USS ORLECK DD 886 and Lake Charles (A case for mutual benefit)
by Robert L. Orleck (2013) (revised April 8, 2014)
The USS ORLECK DD 886, is a Gearing Class Destroyer temporarily moored in Lake Charles just waiting for a permanent mooring. If she does not find a mooring soon, she will have to try to find another home or worse she could be scrapped. Just recently it has been realized that the USS ORLECK is the most decorated warship in American history since WW II. She is the premier Vietnam era ship and Vietnam Veterans are the most active reunion attenders. She is the only destroyer who had extensive service in Vietnam as a Westpac Vietnam era Gearing Class destroyer serving in the fleet of historic ships. With these recent revelations it would seem wise to pursue her strengths with the city of Lake Charles since the rewards for the city to embrace her would be huge and the ship is already there. This will all be expanded on in detail later in this document.
Bob Orleck, nephew of Lt. Joseph Orleck is the Executive Director of the Destroyer USS ORLECK Association and the author of this paper. The information on the USS KENNEDY Museum, its functionality which brings financial support for the operations of the KENNEDY was provided by Rich Angelini. He is Trustee of the USS KENNEDY DD 850 and world renown expert on Gearing Class Destroyers. The purpose of this paper is to discuss an opportunity that would have mutual benefit for both the USS ORLECK DD 886 and Lake Charles. As an example of the seriousness we have approached this presentation, Mr. Angelini drafted a Conservation Plan for the USS ORLECK to offer to The USS ORLECK Museum in Lake Charles. A similar plan for the proper handling and restoration of the USS KENNEDY DD 850 has proven successful.
Issues, background and facts are brought forth in this presentation. The evaluation concludes that establishing USS ORLECK DD 886 in Lake Charles as mutually beneficial to the ship and Lake Charles has been done in an objective and factual manner. Both men believe that USS ORLECK DD 886, being the last of her kind and worthy of preserving offers a unique and valued opportunity for Lake Charles to pursue a tremendous educational and historical mission that will produce a continuing source of historic and financial value to the City of Lake Charles.
USS ORLECK, since her return from Turkey, never had the chance to be exhibited in a proper way so she could tell her history that shows clearly that she is an exceptional naval combat vessel. Information received recently reveals that her excellent service and combat record entitles her to display sufficient awards that confirm she is the most decorated American Naval warship to have served since WWII.
The matter is critical and a decision has to be made for she runs the risk of being lost to us all. The following pages discuss the matter and attempts to direct the discussion to issues that would be important to the City of Lake Charles in making any commitments or provide assistance to USS ORLECK in getting what she needs most and that is a permanent mooring.
Bob and Rich would be willing to travel to Lake Charles to support this presentation and answer any questions that any proposed supporter may have. (added note-Bob is traveling to Lake Charles in April to meet with Mayor Roach and other officials). They have also expressed the willingness to offer their services in the future toward the success of the venture. The Destroyer USS ORLECK Association will provide reunions and other assistance. Their members and those of other organizations including the USS KENNEDY wish to be involved and work on the ship and will provide volunteer support with men and expertise at field days and at other needed times.
WHAT BROUGHT ABOUT THIS PRESENTATION?
In a very odd twist of fate, the most decorated ship afloat in the United States Navy since WWII is without a permanent home. USS ORLECK, named for Lt. Joseph Orleck, served the United States Navy for 37 years and Turkey for 16 years before being returned to the United States in 2000 to be a museum in the city that gave her birth. Ten years later she found herself in Lake Charles where her owners are unable to obtain a promised permanent mooring. She is currently temporarily moored along the river bank in Lake Charles, LA. She needs a permanent mooring!
Keeping the USS ORLECK in Lake Charles would have results that would be mutually beneficial. USS ORLECK would have a home and Lake Charles would have a premier combat vessel that would draw larger visitation and revenue when the functionality and potential uses are expanded due to her status.. USS ORLECK not only is of interest to WWII buffs but she also served America with excellence in other wars and in peace that followed into the modern day age of Naval warfare. She has experience as a Cold War Warrior, in Korea, in Vietnam and as a reserve platform in peacetime. She was sold to Turkey, our NATO ally, to serve there for a number of years including service as Flagship and in Operation Desert Storm .
The USS ORLECK was returned as the result of work done by Joe Orleck’s nephew, Bob Orleck, who was successful in having the Turkish Navy give the USS ORLECK to Orange, Texas for a museum. It was during her years in service to Turkey that Bob cultivated friendships with the officers aboard TCG YUCETEPE D 345 (ex-USS ORLECK DD 886). Through these friendships and in particular with one officer, discussions were had and plans made that when TCG YUCETEPE would be decommissioned, these men would try to save her as a museum.
In a story too long to tell here their plans succeeded and USS ORLECK was towed to Orange, Texas and given to a group of Orange residents who claimed to be capable of getting a permanent home for her and establishing her as a popular sought after museum. It is in Orange that problems began that never should have occurred. They were never able to provide that permanent mooring and the situation went from bad to worse when finally Hurricane Rita struck. Once the storm clouds subsided, USS ORLECK was found displaced from her temporary mooring and the City of Orange told her handlers that they could not keep her at the park where she had been temporarily located. She had no other place to go in Orange.
Having lost her mooring in Orange her Texas owners agreed and for a time explored a move to N. Little Rock, Arkansas. Excitement was experienced across the country including in N. Little Rock because of the possibility of finding a permanent home. Negotiations began, studies were done and plans crafted to accomplish the move. USS ORLECK DD 886 could be celebrating her fifth year of being a successful museum alongside the USS RAZORBACK. There were many folks in N. Little Rock who knew such a partnership would be good for their city and those who were acting in the best interests of the ORLECK also knew that and knew as well that N. Little Rock would be good for the ship. Despite the efforts of these many people but because of the actions of a few who controlled her destiny she is not there. Her owners decided she would go to Lake Charles and while that might have been fine under other circumstances, the weakened position that the project was in at the time proved to be too much to overcome. So almost five years later the ship is in the same limbo position she was in the day she arrived there. She still did not have a permanent home.
The new information mentioned above gives both the City of Lake Charles and the USS ORLECK Naval Museum the opportunity to embrace the entire project anew. With a permanent mooring she will move from being a question mark tied up to a river bank to a valuable asset proudly displayed at a chosen site. If they do it and take some positive action to support its establishment in a permanent mooring the end result will be a real win-win for all involved. That will become clearer as this letter progresses. The decision has to be to accept her presence there and encourage her in any way that is possible. The Museum will have to pursue a path that will take advantage of the new findings and the demographic changes that have occurred in the reunion destination population.
Historical considerations about USS ORLECK DD 886 and the opportunities that they offer Lake Charles
USS ORLECK DD 886 has a unique history that spans five decades from WWII, the Cold War Era, Korea, Vietnam, peacetime and then to Turkey where she saw action in “Operation Desert Storm”. ORLECK would bring great educational opportunities for the staff at the Museum and would allow her visual equipment history to include WWII, Korea and Vietnam for those interested in those historic periods. After WWII ended she spent a lot of time in the company of Russian Trawlers in the “cat and mouse” games that were perpetually going on and many are interested in that time. Not only that, she was a peacetime vessel and a Turkish vessel and her history covers five decades.
In Korea she distinguished herself in many ways and in particular was the first destroyer to ever have gotten an enemy train in the mountains. The legendary Captain Yates accomplished the feat, not once but twice in a period of ten days. From this action the ORLECK became the founder of the “Train Buster’s Club”. Many allied ships taking the cue from USS ORLECK began slipping into coves, watching for those sparking tracks high in the mountains of North Korea then just at the right time opened with their 5” guns and took them out.
Then in Vietnam she distinguished herself for more awards than any other ship being eligible for 14 battle stars there. From 1964 through 1973 she went into enemy waters 29 different times in 14 of the recognized 17 Vietnam campaigns. A 1967 US Navy promotional film called America in Vietnam documents what she was doing that she did so well at. The ship gun fire support sequence at video point 0:59 and then again at 9:50 is ORLECK. The video shows her at her best firing on enemy positions with a view of her from onboard and from the air. Looks like the Navy planned to document her here as the famous color photo of her firing on the Viet Cong is from this sequence. She was recognized as “Top Gun” having expended more than 10,000 rounds of 5” ammunition in one tour of duty. In fact she did this twice.
Her actions on the gun line are legendary and many stories are available regarding troops she saved with her accurate gunfire during shore bombardment
Back in the 60’s USS ORLECK was equipped with the DASH for anti-submarine use. We hear about drones all the time nowadays that are very sophisticated with GPS capability. By comparison the DASH is a Model T, but is was state-of-the-art equipment for that time. Later the DASH was changed to function as a spy drone and called a “SNOOPY”. USS ORLECK operated the last known DASH mission in 1962. USS ORLECK has two of these birds that will make interesting question provoking displays. The USS ORLECK would satisfy those seeking out history from WWII and future conflicts as well.
The USS ORLECK is a star in her own right. In 1950 she played the part of a Japanese destroyer in “American Guerilla in the Philippines” starring Tyrone Power. Still young and handsome enough she starred in the ABC mini-series “Winds of War” with Robert Mitchum. History would unfold in Lake Charles and would play out through the tales spun by the docents as they move from place to place on this destroyer.
Lt. Orleck went down with his ship, the USS NAUSET AT 89, during the invasion of Salerno in WWII when struck from high above by German bombs. The story can be told of Pearl Harbor and the invasion of Italy. ORLECK spent a great deal of time in Hawaiian waters so her past covers both theaters of war during different decades with different players.
The USS ORLECK served in the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific for over 37 years. There are USS ORLECK deck logs that cover 37 years of history and are on-line and searchable. The docents can direct people to that source for further study. Hard copies of all the deck logs are on the USS ORLECK having been loaned to the Museum in Lake Charles by our Association and are a valuable research tool.
The ORLECK was capable of carrying and deploying a nuclear weapon. She may or may not have done that but if so that information may still be classified. If she had been chosen to be a destroyer to carry such a weapon and it is likely in my opinion that she was, her ASROC Missile Launcher would be armed with a 10-kiloton, W44 nuclear depth charge warhead. Such a conversation by the docents at the Museum could be of great interest to many. A sister ship, the USS AGERHOLM actually did detonate such a weapon in a test explosion in the 1960’s so that could be discussed and ORLECK could be the “show and tell” on how it happened.
Location here would introduce community in this area to a combat veteran man-of- war with no competition from other navy museums and open outreach opportunities into this new market with a profile vessel. The interest would be greater for this area because of her location in the gulf. The other ships in the area have different missions and USS ORLECK if restored in the Vietnam era would have that as her mission and none others than the KENNEDY, a sister ship of USS ORLECK could represent that era.
Configuration allows for the relevance to today’s Modern Navy as her weapons and sensors are early models of today’s sophisticated navy technology, allowing for explanation of the transition of the Navy from the 20th century into the 21st century.
DISCUSSION OF USS ORLECK HISTORY
USS ORLECK DD 886 is a Gearing Class Destroyer. The ship was laid down on November 28, 1944 by the Consolidated Steel Corporation of Texas. She was named ORLECK on January 11, 1945 and was launched on the 12th of May, 1945, and then commissioned on September 15, 1945. Her vital statistics and a list of her Commanding Officers can be found on this site. She was named to honor Lt. Joseph Orleck who gave his life for his country. USS ORLECK DD 886 history spans five decades as a United States man-of-war having been commissioned in 1945 and decommissioned in 1982. The decommissioning transcript is available here for your reading if you desire. After her thirty seven year career as an American warship she continued her work in Turkey to serve our NATO ally for another sixteen years from 1982 to 1998. After decommissioning in Golcuk Turkey in 1998, she was returned to the United States where she began service as a ship museum in Orange, Texas where she was built. The USS ORLECK NAVAL MUSEUM in Lake Charles, LA is her current home.
The history of USS ORLECK DD886 spans a long period of time. Some may prefer to read a short historical summary. Others may prefer to peruse information with footnotes added that were gathered over a two year period that included research at the Washington Navy Yard. That can be found in the chronology on this site. The complete record of that chronology was present in a different format than is in the current website version. The information had to be re-entered and there are intentions for it to appear in a new chronology timeline on this site in the future. When finished researchers will see a fairly complete history of her movement and actions in an easily accessible format. A visit to the page now will show the work that has been entered so far. There is enough presented that it will be easy to see the value it will have when completed as a tool to study and promote her history.
If you wish to get down to an almost minute by minute account of her actions during her thirty seven years service to the US Navy we have those on-line and searchable as well. Deck logs are the chronological entries made by officers of a ship during her entire service. This was a remarkable undertaking and to accomplish it it took leaders who directed twenty-one different people over seven years typing from the hand written documents to accomplish this feat and it is such a valuable resource. I believe we are the only organization to have done this and what is most impressive is the number of years it covers because she was in service for so long.
There are many other bits and pieces of her history present on this site and it will be informative and sometime entertaining reading for you. Just go to the home page and review the side menu on that page.
Not to be overlooked are the forums. On the old website this was the main communication tool that now seems to have been replaced by our use of Facebook that started on January 21, 2013. The forum has a wealth of information for those who want to spend a weather day inside reading interesting facts about our ship and her men for their perspective. These are the present forums that have many great entries:
- USS ORLECK reunion activities
- SCUTTLEBUTT (The newsletter)
- Operation Rescue (dealing with the hurricane that struck Orange Texas)
- Deck logs and Cruise Book Projects
- Where they are now. ( information about shipmates that they provided.)
- Chaplain’s Corner
- General Discussion
- The way I remember it
- TCG YUCETEPE D 345 (1982-1998)
- Who are these people, places and times involved? (photographs-registration needed for viewing)
- Oldies but goodies
- Navy news items
- That good ORLECK chow (great recipes provided for the men of USS ORLECK by Chief Gerald Hannah)-great resource when you have need for recipes to serve 350 or more people at a time.
Since January 21 2013, Destroyer USS ORLECK Association has managed a Facebook page and that has proven to be fun and informative as we interact with each other sharing our past adventures and looking forward to future reunions.
Ships do cruise books which are akin to year books that are done in high school. Lots of pictures, places visited, significant milestones and historical events are present in these bound books. Our Association has these books and they are on-line now. This is a significant addition to our goal of telling the story of the USS ORLECK, her men and the gallant service she gave to America and the free world.
USS ORLECK DD 886 history can be found in many places on-line and in books. You can Google her or check out your local library and read all about her and her exploits as a Gearing Class Destroyer, the workhorse of the US Navy from WWII, the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, peacetime as a Naval Reserve Vessel onto Turkey in Operation Desert Storm then back to the US as a Museum Ship.
Why with all her Battle Stars and value is USS ORLECK still without a permanent home?
USS ORLECK’s history is impressive. By reading what is written so far in this paper or by exploring the information in this website you would know that. But this paper was not available back when she was returned from Turkey. The information regarding the awards she was entitled to display were not known then and has just become known. Now it is known that she has earned 18 Battle Stars and 14 of them were in Vietnam, outdoing even carriers in this regard. But is it too late?
Periodically on the news we see accounts of belated awards of medals either because the paperwork was misplaced or for some other reason. Such situations are not uncommon and are very emotional events when they happen. Finally the warrior has gotten the recognition he or she long deserved. Yesterday they were not recognized and today they are. Yesterday there were not in demand as a speaker, today they are. So it can be with ships and so it was for the USS ORLECK. Not as a speaker but as a museum that speaks for those times of history and the men who went to war for us.
Information on the awards ORLECK is entitled to display has just come to light. She slipped through the cracks and has been tied up on a river somewhere for the last fifteen years. How sad!
The Navy stopped documenting her history officially in 1969 but she served until 1982. Just recently the Navy (after her decommissioning) cleared the way for battle stars in Vietnam. Her twenty nine visits to enemy waters off Vietnam in fourteen of the seventeen official Vietnam Campaigns entitles her to fourteen battle stars.
The premier man-of-war, USS ORLECK, went fifteen years in the United States without a permanent mooring unrecognized for her service and without the majority of her awards. She has had a perfect storm of bad luck. Her early years as a museum in the small backwater town of Orange, Texas followed by five more years tied up on a river in Lake Charles prevented her from receiving the attention she deserved. During those 15 years she was in limbo with no one speaking of her great accomplishments. She sat sadly waiting to be discovered.
If USS ORLECK strengths are pursued and touted, she would easily be declared the official Korea and Vietnam Memorial Ship Museum for Louisiana if the legislature was asked. She would have had that in Texas as well if their legislature had been asked. No one asked! She surely would have been supported by veterans groups if her great deeds and awards had been known. An informed city would not reject such a celebrity because with a good marketing plan there would be money coming to that city for having her. If the proper path had been taken fifteen years ago, USS ORLECK would be established as a ship museum today and would be doing well in Texas.
Lake Charles has the opportunity now to capitalize on what was missed by Orange, Texas. USS ORLECK has great value and is located right there in Lake Charles.. Just get her a permanent mooring then market her and she will pay great dividends. It does not take much imagination to visualize the possibilities.
USS ORLECK is a southern ship and that means something.
Southerners really never had a good look at USS ORLECK. She was not properly marketed. There are many good ways to sell and idea or a product and in many ways that is what ships are. One great idea that Rich Angelini had was based on expressed feelings about USS ORLECK being a hometown girl who was born in a bayou and suggested a 1969 song popular with Vietnam Vets, “Born on the Bayou” made famous by Creedence Clearwater Revival. “Born on the Bayou” would be her theme song that would introduce her in any promotion or website about her. Born on the Bayou (literally) and represented southern contribution to the WWII war effort and represented the South proudly through Korea and Vietnam. She represents the rich naval history of the Southern states as the last historic Destroyer in existence to be built in the South and the last from the Consolidated Steel shipyard in Orange, TX. Listen to the song and then think about how it would promote USS ORLECK.
ORLECK was born right there in your part of this land and she represents the best of what came out of those critical times in our country’s history. She went on to gallantly represent her home as she ventured abroad to the far points of this earth. She always met her commitments through her fine crews and always did our nation proud. Having been commissioned at the end of WWII she comfortably transitioned to a “cold-war warrior” then again did with careful surgery a transition that allowed her to bridge the gap between what I call “old Navy” to the “modern Navy” of today and that extended her life and allowed her to carry modern weapons into the 1970’s.
Just as a parent is proud of a child who has gone on to do great things, the south should be proud of this child who was birthed there. When a hometown boy or girl goes away and distinguishes themself and then comes home they are welcomed with open arms and sometime a ticker tape parade. It all started that way when the high achiever, USS ORLECK, initiator of the Train Buster’s Club in Korea and Top Gun in Vietnam came home, but like some returning warriors, she fell on bad times through no fault of her own. She is still the honorable defender of America who did us all so proud. It is about her. She is a southern ship. She is your ship. She is a ship you have a right and obligation to be proud of and defend!
What organizations will support USS ORLECK in Lake Charles?
With USS ORLECK comes the largest reunion group that has ever existed for a single destroyer. Their group holds the record for the largest attendance registered for a destroyer reunion of 470. While her reunion attendance numbers average in the 200’s there is no question that with USS ORLECK present, the numbers will be high when reunion time comes aboard her. The 470 number came when the group held its reunion aboard her in Orange, Texas and every hotel there was taken and all rooms utilized.
We are so fortunate to have the USS KENNEDY leadership willing to join with us and any city who has USS ORLECK to give her this chance and help any organization in presenting her. Check out how she raises revenue. These pictures and narrative will give you visual proof of what is being done and the same would apply to USS ORLECK, sister ship of USS KENNEDY.
The in-kind services provided by Tin Can Sailors and destroyer volunteers is extremely valuable. This group of dedicated ex-sailors live around the country and provide both financial and hands-on expertise to restore Destroyers. The last two photos show crew photos of volunteer crews aboard KENNEDY. They applied over 30 gallons of paint after preparing metal over a five day period. Along with painting, they do electrical, welding, plumbing, and other vocational skills to ensure their Tin Cans live another day. With the expertise of working on 850 for decades, this know-how could easily be transferred to 886 to present her in the dignified Vietnam era configuration she so deserves.
What value will the USS ORLECK be Lake Charles
In particular, the functionality that comes with the ORLECK to include the use of her spaces for ceremonies, overnight camping with food service opportunities, hosting sea scout and sea cadet opportunities, Veteran Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July and others, unlimited revenue generators, would enhance the offerings and stance of the museum in Lake Charles. The photos and information provided by the USS KENNEDY give visual evidence of the value to the KENNEDY and that same value would be to the ORLECK and thus to Lake Charles. The money generated by the functions should be enough to support her operations. They do on the KENNEDY.
Not only would Lake Charles have representation of the WWII history of the past, but would be able to reach out and tell the story of our Cold War involvement with current living generations with the premier Vietnam combat Destroyer. With her exceptional service in Korea and Vietnam and the amazing vision of her large and historic gun battery, ORLECK is a major opportunity for a museum to become even more relevant to its audience and customer base which is interested in learning about the lessons of Korea and Vietnam.
She has other assets including a museum from the USS RADFORD DD 968. This material can be used to further the discussion of the mission these ships had. Assistance will come from Tin Can Sailors, other DD Associations (some have already offered help) Battleship Cove (JPK) and when contacted we are sure that Vietnam Vets of America and more will come with us to do this.
Once connected with these other organizations for field days and the like, she will have volunteer sailors from all over willing to come and work on her, to be docents and to hold reunions. The in-kind services these volunteer would provide will be beyond calculation. Labor is the most expensive part of a product today. With ORLECK comes lots of free labor. If the city could just look at this as an investment that will return dividends, those being the money from fundraising, Tin Can Sailor yearly grants, return on a very lucrative scout and cadet encampment program, increased Museum attendance by destroyer veterans and the interest seekers they might realize that the dividend they gain would be larger even than if they could put the same money in the stock market. USS ORLECK will like an annuity keep paying dividends.
This does not even take into account the increased revenue for the city through hotel, rooms and meals tax, increased business sales throughout the city for goods and services and the publicity that such events bring to the city. It is not hard to see that the imagination of reunion planners, destination companies, vacationers to be captured by the idea that the premier Westpac Vietnam ready warship is in Lake Charles and they would plan events there once this is established. This is a relationship that would mutually benefit both the USS ORLECK and the city of Lake Charles.
You just have to “Believe” and get her a permanent mooring!