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Decatur V (DDG-73)


Stephen Decatur (5 January 1779-22 March 1820). For additional information see

The fifth U.S. Navy ship named Decatur. The first Decatur, a sloop-of-war, served from 1839-1865 ( The second Decatur (Destroyer No. 5), served from 1902-1920 ( The third Decatur, also a destroyer (DD-341), served from 1922-1945 ( The fourth Decatur, a destroyer (DD-936), was reclassified to a guided missile destroyer (DDG-31) on 15 September 1966, and served from 1956-1988 (


(DDG-73: displacement 8,960; length 505'; beam 66'; draft 31'; speed 30+ knots; complement 356; armament 1 5-inch, 2 Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-156 SM-2MR Standards, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, 8 RGM-84 Harpoons (2 Mk 141 launchers), 2 Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), 4 .50 caliber machine guns, and 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes, aircraft operate (but not embark) 1 Sikorsky SH-60B Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mk III Seahawk; class Arleigh Burke)

The fifth Decatur (DDG-73) was laid down on 11 January 1996 by Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine; launched on 9 November 1996, sponsored by Mrs. Joan E. Shalikashvili, wife of Gen. John M. D. Shalikashvili, USA (Ret.), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and commissioned on 29 August 1998 at Portland, Ore., Comdr. Michael G. Knollmann in command.

Decatur (DDG-73) Ship's Seal.
Decatur (DDG-73) Ship's Seal.


Dark blue represents the Navy and the oceans, its realm. The seax recalls a series of victories by Stephen Decatur over the Barbary Corsairs, including his daring destruction of captured frigate Philadelphia. The English officer’s sword symbolizes Decatur’s brilliant victory over British frigate Macedonian during the War of 1812. The celestial crown represents antiair warfare capabilities and bears five mullets, one for each of the five Navy ships named Decatur. It also recalls Stephen Decatur's engagements against the British during the War of 1812. Scarlet denotes courage, and gold symbolizes excellence.


The heritage of the name Decatur is recalled by the ship’s mast and sail, recalling the Navy of Decatur’s time and the first vessel to bear his name, sloop-of-war Decatur. The mast also refers to the traditional pine construction of the ships of Decatur’s navy. The pennant symbolizes the senior naval authority earned by the ship’s namesake as a commodore.


The sprigs of oak and olive intertwining the scroll signify respectively the new ship’s mastery of modern naval warfare and the peace Stephen Decatur fought to achieve.

Following a combination shakedown and transit cruise to the west coast, during which Decatur visited San Juan, P.R.; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; and Portland; the guided-missile destroyer arrived at her new home port of San Diego, Calif., on 4 September 1998. She spent the remainder of the year conducting acoustic trials and combat system evaluations. Decatur then spent three months in a post-shakedown availability in the Southwest Marine shipyard, Calif.

In April 1999, the warship conducted a short cruise to the northwest, visiting Decatur Island, Wash., and Vancouver, B.C., before returning to San Diego in early May. After a visit to Everett and Seattle, Wash. (3-9 August), Decatur made for San Diego but helped guided missile cruiser Bunker Hill (CG-52) assist a vessel in distress while en route. At approximately 1300 on 12 August 1999, merchantman Gardenia Ace, a 573-foot ship carrying 750,000 gallons of marine diesel onboard, suffered an engine room fire and lost power. The ship drifted for several hours, about 80 nautical miles off shore of Point Piedras Blancas, Calif. The wind blew from the north-northwest at 22 knots. Decatur received a “pan-pan” transmission (three calls of “Pan-Pan” indicate an urgent problem such as a mechanical breakdown, but which is not likely to involve a loss of life) at 1242, and established communications with Coast Guard Station Long Beach, Calif., which requested help. Decatur came about, sailing in company with Bunker Hill at best speed toward the area. The cruiser launched her embarked Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk, which arrived overhead of Gardenia Ace, and operated with a Coast Guard Lockheed HC-130H Hercules. Decatur reached the area within three hours, and lowered a team in a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), which boarded the ship to determine her seaworthiness and discovered the engine room to be “unsatisfactory,” ordering the vessel to remain in position. The authorities released Decatur from the scene at 2000 and she resumed her voyage. A commercial tug took Gardenia Ace in tow into San Francisco Bay. The Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also supported the rescue.

Upon completing her final missile tests and sea trials, Decatur commenced her first Western Pacific deployment on 7 January 2000. After stopping at Pearl Harbor to load BGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs), the ship proceeded to the Yellow Sea for Exercise Sharem 2000, a joint U.S. and South Korean naval exercise, in late January. On 30 January, the warship visited Chinhae, South Korea, and over the next two weeks also stopped at Yokosuka and Nagasaki, Japan. She then sailed south through the Taiwan Strait, made a three-day port visit to Hong Kong, and then commenced an exercise with the Philippine Navy in the South China Sea. In early March, Decatur visited Malaysia and Guam before sailing south across the equator to Fiji in April. Following visits to American Samoa and multiple ports in Australia, the destroyer returned to San Diego on 8 June. She operated locally for the rest of the year.

In February 2001, Decatur began various battle group and missile training off the west coast. Following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Decatur put to sea for Operation Noble Eagle, protecting the United States from further attacks while sailing in southern California waters. Returning to San Diego on 23 September, the warship spent seven weeks preparing for her deployment with the John C. Stennis (CVN-74) Battle Group.

The warships steamed west on 12 November 2001, and after stops at Hong Kong and Singapore, passed through the Strait of Malacca on 11 December. Sailing northwest into the Indian Ocean, the battlegroup moved into the Central Command area of operations and took part in Operation Enduring Freedom I, the liberation of Afghanistan. Decatur primarily escorted the Peleliu (LHA-5) Amphibious Ready Group (17 December 2001-16 April 2002), during which time her security team boarded three merchant ships in support of Maritime Interception Operations - including one non-compliant boarding of merchantman Francisco Dagohoy on 10 April. During this period, the warship made three short port visits to Manama, Bahrain. Departing the region on 2 May, she sailed for home, stopping in Phuket, Thailand; Bali, Indonesia; Dili, East Timor; Apra, Guam; and Pearl Harbor before arriving in San Diego on 8 June 2002. Decatur spent the rest of the year in upkeep or training out of San Diego.

Allied forces seized three dhows and 33 drug smugglers who supported al-Qaeda terrorists (15-20 December 2003). On 15 December, Decatur intercepted a 40-foot dhow and detained her 12 crewmen, following the discovery of 54 bags of hashish valued at almost $10 million. Three days later, a New Zealand Lockheed P-3K Orion located two suspicious dhows and worked with Australian, British, and U.S. aircraft to track the boats across the North Arabian Sea. On 20 December, guided missile cruiser Philippine Sea (CG-58), backed up by a British Royal Air Force Aerospace MR.2 Nimrod, intercepted the dhows and seized 21 smugglers, 150-pounds of methamphetamines, and a 35 pound and 50 pound bag of heroin. Analysts also utilized video footage taken by a P-3C from Patrol Squadron (VP) 47 to verify the activities of the smugglers.


Decatur intercepts the suspect dhow, 16 December 2003. Her sailors have already boarded and are searching the boat. (Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Michael Sandberg, U.S. Navy Photograph 031216-N-4374S-036, Navy NewsStand)
The boarders discover 54 bags of hashish valued at almost $10 million, 16 December 2003. Coalition intelligence analysts suspect the smugglers of selling the narcotics to support al-Qaeda terrorists. (Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Michael Sandberg, U.S. Navy Photograph 031216-N-4374S-001, Navy NewsStand)

While operating as part of the Pakistani-led Combined Task Force 150, Decatur rendered assistance to a distressed fishing vessel in Somali waters on 28 April 2006. The boat and her seven fishermen had put to sea 15 days earlier, but their engine failed on the third day of their voyage, and despite the men’s efforts to rig a sail out of a tarp, the strong current pushed the boat further out to sea. The castaways consumed the last of their food and water, and grew so desperate that they drank sea water for two days until an SH-60B Seahawk of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (Light) (HSL) 46 Detachment 2, flying from guided missile destroyer Roosevelt (DDG-80), spotted the drifting vessel and requested that a nearby dhow assist the mariners. Decatur overheard the bridge-to-bridge conversation between the Seahawk and the dhow, and she came about and made for the area, the boat had drifted to a point 83 nautical miles off the Somali coast. Decatur lowered two rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs), but her engineers boarded the vessel and determined that the engine was beyond repair. The boarders offered the fishermen fruit and water, and brought them back to the destroyer, where the crew provided them medical treatment, provisions, showers, and fresh clothes. Decatur rigged a tow line and took the derelict in tow until lookouts spotted another fishing boat early the following day, which agreed to take the stricken vessel in tow to land.

Decatur presents a sharp silhouette as she slices through the waves, 5 July 2006. (Unattributed U.S. Navy Photograph 060703-N-7730P-018, Navy NewsStand)

During the 21st century, Decatur took part in the U.S. Theater-Wide Ballistic Missile Defense Program (TBMD). The ship participated in tests to determine the effectiveness of the program’s potential to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles as they hurtled toward the United States. Decatur took part in Stellar Athena Flight Test Standard Missile (FTM) 12 on 22 June 2007, using her Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Weapon System (BMD 3.6) to track and fire a Standard (SM-3) Block 1A surface-to-air missile that shot down a “separating” target during its midcourse phase of flight, while steaming off the coast of Kauai, Hi. The Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, launched the medium range ballistic missile at 1640. Decatur detected and tracked the missile, developing a fire control solution. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense mobile ground-based radar meanwhile tracked the missile, exchanging data with guided missile cruiser Port Royal (CG-73), which collected performance data on her BMD SPY-1B radar signal processor. In addition, Spanish air defense frigate Méndez Núñez (F.104) performed long range surveillance and tracking. Four minutes later, Decatur fired her SM-3, and two minutes later the Standard intercepted the target missile, more than 100 miles above the earth’s atmosphere and 250 miles northwest of Kauai. FTM-12 marked the 28th successful intercept of 36 missile tests since 2001.

Decatur assisted guided missile cruiser Lake Erie (CG-70) when she shot down a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite from her operating area in the Pacific Ocean, on 21 February 2008. The satellite proved an especially challenging target because it traveled in orbit rather than a ballistic trajectory, and at a high speed. Sailors and civilian technicians consequently modified the cruiser’s Aegis weapon system and Standard SM-3s, and the crew repeatedly rehearsed intercepting the satellite. Radar sweeps of the satellite’s debris field revealed that no objects larger than a football survived the explosion, and these burned up as they fell into the earth’s atmosphere.

Fire Controlman 3rd Class Tyler Wyman operates a radar system control console on board Decatur during a ballistic missile defense exercise in San Diego, Calif., 27 August 2010. The synthetic coast-to-coast exercise uses live data links and communications to prepare the destroyer’s sailors to deploy for their ballistic missile defense patrols. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Phillip Pavlovich, U.S. Navy Photograph 100827-N-7282P-001, Navy NewsStand)
Decatur (DDG-73) Crew, 2011
The crew poses for the camera during a deployment to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf, 2011. (Unattributed U.S. Navy photograph, Decatur (DDG-73) website)
Decatur sails past the majestic mountains of Homer, Alaska, as she leaves the port to participate in Northern Edge 11, a joint readiness exercise, 12 June 2011. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rufus Hucks, U.S. Navy Photograph 110612-N-VE240-041, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Alaska website)


While conducting a routine patrol south of Sri Lanka on Sunday, 7 October 2018, Decatur sighted a drifting fishing vessel, whose occupants were frantically waving rags in the air. After pulling alongside the craft, Decatur’s rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) brought two of the fishermen on board. The men stated that their vessel had experienced engine trouble and that rendered them unable to return to shore.

Decatur’s crew offered to provide medical and towing assistance, but the distressed mariners only asked that the Americans contact the Sri Lankan authorities, which they did. In the meantime, Decatur provided food and water to the fishermen. Ultimately, the Sri Lankan off-shore patrol ship SLNS Jayesagara (P.601) arrived the following day (8 October) and towed the stranded vessel back to port.

Detailed history under construction.


Mark L. Evans


Published: Mon Oct 29 22:16:40 EDT 2018