Big Joe, on the approach

In the following beautiful three-shot sequence, credited to PH1 Michael D. P. Flynn, who was likely aloft in a thumping helicopter, we see the U.S. Navy Belknap-class “destroyer leader” turned guided-missile cruiser USS Josephus Daniels (CG-27) in the Strait of Magellan on the transition to Punta Arenas, Chile, during Unitas XXXI joint fleet exercises between the U.S. and nine South American states, July 1990.

These photos are in the National Archives, 330-CFD-DN-SC-92-02912, 330-CFD-DN-SC-92-02913, and 330-CFD-DN-SC-92-02916, respectively.

Note the “single-ended” Joe’s big Mark 10 launcher for Standard SM-2 ER missiles forward along with the associated SPS-48 3D air search radar and two SPG-55 directors, the massive SPS-49 radar on the after mack, and quad Harpoon canisters & CIWS replacing the original 3″/50 AAA guns she was commissioned with. Her class were extremely capable air defense vessels in their day, surpassed only by “double-ended” CGNs and the Ticos.

Daniels is named for the notorious newspaper editor and publisher who, appointed SECNAV by President Wilson in 1913 (whose ASECNAV was a young FDR), instituted a bunch of “reforms” that included banning alcohol on naval vessels. This, of course, led to the “Cup of Joe” label for coffee.

1 June 1914, General Order 99, signed by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, prohibited alcohol aboard naval vessels. 

Our destroyer/cruiser, originally DLG-27, was built at Bath in Maine, sponsored by two granddaughters of the late SECNAV, and commissioned 8 May 1965. Earning three Vietnam Service Medals and playing lots of near-miss “Cold War” games in the Med with Soviet surface ships, she was instantly converted to a cruiser in 1975 to close the “cruiser gap” with the Russkies.

The above shots were among Joe’s swan song, as she was decommissioned and struck on the same day cold January day in 1994– 28 years ago this week– then sold for scrapping before the decade was up.

NARA has a huge stock of high-rez color photos of Joe’s Unitas cruise online.

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