USS Turner Joy

The Tonkin Gulf Incident- Personal Memories

We get a lot of Recollections about the "incident" that started the war. The destroyers Maddux and Turner Joy were reported to have been attacked twice by North Vietnamese PT boats on the high seas. We'll print those recollections here for whatever historical significance they may have. Here are a few, hopefully the first of many:
First, you may wish to read The Official Accounts

An Email: From: jerry richardson
Sent: Monday, January 27, 2003 5:36 PM
Subject: USS Rainier

Chris Seger sent me the email that he sent to you about the Rainier site. I am very impressed with what you have done. I have been a registered member of the Rainier club since we went to the reunion in 1992 in Appleton, WI. I have read most of what you have put together on this site and I thought I might add a story that happened to me while on board from 1963-65.
The night that the Maddox was attacked, I was on board and it was extremely hot that evening. I was sleeping on the couch in the wardroom, as it was air-conditioned, when about 3:00am I was awakened with the news that an American destroyer had been attacked and we had to get underway immediately. We sent sailors ashore to round up as many of the crew as we could find and we were underway in about 2-3 hours. I think we only left two men on shore. Quite a feat.
As Chris mentioned in his email to you, I had just relieved him that afternoon as 3rd Division officer (Gunnery). We only had the 4 3" guns and the main job of that division was the ammunition cargo.
We sailed toward the Tonkin Gulf as fast as we could go. Eleven knots if I remember. That evening I had gone to sleep, when around midnight LTjg Peter French, the communications officer, woke me up and told me that we had a top secret message that we had to break. As the Gunnery Officer, I had been cleared for top secret and I had also attended crypto school and knew how to break a message. I signed a document that if a message was not for my eyes then I would not go any further with it. Peter signed the same document. The message was not for us. However, Peter said, "Let's find out what is going on." The message was from the Turner Joy to CINCPACPLT and it said that they had just been attacked by a PT boat and had returned fire. Peter and I thought OH my Gosh. Four hours later, he awakened me again and said we had another message to break. This time it was from CINCPACFLT to the Turner Joy telling them that they had scouted the area and saw no PT boats. The message said that they had panicked and maybe had a blip on the radar that might had been a flock of sea gulls or rough seas but certainly not a PT boat. I'm convinced that they thought they were under attack, but they were not.
Anyway that second attack got us into a war that we should have never been involved in. Since we were both 23 year old LTjgs and knew that what we had done was against regulations we destroyed the messages. We both wish we had kept those messages. What a historical document they would be. I am sure they are out there somewhere. And, as others have said, we were on station until they ran us out of ammo and we went to Okinawa and reloaded and took almost all they had. We docked at White Beach and the Maddox was in port also. Several of our officers visited with them at the O Club and they told what a harrowing experience it was to see the PT boats coming at them. They did sink one or two and damaged another. We unrepped them one time and they had a PT boat painted on the gun turret. I still remember sitting on the deck of the ship when it was announced over the PA system that a Navy flyer off the Ticonderga had been shot down over Vietnam. Lt. Edward Alvarez was a prisoner until the war was over. In that time he was in prison, I had owned several houses and had two children. What a wasted time.
Just before I joined the ship, I married my wife. The Rainier left for WestPac before our first anniversary and I still remember the pain of leaving her in California. I feel for the reservists who are going through this now as we build up for Iraq. It is hard to believe that it was that long ago. She and I will pass 40 years of marriage this next May.
I enjoyed your site and will check back again.
Regards, Jerry Richardson

And- From Shipmate Bobby Clements:
The Tonkin Gulf Incident occurred August '64 while we were in Subic Bay, PI when an emergency sortie message came into the radio shack. I was on the beach in Olongapo and the Shore Patrol came around to the bars to round up the Rainier crew that was on liberty. We sailed for the Tonkin Gulf and rearmed the USS Maddux and USS Turner Joy. Then the next day we rearmed the USS Constellation and the USS Ticonderoga, who made the first air strikes of the war on North Vietnam. I remember the message coming across the teletype saying that the air strikes had knocked out 75% of North Vietnam's POL reserves. We were the first AE on station and we got the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for our efforts. This was on my second cruise to Westpac aboard Rainier. I made three cruises.

An E-Mail to this website
12 SEP 2007
Hi William, Ted Williams here. Will, I was just looking around andfound the email list to see whom I could write. I notice that you list the VIETNAM ERA from August1965.[CORRECTED SINCE THEN] Trust me, as Gun Captain of Mount 34--the correct NamEra started for Rainier exactly on August 5, 1964...wegot underway from Subic the morning of the 3rd...a dayI'll never forget since I was knocked into the crappywater by a boat hook and nearly drowned before goingto face death in Nam (and of course none of us knewwhat the hell was going on or where we were going). We arrived on Yankee Station some time in the wee hours of the 4th or 5th...I say we didn't know what was going down, but when we had left Port Chicago late June of 64, the ship was loaded stem to stern, keel to topside--right up to the walk, you crossed all the crated bombs on deck--plus there were two long missiles forward.
Bright and early the morning of the 5th we hadprepared for a massive scale un-rep--still not knowingwhat was coming down. Lunch break, few even botheredto eat--Deck Force that is--the real workers on theship--we took five in our racks and exactly at tenminutes before Turn To, the General Alarm sounded andwe all bitched: "Not a f--king drill in all this heat..." but the words drill never came and we knew it was on because of the scuttle butt (somebody had shot at our ships). When you’re below decks and knowing some sort of shooting acting is coming above decks, the only thingyou think about are all those bombs on Deck. Man, dudes were flying to battle station in nothing but skivvies. It even gets more exciting, but I’m saving it for the novel I’m writing and will post with you for all to read. But check with any Mates who were on board in August of 64, they’ll fully confirm that ten minutesto one o’clock was a life changing experience for us all…and so you can see why the correct date is essential: We were the first Ammo Ship in Nam on August 5, 1964, the official date of the start of that debacle.
----------- Sincerely, Ted Williams

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