James C. Owens, Jr., born 5 December 1910 in Batavia, N.Y., was appointed Naval Aviation Cadet, USNR, 3 September 1935. Following flight training at Pensacola, Fla., he served on board Lexington (CV-2); and on 1 September 1941, he joined Torpedo Squadron 8 on board Hornet (CV-8). Appointed Lieutenant 6 January 1942, Owens was with this squadron when it pressed home a courageous and determined attack against Japanese carriers 4 June during the Battle of Midway. Without the protection of lighters or accompanying dive bombers, the gallant pilots exposed themselves to overwhelming firepower; and every plane of the squadron was shot down. By forcing the enemy ships to maneuver radically and eliminating Japanese air cover, the "stark courage and relentless drive" of the torpedo pilots, such as Lieutenant Owens, made possible the American victory that followed. For extraordinary heroism in the face of overwhelming danger, Lt. Owens received the Navy Cross and the Presidential Unit Citation posthumously.
(DD-776: dp. 2,220; l. 376'6"; b. 41'2"; dr. 15'8"; s. 34 k. cpl. 336; a. 6 5", 12 40mm., 11 20mm., 10 21" tt, 6 dcp., 2 dct.; cl. Allen If. Sumner)
James C. Owens (DD-776) was laid down 9 April 1944, by the Bethlehem Steel Co., San Pedro, Calif.; launched 1 October 1944; sponsored by Mrs. James C. Owens, Jr., widow of Lt. Owens; and commissioned 17 February 1945, Comdr. R. H. Blair in command.
After shakedown off southern California, James C. Owens departed San Pedro 10 May escorting California (BB-44) to Pearl Harbor, arriving 16 May. She cleared Pearl Harbor 24 May and sailed as convoy escort via Eniwetok and Ulithi to Okinawa. Arriving 17 June, she continued to Kerama Retto to join DesRon 24, which steamed 24 June for Leyte, where it joined a cruiser-destroyer striking force. Sailing 13 July via Okinawa, the force entered the East China Sea 22 July to conduct antishipping sweeps. James C. Owens operated with the striking force for a month and then operated out of Okinawa until departing 20 September for Japan as part of the Wakayama Occupation Group. Arriving 22 September, she supported occupation landings, patrolled off southern Japanese islands, and served as courier and escort ship. Steaming from Japan 5 December, she reached San Diego the 22d, departed for the East Coast 3 January 1946, and arrived New York 15 January.
For more than 16 months, James C. Owens operated along the Atlantic Coast from New England to Texas. She conducted ASW training out of Newport, R.I.; participated in destroyer maneuvers off the Florida coast; and served as escort and plane guard for Saipan (CVL-48) in the Gulf of Mexico. Following operations out of Norfolk, Va., she departed Quonset Point, R.I., 30 July 1947, with DesRon 2 for deployment with the 6th Fleet. She cruised the Mediterranean from Algeria to Italy and supported U.S. efforts to settle the unstable situation in Trieste before returning to the United States 21 December. She returned to the Mediterranean in June 1948 and supported U.N. efforts to establish peace between Israeli and Arab forces. During this deployment, she patrolled the coast of Palestine, supported the evacuation of the U.N. Mediation Team in July, and helped to prevent the spread of conflict in the Middle East. Returning home early in October, she operated along the Atlantic coast until she decommissioned at Charleston, S.C., 3 April 1950.
With Communist aggression in Korea and increased tension in Europe and the Middle East, James C. Owens recommissioned 20 September 1950, Comdr. R. B. Erly in command; and commenced readiness and antisubmarine training operations. Departing for the Far East 22 January 1952, she arrived in the Western Pacific 27 February for blockade and interdiction patrols along the Korean coast. While operating off Songjin 7 May, she engaged enemy shore batteries and silenced several of them, but sustained six direct hits. Departing Korea 22 June, she steamed via the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean to Norfolk, Va., arriving 19 August. She returned to Korean waters 10 November 1953, and patrolled coastal waters to prevent violations of the armistice signed 27 July. She remained on this important peace-keeping duty in the Far East until she departed Yokosuka, Japan, 11 March 1954. Steaming via Midway, the West Coast and the Panama Canal, she arrived Norfolk 1 May.
For almost 2 years James C. Owens operated out of Norfolk and Guantanamo Bay on ASW and destroyer division maneuvers. While in the Caribbean during September 1955, she provided search and rescue assistance to the citizens of Puerto Rico after a destructive hurricane. In April 1956 she sailed with DesDiv 221 via Northern Europe for the Middle East to operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf. During the Suez crisis she transited the Canal to demonstrate American interest in a peaceful solution of the crisis. Returning to Norfolk in October, she again deployed to the Mediterranean 28 February 1957 to support the 6th Fleet as guardian of peace in the Middle East; then she returned to Norfolk 7 May. On 3 September she sailed to the North Atlantic for the NATO Operation "Strikeback"; after coastal operations for 8 months, she deployed 6 June 1958, on a midshipman cruise to northern Europe. Following fleet and NATO operations, she returned to Norfolk 4 August.
James C. Owens deployed on her fifth cruise to the Mediterranean and Middle East 7 August 1959. She ranged the Mediterranean from Italy to Lebanon and transited Suez 14 October for 2 months of patrol and convoy escort exercises in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. Returning to the Mediterranean 15 December, she operated with the 6th Fleet for 2 months; then sailed for Norfolk, arriving 3 March 1960. During September she joined NATO forces in the North Atlantic for Operation "Swordthrust," which stressed both offensive and defensive naval tactics of atomic warfare. In November she steamed to the Caribbean and patrolled the coasts of Nicaragua and Guatamala to intercept Cuban arms bound for Castro-oriented rebels. Retiring to Norfolk 20 December, she departed for the Mediterranean 2 February 1961. Before returning to Norfolk 20 August, she operated with the 6th Fleet from Spain to Greece.
After joining the ASW Defense Force 25 September, James C. Owens steamed to Charleston 11 January 1962, for an 8-month FRAM II overhaul that readied her for a new and vital role in the modern Navy. She resumed operations on 19 December with surveillance patrols off the Cuban coast, then returned to Charleston 4 January 1963, for fleet exercises. Departing 6 August with DesDiv 42 for the Mediterranean again she conducted ASW operations with the 6th Fleet from France to Cyprus. Returning to the United States 23 December, she recived DASH facilities at Norfolk during February 1964. She continued her ASW operations during a midshipman cruise to the Mediterranean 11 June-3 September. During the remainder of 1964, James C. Owens maintained her peak efficiency and readiness in coastal operations with nuclear submarines.
The ship departed Charleston, S.C., 17 February 1965 for a Mediterranean cruise, and carried out advanced antisubmarine operations during her deployment.
After her returning to Charleston 12 July, she was designated a recovery ship for the Gemini V orbital space mission. With the mission successfully completed, the ship returned to her home port 13 September. On 2 November she entered the Charleston Naval Shipyard for extended overhaul.
In March 1966 James C. Owens was back on the line at Guantanamo Bay. While there she rendered assistance to burning cruise ship, Viking Princess. After returning to Charleston for a brief visit, James C. Owens embarked midshipmen for their annual at-sea training. In late August she was assigned as the close-in recovery ship for the second in a series of Apollo unmanned space launches. In September the destroyer was deployed with the 6th Fleet; and, while operating in the Aegean Sea, she was ordered to the scene of sinking Greek ferry Heraklion, where she helped rescue the crew. James C. Owens returned to Charleston 31 January 1967. She remains a very active part of the Atlantic Fleet.
James C. Owens received two battle stars for World War II service and two for the Korean conflict.