USS CHARLES SPERRY DD-697
M. Sumner class destroyer
USS CHARLES S. SPERRY was commissioned on May 17,
1944. By December, DD-697 started to accompany
Task Force 38 which was one of the premier fast
carrier forces in the Pacific. For most of her
service in WW2, SPERRY "sailed in harm's way",
protecting carrier forces from kamikaze attack while
cruising off enemy coasts.
The invasion of Iwo
Jima was supported by SPERRY's task force, and the
destroyer was pivotal in protecting her charges with
accurate anti-aircraft fire and a smokescreen as
enemy aircraft sought and found the huge force.
USS CHARLES S.
SPERRY and her sisters often stayed at sea for three
months or more. In preparing for the invasion
of Okinawa, SPERRY's fast force struck targets in
Kyushu. This time, the Japanese struck back
heavily. DD-697 succeeded in splashing several
attackers, but USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) was hit, and
DD-697was called upon to screen the badly damaged
USS CHARLES S.
SPERRY and her Task Force was in the thick of the
action during the Japanese final effort to blast
American forces from Okinawa. the Imperial
Japanese Navy used the most formidable battleship
every built YAMATO, escorted by a cruiser and eight
destroyers, covered by flights of kamikazes.
While, the aircraft of the Task Force attached the
enemy's battleship and her escort, DD-697 and her
sister ships protected the Task Force's ships from
After the war, USS
CHARLES S. SPERRY remained in Japanese waters, first
to support occupation forces and repatriate
prisoners of war, then on training exercises.
She finally sailed for the East Coast in December,
1945, arriving two months later.
For the next
several years, USS CHARLES S. SPERRY served as a
training vessel for Naval Reserve units both on the
East Coast and in the Gulf.
On October 14,
1950, USS CHARLES S. SPERRY found herself off the
Korean coast. For eight months, DD-697 was in
action almost continuously. The North Koreans
came to know the gray-hulled ghost that swept unto
the waters around Wonsan, Kojo, and Hungnam,
blasting away at every target with superb accuracy .
At Wonsan, DD-697 steamed up the twisted channel,
under fire from shore batteries, to provide support
for landing forces assigned to capture the harbor
islands. Usually arriving unheralded, she
"interdicted enemy forces", then left the immediate
area for another assignment.
By the late 1950's
the US Navy found herself with large number of
rapidly aging destroyers that were not really able
to effectively counter the new technology arrayed
against them. The few new vessels Congress was
willing to fund would hardly provide much defense
against hordes of Soviet submarines in the Atlantic.
Therefore the Navy had to modernize and rehabilitate
existing hulls with a program was called FRAM (Fleet
Rehabilitation and Modernization).
USS CHARLES S.
SPERRY was among the five ships selected for a FRAM
II rebuilding. Weapons systems were modernized,
electronics and communications suites were upgraded,
and her hull and machinery were "rehabilitated."
With an expenditure of almost eight million dollars
and a yard stay of nearly seven months after which
USS CHARLES S. SPERRY became pretty much a new ship.
She now sported hedgehog long-range torpedoes and
remotely controlled drone helicopters called DASH.
By the mid-1960's,
DD-697 entered her third war. American
involvement in the Vietnam War had escalated and
strong naval forces were deployed in the area.
USS CHARLES S. SPERRY served as a harbor defense
ship for Da Nang, then sailed north to test her
weapons against the Communist guerrillas. On
January 15, 1966, one of the first 5-inch rounds the
destroyer fired at a North Vietnamese target set off
a spectacular secondary explosion. When the
dust cleared, an ammunition warehouse and ten other
structures had been completely destroyed, while
another forty-one were heavily damaged. Within
the next fifteen days, SPERRY fired one hundred
thirty-five 5-inch rounds at enemy targets along the
coast. The deployment ended on February 22,
In March, 1973 a
Navy survey team concluded that USS CHARLES S.
SPERRY was no longer useful for anti-submarine
purposes. She was stricken from the Naval
Vessel Register on October 31, 1973.
As it happened,
several South American allies were interested in
acquiring "surplus" naval vessels from the United
States. A deal was negotiated with the Chilean
Navy in September for a total in excess of $229,500.
Finally, on January 8, 1974, USS CHARLES S. SPERRY
became MINISTRO ZENTENO, captained by CDR Francisco
Johow. She served another sixteen years in the
Chilean Navy before being stricken in 1990.
USS CHARLES S.
SPERRY earned four battle stars for service in World
War II, four for Korea, and additional commendations
for her service in Vietnam.