Commissioned 70 years ago 12/22/1946

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A Special Lady: A Memoir

March 8, 2018

A Special Lady

The following was read by Ken Giardina at the USS Samuel B. Roberts Shipmates Association
Reunion in Newport RI on October 5, 2017.

In the late fall on November 22, 1969, just 43 days shy of 48 years ago today,
The USS Samuel B. Roberts, affectionately called by those sailors that sailed on her as the “Steaming Sammy B”, left Newport RI for what would be her
last time, on her way with most of DesRon 24 for the Med. Upon her return
in May of 1970 from a cruise with many serious problems, it was evident that she had paid a high price. In the coming months after her normal 30
day stand down, there was a schedule full of normal routine inspections.
The inspectors came on board and most of her passed with flying colors but unfortunately not all. After inspecting below deck it was determined that she was too sick to repair, too worn out from doing her duty to be patched up and was found unfit for serving in the fleet and
2 November 1970 she was struck from the Navy list. Nothing is worse than killing a good fighting ship, especially a tin can. Coxswain Samuel B.
Roberts died saving others, the first ship named in his honor died fighting
and saving countless marines and sailors, but the DD-823 died because she
gave her all, over and over again.

She was tired, old, worn out, and no longer able to do what she
was meant to do, but had done so many times. She wasn’t the oldest tin-can
in CruDesLant or CruDesPac in terms of age, but she was in terms
of what she had done. It was Rear Admiral Jocko Clark that once said in
the Marianas, on 8 July 1944 “Well done, destroyers. You always deliver the goods.”
So to you her crew:
We are old men now, we sailors of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823).
The life of a proud Gearing class destroyer which began in 1945, when peace
was just settling in everywhere, and America was
a proud nation, and it ended 26 years later more
than 45 years ago on November 14, 1971 after a
long and proud tour of duty. She served in peace
throughout the world, in conflict during the cold
war, Cuban missile crisis and Vietnam. All of us
who served on board her with the exception of a
few who sailed her into mothballs on her last
voyage were still relatively young men when she
died, before we were old enough to appreciate her beauty. As youngsters aboard this Tin Can, we
cursed her and loved her and always ran to shore
at every opportunity. Now, like old sailors
through the ages, we look back at the warship of
our youth, for no particular reason, except to remember what we choose to see as great times.
We are older and wiser now, and we remind
ourselves that the times in which we were young were not necessarily
the best, or even better than other times; they only seem to be.
We will never forget our days serving on board the USS Samuel B. Roberts
Through all of her 26 years, we sailors of the Roberts stood the watch

While some of us were in our bunks at night, one of us stood the watch
While some of us were in school learning our trade
A shipmate stood the watch.
Yes. Even before, when some of us were children, playing carefree and free
There was a shipmate who stood the watch.
In those years when storm clouds of war were seen
brewing on the horizon of history, a shipmate stood the watch
Many times we would cast our eye ashore and see our family standing there,
Needing our guidance and help,
Needing that hand to hold during those hard times
We shipmates stood the watch.
We stood that watch for 26 years
We stood the watch so that, our family, our friends
Our fellow countrymen could sleep soundly in safety, each and every night knowing, that a sailor stood the watch.
Today my fellow shipmates at this probably our last meeting in her home
port, I stand before you and say “Our watch stands relieved”
And let us always remember those shipmates on
their last leave, who now stand the watch waiting for us.
For a Tin-Can sailor his one desire is to be on a
rolling deck in Navy blue anywhere at sea. Our ship is gone as we must go
someday, where memories and ships don’t run to get underway.
And I like you were fortunate to have stood the watch on the USS Samuel B. Roberts DD-823. It should be pointed out that with the US
Navy only the good ones live forever. The 823 was the second of three
ships, to bear the name Samuel B. Roberts, and with any kind of luck a
fourth will ride the seas. If you look it up, there are not
many ships whose names have been used for three generations.

To quote the following from the retrospect movingly written
by Don Eagle for our Muster Books’ fitting end. Don wrote:
‘She was a willing participant in our youth. She
took us to rare and exotic ports to see and to play, she took us to the sea to witness the beauty of a colorful sunsets, showed us the Southern Cross of
stars, and the awesomeness of God’s creation, and
she taught us respect, patriotism, and the inter-dependence
of working with others. She lives on, not in a material sense, but in the
hearts and memories of all the young men who gave her life.

To us she will forever be a part of our lives. To , us she entrusts her legacy. “To paraphrase John F. Kennedy,
Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile …
he can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction, in saying
‘I served in the United States Navy’”, and you can add to that:
I served aboard the destroyer Samuel B. Roberts DD-823”
In ending I would like to read an excerpt from a poem written
by MMC Joseph Early, USN (Ret) titled “A Tin Can Sailor” “When his ship departs and enters harms way
He’ll state with pride Just earning my pay.

Then in later years in civilian life
He will settle down with a lovely wife.
While at his bedside and on bended knee
he will pray for those who were lost at sea.
After drifting off into a deep dream
He’s back aboard ship and cranking up the steam.
His mind often dwells on old shipmates
Cherishing his years with those reprobates.
At ship reunions he’s first to arrive
with his sea stories the past comes alive
And the bond that formed while part of the crew
Becomes stronger still with their past on review.
That same bond they share no one can sever,
All tin Can sailors are shipmates forever.

Read by Ken Giardina at the USS Samuel B. Roberts Shipmates Association
Reunion in Newport RI on October 5, 2017

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