USS Leonard F. Mason (DD-852)
The Unofficial (but more complete) History, 1971 to Present
Last edited 30 June 2015.
After overhaul at Long Beach Naval Shipyard, Mason was repositioned to 32nd Street Naval Station, San Diego, California - the ship's new home port.
On 1 April 1971, Mason became a unit of Destroyer Squadron 17. During the first week of July 1971, Mason participated in a mid-ocean spacecraft recovery exercise with a USCG Cutter from Long Beach, California. The two ships launched from their respective home ports - the Cutter from Long Beach and Mason from San Diego - and proceeded to race to the simulated location of the downed spacecraft. The Cutter won.
Due to crew rotation during 1971, the ship was next assigned to Refresher Training (REFTRA). Mason's crew was trained and exercised in all areas of combatant ship operations - Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Aircraft Warfare (AAW), Damage Control (DC), etc. Also included were an Operational Propulsion Plant Readiness Exam (OPRE) and an In Service inspection (INSURV). During REFTRA, Mason operated with various USN ships along the West Coast.
The ship deployed to the Western Pacific in October of 1971. At that time, Mason was the fastest accelerating unit in the destroyer squadron. The ship's ability to reach flank speed quickly enabled her to overwhelm the latest destroyers in short maneuvers (races). Upon leaving Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Mason joined the USS Worden (DLG-18) and ships of Destroyer Squadron 15 for the transit to Yokosuka, Japan, arriving on November 11. Mason then continued for WestPac operations via Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Mason's initial operations in the Tonkin Gulf largely involved North SAR (search and rescue) patrols and gunfire support.
Mason spent the early part of January 1972 in Subic Bay, Philippines, then returned to the Tonkin Gulf after underway replenishment on 12 January 1972 from the USS Mauna Kea (AE-22). During WestPac operations from January to March of 1972, Mason provided gunfire support, patrol, and carrier operations with the USS Constellation (CVA-64) (photo: 14 February 1972) and the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) (photo: 2 March 1972). Other ships Mason operated with during this time were the USS Francis Hammond (DE-1067), USS John R. Craig (DD-885), USS Mahan (DLG-11), and USS Carpenter (DD-825).
The first week of February 1972, Mason paid a visit to Hong Kong while in company with the USS Constellation (CVA-64) and the USS White Plains (AFS-4). 4 February 1972, while on the way in to Hong Kong, the Mason struck a junk in dense fog. The junk apparently did not have a radar reflector. The ships later returned to Yankee Station. On 10 February 1972, a helicopter from the USS Constellation (CVA-64) went down in the Yankee Station area (photo: 10 February 1972). After the crew were rescued, the carrier attempted to retrieve the helicopter, but was unsuccessful. Mason was ordered to sink the aircraft to prevent it from becoming a navigational hazard (photo: 10 February 1972). The Mason slowly sailed over the top of the helicopter, sinking it. From 17 February to 21 February, Mason was in Subic Bay, Philippines for maintenance, returning to Yankee Station afterward.
After a brief stopover at Subic Bay, Mason departed WestPac on 8 March 1972 in company with the USS Chevalier (DD-805) and steamed to San Diego, California by way of Guam (photo: 11 March 1972), Midway Islands (photo: 16 March 1972), and Hawaii.
June of 1972 found Mason embarking midshipmen for the Midshipmen's Cruise. She deployed on the 21st of June. After some exercises in the SoCal OpArea, Mason began the transit to Pearl Harbor on June 24 in company with USS Fox (DLG-33), USS Horne (DLG-30), USS Decatur (DDG-31), and USS Orleck (DD-886). The ships arrived at Pearl Harbor on June 30. The Mason got underway again on July 5 in company with USS Horne (DLG-30), USS Decatur (DDG-31), USS Orleck (DD-886), and USS Reeves (DLG-24), enroute to Seattle, Washington. The Mason and the Orleck were detached on July 6 and proceeded to the Barstur Range for ASW exercises. The two ships rejoined the Horne, Decatur, and Reeves the next day to resume the transit, with the Mason arriving at Seattle on July 15. The ships resumed the cruise on July 20. Mason arrived Pier 26, Embarcadero, San Francisco, on July 21, with the Orleck moored outboard. The ships got underway on July 26. On July 27, Mason and Orleck were detached to conduct a full power run to the SoCal OpArea. [The Orleck couldn't keep up... -ed.]
On July 28, Mason conducted NGFS exercises off San Clemente in company with USS Orleck (DD-886) and USS Downes (FF-1070). At the conclusion of the exercises later that day, Mason headed for San Diego, to prepare for deployment in the fall. During this time, the ship operated along the U.S.A. West Coast, at various times in company with the USS Reeves (DLG-24), USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25), USS Fox (DLG-33), USS Horne (DLG-30), USS Chevalier (DD-805), USS Decatur (DDG-31), USS Orleck (DD-886), USS O'Callahan (DE-1051), USS Ramsey (DEG-2), and USS Bronstein (DE-1037). During this time, a Chaparral launcher was installed on the after portion of the flight deck and exercises were conducted to test the launcher and train ship's crew in its operation. Just prior to the ship's next WestPac deployment, an additional chaff device was installed.
Mason deployed for the Western Pacific on the 24th of October in company with the USS Orleck (DD-886). The two ships stopped briefly at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and continued their transit. On 3 November 1972, the ships crossed the equator. For most of the crew of the Mason, this was the first time, so there was a major Shellback Initiation on that day. The two ships continued on to Pago Pago, American Samoa, arriving on November 6, 1972. The ships departed Pago Pago the next day and journeyed to Auckland, New Zealand, arriving at Calliope Dock West on November 11 (photo: 11 November 1972), the Mason moored outboard of the HMNZS Otago (F 111). The Mason and Orleck left Auckland on November 14 for the first portion of the LONGEX-72 Exercise (a joint operation with New Zealand, Australian, and Canadian Naval units). Ships that participated (or were otherwise in the area) included HMNZS Canterbury (F 421), HMNZS Otago (F 111), HMNZS Taranaki (F 148), HMAS Stuart (DE 48), HMAS Swan (D 50), HMAS Yarra (DE 45), HMAS Ovens (S 70), USS Leonard F. Mason (DD-852), USS Orleck (DD-886), USS Trigger (SS-564), USS Chipola (AO-63), HMCS Provider (AOR 508), HMCS Gatineau (DDE 236), and HMCS Qu'Appelle (DDE 264). The fleet participating in the exercise arrived at Wellington, New Zealand, on November 19, anchoring in the harbor (photo: 19 November 1972). The fleet departed Wellington the next day for the second part of the exercise, then Mason returned with the Orleck to Auckland for another visit on November 26. Mason left Auckland independently on November 28 for Tauranga, New Zealand, arriving later that day. The Mason was the first U.S. Navy ship to visit Tauranga for many years.
Mason departed Tauranga on 1 December and joined up with the Orleck to continue the journey to WestPac. The two ships arrived at Brisbane, Australia on 4 December, staying at the R.A.N. Depot. Their stay was cut short when a fight broke out between the Mason's crew and sailors of the Australian Navy on the evening of 5 December. A group of Navy Seals on R&R in Sidney, Australia met the Mason in Brisbane for transport to Subic Bay, Philippines. Since the Seals had only dress uniforms, they were recognized for what they were and where they had been. After a few beers, the inevitable fight broke out between the US and the Australian Navies. The two ships left Brisbane on 6 December, later crossing the equator. A special Shellback Initiation was held on board Mason for the Seals, who took it as a joke. The ships arrived at Manus Island on 11 December for a brief stop and then continued to Subic Bay, Philippines, arriving on 16 December.
Mason and Orleck left Subic Bay on 20 December 1972. Mason detached from Orleck the next day. On arrival in the Gulf of Tonkin, the Mason relieved the USS Shelton (DD-790), performing search and rescue missions during U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy night air raids on missile positions in the vicinity of Haiphong and Hanoi; the ship's crew watching the nightly 'fireworks' show. During this time while on North SAR, Mason dispatched to rendezvous with a Chinese freighter headed to Haiphong Harbor (photo: December 1972). Mason's Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Richard Curley, used a bullhorn to warn the ship that the harbor was mined and that if they continued, it would be at their own peril. The ship dropped several bags of rice overboard. Due to the suspicious nature of this act, the Mason's crew fired upon the rice bags with rifles to sink them. Later, the ship anchored just outside Haiphong Harbor. That night, the ship lit up "like a cruise ship", so they wouldn't be fired upon.
Mason participated in various activities concerning the Vietnam war, including gunfire support, plane guard, and search and rescue missions. In late December 1972, as part of Operation Linebacker II, Mason joined one of the Naval Surface Action Groups (Task Unit 77.1.1) operating off the coast of North Vietnam, relieving the USS Bordelon (DD-881). These Surface Action Groups fired more than 110,000 rounds at enemy locations along the North Vietnamese coast. The Mason operated in company with the USS Cone (DD-866) and the USS Lawrence (DDG-4). Except for a brief Christmas break, the ships conducted two or three strike missions nightly. Occasionally, during these missions, Mason came under intense hostile fire. Fortunately, the ship received only minor damage (shrapnel damage topside from close air bursts), with minor injuries to some crew members. (All told, during the extent of the Vietnam War, the coastal batteries actually hit 19 USN ships, killed 6 sailors and wounded at least 30 others, but did not sink any of those ships.)
During one mission with the Surface Action Group, Mason triggered a chaff cannister that misfired. [A report of the cannister landing on the fantail and another report of the CHAFFROC misfiring are incorrect. ed.] Instead of leaving the launcher, blooming and forming a radar target drifting away from the ship, the chaff streamed out from the launcher, creating a line pointing straight to the ship. Mason drew intense enemy fire as a result and zigzagged, speeding away with guns blazing. [Unsure if this next portion relates to the same mission. ed.] During the intense enemy fire, one of the 'near misses' temporarily disabled the ship's steering control. Those observing on the other ships held their breath as the crew of Mason restored steering and got the ship out of the danger zone. The ship's chaff display and survival during that mission were the "talk of the gulf" that evening. The particular chaff device involved was no longer used after that (even though it had been used successfully in previous missions). Unofficially, Mason set a Tonkin Gulf record for most coastal battery rounds received and most failing to hit their intended target. At times, the enemy fire was so intense and so near its intended target that, from within the ship's Combat Information Center, the sound of the exploding shells around the ship were almost as loud as the ship's own guns firing - prompting the gunfire control seaman to call out "that's us... that's them... that's us". For its efforts in these missions, the Mason received the Meritorious Unit Commendation and its crew authorized to wear the Combat Action Ribbon. During this period, Mason played "Country Roads" by John Denver on the external public address speakers (1MC) upon breakaway from underway fuel and supply replenishment ships, such as the USS Chipola (AO-63) and the USS Waccamaw (AO-109). [A video of an Underway Replenishment (UNREP) of the Mason and the Horne from the Waccamaw can be viewed on YouTube (click here).]
During the early part of January 1973, Mason was part of a three-ship strike unit that included the USS Cochrane (DDG-21) and the USS McCaffery (DD-860). This strike unit shelled enemy targets along the Vietnam coast north of the DMZ. The targets were usually coastal defense batteries and supply storage areas. The strike unit encountered heavy hostile fire during a mission on 1 January 1973. [The 5 January 1973 mission south of Dong Hoi is recalled in the book "Fighting to Leave" by Colonel Robert E. Stoffey, USMC (Ret.), as experienced by LTJG Fred Cherrick, the officer of the deck on the bridge of the Mason during that mission.] The strike unit eventually disbanded and Mason operated independently, shelling coastal targets on January 9 and 16 (receiving hostile fire during the January 9 mission). Mason also operated on the gun line at Quang Tri, then later on search and rescue duty with the USS Truxton (DLGN-35). Finally returning to the gun line, joining USS Morton (DD-948), USS O'Callahan (DE-1051), USS Bausell (DD-845), USS McCaffery (DD-860), USS Horne (DLG-30), and USS Henderson (DD-785).
On February 12, 1973, Mason made a mail stop at the base at Da Nang, South Vietnam, with a number of the ship's crew going ashore [myself included. ed.]. With the ebbing tide of warfare in Vietnam, the Fleet Activities Support Unit based at Da Nang (normally a very busy site supporting U.S.N. ships deployed in Vietnam operations) was being phased out. The Mason shared the pier with only a barge and was the last combatant ship in Da Nang for mail call (photo: 12 February 1973). Only a handful of Vietnamese workers and guards watched as Mason, the final U.S. warship to call at Da Nang, departed the harbor. Mason then proceeded to rendezvous with the USS Morton (DD-948) and the USS Bradley (DE-1041) for various operations.
Mason joined Task Force 78 and the USS Worden (DLG-18) on February 20, relieving USS Epperson (DD-719). As part of Operation End Sweep, Mason rode 'shot gun' for the minesweepers clearing Haiphong Harbor. The ship later took part in exercises with the USS Brooke (DEG-1), USS Gurke (DD-783), and USS Epperson (DD-719).
During the first week of March 1973, the ship visited Hong Kong while enroute to Sasebo, Japan. Mason was assigned "duty communication ship" during a portion of its stay in Hong Kong. At Sasebo, the ship was dry docked two weeks for repairs. (photo: March 1973) Both port and starboard rudders had holes punched into them from surface burst shells that exploded close aboard. (photo: port rudder damage) (photo: starboard rudder damage) (photo: repairing the starboard rudder) Additionally, damage to the ship caused by shrapnel from numerous airburst rounds from coastal batteries and by the recoil of the ship's guns from all the rounds fired during the various missions was repaired during the drydock period.
From 23 March to early April 1973, the repaired Mason participated in a large combined US/Republic of Korea amphibious exercise (Golden Dragon) off Yang Po Ri, South Korea. Among the various ships in company were the USS Bausell (DD-845) and the USS Gurke (DD-783). From 11 April to 14 April 1973, Mason operated as a unit of TG 75.1 in the KIRIN operating area (south of Kyushu, the southern most of the major islands of the Japanese chain), with ships of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and other U.S. Navy ships, including the USS Brooke DEG-1, USS Mccaffery (DD-860), Makigumo (114), Vamagum (113), Aokumo (119) and Mochizuki (166). This was the joint Japanese-American ASW exercise ASWEX-73 [ASWEX 4-73]. The OTC and SOPA was COMDESRON 17 embarked on the Mason. The surface units acted in conjunction with ASW air units of the Japanese and U.S. Navies to form a barrier to protect a single High Value Target (HVT) transiting through the area. Submarine units (both JMSDF and USN) attempted to penetrate the screen and simulated torpedoing the HVT. On 13 April, the Brooke fired an exercise torpedo at a contact - this was later evaluated as a hit.
From 14 April to 15 April 1973, Mason was enroute to Yokosuka, Japan in company with the USS Brooke (DEG-1). OTC and SOPA was the Commanding Officer, USS Leonard F. Mason. Both Mason and Brooke were moored to berth 6, Yokosuka, early morning 15 April. From 15 April to 17 April 1973, Mason was inport, Yokosuka, making preparations for transit to CONUS. The Mason departed Yokosuka, Japan on 17 April, enroute to CONUS. Ships in company included the USS Orleck (DD-886), USS Brooke (DEG-1), USS O'Callahan (DE-1051), and USS Epperson (DD-719). OTC and SOPA was COMDESRON 17 embarked on the Orleck. The ships changed operational control to the Third Fleet on 20 April and crossed the International Dateline on 23 April, and stopped briefly for fuel at Midway Islands on 23 April. [Previously, the date the ships were at Midway was reported as 20 April, however, the correct date was found in the deck log of the USS Brooke (DEG-1). ed.] The ships arrived at Pearl Harbor on 25 April, with Mason tied up alongside the USS Orleck (DD-886). After fueling, Mason departed Pearl Harbor on 26 April. Ships in company included USS Orleck (DD-886), USS Brooke (DEG-1), and USS O'Callahan (DE-1051). Mason arrived San Diego, California on 2 May 1973, concluding its six-month deployment.
In September 1973, Mason steamed back to Hawaii to participate in RIMPAC-73, an exercise that involved Navies from several nations. A portion of this exercise required most of the participating ships to be part of the "Blue Force", which was the largest force and considered the friendly force. Mason was assigned to the "Red Force", the smallest group, considered the enemy. At the conclusion of this exercise, while tied up at the Pearl Harbor base, Mason was struck on the port side by the USS Horne (DLG-30). While trying to back into the harbor, apparently the wind caught the Horne and blew her into the Mason. [Another report was the OPS Officer on the Horne was conducting ship handling instruction with less than alert personnel.] The Mason received substantial damage to the port side lookout station. The Horne then backed more forcibly, responded with a "Sorry about that", and continued on her way. The damage was repaired by the Mason's own shipfitters while enroute back to San Diego, California.
Between December 1973 and March 1974, Mason conducted various local ops missions/exercises. When in port, Mason was moored at various locations at the 32nd Street Naval Station (photo: April 1974). On 23 April 1974, Mason deployed once again for the Western Pacific in company with the USS Waddell (DDG-24) and the USS Albert David (DE-1050). The first stop was Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where the task unit remained for two days so that key personnel could attend briefings at CINCPACFLT headquarters. After leaving Pearl Harbor, all three ships utilized the Barking Sands underwater range. On 6 May 1974, the task unit made a fuel stop at Midway Island. Mason then proceeded to conduct operations off Northern Japan, Formosa, and in the South China Sea, with an upkeep interval during the first weeks of July at Subic Bay, Philippines. Mason returned to San Diego, California in October 1974.
From February 1975 until early April 1975, Mason participated in RIMPAC-75. In August 1975, Mason went on her last WestPac cruise. The ship went to Yokosuka, Japan, Subic Bay, Philippines, New Zealand, Fiji, and Guam. While in Guam, the ship's company held a special ceremony in honor of her namesake, Private First Class Leonard F. Mason, who lost his life on that island in World War II.
On 14 January 1976, Mason departed Guam with USS Brooke (FFG-1) for special operations, with COMSUBRON 15 embarked on the Brooke, returning to Guam on 27 January. On 16 February 1976, Mason departed Guam with the USS Brooke (FFG-1) to return to the United States. The two ships rendezvoused with Task Group 77.5, which included the USS Oriskany (CV-34), USS Ponchatoula (AO-148), USS Bagley (FF-1069), and USS Roark (FF-1053). Task Group 77.5 transited through strong gales and heavy seas until outchop from the 7th Fleet and inchop to the 3rd Fleet as Task Group 37.4 on 21 February 1976. The Task Group arrived Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 25 February. Mason departed Pearl Harbor on 26 February, with USS Oriskany (CV-34) and USS Kilauea (AE-26), enroute to San Diego, California, arriving in March.
In September 1976, Mason left port for the final time as a commissioned ship in the U. S. Navy and sailed to Bremerton, Seattle, Washington to be decommissioned.
Mason was stricken from the Naval Register on 2 November 1976 [decommissioned] and transferred to the Republic of China (Taiwan, Island of Formosa) on 10 March [January, 1 March] 1978 through the Security Assistance Program in a cash transaction.
Mason became the Republic Of China ship Shuei-Yang (926) [Lai Yang, Sui Yang DDG 926], 2nd class patrol vessel. In late 1997, the Shuei-Yang was reported to be suffering from engineering problems and may have been striken from the active register. There is a report of the Shuei-Yang having a boiler room fire, requiring the ship to be taken under tow. [There is a photograph of this, ed.] The Shuei-Yang was striken in 1999, decommissioned on February 16, 2000 and stored in the Chezin Navy Yard, Kaohsiung, Republic of China, to await its final fate. The ship was sunk on 11 April 2003 to be an artificial reef. The location is 22'41.286N 121'28.333E at a depth of 40.1 meters. The following are links to videos that briefly show the Shuei-Yang:
Mason's awards during her career with the United States Navy are as follows:
Specifications (prior to 1963):
Fire control: Mark 37 Gun Fire Control System, Mark 27 TorpedoFire Control System, Mark 51 Anti Aircraft Fire Control System.
FRAM I added ASROC, DASH, two Mark 32 triple torpedo mounts, and deleted one 5"/38 caliber gun mount. FRAM II added CHAFFROC and deleted DASH.
Equipment during 1972/1973 WestPac deployment:
Flag Hoist/Radio Call Sign: NBDM