The keel of
the USS Coontz was laid at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in March 1957, just 39
years after Admiral Robert E. Coontz left his post as the shipyard’s
commander. The first guided-missile
frigate to be built on the West Coast, and the second ship to bear the name of
the Navy’s first chief of naval operations, Coontz was christened by Mrs.
Robert J. Coontz, wife of the admiral’s grandson, on December
by Commander H.H. Reis, USS Coontz was commissioned on July
15, 1960 and
completed post-shakedown training in April 1961. USS Coontz then reported for duty as a unit
of the Cruiser-Destroyer Force U.S. Pacific Fleet and joined the First Fleet as
flagship of Destroyer Division 152, home ported in San Diego, California.
Commander, Destroyer Squadron 15 flew his flag on USS Coontz from May 4
to July 12, 1961.
departed from San Diego on August 10,
joined the U.S. Seventh Fleet as a unit of the fast carrier task force. Remaining with the Seventh Fleet for more
than seven months, USS Coontz steamed 55,000 miles and visited ports in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, B.C.C, Australia and American Samoa.
While conducting training exercises to maintain full combat readiness,
USS Coontz received the coveted “E” award for excellence in missilery.
returned to the United States on March 23,
rejoin the U.S. First Fleet and became the flagship
of the Commander, Destroyer Squadron 17 in April 1962. On the second anniversary of her awards for
excellence in Operations, Engineering and Gunnery, USS Coontz flew the flag of
the Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 11 from August 1 to November 11,
1962, when she again became the flagship for Commander, Destroyer Squadron 17.
James R. Collier relieved Captain Ries in July
1962. The USS Coontz sailed with the
Seventh Fleet in Asiatic waters, visiting Yokosuka, Kobe, Kure and Beppu
in Japan and Hong Kong, B.C.C in China.
During this time the USS Coontz was also designated a stand-by recovery
ship for NASA’s Mercury-Atlas 8 space mission.
During the space flight on October 3, 1962, Wally Schirra
orbited the Earth at an altitude of 100 miles.
Although USS Coontz was listed as a stand-by ship for recovery
operations, it was not activated. The
USS Coontz returned to the U.S. in May 1963. In June 1963, the USS Coontz demonstrated the
kill capability of the Terrier surface-to-air missile in a sea power
demonstration for President John F. Kennedy.
was overhauled and her missile weapons systems extensively modernized from
October 1963 to April 1964 at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. Commander Eugene C. Kenyon, Jr. relieved
Commander Collier on March 7, 1964.
rejoining the Pacific Fleet in April 1964, USS Coontz successfully completed
comprehensive weapons systems qualification trials and refresher training. Prior to departure for the Western Pacific on
August 5, 1964, USS Coontz was awarded the Missile, Gunnery and
engineering “E” award for combat excellence in these areas. On August 3, 1964, USS Coontz again became the
flagship for Commander, Destroyer Squadron 17.
joined the U.S. Seventh Fleet on August 16, 1964 as a unit of the fast carrier task
force for six months. It steamed 41,000
miles and visited Subic Bay, Philippines, Hong Kong, B.C.C., Sasebo and Yokosuka, Japan.
In December 1964, USS Coontz was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary
Medal for support of Vietnam operations in the South China Sea.
Her third Western Pacific tour completed, USS Coontz returned to the operational
control of the Commander, First Fleet and returned to the United States on February 6,
in the First Fleet included participation in the 1965 summer midshipmen
training cruise. USS Coontz visited Bellingham, Washington; San Francisco, California; and Hilo and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii during this cruise. The “E”, “C” and “A” awards were received
during this period for excellence in engineering, communications and
anti-submarine warfare. On August
Commander W. Cummings relieved Commander Kenyon as commanding officer.
December 1965 to January 1966, the USS Coontz received a Helicopter Landing and
Handling Capability in San Diego.
This conversion included relocation of deck vents, clearing all fantail
obstructions, installation of a JP-5 fuel handling and purification system, and
the introduction of equipment to provide Helicopter Starting and Service
power. USS Coontz was the first of her
class to receive the conversion and proudly boasted the addition of a helicopter
to her many-faceted capabilities.
departed San Diego in January 1966 for a regular deployment as a unit of the
U.S. Seventh Fleet for a total of six months.
USS Coontz visited Shimoda and Yokosuka, Japan; Subic Bay, Philippines, and Kaohsiung, Formosa.
In March 1966, USS Coontz was awarded the Unit Commendation Ribbon for
her WESTPAC performance. After
completing her fourth Western Pacific route, USS Coontz changed operational
control of Commander, First Fleet and returned to the United States August 1, 1966.
departing Long Beach Naval Shipyard, USS Coontz returned to San Diego and commenced a training and upkeep
period. While deployed in the Western
Pacific, USS Coontz was again attached to the U.S. Seventh Fleet and spent two
30-day periods on search-and-rescue duty as well as carrier operations and
special assignments. Brief visits were
made to Hong
B.C.C; Yokosuka, Japan, and Subic Bay, Phillipines.
E. Dale Geiger relieved Commander Cummings as Commanding Officer on July
while USS Coontz was en route to WESTPAC on her fifth tour with the U.S.
1967, USS Coontz made an operational visit to Djakarta, Indonesia; the first U.S. Naval warship to
visit the nation since early 1963.
then spent two 30-day periods in the Northern Search and Rescue Station in the Tonkin Gulf and participated in the rescue of
nine aviators. After a brief visit to
Hong Kong, B.C.C., USS Coontz headed for her homeport, San Diego, via Sydney,
Australia and Wellington, New Zealand and arrived home February 8, 1968.
leave and upkeep period a Test and Evaluation Monitoring System (TEAMS) was
installed for evaluation during operations with the First Fleet. This was the first automatic test system to
be installed in the surface fleet. The
operations included participation in the summer midshipmen cruise. Ports visited during this cruise were San Francisco, Seattle, and Pearl Harbor.
USS Coontz then took part in First Fleet operations; including exercise
Beat Cadence until Deploying on November 15, 1968.
arrived on Yankee Station one month later and spent Christmas on the line. On February 8, 1969, Commander Donald P. Roane relieved
Commander Geiger as Commanding Officer before USS Coontz made a visit to Hong Kong, B.C.C.
returned to the Gulf of Tonkin for another Search and Rescue
mission before going north for upkeep in Yokosuka, Japan.
After an EC-121 aircraft was shot down by North Korean jets, USS Coontz
was rushed into the Sea of Japan. From that
assignment, USS Coontz returned to San Diego via Subic Bay on May 18.
upkeep followed. In September 1969, USS
Coontz participated in a HUKASWEX operation at sea as a unit of the First
Fleet. After several more sea periods,
USS Coontz went into an extensive upkeep period. During the year of 1969, USS Coontz won
awards for excellence in Supply, Operations and ASW. The upkeep continued until deployment on March
3, 1970. On July 8, 1970, Commander Roane was relieved as
Commanding Officer by Commander T.J. Bowen.
of 1971, shortly after her last Seventh Fleet tour, USS Coontz departed San Diego via the Panama Canal for Atlantic waters and a major
overhaul and modernization at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. In conjunction
with this work, USS Coontz DLG-9 was decommissioned on 23
After extensive Anti Air Warfare modification, USS Coontz was recommissioned on 18 March 1972 and transferred to her new homeport
of Newport, Rhode Island. Commander T.R.M.Emery
is assigned to the Coontz as its Commanding Officer on March
After a six
month test period in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and other operations in the Caribbean, USS Coontz sailed on a "show
the flag" cruise to South America and Africa. Subsequently she entered Boston Naval Shipyard for a three
month Post Shakedown Availability. Following extensive training and
preparation, USS Coontz departed on 6 July 1973 for her first deployment with the
US Sixth Fleet, operating in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean Sea.
Commander Emery is relieved as Commanding Officer by Commander F.N. Howe
on December 20, 1973.
1974 USS Coontz changed homeport from Newport to Norfolk VA. She departed 15
for a Mediterranean deployment, participating in numerous US and NATO exercises.
As part of
a major re-designation of several classes of ships, USS Coontz was designated
guided missile destroyer 40 (DDG 40) on 1 July 1975.
The ship’s next deployment was on 17 January 1976 as part of the Standing Naval
Forces Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT). The force operated in Caribbean, US and Canadian waters with ships
from 4 NATO navies prior to a transit to Northern Europe where USS Coontz visited 8
countries and participated in numerous NATO exercises. Commander Howie is
relieved as Commanding Officer by Commander S.O. Nunn III on March
6, 1976. Nunn was later relieved as Commanding Officer
by Commander W. P. Martin on April 8, 1978.
After a one
year regular overhaul in Norfolk Naval Shipyard, USS Coontz departed on 21
for comprehensive gunnery, missile and Harpoon system qualifications and
refresher training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
returning home, USS Coontz participated in six months of local operations including
GULFEX 78 in November 1978. In 1979 she
served again with STANAVFORLANT, as flag ship, hosting more than 35,000
visitors in 8 NATO countries and participating in various exercises with over
30 NATO ships. STANAVFORLANT operations included areas above the Arctic Circle, in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. Commander Martin was relieved as
Commanding Officer by Commander C.P. Willoz on September
In the fall
of 1981, USS Coontz deployed again. This cruise included port visits in western
Africa as part of the West African
Training Cruise, operations in the Mediterranean Sea and a transit into the Black Sea followed by a port visit to Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia.
Commander Willoz was relieved as Commanding
Officer by Commander J.P. Reason on September 6, 1981.
participated in operations around the Eastern coast of Central America in mid 1982 making the first visit
to Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles by a US Navy ship in more then 13
years. In July of that year USS Coontz entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
for a one year regular overhaul, undergoing various configuration changes and
equipment additions. During this yard period, Commander Reason was relieved as
Commanding Officer by Commander L.P. Brooks, Jr on December
17, 1982. USS Coontz completed overhaul on time in July
months out of overhaul in October 1983, USS Coontz steamed to the Caribbean Sea for weapons systems testing. While
undergoing tests, USS Coontz received immediate tasking and altered course to
join Operation Urgent Fury, the liberation of Grenada. The ship provided gunfire support
and small boat interdiction for ten consecutive days in support of the
amphibious assault. For this action, USS Coontz was awarded the Armed Forces
Expeditionary medal and the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
Coontz under went pre-deployment work up including refresher training and a
major fleet exercise. Upon completion, USS Coontz deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in October conducting operations in
Mediterranean off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon and in the Black Sea. Commander Brooks was relieved as
Commanding Officer by Commander Charles H. Gnerlich
on February 25, 1985. USS Coontz
returned to Norfolk in May 1985.
to October of 1985, USS Coontz under went her first Phased Maintenance
Availability, a new concept involving short periods of intense industrial work
designed to maximize operational availability rather then placing ships in
1985 USS Coontz participated in Operation Bold Eagle, a joint exercise
conducted with the US army and US Air Force in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. COONTZ was a vital link in
maintaining air defense, coordinating with airborne Air Force AWACS aircraft
and Army ground units.
USS Coontz’s next joint exercise was Ocean Venture '86. Coontz,
along with Navy ships and Coast Guard cutters conducted quarantine operations
exercises in the Caribbean operating areas. During this time Coontz requalified her Naval Gunfire Support Team at the Vieques Island Range near Puerto Rico.
1986 USS Coontz was awarded her first and only Battle Efficiency award.
she earned all eight line department awards in the areas of Navigation/Deck
Seamanship, Main Propulsion, Damage Control, Anti-Air Warfare, Anti-Submarine
Warfare, Anti-Surface Warfare, Electronic Warfare, and Communications.
1986 and early 1987, Coontz under went a work up period in preparation for deployment
to the Persian Gulf on 5 February 1987.
During her deployment, she served under the Commander, Middle East
Forces. USS Coontz was tasked with ensuring the safe passage of all U.S.
vessels as well as maintaining US presence in the Gulf during the escalation of
the Iran-Iraq war. Commander Gnerlich was relieved as
Commanding Officer by Commander William W. Cobb, Jr. on April 11, 1987. During deployment in the Persian Gulf, USS
Coontz provided firefighting teams which aided in the rescue of the USS Stark
and her crew after she was struck by Iraqi Exocet
returned to her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia on 5 August 1987. Following a
three month maintenance availability (SRA) she operated as part of the US
Second Fleet. Commander Cobb was
relieved as Commanding Officer by Commander W.E. Cox on July 21, 1989. Commander Cox oversaw the decommissioning of
the USS Coontz in Philadelphia, PA on October 2, 1989.