USS McMorris History

The USS McMorris (DE-1036), fourth and last ship of her class, was designed primarily as an antisubmarine escort vessel. She was built with several recent developments at the time including a unique upper deck arrangement, aluminum mast and superstructure, and the latest in electronic detection equipment which continued to change over the years. The ship was designed with crew comfort in mind which included complete air-conditioning, improved recreation facilities, a ship-wide recorded entertainment system, and semiprivate living quarters.

McMorris was 312 feet long, displaced 1900 tons, with a maximum beam of 38 feet. The ship was powered by four Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines that delivered 9200 shaft horsepower to the single screw, propelling the ship to speeds in excess of 20 knots. Her main battery originally consisted of two 3"/50 single gun rapid fire mounts and two trainable MK 32 torpedo tube mounts, a stern mounted depth charge rack, and two sets of ahead firing hedgehog batteries behind the forward gun mount. The hedgehog's were subsequently removed and replaced temporarily by a Norwegian built Terne II antisubmarine missile launcher which was later removed. The depth charge rack was also removed in later years.

McMorris keel was laid down on 5 November 1958 at Avondale Marineways, Avondale, Louisiana, where she was christened and launched by Mrs. Charles H. McMorris, wife of the late Vice Admiral McMorris (a brief biography is here). The ship was commissioned (Commissioning Poem) on 4 March 1960 in Charleston, SC. Present that day were members of the McMorris family, including David McMorris, son of the Admiral, Mrs. Newland, Admiral McMorris niece, and Ensign McMorris, nephew of the late Admiral. Besides the new crew members, dignitaries included Captain Dickman, Chaplain USN, Mr. Henry Carter, Executive VP Avondale Marine Ways, Inc., Captain Mauro, Chief of Staff, Sixth Naval District, Rear Admiral Varian, Commander Mine Force, US Atlantic Fleet, Rear Admiral McManes, Commandant, Sixth Naval District. LCDR Martin Zenni took command, and Lt. Earl Graffam set the first watch with Ens J.E. Eyer as Officer of the Deck. Ten officers and 150 enlisted men took control of the ship, and at 1630 hours 4 March 1960, McMorris commenced taking fresh water from the pier.

After a brief outfitting period on the East Coast, McMorris departed for her new home port of San Diego, California via the Panama Canal. She arrived in San Diego on 29 April, 1960 and was greeted by Mr. William Loerke, assistant to the mayor of San Diego and Commander Joseph Rizza, Commodore of Escort Squadron Three. There she took up her role as a member of Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla SEVEN and Escort Squadron THREE, U.S. Pacific forces. After conducting local operations and training in California waters, the McMorris departed for her "Historic" transit to Yokosuka, Japan. The McMorris completed a 4966 mile nonstop voyage in the first independent Northern Pacific trip ever attempted by a U.S. Destroyer type vessel without enroute logistical support. The 14 day trip was made at an average speed of 14.8 knots and McMorris arrived in Yokosuka with 30 percent of her fuel capacity remaining.

Between 1960 and 1964 the McMorris would make three Western Pacific patrols that included duty with the ASW (HUK) Group and Taiwan Patrol. She also was Station Ship Hong Kong for an extended period of time. During this time period McMorris also conducted local training in the San Diego area and completed two overhauls in Long Beach, California, and San Francisco, California. As a result of a home port reassignment, McMorris would arrive at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 24 January, 1965. She became flagship of Commander Escort Squadron FIVE and a unit of Destroyer Flotilla FIVE. In the spring of 1965 McMorris, with COMCORTRON FIVE embarked, deployed for the fourth time to the Western Pacific and duty with the Seventh Fleet. There she served as flagship for Market Time Force Commander (Market Time information here), and was the "first" Destroyer Escort to fire shore bombardment in support of troops in South Vietnam. Upon returning to Pearl Harbor, McMorris was assigned to Task Force NINETY-TWO, and became Flagship for Commander, Escort Division ELEVEN, receiving the Battle Efficiency "E" for CORTRON ELEVEN, and was flagship for COMCORTRON SEVEN during convoy operations. During this time period 1966-1967, McMorris was also involved in a serious "collision" with the gasoline tanker USS Tombigbee AOG11. Two men were killed and seven men were injured aboard the McMorris. (See the collision story here.)

Subsequent to a deployment to the Indian Ocean 1968-1969, the McMorris and her sister ships formed the newly created Escort Squadron ONE. In addition to successive WESTPAC tours in 1969-1970 and 1970-1971, McMorris participated in various special operations for which she received the Meritorious Unit Commendation. Because of the great success in these endeavors, as well as excellence in local operations, McMorris was chosen as CRUDESPAC's representative for the Arleigh Burke Award as the most improved ship in the Pacific Fleet during 1970-1971. The Battle Efficiency "E" was earned for CORTRON ONE in 1971. During her deployment to WESTPAC in 1970-1971, McMorris would participate in a joint forces recovery operation of a US satellite, and spent most of her time tracking military units of the Soviet Navy throughout the South China Sea. During one Spec OP, the McMorris, deciding not to heed the warning of a Soviet Guided Missile Destroyer to leave the area, stayed side by side with the Russian vessel as it went to "General Quarters" and subsequently fired a missile while Mac crew members looked on in excitement. (The missile was not aimed at McMorris).

During a yard period in 1971 at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, McMorris entered dry-dock for a much needed bottom scraping and fresh coats of paint. It was the first in some time, and most spaces were given fresh new life. The most significant aspect of this yard period was the complete redesign of the upper bridge works, additional electronic spaces were added on the 03 level, and a satellite communications ball was mounted just aft of the second stack. Additionally, underway refueling apparatus was upgraded to better facilitate UNREPS. The appearance of the McMorris had changed, but not the spirit of the crew.

McMorris would deploy to the Western Pacific in March of 1972 and in addition to a trip across the equator, She would return to Vietnamese waters in the Vung Tau area conducting various duties with Notification Line and Market Time Force duties. She would witness the destruction of a Chinese Junk by South Vietnamese Naval Forces. Her return home included a trip "down under" to Australia and New Zealand. Her 1973-1974 cruise included participation in joint operations with other US Naval units and those of Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, and The United Kingdom, called LONGEX-73, it included antisubmarine exercises in the Tasman Sea.

In December of 1974, the McMorris would complete her eventual end and was decommissioned (see the Decommissioning Program here). Making room for newer and more powerful units of the US Navy, McMorris would be sold to the Indonesian Navy. A respectful and honorable history was closed out, and a new era of modern naval warfare took over. But there is no way to replace all the professional and dedicated crew members of the McMorris. Those who served during a fourteen year history can vouch for the camaraderie and esprit de corp of those who were crew members of the "Mighty Mac".

(27 JUL 2003: According to Andrew Toppan, who maintains the World Navies Today web site, the McMorris (Ngurah Rai) was still in service as of 10 MAR 2003.)


Lieutenant Commander Martin M. Zenni
(biograpical note here)

Lieutenant Commander Ralph G. Spencer

Lieutenant Commander Daniel A. Lewis

Lieutenant Commander Richard E. Kemble

Lieutenant Commander Rudolph H. Daus

Lieutenant Commander Robert J. Steele

Lieutenant Commander Alex J. Viessmann

Lieutenant Commander Donald L. Hark *

Lieutenant Commander Richard D. Milligan

Lieutenant Commander James H. Ansley

* Deceased

Note: Commander Jack Stevens (ComCortRon 1) commanded the McMorris for a period
during an absence by LCDR Viessmann


Expeditionary Force

Jun-Jul 1965 & Dec-69

Meritorious Unit Commendation

Spring & Summer 70 & Apr-May 72

National Defense Service

Vietnam Service

Jul-Aug-65, Aug-68, Jan-70, Apr-May-72, May-Jun-72, & Jul-72

(Dates of awards verified through the Navy Personnel Command St Louis, MO)


Arleigh Burke Award
(Most Improved Ship/Pacific Fleet)

Battle Efficiency "E"

NEY Award
"Best Small Mess Afloat"

Various Commendations
(Pacific Missle Command)



Escort Squadron ELEVEN


Escort Squadron FIVE




Escort Division ELEVEN