The Cold War Years

1955 To 1963

Calendar Year Index

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1955 1956  1957 1958 1959  1960 1961 1962  1963


The first months of 1955 saw Soley operating along the East Coast as a part of Destroyer Squadron TWO under command of Capt. R.N. Norgaard. The purpose of these ASW operations was aimed primarily at the development of helicopters as an integrated part of the ASW protective screen. On April 17 three officers and 36 enlisted reserve personnel were embarked for two weeks of training in the Virginia Capes area. From May 5 through 15, Soley was engaged in a Joint Civilian Orientation Cruise with USS Intrepid (CVA-11) and USS Cutlass (SS-478) involving demonstrations of hedgehog, depth charge and anti-aircraft exercises. John Messer recalls that during this period Soley had also embarked a group of SECNAV guests for a trip to the Cape Canaveral area to witness test firings of submarine launched ballistic missiles.

On June 13th the ship made a brief visit to New York before returning to Norfolk on June 22. After a month in homeport Soley was underway for Pensacola, Florida for operations with USS Saipan (CVL-48) and a trip up the Mississippi for a brief visit to New Orleans. Upon departure from the Pensacola area, the ship made a stop in Miami while enroute back to Norfolk. On September 9, the ship arrived in the Charleston, South Carolina area to off-load ammunition in preparation for her scheduled overhaul at the Charleston Naval Shipyard beginning on September 15th.

On December 1 Soley had another change of command as CDR Charles H. Witten took command. CDR Witten's home was then in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was a graduate of the University of North Carolina and also attended the Naval War College. His previous naval duties included command of a Destroyer Escort and several High Speed Transports (APD). With the overhaul completed, Soley departed Charleston on December 12 to return to Norfolk for the holidays.

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Soley was underway on January 3 for operations in the Virginia Capes area prior to departing for Refresher Training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The training was interrupted by a welcomed visit to Kingston, Jamaica in mid-February. With training completed, the ship returned to Norfolk. March saw the ship underway again for the Jacksonville operating area with a port call in Savannah, Georgia. The ship then returned to Norfolk to prepare for another Mediterranean deployment.

In July Soley departed Norfolk for a scheduled four-month Mediterranean deployment with the U.S. Sixth Fleet. The ship made port calls at Cannes, Palermo, Naples, Genoa, and Athens. In mid-October, in company with USS Barton, Soley passed through the Suez Canal for operations in the Persian Gulf with Commander Middle East Forces. Visits were made in Aden, Bahrain Island, and Abadan, Iran where joint exercises were conducted with the Iranian Navy.

During the final days of October, the "Suez Crisis" intensified as hostilities broke out between Egypt, Israel, France, and Great Britain and the crisis became a shooting war. A long period of uncertainty and frustration began for the Soley crew as their return to the Med via Suez became highly doubtful.

In early November the situation worsened as sunken ships blocked the Canal and it's reopening did not appear possible within the foreseeable future. The remaining ships of DESRON TWO were relieved in the Mediterranean and returned to Norfolk. Commander Sixth Fleet was now forced to detach ships from the Mediterranean for the long journey around Africa to relieve Barton and Soley.

Due to the distances involved in the impending journey home, the destroyer tender USS Prairie (AD-15) was deployed from the Pacific Fleet to provide an availability period in the Persian Gulf for Barton and Soley prior to their departure. Consideration was even given to deploying ships from the Pacific Fleet rather than the Mediterranean to relieve the ships.

While they awaited arrival of their relief destroyers from the 6th Fleet, the two ships engaged in additional joint exercises around Bahrain. Later they sailed to Karachi for operations with the Pakistani Navy in mid-December. Soley's crew received a royal welcome to Karachi as they were invited to attend a presidential parade and "tent-pegging" demonstration as Paul E. Sutherland recalled.

From Karachi, the two ships proceeded to Mombassa, Kenya for an interesting port call and an abundance of social affairs hosted by British ships. While enroute to Mombassa the monotony of the past few months was broken as the ships crossed the Equator and, for the third time in her career on December 27, a new batch of "Pollywogs" were ceremoniously introduced to King Neptune and his Court before officially becoming "Shellbacks."

Barton and Soley were scheduled to make only three refueling stops during the long trip back to Norfolk. Accordingly, the plan called for steaming at the most economical speed on one boiler to conserve fuel. The trip home took more than a month with fuel stops in Capetown, Sierra Leone, and Bermuda, with Soley arriving in Norfolk in February 1957.

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After a few months in her homeport and operations in the Atlantic and Caribbean, Soley was slated for a return to the Sixth Fleet again in July. The 1957 deployment contained none of the "surprises" of the previous tour and lasted for the scheduled four-and-a-half months. Port visits were made throughout the Med and the ship again spent a short tour in the Persian Gulf area. Soley returned to Norfolk in November and conducted operations along the Atlantic Coast and Caribbean Sea during the remainder of the year. In December CDR John E. Coste assumed command of Soley.

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Soley departed Norfolk in January for the Caribbean area to participate in Springboard 58. During the next two months she made visits to Ciudad Trujillo, Port de France and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The return trip from Springboard provided some unscheduled excitement as Soley and Barton responded to a distress call from a merchant ship. The Greek freighter Ste Elefteno, carrying a cargo of sugar, split a seam in her cargo hold and began to sink. The sugar clogged her pumps and she soon sank North of Puerto Rico. The survivors were returned to Norfolk with no loss of life. October found Soley once again setting sail for the Mediterranean for a five and one half month deployment with the Sixth Fleet.

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While In the Eastern Mediterranean in January, Soley responded to a distress message reporting a fire on board the Panamanian tanker Mirador in Iskenderun Bay, Turkey. During this incident John L. King, DC2, lost his life while fighting the fire. After proceeding to Beirut on January 12, Soley was called upon to respond to another fire in Mirador. During this deployment, port calls were made in Gibraltar, Golf Juan, Malta, Cartagena, Athens, Beirut, Genoa, San Remo, Marseilles, Barcelona, and Rota, Spain. A royal welcome awaited Destroyer Squadron TWO when they returned to Norfolk on April 9, with Commander Destroyer Flotilla FOUR embarked. The remainder of April and early May were spent alongside the piers in Norfolk.

On May 8 Soley began a two-week operation with USS Essex and USS Saratoga off the Florida Coast returning to Norfolk in mid-May. Soley then participated in INTEX exercises in the South Atlantic with a visit to Mayport, Florida for the Memorial Day weekend. The ship returned to the Norfolk area in early June to participate in TRAMIDLEX, an amphibious exercise involving midshipmen. During this period Soley was involved in a collision with a whale which severely damaged her sonar dome, requiring replacement at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard beginning on July 1st.

On August 15 CDR Richard Flournoy, Jr. assumed duties as Commanding Officer of Soley. CDR Flournoy entered the Navy through the V-S program in January 1942 and received his Navy "Wings" in 1943. In addition to flight duties he served on cruisers, destroyers, and staff assignments.

On September 11 Commander Destroyer Flotilla FOUR presented Soley with the Battle Efficiency "E" for 1959. This was the second consecutive year that Soley received this award. At the same time the ship received the DESLANT Operations Department "E" and the Communications "C" for excellence.

The remainder of 1959 was devoted to Hunter-Killer ASW operations along the Atlantic Coast until December when the ship returned to Norfolk for the holiday period.

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April and May found Soley conducting operations in the Virginia Capes area with Task Group 83.4, one of the COMASWDEFORLANT anti-submarine warfare commands. Following this tour the ship took part in the 1960 Midshipmen Cruise with port visits to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and New York City.

August found Soley along the Atlantic Coast developing hold-down tactics in anti-submarine operations, again operating with Task Group 83.4, USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39), and USS Wasp (CVS-18). The ship also underwent an INSURV inspection during this period.

During the remainder of 1960 Soley operated in the Cape Canaveral area with USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599) conducting Polaris missile tests. She witnessed the first successful firing of four Polaris missiles from a submerged submarine.

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On January 9 Soley was underway for Operation Springboard 61 during which she visited ports in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Port Everglades, Florida. Upon return to the Norfolk area in February, Soley entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for her regularly scheduled overhaul and was fitted with new air search radar, torpedo tubes, and sonar gear.

With overhaul completed in May, Soley was enroute to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for refresher training when her Division was ordered to the Dominican Republic area on June 3rd for possible evacuation operations resulting from the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, longtime dictator of the Republic.

During 1961, CDR Oscar N. Hibler, Jr. assumed command of Soley. CDR Hibler was a native of Houston, Texas, a graduate of Rice Institute, and attended the University of Texas. He served on a variety of ships during World War II and most recently was assigned to the Office of Legislative Affairs in Washington.

The ship returned to Norfolk on August 1 for a pre-deployment tender availability and inspection before leaving once again for the Mediterranean Sea and duty with the Sixth Fleet on September 8. Enroute to the "Med", Soley visited Ponta Del Gada, Azores and a long list of ports in the Mediterranean including Crete, Malta, Naples, Genoa, Athens, and Alexandria, Egypt.

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The beginning of the year found Soley deployed to the Middle East for a two-month tour. A visit to Massawa, Eritrea gave the Soley the opportunity to participate in ceremonies honoring Emperor Haile Selassie during his visit to attend graduation exercises at the Ethiopian Naval Academy. While in the Persian Gulf, Soley received a distress call from the S.S. Prima Maersk that had sustained a flash fire in her engine room. The ship responded to the call and was alongside the stricken vessel within two hours. An injured crewman of the merchantman was taken aboard for transportation to medical facilities in Bahrain. The Middle East tour was completed in March after port visits to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Aden and Das Island, Trucial Oman.

Upon returning to the Mediterranean, Soley visited Golf Juan, France before returning to Norfolk with other ships of Destroyer Squadron TWO. After only a week in her home port the ship was underway to participate in a review by President John F. Kennedy, followed by gunfire support operations during amphibious exercises on Onslow Beach, N.C.

Throughout the ensuing summer of 1962, Soley operated in the Virginia Capes area and also participated in a special NASA operation in connection with LCDR Scott Carpenter's earth orbit. The ship made a visit to Providence, Rhode Island on July 4th and later had twenty-day shipyard availability for installation of new equipment.

On October 15, CDR A. W. Harmon relieved CDR Oscar. N. Hibler, Jr. as Commanding Officer. Commander Harmon attended Coffeyville College in Kansas and the University of Colorado. His military education included the U.S. Navy Postgraduate School and Naval War College. His previous sea assignments included battleships, cruisers, amphibious ships, and destroyers.

Dave Cummins recalls being Petty Officer of the watch on an afternoon in October when the Executive Officer, LCDR William Cronin, came to the quarterdeck and whispered instructions to the OOD to start recalling any available personnel to the ship. This became the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 as Soley, along with most of the Atlantic Fleet, secretly departed port to become part of the Quarantine Force assigned to intercept Soviet ships believed to be transporting missiles to Cuba. Initially Soley operated in company with USS Enterprise, Barton, Pierce, and English off Bermuda. Later in the crisis, Soley proceeded to the Panama Canal Zone to escort troop ships from the Pacific toward Cuba in the event an invasion was required. Upon conclusion of the crisis Soley returned to Norfolk in December 1962 for the Christmas holidays.

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The first three months of 1963 were spent engaged in local operations in the Norfolk area and making preparations for yet another Mediterranean cruise. On March 29 Soley departed for deployment to the 6th Fleet with stops in Palermo and Messina, Sicily; Marseilles, Naples, and Athens. The ship participated in several NATO exercises and made many friends aboard French and Italian ships.

On June 15 Soley left the Mediterranean for deployment with Commander Middle East Force and headed for the Suez Canal. While in the Middle East, the ship made visits to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Massawa, Ethiopia; Aden, Bahrain; and Karachi, Pakistan. June 30th marked the end of the competitive year with Soley winning the "E for excellence in both Operations and Supply and finishing second in battle efficiency competition.

On August 1, Soley returned to the Mediterranean for amphibious exercises and port calls in Beirut, Lebanon and Barcelona, Spain before arriving at Norfolk on September 4th. Beginning in November she was assigned to work with units of the Atlantic Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Forces pa