My first ship was the USS COCHRANE (DDG-21), homeported in Pearl Harbor.  I joined the ship on a Tuesday in October, 1971 and we left Pearl Harbor 48 hours later, bound for Adak, Alaska.  When we got there we supported the Kannikin Atomic Tests held in the autumn of that year.  We returned to Pearl in early December, as I recall.

In July of 1972 the ship headed for the Tonkin Gulf, to support various operations of the Vietnam war.  We provided naval gunfire support off the Cua Viet river near Quang Tri, provided “plane guard” servides for the USS RANGER (CV-61) and in the high-point of the deployment, participated in LINEBACKER II operations off the coast of N. Vietnam, typically with two other ships.  Each night we would form up south of the DMZ then steam north with the two other ships so assigned, and then we’d shoot our 5″ 54 caliber guns at pre-picked targets, all while steaming at over 30 knots.  Real John Wayne stuff, and I couldn’t get enough of it!

Our skipper was CDR Bob Kihune, a Maui native who went on to be a vice admiral (3-star) and the executive officer was LCDR Dana French.  Those two gents were the finest “one-two” punch I ever served with or for in the Navy.  I never heard either man swear, even once, and the brand of leadership they practiced was pure magic.  I’ve never seen a ship with higher morale or greater operational accomplishments in all the years I spent at sea.  A tough act for anyone to follow.  Our hull number, “DDG-21,” led to our slogan of “Twenty-one, second to none!”  And we weren’t.  In aggregate, the entire crew of 335 was the finest collection of young Americans I ever served with.

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