Serving as a gun destroyer and helicopter in‑flight refueling ship, McKean patrolled the Gulf of Tonkin until 23 January 1967 and again from 23 February until 12 March. In addition she steamed to the gun line on four deployments between 17 February and 12 April to carry out gunfire support missions. During these assignments she fired more than 4,000 rounds of 5‑inch ammunition at the enemy.
McKean departed the turbulent waters of Southeast Asia 24 April to visit Australian and New Zealand ports until 22 May when she sailed for the United States. Steaming via Samoa and Pearl Harbor, she arrived Long Beach 8 June. Between 20 July and 10 November she underwent overhaul at Mare Island, then resumed intensive training to keep her men and equipment ready for additional WestPac duty. Into 1969, she continued to prepare for “keeping‑the‑peaee” missions. As both a weapon of war and an instrument of peace, she remains vital to the defense of the Nation and the free world and makes clear to friend and foe alike that the influence of U.S. seapower grows instead of wanes.
McKean received one battle star for Korean service.