John Henry Towers -- born on 30 January 1885 at Rome, Ga. -- graduated with the Naval Academy class of 1906 and was commissioned ensign in 1908, while serving in Kentucky (Battleship No. 6). He was later assigned to Michigan (Battleship No. 27) before being sent to Hammondsport, N.Y., in 1911 for aviation duty, where, under the tutelage of Glenn Curtiss, he qualified as a pilot in August of that year and went on to supervise the establishment of the Navy's first aviation unit at Annapolis, Md., in the fall. He travelled to California where, in conjunction with the Curtiss Flying School at North Island in San Diego, he took part in developing and improving naval aircraft types.
After returning east thereafter, Towers was nearly killed in the summer of 1912. While he was flying as a passenger on 20 June, his plane was caught in a sudden downdraft and plummeted earthward. The pilot, Ens. William D. Billingsley, was thrown from the aircraft and killed. Towers, too, was wrenched from his seat but managed to catch a wing strut and stayed with the plane until it crashed into Chesapeake Bay. Interviewed by Glenn Curtiss soon thereafter, Towers recounted the circumstances of the tragedy; and the report and resultant recommendations eventually led to the design and adoption of safety belts and harnesses for pilots and their passengers.
On 5 March 1913, the Navy designated Towers Naval Aviator No. 3; and, in January 1914, he became the executive officer of the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Fla. When Vera Cruz was occupied by the Navy and marines that spring, Towers commanded the aviation unit carried to Tampico on board Birmingham (Cruiser No.2). In August 1914, one month into World War I, Towers was ordered to London as assistant naval attache -- a billet he filled until he returned to the United States in the autumn of 1916. Once back home, he supervised the establishment of the Naval Flying Corps -- then in its infancy -- and went on to become Assistant Director of Naval Aviation with the establishment of the Division of Aviation within the Navy Department.
In February 1919, Towers was placed in charge of the proposed transatlantic flight of the NC-flying boats and, while commanding NC-3, led the division from Trepassy Bay, Newfoundland. Though their ultimate destination was Lisbon, Portugal, NC-1 and NC-3 encountered dense fog off the Azores and had to land to take bearings. Due to the heavy seas, however, neither could take off again, and the latter soon began shipping water. Towers and his crew managed to keep the NC-3 afloat for 52 hours and eventually made Punta Delgada on Sao Miguel Island. NC-4 went on to complete the transatlantic crossing, reaching Lisbon on 27 May. For his part in the operation, Towers received the Navy Cross.
Between the autumn of 1919 and the late winter of 1922 and 1923, Towers served at sea -- as the executive officer of Aroostook (CM-3) and as the commanding officer of destroyer Mugford (DD-105), which had been serving as an aircraft tender. Then, after a tour as executive officer at NAS Pensacola, he spent two and one-half years (March 1923-September 1925) -- as an assistant naval attache, serving at the U.S. Embassies at London, Paris, Rome, the Hague, and Berlin. Returning to the United States in the autumn of 1925, he was assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics and served as a member of the court of inquiry that investigated the loss of the rigid airship Shenandoah (ZR-1).
Cdr. John Towers (foreground) with Rear Adm. William A. Moffett, spectators at the Curtiss Trophy Races, Washington, D.C., 14 May 1926 (Ships History Branch, Biography Collection)
Towers next commanded the aircraft carrier Langley (CV-1) from January 1927 to August 1928. He received a commendation for "coolness and courage in the face of danger" when a gasoline line caught fire and burned on board the carrier in December 1927. Towers personally led the vigorous and successful attempt to suppress the flames kindled by the explosion and thus averted a catastrophe.
After shore duty in the Bureau of Aeronautics -- successively serving as head of the plans division and later, as assistant bureau chief -- Towers joined the staff of Rear Admiral Harry E. Yarnell, Commander Aircraft, Battle Force, in June 1931. Over the next few years, Towers then served in a variety of billets ashore and afloat: he completed the senior course at the Naval War College in 1934; commanded NAS San Diego; again served on the staff of ComAirBatFor; commanded the carrier Saratoga (CV-3); and became Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics. On 1 June 1939, he was named Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics with the accompanying rank of rear admiral.
As bureau chief, Towers organized the Navy's aircraft procurement plans while war clouds gathered over the Far East and in the Atlantic. Under his leadership, the air arm of the Navy grew from 2,000 planes in 1939 to 39,000 in 1942. He also instituted a rigorous pilot-training program and established a trained group of reserve officers for ground support duties. During Towers' tenure, the number of men assigned to naval aviation activities reached a high point of some three quarters of a million.
Promoted to vice admiral on 6 October 1942, Towers became Commander Air Force, Pacific Fleet. From this billet, he wisely and effectively supervised the development, organization, training, and supply of the Fleet's growing aviation capability. For his sound judgment and keen resourcefulness, Towers received, successively, the Legion of Merit Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal. In August 1945, he received command of the 2d Carrier Task Force and Task Force 38, Pacific Fleet. On 7 November 1945, he broke his flag in the battleship New Jersey (BB-62) as Commander, 5th Fleet. On 1 February 1946, he hoisted his flag in carrier Bennington (CV-20) as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, a post he held until March of 1947.
After chairing the Navy's General Board from March to December 1947, Towers retired on 1 December 1947. After retirement, Towers served as President of the Pacific War Memorial, a New York-based scientific foundation; as assistant to the President of Pan American World Airways; and as President of the Flight Safety Council. Admiral Towers died in St. Albans' Hospital, Jamaica, N.Y., on 30 April 1955.
(DDG-9: displacement 3,370; 1ength 437'; beam 47'; draft 27'3"; speed 30 knots; complement 354; armament 2 5-inch guns, Tartar missiles, ASROC, 6 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Charles F. Adams)
Towers (DDG-9) was laid down on 1 April 1958 at Seattle, Wash., by the Todd Shipyard Corp.; launched on 23 April 1959; sponsored by Mrs. Nathaniel Rotoreau, Jr., daughter of the late Admiral Towers; and commissioned on 6 June 1961 at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., Comdr. Lawrence D. Cummins in command.
Homeported at San Diego, Calif., Towers carried out trials and local operations off the southern California coast into September 1961. She then conducted her shakedown cruise to Callao and Lima, Peru; Balboa, Panama Canal Zone; and Acapulco, Mex., before she deployed to the Western Pacific (WestPac) for the first time in the early spring of 1962.
Towers arrived at Sydney, Australia, on 30 April 1962 to represent the United States during the 20th observance of the anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea and shifted to Melbourne a week later. She then continued her WestPac deployment with visits to Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan; Buckner Bay, Okinawa; Subic Bay, Philippines; Keelung, Taiwan; and Bangkok, Thailand. She then returned home via Guam and Hawaii.
Following a routine schedule of local operations out of San Diego (1 January-17 May 1963), Towers departed her home port on 18 May, bound for the Far East. En route, she stopped at Pearl Harbor and Midway and later took part in exercises and operations off Japan and in the Philippines. She returned to San Diego on 28 November 1963 and operated along the southern California coast through the end of 1964.
Towers departed San Diego on 5 January 1965, bound for her third WestPac tour. As American forces became increasingly involved in the Vietnam War -- escalating from an advisory capacity to active combat -- the Navy's role in Vietnamese coastal waters expanded. Towers participated in three main facets of the 7th Fleet's operations in the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea. She performed screening and plane-guard duties for fast carrier task forces on Yankee Station, providing protection with her missiles and her rapid-fire 5-inch battery. In addition, she conducted search and rescue (SAR) patrols on the northern station; and made interdiction patrols in conjunction with Operation Market Time.
Upon the conclusion of this tour, the guided missile destroyer sailed for home on 10 May 1965. En route to the Hawaiian Islands, she participated in Operation Sailor Hat, a special test to determine explosive shock wave effects on modern ship construction techniques, and arrived home at San Diego on 26 June.
From 31 January to 6 February 1966, Towers participated in Operation Buttonhook, a joint United States and Canadian exercise off the west coast of Canada and the United States which emphasized antisubmarine warfare (ASW) techniques. Following availability at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard during March, Towers took part in Gray Ghost (12-22 April), an exercise that dealt with air control intercept tactics and antiaircraft warfare (AAW) measures to prepare the ship for her upcoming deployment to the Gulf of Tonkin. In addition, the ship trained to become proficient in tactics to utilize against possible motor torpedo (PT) boat attacks.
Departing San Diego on 4 June 1966, Towers steamed west, via Pearl Harbor, Guam, and Subic Bay, to Vietnam. She expended some 3,266 rounds of 5-inch ammunition between 2 and 17 July, off target areas that included the Rung Sat Special Zone. Her target assessment included the destruction of 17 enemy buildings and damage to 118 more, the sinking of three sampans, the killing of 11 Viet Cong soldiers, and the destruction of a bridge.
The guided missile destroyer returned to Subic Bay for upkeep and further training in motor torpedo boat countermeasures before she returned to the Gulf of Tonkin to take up her position on the northern SAR station on 1 August 1966. For the next month, she deployed with destroyer Wiltsie (DD-716), keeping on the alert to spot downed pilots and to direct friendly helicopters to the rescue.
On 6 August 1966, Towers directed an HU-16 helicopter to the site of a downed aviator some 69 miles from the ship. The next day, Towers directed another HU-16 to a spot behind the enemy-held island of Cac Ba, where two Air Force men had bailed out. The "chopper" successfully rescued them from behind communist lines. In the next two weeks, the ship participated in two more rescues—picking up two more Air Force pilots in one and a Navy flyer in the other.
Towers' most daring rescue came on the last day of her tour on the SAR station. On 31 August 1966, a Navy plane was hit by antiaircraft fire over Haiphong, and the pilot bailed out of his doomed aircraft directly over the enemy harbor. As he floated down under his parachute to face what seemed certain capture, Towers and guided missile frigate King (DLG-10) closed to within visual range of Haiphong. Then King's helicopter sped in under the guidance of Towers' experienced controllers and picked up the pilot, whisking him out of danger from beneath the enemy's nose.
After a brief rest and recreation period, Towers returned to the SAR station again on 1 October 1966. However, flying weather turned out to be poorer at this time of year, and sharply curtailed air operations. Hence, Towers spent much of her time on this tour patrolling Tonkin Gulf.
Sailing for home on 21 November 1966, Towers departed Yokosuka and ran into heavy seas while en route to the west coast, suffering minor storm damage before she arrived at her home port on 3 December. After operations at sea from January 1967 to mid-March, she underwent a major overhaul at Hunters' Point Naval Shipyard from 14 April to 19 October. The guided missile destroyer then operated out of San Diego through the spring of 1968.
Towers then readied herself for her next WestPac deployment. Her preparation included screening and shore bombardment exercises with battleship New Jersey (BB-62), the world's only active ship of her kind. Departing San Diego on 5 September 1968, Towers made stops at Pearl Harbor and Subic Bay before arriving off the I Corps tactical zone to commence Sea Dragon operations.
While escorting and screening New Jersey, Towers knocked out two artillery and three antiaircraft gun sites; destroyed 55 meters of trenches; sank two logistics craft; set off 19 secondary explosions; and killed an estimated 10 enemy soldiers. On 1 October 1968, the ship rescued two downed airmen just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The flyers, Capt. James Spaith, USMC, and his observer, 1st Lt. U. S. Grant, USMC, had been shot down when their Douglas A4-F Skyhawk had been hit while spotting gunfire for New Jersey.
Following upkeep at Subic Bay, she planeguarded on Yankee Station for carrier Constellation (CVA-64) and returned to the I Corps operating zone for urgent gunfire support duties. She provided support for Operation Daring Endeavor, launched to destroy enemy troop concentrations south of Danang. Commended for her part in this action, Towers remained on the scene from 17 to 30 November 1968. She again provided anti-rocket support out of Danang (21-25 November). In addition, she provided gunfire for Korean marines and troops of the Army's 101st Airborne.
Towers then sailed north to the Philippines for upkeep at Subic Bay before proceeding to Singapore for rest and recreation. She arrived back on Yankee Station three days before Christmas of 1968, to assume the role of escort commander for antisubmarine warfare support carrier Intrepid (CVS-11). After two days of this duty, however, the guided missile destroyer was back in the IV Corps operating area on night-harassment fire duties against the communist ground forces.
New Year's Day 1969 found the ship still engaging the enemy in the IV Corps zone, supporting Vietnamese ranger battalions. During this period, Towers' 5-inch rifles wreaked havoc upon Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troop concentrations, bunkers, sampans, and footbridges. The ship then spent a few days at Hong Kong before she returned to the "gunline," once more at Danang. She supported the 3d Marine Division, operating north and south of Danang, blasting enemy troops and structures, again in support of Korean marines and the 101st Airborne. Towers furnished gunfire support for South Vietnamese Army units in January 1969 and shelled shore targets for the 3d Marine Division and the U.S. Army's101st Airborne Division, both north and south of From her anchorage inside Danang harbor, the guided missile destroyer fired frequent night-harassment and counter-rocket site fire against communist positions in the surrounding countryside. Her damage assessments for this duty included destruction of targets such as troop concentrations, bunkers, footbridges, and supply-carrying sampans.
Shifting again to Yankee Station, Towers joined the screen of carrier Hancock (CVA-19), on station with TG 77.5, until 7 February 1969. She then sailed for Subic Bay for three days of upkeep before proceeding on to Yokosuka. Departing Japanese waters on 21 February, Towers soon headed east and brought that WestPac deployment to a close when she sailed into San Diego harbor on 4 March.
Towers spent the remainder of the year in restricted availability or conducting weapons tests, including an evaluation of the Standard missile system during the late summer and early fall. Local operations continued in 1970, and were interspersed with two yard periods, before Towers began preparations for a WestPac deployment in July. On 4 September, while conducting refresher training out of San Diego, the ship directed a helicopter to rescue the pilot from an F-8 Crusader that had crashed nearby. The embarked evaluation team from the Fleet Training Group gave the ship a grade of "outstanding" during this "unscheduled evolution."
Deploying again to WestPac on 7 January 1971, Towers proceeded to Vietnamese waters, via Pearl Harbor and Midway. While she proceeded west on the 20th, one of the other ships in company, escort ship Roark (DE-1053), suffered a major engine room fire which stopped her dead in the water. Towers turned-to and lent a hand. After the fire was extinguished, the guided missile destroyer took Roark in tow until the fleet tug Quapaw (ATF-110) arrived and took over the task.
Towers arrived back on the gunline on 8 February 1971 and provided gunfire support until the 21st, when she moved to Yankee Station to provide plane-guard service for carrier Ranger (CVA-61). On 6 March, a member of the carrier's flight deck force was blown over the side during launching operations. Towers quickly sped to the scene, rescued the sailor, and returned him to his ship.
A short visit to Subic Bay followed, as did another tour on the gunline and the northern SAR station. The ship then returned to Subic Bay for upkeep and then made still another tour as plane guard and screen for carrier Kitty Hawk (CVA-63). She departed WestPac on 1 July 1971. Arriving at San Diego on 15 July, Towers operated out of her home port into the early spring of 1972. Gunnery exercises, underway training evolutions (with emphasis on ASW and AAW tactics); planeguarding for carrier Midway (CVA-41); and an upkeep and inport period all followed as the ship prepared for her upcoming WestPac deployment.
Events in Vietnam, however, forced a change in plan for Towers and rapidly accelerated her return to the war zone. Although not scheduled for deployment until September 1972, she departed the west coast on 20 June 1972, bound once more for the gunline. A massive Viet Cong and North Vietnamese assault had battered South Vietnamese forces in key Quang Tri province and resulted in emergency measures for the supporting naval forces offshore. During the voyage from the west coast to the South China Sea, the ship assisted in the rescue of six crewmen from a downed USAF Boeing B-52 Stratofortress near Guam and received a commendation from the Secretary of the Navy.
A curtailed two-day upkeep period at Subic Bay preceded the ship's sailing on 13 July 1972 for the gunline. Heavy commitments and long hours of gunfire support duty in support of ARVN troops followed from 17 to 28 July as Towers participated in Operation Lam Son-72. From 29 July to 5 August, the ship operated on Linebacker strikes against targets to the northward of the DMZ, in North Vietnam, as part of Task Unit 77.1.2. On several occasions during this time, she came under fire from communist shore batteries.
The intense gunfire support duties assigned to the ship soon wore out the linings of her two 5-inch guns, so the ship sailed for Sasebo, where she spent the week from 9 to 15 August 1972 being re-gunned. She soon returned to the "gunline" and supported ARVN troops off Hue. The destroyer also fired night Linebacker strikes on 24 and 25 September, rounding out the month with gunfire support missions fired for the 1st ARVN Division.
A visit to Hong Kong for needed rest and recreation for her crew soon followed, and an upkeep period at Subic Bay preceded the ship's return to Vietnamese waters on 21 October 1972. She supported the ARVN 22nd Division near Qui Nhon and around Quang Tri. She then again visited Subic Bay and Kaohsiung, Taiwan, before returning to the gunline again (3-8 December). For the rest of the month, Towers fired gunfire support missions against North Vietnamese troop concentrations near Quang Tri. Spirited exchanges of gunfire with enemy shore batteries took place on numerous occasions during that period.
She finished the year 1972 again serving as plane guard for Constellation on Yankee Station and closed out her gruelling seven-month deployment on the last day of the year, when she sailed for Yokosuka. From there, she returned home via Midway and Pearl Harbor.
This deployment turned out to be the guided missile destroyer's last in support of the Vietnam War. The Vietnamization plan placed the burden of self-defense on the shoulders of the South Vietnamese, as American land, sea, and air forces were withdrawn from combat in January and February of 1973. Towers operated out of San Diego from 1973 through 1976, pursuing a regular schedule of local operations, routine upkeep and overhaul periods, and underway training evolutions.
Port bow view of Towers (DDG-9), underway off the coast of southern California, 16 January 1976, as photographed by PH1(AC) A E. Legare, USN (Ships History Branch, USS Towers (DDG-9) Files
She departed San Diego on 30 July 1976 for her first extended overseas deployment in three years. She conducted exercises and local operations in the Far East, participating in Exercise Sharkhunt XVII with the Taiwanese Navy before shifting to the Indian Ocean for an extended cruise. She then took part in Mid-Link 76 with units of the Iranian, Pakistani, British, and American Navies in mid-November before participating in Multiplex/Missilex-76 with United States 7th Fleet units in the South China Sea.
Following port visits to Hong Kong (6-12 January 1977) and Bangkok (29 January-4 February), Towers engaged in a coordinated ASW exercise, Sharkhunt XX, with the Taiwanese Navy (22-25 February). She returned to San Diego on 21 March to complete a seven-month, three-week deployment. A port visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the annual Sea Festival (9-17 July) highlighted her post-deployment operations off the west coast. Towers' last significant operations at sea for the year occurred when she conducted naval gunfire support exercises on the range at San Clemente Island (12-16 September). On 23 September, the guided missile destroyer commenced a four-month availability at San Diego which took her into the new year.
Post-availability trials commenced on 26 January 1978, and Towers spent the next nine months evaluating her radar detection and tracking systems during numerous at-sea operations for that purpose. On 14 November, the ship got underway for Long Beach where she entered the Naval Shipyard on the 15th for commencement of a regular overhaul which took her into 1979.
Towers began 1979 in Long Beach Naval Shipyard, Long Beach, California where she underwent her fifth regular overhaul in preparation for her upcoming deployment. The warship departed Long Beach Naval Shipyard ten days ahead of schedule on 9 October, and, after embarking Commander, Destroyer Squadron 21, made her way to Seattle, Washington, for a short port visit before returning to San Diego on the 19th. Refresher training in southern California operating areas followed, including sensor and sonar equipment checks, combat systems qualifications and live fire exercises with anti-submarine rockets (ASROC), MK 46 torpedoes and surface-to-air missiles before starting holiday leave and upkeep on 19 December.
In January 1980, Towers' ships' company received news that the ship's home port would change to Yokosuka, Japan, in October. The crew spent the next nine months preparing for the homeport change, which required passing a series of service inspections, repairing engineering casualties and preparing for overseas deployment. In July, Towers underwent a special availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, arriving on the 13th for repairs to her missile launcher system. The repairs only took two weeks since replacement parts were obtained from the decommissioned guided missile cruiser Chicago (CG-11). Departing San Diego on 14 October, Towers sailed for Japan, arriving in Yokosuka via Pearl Harbor on 10 November. Following an upkeep period through 12 December, the warship conducted a short familiarization cruise in Japanese waters until the 19th whereupon she began a holiday leave and upkeep period.
After a series of local operations and exercises, including an ASW exercise with Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) warships, Towers sailed to the Middle East in mid-April to relieve guided missile cruiser Reeves (CG-24) as radar picket ship in the Arabian Gulf. Concluding operations on 14 May, she slowly made her way home, visiting Thailand, Singapore, and Subic Bay, as well as rescuing 138 Vietnamese refugees from three small craft in the South China Sea before putting in to Yokosuka on 11 June. Less than a month later, Towers was on hand for another rescue on 4 July, this time picking up 26 survivors from a South Korean freighter that had gone down in bad weather 25 miles east of Hong Kong. A planned restricted availability at Yokosuka followed, during which the yard replaced both propellers as well as the sandblasted and repainted the hull. Maintenance problems hampered the warship over the next few months, but the guided missile destroyer managed to conduct multiple training evolutions with two aircraft carrier battle groups as they transited the area.
Towers resumed local operations in early February 1982 with an ASW exercise off Sasebo with JMSDF ships Kurama and Sagami. During the exercise, the warship successfully fired practice torpedoes at submarine Blueback (SSN-581). After a cruise to Okinawa and Hong Kong later in the month, Towers joined carrier Midway (CV 41) and the rest of Battle Group Alpha for an operational "tune-up" prior to Exercise Team Spirit '82 in mid-March. Operations with the battle group continued off and on until 5 May, when the guided missile destroyer shifted to the carrier Ranger (CV-61) Battle Group. Over the next three days she conducted close-in AAW defense and plane guard duties for Ranger during "war-at-sea" exercises. In company with Reeves, Towers successfully fired two SM-1 missiles before steaming to Subic Bay on 22 May for a two-week upkeep period. Following Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) qualifications, the guided missile destroyer returned to Yokosuka on 18 June.
Following a restricted availability through July 1982, Towers resumed the familiar pattern of operations out of Yokosuka. These included battle group training evolutions with Midway, ASW exercises with Japanese warships as well as investigating and shadowing Soviet warships in the northern Pacific, a regimen that lasted through September. On 12 October, she got underway with Battle Group Alpha for a voyage to the Indian Ocean, stopping at Subic Bay the next day and then sailing for Singapore. While enroute, the warship rescued 65 Vietnamese refugees from a small craft in the South China Sea and transfered them to Midway for further processing. The warships then conducted exercises with Singapore naval and air units in late October, visited Pattaya beach, Thailand, in early November, and conducted battle group operations while enroute to Japan, arriving at Yokosuka via Hong Kong on 10 December.
In mid-January 1983, Towers commenced Team Spirit '83, a joint exercise off South Korea, followed by the periodic Nuclear Weapons Certification inspection. After a short period at Yokosuka (10-27 February 1983), the warship conducted another set of battle group operations. Unfortunately, during the afternoon watch on 2 March, while en route to Chinhae, Korea, a ruptured steam line in number one fire room inflicted serious injuries on FNs Pino and Jones and BT2 Dyer; all were mede-vaced by helicopter to Midway. Towers subsequently returned to Sasebo for repairs between 2-19 March. Following more battle group operations, the ship returned to Chinhae for a Nuclear Technical Proficiency Inspection (23-27 March), thereafter participating in FleetEx 83-1, a major northern Pacific exercise involving carriers Enterprise (CVN-65), Coral Sea (CV-43) and Midway. Gunnery exercises in April, a joint midshipmen cruise with the JMSDF out of Kure and Valiant Usher 83, a combined amphibious assault exercise off the coast of Korea, rounded out the summer. After a maintenance availability in Yokosuka (13-25 August), Towers sailed south with DesRon 15, bound for the Indian Ocean. During the transit, the guided missile destroyer helped track a Soviet Echo II guided missile submarine and her escorts through the Malacca Straits. On 20 September, she arrived at Diego Garcia to refuel, subsequently transiting to Phuket, Thailand, for a five-day visit. After a stop at Subic Bay on 11 October, the warship supported the final salvage stages of salvage work at the Korean Airlines Flight 007 crash site (22 October-6 November) before reaching Yokosuka on 9 November.
Towers underwent a major overhaul at Yokosuka during most of 1984, receiving the Harpoon anti-ship missile system, improved electronics equipment and major work on boiler tubes and brickwork. Conducting her first sea trials after the overhaul (4-7 September), she departed Yokosuka ahead of schedule on 17 October for two months of combat systems certification in the Hawaiian operating areas.
Following a series of service inspections in January and February 1985, Towers conducted refresher training off South Korea and out of Subic Bay before sailing south for Cobra Gold '85, a joint training exercise with the Thai military held 7-16 July. During her transit south, Towers rescued another group of Vietnamese refugees, her fourth such humanitarian rescue in her career. Subsequent to Cobra Gold, the guided missile destroyer steamed to the North Arabian Sea via Singapore and Diego Garcia, arriving on station on 4 August. Battle group operations remained fairly quiet, with the warship tasked to track Soviet or Indian aircraft on a periodic basis. Tragedy struck on the night of 7 August, however, when Liberty 603, an E-2C from VAW-115, impacted the water off Midway's flight deck. The search and rescue effort, in which Towers participated, yielded three of the five crew members; Lt.(j.g.) Kevin R. Kuhnigk, USNR, and Ens. Christopher Mims, USNR, however, perished in the mishap. After a "war-at-sea" exercise in the Indian Ocean, Battle Group Alpha steamed southeast to western Australia, where Towers enjoyed five days of liberty in Geraldton, Australia (13-19 September). Thereafter, she participated in Valiant Usher '85, a joint exercise with Australian forces, and AnnualEx 85, a joint U.S.-Japanese operation, before reaching Yokosuka on 15 October.
After a series of local operations and individual ship exercises, Towers participated in Exercise Team Spirit 86 off Korea in late February and early March 1986. Upon her return home on 3 April 1986, the guided missile destroyer underwent and passed four major inspections; a command security inspection, (24 April) a combat systems readiness test (14-19 April), a Board of Inspection and Survey visit (5-9 May) and a boiler inspection (12 May). After celebrating her 25th anniversary on 29 May, Towers hosted a celebration in her home port for crew and their families, as well as local dignitaries. She then returned to certifications, service exams and inspections, tasks that kept the crew busy until mid-September when she sailed for Guam. After participation in multinational exercise CrowEater '86, the guided missile destroyer sailed south for a series of port visits in eastern Australia, stopping at Cairns, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane before returning home on 15 November via Cairns and Guam.
The new year got off to a good start with the crew receiving "outstanding" in all areas during the 5-8 January 1987 command inspection. Local operations followed, including training for the annual March-April Exercise Team Spirit '87. On 15-19 May Towers took part in the Shimoda Black Ship Festival, celebrating the visit of Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry's squadron to Japan in July 1853. She spent the rest of the summer in preparation for another Indian Ocean deployment, upon which she embarked on 15 October. After a stop at Subic Bay in November, the warship sailed to the Arabian Gulf, beginning the new year moored alongside the destroyer tender Cape Cod (AD-43) for availability at Masirah, Oman.
Upon completion, Towers, in company with frigate Francis Hammond (FF-1067), sailed to Karachi, Pakistan, for a five day port visit (14-18 January 1988) during which the commanding officer called upon the CNO of the Pakistani Navy. The guided missile destroyer subsequently made her way to the Republic of the Maldives for a four-day port visit and then to Diego Garcia for five days. After a stop at Pattaya Beach, Thailand, in mid-February, Towers accomplished her fifth rescue of Vietnamese refugees on 29 February, picking up 126 survivors of a "grossly overloaded" boat with a broken-down engine and no food or water. Continuing on home, the guided missile destroyer stopped at Subic Bay and Hong Kong before participating in the annual bilateral exercise Team Spirit 87 off South Korea (16 March-3 April). Following local exercises, Towers participated in a joint exercise with the Japanese in the Philippine Sea (13-19 May), an ASW exercise in the Sea of Japan (11-14 June), before putting to sea on the 23rd for Exercise Mekar 88 alongside ships of the Royal Malaysian Navy (7-13 July). She combined that operation with Exercise Cobra Gold 88 off Thailand (24 July-1 August), upon completion of which she returned to Yokosuka for a 90-day restricted availability.
Upon completion of repairs, which included replacing both 5-inch gun mounts, the warship conducted sea trials and gunnery drills starting on 9 November 1988. During those evolutions, however, some shells fell both within Japanese territorial waters and near a Japanese Maritime Safety Agency ship. The Japan government protested the incident and the Navy relieved Towers' commanding officer "for cause without relief." Despite the embarassing incident, the warship resumed local operations soon after.
Departing Yokosuka on 6 January 1989, Towers sailed south for refresher training out of Subic Bay. Engineering trouble hampered these evolutions, however, and the guided missile destroyer put in to the Ship Repair Facility (SRF) there for repairs in late January. Detailed inspections quickly determined that the guided missile destroyer had suffered damage to turbine blades as well as both propellers. "It was amazing," one technician commented later, "that the whole turbine did not disintegrate." The guided missile destroyer finally put to sea for exercises with the Midway Battle Group in June. After a month-long stay at Yokosuka starting on 15 July, Towers sailed south for more exercises with the battle group. While in transit to Pattaya Beach in late August, however, the warship received the news that Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, USMC, kidnapped by Iranian-supported terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon, the previous February, had been murdered. Ordered to the Indian Ocean for contingency operations, as well as to oversee the end of tanker convoy operations in the Arabian Gulf, Towers patrolled the those waters until early October. She then sailed south for a port visit to Mombasa, Kenya, 18-21 October, before arriving in Subic Bay on 27 November. Although Towers departed 1 December, an attempted coup d'etat in the Philippines kept here there for a week of contingency operations before she arrived home on 11 December.
Although the guided missile destroyer continued intermittent local operations in early 1990, Towers received word of future decommissioning and began inactivation inspections in April. She got underway for the last time on 18 June, to serve as plane guard for Midway, and visited Pusan, South Korea, before returning to Yokosuka on the 30th. On 17 July the ship moved to drydock for inactivation procedures and she was decommissioned at Yokosuka on 1 October 1990. Later towed to the Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Pearl Harbor and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 26 May 1992, she was, ultimately, sunk by guided missile frigate Sides (FFG-14) in a fleet training exercise (SinkEx) off the coast of California on 9 October 2002.
Towers sinks by the bow, 9 October 2002. (Ships History Branch Photographic Collection)
Date assumed Command
|CDR Lawrence D. Cummins||6 Jun 1961|
|CDR Chandler E. Swallow, Jr.||18 Apr 1963|
|CDR Harmon C. Penny||23 Dec 1964|
|CDR Stanley T. Counts||6 Jul 1966|
|CDR Edward W. Carter III||20 Jul 1968|
|CDR William A. Walsh||2 May 1970|
|CDR Marshall B. Brisbois||27 Aug 1971|
|CDR James J. McGrath||2 Mar 1973|
|CDR Orrin L. Morrison||18 Dec 1974|
|CDR Joseph J. Andrilla||2 Oct 1976|
|CDR John M. Meyers||23 Sep 1978|
24 April 1981
CDR Lawrence V. Fairchild
26 May 1983
CDR Barry V. Burrow
23 September 1985
|CDR Frederick H. Michaelis||22 December 1987|
|CAPT Gary L. Bier||1 December 1988|
CDR James M. Wylie Jr.
8 January 1989
Unit Awards Received
Meritorious Unit Commendation 31 Jul - 6 Sep 1966
Meritorious Unit Commendation 1 Oct - 6 Nov 1966
Meritorious Unit Commendation 6 Sep 1968 - 4 Mar 1969
Meritorious Unit Commendation 27 Jul 1982 - 1 May 1984
Meritorious Unit Commendation 20 Oct 1983 - 5 Nov 1983
Meritorious Unit Commendation 8 Sep 1988 - 11 Dec 1989
Humanitarian Service Medal 3 Jun 1981
Humanitarian Service Medal 15 Oct 1982
Navy "E" Ribbon 1 Jul 1977 - 31 Dec 1978
Navy "E" Ribbon 1 Jan 1985 - 30 Jun 1986
Towers also received four battle stars for her Vietnam War service.
Robert J. Cressman and Catriona F. Sutherland, 2 August 2007