Port Royal (CG-73) commemorates battles of the American Revolution and the Civil War. South Carolina Colonel William Moultrie led Continental troops and militia that defeated a British force, led by Major William Gardner, which attempted to capture Port Royal Island, on 3 February 1779. The battle otherwise proved inconclusive. During the second Battle of Port Royal, Union Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont, Commander South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, led an expedition that seized Port Royal Sound from Confederate Brigadier General Thomas F. Drayton, Commander Third Military District (South Carolina), on 7 November 1861. Du Pont’s victory enabled the Union to base ships in the area, expanding its naval blockade of the Confederacy, especially Charleston, South Carolina. The first U.S. Navy ship named for the American Revolution battle and the second named for the Civil War battle. The first Port Royal, a side wide gunboat, served from 1862-1866.
(CG-73: displacement 9,600; length 567'; beam 55'; draft 33'; speed 30+ knots; complement 363; armament 2 5-inch, 2 Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems (VLS) for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66 SM-2MR Standards, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, 8 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile canister launchers, 2 Mk 15 Close In Weapon System (CIWS), 4 .50 caliber machine guns, and 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes, aircraft 2 Sikorsky SH-60B Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mk III Seahawks; class Ticonderoga)
The second Port Royal (CG-73) was assigned hull number CG-69 on 9 May 1989, but that number was reassigned to guided missile cruiser Vicksburg and CG-73 to Port Royal on 8 December 1989; was laid down on 20 November 1991 at Pascagoula, Miss., by Ingalls Shipbuilding Division, Litton Industries; launched on 20 November 1992; sponsored by Mrs. Susan G. Baker, wife of James A. Baker III, Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor to the President of the United States; and commissioned at Savannah, Ga., on 9 July 1994, Capt. Nicholas L. Richards in command.
Heavy seas, with swells reaching eight feet and strong winds, damaged Pacific Laurel, a 110-foot fishing boat, and she took on water and issued a distress call while sailing about 126 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii, on 4 August 2006. The Coast Guard dispatched a Lockheed HC-130H Hercules that coordinated the rescue efforts. Port Royal returned with Expeditionary Strike Group 5 from a deployment to the Western Pacific when the Coast Guard notified the group of the fishing vessel’s plight. Amphibious assault ship Peleliu (LHA-5) and Port Royal changed course and sailed 105 nautical miles to the scene. Meanwhile, Peleliu launched a Sikorsky MH-60S of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 Detachment 3, which flew ahead and lowered a radio to Pacific Laurel, but the Seahawk’s hoist jammed, compelling Peleliu to launch a second Seahawk, which battled the foul weather and at 2347 lifted two of the five crewmembers to safety. Another helo hoisted two more of the castaways aloft at 0835 the following morning, but the vessels’ master elected to stay with the boat and keep her afloat. Peleliu and Port Royal disembarked the four survivors at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hi., on 6 August, and Coast Guard coastal patrol boat Ahi (WPB-87364) escorted Pacific Laurel to a Hawaiian port.
Five Iranian speedboats, likely operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran Revolutionary Guard Navy (IRGCN), dangerously closed Port Royal, guided missile destroyer Hopper (DDG-70), and guided missile frigate Ingraham (FFG-61) as they sailed through the Strait of Hormuz into the Arabian Gulf, on 6 January 2008. The Iranians split up into two groups in an apparent attempt to flank the U.S. ships. Three of the speedboats hovered ominously while the other two boats crossed Hopper’s bow and passed down her port side at about 200 yards, came about, and plunged toward the destroyer a second time at high speed. The Americans blared horns and whistles and radioed the revolutionaries: “You are straying into danger.” Captain David B. Adler, the cruiser’s commanding officer, observed that one of the Iranian boats appeared to have a weapon mount though “it was just too far away to tell.”
The IRGCN dropped white box-like objects into the water, and as they closed the Americans prepared to fire, but the Iranians came bout. The ships continued and did not retrieve the boxes for identification. Some officers suspected the Iranians of practicing mining the strategic waterway. “Mining in international waters is an act of war,” Rear Adm. R. Guy Zeller, who had commanded the Enterprise (CVN-65) Carrier Battle Group during Operation Praying Mantis, strikes against the Iranians on 18 April 1988 in retaliation for the mining of guided missile frigate Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58), observed. “Somebody would have to do something about it, and that somebody would be the United States.”
Port Royal ran aground a half-mile off Honolulu International Airport’s Reef Runway on 5 February 2009. The grounding damaged her propeller blades, sonar dome, and underwater hull. The ship floated clear on 9 February, and later completed repairs in drydock at Pearl Harbor.
Detailed history under construction.
Mark L. Evans
3 October 2014