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Photographic History of the United States Navy


Flag Hoist/Radio Call Sign - NKQE

Tactical Voice Radio Call Sign (circa 1968) - SWAGGER STICK

Displacement 3218 Tons (Full), Dimensions, 376' 6"(oa) x 40' 10" x 14' 2" (Max)
Armament 6 x 5"/38AA (3x2), 12 x 40mm AA, 11 x 20mm AA, 10 x 21" tt.(2x5).
Machinery, 60,000 SHP; General Electric Geared Turbines, 2 screws
Speed, 36.5 Knots, Range 3300 NM@ 20 Knots, Crew 336.
Operational and Building Data
Laid down by Bethlehem Steel, San Pedro. March 5 1944.
Launched August 29 1944 and commissioned December 27 1944.
(One of the stars of the Discovery Channel documentary Deep Sea Detectives:
Captain's Last Stand, the story of the loss of the SS Flying Enterprise.)

Decommissioned and stricken July 1 1972.
To Colombia July 1 1972, renamed Caldas
Fate Stricken and scrapped in 1977.

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Keith 27kWillard Woodward Keith, Jr., born on 13 June 1920 in Berkeley, Calif., enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on 18 April 1939 and served as an enlisted man until he received an honorable discharge on 3 November 1940 to take an appointment as 2d lieutenant in the reserves on the following day. Called to active duty on 20 February 1941, he served "stateside" until his unit was transferred to the South Pacific in the spring of 1942 to build up for the first Allied offensive in that theater: Guadalcanal.

Eventually promoted to captain, Keith led Company "G," 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, from the initial phase of the Guadalcanal campaign. He landed with them at Tulagi on 7 August 1942.

By that autumn, the campaign on Guadalcanal Island was still a hard-fought one. In an offensive aimed against Japanese artillery positions sited beyond the Matanikau River and within range of the important Henderson Field airstrip, the 2d Battalion was assigned the left flank position. Initial elements of the battalion crossed the Matanikau in rubber boats before dawn on 3 November 1942, supported effectively by dive bomber strikes, artillery, and naval gunfire. That afternoon, Capt. Keith led his company against a Japanese strong-point manned by a platoon not only reinforced with heavy machine guns but concealed by heavy jungle growth and entrenched on commanding high ground. Realizing that neither mortar nor artillery fire could reach the Japanese positions, Keith, determined to evict the Japanese, initiated and led successive bayonet and hand grenade charges in the face of heavy fire. Although the Japanese platoon was annihilated,Capt. Keith was struck in the head by a bullet and killed instantly.

While the 1st Marine Division (Reinforced), of which the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines was a part, received the Presidential Unit Citation, Capt. Willard W. Keith, Jr., was awarded a Navy Cross posthumously for a "grim determination and aggressive devotion to duty" in keeping with the "highest traditions of the naval service."

Photo courtesy 'G47' on
Ron Balko
USS Willard Keith (DD-775)
Keith 155kUndated, location unknown. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 11a.-
Keith 165kUndated, location unknown.Ed Zajkowski
Keith 240kUndated, location unknown.Ed Zajkowski
Keith 82kUndated, USS Willard Keith (DD-775) entering San Pedro, California. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration photo # 19-N-76873.Robert Hurst
Keith 206kUndated, location unknown.Richard Miller BMCS USNR RET.
Keith 141kUndated, location unknown.Richard Miller BMCS USNR RET.
Keith 114k8 March 1945 (NARA 80G 310258).Rob Rielly
Keith 152kUSS Putnam (DD-757) at New York City 24 March 1946, with USS Willard Keith (DD-775) in the background. Courtesy of The Mariners Museum, Newport News, Va. Ted Stone collection. Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, Photo No. NH 66346.Mike Green
Keith 53kUSS Willard Keith assisting the sinking freighter Flying Enterprise, 06 January 1952Nathan Burrow / Yu Chu
Keith 41kUSS Tidewater (AD-31), USS Du Pont (DD-941), USS John W. Weeks (DD-701), USS Willard Keith (DD-775), USS Ault (DD-698), USS Henley (DD-762) and USS Nimble (MSO-459) in Athens, Greece late 1961.Michael J. Mogck
Keith 65kBoston, August 1963© Richard Leonhardt
Keith 55kNorfolk, VA 1965.Marc Piché
Keith 183kOff Norfolk, circa 1965.Ken Dupree, YNCS (Ret.)
Keith 169kOff Norfolk, circa 1965.Ken Dupree, YNCS (Ret.)
Keith 87kOff Norfolk, circa 1965.Ken Dupree, YNCS (Ret.)
Keith 189kNew York Harbor in April 1969 with the USS Willard Keith (DD-775) inboard and USS Keppler (DD-765) outboard.Ed Zajkowski
Keith 40kShip's patch.Mike Smolinski
Keith 81kSpecially designed patch by Hank Ketchum creator of Dennis the Menace.Marc Reckner
Keith 249kSpecially designed patch by Hank Ketchum creator of Dennis the Menace.Tom Gamstetter

88k & 99kShip's Zippo.Marc Reckner
On Colombian Service
Keith 48kOn the right side of the photo are the ex-USS Hale (DD-642) as the Colombian Navy DD 01 Antioquia and the ex-USS Willard Keith (DD-775) as the Colombian Navy DD 02 Caldas circa 1975-1976 after they had been decommissioned and were awaiting scrapping in Cartagena.Luis Bernardo Castro
Click here to see our Special Feature - Interior Views of Sumner Class Destroyers as Built

View This Vessels DANFS History Entry at the Naval History & Heritage Command website

Commanding Officers
Thanks to Wolfgang Hechler & Ron Reeves

CDR Lewis Levi Snider    Dec 27 1944 - Jan 2 1946

CDR Edward Maynard Day Jr.    Jan 2 1946 - May 26 1948

CDR Frank Hardeman Brumby Jr.    May 26 1948 - Aug 4 1949

LCDR George Rodney Warren Jr.    Aug 4 1949 - Apr 1950 

(Mothballed Apr 1950 - Oct 23 1950)

CDR Andrew Richard Drea    Oct 23 1950 - Sep 1951

CDR Leslie James O'Brien Jr.    Sep 1951 - Jan 1953 (Later RADM)

CDR Herman Kennedy Rock    Jan 1953 - Jul 1954

CDR Frank John Coulter    Jul 1954 - Apr 1955

CDR Philip Michael Donahue    Apr 1958 - Nov 1956

CDR Carl Richard Berquist    Nov 1956 - Apr 1958

CDR William Ross Gibson    Apr 1958 - Sep 1959 

CDR Julius Jacob Theodore Bachman    Sep 1959 - Jul 1961

CDR Claude Leonidus Tyler    Jul 1961 - May 1 1963 

CDR Claiborne Sheldon Bradley    May 1 1963 - Aug 1964

CDR Dale Calvin Brumbaugh    Oct 1964 - Mar 1966

CDR Francis Joseph Beitzer    Mar 1966 - Aug 1967

CDR Donald James Maynard    Aug 1967 - Jul 1969

CDR Henry Gerald Ehleringer    Jul 1969 - Aug 1971

CDR Billy Jerl White    Aug 1971 - Mar 1972

LCDR John Raymond Brandon    Mar 1972 - Jul 1 1972

Crew Contact And Reunion Information

Contact Name: Don Hempstead
Address: 151 Wilshire Dr., Fairfield Bay, AR. 72088
Phone: 501-884-6242

Note About Contacts.

The contact listed, Was the contact at the time for this ship when located. If another person now is the contact, E-mail me and I will update this entry. These contacts are compiled from various sources over a long period of time and may or may not be correct. Every effort has been made to list the newest contact if more than one contact was found.

Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
USS Willard Keith Website
Tin Can Sailors Website
Destroyer History Foundation
Destroyers Online Website
Official U.S.Navy Destroyer Website

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