History of the USS Edson - DD946


The keel for the Forrest Sherman class destroyer USS EDSON (DD-946) was laid at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine on 3  December 1956. EDSON is one of the relatively few ships of the U.S. Navy named for a United States Marine,in this case Colonel (later Major General) Merritt Austin Edson, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism defending the U.S. airfield on Guadalcanal against a fanatical Japanese attack. Colonel Edson was Commanding Officer of the First Marine Raider Battalion.

A little over a year after the keel was laid, EDSON was launched on 4 January 1958 by General Edson's widow, who broke the traditional bottle of champagne over the ships bow. EDSON's final fitting out and sea trials occupied the next ten months, and on 7 November 1958 EDSON was officially placed in commission under the command of CDR Thomas J. MORIARTY, USN. She then sailed in early 1959 to the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal to reach her new homeport of Long Beach, California on 2 March 1959.

For the next two decades EDSON served as a valuable member of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, earning a reputation as a Top Gun ship and the nickname, The Destroyers . Her ship's crest was the skull from the original emblem of General Edson's 1st Marine Raider Battalion. CDR MORIARITY was relieved as Commanding Officer by CDR C. B. COLLINS, Jr., USN, in November of 1959.


EDSON departed on 5 January 1960 on her first deployment to the Western Pacific. During the deployment she participated in Operation BLUE STAR, a large-scale search and rescue mission involving 70 ships, which eventually located 7 Marines who had been blown out to sea in a rubber raft while attempting a reconnaissance landing. While serving as plane guard for USS RANGER (CVA-61), EDSON successfully rescued three crewmembers of one of the carrier's downed A - 3D aircraft. EDSON was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for her participation in the QUEMON and MATSU Island operations in March 1960. She returned to Long Beach in May 1960.

In July of 1960 EDSON commenced her first major shipyard overhaul. After the overhaul and her post-yard shakedown cruise, EDSON was ready for local operations in February 1961. In June of 1961 EDSON, together with the other ships of DESDIV 231, sailed to Portland, Oregon to represent the U.S. Navy at the annual Rose Festival. Thirty thousand Portland residents visited EDSON over a five-day period.


CDR COLLINS was relieved by CDR M. J. CARPENTER, USN as Commanding Officer on 4 August 1961. On 11 August 1961, EDSON sailed from Long Beach harbor to start her second WESTPAC deployment. She spent three months in operations with the attack carriers USS RANGER and USS TICONDEROGA and spent the month of December patrolling the straits between Taiwan and the mainland of Communist China. In January 1962, while en route from Kaoshiung, Taiwan to Yokosuka, Japan, EDSON was unexpectedly called upon to render emergency aid to a seriously wounded seaman aboard the Danish steamer MARGIT. In heavy seas, assistance personnel and medical supplies were high-lined to the civilian merchant vessel.

Returning to Long Beach on 10 February 1962, EDSON soon resumed a normal EASTPAC destroyer schedule of operations until November 1962 at which time she entered the U.S. Naval Shipyard, Long Beach for regular overhaul. This period lasted until February 1963. Upon leaving the shipyard, EDSON proceeded to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where she exercised in underway training. During the beginning of the training cycle on 17 March 1963, CDR J. J. HERRICK relieved CDR CARPENTER as Commanding Officer. Upon returning to Long Beach, EDSON became a unit of Destroyer Squadron 13.

On 8 June 1963, EDSON departed Long Beach for the first leg of a six-week cruise to Seattle, Washington and Alaska. She arrived in Seattle and spent two weeks conducting sonar trials in Carr Inlet and visiting the city. After a very warm farewell, EDSON departed the Pacific Northwest bound for Alaska. Arriving in Hanes, Alaska on 27 June 1963, EDSON was just in time to take part in the very colorful Strawberry Festiva1. She visited Skagway where the crew participated in a train trip to the famous Yukon Trail of 1898. From Skagway, EDSON proceeded to Juneau where she spent the 4th of July. Edson's last port of call was in Ketchikan before returning to Long Beach in August. In October EDSON embarked one hundred thirty relatives and guests of crewmembers for a dependents cruise off the southern California coast.


On Friday, 13 March 1964, EDSON departed for her third WESTPAC deployment. After the transit, EDSON began duties with the Taiwan Patrol Force, CTF 72. On 27 April 1964, CDR K. G. HAYNES relieved CDR J. J. HERRICK as Commanding Officer. The end of May and the months of June and July 1964 were filled with carrier operations, Gunfire Support Training in the Philippines, and operation LICTAS, a joint SEATO operation off the coast of the Philippines. August found EDSON in the Gulf of Tonkin on special operations. It was here she was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for exceptionally meritorious service in support of operations in the Gulf of Tonkin during the period 2 - 5 August 1964. EDSON participated in successful air strike counterattack operations against the North Vietnamese Torpedo boats and supporting facilities, while serving with T.G. 77.5. On 13 September, after support roles with amphibious operations off the South Vietnamese Coast, EDSON departed for the United States. She arrived at her homeport of Long Beach on 2 October 1964. In May 1965, EDSON entertained over 250 dependents on a local area dependents' day cruise. First Fleet Exercise RAGWEEK was conducted on 1-7 October 1965 with EDSON participating and working with USS KITTY HAWK.


On 15 October 1965, EDSON departed for her fourth WESTPAC cruise in company with KITTY HAWK, and commenced Naval Gunfire Operations off the South Vietnamese Coast on 25 November 1965. As a member of CTU 70.8.9, EDSON spent a two-week period at gunfire support and it was here on 28 November 1965 that she first fired her guns in anger. EDSON's 5/54 cal. main battery soon became noted as a very accurate "long gun". On 10 February 1966, Cdr. J. J. VERMILYA relieved Cdr. K. C. HAYNES as Commanding Officer. Most of the remaining time of this fourth deployment was spent with the carrier USS HANCOCK as a member of CTC 77.3. On 19 February 1966, however, EDSON had the distinction of being perhaps the first ship assigned to escort a truck convoy when she escorted elements of the THIRD MARDIV from Da Nang to the vicinity of Hue. Other short periods were spent in SAR operations in the Gulf of Tonkin. EDSON was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal and National Defense Medal for her operations in the Vietnam combat zone.

On 28 April 1966, EDSON entered Long Beach to begin a leave and upkeep period. On 20 June, EDSON families and friends enjoyed a dependents cruise to Avalon Bay, Santa Catalina Island. Underway on 5 July, EDSON proceeded to San Francisco for regular overhaul. A rigorous Refresher Training period at San Diego commenced on 12 November and lasted until 23 December. EDSON greeted New Year 1967 by participating in Fleet Exercise SNATCHELOCK, the final preparation for her next WESTPAC deployment. Upon returning from this exercise, EDSON was formally adopted by the Ontario-Upland Council of the Navy League of the United States.


On 26 January 1967, EDSON departed for her fifth WESTPAC deployment. EDSONs first mission was the bombardment of enemy supply depots on the coast of North Vietnam as a unit of SEA DRAGON operations. This action set the tempo for the rest of EDSONs deployment. The Commanding Officer, Cdr. J. J. VERMILYA, was awarded the Bronze Star for the heroism and professionalism that he displayed during these engagements.

EDSON HIT BY NORTH VIETNAMESE SHORE FIRE - 1967 - Photo and Story  Submitted by: Wayne Sporman,  US Navy Ret., Summerville, SC - spormanw@bellsouth.net

 I served on The Grey Ghost of the Vietnamese Coast from 1965 to 1968. NJRE was EDSON's radio call sign, and Fairbanks was the ship’s radio voice handle. The direct hit to the foremast causing battle damage occurred during my 2nd deployment in 1967. The enemy was using a 73mm Soviet-made half-track mobile gun on shore. EDSON was providing NGFS at a position 1 or 2 miles away from the Viet Nam beach, near the DMZ. The incoming round that caused most of the damage exploded above the forward director and severed the port 'A' frame brace and all of the cables to everything electronic on the forward mast. Everything up there looked like Swiss cheese. One piece of shrapnel was found in the Commodore’s pillow and another in the bedsprings. The Flag was shot down.  It was quickly hoisted up onto the yardarm. The time of day was during the evening meal - hot dogs were being served. DesRon 13 staff was on board - Capt Kay if my memory serves me. The next day Radio Hanoi broadcast that EDSON was sunk with no survivors. We were poking each other and ourselves to make sure that we were alive!  The next day USS BIGELOW (DD-942) relieved us on station. EDSON then proceeded on to Subic Bay’s SRF and was put into a floating dry dock to check for underwater damage, as there were rounds of incoming that exploded underwater and close to the forward area. In fact, the entire ship was wet with salt water, while the weather was fair and the seas were less than one foot. There were a number of rounds that were fired upon EDSON.  They straddled our wake as we zigzagged our way out from there.

Other photos from Wayne Sporman follow.  Click on any thumbnail photo to enlarge it.

Sporman - Edson mast battle damage.jpg (27550 bytes)  EDSON's mast after the shelling.

Sporman - Edson quarterdeck area.jpg (54817 bytes)  EDSON quarterdeck area.

Sporman - Edson dry docked.jpg (51373 bytes)  EDSON in drydock.

Sporman - All Hands Cartoon.jpg (91682 bytes)  Wayne's favorite All Hands cartoon.


On 25 March 1968, EDSON departed once again for duty with the U.S. SEVENTH Fleet in the Western Pacific. On 31 March 1968 Cdr. VERMILYA was relieved by Cdr. J. S. HOLMES as Commanding Officer. With most of this sixth deployment being spent along the coast of Vietnam, it proved to be a most demanding and successful WESTPAC deployment. EDSONs primary assignment was to provide Naval Gunfire Support for Allied Forces ashore in the I Corps area. By the time EDSON made her final departure of the deployment from the Vietnamese coast, she had fired over 23,000 rounds on targets in both North and South Vietnam, rescued a downed South Vietnamese Air Force pilot, been named the Top GUN Destroyer in South Vietnam by the Naval Gunfire Spotters of the First Anglico Company, Fleet Marine Force, and was awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation for her actions. During her last period on the gun line, EDSON was again taken under fire by North Vietnamese artillery but sustained only minor damage.


On 18 March 1970 EDSON again departed her homeport for another six-month deployment to the Western Pacific as a unit of the United States SEVENTH Fleet. During the first part of this cruise, EDSON was assigned as plane guard for several attack carriers including USS SHANGRI-LA (CVA-38). On 21 April 1970, EDSON was honored by a visit from RADM D. C. PLATE, USN, Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Force, U. S. Pacific Fleet. Admiral PLATE was transferred to EDSON by helicopter from SHANGRI-LA, had breakfast with EDSONs officers, and then toured the ship.

EDSON also conducted special surveillance operations off the coast of Cambodia from 27 April 1970 to 17 May 1970. Her primary duties, however, during this cruise consisted of providing naval gunfire support along the entire coast of Vietnam from the DMZ (the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Vietnam) to the Gulf of Thailand. Arriving in Kaoshiung, Taiwan for the first liberty visit of the deployment on 30 June 1970, EDSON was forced to make an emergency sortie the next day because of the proximity of Typhoon Olga. She returned to the gunline in the II Corps area for the second and final gunline period of the deployment.

On the morning of 25 July 1970 while moored at the U.S. Naval Station Subic Bay, EDSON crewmembers witnessed the crash of an E-1B Tracker aircraft about 500 yards from the ship. EDSONs alert gig crew quickly responded and rescued the two uninjured pilots of the downed aircraft within minutes. On 13 August EDSON departed Kaoshiung for a patrol of the Taiwan Straits while en route to Yokosuka, Japan. She arrived in Yokosuka on 16 August and made preparations for the homeward transit. In company with USS LOFBERG (DD-759), EDSON departed Yokosuka on 19 August, refueled at Midway Island and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and finally returned to her homeport of Long Beach, California on 3 September 1970.

During this seventh deployment, EDSON steamed over 48,500 nautical miles, fired over 5,400 rounds of 5¯/54 cal. ammunition, conducted 130 gunfire support missions, and was at sea for 133 out of 169 days. She was awarded "E"'s for excellence in all departments and the ASW excellence 'A'.


EDSON departed Long Beach on 6 April 1971 under the command of Timothy Mac. WALLACE, USN bound for Subic Bay in the Philippines. As the flagship for Destroyer Squadron 35, EDSON was host during this deployment to Commodore Creighton D. LILLY, USN, and his staff. After brief stops in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Midway Island, and Guam, she crossed the International Date Line on 17 April 1971 and on 20 April 1971 in chopped SEVENTH Fleet. Two days of in-port time for maintenance in Subic Bay were followed by goodwill visits to Port Swettanham, Malaysia (port city for the nations capital, Kuala Lumpur) and to Singapore.

On 11 May 1971 EDSON crossed the Equator, and all pollywogs were duly initiated as trusty shellbacks. On 13 May 1971 EDSON was assigned to Task Unit 70.8.9 as a Naval Gunfire Support Destroyer in the IV Corps area of Viet Nam until 23 May 1971 providing naval gunfire support to units of the South Vietnamese Army operating in the vicinity of the U Minh Forest. Following these gunfire duties, EDSON proceeded to Kaoshiung, Taiwan, for a three-day visit.

She then participated in a joint convoy exercise with ships of the British, New Zealand, and Australian navies. After a short three-day upkeep period in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, EDSON assumed duties on 6 June 1971 as screen commander for the escorting destroyers of Task Unit 77.4.2 operating with the USS MIDWAY (CVA-41) as rescue plane guard ship in the Gulf of Tonkin on YANKEE STATION until 9 June 1971. During this time MIDWAY flew numerous combat sorties and then transited to Yokosuka, Japan. In Yokosuka for two weeks, EDSON had her first major upkeep period of the deployment. During this time, some crewmembers took leave and climbed to the summit of Mt. Fuji, Japan's highest mountain.

EDSON re-entered the combat zone in company with MIDWAY on 29 June 1971 and the next day was assigned to Task Unit 70.8.9 as a Naval Gunfire Support Destroyer in the I Corps area until 29 July 1971. During this month, she conducted naval gunfire support missions for South Vietnamese troops operating just south of the DMZ between North and South Vietnam. The effectiveness of EDSONs naval gunfire support received national publicity in many newspapers including The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

Most of August 1971 was spent relaxing after the hard work of July. Eight days were spent enjoying the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong followed by two more weeks of upkeep time in Yokosuka. On 24 August 1971 she was assigned to Task Unit 77.6.2 and operated with the USS ORISKANY (CVA-34) as rescue plane guard ship, escorting the carrier back to the South China Sea.

On 30 August 1971 EDSON again entered the combat zone and the next day rejoined Task Unit 70.8.9 as a Naval Gunfire Support Destroyer in the I Corps area at the DMZ until 15 September 1971. These first two weeks of September were the busiest of the cruise. EDSON fired over 4,500 rounds during this period, averaging an underway replenishment every two days and a rate of fire of one round every five minutes.

Departing the gunline for the last time of this deployment on 15 September 1971, EDSON spent a two-day upkeep period in Subic Bay and then started a five-week transit back to Long Beach. This eleven thousand mile passage home included port visits to Darwin, Cairns, and Brisbane in Australia, Auckland in New Zealand, and brief stops at Suva in the Fiji Islands and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. On 21 September 1971 EDSON crossed the Equator for the second time of this deployment. Any new pollywogs were duly initiated. On 25 September she out chopped SEVENTH Fleet and crossed the International Date Line on 14 October 1971. EDSON returned to Long Beach, California on 24 October 1971 after a cruise of 201 days covering 37,500 nautical miles. She spent 55 of those days on the gunline, firing 8,874 rounds during 1,200 missions.

EDSON is authorized to wear the Vietnam Service Medal for service while operating in the Vietnam area of operations. A bronze star is authorized to be worn on the suspension bar and ribbon for the XIII campaign from 1 May 1970 to a date to be announced.; Crewmembers of the eight deployment are entitled to wear the Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon, the third MUC for EDSON.