Theodore Stark Wilkinson—born on 22 December 1888 at Annapolis, Md.—entered the Naval Academy in 1905 and graduated first in the class of 1909. He served the two years of sea duty, then required by law prior to commissioning, in the battleships Kansas and South Carolina, before he received his ensign's commission on 5 June 1911. After instruction at George Washington University, Washington, D.C., under the auspices of the Bureau of Ordnance, Wilkinson reported to the battleship Florida on 25 July 1913 for sea duty. During his time in that dreadnought, Ens. Wilkinson led Florida's 2d Company in action during the landings on 21 and 22 April 1914 at Veracruz. For his skillful and courageous leadership of that unit of the battleship's landing force and his exhibition of "eminent and conspicuous" conduct, he received the Medal of Honor.
On 4 August, he was transferred to Tennessee and two days later sailed eastward in her across the Atlantic. That armored cruiser and North Carolina were ordered to European waters to evacuate Americans trapped on the continent by the outbreak of World War I. On 3 September, he became an assistant to the naval attache at Paris and a month later left that post to join North Carolina in the Mediterranean. Subsequently, the young officer had tours of sea duty: first as aide, to Commander, 2d Division, Atlantic Fleet, and then as aide to the commander of the 7th Division.
From July 1916 to July 1919, Wilkinson served with distinction as the head of the Experimental Section, Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd), where he developed ordnance materials and devices, most notable being a noxious gas filler for shells and an "exceptionally satisfactory smoke screen." Additionally, he was deemed largely responsible for the successful design of a depth charge and for the development of the firing mechanism of the Mark VI mine used in the North Sea Mine Barrage.
Following that tour ashore—for which he received a letter of commendation—Wilkinson went to sea, first serving as gunnery officer in the battleship Kansas and later as fire control officer in the battleship Pennsylvania. In 1921 and 1922, Wilkinson commanded, in succession, the destroyers Osborne (DD-295), Goff (DD-247), and Taylor (DD-94), before he returned to BuOrd's experimental section.
After commanding King (DD-242) from January 1925 to December 1926, Wilkinson headed the Records Section of the Bureau of Navigation (BuNav) Officer Personnel Division. In June 1930, he became fleet gunnery officer and aide to Commander, Scouting Fleet (later, Commander, Scouting Force), Rear Admiral A. L. Willard. Detached from that duty in December 1931, he soon assumed the duties of secretary to the Navy's General Board. While in that assignment, Wilkinson had additional duty during the arms limitation talks at Geneva in 1933 and in London in 1934.
From September 1934 to June 1936, Wilkinson served as executive officer of Indianapolis (CA-35). Over the next three years, he headed the Planning Division of BuNav and then returned to Indianapolis, this time in a staff capacity, as Chief of Staff to Commander, Scouting Force. In January 1941, he fleeted up to command the battleship Mississippi (BB-41).
Detached from that duty in September 1941 and promoted to flag rank, Wilkinson—as a rear admiral—became the director of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), in October, a post in which he worked for the next 10 months. Subsequently reporting for duty as Commander, Battleship Division 2, Pacific Fleet, in August 1942, Wilkinson eventually became Deputy Commander, South Pacific Area and South Pacific Force on 30 January 1943 and acted in that capacity until July 1944, when he assumed command of the 3d Amphibious Force, South Pacific.
In that billet, Wilkinson earned the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM), for commanding the forces that supported the New Georgia campaign; took Vella La-vella and the Treasury Islands; and established a "highly important" position on the west coast of Bougainville. Subsequently redesignated as Commander, 3d Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet, with the rank of vice admiral, on 12 August 1944, Wilkinson won a gold star in lieu of a second DSM for his leadership in the assaults that took Pelelieu and Angaur, in the Palaus; and Ulithi, in the Carolines.
Subsequently, Wilkinson earned another gold star in lieu of a third DSM, for commanding Task Force 79 in action in the Philippines between 1 October 1944 and 18 January 1945—operations that included the landings conducted by the Southern Attack Force at Leyte in October 1944 and at Lingayen in January 1945.
Ordered to the Navy Department in September 1945 for temporary duty, Vice Admiral Wilkinson became a member of the Joint Strategic Survey Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in January 1946. He was serving in that capacity when he lost his life on 21 February 1946 in an automobile accident at Norfolk, Va.
(DL-5: dp. 4,730; l. 493'0"; b. 50'0"; dr. 14'0"; s. 30 k.; cpl. 403; a. 2 5", 4 3", 8 20mm., 2 rkt. (Weapon "Alfa"), 1 dct.; cl. Mitscher)
Wilkinson (DD-930) was laid down on 1 February 1950 at Quincy, Mass., by the Bethlehem Steel Co. Shipbuilding Division; reclassified a destroyer leader, DL—5, on 9 February 1951; launched on 23 April 1952; sponsored by Lady Catherine Moore, the former Mrs. Theodore S. Wilkinson; and commissioned on 3 August 1954, Comdr. Donald G. Dockum in command.
After shakedown training out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the usual post-shakedown availability, Wilkinson departed her home port, Newport, R.I., on 21 February 1955—with Rear Admiral Arleigh Burke, Commander, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet (and soon to become the Chief of Naval Operations) and members of his staff embarked—and carried Admiral Burke on an inspection tour that included visits to San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; Guantanamo Bay and Havana, Cuba; and Key West, Fla. Upon her return, the destroyer leader became flagship for Commander, Destroyer Flotilla (DesFlot) 2, part of the Atlantic Fleet's antisubmarine forces. For three months thereafter, the ship conducted antisubmarine warfare (ASW) exercises.
On 11 July, Wilkinson—with 70 1st and 3d class NROTC midshipmen embarked—departed the east coast for a training cruise. During the ensuing voyage, the warship touched at Edinburgh, Scotland; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Guantanamo Bay, before returning to the United States on 2 September.
Wilkinson departed her home port on 24 October 1955 for air defense exercises in the Gulf of Mexico, with Commander, DesFlot 6 embarked. During that cruise, Wilkinson visited New Orleans and Havana, before she arrived back at Newport on 18 November. On 2 December, the ship entered the Boston Naval Shipyard for a five-month overhaul and the installation of improved 3-inch antiaircraft guns After successfully completing her sea trials for her newly installed 3-inch, 70-caliber battery, Wilkinson conducted underway training out of Guantanamo Bay. She later visited Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Charleston, S.C.; and Norfolk, Va.; before taking part in large-scale ASW maneuvers in June. The ship's performance during the fiscal year 1956 earned her the Battle Efficiency "E."
In July 1956, Wilkinson departed Newport, bound for San Diego, Calif., and duty with the Pacific Fleet. En route to her new home port, the frigate visited Havana; Balboa, Canal Zone; and Buena Ventura, Colombia; before she became flagship of Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 17—the first ship of her type assigned to the Pacific Fleet.
Between August 1956 and March 1957, Wilkinson operated locally out of San Diego and took part in ASW, air defense, and amphibious exercises. One highlight of that period occurred on 14 September 1956, when Wilkinson headed a veritable "armada" of 70 fighting ships during a 1st Fleet review off Long Beach, in what some called the largest naval parade on the west coast in 22 years.
During March and April 1957, Wilkinson operated in the Bering Sea and the Aleutians, visiting Kodiak and Dutch Harbor, Alaska, en route to her operating area. While steaming back to San Diego, she touched at Esquimalt, British Columbia; Seattle, Wash.; and San Francisco. Later, during part of May, Rear Admiral Chester Wood, Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Force, Pacific Fleet, embarked in Wilkinson for air defense and ASW exercises. In June, the warship visited Portland, Oreg., to take part in the annual Rose Festival activities.
Wilkinson's home port was changed from San Diego to Long Beach in July 1957, and the destroyer leader entered the naval shipyard there in February 1958 for extensive modifications to her power plant. Released from the yard in September, the destroyer leader conducted underway training out of San Diego and operated locally for the remainder of 1958.
In January 1959, Wilkinson deployed on her first Western Pacific (WestPac) cruise, visiting Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Subic Bay, Philippines; Buckner Bay, Okinawa; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; and the Japanese ports of Yokpsuka and Kure, before she returned to Long Beach in March, embarking Commander, DesRon 19, upon arrival.
After again operating locally between April and October 1959, she participated in various exercises off the coast of California and in another 1st Fleet review. Wilkinson began her second WestPac deployment when she departed Long Beach in October. Coming under the operational control of Commander, 7th Fleet, Wilkinson took part in the Taiwan Strait patrol, ASW tactics, and various fast carrier task force operations in the Far East.
Returning to Long Beach in March 1960, Wilkinson entered the naval shipyard there for a five-month overhaul. During that period of repairs and alterations, the ship's combat intelligence center (CIC) was enlarged and modified; and a long-range air search radar was added. In addition, a DASH (Destroyer Anti-Submarine Helicopter—sometimes sardonically nicknamed the "Down At Sea Helicopter") system—was installed. This change increased Wilkinson's ASW capacity severalfold.
Following Wilkinson's departure from the shipyard in August 1960, she carried out six weeks of underway training out of San Diego. She operated locally during October and November and, after a month-long leave and upkeep period in December, was deployed to WestPac for the third time, departing Long Beach on 3 January 1961.
En route to the Far East, Wilkinson—a unit of Destroyer Division 191—visited Pearl Harbor; Midway; and Apra Harbor, Guam. In mid-March 1961, she headed for the South China Sea where an increased American naval presence was required by the Laotian crisis. After operating with a fast carrier task group almost continuously well into the spring, the destroyer leader departed WestPac on 12 May and reached Long Beach on the 27th.
She entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard in June for the installation of improved sonar equipment, a task that continued into mid-1962. After refresher training, the warship operated in Puget Sound for technical evaluation of her new sonar system and then returned south, down the coast, to work with submarines in the southern California operating area.
Following further local operations, Wilkinson departed Long Beach on 17 June 1963 to return to the Atlantic Fleet. Calling at the Mexican ports of Acapulco and Salina Cruz en route, Wilkinson transited the Panama Canal on 29 June and arrived at Newport on 5 July.
Within two weeks, Wilkinson was underway for sonar evaluation that continued until 8 December. During the operation, the ship visited Bermuda and New York City. The frigate subsequently made another operational evaluation of the sonar system from 1 July 1964 to 20 May 1965, at which time she reported to Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet. During that time, the ship operated in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and along the continental shelf between Newport and New York. During the cruise, the ship visited Key West, Fla., and conducted type training in the Jacksonville, Fla., operating area while steaming back to Newport.
After a pre-overhaul tender availability, Wilkinson visited New York City for four days; off-loaded ammunition subsequently at Earle, N.J.; and proceeded to Boston for an overhaul which lasted until 5 February 1966.
After returning via Earle to Newport a little over a month later, Wilkinson sailed south to Cuban waters for refresher training—conducting those evolutions between 11 March and 28 April. While still at Guan-tanamo, on 8 April, the ship received orders at 0310 to assist a burning freighter. Underway at 0407, Wilkinson sped at flank speed to the scene of the disaster and, at 0720, reached the stricken Norwegian passenger-freighter Viking Princess. A fire and rescue party from USCGC Cook Inlet (W-384) had meanwhile boarded the blazing merchantman to fight her fires. At 0809, Wilkinson began closing the Nationalist Chinese merchantman Chungking Victory to receive the surviving crew members of Viking Princess—a process completed by 0914. The frigate took the 13 survivors back to Guantanamo where she arrived shortly before noon and disembarked the rescued mariners.
After departing Guantanamo Bay on 28 April, Wilkinson touched at San Juan, Puerto Rico, and reached Newport on 2 May. She remained in port until departing on the last day of the month, bound for Boston and an availability. During the ensuing overhaul, the ship received a number of repairs and alterations, including the final installation of new sonar equipment then being evaluated by the Navy. Briefly departing Boston on 15 August and again on 30 August, the frigate conducted sea trials and tested her sonar—during cruises lasting but a day or two—before she completed her availability and sailed for Newport on 31 August, reaching her home port the following day.
For the remainder of 1966, Wilkinson remained in port at Newport except for three periods of independent steaming exercises (ISE's)—from 6 to 9 September, from 23 to 26 September, and from 2 to 5 December. Underway on 15 January 1967, Wilkinson headed south to Argentine waters, subsequently taking part in the Argentinian naval review at Mar del Plata from 4 to 8 February on the occasion of the celebrations commemorating the sesquicentennial of Argentina's independence.
Returning to Newport on 5 March, Wilkinson then proceeded to the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard at East Boston, Mass., where she received a data acquisition system for her sonar equipment. She returned—via Stamford, Conn., where she participated in Veteran's Day memorial services—to Newport on 4 May.
Later that month, Wilkinson sailed for Montreal, Canada, where she served as part of the United States exhibit during "United States Week," from 21 to 28 May, at the world's fair, Expo 67. Highlighting Wilkinson's stay at Montreal was a surprise visit to the exposition by President Lyndon B. Johnson. During the ceremonies at the United States exhibit, Wilkinson men served as Presidential Honor Guard.
Returning to Newport on 1 June, Wilkinson continued further sonar evaluations into the summer and fall months of 1967, operating primarily out of Newport but also east of the Bahamas. Between her periods at sea were times in port for tender availabilities and type training in the Narragansett Bay operating area.
The ship put into Port Everglades to take on fuel on 3 October and was standing back out on the 5th when a weak cleat snapped while the motor whaleboat was being secured for sea. The whiplash of the line struck a sailor, injuring both of his legs and requiring immediate medical attention beyond that which the ship could provide. Wilkinson immediately headed back to Port Everglades at flank speed, radioing ahead for a boat to pick up the injured seaman. A torpedo retriever boat, sent put by the Naval Ordnance Laboratory and Test Facility, took the man on board to a waiting ambulance at pierside. The seaman was then taken to Homestead Air Force Base hospital where he was treated for fractures of both legs.
After the incident, Wilkinson returned to sea and conducted further sonar tests—in company with Grouper (AGSS-214)—before the frigate visited Free-port, Grand Bahama, from 11 to 13 October. Proceeding back to Newport soon thereafter, Wilkinson reached her home port on the 25th but soon headed south for repairs at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. She returned to her home port on 21 December.
Beginning 1968 in-port at Newport, Wilkinson spent much of the rest of the year conducting further technical evaluation of sonar equipment in the Bahamas, interspersed with type training in the Mayport operating area and in-port periods at Newport. After a pre-overhaul period of availability alongside Yosemite (AD-19), Wilkinson entered the Boston Naval Shipyard on 13 September for her regular overhaul that rounded out the year and lasted into June 1969.
Following her sea trials, Wilkinson got underway for Narragansett Bay for sonar tests, before she set course for Earle, N.J., to load ammunition in preparation for refresher training. Late in July, the frigate visited New York City from 25 to 28 July before she shifted to Newport on the latter date. She remained in her home port for almost a month, conducting a dependents' cruise in Narragansett Bay operating areas on the 22d. It was during that cruise that the ship's commanding officer announced that Wilkinson was to be decommissioned as part of a cut back in military expenses.
With the cancellation of all her previous schedules, Wilkinson shifted to the South Annex of the Boston Naval Shipyard to commence inactivation on 3 September. Shifting to the Naval Inactive Ship Facility at Philadelphia on the 22d, Wilkinson was decommissioned on 19 December 1969 and placed in reserve.
Struck from the Navy list on 1 May 1974, Wilkinson was sold to Luria Brothers. She departed Philadelphia under tow on 19 June 1975 to be scrapped.
The frigate Wilkinson (DL-5). Wilkinson and her sisters were an outgrowth of large-destroyer design studies begun during World War II.