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Leonard F. Mason (DD-852)

(DD-852: dp. 2,425; l. 390'6"; b. 41'1"; dr. 18-; s. 34.5 k.; cpl. 367; a. 3 5", 12 40mm., 10 20mm., 2 dct., 6 dcp.; cl. Gearing)

Leonard Foster Mason, born Middleboro, Ky., 22 February 1920, enlisted in the Marine Corps in April 1943. Promoted to private first class in March 1943, Mason was sent to the Pacific war zone in October.

During the landing on Guam 22 July 1944, two enemy machineguns opened fire on Mason's platoon. Although mortally wounded, Mason cleared out the hostile position, acting on his own initiative. His heroic act in the face of almost certain death enabled his platoon to accomplish its mission. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Leonard F. Mason (DD-852) was laid down 2 May 1945 by the Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Mass.; launched 4 January 1946; sponsored by Mrs. Hillary Mason, mother of Private First Class Mason; and commissioned 28 June 1946, Comdr. S. D. B. Merrill in command.

Following shakedown in the Caribbean, the new destroyer joined DesDiv 32 in the Pacific 22 January 1947. From 1947 to 1950, the ship completed two cruises in the western Pacific, as well as stateside operations. During the early stages of the Korean war, Leonard F. Mason steamed for the Pacific 13 November 1950 and joined in antisubmarine exercises. On 16 May she joined TF 85 at the siege of Wonsan to fire in the continuous shore bombardment which inflicted heavy damage on enemy bridges, tunnels, and troop concentrations. Departing Wonsan 23 July, she steamed for San Diego, arriving 8 August 1951.

After overhaul, the ship sailed 23 February 1952 for the Orient, and again operated in Wonsan Harbor and along the eastern coast of Korea. Departing Yokosuka 13 September, she arrived Long Beach 27 September and remained there until 16 May 1953 when she again steamed for the Far East. Arriving in Korean waters 9 June, Leonard F. Mason joined TG 70.1 for escort and bombardment action with mighty battleship New Jersey off Wonsan and in the Yellow Sea.

After the close of Korean hostilities, she departed Yokosuka 20 November for Long Beach, arrived 8 December, and readied herself for peacetime duty. Between 1954 and 1960 Leonard F. Mason made three more WestPac cruises, providing an element of security in the turbulent Far East. During the Suez crisis of November 1956 she sailed with fast carrier TF 11 on guard against any spread of trouble to the Far East.

From May 1960 to May 1962, Leonard L. Mason was homeported at Yokosuka for antisubmarine patrols and other peacekeeping missions. During 1963 she underwent FRAM I conversion at Boston. Naval Shipyard, then returned by way of the west coast to Yokosuka 21 July 1964. For the next 2 years, she operated with various task groups of the 7th Fleet, conducting gunflre support missions off the coast of Vietnam, patrolling in the Taiwan Straits, and serving in the Gemini Recovery Force. Long experience and training paid off 17 March 1966 when Gemini VIII splashed down southeast of Okinawa. Leonard F. Mason had Astronauts Maj. David Scott, USAF, and Mr. Neil Armstrong and their capsule aboard within 3 hours and was headed for Okinawa, where her distinguished passengers and cargo were offloaded the next day.

Leonard F. Mason then returned to gunfire support chores off Vietnam until June. With an overhaul projected, her home port changed to Long Beach, Calif. She departed Yokosuka 17 June and arrived at the west coast 2 July. The remainder of the year was spent in diverse operations off the California coast, with a trip to Alcapulco in November.

On 5 January 1967 the destroyer entered San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, for overhaul. She returned to Long Beach in May, then resumed local operations, including 6 weeks of refresher training. On 19 September she departed for WestPac, where she conducted plane guard duty on Yankee Station and naval gunfire support, until sailing for home, arriving Long Beach 12 March. Her stay was not long, however, for she left once again for the Far East at the end of July. Yokosuka again became her homeport 19 August 1968, and she continued to operate with the 7th Fleet, ranging from Japan to the South China Sea into 1969.

Leonard F. Mason received three battle stars for Korean service.

Published: Wed Jul 29 02:27:57 EDT 2015