Remembering The Past
"A Generation of Excellence"
The keel for USS BAINBRIDGE was laid on May 14, 1959 by Vice Admiral Hyman Rickover at the Bethlehem Steel Company, Fore River Shipyard, Quincy Massachusetts as the world's first nuclear frigate. Launched in April 1961, by Mrs. Robert Goodale, the great-great-granddaughter of Commodore William Bainbridge, she was the fourth of currently five naval vessels to have the honor of bearing the name "BAINBRIDGE."
The ship was commissioned on October 6, 1962 at ceremonies held in Quincy. The keynote speaker at the commissioning ceremony was Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, the Chief of Naval Operations. The world's first nuclear frigate carried an impressive list of equipment: two pressurized water reactors; two twin Terrier missile launchers; two twin 3" .50 caliber radar controlled gun mounts; two torpedo mounts; an ASROC launcher; and a state of the art electronic and communications suite. Commanded by Captain Raymond E. Peet she departed for her first homeport, Charleston, South Carolina. BAINBRIDGE completed her shakedown in three weeks, setting the standard for the future in terms of excellence.
In January 1963, she arrived in Charleston, South Carolina and joined Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla TWELVE, becoming the flagship of the Navy's first all missile destroyer squadron. BAINBRIDGE began her historic first deployment in February 1963 and rendezvoused with the world's first nuclear carrier, USS ENTERPRISE, in the Mediterranean. Her first foreign port of call was Toulon, France. Later that year, in June, she earned the first of her eleven Battle "E" Ribbons for warfare efficiency, given to the best ship of a squadron or group.
In April 1964, during her second Mediterranean deployment, she joined USS LONG BEACH for the first time and later in May, along with USS ENTERPRISE, formed the world's first nuclear powered task group, Task Group 60.1, under RADM Bernard M. Stream. In July 1964, CAPT Hal C. Castle relieved CAPT Peet as Commanding Officer. BAINBRIDGE for the second straight year won the Navy's Battle "E" Award, setting a tradition of excellence which became her motto. The first nuclear task group began an around the world cruise (OPERATION SEA ORBIT), thereby becoming the first ships of the U.S. Navy to sail around the world since the "Great White Fleet" in 1908. During this cruise, BAINBRIDGE crossed the equator for the first of twenty times.
In October 1964, BAINBRIDGE returned to Charleston, South Carolina after steaming more than 30,000 miles. In June 1965, BAINBRIDGE embarked the first of the many midshipman she would host in her long life. . In December 1965, she began her first Pacific Fleet deployment in the South China Sea, off the coast of South Vietnam. Along with USS ENTERPRISE, she was part of the first group of nuclear powered ships to enter actual combat, engaging in air strikes on North Vietnam. Later, she sailed for Long Beach, California and completed the first of eight homeport shifts, arriving in June, 1966
In June 1966, BAINBRIDGE ended her first "West Pac" cruise, having steamed over 72,000 miles. Later that year, she departed Long Beach for her second Pacific cruise. In December, CAPT James H. Doyle relieved CAPT Castle as her third Commanding Officer. She ended the year on "Yankee Station" in the Gulf of Tonkin. While returning to the Gulf of Tonkin from a port visit to Fremantle, Australia, BAINBRIDGE set a speed-distance record, sailing over 6,660 miles in less than two weeks, and averaging 29.9 knots. In the summer of 1967, she returned stateside by way of San Francisco, en route to her third homeport, Vallejo, California. She entered dry dock at Mare Island Shipyard in August 1967 for her first refueling. Her first five years had produced numerous accolades, awards and records, and she had covered over 300,000 miles of ocean. BAINBRIDGE was accorded the nickname, the "Grey Ghost of the Orient," for her speed and endurance.
In April 1968 both of BAINBRIDGE's reactors were once again critical and she began her second period of active life. She returned to sea for sea trials under the auspices of VADM Rickover. She celebrated her sixth birthday conducting local operations.
January 1969 began with BAINBRIDGE underway once again for a West Pac cruise. BAINBRIDGE assisted USS ENTERPRISE in a two day search for survivors, after the carrier suffered a disastrous and deadly flight deck fire. "Yankee Station" became a familiar local over the next several years. In August, BAINBRIDGE shifted homeport to Long Beach, California. BAINBRIDGE was awarded her first Pacific Fleet Missile "E". In April 1970, BAINBRIDGE began her fourth West Pac deployment, and she won her fourth Battle "E" award. In August, CAPT William R. Sheridan relieved CAPT Doyle and became her fourth Commanding Officer. In late October, BAINBRIDGE completed her latest West Pac deployment having steamed over 50,000 miles and visiting 9 major ports in four foreign countries. The crew spent the holidays at home with grateful dependents.
Between the years 1971 and 1973 BAINBRIDGE continued to accumulate miles steamed, winning accolades, awards and earning friends in many other countries. She won the Navy's "Environmental Protection Award" in 1972. She also won Navy Battle "E" Ribbons in 1971, 1972 and 1973 and acted as a plane guard for returning POW flights from North Vietnam to the Philippines. In 1973, she became the first nuclear powered surface ship to receive an overall grade of "Excellent" in an Operational Reactor Safeguards Exam (ORSE). In late 1973 she got underway once again for the western Pacific, this time to "GONZO Station" in the Arabian Sea.
During this cruise CAPT B. Bruce Newell relieved CAPT Sheridan as Commanding Officer. BAINBRIDGE became the first nuclear powered ship to perform an alongside restricted availability outside the United States alongside USS SAMUEL GOMPERS in Subic Bay, Philippines in March 1974. This cruise would be her last for a while as she began a 27 month shipyard modernization and overhaul in Bremerton, Washington. In 1974, while in the shipyard, her 3" .50 caliber guns were removed and replaced with 20MM cannon, she received the AN/SPS-48 radar, and the Naval Tactical Data System was installed. Additionally, the aft superstructure was constructed and an additional level was added on the forward superstructure to support the SLQ-32. Rear Admiral Watkins delivered another Battle "E" Award while in the shipyard. Bainbridge Island, Washington adopted the ship as part of the Bicentennial celebration in 1975. The ship and its sailors were declared honorary residents of the island. During this period BAINBRIDGE's very first Sailor of the Year, YN1 Edwad B. Kehaven, was selected. On 30 June 1975, BAINBRIDGE was declared to be a cruiser, not a frigate, during the Navy's reorganization of ship designations; DLGN 25 became CGN 25.
After completing the 27 month extensive modernization period at Bremerton, BAINBRIDGE's reactors were once again critical and she one more moved into her familiar realm, the western Pacific. In March 1977, CAPT T. A. Almstedt relieved CAPT Newell as Commanding Officer and in April she moved her homeport to San Diego in yet another homeport change, the fifth of her life. Between 1978 and 1981, BAINBRIDGE was busy with three western Pacific/Indian Ocean cruises. Racking up mileage, she crossed and recrossed the Pacific. In 1979, her Harpoon missile batteries were installed. She visited Mombasa, Kenya for the first time. On 20 May 1979, CAPT J. F. Shaw relieved CAPT Almstedt as Commanding Officer. In 1981 she visited Sattahip, Thailand for the first of many visits (Note: The ship first visited Sattahip in 1978 on a different cruise), as she was once again found on "GONZO Station" in the Arabian Sea.
In November 1982, BAINBRIDGE won the Pacific Fleet's "MARJORIE STERRETT BATTLESHIP AWARD" for the Pacific Fleet for 1982, which is given every six years to the best surface combatant in the Pacific Fleet. She earned the COMNAVSURFPAC Anti-Air Warfare Award for 1983, and won another Battle "E" Award. CAPT J. Paul Reason relieved CAPT Shaw as Commanding Officer in October 1983, and BAINBRIDGE proceeded to Bremerton, Washington to complete what was to be her final modernization overhaul.
After completing her overhaul in 1984, and 19 years as part of the Pacific Fleet, she was reassigned to the Atlantic Fleet and shifted homeport to Norfolk, Virginia. During her transit to Norfolk, she became the first nuclear powered ship to visit Maracaibo, Venezuela. BAINBRIDGE refamiliarized herself with the Atlantic and Caribbean once again. As a result of Drug Interdiction Operations in the Caribbean in 1985 and 1986, BAINBRIDGE was awarded two Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbons.
In July 1986 CAPT Gilmartin relieved CAPT Reason as Commanding Officer. In August 1986, BAINBRIDGE set sail the Mediterranean Sea for the first time in 22 years. In 1988, during her next deployment to the Mediterranean, BAINBRIDGE participated in the COMSIXFLT Change of Command. BAINBRIDGE visited ports in France, Israel, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.
In June 1989, CAPT Bergen relieved CAPT Gilmartin as Commanding Officer. Later that year, BAINBRIDGE entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for an extended SRA. In June 1990, she visited Canada for the first time, berthing in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1990 she moved northward into the Norwegian Sea. On 5 September 1990, she arrived in Portsmouth, England, her first visit to the United Kingdom. Next she moved northward to Oslo, Norway and to Wilhelmshaven, Germany. From Wilhelmshaven, she escorted the SS GOPHER STATE and SS FLICKERTAIL STATE, which were carrying nerve gas canisters to be destroyed at an incinerator in the Pacific, all the way to the Galapagos Islands, where she was met by USS TRUXTUN and relieved of her escort duties. During her return to the East Coast, she made a transit through the Panama Canal. BAINBRIDGE celebrated her 28th birthday on the trip north. In 1991, BAINBRIDGE participated in the Surface Ship Radiated Noise Measurement Tests in the Caribbean and in November deployed once again for the Mediterranean. In December, the ship conducted her first transit of the Suez Canal, and arrived in the Arabian Sea as part of the EISENHOWER Battle Group in support of OPERATION DESERT STORM. While there, inport Dubai, United Arab Emirates, CAPT Bergen was relieved as Commanding Officer, by CAPT G. M. Ziller Jr.
In 1992, BAINBRIDGE stopped in Mombassa, Kenya where the President of Kenya and the U. S. Ambassador to Kenya visited the ship and were given an extensive tour. BAINBRIDGE donated a large amount of blood during a local blood drive. March found the ship back in the Mediterranean in preparation for returning to Norfolk. Prior to going home, she headed north to participate in TEAMWORK 92, in the Norwegian Sea, and made her first crossing of the Arctic Circle. In 1993, BAINBRIDGE was near Haiti for Migrant Interdiction and Maritime Interdiciton Drug Enforcement operations. In late August, the ship headed north for exercise SOLID STANCE 93, where she visited Norway, Germany and Portsmouth, England. She returned to Norfolk, Virginia in October 1993.
In November 1993, CAPT Ziller passed command of the ship to CAPT J. M. Brown in a ceremony in Norfolk. She participated in COMPTUEX in the Puerto Rican Operations area with other members of the GEORGE WASHINGTON Battle Group in preparation for a major deployment to the Med in April. In April, the BAINBRIDGE volunteer program received a major boost by being notified she had won the 1993 South Hampton Roads Community Service Award. Also in April Rear Admiral J. Stark, COMSTANAVFORLANT, Commander, Standing Naval Forces, Atlantic, made BAINBRIDGE his flagship for Operation SHARP GUARD, which enforced United Nations sanctions against the former Republic of Yugoslavia. The ship also supported Operation DENY FLIGHT as REDCROWN, responsible for coordinating the air picture over Bosnia. While in the Adriatic, BAINBRIDGE distinguished herself by setting the single ship record for ship boarding inspections, with 104 boardings without a single incident. In August she completed her deployment and steamed for home, having sailed over 40,000 miles in 183 days.
August saw BAINBRIDGE winning the COMNAVBASE Norfolk Community Service award (Sea) even though she had only been in port a short time, a testament to her dedication to community involvement. In October, the venerable ship celebrated her 32nd birthday and was notified that she had won the U. S. Navy's Community Service Award (Sea) sponsored by the Chief of Naval Operations. Her volunteers spent over 4,550 hours in community service work throughout the year and well deserved this prestigious award and as a result won the South Hampton Roads Community Service Award for the second straight year, a feat heretofore unaccomplished by any organization, much less a sea deploying unit.
Preparations began in early 1995 for yet another deployment. In February she deployed to the North Atlantic for OPERATION STRONG RESOLVE, only five months since her last deployment and only one and a half months after the start of a major IMAV. During this deployment, BAINBRIDGE continued to earn accolades. Near the end of the deployment the ship was notified that her engineering plant would be shut down in April in preparation for deactivation in October. In March, she and her crew enjoyed short port visits in Bremerhaven, Germany, and in Den Helder, Netherlands. On 19 March 1995, BAINBRIDGE began her trip to Norfolk, ending her last major deployment and arrived on 30 March 1995. From 7-11 April BAINBRIDGE was once more at sea, this time as part of the GEORGE WASHINGTON Battle Group, acting as plane guard for flight operations. In late April BAINBRIDGE shifted her berth to the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station. There she unloaded her missiles and ammunition. On 29 April, BAINBRIDGE enjoyed her last cruise under her own power when she embarked her "dependents" for a dependents cruise in the VACAPES operation area. In May the reactors were shut down for the final time. After deactivation, BAINBRIDGE was towed to Norfolk Naval Shipyard for defuelling and preparation for the final resting place of the hull in Bremerton, Washington.
After 33 years of valiant service, "A GENERATION OF EXCELLENCE," has come to an end.