Irving Day Wiltsie—born on 14 November 1898 in Hartford, Conn.—graduated in the Naval Academy class of 1921 and then served at sea in a succession of ships—Arizona (BB-39), Wyoming (BB-32), Raleigh (CL-9), and Cleveland (CL-21)—before he underwent flight instruction at Pensacola, Fla., from 1925 to 1927. He subsequently served in aviation units based in Milwaukee (CL-5), Memphis (CL-13), and Texas (BB-35) before he returned to Pensacola as an instructor. After another tour of sea duty—in Louisville (CA-28)—Wiltsie commanded the Naval Reserve aviation base at Minneapolis, Minn., from 29 June 1935 to 4 June 1937. He later commanded the bombing squadrons attached to Saratoga (CV-3) from June 1937 to June 1939, before he served at the naval air station at San Diego, Calif. He subsequently joined Yorktown (CV-5) as navigator on 27 June 1941 and received a promotion to commander on 1 July.
Wiltsie remained in Yorktown until her loss at the pivotal Battle of Midway from 4 to 6 June 1942. During the early stages of the action, Wiltsie displayed "outstanding professional ability" as he provided complete and accurate navigational information to air plot, thus enabling the carrier's air group to pinpoint their targets.
During the Japanese torpedo attacks on 4 June, when "Kates" from the carrier Hiryu located Yorktown and carried put a successful attack against her, Wiltsie, on instructions from the captain, conned the ship from his battle station in the conning tower and was later deemed directly responsible for the ship's evading a pair of torpedoes. When injuries sustained during the attack incapacitated the carrier's executive officer, Comdr. Wiltsie assumed these duties and directed the organization of a salvage party which fought valiantly to save the ship.
When Yorktown eventually succumbed to her damage and the coup de grace administered by Japanese submarine 1-168, Wiltsie coolly and calmly directed the salvage party and the wounded to rescuing vessels alongside the doomed carrier.
Wiltsie—promoted to captain in September 1942—commanded Albemarle (AV-5) from 6 October 1942 to 12 June 1943. After this tour, he supervised the fitting-out of escort carrier Glacier (CVE-33) at the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. and went on to supervise the same kind of activities of Liscome Bay (CVE-62). Wiltsie would command this escort carrier until the ship's loss off Makin, in the Gilberts, in the autumn of 1943.
In the predawn darkness of 24 November 1943, 1-175 torpedoed Liscome Bay—the flagship of Rear Admiral Henry M. Mullinix—and started fires among bombs and ammunition. Fed by aviation gasoline, the flames spread rapidly, and the carrier rocked with explosions. Wiltsie immediately left the bridge and proceeded along the starboard gallery deck level to ascertain the damage to his ship, as communications had been severed early-on. Despite the tremendous structural damage and raging fires, the captain bravely headed aft to determine the full extent of the damage. Damage control efforts failed, however, and the carrier sank soon thereafter, carrying the intrepid Wiltsie, Admiral Mullinix, and 644 officers and men down with her.
The citation for Capt. Wiltsie's posthumous Navy Cross noted his "calm, courageous action and valiant devotion to duty" which inspired the surviving members of the crew.
(DD-716: dp. 2,425; l. 390'6"; b. 41'1"; dr. 18'6"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 336; a. 6 5", 12 40mm., 20 20mm., 5 21" tt., 2 dct., 6 dcp.; cl. Gearing)
Wiltsie (DD-716) was laid down on 13 March 1945 at Port Newark, N.J., by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Co.; launched on 31 August 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Irving D. Wiltsie, the widow of Capt. Wiltsie; and commissioned on 12 January 1946 at the New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, N.Y., Comdr. Raymond D. Fusselman in command.
Following a shakedown cruise which took the ship to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wiltsie transited the Panama Canal on 8 July 1946 and proceeded to San Diego. She spent the fall and winter of 1946 engaged in training exercises before departing the west coast on 6 January 1947, bound for the Far East. She subsequently operated out of Tsingtao, China, on exercises and maneuvers while standing by the American community in that port during rising local tensions between the communist and Nationalist Chinese. Wiltsie remained at Tsingtao until June 1947, when she shifted to Sasebo, Japan, for occupation duty. Departing Sasebo on 8 March 1948, the destroyer proceeded to Bremerton, Wash., for an overhaul at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
After training off the west coast, Wiltsie sailed once more for the Far East, departing San Diego on 1 October. Late that autumn, she again operated out of Tsingtao during the evacuation of Americans from that port to Yokohama because of the Chinese civil war then raging. During this period of anxiety, Wiltsie briefly visited Hong Kong and Okinawa before returning to Tsingtao.
Chinese communist forces meanwhile inexorably rolled southward, crossing the Yangtze at midnight on 20 April 1949. Four days later, Nanking fell. Wiltsie arrived at Shanghai on 22 April, to stand by during the evacuation of all foreign nationals from the city. Over the ensuing days, Wiltsie watched a veritable parade of merchant vessels of many nationalities—Chinese, Dutch, Norwegian, French, Danish, British, and American—as well as American, British, and Chinese naval vessels. On Thursday, 5 May 1949, 20 days before the fall of the city to the communists, Wiltsie departed Chinese waters for the last time, bound for Buckner Bay, Okinawa.
From there, Wiltsie soon headed homeward and made port at San Diego on 4 June 1949. She later moved up the coast; embarked NROTC midshipmen at Treasure Island, near San Francisco, on 1 August; and departed the following day for a training cruise to Balboa, Panama, and the Galapagos Islands. Returning to San Diego on 31 August, the destroyer soon sailed for Hawaii, where she participated in Operation "Miki," a mock invasion of the Hawaiian Islands in which Army, Navy, and Air Force units all took part. Returning to the west coast soon thereafter, Wiltsie spent the period from December 1949 to April 1950 at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, Calif., undergoing an overhaul.
On the morning of 25 June 1950, Far Eastern tensions flared into open warfare when 75,000 North Korean troops swarmed across the 38th parallel into South Korea. The communist forces struck at six points along the border and launched amphibious assaults at two places on South Korea's east coast. Later that day, the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) passed a resolution calling for a North Korean withdrawal and a cease-fire. The North Koreans ignored both aspects of the resolution.
In July, Wiltsie sailed for the Far East to augment the meager American naval presence in Korean waters; and, when she reached the combat zone, the military picture looked bleak for the hard-pressed UN forces. North Korean troops continued to push the UN troops toward the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula.
For five days in mid-August, the Republic of Korea (ROK) 3d Division, supported from the sea by the Navy's Task Group (TG) 96.51, blocked the enemy's southward advance near Yonghae. Meanwhile, UN forces had established a defensive perimeter north of Pusan. Isolated, the 3d ROK Division faced annihilation.
On the evening of 16 August, the United States Navy came to the rescue when Helena (CA-75), with four LST's and escorting destroyers, closed the coast. Capt. J. R. Clark, Commander, Destroyer Division 111, embarked in the recently arrived Wiltsie, assumed direction of the embarkation operation for the ROK troops. He ordered the four LST's to beach at a pre-arranged site, guided in by jeep headlights from shore. Before sunrise the next day, 327 officers and 3,480 men of the 3d ROK Division, 1,260 civilians, and 100 vehicles had been loaded in an orderly evacuation accomplished without loss. Comdrs. Malcolm W. Cagle and Frank A. Manson, in their book, The Sea War in Korea, cited that evacuation as "the final naval contribution to the salvation of the Pusan perimeter."
The Pusan perimeter held. Meanwhile, General Douglas MacArthur made plans to relieve the heavy pressure on the UN forces in the south by striking deep behind North Korean lines. In a desperate gamble, American forces went ashore at Inchon on 15 September 1950. Wiltsie participated in one phase of this assault, screening the fast carriers of Task Force (TF) 77—Philippine Sea (CV-47), Valley Forge (CV-45), and Boxer (CV-21)—as their aircraft hit communist ground targets to support the advance of troops ashore. The Inchon landings stopped the enemy's momentum as he was on the verge of pushing UN forces into the sea. The North Koreans then found themselves outflanked and their supply lines interdicted. For the remainder of the deployment, Wiltsie supported UN troops ashore with call-fire support; screened TF 77 as it conducted air strikes against enemy supply lines and troop concentrations; and patrolled in the Taiwan Strait to safeguard Nationalist Chinese neutrality.
Wiltsie returned to San Diego in March of 1951, underwent repairs at Long Beach, and subsequently departed the west coast for her fourth tour of duty in the Far East. In Korean waters, she resumed herscreening, call-fire, and interdiction duties. Highlighting her blockading activities of Wonsan, Wiltsie fired retaliatory gunfire missions against troublesome communist shore batteries. In March 1951, those guns kept up an uncomfortable fire upon the American ships engaged in the blockade.
On 13 March, before it was silenced by air strikes from TF 77's planes, one battery landed shells near Manchester (CL-83), Douglas H. Fox (DD-779), James E. Kyes (DD-787), and McGinty (DE-365). One week later, enemy guns shelled Wiltsie and Brinkley Bass (DD-887) as they patrolled their blockade station, fortunately doing no damage.
Wiltsie returned to the west coast late in 1952, but soon found herself back in the Far East for her third Korean War deployment. After leaving the west coast on 2 January 1953, the destroyer patrolled the Formosa Strait for a time and operated off the North Korean coast before shifting to Wonsan. Meanwhile, the stalemated "police action" with the North Koreans and communist Chinese "volunteers" had long before bogged down and would soon be in its third year. The Navy continued it operations to support UN ground troops, interdicted enemy supply lines by air and by surface gunfire, and blockaded the enemy's coasts. By late in April 1953, when truce negotiations had bogged down, the communists resorted to an all-out offensive in an attempt to convert military gain in the field into political gains at the conference table.
Eight days after Wiltsie and Theodore E. Chandler (DD-717) had destroyed a train near Tanchon on 3 June, communist shore batteries took Wiltsie under fire off Wonsan, lobbing 45 105-millimeter shells in her direction, scoring a hit on the destroyer's fantail. Fortunately, the ship suffered no casualties and soon resumed her local patrol operations. On 15 June, Wiltsie evacuated 13 Korean civilians from Yo-do Island to Sokcho-ri.
Eventually, a cease-fire in Korea was negotiated, but hostilities continued up to the minute the truce was to take effect. While preparing to abandon the Wonsan seige in accordance with the armistice stipulations, Wiltsie screened minesweeping operations and joined in the last-minute shelling of communist ground targets. In company with Porter (DD-800) and Bremerton (CA-130), Wiltsie shelled targets at Wonsan until a few minutes before the 2200 deadline. On 27 July 1953, the Korean armistice finally came into effect. However, Wiltsie remained in Korean waters, screening the continuing minesweeping operations between Hungnam and Wonsan until 6 August 1953.
Wiltsie conducted seven WestPac deployments between 1953 and 1961. During each tour, she carried out training and patrol assignments in Far Eastern waters, operating off the coasts of Japan, Korea, and Okinawa; visiting such ports as Yokosuka, Kobe, and Sasebo, Japan; Hong Kong; and Philippine ports such as Olongapo and Manila. Also during this time, she plane-guarded for fast carrier task forces, patrolled the Taiwan Strait to prevent communist Chinese incursions against the Nationalists on Taiwan, and undertook antisubmarine warfare and gunnery training exercises.
Between deployments to WestPac and the Far East, Wiltsie underwent regular overhaul and repair periods at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. In addition, she conducted an NROTC midshipman training cruise; visited Seattle, Wash., and Esquimalt, British Columbia; and visited Melbourne, Australia, in May 1959 to celebrate the anniversary of the key Battle of the Coral Sea.
In November 1961, Wiltsie began a 10-month scheduled overhaul at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Pearl Harbor, in which she underwent Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) alterations. She received an enclosed bridge; a helicopter hangar and landing platform; triple-mounted Mk. 32 torpedo tubes; an ASROC launcher; and late model radar and sonar. She also received many improvements in accommodations for both officers and enlisted men. Following this "face lift," Wiltsie conducted refresher training and upkeep before becoming flagship of DesDiv 72, home-ported in San Diego.
Following sonar calibrations at Puget Sound, Wiltsie spent one week off southern California, participating in Exercise "Steel Gate"—an amphibious landing exercise near Camp Pendleton in which the destroyer trained in support evolutions for landings. After theconclusion of this maneuver, Wiltsie departed the west coast for the Far East, leaving San Diego on 18 May 1963. Arriving at Yokosuka on 6 June, via Pearl Harbor and Midway, Wiltsie soon got underway for a 30-day Taiwan Strait mission. During this time, she visited Keelung and Kaohsiung, Formosa. Her scheduled rest period at Hong Kong at the end of the assignment had to be cancelled because of a typhoon.
Returning to Yokosuka for upkeep on 30 July, Wiltsie departed in early August for participation in Exercise "Tire Iron." This large-scale fleet exercise involved three carriers, a guided missile cruiser, and 16 destroyers, as well as a replenishment group of nine ships. The exercise evaluated the effectiveness of task force-type operations; and, at the conclusion of the maneuver, one of the largest underway replenishment evolutions in history took place.
Wiltsie subsequently operated out of Sasebo and Yokosuka into the fall of 1963; she departed Sasebo on 29 October and operated briefly with TG 77.6 until 10 November, when she was detached to return home. After a stop at Pearl Harbor, the destroyer made port at San Diego on 24 November.
In January 1964, Wiltsie joined Ticonderoga (CVA-14), Theodore E. Chandler, and Henderson (DD-885) in antiaircraft warfare exercises off the west coast and served as a plane guard for the carrier. She subsequently moved westward to the middle Pacific with Ticonderoga and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 18 February. After completing her exercises in Hawaiian waters, she returned to the west coast of the United States in the spring and soon participated in antisubmarine and antiair warfare training with Yorktown (CVA-10) and Coral Sea (CVA-43).
In June, Wiltsie embarked midshipmen for a six-week training program and later underwent 10 days of hull repairs at Long Beach. Later in the month, she participated in exercises in support of Marine Corps units engaged in night reconnaissance and in amphibious and paratroop landing training at San Clemente Island and at Camp Del Mar, Calif.
Drydocked during August and September for hull and sonar dome repair, Wiltsie put to sea soon thereafter for tests and trials of her DASH (drone antisubmarine helicopter) qualification system which ended successfully on 3 November. The destroyer subsequently participated in Operation "Union Square," an extensive fleet exercise, before returning to San Diego to prepare for the ship's 14th WestPac deployment.
Wiltsie sailed for the western Pacific on 5 January 1965, in company with the 16 other ships of Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla 7. Originally scheduled to visit Japan in the first part of the cruise, Wiltsie was diverted to duty with Coral Sea and Hancock (CVA-19) during bombing raids on Viet Cong positions in South Vietnam in February.
The destroyer spent 69 of her next 80 days at sea in Vietnamese waters. She served in a variety of roles, including antisubmarine warfare screening ship, plane guard destroyer, and early warning picket ship. In March, before proceeding to Hong Kong, she shadowed a Russian intelligence ship which was gathering information on American task groups.
Upon the completion of her visit to the British Crown Colony, Wiltsie again sailed for Vietnam and operated with TG 71.1 on Operation "Market Time," engaged in patrolling the South Vietnamese coastline to interdict the flow of arms and ammunition and infiltration by North Vietnamese into South Vietnam.
In May and June, Wiltsie conducted several gunfire support missions against Viet Cong supply depots and troop concentrations in South Vietnam. During this deployment off the coast of Vietnam, Wiltsie transferred 64.2 short tons of stores from Mars (AFS-1) by the vertical replenishment method, utilizing the capabilities of one of Mars' supply helicopters.
Following a visit to Japan in mid-June, Wiltsie returned to the United States, arriving at San Diego on2 July. Wiltsie next underwent a period of repairs and refresher training which carried over into 1966. After taking part in training evolutions off the west coast in the spring, Wiltsie again headed for the Orient on 4 June 1966. While at Guam for a refueling stop, the destroyer suffered slight damage on 22 June when a fuel barge collided with the ship, necessitating repairs which delayed her for 15 hours.
Towers (DDG-9) and Buck (DD-761), which had steamed in company with Wiltsie since leaving San Diego, proceeded ahead, leaving Wiltsie_ to sail independently. Underway on 23 June, the ship encountered heavy seas which delayed her arrival at Subic Bay until late in the afternoon of the 27th. After two days of upkeep, the destroyer proceeded for Vietnamese waters.
On 2 July, Wiltsie commenced duty with TU 70.8.9, a naval gunfire support unit. In the ensuing fortnight, the destroyer fired 1,076 rounds of 5-inch shells at Viet Cong positions in the II, III, and IV Corps areas of South Vietnam. One such mission resulted in the destruction of a 12-man Viet Cong (VC) squad.
After a brief period of upkeep, Wiltsie proceeded to the northern search and rescue (SAR) station, approximately 50 miles east of the North Vietnamese port of Haiphong, to stand by with Towers ready to recover downed airmen. For two periods—from 31 July to 2 September and from 28 September to 1 November, Wiltsie patrolled the northern SAR station. In August and again in October, the destroyer participated in rescues from the waters off the North Vietnamese coast, saving a total of nine men. Moreover, on 207 occasions during two months, the ship acted as a refueling vessel for units of Helicopter Squadron 6, providing some 70,000 gallons of aviation fuel for the thirsty helicopters engaged in rescue duty.
On 9 October, one rescue helo approached the ship, dangerously low on fuel. Although the danger existed of a crash landing as the chopper hovered over the fan-tail, Electrician's Mate 1st Class Donald J. Adams attached the helicopter's lowered hook to the fuel hose and tended it while it was hoisted up to begin the fueling operation. For his action under these dangerous circumstances, Adams was awarded a special letter of commendation from the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT).
Upon completion of these SAR duties, Wiltsie prepared for her homeward voyage. She called at the port of Hualien, Taiwan, on 4 November, for a five-day visit. She departed Nationalist Chinese waters on 10 November, made a fuel stop at Okinawa the next day, and arrived at Yokosuka on 14 November.
Wiltsie joined TG 77.8, based around Constellation (CVA-64), and stood out of Yokosuka on 22 November, bound for the west coast. Three days out, the task group ran into bad weather which reduced its speed from 22 to 6 knots. High winds prevailed for five days, and all ships suffered moderate storm damage. The heavy seas battered open a seam forward in Wiltsie; caused three cracks in the fantail area of the main deck and the loss of two ladders; and ripped two holes in the port bow of the motor whaleboat. Numerous examples of smaller damage were recorded below decks, inside the ship.
An underway replenishment with Sacramento (AOE-1) on the evening of 29 November turned out to be a difficult affair. Only after three separate approaches, seven fuel hose separations, and seven hours alongside was the fueling completed. The ship remained blackened by oil on parts of her superstructure and hull sides until after she arrived at San Diego on 3 December. After over 50,000 miles of steaming, Wiltsie moored at San Diego for upkeep which would last into the new year, 1967.
Following operations off the southern California coast in the spring and into the summer, Wiltsie departed San Diego on 19 September 1967, bound for the Far East. After stopovers at Pearl Harbor and Guam, the destroyer arrived at Subic Bay on 11 October. Shifting to Danang, South Vietnam, soon thereafter, Wiltsie moved to the northern SAR station on 21 October and shifted to the southern SAR station five days later. Typhoon "Emma" forced the ship to sortie from Tonkin Gulf on 5 November, before the storm abated enough to allow the ship to resume her operations on the 7th.
During this tour, she assisted in the search for two men lost overboard from William V. Pratt (DLG-13). King (DLG-10) and Chevalier (DD-805) also took part, but 12-foot seas and 30-knot winds hampered search operations and prevented any of the ships from sighting the men.
On 13 November, Wiltsie relieved Buck (DD-761) on the northern SAR station, only to be relieved in turn by Rogers (DD-876) after an uneventful tour. Bad weather had cancelled the air strikes planned against enemy positions ashore. After rest and relaxation at Hong Kong, an upkeep alongside Klondike (AD-22), and an in-port period at Subic Bay, Wiltsie returned to the SAR station in Tonkin Gulf, operating in company with King. During this second deployment, Wiltsie participated in six rescues involving 10 men. The first took place at 1420 on 22 December, when an A-7 Corsair II from VA-147 went down at a position some 40 miles northwest of King.
An intensive search failed to locate the downed plane's pilot, and all search aircraft were vectored back to their base. Wiltsie refueled a helicopter during this period when the chopper approached the ship low on fuel. The Christmas cease-fire which went into effect on 25 December resulted in only photo-reconnaissance flights being run against North Vietnam; no SAR opportunities were thus presented to Wiltsie and King until 29 December, when an F-4 Phantom of VF-161 (Coral Sea) crashed 51 miles from the northern SAR station among some islands off the coast near Haiphong. King guided a helicopter to the scene and it picked up both pilots—cold but well—and returned them to their carrier, Coral Sea.
Monsoons limited air action over the last few days of 1967 and the first few days of 1968. Two Oriskany planes went down on 10 January 1968; Wiltsie provided communications relays where necessary and closely plotted aircraft positions, while King assumed air control function and direction. The latter's UH-2 helicopter picked up two pilots from one of the planes while a logistics helo plucked the crewman of the second plane from the water. Later in the day, King picked up two more downed pilots, giving her a total of four for the day.
After being relieved by De Haven (DD-727) and Reeves (DLG-24), King sailed to Subic Bay and Wiltsie to Hong Kong before she, too, headed for Subic Bay, where she arrived on the 23d. Three days later, while at Subic Bay, Wiltsie received word of the capture of the American intelligence-gathering vessel Pueblo (AGER-2). On the following day, Wiltsie and King sailed for SAR station to relieve De Haven and Reeves a day early.
When the SAR station was shifted south, Wiltsie, King, and the PIRAZ station ship Belknap (DLG-26) conducted joint patrols in the heavy weather hanging over the station. Wiltsie's SAR tour was largely uneventful, as monsoon activity curtailed American air strikes over the north, and no opportunities presented themselves to pick up airmen.
Relieved by Southerland (DD-743) on station on 17 February, Wiltsie sailed to Subic Bay where she offloaded part of her ammunition in preparation for the cruise home. Departing there on 22 February in company with Buck and King, Wiltsie and her consorts made a fuel stop at Darwin and visited Brisbane from 2 to 7 March before proceeding on to the west coast of the United States.
Following stops at Pago Pago, American Samoa, and Pearl Harbor, for fuel, Wiltsie moored at San Diego on 23 March and remained there into May. On 22 May, she became schoolship for an engineering officers' course and performed this duty until 9 June Assigned plane guard duties for Hancock (CVA-19) during that ship's carrier qualification evolution from 10 to 22 June, Wiltsie put her own motor whaleboat in the water on one occasion when one of the carrier's F-8 Crusaders went into the water immediately after takeoff. However, Hancock's rescue helo effected the rescue before the destroyer's boat arrived.
On the 26th, Wiltsie sailed for San Francisco Bay to undergo an overhaul at the naval shipyard at Vallejo, Calif. Emerging from the yard on 6 November, Wiltsie spent the remainder of 1968 in refresher training which continued into the spring of 1969.
Departing San Diego on 16 April 1969, in company with the remainder of DesDiv 72—Buck, John W. Thomason (DD-760), and Perkins (DD-877)—Wiltsie participated in type training evolutions with Oriskany before arriving at Pearl Harbor on 24 April. Underway again soon thereafter, bound for the ship's WestPac deployment, Wiltsie refueled at Midway, steamed on picket station ahead of Oriskany, and arrived at Subic Bay on 10 May.
Underway for Yankee Station soon thereafter, Wiltsie arrived there on 16 May and was soon shuffled between three carriers—Oriskany, Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31), and Ticonderoga (CVA-14)—within a 24-hour span, serving successively as plane guard for each. Returning to Subic Bay in company with Ticonderoga on 20 May, Wiltsie underwent a tender upkeep alongside Klondike (AD-22) before being shifted to Sasebo, Japan. At Sasebo from 29 May to 6 June, Wiltsie then deployed to Yankee Station to provide "shotgun" services for Benjamin Stoddert (DDG-22). When Wiltsie's evaporators broke down on the 10th, the destroyer was relieved by Douglas H. Fox (DD-779) and headed back to Sasebo for repairs.
She subsequently operated in the Sea of Japan escorting Sterett (DLG-31) for three weeks before returning to Sasebo on 13 July. Eleven days later, the destroyer departed Japanese waters, bound for the Vietnam war zone.
Wiltsie provided plane guard services for Bon Homme Richard until detached to join Biddle (DLG-34) and Chicago (CG-11) on the south SAR station. After conducting antisubmarine warfare exercises en route, Wiltsie spent from 7 to 10 August on south SAR before deploying to the PIRAZ station with King on the 10th, llth, and 12th. Returning to south SAR on the 13th, she remained at sea there for the remainder of August.
After rejoining Bon Homme Richard, Wiltsie escorted the carrier to Sasebo, Japan, from 2 to 4 September. Following a period of upkeep and recreation there, the destroyer visited Hong Kong en route to her final commitment in the yietnamese war zone. She was deployed on Yankee Station for the remainder of September, and the destroyer then shifted to Subic Bay. There, she prepared for a gunnery exercise and proceeded to sea on 10 October for operations with Craig (DD-885) and Cochrane (DDG-21). On that day, Wiltsie participated in sinking the after section of the hull of Frank E. Evans (DD-754), the destroyer that had been cut in two during a collision with Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne the previous 3 June.
Rendezvousing with Bon Homme Richard soon thereafter, Wiltsie and the carrier steamed to Japan, arriving at Yokosuka on 15 October. Two days later, with ComDesDiv 72 embarked, Wiltsie got underway with the remainder of her division to escort Bon Homme Richard back to the United States and arrived at San Diego at the end of a fortnight's voyage. For the remainder of 1969, the destroyer remained in her home port.
Wiltsie conducted an ASW training operation early in January 1970 and returned to San Diego on the 8th. Between that day and 15 April, Wiltsie remained in port. During this time, she suffered hull damage while moored alongside John W. Thomason. "Exceptionally high winds" buffeted the ships together when a mooring camel between the two ships overturned, openingriveted seams in Wiltsie's hull. On 13 March 1970, Wiltsie was drydocked at the San Diego Marine and Shipbuilding Co. and was under repairs there until 7 April.
After operating locally out of San Diego into the summer, Wiltsie departed her home port on 27 July 1970, bound for her 18th WestPac deployment. Following stops at Pearl Harbor, Midway, and Guam, she arrived at Subic Bay on 18 August. There, she took on additional .50-caliber machine guns and flak jackets before getting underway on 21 August for the Gulf of Tonkin.
Relieving Gurke (DD-783) three days later as picket for Bainbridge (DLGN-25) on TF 77's northern SAR/ PIRAZ station, Wiltsie operated on station until 9 September. During that assignment, the ship provided in-flight refueling services to ship and shore-based helicopters standing ready to rescue downed aircrews. Although the ship originally headed for Kaohsiung for upkeep, the track of Typhoon "Georgia" resulted in a re-routing to Subic Bay.
Departing Luzon on 18 September, Wiltsie sailed for regions II and III of South Vietnam to perform 22 days of gunfire support duty to assist operations of the United States 1st Air Cavalry Division; the 1st Australian Task Force, South; and an ARVN battalion. During the deployment on the "gun line"—her first since 1967—Wiltsie fired 3,365 rounds of 5-inch ammunition before she departed the station on 11 October and headed for Taiwan for rest and recreation at Keelung.
While there, Wiltsie was preparing to move on to Japan when urgent orders arrived on the evening of 19 October to report back to the "gun line." Typhoon "Joan" had damaged another destroyer severely enough to limit her ability to fight, so Wiltsie was substituted. Arriving at her station in the Gulf of Thailand on the morning of 23 October, Wiltsie supported the ARVN 21st Division with gunfire, shelling communist troop concentrations, gun positions, and supply lines for five days, expending 485 rounds of 5-inch projectiles.
Returning to Subic Bay, she offloaded the special equipment taken on board for the "gunline" deployments—flak jackets, .50-caliber machine guns (for use against possible sappers or small boats), and "pool radio equipment"—and departed the Philippines on 20 January, bound for the United States. After stopping en route at Guam, Midway, and Pearl Harbor, Wiltsie arrived at San Diego on 11 February.
During the ensuing year, Wiltsie remained on the coast of southern California, for the most part at San Diego. In March and April, she served plane guard duty for Oriskany and Enterprise (CVA-65) ; and, in June, she entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for an overhaul which lasted until mid-November 1971.
On 19 February 1972, the destroyer was notified that, effective 1 July, she would be assigned to the Naval Reserve Force and based at San Francisco for training duty. While she was in the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard preparing for her new role, however, she received word on 22 May that—instead of beginning reserve duty in July—she would head back to the Far East for her 19th deployment in the western Pacific.
On 25 July, Wiltsie sailed for the Orient in company with Meyerkord (DE-1058) and Lang (DE-1060) and touched at Pearl Harbor, Midway, and Guam before arriving at Subic Bay on 16 August.
Refueling and rearming from Ashtabula (AO-51) on the 29th, Wiltsie headed north, for Japan, sidestepping Typhoon "Kate" en route. She reduced her speed to 12 knots in the worsening weather conditions before putting into Buckner Bay, Okinawa, to refuel on 2 November before again setting out for Sasebo. The next morning, while underway and approaching the coast of Kyushu, Fire Control Technician 3d Class Bernhardt L. Olsen was swept over the side. Wiltsie, joined by Richard B. Anderson, and the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force vessels Asagunmo, Makiguma, and Hic-kugo, conducted a day-long search for her missingsailor but came away empty-handed. A few days later, his body was discovered washed up on a nearby island.
Later departing Sasebo on 6 November, she served as screen for King as a Peacetime Aerial Reconnaissance Program (PARPRO) picket in the Sea of Japan from the 8th to the 10th, before returning to Sasebo. Shifting to Korean waters for a port visit to Pusan, South Korea, from 27 to 30 November, and replenishing at Sasebo, Wiltsie served a second tour as PARPRO picket ship for Halsey (DLG-23) from 30 November to 6 December.
Subsequently returning again to Sasebo to replenish, Wiltsie refueled at Keelung and spent Christmas at Hong Kong before shifting to the Philippines where she spent the remainder of 1970. Early in 1971, the destroyer returned to Vietnamese coastal waters to render gunfire support for South Vietnamese army units between 4 and 18 January 1971.
Undergoing four days of upkeep and repairs alongside Jason (ARH-1), Wiltsie prepared for another "gun line" mission off the Vietnamese coast. The destroyer loaded the extra equipment necessary for her specialized support role—flak jackets for exposed personnel, .50-caliber machine guns, and special radio equipment for contacting shore units calling for gunfire support. Ready for action, Wiltsie departed Subie Bay on 21 August. While en route to Vietnam, the destroyer spotted a submarine, which quickly submerged when she, in turn, spotted Wiltsie. Her sonarmen tracked the submarine for an hour before being informed that the stranger was, in fact, friendly.
On 23 August, Wiltsie became part of TG 75.9, operating off the Northern Military Region I. While providing gunfire support for Operation "Lam Son 72," the destroyer fired some 1,803 rounds of 5-inch shells to support the ARVN 147th Brigade in efforts to destroy enemy forces in their area. Typhoon "Elsie," which was approaching near the DMZ, temporarily suspended Wiltsie's gunfire support operations while she sidestepped the tropical disturbance by moving to safer waters. Resuming her operations after three days of typhoon evasion, Wiltsie returned to the "gun line" and supported ARVN operations around Quang Tri City. Ordered to proceed south on 6 September, Wiltsie departed the waters off northern South Vietnam to fire gunnery missions supporting the 2d ARVN Division in the vicinity of Chu Lai.
Terminating her operations supporting the 2d ARVN Division to shift to interdiction of waterborne logistics craft and surveillance of merchant ships in the Hon La anchorage in North Vietnam, Wiltsie found diversified operations and hostile fire in store for her. Her 5-inch guns wreaked havoc on storage dumps, coastal defense sites, radar installations, and supply routes. On 14 September, she spotted a crippled A-7 Corsair plunging into the Gulf of Tonkin and soon thereafter rescued the pilot from the water.
Two days later, she conducted a single-ship raid against a bridge on a major North Vietnamese supply route. During the action, she came under fire from North Vietnamese shore batteries that fired some 70 rounds at the destroyer. This was the only time that the ship came under hostile fire in Vietnam. The next day, Wiltsie and two other ships conducted a "reactive strike" on the coastal defense site, pounding it with 5-inch gunfire. Supply route and waterborne supply interdiction continued thereafter until Wiltsie, relieved by Henry W. Tucker (DD-875), departed the area on the 20th.
Returning to Subic Bay for upkeep on the 21st, the destroyer remained in port until 27 September when she sailed for the Gulf of Thailand for gunnery support duties off the west coast of Vietnam. Between late September and early November, Wiltsie operated on station in the Gulf of Thailand. During the gunfire operations, she expended 1,940 rounds of 5-inch into the U Minh forest, supporting the ARVN 21st Division. Gunfire direction was provided by air spotting, but the densefoliage of the U Minh forest often prevented assessment of results.
In addition to her gunfire support duties, Wiltsie was given the task of detecting and tracking waterborne supply traffic. Supported in this operation by P-3 Orion patrol planes, Wiltsie discouraged the enemy from attempting supply by sea along the western coastline of South Vietnam. Henry W. Tucker relieved Wiltsie on 2 November.
After a week of upkeep at Singapore, Wiltsie resumed gunfire support operations in Military Region I near the DMZ. She spent a week firing round-the-clock gunfire support missions before joining Saratoga (CVA-60) with TU 72.0.1, as plane-guard destroyer. Between 21 November and 8 December, she escorted the attack carrier as she launched air strikes against enemy forces ashore. In the predawn hours of 28 November, an A-6 Intruder crashed upon takeoff; and Wiltsie proceeded to the scene of the accident, pinpointing the location and vectoring rescue helicopters from Saratoga to the point. One of the aircraft's crew was rescued quickly and returned to his carrier, but the other pilot, despite the combined efforts of Bainbridge and helicopters from America (CVA-66), was never found.
Wiltsie proceeded to Hong Kong for rest and recreation and to Kaohsiung for an upkeep alongside Bryce Canyon (AD-36). During this availability, all four of her 5-inch guns were rebarreled due to the excessive wear experienced during her gunfire support deployments. The ship departed Taiwan on 27 December to return to the "gun line."
Arriving on station two days later, she resumed her operations off Quang Tri City, south of the DMZ, and continued these operations until 22 January 1973, when she was detached from TG 75.9 to proceed to Yokosuka. Prom there, the ship sailed for home, arriving at her new home port, San Francisco, on 16 February.
However, Wiltsie's time on the west coast was comparatively brief for—following a yard period at Willamette Shipyard, Richmond, Calif.—she got underway again for WestPac on 16 June 1973. Arriving at Yokosuka, via Adak, Alaska, on 28 June, the destroyer shifted to Kure before conducting ASWEX 7-73 with Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force units from 9 to 12 July. Moving to Kaohsiung on 22 July, the ship participated in Exercise "Sharkhunt II" with Chinese units before spending an in-port period at Keelung from 28 July to 1 August.
Soon thereafter, Wiltsie returned home via Pearl Harbor, arriving at San Francisco on 30 August. She participated in COMPTUEX 11-73 in October and served as plane guard for Coral Sea in local operations off the California coast in December. The destroyer continued the routine of local operations out of San Francisco for the remainder of her active service, embarking Naval Reserve units for active duty training on cruises off the west coast and to Hawaii and, on occasion, serving as escort vessel for submarines on their sea trials out of Mare Island. Decommissioning preparations began at Alameda in November 1975, and Wiltsie was decommissioned there on 23 January 1976. Simultaneously struck from the Navy list, the veteran of Korean War and Vietnam service was transferred, via sale, to Pakistan.
Transferred on 29 April 1977, the destroyer was reactivated and overhauled during 1977. Renamed Tariq (D.165), the ship reached Pakistan in mid-1978 to commence her active service with the Pakistani Navy.
Wiltsie (DD-716) received nine battle stars for Korean War service and seven for Vietnam.
USS Wiltsie (DD-716)
02 August 2004