USS WILLARD KEITH (DD-775)
Willard Keith (DD-775) was laid down on 5 March 1944 at San Pedro
by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 29 August 1944
sponsored by Mrs. Willard W. Keith
the mother of Capt. Keith; and commissioned two days after Christmas of 1944
Comdr. Lewis L. Snyder in command.
After shakedown training out of San Diego
Willard Keith operated temporarily out of the Precommissioning Training Center at San Francisco
as training ship for engineering personnel. During that time
she made weekly trips from San Francisco to San Clemente Island and back.
Completing that tour of training duty in mid-April 1945
Willard Keith sailed for the Western Pacific (WestPac) on 16 April
heading for Pearl Harbor in company with Atlanta (CL-104) and Tillman (DD-641). After onward routing to the forward area
Willard Keith arrived at Okinawa on 29 May. Assigned screening and radar picket duties for the remainder of the Okinawan campaign
Willard Keith destroyed two Japanese planes during her tour. Her closest brush with the enemy came on the final day of the campaign when a Japanese torpedo plane winged in low and unobserved and launched her "fish." Fortunately
the warhead proved a dud and only left a dent in Willard Keith's hull.
After her baptism of fire
Willard Keith then joined a cruiser-destroyer task force on 24 June for antishipping sweeps into the East China Sea. Due to the losses inflicted upon the once-large Japanese merchant marine
the pickings were slim. Willard Keith spent the remainder of the war engaged in such largely fruitless operations and
with the coming of the Japanese surrender
drew screening duties with the initial occupying forces in the erstwhile enemy's home waters. That autumn
the destroyer visited the Japanese ports of Wakayama
on occasion performing courier service between ports
carrying men and mail.
Chosen as the flagship for Commodore John T. Bottom
Task Flotilla 1 and area commander
Willard Keith wore the commodore's burgee pennant while remaining at Nagoya from the last part of October until early December. On 5 December
Commodore Bottom's burgee came down
and Willard Keith put to sea to rendezvous with her sister ships in Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 66. She then sailed east reaching the west coast in time to spend Christmas at San Diego
Willard Keith proceeded down the west coast; transited the Panama Canal
crossed the Gulf of Mexico and then proceeded around the tip of Florida bound for New York City. After voyage repairs at the New York Navy Yard
the destroyer stood out of the yard on the last day of January and proceeded up the eastern seaboard to Newport
R.I. She engaged in gunnery exercises out of that port and upon conclusion of that first phase of her peacetime training program
returned to New York. She made five more short round trips between New York and Newport until 12 July
when she set out for Guantanamo Bay
After operations in the British West Indies area
Willard Keith returned to Norfolk
from whence she escorted the veteran battleships Washington (BB-56) and North Carolina (BB-55) to Culebra
for shore bombardment exercises. The destroyer then returned to Norfolk as part of the screen for the battlewagons
before she drew another escort assignment
this time with the aircraft carrier Philippine Sea (CV-47). Conducting exercises and maneuvers en route
the carrier and her consorts reached Guantanamo Bay for training before returning northward and putting into Newport.
Christmas and New Year's holidays came and went before the destroyer operated locally between Pensacola and Key West. During her time in those waters
she deviated from her routine once
when she sailed to Mobile
on 13 February 1947 to serve as one of the Navy's official representatives to the yearly Mardi Gras festivities. For the remainder of the spring months
Willard Keith cruised routinely between Newport and Key West
carrying out training duties off the eastern seaboard.
Arriving at Norfolk on 20 June 1947
Willard Keith was assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet a short time later. "Mothballed" at Charleston (S.C.) Naval Shipyard
the destroyer remained inactive until the Fleet buildup brought about by the Korean War in 1950.
Recommissioned on 23 October 1950
Willard Keith was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. After her activation was completed on 27 November
the ship departed Charleston
shaping course for Norfolk
Va. Subsequently pushing on to Guantanamo Bay planeguarding for the Fleet carrier Intrepid (CV-11) en route Willard Keith reached her destination on 13 January 1951 to commence her shakedown soon thereafter.
Completing that training phase on Washington's Birthday 1951
Willard Keith stopped briefly at Culebra for gunnery exercises before proceeding on to Norfolk and upkeep. After a three-month overhaul
the destroyer returned to the Guantanamo region for further refresher training. She then returned to Norfolk for a tender upkeep.
On 3 September 1951
Willard Keith departed the east coast
bound for the Mediterranean and duty with the 6th Fleet. Relieving Dennis J. Buckley (DD-808) as a unit of that force on the 22d of the month
Willard Keith spent the next six months in the "Med
" making operational visits to such ports as Gibraltar; Naples and Trieste
Italy; Augusta Bay
Greece; and Suda Bay
From November of 1951 to February of 1952
Willard Keith operated in company with John W. Weeks (DD-701) as a unit of the Northern European Force under the overall command of Real Admiral W. F. Boone. During that period of time
the destroyer visited Plymouth
England; Copenhagen and Bornholm
Northern Ireland. While operating out of the last-named port
she conducted exercises jointly with British destroyers.
While in northern European waters
Willard Keith performed rescue and escort duties for a week
assisting the crippled SS Flying Enterprise before that ship broke apart and sank in heavy seas. That incident gained the United States Navy international attention at the time. The owners of the lost ship
the Isbrandtsen Lines
later presented a plaque to Willard Keith in appreciation for her assistance rendered to their vessel.
Completing her duty in European waters early in February 1952
Willard Keith shaped course for home
reaching Norfolk on 6 February for leave and upkeep. Once the needed voyage repairs had been accomplished and both officers and men refreshed after their deployment overseas
the destroyer headed north
departing Norfolk on 21 April 1952. She was bound for Argentia Newfoundland
with a party of observers from the United States Naval Underwater Sound School embarked on board. From 21 April to 12 May
the destroyer then conducted antisubmarine warfare (ASW) drills for the benefit of the observers.
Upon the ship's return to Norfolk
all hands began to make preparations for a scheduled midshipmen's cruise. In early June
the ship sailed to Annapolis
and embarked 72 officers-to-be
taking them to Norfolk. Subsequently
Willard K0ith sailed to European waters and then to Guantanamo Bay. Ports visited during the midshipmen's cruise included Torquay
and Le Havre
Returning to Norfolk via Guantanamo
Willard Keith disembarked her passengers and resumed her routine of training. She conducted two weeks of hunter/ killer training in company with the escort carrier Block Island (CVE-106) a task group under the command of Rear Admiral D. V. Gallery.
Willard Keith put back into Norfolk at the end of November and spent the remainder of the year there. She departed her home port nine days into the new year
setting sail for Pensacola
assigned as plane guard for the light carrier Monterey (CVL-26). En route
an urgent message from Commandant
6th Naval District
directed the ship to proceed to a rendezvous with an LST which had a Marine sergeant on board who was stricken with appendicitis. Willard Keith complied and transported the man to Charleston
where he received medical attention. The ship received a special commendation from the Commandant of the 6th Naval District for her fine work in helping to save the man.
Ultimately completing her assigned duties in company with Monterey
Willard Keith returned to Norfolk to prepare for a scheduled three and one-half month overhaul. After repairs and alterations at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard from 11 February to 27 May
Willard Keith conducted refresher training out of Guantanamo Bay after first stopping at Norfolk en route. Returning to her home port on 4 August
the destroyer subsequently sailed for the Far East on 25 September in company with the other ships of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 221.
The division reached Yokosuka
Japan on 10 November 1953
Port Said Aden
and Manila. Willard Keith and her sister ships operated with Naval Forces
under the overall command of Rear Admiral Robert P. Briscoe. Operating with the hunter/killer group for the initial part of her time in the Far East
the destroyer served with part of the United Nations Blockading and Escort Group. In company with James C. Owens (DD-776)
Willard Keith performed plane guard services for two weeks with the Australian aircraft carrier
as that ship conducted flight operations. During the course of the tour
Willard Keith visited the ports of Sasebo and Yokosuka
Korea; and Buckner Bay
Completing her WestPac tour in March 1954
Willard Keith and her squadron mates returned to the United States via Midway
San Francisco; Long Beach
the Panama Canal
and Key West
returning to Norfolk on 1 May and thus completing the ship's circumnavigation of the globe. For the remainder of the year 1954
Willard Keith operated from Labrador to the Caribbean
taking part in antisubmarine warfare (ASW) exercises and amphibious exercises interspersed with routine upkeep periods in port.
After spending Christmas
in her home port Willard Keith departed Norfolk five days into the new year
bound for the Mediterranean. She paid goodwill calls at the ports of Algiers
and the Azores in the course of her extended deployment
before she returned to Norfolk on 15 March. Then
after a brief upkeep period
Willard Keith offloaded stores and ammunition and shifted to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a four-month overhaul. Emerging from the shipyard on 8 August
the destroyer conducted refresher training out of the familiar waters of Guantanamo Bay before conducting gunfire support exercises with the rest of her division at Culebra. Returning northward that autumn
she conducted amphibious warfare gunfire support exercises as a fire support unit during Marine Corps amphibious landing exercises off the coast of North Carolina.
For the next seven years
Willard Keith remained with DesRon 22
operating from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. She participated in a variety of goodwill missions
midshipmen cruises and the usual training assignments in gunnery
ASW and the like. She also participated in the "quarantine" operations in the autumn of 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis. One of the more pleasant highlights of that period occurred during the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959during which time Willard Keith escorted the Royal yacht
the latter having Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II
embarked on board.
On 1 October 1963
Willard Keith began a new phase of her career. Reporting to DesRon 34 for duty
the warship soon commenced operating as a Naval Reserve training (NRT) ship. For the next nine years
Willard Keith operated in that capacity
accomplishing reserve training with monthly drill weekend cruises for the reservists permanently assigned to the ship's reserve crew and undertaking two-week active duty training cruises for reservists getting their annual active sea duty training. She ranged from the eastern seaboard to Guantanamo Bay as an NRT destroyer
providing the platform for training necessary to maintain a skilled pool of reservists ready for any eventuality.
Ultimately considered to have capabilities that were not up to modern Fleet standards Willard Keith was chosen for inactivation and transfer. Decommissioned on 1 July 1972 at Norfolk
Willard Keith was transferred to the Navy of the Republic of Colombia. Simultaneously stricken from the Navy list
the destroyer was renamed Caldes (DD-02). She served the Colombian Navy until disposed of in 1977.
Willard Keith (DD-775) earned two battle stars for her World War II service.
[Note: The above USS WILLARD KEITH (DD-775) history may or may not contain text provided by crew members of the USS WILLARD KEITH (DD-775) or by other non-crew members and text from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships]