(DDG-95: displacement 9,515; length 510'; beam 66'; draft 32'; speed 30+ knots; complement 312; armament 1 5-inch, 1 Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for 96 BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66 SM-2MR Standards, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, 1 Mk 15 Close In Weapon System (CIWS), 2 25 millimeter, 4 .50 caliber machine guns, 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes, and accommodations for the A/N WLD-1 Remote Mine-hunting System, aircraft 2 Sikorsky SH-60B Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mk III Seahawks; class Arleigh Burke)
James E. Williams (DDG-95) was laid down on 15 July 2002 at Pascagoula, Miss., by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems; launched on 25 June 2003; sponsored by Mrs. Elaine W. Williams, the late Chief Boatswain’s Mate William’s widow; and commissioned at Charleston, S.C., on 11 December 2004, Cmdr. Philip W. Vance in command.
Dark blue and gold represent the Navy. The gold cross formy represents the Navy Cross awarded to Williams for his extraordinary heroism during the Vietnam War. The hexagon refers to the Navy Commendation Medal awarded to him for heroic actions, again during that conflict. The three wavy piles reversed symbolize the delta of the Mekong River, where Williams distinguished himself in engagements against enemy forces. His two awards of the Silver Star are recognized by the stars at the top of the shield.
The anchor represents the Navy. The mantle draped over it symbolizes sacrifice and unusual courage; the stars on the doubling denote James Williams’ multiple awards and leadership capabilities. The inverted star represents the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration the U.S. can bestow upon a service member. Together, the colors of the mantle represent the U.S.
Two enlisted cutlasses refer to Williams’ status as an enlisted sailor and his readiness and commitment to engage vigorously any enemy force.
“Lead from the Front,” inscribed in gold on a dark blue scroll doubled scarlet.
The 95 chain links surrounding the seal refer to the ship’s hull number.
James E. Williams, Cmdr. Ian M. Hall in command, with two Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawks, Aircraft No. 432 and Aircraft No. 434, of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (Light) (HSL) 42 Detachment 4 embarked, made her maiden deployment when she sailed to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf (2 May-17 October 2006). James E. Williams deployed in company with amphibious transport dock Trenton (LPD-14) and guided missile cruiser Hue City (CG-66), as part of Maritime Security Operations Surge 06-2, and carried out primarily maritime security and theater cooperation operations with the Sixth and Fifth Fleets, including patrols against pirates off the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf of Aden.
Eight Somali pirates seized South Korean fishing trawler Dong Won No. 628 and her 25 crewmen, off the Somali coast near 4°54'N, 49°21'E, at 0945 on 4 April. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, warned ships in the vicinity to steer away from the danger. The hijackers compelled the fishermen to make for Somali coastal waters, where they held them hostage while negotiators attempted to end the confrontation peacefully. James E. Williams escorted Dong Won No. 628 at one point, and Cmdr. Hall afterward reported that an “embarked translator” became a “must,” but also noted that Ship’s Storekeeper 2nd Class Kevin Kim “provided outstanding Korean linguist support.” The South Koreans paid the pirates a ransom, and the thugs released their captives on 30 July.
James E. Williams carried out ‘sustainment training’ about 100 nautical miles southeast of Jacksonville, Fla., overnight on 13 and 14 March 2007. She trained with 14 other ships and submarines including: aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-65); guided missile cruiser Gettysburg (CG-64); guided missile destroyers Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), Forrest Sherman (DDG-98), and Stout (DDG-55); attack submarines Philadelphia (SSN-690) and San Juan (SSN-751); and Columbian diesel boat Tayrona (SS-29).
San Juan, Cmdr. Michael W. Martin in command, operated as an opposition force. During the evening of 13 March, Enterprise lost contact with San Juan when the attack boat failed to send a routine situation report at 2200. Lookouts from other ships spotted apparent yellow flares, and Arleigh Burke reported seeing a red distress flare. The Atlantic Fleet ordered vessels in the area to check in and San Juan again failed to report. A number of senior Navy leaders feared that the submarine suffered a catastrophic accident, and Lockheed P-3C Orions, ships, and submarines combed the area for debris for eight hours but failed to locate wreckage. Unbeknownst to those concerned, however, Martin had simply begun what the Navy designated as ‘full evasive mode,’ and at 0530 the following morning, San Juan checked in. “Although this was a false alarm,” a Navy spokesman announced, “the primary concern was the safety of our submariners and the support of family members,” but acknowledged that the flares and the loss of communications “together is a rare event.”
James E. Williams, Cmdr. Timothy R. Trampenau in command, with two SH-60B Seahawks, Magnum 444 and Magnum 446, of HSL-44 Detachment 9 embarked, deployed to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf (9 July-19 December 2007). The ship sailed in company with: Enterprise, with Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 embarked; Gettysburg; Arleigh Burke, Forrest Sherman, and Stout; Philadelphia; and fast combat support ship Supply (T-AOE-6). James E. Williams was towing Forrest Sherman during a towing exercise when the hawser snapped and tangled itself around James E. Williams’ starboard shaft, on 13 July. The following day, divers from Enterprise discovered a nine inch line wrapped around the shaft. The destroyer returned to Norfolk for repairs (19-22 July), and then sailed to catch up with the group. Forrest Sherman later detached to circumnavigate Africa.
James E. Williams assisted Tanzanian-flagged passenger ferry Spice Islander I off the Somali coast, on 26 September 2007. Spice Islander I had consumed her fuel, food, and water while en route from Oman to Tanzania, and drifted in the pirate-infested waters. The ship dispatched a Seahawk, which directed Stout to the scene, and Stout took the ferry in tow and provided the mariners with food, water, and fuel, enabling Spice Islander I to resume her voyage.
Enterprise and her consorts fought multiple battles with pirates. “We’re responsible mariners and we help all sorts of people,” Fifth Fleet spokesperson Cmdr. Lydia R. Robertson told reporters during the deployment. “…When we get a distress call, we respond.” Fifteen pirates seized Taiwanese fishing vessel Ching Fong Hwa 168 off Mogadishu in May 2007. The next month the Somalis shot a man in the back, killing him. Negotiations broke down and they then murdered 32-year-old crewmen Chen Tao. “We were in shock,” 47-year-old master Xinshen Ling recalled. “Just for money they took a life…they are not human.” The pirates also threatened to kill Ling’s 22-year-old son Linshangyi. The father threatened to jump overboard and feed the sharks, a move that shook the pirates because insurers paid less ransom when captains died. The pirates beat their captives and callously forced them to call home to implore grieving families to raise ransoms. Ling listened to his wife weep over their son.
Somali pirates attempted to seize North Korean cargo vessel Dai Hong Dan, while she sailed about 60 nautical miles northeast of Mogadishu, Somalia, on 29 October 2007. The boarders took the bridge but the North Koreans held the steering and engineering spaces. The IMB called Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain, which dispatched James E. Williams to investigate.
The destroyer sent one of her Seahawks to reconnoiter ahead, and when the ship reached the area the next day, sailors contacted the pirates via bridge-to-bridge and ordered them to give up their weapons. James E. Williams’ arrival encouraged the North Koreans to take back Dai Hong Dan, and they stormed the bridge and killed two pirates and captured five, though the Somalis wounded six crewmembers. Two translators, an embarked person who specialized in Arabic and a crewmember who spoke Korean, facilitated the destroyer’s negotiations with the pirates and they surrendered. The two remaining armed pirates discarded their weapons over the side, and James E. Williams sent a boarding team, consisting of three security sailors and three hospital corpsmen, who aided the victims until the North Koreans refused further help. Cmdr. Trampenau reported that the North Korean government expressed its “appreciation to the United States government” for the rescue.
James E. Williams shifted to Task Force (TF) 58 the following day and took part in Operation Bowsprit, counter piracy patrols. The ship reported that she assisted “multiple pirated vessels” off the Somali coast during Bowsprit (31 October-25 November). James E. Williams proved “instrumental” in freeing Tanzanian merchant vessels Manuvo I and Manuvo II and their 24 (total) crewmembers, from pirates following five months of captivity. Sailors from dock landing ship Whidbey Island (LSD-41) medically treated the freed prisoners, and the Americans then repatriated the mariners to Aden, Yemen.
James E. Williams then tracked the pirates who had seized Ching Fong Hwa 168, and on 5 November the destroyer compelled them to abandon their effort to retain control of the hijacked vessel, and the hijackers returned to the mainland. Following this deployment, Cmdr. Trampenau rated his ship’s “effectiveness” as "very high.”
While James E. Williams deployed to the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, she responded to a distress call from an Iranian vessel, when a fire erupted on board the boat while she sailed in the Gulf of Oman, on 8 August 2012. The destroyer made speed to the area and rescued all 10 mariners from their burning craft. The American Sailors provided medical treatment to the Iranians, and they were then transferred to Enterprise for additional medical care, before being repatriated to their homeland.
James E. Williams operates with Destroyer Squadron 22 out of Norfolk, Va.
Detailed history under construction.
Mark L. Evans
12 May 2014