III

USS DOUGLAS H. FOX, DD 779

The Ship and Her History

         


The DOUGLAS H. FOX was built at Todd Shipyard in Seattle, Washington. She was launched 30 September 1944 and commissioned (see photo's 036 and 048) the day after Christmas 1944. The ship carries the name of Lieutenant Commander DOUGLAS H. FOX, USN, winner of two Navy Crosses for heroism, who lost his life in enemy action at Guadalcanal while commanding the destroyer USS BARTON in 1942. Following an intensive period of test runs and specialized training for the crew, the USS DOUGLAS H. FOX reached the forward area in time to take part in the Battle of Okinawa, being assigned to the radar picket lines. She was successful in repelling a number of Kamikaze attacks while on this duty until the evening of 17 May 1945, when after five enemy planes were shot down a sixth crashed between the forward mounts and exploded its 220 pound bomb. Minutes later a second plane parted a lifeline on the fantail and covered the entire area with gasoline before crashing close aboard. Damage to the ship was extensive and casualties were ten killed and nineteen wounded. However, she managed to make her way to the Kerama Retto anchorage for temporary repairs and then returned to the United States. The personal and eye-witness account of Chief Yeoman Miles Lewis as distributed to all hands by the Fox's Commanding Officer, Ray M. Pitts, USN, shortly after the attack, is attached. Also attached is the after-action report prepared and submitted by Commander Pitts on 24 May 1945, along with Photo 203 showing the damage incurred at Mounts I and II. Lastly there is a narrative prepared by Lt. JG. James A. Fleming (see Photo 099) giving his recollections from this period. Repairs and armament modifications were completed in San Francisco on 28 August 1945 after which the ship sailed first to San Diego and then to New York arriving on 17 October 1945 (see photo 014) in time to participate in the war-ending Navy Day celebration.

From 1945 to 1950 the USS DOUGLAS H. FOX performed routine duties with the Fleet. During that time she visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in February 1946 and later in the year Valparaiso, Chile and Lima, Peru in the company of the Battleship Wisconsin and the Aircraft Carrier Leyte. A brief account of this cruise with Photos 003, 004 and 005, is attached. This was followed by a cruise to the Mediterranean where on 27 September 1947, while en-route from Venice (see Photo 112) to Trieste, the FOX struck an underwater mine left over from World War II and was severely damaged. As a result of this accident three crew members lost their lives and ten were wounded. After minor repairs in Venice, with a skeleton crew aboard she was towed to Boston for further overhaul and repairs. Photo's 109, 110 and 111, which show the damage incurred, are included. On 6 July 1949 while en-route from Guantanamo Bay to Panama the Fox was struck on her portside by the USS Willard Keith resulting in loss of the whaleboat and minor damage amidships. On 21 April 1950 the Fox was decommissioned and placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Charleston, SC.

Following the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, on November 15, 1950 the DOUGLAS H. FOX was recommissioned at Charleston and for the next year under the command of Cdr. H. A. Adams, Jr., operated with the Atlantic Fleet. On 22 January 1952 under the command of Cdr. J.A. Dare, she departed on a "round-the world" cruise which included three months with U.S. Seventh Fleet in Korean waters. Assigned to Task Force 77 she participated in the bombardment of Wonson on 13 March 1952, and later in the month joined the Manchester (CL 83) in conducting harassing fire against enemy troops on the east coast. In May she began independent operations (see photo 049), shelling targets, supporting minesweeping operations, and capturing 26 fishing sampans. She also participated in shore bombardment exercises and made a number of commando-type raids on enemy shore installations. Photo 102 shows Lt.jg Bill Doran and six raiding party members. During this period approximately 8,500 rounds of 5" ammunition (see photo 046 were expended, while receiving about 200 rounds of counter-battery fire. On May 15 while exchanging fire with shore gun positions off Mayan-do, the FOX was hit by a round which although causing negligible damage to the ship injured Seamen Green, Rhon, and Nelson, for which each was awarded the Purple Heart. For their performance during this period a total of seven Bronze Star medals were awarded to the Captain and other members of the crew. Excerpts from a booklet prepared by Ens. Stoessel covering these activities, are included. On 21 June the Fox departed Yokosuka and sailed west through the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean (see Photo 042), completing the world cruise at Norfolk on 19 August 1952. After operating in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, she entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a four-month conversion and overhaul period. In October 1952 the Fox took aboard a photographer from Look magazine who was treated to a torpedo run during which he caught the unique photo of all main batteries firing simultaneously, which is displayed on our cover page. See the story in Section IX submitted by Don Engbert and Don Stone for a vivid account of how this photo-shoot was accomplished.

In February 1954, under the command of Cdr. John A. Sharpe, the FOX began a second world cruise, which included passage through the Suez Canal, three months operation in Japan and Korea, and the return to Norfolk on 16 August 1954, after stops in Midway, Pearl Harbor,, and San Francisco. A summary of these activities as compiled by Jack Baylor RMSM is attached. Since returning from the 1954 world cruise, the DOUGLAS H. FOX has been deployed six times with the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to these commitments, the ship participated in several large NATO exercises and cruises. Other duties included Midshipman Training Cruises, Anti-Submarine Warfare operations, and air-defense exercises as well as patrol duty off the coast of Guatemala in the fall of 1960.

In 1961 the Fox spent time in Libya with a stop in Tobruk which extended from May 22 through May 25. The USS Mitschner was also anchored in the harbor at the time. As a gesture of goodwill during their visit the crew put together a playground for the local school, and there were also several visits by both enlisted men and officers to the RAF base at El Adem. A unique event occured during that period which triggered a happening in 1969 eight years later, which culminated in a contact from the UK in 2003 (see photo 042), as recorded in the story of the Fox Plaque found in Tobruk harbor, which can be found in Section XIa.

After completing a 1961 Mediterranean Sea deployment, the Fox participated in ASW exercises and patrols through March 1962. At that time the ship went into the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a FRAM II (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) conversion. Included in the changes were updated torpedo mounts, and a Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) and Variable-Depth Sonar (VDS) system (see Photo 122). In November 1962, the DOUGLAS H. FOX departed from the yard with this increased ASW capability, more modern and comfortable quarters, and a longer life expectancy with the United States Navy.

In December of 1962 the DOUGLAS H. FOX reported to the Fleet Training Group, Guantanamo Bay. Cuba for refresher training and base defense. Personal recollection and photo's (031, 034 035, 132, 134 and 137), showing life aboard the Fox during the 1960's are included in Section XIa. In February and March 1963 the ship took part in Operation Springboard - 63, an extensive training cruise in the Caribbean Sea area, after which she resumed her ASW ready duties with the Atlantic Fleet. Early July 1964 found the DOUGLAS H. FOX deployed to the Mediterranean (Photo 030 shows the Fox refuelling while underway), returning November. After a leave and upkeep period, over the holidays, DOUGLAS H. FOX took part in Operation Springboard - 65, after which she resumed her ASW duties with Task Group Four.

Summer 1965 found DOUGLAS H. FOX deployed to the Mediterranean and Middle East, where she conducted ASW operations with H.M. Royal Navy and then participated in contingency operations off the coast of Pakistan. During this period DOUGLAS H. FOX was the proud recipient of the Atlantic Fleet ASW Award for her consistent success in the art of anti-submarine warfare. From November 1965 to April 1966 DOUGLAS H. FOX was in Norfolk Naval Shipyard undergoing overhaul.

July 1966 she returned to the Mediterranean. The most unusual event of this tour was a visit to Safi, Morocco. The DOUGLAS H. FOX was the first American warship to visit Safi in seventeen years. DOUGLAS H. FOX returned to Norfolk 17 December 1966, for a holiday season at home. 1967 provided a variety of interesting assignments, working with the Second Fleet. The major emphasis was on anti-submarine warfare. Many days of ASW were spent in areas just east of Cape Hatteras, where it was found that the Cape justly deserves its reputation for foul weather. Two trips to Florida were made. The first in March, involved DOUGLAS H. FOX in an impressive demonstration of ASW techniques for the National Security Industrial Association. There was also a visit to Miami. Also, in the 1966 - 68 period the Fox was home to Bill Cosby Sr. (See photo 041), which was documented in 2008 by a crew member who knew him at the time and recorded this vignette of Fox history.

In May FOX operated with 55 ships from four countries in FIZWEZ SUNRISE, and paid a visit to New York City. In June a NATO exercise NEWLOOK, took the ship to the North Atlantic for ten days of highly competitive ASW operations with the Canadian Navy. The second Florida trip involved two weeks of operations out of Key West as a school ship for the Fleet Sonar School, with a call at Fort Lauderdale on the way back to Norfolk. While in Key West, DOUGLAS H. FOX participated in that city's celebration of the Fourth of July. Moored at Old Mallory Square, DOUGLAS H. FOX held open house, attracting 2,500 visitors. Many dependant's got a taste of destroyer life on the 27th of July Dependant's Cruise. Even then preparations were underway for DOUGLAS H. FOX's next deployment which commenced on 1 September 1967 when the Fox in company with USS LAFFEY (DD-724), USS WOOD (DD-715), USS WALLER (DD-466) and USS MISSISSINEWA (AO-144), left Norfolk to begin a five month deployment with the U. S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.

In September 1968, 323 miles southeast of Charleston, SC, while enroute for a return visit to Vietnam, a fire broke out in the aft fireroom. Three seamen were killed and five others were injured. The fire was brought under control and the ship returned to port under her own power. Newspaper accounts of the fire along with a first-hand account given by John Hobbs who was aboard at that time are included in this section. After extensive repairs were completed at Charleston Naval Shipyard, the Fox departed again for Vietnam arriving in February 1969. From February to September she operated in the Vietnam area on a variety of assignments which included plane-guarding in the Tonkin Gulf, and harassment and interdiction fire on a regular basis. She also operated independently providing close-in gunfire support to troops on numerous occasions.

After 29 years of service which included action in three wars, on 15 December 1973 the USS DOUGLAS H. FOX, DD 779 while under the command of LCDR. Kelley was given orders to proceed to the Navy Yard at Philadelphia where its days as a commissioned warship of the United States Navy came to an end (as remembered by Captain George Pillow in his message of September 29, 2004 included at the end of Section III). After being decommissioned in Philadelphia the Fox was sold to Chile for further naval service. Under a different flag and with a new name the Destroyer Ministro Portales, (DD 17) served its new country for another 22 years. And then in 1995, there was another below-deck explosion in the after engine room which brought this unique ship's career to an end. With its intentional sinking by friendly fire in the blue Pacific shortly thereafter, it joined those of its crew who had brought it to life and performed so magnificently with it many years earlier.

    Note: We are indebted to Howard Longstreth, who served aboard the Fox from 1966 to 1968, for the first Ship's History published on this website. We are also indebted to many others who have provided accounts and stories included in this expanded history, including Andy Wilde, 1952-54, Jim "Gun Boss" Davis, Gordy Earl, Jim Fleming, Ken Johnson, and Connie (XO) Carlson, all aboard during the Kamikaze attack in 1945, Shelby Martin from the Korean War era, and John Hobbs a Vietnam veteran. Their sources of information included " U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History" Naval Institute Press, Annapolis 1982. Others who have had and continue to have an active and deeply personal interest in the Douglas H. Fox, its history and its crew, are William "Bill" Sims, 1950-53, Cdr. USNR (Ret.), Commanding Officer of USS Douglas H. Fox Association, and Tom "Windy" Sherman, RMSN, 1951-53, Executive Officer of the Association, Whitey Gieseking, BT2, 1947-50, Ted Sypolt, S2c, 1944-46, Norm Handley S2c, 1944-46, Clyde Welsh, S1c, 1944-46, Bob Guimarin, 1950-51 and Ben Tisa, IC2, 1962-64 who provided most of the photographs which are included. Compiled and edited by Bill Oliver, 1946-47, in December 2002 and continued through 2009, with sincere apologies for any errors or omissions which might be present.


USS DOUGLAS H. FOX DD-779
COMMANDING OFFICERS



Cdr. Pitts, R. M.		1944-1945		- Commissioning
Cdr. Travis, C. W.		1945-1947	
Cdr. Brown, J. H.		1947-1949	
Lt. Cdr. Lewis, F. A.	1949-1950	
Cdr. Adams, Jr., H. A.	1950-1952	 	- Recommissioning
Cdr. Dare, J. A.		1952-1953	
Cdr. Sharpe, J. A.		1953-1955	
Cdr. Mandel, H. I.		1955-1956	
Cdr. Jennings, D. H.	1956-1958	
Cdr. Rowe, R. A.		1958-1959	
Cdr. McConnell, L. E.	1959-1960	
Cdr. Doak, J. J.		1960-1961	
Cdr. Heiler, F. J.		1961-1963	
Cdr. Vallely, J. R.		1963-1965	
Cdr. Horn, F. R.		1965-1967	
Cdr. Aston, W. J.		1967-1969	
Cdr. Wilson, J. L.		1969-1970	
Cdr. Deaton, P.	        1970-1971
Cdr. Pillow, G. E.		1971-1973	
Lt. Cdr. Kelley, J. F.  1973-1973	 	- Decommissioning  


The Fox Decommissioning, December 15, 1973

Message From George Pillow, Capt. USN (Retired)
September 29,2004

Forgive me for intruding on this conversation, but I would like to set the record straight on the question under discussion. I was the last O-5 commanding officer of the Douglas H. Fox and was on board when she was tied to the pier in Philadelphia for the last time. Since I had orders to the Naval War College and had to leave, COMDESRON 30 authorized me to turn over command to my Executive Officer, LCDR Joe Kelly, which I did on August 24th 1973.

Just prior to that we had been tasked with helping train some Iranian officers and enlisted personnel who were at the shipyard to pick up two decommissioned USN destroyers and take them back to Iran (which was then still friendly). We took these officers and men to sea several times because the destroyers they were buying from the USA were not ready for sea. In the meantime, we had been informed that the Fox would be decommissioned and sold to Chile.

A couple of months after turning command over to LCDR Joe Kelly, I returned to Philadelphia to attend the actual decommissioning ceremony ... a sad occasion. As I left, I took the actual commissioning sword of LCDR Douglas H. Fox off the wardroom bulkhead. I was concerned that the sword would end up in a flea market somewhere, so after attempting, unsuccessfully, to locate surviving members of LCDR Fox's family, I presented it to the USS Douglas H. Fox Association when they assembled in Virginia Beach a few years ago.

Great memories of bygone days!

George Pillow
Captain, USN, Ret.




  1. Index
  2. Dedication to LCDR Douglas H. Fox and the USS Barton (DD 599)
  3. History, USS Douglas H. Fox DD-779
  4. Commissioning Order December 26, 1944
  5. Kamikaze Attack, May 17, 1945
  6. Cmdr. Pitt's After-Action Report May 24, 1945
  7. Post War Activities 1946-47
  8. Mine Hit Off Triest 1947
  9. Korean War Action And Other Events 1952-1953
  10. World Cruise - 1954
  11. a) Activities During the 1960's
    b) Boiler-room Fire 1968
  12. James E. Williams, BM3c Medal of Honor Winner

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