USS Denver ‘Gator’ decommissions at joint base ceremony

Capt. Michael P. Donnelly, commanding officer of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9), passes through ceremonial sideboys at the conclusion of the ship's decommissioning ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Laurie Dexter

Capt. Michael P. Donnelly, commanding officer of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9), passes through ceremonial sideboys at the conclusion of the ship’s decommissioning ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Laurie Dexter

Brandon Bosworth

Assistant Editor, Ho’okele

After five decades of service, USS Denver (LPD 9) was decommissioned at a ceremony held Aug. 14 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

With 46 years of service, Denver was the oldest deployable ship in the U.S. Navy, earning the nickname “Oldest Gator in the Swamp.”

Launched on Jan. 23, 1965 and commissioned on Oct. 26, 1968, it was the third U.S. Navy ship to bear the name of American pioneer James William Denver and the capital of the state of Colorado.

Over its history, the ship played a significant role in several operations, most notably Operation Frequent

Wind, the evacuation of Saigon, Vietnam in April 1975. Denver also participated in many humanitarian missions, and recently offered assistance to the

Philippines in the aftermath of 2010’s Typhoon Megi.

The ship has been part of the forward-deployed Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which reports to Commander, Amphibious Force U.S. 7th Fleet, headquartered in Okinawa, Japan

The guest speaker at the decommissioning ceremony was Rear Adm. Hugh D. Wetherald, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven.

“On this day, we will bid farewell to one of our workhorses of the Navy,” said Wetherald. “She is as ready now as she was at her launch in 1968 to go to sea.”

Addressing Denver’s crew, Wetherald said, “You are truly among the best I’ve seen and served with in my Navy career.”

Denver’s commanding officer, Capt. Michael Donnelly, also spoke at the decommissioning.

“The 46 year service life of Denver is unique for a warship,” Donnelly said. “The ship has seen five decades of service, 15 crew cycles, 31 commanding officers, and has crossed the International Date Line 46 times. The Denver has always been a mile high and a mile ahead.”

Jim Hyden of the USS Denver Association presented Donnelly with a proclamation from the mayor of Denver, which was read at the ceremony. Also present at the event were three former Vietnamese refugees who escaped the fall of Saigon aboard Denver as well as several former crewmembers.

After Wetherald and Donnelly spoke, the decommissioning directive was read aloud. The ceremony concluded with the ship’s company filing ashore, and eight bells were struck terminating the final watch. The colors, pennants, jack and ensign were hauled down and the USS Denver ceased to be a commissioned U.S. Navy warship.

The next destination for Denver is the Navy’s deactivated fleet at West Loch.

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Category: News