Into the Lion’s Den Exhibit: USS Rowan (DD 782)

We’re moving along rapidly with planning for the new Cold War Gallery exhibit, “Into the Lion’s Den.” The exhibit tells the story of the 1972 raid into Haiphong Harbor by four U.S. Navy warships to shell enemy shore positions. We’ve just received detailed engineering drawings for the exhibit, which have been submitted to Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) for review. We’re also really pleased with the design of the four colorful wall panels that will explain the story of this battle to museum visitors. We hope to share some of these graphics with you in the next week or two. We anticipate construction of the exhibit to be complete by the end of May, with a formal ribbon cutting ceremony at the Naval Historical Foundation Annual Meeting in June.

Today, we want to recognize one of the participants in the raid: destroyer USS Rowan (DD 782). Rowan was commissioned in the final year of World War II, and went on to serve in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Last night we heard from a sailor who was on board Rowan during that dramatic 1972 night battle in Haiphong Harbor, and he pointed out an excellent write-up by another veteran of the battle, Chuck Packer, called “A Dicey Night Up North.” We hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we did.

To learn more about this upcoming “Into the Lion’s Den” exhibit, or to make a donation to support construction, please visit our Fundly page.

NH 103508 USS Rowan

USS ROWAN (DD-782) underway in the western Pacific, circa early 1965. USS CORAL SEA (CVA-43) is in the right distance. NHHC Photo NH 103508-KN, taken by Photographer's Mate First Class Fleeson.

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38 Comments

  1. Frank Magazo

    Reply

    In regards to Chuck Packer’s story, “A Dicey Night Up North”. I am honored to have served on the Rowan during the Haiphong raid. He describes every moment of what sailors experience during the heat of battle. Our crew was truly a band of brothers and Capt. Comer had all of our trust in getting us through that hair raising night.

    • Kenneth Moore BM2

      Reply

      Hey Frank…think of you all the time pal. Still talk to a few of those ol’ boys once in awhile…your name always comes up. Hope all is well back east here in the snow shipmate. Take care… KG

      • Mike Walthers Btfn

        Reply

        I was on the headphones in the after boiler room that night, listening as the torpedo boats were coming after us. Our boilers were cranked all the way up. All I knew at the time was that we had never before steamed that fast. It was only after reading Chuck’s story that the danger of that night hit me fully.

  2. admin

    Reply

    Thanks for your comment Frank. You’ll be happy to hear that the Lion’s Den exhibit construction here at the Navy Yard began this week, we’ll have more on that soon.

  3. Pingback: Into the Lion's Den Exhibit: USS Robison (DDG 12) | Naval Historical Foundation

  4. Russ Rzeszutko

    Reply

    I still remember that night very well. I was in the after mount powder room when the order came to “hold on to something” and we started to zig and zag like crazy, they had soviet torpedo’s that homed in on the sound of the screws and I was in the powder room right above those suckers. I swear I can still hear that high pitched whining coming off that bulkhead, quite a relief when started fading.

    • Danny Harbour

      Reply

      I serbed on the Rowan in 1974 until it got sent back to the States for decommissioning in 1975.

  5. Dana Perkins

    Reply

    I was aboard the USS Rowan DD-782 at the time of the Haiphong harbor raid. I was on the signal bridge manning a shoulder fired red eye missle in case we had inbound bogeys. A night to remember!!!

  6. Carl Berry STSC (SS)

    Reply

    I was aboard Rowan during the Haiphong raid. My battle station was in sonar on the MK 114 attack director being used to fire the shrike missiles. What a rush when the captain gave us a green board and we fired them off. As I remember we took out two North Vietnam shore battery sites that night. With the torpedo boats and Migs after us it was quite a night.

    • Carl Berry STSC (SS)

      Reply

      Oh by the way, the SS designator came after I left Rowan. Made 5 patrols on an SSBN.

  7. Michael Clark

    Reply

    I was a GMTSN onboard Rowan that night and in the Asroc Control Station with GMT1 Ernie Lyons, GMT2 Rich Haviland & GMT3 SIDENSTRICKER…We fired 2 Shrike Missles..Rich Haviland Fired the first one and I got to fire the second…I remember everything being fine until the I believe STG1 Kneisler (sp?) relayed to Ernie that there were incoming high speed surface targets heading our way, then a few minutes later he came back and said “incoming bogeys!” it was then I noticed everyone getting a little concerned..Interesting night for sure. I was just a young guy 20 years old…Ended up staying in the Navy and retired as a Warrant Gunner. All the best to Rowan Shipmates 1971-1974

    • Kenneth Moore

      Reply

      Great couple of years Mike. I was a projectile man in a mount, rapid continuous fire…threw out a trainload of 5″ 38 that night. Wish we could rewind some of those ol’ days shipmate. Hope all is well amigo. KG

    • Kenneth Moore BM2

      Reply

      Seems like it was only yesterday you were a young Gunner standing sentry duty on the ASROC deck of the Nana Hatchi Ni with your trusty old M14. Man…40 some years ago and I remember that more clearly than I remember yesterday. Watashi no yūjin wa kantan ni sore o torimasu. Kensan

    • Adam Kneisler

      Reply

      You got the spelling right… assuming that Sonar Tech you’re referring to was Bill Kneisler of Milwaukee, WI.
      While my dad passed away in December of 2002 (pancreatic cancer), he always loved and remembered his days in the Navy fondly.
      Great to find his name in this thread. All the best wishes to all of you and your families.

      • Michael Clark

        Reply

        Yes Bill….A real Pro! So Sorry to to hear he has passed away. Wow! Wasnt expecting to read that. He was one of my Leading Petty Officers. Really good guy. Super Smart. You should join the Rowan”s Facebook Page. There are alot of guys who can tell you some great stories about your Dad. Take Care!

  8. Rodney (Jeff) Cantwell

    Reply

    I served on the Rowan from June 1971 until December 1972 as Radarman 3d and was on the trip to Haiphong harbor. I was on duty in CIC the day before the raid was executed when early in the afternoon we got a message from the Newport News that gave us the official coordinate points that we would approach our targets. The XO handed me the sheet paper with the coordinate info and asked me to decipher it with the wheel coder and then trace them on his chart for checking. I did so in a few minutes I had it decoded and traced on the chart. After all was finished, I ran the codes again to data was correct and was ready for XO. I was about to send the chart to the bridge where he was when I happened to see dashed line running parallel with our course took a northern turn for about 2 miles and then crossed back parallel. This didn’t look right, so I checked the coding again and still got the same thing. I took a better look at the chart and finally realized the line we were paralleling was 1500 yards in the boundary of the mine field set earlier. I showed Chief Lambert what I had discovered and to the bridge the Chief went. Next the Captain, XO, and the Chief came into CIC and got on the network and talked several minutes. Finally, they broke the huddle and they came out of the ECM room and came over and thanked me for catching the error and to run the coder again and I did and that time it remained a parallel line! For the guys that have give their memories, I’ll tell them they didn’t see the most wearisome thing that I saw. Soon after we fired Shrikes the counterbattery really kicked in and on the highest point, the close-in radar repeater (my station) instead having a normal minimum distance of 300-400 yards before you couldn’t see a contact, it then it was 800-1000 yards where you couldn’t see anything because of all the water pillars caused by our friends on the beach. It was something to remember.

    • russ Rzeszutko

      Reply

      Porky,
      I remember opening up that wall in that house you had in Yokosuka, watching the sun rise on the Wan with a hot cup of coffee , eggs and bacon on that gas grill cookin away listening to Blue sky from the Eat a Peach album and Wasting away the whole day.. Good times my friend.

      Russ

  9. Richard Spicer ETN2

    Reply

    Yes, it was a night to remember! Some great comments guys!!
    I remember hearing the Newport News giving us the OK to go HOT on “Skunk-A”
    and our guns fireing very fast. (Great work by the Mt. 51 & 52 gun crews!)

    My Reguards to all Rowan Crew members.

    Take Care,
    Richard (Dick) Spicer

  10. Reply

    I remember that night like it was yesterday, The men I worked with and along side of I will never forget. I do have to admit we were good at our job but that day there was a fear in the air but that left as soon as the action started I remember shooting our shrike then busting butt to mount 52 to continue the fight. We were a great crew and family and showed what a tin can sailor can and will do. It was an Honor to be with all of you

  11. John Silcox

    Reply

    I had just reported on board shortly before this night to remember. DCA at the time I think. I remember the Supply Office (DCA GQ Station) filling with smoke when the Shrike were launched. We sent crews out to find the fire only to find that no one had told us of the launch.

    Stayed with the Rowan until she was decommissioned in ’75. Ended up leaving the Navy, coming back to the National Guard and retiring from the Army in ’96.

    Ens/Ltjg John Silcox

    • Kenneth Moore BM2

      Reply

      I remember you well sir. How could you eat that Army chow after the Rowan cuisine? Glad you made it back. Welcome home.

      • Frank "Magoo" Magazo

        Reply

        Good comment kg! You always did cover my back! nothing like that Rowan cuisine. Especially all those wonderful baked goods that I made haha

  12. Jerry Frost

    Reply

    A night none of us will ever forget. I was GMG2 and Mount Capt in Mount 52 during the raid. It was the right gun Mount 52 that fired the shot that hit the incoming PT boat. Great ship and great crew.

    • Kenneth Moore

      Reply

      Those projectiles got a little heavy after a few dozen. Rip, run n’ gun. We done good Jerry. KG Moore

    • Frank "Magoo" Magazo

      Reply

      You said it Jerry. I was your powder man in the magazine. Whatever happened to Paul Weaver?

  13. Charles Bosi

    Reply

    I served on the USS Rowan between April 70 through July of 71. 3rd class Raderman
    Met some great guys and had a unforgettable experience. Remember being on our own on the west side of Cambodia working on charts 25 years old of the coast . Bowsan mates using rope to check fahtoms. Assignment receive coordinates from on shore spotter to shell ( 5 inchers ) inland 4 miles to take out a suspected ammo stach. 4 th shell BINGO. Large enough to be clearly seen from our location off shore.
    We had a commador aboard who came over the loud speaker with a big congrats to all. Shell Back , 6 typhons . Seeing the southern cross for the first time..
    Charly Bosi

  14. Kenneth Moore BM2

    Reply

    Air mailed tons of hurt into Haiphong that night, for sure. Tight crew, real deal, real Navy. Good times, hard times…ran with it. Never forget those days…that great ship, that great group of US Navy Can fighters. So proud to have served with them. SOMOS POCOS PERO LOCOS.

  15. Allan R Curtis BT2

    Reply

    Just wanted to put in a pat on the back for the boys in the basement. ( fire & engine rooms. We couldn’t see much, all I remember we were hot and busy. I was in the forward fire room ( Al Curtis Bt 2 ) and had no idea what happened until it was over. Just thinking, where would we be without us. Just goes to show it takes a ship, the whole ship. Glad to hear from all you guys.

  16. Richard L DeVaul ETR3 (Stretch)

    Reply

    It was enjoyable reading the article ” Into the Lion’s Den” as I too was on board the Rowan for that memorable evening. Also enjoyed reading all the replys and trying to remember the names. It seems like a lifetime ago!

  17. Robert D caudillo

    Reply

    Hello fellow shipmates this is Robert caudillo I was aboard the Rowan on that night we went into Haiphong harbor. I was an smsn along with Dana perkins, hey Dana how’s life been since the Rowan days? Me,I’ve just been living the good life Nebraska has to offer.

  18. EDWARD H HONEBEIN BT2

    Reply

    i was in the forward fire room , my home for the 3.5 years i road the rowan ,our crew of 13 at GQ the stack gas and heat,poor air circulation ,after the raid the old man got on the intercom excited on what we had hit, then set GQ AGAIN ,WE TOOK OFF FULL STEAM ,the ship was weaving one way then the next, our guns were blazing ,our steam was down to 300 lb, boilers were panting ,ready to implode. the engine room kept calling don’t shut them down, the ship evened out and the old man came in the intercom again excited about the pt boats we hit ,AS I WAS CLIMBING out the outboard hatch for some fresh air they set GQ again and said planes in the air all i could think about was the uss higbie which was bombed by a russian mig a few months before ,turned out to be a couple of jets from a carrier of ours

  19. Reply

    (LTJG) Bill Brasington here. Looks like I’m late to the party! I was Rowan’s Navigator at the time. How great to find this article by Chuck Packer and see the names of so many old shipmates in it and in the comments! Also nice to hear descriptions of the action from so many different points of view. I remember the nav track that went through the minefield, the big holiday ensign the signal gang hoisted as our battle ensign, the Shrikes we launched (those mothers were FAST!!), the Newport News with her rapid fire 8 inchers putting 36 rounds in the air before the first one hit the ground, the PT boats coming out to engage us and the withering fire we put down on them (I felt sorry for their crews), Captain Comer maneuvering the ship to screen the cruisers from the PT boats (he got a Bronze Star), and the power and speed the old girl’s propulsion plant produced (thanks to all you snipes). Special hello to John Silcox (who once dated my sister-in-law when she visited us in Yokosuka). I left active duty – three times. The third time was when I retired as a CDR-TAR after 20 years of active duty and 4 years of reserve time.

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