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July 12, 2006

To: Frank Olderr

From: William L. Wardell, Cdr. USN, Ret.

I served aboard USS COLLETT DD-730 as Gunnery Officer, Operations Officer, and Executive Officer during two tours while homeported in Yokosuka, Japan between the years of 1960 to 1968. I did shore duty at Fleet Training Group WPAC Yokosuka from 1963 to 1965.

I became a Catholic in 1962 while aboard COLLETT; LTJG Pete Mootz was my sponsor. I married LT Ginny Snook, a Navy Nurse in Dec. 1963 at the Naval Chapel in Yokosuka. Captain Bob Kitt was my best man; he is also the god father of our only son who was born at the United States Naval Hospital, Yokosuka. Bob Kitt was the best leader I have ever known; he was selected to command COLLETT after her collision with the USS AMMEN DD-527.

During this time period COLLETT was involved in every major operation in Japan, Okinawa (Matsu and Quemoy Islands), Philippine Islands, Korea (capture of USS PUEBLO AGER-2, CDR Pete Bucher, Commanding -- Ginny (my wife) went to a party at a neighbor's house for PUEBLO the night before PUEBLO's departure), and of course the Tonkin Gulf, the South China Sea, the Sea of Japan, and the vast areas of the Pacific Ocean that we called home. We were in the Tonkin Gulf during the Tet Offensive of 1968.

COLLETT personnel earned the following medals and ribbons (this is not all-inclusive list): Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service with six (or seven) stars, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.

COLLETT saved eighteen individuals from certain death in the sea, all were from helicopters and a jet fighter that were shot down.

We destroyed an unmanned fishing boat and put a 5-inch round through the steeple of a Christian church being used by an enemy artillery spotter (reported by an air-spotter). I personally saw the hole through the 'big-eyes' binoculars mounted on the starboard bridge wing; the round did not explode on contact but passed thru the structure.

COLLETT was manned by heroes -- from the Black Gang to the Skivvy Wavers, from the Dash Helo Operators, Torpedomen, Gunners, Cooks, Stewards, Ops guys, Radiomen, Supply types, Bos'n-mates, Personnelmen, Yeomen, Sonar guys and every striker, bullshitter, drunkard, and skirt-chasing watchstander who feared sudden death from the enemy or from the typhoons, the clap, or being lost overboard.

We all lived during that time with total dependence on each other. I would like to add that WE WERE REALLY GOOD AT WHAT WE DID. We rammed a submarine periscope during pre-deployment training in 1961 we were so good (not on purpose). During the same training, at night this time, while passively (sonar listening) listening for submarines, COLLETT successfully imitated a fishing trawler by shutting down one shaft, by elevating all five-inch gun barrels to the vertical, with spotlights on them, securing most other outboard lighting except a row of porthole lights, and by proceeding at about four knots. We didn't catch a sub, but the ship got a letter from the Skipper of one of the subs that we were the most difficult destroyer in the many-ship operation to detect and counter. Bob Kitt was the Skipper at this time, and he maintained this kind of operational innovation throughout his tour.

We departed Long Beach, California on January 2, 1962 for Hawaii, and the Far East. We were part of a task group, and were called "small boys," because we were part of a destroyer screen for the carrier.

COLLETT had been assigned to be homeported in Yokosuka (45 miles south of Tokyo). Some families would be coming later. We were given Japanese language courses. Some vehicles were shipped later but most of us were aware that we wouldn't be driving very much in Japan.

Mostly we were young and unmarried. Captain Kitt may have been the oldest; he was forty.

To change the subject a little:

We refueled or replenished about every week or ten days, we got mail infrequently from aircraft carriers that we were screening or plane-guarding for. We endured oil spills, violent seas, and Admirals visits. We had a clean, well-painted ship from great folks in the Deck Department. We played the "William Tell Overture" over all topside speakers as we departed a replenishment evolution. We did man-overboard drills as often as reasonable.

We visited ports like Hong Kong, Beppu, Manila, Honolulu, Guam, Olongapo and Danang. We played Bingo, fished off the fantail, and had swim-call (with the well known 'Shark-guard' posted). We anchored in Buckner Bay...White Beach...with both and single anchors. We darkened ship, and no-smoking topside ruled. We were in dry-dock and could smell the sea embedded in the hull. WE WERE SAILORS.

This is my sworn statement: The piece of shrapnel in the Collett memorabilia collection was recovered by me from the Signal-Bridge of COLLETT (DD-730) after a shore-bombardment mission against enemy North Vietnamese shore forces after an approximately 20 minute gunfire exchange. The Ensign was holed by the near miss. I have one other piece of shrapnel from the engagement.


William LaClair Wardell, Cdr. USN. Ret