|U.S.S. Allen M. Sumner DD-692|
Sumner Family Gram #1
Our ship got underway from Mayport, Florida at nine
oclock sharp on February 7th as a unit of Destroyer Division 161. Other ships with
us were USS BIGELOW (the division commanders flagship), USS McCAFFERY and USS AULT.
These three ships will be with us for the next month or so. After conducting gunnery
exercises enroute, we moored at the U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba overnight on
February 9th. We refueled there and got underway on the morning of the 10th for Cristobal,
Canal Zone. The crew exercised extensively at Battle Stations and we conducted more
gunnery training. We arrived in the Atlantic entrance to the Panama canal before dawn on
the 12th. After being cleared by customs and other officials we commenced our transit of
the canal about eight oclock.
Our transit of the canal was an experience which all of us enjoyed. Entering from the Atlantic Ocean we were raised up in a series of three locks to Gatun Lake, 85 feet above sea level. We crossed at this level to the Pacific end of the canal where we were lowered to sea level again. We moored at Rodman, C.Z. where the crew enjoyed a well deserved days liberty. We departed Rodman on the morning of the 14th and are enroute to Pearl Harbor. We should arrive there on the 26th of February.
The intensive training we have conducted thus far has shown its effects already. I am proud of every man in this crew and know that SUMNER can meet successfully the challenges ahead.
We have been told that mail will reach us faster if it is sent through San Francisco. Please address your future letters to the ship c/o FPO San Francisco, California 96601.
I would like to stress, once again, the importance of contacting the nearest representative of the American Red Cross should some emergency require the presence of your husband or son at home. A deployed ship cannot grant emergency leave until the emergency has been verified by the Red Cross. I sincerely hope none of our families has occasion to use this service during our absence, but you should know it is available. Why not look up the telephone number of your local Red Cross representative now and jot it down in a convenient place.
Although none of us enjoys being separated from his loved ones, this cruise is an interesting and rewarding experience for all of us. Your Navy man is fortunate to have the opportunity to serve his country at this particular time.
If I can be of service to you, please write to me at any time.
P.S. BEAMAN, CDR, USN
Sumner Family Gram #2
Almost two and one-half months have elapsed since
SUMNER left Mayport for duty with the Seventh Fleet. They have been exciting months during
which we have logged many miles and have encountered many new experiences. While crossing
the Pacific with our sister ships of Destroyer Division 161, we stopped in the ports of
Cristobal, Canal Zone; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Midway Island; and Yokosuka, Japan.
While in Yokosuka, the men of DESDIV 161 contributed to the blood donor program for the troops in Vietnam. The division donated 635 pints of blood which is the highest amount ever given by one destroyer division. Further, the USS BIGELOW and USS SUMNER broke existing records for doations from a single destroyer, the men of the SUMNER contributing 216 pints. Needless to say, I am extremely proud of our men for their excellent response to such a noble cause.
After leaving Yokosuka on 17 March, we made a brief fuel stop at Okinawa and then set course for the Gulf of Tonkin. Our purpose there was to support the 7th fleet as a ready and efficient battle unit capable of carrying out any task assigned in the role of protecting our nations interests. To date SUMNER has been called upon several times.
Off the coast of North Vietnam in one recent encounter, the men of SUMNER displayed their courage and skill by working as a team in sinking 5 cargo barges, damaging one and beaching several. Later the same day SUMNER fired on a vital link of the North Vietnamese highway number one, inflicting heavy damage. Two days later, we released our guns on a truck park and another segment of highway used in transporting war material to the south. I am happy to report we suffered no casualties.
We are presently in Sasebo, Japan for a period of upkeep and well deserved rest for the men. Our arrival date here was 15 April after steaming three days under the command of Commander Destroyer Division 162, who is presently embarked in the SUMNER.
I want to assure you that I shall take a personal interest in the wellbeing and contentment of your husband or son. In order to make my job a little easier, I urge you to write him often. After being at sea for few weeks, nothing helps morale more than a letter from home. Unfortunately, mail service is sometimes slow despite the Navys best efforts. I hope, therefore, that it will not be a cause of concern should our answers to your letters be sometimes overdue.
I again want to thank you for your support and Im sure that when you husband or son comes home he will tell you more details of the vitally important job he is doing here in the Western Pacific.
P.S. BEAMAN, CDR, USN
Sumner Family Gram #3
Much has transpired since our last family-gram went
to press. SUMNER has been called upon to perform nearly every task within the capability
of a destroyer, and has performed with distinction in all areas.
We have just completed our third tour on Sea Dragon - an operation established to halt the flow of war materials by sea from North Vietnam to enemy troops in the south. SUMNER now holds the record for Sea Dragon destroyers, having destroyed or damaged a large number of waterborne logistics craft, coastal gun batteries, trucks, and warehouses used to store war materials at trans-shipment points. Together with other ships assigned to Sea Dragon we have virtually eliminated the enemys ability to supply by sea his forces in the south. This has undoubtedly saved many American lives in the struggle against communist aggression in South Vietnam.
SUMNER was called upon to support an amphibious landing just south of the demilitarized zone in mid-May. During a routine shore-bombardment mission we received heavy gunfire from the enemy position ashore. Out alert lookouts detected the distant muzzle flashes, and SUMNERs guns opened up with deadly accuracy against the enemy battery. In just a few minutes the enemy gun site was destroyed and we were able to continue our mission without opposition.
Being fired upon by enemy guns was not a unique experience for SUMNER. We have been taken under fire eleven times since our operation in the Gulf of Tonkin began. In every case we either destroyed the enemy gun sites or, in those cases where we could not see the origin of the gunfire, successfully maneuvered to evade the enemy shells, watching them splash harmlessly into the sea. Though we have recovered several pieces of shrapnel off the decks, no one has been injured.
On the twentieth of May I became ill and had to evacuated to a hospital ship, the USS SANCTUARY. The executive officer, Lieutenant Commander MOYE, assumed command of SUMNER and business went on as usual. During my three week absence the ship rescued an Air Force pilot who had bailed out after his plane had been hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire. That experience proves that on a well-trained ship no one is indispensable, not even the Captain.
The crew has performed admirably under the most difficult conditions. We have gone nearly four days at a time with no more sleep than an occasional catnap. Frequently, all-night general quarters would be followed by an early morning replenishment when weve had to refuel and rearm, loading into the magazines by hand replacements for the hundreds of rounds of ammunition fired in the preceding engagement. And yet, morale has never been higher than I find it at this time. You should be proud, as I am, to know that our country has men like these fighting in its defense. The "peaceniks" in our society may get most of the publicity, but dedicated men like your husbands and sons will determine the destiny of our nation.
The most rewarding experience a commanding officer can have is to take a relatively "green" crew, such as SUMNER had when we left Mayport, and watch it evolve into a closely knit, well disciplined and competent team. I will hate to see this team break up when we return home, but this is inevitable. Many of our men will go their separate ways - some to other ships, some to shore duty and some to civilian life. Those who remain in the Navy will be our leaders of the future. They will form the nucleus of other "green" crews, passing on their knowledge and experience so that other ships in other times can match SUMNERs past performance. Those who return to civilian life will be sorely missed; the Navy needs men of their caliber. I realize, however, that many of our people have planned their future in the civilian community. There is no doubt they will return to that community as more capable and mature individuals as a result of their service to the Navy.
We are now in Kaohsiung on the southwestern part of the island of Taiwan (Formosa). After five days here we will go to Hong Kong for six days of rest and recreation. One more major commitment, which will be new to us, and well be on our way home again. It has been a long cruise for us, as Im sure it has been for you, and were anxious to finish our job and return home to our families.
I close with the hope that all of you recognize the importance of the duty your husbands and sons are performing in Southeast Asia.
P.S. BEAMAN, CDR, USN
Sumner Family Gram #4
Dear Families and Friends:
It is a pleasure that I begin this last letter from the Western Pacific Area. About the time you receive this, the SUMNER will be over half way home. We expect to arrive in Mayport on Monday, the 11th of September. However, I suggest that those of you who are planning to meet the ship contact the Destroyer Movements Information Office in Mayport for the final time of arrival, as last minute changes are always a possibility.
Since the last family gram, the SUMNER has completed an upkeep period in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and visited Hong Kong, British Crown Colony 3-9 July for a period of rest and relaxation. The ship was in full dress for the 4th of July and the men had a fine time celebrating in one of the best ports we have had the pleasure to visit.
On 11 July, SUMNER began a period of gunfire support for troops ashore in Operation Pershing, a joint forces operation spearheaded by the First Air Cavalry against Viet Cong positions in an area approximately 120 miles southeast of DaNang. It was a totally new encounter for us but once again the men acting as a team displayed their professional ability and made easy the task that faced us. The best way to express their ability is to quote what one spotter pilot stated about the SUMNER. "I have been flying spotter missions for many ships since I have been in Vietnam and I have never seen a better shooting ship than yours." Needless-to-say, I am proud of my men.
After a brief visit to Subic Bay, Philippines, on 22-28 July and an additional two days firing support for Operation Beacon Guide, the ship set a course for Yokosuka, Japan; the first port of our homeward cruise. We are presently in Yokosuka for two days before continuing our journey.
Our cruise since we departed Mayport on 7 February has been long, sometimes interesting, sometimes extremely trying but Im sure all hands have developed a feeling of pride in our many accomplishments. During our Western pacific visit, the SUMNER has made an impressive record. Listed below are a few of the statistics which speak for themselves:
_____1. SUMNER presently holds the record for most waterborne logistics craft destroyed and damaged by a single destroyer. A total of 58 craft were destroyed and 47 damaged. In addition, 8 North Vietnamese Coastal Defense Sites were destroyed and 2 damaged, 8 warehouses destroyed and 8 damaged, 2 bunkers and 10 trucks destroyed.
_____2. We have been the target of enemy gunfire on twelve occasions. We found shrapnel on deck several times but I am happy to report we never received a direct hit.
_____3. Since departing Mayport we have steamed over 50,940 miles, have used over 3,261,757 gallons of fuel and had over 90 underway replenishments. Other events such as our rescuing of an Air Force Pilot on 25 May after his plane was hit by enemy fire has increased our professional knowledge.
Throughout the ship elaborately marked calendars and charts show the time remaining, and the division officers and leading petty officers are engaged in planning leaves for "all hands". Preference of dates will, of course, be given to those who have been away from home the greatest length of time. Certain key personnel will be required to delay their leaves somewhat, but the most liberal policy possible will be in effect immediately upon arrival.
I shall be looking forward to welcoming many of you aboard at that time.