Raphael Semmes, born on 27 September 1809 in Charles County, Md., was appointed midshipman in the United States Navy on 1 April 1826. After initial duty in Lexington in the Mediterranean Squadron, he attended the Naval School at Norfolk, Va.; then served on the Mediterranean, West Indian, South American, and Florida stations; conducted a hydrographic survey of Narragansett Bay; and served in various capacities at the Washington Navy Yard. During the Mexican War, he served as commanding officer of Somers until that ship's loss; then became flag lieutenant under Commodore Conner. He participated in the siege of Vera Cruz and the expedition against Tuxpan and accompanied General Scott's army to Mexico City. Promoted to Commander on 14 September 1855, he was subsequently appointed Light House Inspector of the 8th Light House District and served on the Light House Board until 1861. With the secession of Alabama, his adopted home state, Semmes resigned his commission in the United States Navy on 15 February 1861. He subsequently served in the Confederate States Navy and, after commanding the raiders Sumter and Alabama, was appointed Rear Admiral and given the command of the James River Squadron, which he destroyed during the evacuation of Richmond. After the war, he taught at the Louisiana State Seminary; edited the Memphis Daily Bulletin; and practiced law in Mobile until his death on 30 August 1877.
(DDG-18: dp. 3,370; l. 432'; b. 47'; dr. 22'; s. 35 k.; cpl. 354; a. 2 5", Tartar, ASROC, 6 ASW tt.; cl. Charles F. Adams)
The second Semmes (DDG-18) was laid down on 18 August 1960 at Avondale Shipyards, Inc., Westwego, La.; launched on 20 May 1961; sponsored by Mrs. F. E. Hebert; and commissioned on 10 December 1962, Comdr. Richard G. Alexander in command.
Following shakedown, Semmes joined Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 62, Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 6, at Charleston, S.C., in July 1963; and, into the summer of 1964, participated in various fleet exercises in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Toward the end of that summer, she sailed east for a six-week NATO exercise, “Masterstroke/Teamwork,” in the North Atlantic-Norwegian Sea area; and, on 22 September, she crossed the Arctic Circle. Two months later, on 28 November, she deployed to the Mediterranean for her first tour, of four months, with the 6th Fleet. She returned to Charleston in time to participate in the 2d Fleet's exercises during the spring of 1965. She then took part in support operations off the Dominican Republic.
From February to July 1966, the guided missile destroyer conducted her second tour with the 6th Fleet; and, on her return to the United States, changed her home port from Charleston to Norfolk, effective 1 August, in anticipation of her first major overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. In April 1967, Semmes resumed operations with refresher training in the Caribbean. In July, she rejoined DesRon 6 at Charleston; and, in August, she deployed for her third tour with the 6th Fleet. She participated in fleet and NATO exercises into January 1968; then returned to Charleston, arriving on the 31st for a month's rest before resuming operations in the Caribbean and off the east coast.
On 10 June, Semmes again sailed east. During that month and into July, she visited Germany and Denmark; then turned south for another 6th Fleet deployment. On 15 November, she was relieved by John King (DDG-3) at Rota, Spain; and, 11 days later, she returned to Charleston where she remained in port for the rest of the year.
In January 1969, she cleared Charleston to oarticipate in ASW and “Springboard” exercises in the Puerto Rican operating area; then returned to her homeport. In April, she returned to the Caribbean for 2d Fleet exercises.
Through the summer, Semmes continued to conduct exercises in the Caribbean and off the southeastern seaboard. In late September, she again crossed the Atlantic for a seven-month deployment with the 6th Fleet; and, on 10 February 1970, while moored at Naples, she was struck by the Greek freighter, SS Mautric. The damage sustained to her bow was quickly repaired; and, before the end of the month, she had resumed operations. By mid-March, she had arrived at Barcelona for turnover with Conyngham (DDG-17). On the 18th, she departed the Mediterranean; and, on the 28th, she returned to Charleston.
During 1971, her schedule remained basically the same; but her annual tour with the 6th Fleet, 16 July to 11 October, was followed by visits to the Netherlands and to Denmark for binational and NATO operations. On 20 December, Semmes returned to South Carolina; and, in January 1972, she entered the Charleston Naval Shipyard for conversion of her engineering plant to the Navy Distillate Fuel Oil System. With the spring, she resumed operations off the east coast and in the Caribbean. In September, she participated in NATO exercise "Strong Express," which again took her above the Arctic Circle and which was followed by visits to Norway and Denmark. In October, she returned to Charleston. In November, she conducted exercises in the Caribbean; and, in December, she prepared for another deployment in the Mediterranean with NATO's Standing Naval Force, Atlantic.
After sea trials in the Charleston operating area, Semmes got underway from that port on 4 January 1973. She arrived in Portsmouth, England, on the 15th, joining the NATO naval force there. For the next seven months, the guided missile destroyer cruised the Atlantic visiting ports on both sides of that ocean and participating in three exercises: NATO Exercise “Sunny Seas,” in January and February; Canadian Exercise MARCOT 2/73, in April and May; and Norwegian Exercise “Midnight Sun” in June. On 1 July, Semmes changed operational control back to the 2d Fleet and, nine days later, returned to Charleston.
Following a month of post-deployment standdown, from 10 July until 10 August, she resumed operations along the eastern seaboard and in the Caribbean. In November and December, she took part in Exercises "Fun in the Sun" and LANTREADEX 2-74. Semmes reentered Charleston on 19 December to prepare for overhaul. As of 31 July 1974, she is still in Charleston completing overhaul.