Throughout our careers in the United States Navy, we find ourselves having many good days, many glad days, some depressing days, some sad days. Today, September 26,1969, must be classed as a very sad day because it marks the end of a lifetime of twenty four years and three months for the United States Ship Turner,destroyer number 834; she will be decommissioned and stricken from the Navy records.
She was born June 12,1945, in the waning months of World War II; several years before many of the men gathered here had seen the light of day. Her designation was changed in 1949 to that of a radar picket destroyer, but she was redesignated as a destroyer in 1969. Her configuration was changed several times, ending with a complete modernization in 1961. However, despite these many changes, one thing remained constant in Turner-- that was the spirit among shipmates seldom found in ships of our great Navy. For example, last week I received a letter from a Chief Petty Officer who served on Turner in 1955. He regretted deeply to hear that she was to be decommissioned, and stated that his Turner duty was the best of his career.
In recent years, Turner became known as the Tigership. Her men were called Turner "Tigers" and were never satisfied to take second place in any situation. This positive attitude prevailed to the end. In her last year of operations, Turner engaged in two midshipmen cruises, a five month Mediterranean deployment and five weeks of other commitments. The highlight of the Mediterranean deployment was a transit into the Black Sea in December,1968.
The resulting publicity found Turner in the headlines of newspapers throughout the Free World, and every man on board stood a little bit taller when Turner moored in Athens, Greece for a well deserved rest upon completion of the transit.
Her competitive spirit was proven again in August 1969 when she was awarded the coveted Battle Efficiency "E" among the ships of Destroyer Squadron Eight. Also, she received the Antisubmarine Weapons and Operations "A" award.
Throughout July and August 1969, the Turner "Tigers" were working twelve hour shifts in preparation for her sixteenth Mediterranean deployment. Quite unexpectedly, Turner found her self listed among those ships of our Navy now being deactivated because of the large cut in the funds available for defense of our wonderful country.
True, Turner was getting on in years, but she was still capable of operating with the newest ships of the line, and her four boilers never failed to steam at full power when called upon.
Additionally, her weapons systems were classed as among the best maintained in the destroyers.
Recently, I heard Turner categorized as an "old suit"; one which should be thrown away.
However, I never believed in throwing away my older suits until newer ones were in the closet.
Nevertheless, we in the military do trust the wisdom of our civilian leaders, and support their judgment and decisions with our lives, if need be. Replacement ships are being procured, and many of our younger men will serve proudly on these modern vessels. But never forget that a ship is nothing more than a mass of steel until such time her crew breathes a life and spirit into her.
For over twenty four years, Turner has been known as a "Real Steamer." No price tag can be placed on the value in goodwill extended by showing our flag during fifteen Mediterranean deployments. In her last four years, Turner has averaged eight months out of every twelve away from her home port. The hardships endured by families due to the extremely long separations of their sailormen can never really be understood by our civilian population.
To many wives of all Turner sailors, past and present, Turner must surely thank you for allowing her to share your men for so many months at a time.
If Turner could speak, I believe that she would quote to her men the following words written by Rudyard Kipling:
"What is woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old gray Widow-maker."
Today, United States Ship Turner, your life comes to an end. Your memory will live on. The hundreds of officers, and thousands of men who have walked your decks salute you. Your country thanks you for your service.
By Armen Chertavian, Commander, 68-69