History of USS JOHN YOUNG, DD-973
Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries laid down JOHN YOUNG on February 17, 1975 at Pascagoula, Miss. The ship was launched on February 7, 1976 and was sponsored by Mrs. Elizabeth Shear, wife of Adm. Harold E. Shear, Vice Chief of Naval Operations. USS JOHN YOUNG was commissioned at Pascagoula on May 20, 1978, with Cmdr. Douglas K. Menikheim serving as the first commanding officer.
Designed as a modern anti-submarine warfare (ASW) ship to replace the many retiring World War II-era ships, the SPRUANCE-class destroyer was intended to operate as a multi-mission warship either independently or in company with amphibious or carrier task groups. Powered by gas turbine engines and armed with anti-submarine rockets (ASROC), Harpoon and Sea Sparrow missiles and two 5-inch guns, JOHN YOUNG enjoyed a technical superiority based upon her advanced SQS-53 sonar and digital tactical data computer system (NTDS).
Assigned to the Pacific Fleet, JOHN YOUNG arrived at San Diego, Calif., on June 3, 1978. Following shakedown training out of the new homeport, the ship returned to the shipbuilding for minor repairs in October, and completed sea trials.
After returning to San Diego in November, the destroyer spent the next year conducting weapon system and engineering tests, enduring inspections and preparing for fleet and squadron exercises. In March 1980, JOHN YOUNG participated in Fleet Exercise RIMPAC.
JOHN YOUNG sailed for the Far East on October 21, 1980 as part of the first Western Pacific deployment for the ship. After pausing at Subic Bay, Philippines, JOHN YOUNG joined Valiant Blitz 81-1, an amphibious exercise with Seventh Fleet units off Mindoro Island, in mid-November, maneuvers followed by the ASW exercise, Multiplex 81-1, off Okinawa in December. JOHN YOUNG conducted additional ASW work in the South China Sea during early 1981, as well as conducted a missile shoot in the Sea of Japan in early March, before setting course for Singapore.
While en route, JOHN YOUNG spotted a small boat in distress and rescued 126 Vietnamese refugees. Twelve hours later, another 51 people were rescued from a 30-foot sampan. A week later, the destroyer rescued refugees from two more boats, adding another 131 refugees to the total. All these people were delivered to refugee officials at Pattaya Beach, Thailand. For their efforts, the crew received the Humanitarian Service Medal. The warship then returned to San Diego on 22 May 1981.
JOHN YOUNG spent the next twelve months preparing for its next deployment; undergoing exams by the Board of Inspection and Survey, propulsion plant inspections, and various multi-ship refresher exercises off Southern California. JOHN YOUNG also spent part of January 1982 in dry dock at Long Beach for sonar dome repairs.
Then, following a series of exercises in March and April, including RIMPAC '82, the destroyer sailed for the Far East on 29 May. Highlights of this deployment included ten days of independent surveillance operations off the Soviet port of Petropavlovsk in June and six weeks of work in the Arabian Gulf in September and October. The ship returned home to San Diego on November 30, 1982 for an overhaul that lasted until October 1983.
JOHN YOUNG conducted the next Pacific deployment during October 1984 and May 1985, taking part in Fleet Exercise 85-1, a major carrier battle group deployment into the Sea of Okhotsk in November and December 1984, and a visit to Australian waters the following spring.
While JOHN YOUNG conducted training in preparation for the next deployment, tensions escalated in the Persian Gulf between Iran and Iraq. In the wake of escalated attacks on oil tankers there, President Reagan began a military buildup in the Gulf to protect those vital vessels, establishing Joint Task Force Middle East (JTFME) and ordering Navy ships into that region.
The warship next deployed in July 1987, when the ship escorted the USS RANGER (CV 61) Battle Group to the Middle East. While JOHN YOUNG participated in operations North of Diego Garcia, the "tanker war" in the Persian Gulf heated up after two Iraqi Exocet missiles struck USS STARK (FFG 31) off Kuwait.
Ironically, the US now blamed Iran to escalate the conflict and JOHN YOUNG and three other destroyers steamed into the Persian Gulf to attack Iranian oil platforms in the Rostam field, demolishing two - one by shellfire and the other by demolition charges - on October 19, 1987. The destroyer departed the region two weeks later, reaching San Diego on 30 December.
JOHN YOUNG again sailed to the Persian Gulf in December 1988, joining a joint task force exercise on January 27 1989. Although tensions had eased following the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq war, the destroyer provided escort services for 25 merchant ship transits in the Gulf over the following three months. Homeward bound and transiting the South China Sea, JOHN YOUNG rescued 46 Vietnamese refugees - a reprise of 1981. Ultimately, the ship reached San Diego on 14 June.
During an overhaul period in 1990, JOHN YOUNG received several major modifications, including the installation of a new sonar suite, a widened hanger for LAMPS 3, and a 61-cell vertical launch system (VLS). The latter was fitted with Tomahawk missiles while the Sea Sparrow system was modified to fire RIM-7M missiles. In addition, the warship received the Block I modification to the Phalanx CIWS. These modifications significantly improved JOHN YOUNG's combat capabilities, particularly in the area of long-range strike operations.
Following a long series of exercises to test the ship’s new combat systems, JOHN YOUNG deployed again on January 1992. The ship returned to the Persian Gulf, this time to enforce United Nations (U.N.) sanctions against Iraq. Chopping to the newly established Central Command on February 27, the warship assumed the duties of Strike Operations Patrol Unit in early March.
Given JOHN YOUNG brand new strike planning capability, the destroyer received the nickname "King of Tomahawks" from Admiral Douglas J. Katz, CTF 154. Following several joint exercises with Kuwaiti and NATO forces, the destroyer turned for home on June 10, arriving in San Diego on 21 July.
Later in the year, JOHN YOUNG began a selected restricted availability during which the ship received the Block III Tomahawk upgrade. After sea trials, and a long period of pre-deployment workups, the ship departed San Diego on October 18, 1993, bound once more for the Persian Gulf.
After stops at Pearl Harbor, Japan, and Phuket, Thailand, JOHN YOUNG began its first tour as ready strike platform in the Gulf on November 30. While on patrol, the destroyer served as flagship of Destroyer Squadron Seven, assumed the duties of Arabian Gulf Force Track Coordinator, and participated in Maritime Surveillance and Interception Operations in support of U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
On January 20, 1994, JOHN YOUNG conducted a passing exercise with the Russian destroyer ADMIRAL VINOGRADOV, which included crew visits, gunnery drills and other exercises. On February, the ship participated in an exercise during which JOHN YOUNG and USS GARY (FFG 51) conducted a shallow-water ASW exercise against USS HELENA (SSN 725). The destroyer shaped course for home in March and, after pausing at Fremantle and Sydney, Australia, with a fuel stop in Fiji, reached San Diego on April 18. Overhauled at the Southwest Marine shipyard in the latter part of 1994, JOHN YOUNG spent the next year operating locally out of San Diego, punctuating that training with a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, in August.
JOHN YOUNG departed on its next Persian Gulf deployment on February 9, 1996. During the transit west, which included stops at Hong Kong and Phuket, JOHN YOUNG, USS THACH (FFG 43) and USS RODNEY M. DAVIS (FFG 60) encountered a surfaced Indian KILO-class submarine and tracked it for several hours before moving on, reaching the Gulf on March 19. Soon after resuming duty as ready strike ship and participating in sanctions enforcement, JOHN YOUNG intercepted a tug, which was towing a loaded barge.
On March 24, the destroyer's boarding party discovered the suspect vessel to be the SHAIMA, a repeated sanctions violator, laden with 3,000 metric tons of Iraqi oil. The tug and barge were turned over to Kuwait on April 1. Later that month, JOHN YOUNG participated in Iron Falcon, a joint U.S. and United Arab Emirates warfare exercise. In May, the ship diverted five more sanctions violators.
After an usual pattern of shipyard work and refresher training, JOHN YOUNG again sailed for the Persian Gulf on November 18, 1997. The ship transited the Strait of Hormuz on January 1, 1998 and carried out turnover with USS BENFOLD (DDG 65) the following day. JOHN YOUNG returned to familiar escort and sanction enforcement duties until putting in to Bahrain for a short availability in early February. Following additional patrols in March, including a torpedo exercise with an SH-60F from USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62), the destroyer turned for home on April 1, 1998. The traditional visit to Fremantle and Sydney, Australia, was conducted again. Soon afterwards, the warship arrived home on May 18. The remainder of the year and a majority of 1999 was spent either in dry dock, where the destroyer underwent a major overhaul, or carrying out equipment testing and refresher training out of San Diego in preparation for her 1999-2000 deployment to the Arabian Gulf.
JOHN YOUNG began the year 2000 in the Gulf of Oman, continuing to support Maritime Interdiction Operations in the northern Arabian Gulf. Pausing briefly at Bahrain at the end of January 2000, the warship set course for Australia, visiting Albany and Sydney, Australia, and Fiji again in company with USS FORD (FFG 54) and USS JOHN PAUL JONES (DDG 53), before returning to San Diego on 20 March. The ship spent the rest of the year conducting routine upkeep, participating in the Portland Rose Festival, combat exercises and cruise missile certification tests off Southern California.
JOHN YOUNG conducted Counter Drug Operations off the coast of Mexico from January 2001 to March 2001. Along with JOHN YOUNG, the combined efforts of Ledet 102 (Coast Guard ship), and Saberhawk HSL-47 resulted in the apprehension of FOREVER MY FRIEND, a vessel carrying more than eight tons of cocaine, making it the 2nd largest maritime drug bust in history. In addition, JOHN YOUNG towed the vessel a record-breaking distance of 1,400 miles back to San Diego, where the vessel was taken over by the Coast Guard.
Upon returning from the Counter Drug Operations, JOHN YOUNG commenced preparations for the next and final deployment. On October 18, 2001, the ship set sail one last time to the Arabian Gulf. The transit west included stops to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Singapore; Phuket, Thailand; and Chennai, India. Once in the Fifth Fleet, the ship conducted Leadership Interdiction Operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and participated in Maritime Interdiction Operations in the Northern Arabian Gulf. Prior to returning home, the ship spent the month of February 2002 conducting escort duties through the Strait of Malacca. After port visits in Townsville, Australia and Darwin, Australia, JOHN YOUNG returned to San Diego on April 18, 2002.
After a brief stand down the ship proceeded to Juneau, Alaska for the 4th of July and visited San Francisco. Finally, JOHN YOUNG visited Mazatlan, Mexico and provided Naval Surface Fire Support for spotters off the coast of California only one month prior to her decommissioning.
USS JOHN YOUNG was decommissioned on September 19 at 2 p.m. The ceremony took place at Pier 2 at Naval Station San Diego. On September 27, 2002, JOHN YOUNG arrived at Bremerton, WA, to become part of the mothball fleet.