by Dr. Joseph W.C. Harpster (MM1 1950-1954)

Following her re-commissioning on March 9, 1951 (after four months of de-mothballing effort at the Naval Shipyard, Charleston, SC) the Stoddard was deployed on a shakedown and training cruise to Guantanamo, Cuba after taking on ammunition. Her crew consisted of approximately 5% experienced regulars, 15% reservists, 60% Academy and Service School graduates and 20% recruits, fresh out of boot camp. For about 80% of the crew, this cruise was their first ocean adventure.

With such an inexperienced crew , training was intense. All of the mistakes that were anticipated were made. Simulated severe injuries to crew during battle scenarios resulted in anticipated casualties. These in the allotted time, allowing probable hits to be made by the enemy. A real torpedo was lost due to a malfunction. A young seaman assigned to a 5 inch handling room lost the use of his hand, it being caught in the shell hoist.

We watched, for the first time, the rocket power of the modern jet aircraft that took off like any normal plane, and then go vertical with acceleration into the clouds or became a moving speck at high altitude. There was practice with 20 and 40mm guns against jet propelled remote controlled targets, with few hits, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of these out of date weapons against the faster moving aircraft of that time. The 5 inch 40s were fired for shore bombardment, bringing down target aircraft and hitting towed aircraft of that time.

After tow weeks of shakedown and training, a rhythm set in. When general quarters was sounded, every crew member knew where to go, how to get there and what to do upon arrival. "Manned and Ready" was reported on time or earlier than expected. Guns were loaded, targets acquired and firings occurred much earlier than before. Communications were faster with no voice hesitation, reaction to commands were automatic, bells were answered immediately, and Stoddard responded with renewed life following its 4 year cocooned sleep in Charleston. She was back and ready to go. Those of you during WWII would have been impressed by the pride shown by this young crew and the love that had for the Stoddard no doubt this crew-ship relationship was a repeat of what occurred in 1945.

The Navy then sent Stoddard along with several other ships to Boston, during the fall of 1951 and winter of 1952 for overhaul and modernization to outfit the ship for battle in the jet age. One of its 5 inch mounts (No. 3) and all of the 20 and 40 mm mounts were removed along with the forward torpedo rack. Most of the steel structure in the 01 level amidships and aft was removed and replaced with aluminum to decrease top weight. The removed guns were replaced with radar controlled 3 inch 50's. Hedge Hogs were installed behind #2, 5 inch gun mount.

The Stoddard then steamed back to Guantanamo for shakedown and more training. Initial training was on the newly installed weapons. By the end of March, the Stoddard returned to its home port at Newport, RJ where it released the reservists and took on provisions for a six month cruise to the Mediterranean Sea with the Sixth Fleet. With the exception of a few "Old Salts" the Stoddard was operated, cared for and maintained by a group of 18 and 19 year old men.

The Stoddard operated in the Mediterranean Sea on two occasions in 1952 and 1953 between the months of April and September. This alternating semi-annual duty with another Task Force maintained a strong naval presence in the area and was a factor in limiting the expansion of communism by the Soviet Union, stifling the aggressiveness of the Red Brigade in Italy and supporting the non-alignment of Marshall Tito's communistic Yugoslavia with the Soviets.

As a gesture of the established friendly relationship between the USA and Yugoslavia at that time, the Stoddard steaming with the Coral Sea and a small flotilla of ships docked at the port of Split after demonstrating air and surface power to this nation's leader. Marshall Tito and his advisors observed the History of the USS Stoddard DD-566 grand showing from an observation point on board the carrier. He was so impressed that the crew was entertained by hosts in the city. Officers were invited to dinners and the crew had the pleasure of guided tours of the city, conducted in small groups, and led by English speaking college students.

The Stoddard visited Pensacola, Florida on two occasions providing plane-guard detail in the training of new navy pilots at the Naval Air Station.

Although the Stoddard did not see battle with the enemy during the Korean War, it was in the presence of peril. On the night of April 26, 1952, the Stoddard and Braine or Mullany were relieved by the Rodman and Hobson in the mid-Atlantic on plane guard detail for the aircraft carrier Wasp conducting night flight operations under blackout conditions. A shift in the wind caused the Wasp to make a necessary change of course, turning into the wind to bring her planes aboard. Somehow, without any apparent awareness of the turn, the Hobson, with 236 crew members aboard, steamed straight ahead. At 10:38 pm with both ships making speed of 25 knots, the Wasp cut the Hobson in half as it followed a course crossing the Wasp's bow. One hundred and seventy-five (175) crew members perished as the two halves of the Hobson sank within four (4) minutes of the collision. A memorial to those men was established in the Battery Park along the seawall in Charleston, SC. One might observe that the Stoddard was blessed with LUCK. I know among our crew, many thanked God for divine protection that night.

The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953 and I returned to civilian life one year later. In December of 1954 Stoddard made way to the west coast through the Panama Canal, to join the Pacific Fleet. In January 1955 she was deployed to help stave off China's saber rattling from escalating into an invasion of Taiwan where the non-communist Chinese Nationalists, friendly to the United States, were in power. She stayed there and later deployed to southeast Asia with regular cruises back to the United States for the next 10 years when Vietnam became the new hotbed for conflict and world wide attention.

Without the Stoddard I would have been assigned to another ship. In that case I would not be here today and, most probably, I would be a different person. The three years spent with her profoundly affected my drive for excellence not only because of the responsibilities I was given but also because of the people I met that were part of her crew. It was there I met a shipmate who caused me to say to myself, "finish high school and go to college." The experience and knowledge gained within her bowels in steam generation and propulsion and the education I received later at universities, in science, has led me over the past 4 years to develop and patent a new electronic diagnostic system for use in power plant operation and efficiency improvement. This system is today, having a profound effect on the operations and profitability of our company. I owe a lot to the Stoddard, both the ship and her crew and am honored to be here at the Nimitz Museum for this dedication representing those crew members who served during the Korean War.


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