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History in a dry dock

Famous ship spruced up

The USS Turner Joy (DD-951) sits in dry dock to undergo repairs and painting before sailing back to Bremerton. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Sitting on large wooden blocks at the Lake Union Dry Dock Company, the USS Turner Joy (DD-951) looked large and naked.

Lifts, generators and other tools surrounded the ship's hull. The gritty remains of sanded-off paint and water converged and covered the bottom of the dock.

Once a new coat of high-quality paint is applied, the ship will return home to the Port of Bremerton and the care of the Bremerton Historic Ships Association (BHSA).

A 501c(3) nonprofit corporation that promotes the naval heritage of the Pacific Northwest, the BHSA supports the USS Turner Joy (DD-951) on the Bremerton waterfront.

"The maintenance of the USS Turner Joy is of tremendous significance to the Bremerton community," explained State Representative Michelle Caldier (R-26th District).

She played a key role in a bi-partisan effort to secure $300,000 in funds to complete the $800,000 restoration.

Along with the revenue raised from tourism dollars for the city of Bremerton and its economic development programs, Caldier pointed out, the ship also serves as a breakwater to the Bremerton Marina and supports the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Initiative.

Built at the Puget Sound Bridge & Dredging Company in Seattle, the ship was commissioned in August 1959. A Forest Sherman class destroyer, she measures 418.3 feet in length, sports a 45.3-foot beam and draws 22 feet of water.

Her four 1,200-pound boilers and two steam turbines turn the two 14-foot diameter propellers to produce a top speed of 32 knots. Three five-inch guns and two Mark 32 torpedo launchers gave the ship a punch.

All sea duty was in the Pacific.

Decommissioned in November 1982, the USS Turner Joy (DD-951) was donated as a museum and memorial to the BHSA in 1991.

Then there is the role she plays in American history.  

On Aug. 2, 1964, the USS Maddox (DD-731) engaged a number of North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. The Maddox opened fire and called for assistance.  The Turner Joy responded.

On the early night of Aug. 4, both ships reported sonar and radar contacts of what appeared to be high-speed surface craft. As the evening wore on, the Turner Joy reported torpedo wakes and took defensive measures. She also opened fire on the unidentified radar blips.

The fog of war soon set in.

While the crews of both the Maddox and Turner Joy believed they had come under attack on the night of the 4th, there were no statements about oil slicks or post-explosion fires - all of which would be expected if a five-inch shell had hit a torpedo boat.

Regardless of the real outcome, the incidents led President Lyndon Johnson to propose and receive Congressional passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.  

The door to further and sustained American involvement in Vietnam had opened.

"The USS Turner Joy is a part of American history," said Daniel Zerbe, the ship's maintenance manager."We are very proud of this ship."

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