Overview of Background & 1965-66 Mission of USS Newman K. Perry (DD-883)  

Author: Lt. G. P. Caprio                                      

NKP was one of the last long-hull 710 Gearing class destroyers built and was completed as a DDR-an “anti Kamikaze” picket destroyer whose purpose was to range well ahead of the Carrier Task Group and provide early warning and air intercept control against attacking aircraft.

During the build-up of the Soviet submarine force after WWII, a Fleet Rehabilitation And Modernization  (FRAM) Program was devised to convert as many short-hull (692 Sumner Class) and long-hull (710 Gearing Class) as well as a few Fletcher Class into specialized Anti-submarine destroyers. Because the long-hulls were built with an additional 14’ mid-section to accommodate a larger fuel capacity, they were able to fit the ASROC  (short range missile system able to deliver MK-44/46 homing torpedoes and MK-17 /B-57 Nuclear Depth Charges) between the stacks. The addition of the SQS-23 Long Range Sonar and MK-32 Torpedo tubes completed the ASW system and constituted the major weapons addition of the FRAM I conversion. The short-hulls underwent FRAM II conversions because they had no room for the ASROC but were fitted with VDS (Variable Depth SQS-4 Sonar) at the stern while retaining their SQS-4 Hull mounted Sonars. Both FRAM I and II DD’s were also designed to carry torpedo armed drone helicopters called DASH but they proved to be unreliable and very few if any DD’s ever received them. (The hangars were too small for conventional choppers but were great for storage as we learned.) Both FRAM Classes complemented each other and most, if not all DD squadrons were made up of both FRAM I and FRAM II DD’s. During the conversions, the entire superstructure above the main deck of the FRAM I’s was removed and a new aluminum structure replaced it. On the FRAM II’s only part of the superstructure was replaced.

Both classes retained or were fitted with long-range air search radar. Most of the DD’s received SPS-40 systems. NKP retained her SPS-37 but lost her SPS-8 height finder. NKP was one of the few ships in the Atlantic Fleet with the SPS-37(NKP had a slightly different profile from other FRAM I DD’s because of the different radar equipment compartment). Another was USS Wasp (CVS-18). We steamed with her on ASW ops in the Atlantic and because there was a shortage of SPS-37 ETR’s, Wasp was always trying to steal our ETR, J. Duke (As I recall we used to hide him from them during 1965-66). A few FRAM II’s were fitted with SPS-30 height finder radars.

Both classes retained their 5”/38 and MK37 Gunfire Control Systems but most FRAM I’s had to give up one forward gun mount because of weight considerations. One of the other “Perry’s”, USS Perry (DD-844) was the first FRAM I and carried both gun mounts forward but I believe that configuration wasn’t suitable from a stability point of view and all FRAM I’s that followed had the mounts split fore and aft.

The NKP Mission in the Atlantic Fleet was very different than in the Med. In the Atlantic we were part of a huge Anti-submarine strategy to locate and destroy Soviet ballistic missile and attack subs.

SOSUS (Underwater Sound Surveillance Systems) located on the western perimeter of the Atlantic Ocean from Argentia in Canada to Barbados in the Caribbean would pick up the sound of subs approaching the U.S. Mainland. Then long-range patrol aircraft would be dispatched to pinpoint the exact location using sonobuoys and magnetic detection gear while the Anti-submarine carrier task group screened by destroyers would head for the location. The task group commander would then have the option of using the patrol aircraft, the Carrier’s helicopters and fixed wing aircraft or the screening destroyers’ ASROC and /or homing torpedoes against the sub.

In the Med, the US Navy role was hugely different. At that time, the Carriers in the Med were CVA’s-attack carriers. The Sixth Fleet was part of an integrated NATO force whose purpose was to stop a Soviet invasion into Western Europe from the East Germany, Poland and other Soviet Bloc countries that were staging points for Soviet aircraft and Armored divisions. In effect we were multipurpose screening vessels to protect the CVA’s from Soviet attack subs that would presumably sneak into the Med through Gibraltar from the Atlantic and through the Dardanelles from the Black Sea to attack the Carriers. The Carriers we operated with, USS Forrestal (CVA-59), USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) and USS Shangri-La (CVA-38) were loaded with tactical nuclear weapons which could be used against invading armored tank formations. It is interesting to note that NKP was armed with two rocket propelled nuclear depth charges that were versions of the same B-57 nuclear device carried as aerial bombs by the aircraft that were to attack the armored forces.

As can be surmised, there was a lot of tension in the Sixth Fleet, especially with all those nukes. For all practical purposes we operated on a near wartime schedule.


 Summary of USS Newman K Perry (DD-883) Operations, mid 1964, 1965-early 1966   

Author: Lt. G. P. Caprio

Second half of 1964 in yard at Boston Naval Shipyard undergoing FRAM I Conversion.


19 Jan: Sea Trials

5 Feb: Builders trials

2-3 Mar: Board of Inspection and Survey Trials

15-17 Mar: Underway enroute Earle, NJ via Cape Cod Canal to load ammo and back to Newport, RI.

24-26 Mar: Underway local OPAREA to test fire ASROC.  Russian trawler in area. Calibrated sonar. ASW exercises with USS Halfbeak (SS-352) and other DD’s.

27 Mar-19 May: Enroute GITMO via JAX OPAREA for training exercises. GITMO:  Intensive day/night training exercises for all departments in GITMO with Fleet Training Group. Operated with USS Lexington (CVS-16). Weekend visit to Montego Bay, Jamaica. F-8 Crusader crashed nearby NKP during Air Defense exercises, pilot killed. Escorted Soviet Bloc East German merchant ship into Guantanamo City.

20-21 May: Enroute Culebra and Night Gunfire Support exercises on high speed runs at Culebra.  Very high qualification scores.

22-25 May: San Juan, PR

25-29 May: Enroute Newport, RI

16-17 June: Underway exercises local OPAREA

28 June-2 July: Underway exercises local OPAREA

8 July: Family cruise local OPAREA in heavy fog.

12 July-3Aug: Enroute via Cape Cod Canal/ in Boston Naval Shipyard, South Boston Annex for drydocking.

3-9 Aug: Enroute/in Newport.

9 Aug: Depart for Med with other DD’s via Azores. Exercises enroute.

11 Aug: Commodore lost overboard.

15 Aug: Arrived Ponta del Gada, San Miguel, Azores for refueling.

17 Aug: Enroute Gibraltar.

19 Aug: Passed through Straits of Gibraltar, entered Med

21 Aug: Anchored in Pollensa Bay, Mallorca with Task Group to effect turnover of instructions including Nuclear release codes.

22 Aug: Enroute with USS Shangri La (CVA-38) Task Group to Naples via Straits of Bonifacio. Heavy exercises enroute.

23-26 Aug: Med moored in Naples

26 Aug: Underway with Shangri La Task Group for exercises in Tyrrehenian Sea.

27 Aug: 0115 Collision with Shangri La approx 115 nm SW Naples. Fred Greene killed.

28 Aug-8 Oct: Drydock, Naples for new bow.

11-14 Oct: Exercises with USS Forrestal (CVA-59) Task Group. COMSIXTHFLT embarked in USS Springfield (CLG-7). Passed through Straits of Bonifacio westbound.  USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) in collision with merchant ship.

14-25 Oct: Anchored  Beaulieu, France

26 Oct-6 Nov: Exercises with Forrestal Task Group

6-8 Nov: Anchored with Task Group in Golfo di Palma, Sardinia.

8-9 Nov: Exercises enroute Toulon, France. (Believe NKP last ship visiting France after DeGaulle withdrew France from Nato. COMSIXTHFLT shifted home port to Italy)

9-17 Nov: Toulon, France

17-20 Nov: Exercises enroute Pollensa Bay, Mallorca.

20-22 Nov: Anchored with Task Group in Pollensa Bay, Mallorca.

22-24 Nov: Exercises enroute Palma, Mallorca.

24-29 Nov: Palma, Mallorca.

29 Nov-1 Dec: Exercises enroute Barcelona with Roosevelt Task Group.

1-5 Dec: Barcelona, Spain.

5-7 Dec: Exercises enroute Gibraltar.

7-8 Dec: Turnover of instructions including Nuclear release codes.

8 -18 Dec: Enroute  Newport, RI via Southern Route. Joined Roosevelt.

18 Dec-24 Jan 1966: Newport, RI


24-30 Jan: Enroute Carribbean  ASW Exercises with USS Wasp (CVS-18) Task Group. 26-28 Jan- severe Nor’easter. Wasp left DD’s to fend for themselves. Wasp suffered major damage

30 Jan: St Croix, Virgin Islands

31 Jan-3 Feb: Underway gunnery exercises Culebra

5 Feb: St. John, Antigua, BWI

2-11 Feb: Exercises in Puerto Rico OPAREA

11-14 Feb: San Juan, PR

14 Feb: St Croix, Virgin Islands

16-18 Feb: Enroute to Newport via Bermuda

18 Feb: Bermuda

19-21 Feb: Enroute Newport

21 Feb-8 Mar: Newport

8 -9 Mar: ASW exercises local OPAREA

9-18 Mar: Newport

18-24 Mar: ASW exercises with Wasp

24 Mar: Newport