From: DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN NAVAL FIGHTING SHIPS, Vol. VII, p. 249
John Henry Towers--born on 30 January 1885 at Pome, Ga.-graduated
with the Naval Academy class of 1906 and was commissioned ensign in 1908,
while serving in battleship Kentucky. He was later assigned to battleship
Michigan before being sent to Hammondsport, N.Y., in 1911 for aviation
Under the tutelage of Glenn Curtiss, Towers qualified as a pilot
in August of that gear and went on to supervise the establishment of the
Navy's first aviation unit at Annapolis, Md., in the fall. He traveled
to California where, in conjunction with the Curtiss Flying School at North
Island in San Diego, he took part In developing and improving naval aircraft
After returning east thereafter, Towers was nearly killed in
the summer of 1912. While he was flying as a passenger on 20 June, his
plane was caught in a sudden downdraft and plummeted earthward. The pilot,
Ens. W. D. Billingsley, was thrown from the aircraft and killed. Towers,
too, was wrenched from his seat but managed to catch a wing strut and stayed
with the plane until it crashed into the Chesapeake Bay. Interviewed by
Glenn Curtiss soon thereafter, Towers recounted the circumstances of the
tragedy; and the report and resultant recommendations eventually led to
the design and adoption of safety belts and harnesses for pilots and their
On 5 March 1913, the Navy designated Towers Naval Aviator No.
3; and, in January 1914, he became the executive officer of the Naval Air
Station at Pensacola, Fla. When Vera Cruz was occupied by the Navy and
marines that spring, Towers commanded the aviation unit carried to that
port in battleship Mississippi and cruiser Birmingham. In August 1914,
one month into World War Z, Towers was ordered to London as assistant naval
attache--a billet he filled until he returned to the United States in the
autumn of 1916. Once back home, he supervised the establishment of the
Naval Flying Corps-then in its infancy--and went on to become Assistant
Director of Naval Aviation with the establishment of the Division of Aviation
within the Navy Department.
In February 1919, Towers was placed in charge of the proposed
transatlantic flight of the NC-flying boats end, while commanding NC-3,
led the division from Trepassy Bay, Newfoundland. Though their ultimate
destination was Lisbon, Portugal, NC-I and
NC-PI encountered dense fog off the Azores and had to land to take bearings.
Due to the heavy seas, neither could take off again; and the latter soon
began shipping water. Towers and his crew managed to keep the flying boat
afloat for 52 hours and eventually made Punts Delgada on Sao Miguel Island.
NC-4 went on to complete the transatlantic crossing, arriving at Lisbon
on 27 May. For his part in the operation, Towers received the Navy Cross.
Between the autumn of 1919 and the late winter of 1922 and 1923,
Towers served at sea--as the executive officer of Aroostook and as the
commanding officer of old destroyer Mugford, which had been redesignated
an aircraft tender. Then, after a tour as executive officer at Pensacola
Naval Air Station, he spent two and one-half years--from March of 1923
to September of 1925--as an assistant naval attaché, serving at
the American embassies at London, Paris, Rome, the Hague, and Berlin. Returning
to the United States in the autumn of 1925, he was assigned to the Bureau
of Aeronautics and served as a member of the court of inquiry which
investigated the loss of dirigible Shenandoah.
Towers next commanded Langley (CV-1) from January 1927 to August
1928. He received a commendation for "coolness and courage in the face
of danger" when a gasoline line caught fire and burned on board the carrier
in December 1927. Towers personally led the vigorous and successful attempt
to suppress the flames kindled by the explosion and thus averted a catastrophe.
After shore duty in the Bureau of Aeronautics - successively
serving as head of the plans division and later, as assistant bureau chief--Towers
joined the staff of the Commander Aircraft, Battle Force, Rear Admiral
Harry E. Yarnell, in June 1931. He was among the staff which planned a
successful "attack" on Pearl Harbor during the Joint Army-Navy Exercise
No. 4 in the Hawaiian Islands in February 1932--an operation which was
to be duplicated on a larger scale by the Japanese in December 1941.
Between June of 1933 and June of 1939, Towers filled a variety
of billets ashore and afloat: he completed the senior course at the Naval
War College in 1934; commanded the Naval Air Station at San Diego; again
served on the staff of ComAirBatFor; commanded Saratoga (CV-3); and became
Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics. On 1 June 1939, he was named
Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics with the accompanying rank of rear admiral.
As bureau chief, Towers organized the Navy's aircraft procurement
plans while war clouds gathered over the Far East and in the Atlantic.
Under his leadership, the sir arm of the Navy grew from 2,000 planes in
1939 to 39,000 in 1942. He also instituted a rigorous pilot-training program
and established a trained group of reserve officers for ground support
duties. During Towers' tenure, the number of men assigned to naval aviation
activities reached a high point of some three quarters of a million.
Promoted to vice admiral on 6 October 1942, Towers became Commander,
Air Force, Pacific Fleet. From this billet, he wisely and effectively supervised
the development, organization, training, and supply of the Fleet's
growing aviation capability. For his sound
judgment and keen resourcefulness, Towers received, successively, the Legion
of Merit Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal.
In August 1945, Towers was given command of the 2d Carrier Task
Force and Task Force 38, Pacific Fleet. On 7 November 1945, he broke his
flag in New Jersey (BB-6) as Commander, 5th Fleet. On 1 February 1946,
he hoisted his flag in Bennington (CV-20) as Commander in Chief, Pacific
Fleet, a post he held until March of 1947.
After chairing the Navy's General Board from March to December
1947, Towers retired on 1 December 1947. After retirement, Towers served
as President of the Pacific War Memorial, a New York-based scientific foundation;
as assistant to the President of Pan American World Airways; and as President
of the Flight Safety Council. Admiral Towers died in St. Albans' hospital,
Jamaica, N.Y., on 30 April 1955.
(DDG-9: dp. 3,370; 1. 437'; b. 47'; dr. 27'3"; a. 30 k.; cpl. 354;
a. 2 5", Tar., ASROC, 6 21" tt.: cl. Charles F. Adams)
Towers (DDG-9) was laid down on 1 April 1958 at Seattle, Wash.,
by the Todd Shipyard Corp.; launched on 23 April 1959; sponsored by Mrs.
Nathaniel Rotoreau, Jr.; and commissioned on 6 June 1961 at the Puget Sound
Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., Comdr. L. D. Cummins in command.
Homeported at San Diego, Calif., Towers carried out trials and
local operations off the southern California coast into September 1961.
She then conducted her shakedown cruise to Callao and Lima, Peru; Balboa,
Panama Canal Zone; and Acapulco, Mex., before she deployed to the Western
Pacific (WestPac) for the first time in the early spring of 1962.
She arrived at Sydney, Australia, on 30 April to represent the
United States during: the 20th observance of the anniversary of the Battle
of the Coral Sea and shifted to Melbourne a week later. She then continued
her WestPac deployment with visits to Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan; Buckner
Bay, Okinawa; Subic Bay, Philippines; Keeling, Taiwan; and Bangkok, Thailand.
She then returned home via Guam and Hawaii.
Following a routine schedule of local operations out of San
Diego from 1 January to 17 May 1963, Towers departed her home port on 18
May, bound for the Far East. En route, she stopped at Pearl Harbor and
Midway and later took part in exercises and operations off Japan and in
the Philippines. She returned to San Diego on 28 November 19~6~3 and operated
along the southern California coast through the end of 1964.
Towers departed San Diego on 5 January 1965, bound for her third
WestPac tour. As American forces became increasingly involved in the Vietnam
War-escalating from an advisory capacity to active combat--the Navy's role
in Vietnamese coastal waters expanded. Towers participated in three main
facets of the 7th Fleet's operations in the Gulf of Tonkin and the South
China Sea. She performed screening and plane-guard duties for fast carrier
task forces on "Yankee Station, providing protection with her missiles
and her rapidfire 5-inch battery. In addition, she conducted search and
rescue (SAR) patrols on the northern station; and made interdiction patrols
in conjunction with Operation "Market Time."
Upon the conclusion of this tour, the guided missile destroyer
sailed for home on 10 May. En route to the Hawaiian Islands, she participated
in Operation "Sailor Hat," a special blast test to determine deficiencies
in modern ship construction, and arrived home at San Diego on 26 June.
From 31 January to 6 February 1966, Towers participated in Operation
"Buttonhook," a joint United States and Canadian exercise off the west
coast of Canada and the United States which emphasized antisubmarine warfare
(ASW) techniques. Following availability at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard
during March, Towers took part in Operation Gray Ghost" from 12 to 22 April.
This exercise dealt with air control intercept tactics and antiaircraft
warfare (AAA) measures to prepare the ship for her upcoming deployment
to the Gulf of Tonkin, off Vietnam. In addition, the ship trained to become
proficient in tactics to utilize against possible motor torpedo (PT)
Departing San Diego on 4 June, Towers steamed west, via Pearl
Harbor, Guam, and Subic Bay, to Vietnam. She expended some 3,266 rounds
of 6-inch ammunition between 2 and 17 July, off target areas which included
the "Rung Sat Special Zone." Her target assessment included the destruction
of 17 enemy buildings and damage to 118 more, the sinking of three sampans,
the killing of 11 Viet Cong soldiers, and the destruction of a bridge.
The guided missile destroyer returned to Subic Bay for upkeep
and further training in PT-boat countermeasures before she returned to
the Gulf of Tonkin to take up her position on the northern SAR station
on 1 August. For the next month, she deployed with Wiltsie (DD-716), keeping
on the alert to spot downed pilots and to direct friendly helicopters to
On 6 August, Towers directed an HU-16 helicopter to the site
of a downed aviator some 69 miles from the ship. The next day, Towers directed
another HU-16 to a spot behind the enemy-held island of Cac Ba, where two
Air Force men had bailed out. The "chopper" successfully rescued
them from behind communist lines. In the next two weeks,
the ship participated in two more rescues--picking up two more Air Force
pilots in one and a Navy flyer in the other.
Towers' most daring rescue came on the last day of her tour
on the SARA station. On 31 August, a Navy plane was hit by antiaircraft
fire over Haiphong, and the pilot bailed out of his doomed aircraft directly
over the enemy harbor. As he floated down under his parachute to face what
seemed certain capture, Towers and King (DLG-10) closed to within visual
range of Haiphong harbor. Then King's helicopter sped in under the guidance
of Towers' experienced controllers and picked up the pilot, whisking him
out of danger from beneath the enemy's very nose.
After a brief rest and recreation period, Towers returned to
the SAR station again on 1 October. However, flying weather turned out
to be poorer at this time of year, and air operations were sharply curtailed.
Hence, Towers spent much of her time on this tom patrolling the Tonkin
Sailing for home on 21 November, Towers departed Yokosuka and
ran into heavy seas while en route to the west coast, suffering minor storm
damage before she arrived at her home port on 3 December. After operations
at sea from January 1967 to mid-March, Towers underwent a major overhaul
at Hunters' Point Naval Shipyard from 14 April to 19 October. The guided
missile destroyer then operated out of San Diego through the spring of
Towers then readied herself for her next WestPac deployment.
Her preparation included screening and shore bombardment exercises with
New Jersey (BB-62), the world's only active battleship. Departing San Diego
on 5 September, Towers made stops at Pearl Harbor and Subic Bay before
arriving off the I Corps tactical zone to commence "Sea Dragon" operations.
While escorting and screening New Jersey, Towers knocked out
two artillery and three antiaircraft gun sites; destroyed 55
meters of trenches; sank two logistics craft;
set off 19 secondary explosions; and killed an estimated 10 enemy soldiers.
On 1 October, the ship rescued two downed airmen just south of the demilitarized
zone (DMZ). The flyers, Capt. James Spaith, USMC, and his observer,
1st Lt. U. S. Grant, USMC, had been shot down when their Douglas A4F "Skyhawk"
had been hit while spotting gunfire for New Jersey.
Towers furnished gunfire support for South Vietnamese Army units
in January 1969 and shelled shore targets for the American 3d Marine Division
and the 101st Airborne Division, both north and south of Danang. From her
anchorage inside Danang harbor, the guided missile destroyer fired frequent
night harassment and counter-rocket site fire against communist positions
in the surrounding countryside. Her damage assessments for this duty included
destruction of targets such as troop concentrations, hunkers, footbridges,
and supply-carrying sampans.
Following upkeep at Subic Bay, she planeguarded on "Yankee Station"
for Constellation (CVA-64) and returned to the I Corps operating zone for
urgent gunfire support duties. She provided support for Operation 'Daring
Endeavor," launched to destroy enemy troop concentrations south of Danang.
Commended for her part in this action, Towers remained on the scene from
17 to 30 November. She again provided anti-rocket support out of Danang
from the 21st through the 25th. In addition, she provided gunfire for Korean
marines: and the Army's 101st Airborne.
Towers then sailed north to the Philippines for up keep at Subic
Bay before proceeding to Singapore for rest and recreation. She arrived
back on “Yankee Station" three days before Christmas, to assume the role
of escort commander for Intrepid (CVS-11). After
two days of this duty, however, the guided missile destroyer was back
in the IV Corps operating area on night-harassment fire duties against
the communist ground forces.
New Year's Day 1970 found the ship still engaging the enemy in
the IV Corps' zone, supporting Vietnamese ranger battalions. During this
period, Towers' 5-inch rifles wreaked havoc upon Viet Cong and North Vietnamese
troop concentrations, bunkers, sampans, and footbridges. The ship then
spent a few days at Hong Kong before she returned to the "gunline," once
more at Danang. She supported the 3d Marine Division, operating north and
south of Danang, blasting enemy troops and structures, again in support
of Korean marines and the 101st Airborne. During the latter period, she
again stood duty at Danang, her guns ready to reply to communist rocket
Shifting again to "Yankee Station," Towers joined the screen
of Hancock (CVA-19) on station with TG 77.5 until 7 February. She then
sailed for Subic Bay for three days of upkeep before
proceeding on to Yokosuka. Departing Japanese waters on 21 February, Towers
soon headed east and brought this WestPac deployment to a close when she
sailed into San Diego harbor on 4 March.
Towers spent much of the year 1970 on routine local operations
in the vicinity of her home port in preparation for future WestPac deployments.
On 4 September, while conducting refresher training out of San Diego, the
ship directed a helicopter to rescue the pilot from an F-8 "Crusader" that
had crashed nearby. The embarked evaluation team from the Fleet Training
Group gave the ship a grade of "outstanding" during this "unscheduled evolution."
Deploying again to WestPac on 7 January 1971, Towers proceeded
to Vietnamese waters, via Pearl Harbor and Midway. While she proceeded
west on the 20th, one of the other ships in
her convoy, Roark (DE-1053), suffered a major engine room fire
which stopped her dead in the water. Towers turned-to and lent a hand.
After the fire was extinguished, the guided missile destroyer took Roark
in tow until Quapaw (ATF-110) arrived and took over the towing.
Towers arrived back on the gunline on 8 February and provided
gunfire support until the 21st, when she moved to "Yankee Station" to provide
plane-guard service for Ranger (CVA-B1). On 6 March, a member of the carrier's
flight deck force was blown over the side during launching operations.
Towers quickly sped to the scene, rescued the sailor, and returned him
to his ship.
A short visit to Subic Bay followed, as did another tour on the
gunline and the northern SAR station. The ship then returned to Subic Bay
for upkeep and then made still another tour as plane guard and screen for
Kitty Hawk (CVA-63). She departed WestPac on 1 July. Arriving at San Diego
on the 15th, Towers operated out of her home base into the early spring
of 1972. Gunnery exercises, underway training evolutions (with emphasis
on ASW and AAW tactics); plane-guarding for Midway (CVA-41); and an upkeep
and inport period all followed as the ship prepared for her upcoming WestPac
Events in Vietnam, however, forced a change in plan for Towers
and rapidly accelerated her return to the war zone. Although not scheduled
for deployment until September, she departed the west coast on 20 June,
bound once more for-the gunline. A massive Viet Cong and North Vietnamese
assault had battered South Vietnamese forces in key Quang Tri province
and resulted in emergency measures for the supporting naval forces offshore.
During the voyage from the west coast to the South China Sea, the ship
assisted in the rescue of six crewmen from a downed B-52 "Stratofortress"
near Guam and received a commendation from the secretary of the Navy.
A curtailed two-day upkeep period at Subic Bay preceded the ship's
sailing on 13 July for the gunline. Heavy commitments and long hours of
gunfire support duty in support of ARVN troops followed from 17 to 28 July
as Towers participated in Operation "Lamson72." From 29 July to 5 August,
the ship operated on "Linebacker" strikes against targets to the northward
of the DMZ, in North Vietnam, as part of Task Unit 77.1.2. On several occasions
during this time, she came under fire from communist shore batteries.
The intense gunfire support duties assigned to the ship soon
wore out the linings of her two 5-inch guns, so the ship sailed for Sasebo,
where she spent the week from 9 to 15 August undergoing a re-gunning. She
soon returned to the "gunline" and supported ARVN troops off Hue. The destroyer
also fired night "Linebacker" strikes on 24 and 25 September, rounding
out the month with gunfire support missions fired for the 1st ARVN division.
A visit to Hong Kong for needed rest and recreation for her
crew soon followed, and an upkeep period at Subic Bay preceded the ship's
return to Vietnamese waters on 21 October. She supported the ARVN 22d Division
near Qui Nhon and around Quang Tri. She then again visited Subic Bay and
Kaohsiung, Taiwan, before returning to the gunline again from 3 to 8 December.
For the rest of the month, Towers fired gunfire support missions against
North Vietnamese troop concentrations near Quang Tri. Spirited exchanges
of gunfire with enemy shore batteries took place on numerous occasions
during this period.
She finished the year 1972 again serving as plane guard for
Constellation on “Yankee Station" and closed out her grueling seven-month
deployment on the last day of the year, when she sailed for Yokosuka. From
there, she returned home via Midway
and Pearl Harbor.
This deployment turned out to be the destroyer's last in support
of the Vietnam War. The "Vietnamization" plan placed the burden of self-defense
on the shoulders of the South Vietnamese, as American land, sea, and air
forces were withdrawn from combat in January and February of 1973. Towers
operated out of San Diego from 1973 through 1976, pursuing a regular schedule
of local operations, routine upkeep and overhaul periods, and underway
She departed San Diego on 30 July 1976 for her first extended
overseas deployment in three years. She conducted exercises and local operations
in the Far East, participating in Exercise "Sharkhunt XVII" with the Taiwanese
Navy before shifting to the Indian Ocean for an extended cruise. She then
took part in "Midlink 76" with units of the Iranian, Pakistani, British,
and American Navies in mid-November before participating in "Multiplex/Missilex-76”
with United States 7th Fleet units in the South China Sea.
Following port visits to Hong Kong from 6 to 12 January and
Bangkok from 29 January to 4 February 1977, Towers engaged in a coordinated
ASW exercise, "Sharkhunt XX," with the Taiwanese Navy from 22 to 25 February.
She returned to San Diego on 21 March to complete a seven-month, three-week
deployment. Post-deployment operations off the west coast were highlighted
by a port visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, from 9 to 17 July for the
annual Sea Festival. Towers' last significant operations at sea for the
year occurred during the period 12 to 16 September when she conducted naval
gunfire support exercises on the range at San Clemente Island. On 23 September,
the guided missile destroyer commenced a four-month availability at San
Diego which took her into the new year.
Post-availability trials commenced on 26 January 1978, and Towers
spent the next nine months evaluating her radar detection and tracking
system during numerous at-sea operations for that purpose. On 14 November,
the ship got underway for Long Beach where she entered the Naval Shipyard
on the 15th for commencement of a regular overhaul which took her into
Towers received one Navy Unit Commendation, one Meritorious Unit Commendation,
and four battle stars for her service in Vietnam.