Tag Archives: operation praying mantis

Warship Wednesday: March 17, 2021, Shamrock Cans

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, March 17, 2021: Shamrock Cans

In deference to the date, St. Patrick’s Day, we are departing from our normal Warship Wednesday format and instead are touching on the U.S. Navy’s interesting shamrock-carrying destroyers– the Spru/Kidd-Cans USS O’Brien (DD-975) and USS Callaghan (DDG-994). If you want a more Irish WW experience, I’ve covered the story of the doomed Irish schooner Cymric and the Irish Naval Service’s Long Éireannach (LÉ) Cliona (03) in years past.

Also, yes, I know about the three-time battlestar earning Casablanca-class jeep carrier USS Shamrock Bay (CVE-84) and Sea Control Squadron 41 (VS-41) “The Shamrocks,” but today we are talking about destroyers. 


O’Brien was named in honor of old-school swashbuckling patriot, Capt. Jeremiah O’Brien, of the Massachusetts Colonial Navy– effectively one of the first American naval heroes. The skipper of the armed sloop Unity, who flew the Appeal to Heaven pine tree flag, he captured the British schooner HMS Margaretta off Machias, Maine, just two months after Lexington and Concord, the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War. Several ships were later named for the legendary Irish-American before DD-975, including a 1900s torpedo boat (TB-30), an early class-leader four-piper destroyer (DD-51) that served in the Great War, a Sims-class destroyer (DD-415) that was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in 1942, a Liberty Ship and an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer (DD-725) that received 14 battle stars across WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

Our Spruance, like all the others of her class, was built at Pascagoula and commissioned 3 December 1977 and, during the Cold War and follow-on unrest in the Med and the Persian Gulf, would complete seven WestPac cruises and another seven in the Persian Gulf.

An aerial port side view of the Spruance class destroyer USS O’Brien (DD 975) underway, 1985. (Photo PH3 C. Yebba, NARA DN-SC-85-06885)

It was while in the Sandbox that O’Brien took part in one of the few naval surface actions since WWII, being part of the surface action group that sank the Iranian guided-missile frigate Sahand during Operation Praying Mantis in 1988. She would later go on to be front and center for Desert Sheild.

She ran a three-leaf clover on her bridge wing in honor of the ancestral origins of Capt. O’Brien. Her NECG callsign on the leading edge of the house, under the CIWS, is done in shamrock-shaped flags as well. Note the sandbagged M2 mount and pintel M60. This would be while the ship was in the Persian Gulf during Praying Mantis. (Photo by PH2 M.A. Harnar, NARA DN-SN-89-03402)

What? Me, worry? Official caption: Members of the Stinger anti-aircraft missile detachment man their stations aboard the destroyer USS O’Brien (DD-975), 4/18/1988 (Photo PH2 Harnar/DN-SN-89-03405)

O’Brien had a shamrock on her official crest and assorted ship’s patches as well.

Unloved by Big Navy in the end, O’Brien would be decommissioned in 2004 after 26 years of faithful service and disposed of in a SINKEX less than two years later.

Can-Do Callaghan

A port bow view of the guided-missile destroyer USS CALLAGHAN (DDG-994) underway in the harbor, 7/16/1993 NARA DN-ST-93-05601

A better-armed offshoot of the Spruance-class, the Kidd-class guided-missile destroyer USS Callaghan (DDG-994) was commissioned at Pascagoula on 29 August 1981. She was the second ship named for RADM Daniel Judson Callaghan (USNA 1911), a naval hero who was killed on his flagship San Francisco in 1942 when his cruiser/destroyer task force intercepted and spoiled the attack of two Japanese battleships headed to plaster the Marines on Guadalcanal. Sadly, the first warship named in honor of the late admiral, Callaghan (DD-792), was also lost in WWII, sent to the bottom off Okinawa after being struck by a kamikaze.

The second (and so far final) Callaghan was much luckier, spending much of her career in sometimes tense but relatively bloodless Cold War service in the Pacific. She circumnavigated the globe with the Kitty Hawk Battle Group in 1987, escorted reflagged tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, and missed the first Gulf War due to spending a year in New Threat Upgrade (NTU) overhaul.

Like O’Brien, Callaghan’s crew used lots of Shamrocks on their caps, cruise books, and coins.

In 1994, while in the Persian Gulf enforcing sanctions against Saddam, her embarked helo spotted something strange in a floating fishing net.


In a most “unusual yet fulfilling” search and rescue (SAR) mission, Cmdr. Joseph J. Natale, Callaghan’s commanding officer, led a team in the ship’s boat to assist the trapped mammal. Crewmembers cut through the fishing line, and the dolphin, dubbed “Shamrock” by the crew, swam free.

On 31 March 1998, Callaghan was decommissioned at age 17, stricken from the Naval Vessel Register, and laid up at Bremerton. Five years later, she was transferred to Taiwan along with the rest of the Kidds.

There, she still serves as ROCS Su Ao (DDG-1802), although her crew likely doesn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

However, the tradition has been maintained by USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) since 1997: 

USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), Nov 2021, after escorting the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on her first overseas deployment


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Limpet mine update: ‘With high confidence’

U.S. Navy CDR Sean Kido, head of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit One One (EODMU 11) explains the attack on the Panama-flagged chemical/oil tanker Kokuka Courageous (19,349t) and the Norwegian-owned (International Tanker Management) Marshal Islands-flagged oil tanker Front Altair, allegedly by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, in the Gulf of Oman on June 13th, 2019:

Mr. Limpet makes his daytime appearance in the Gulf of Oman

Not this guy who everybody loved:

This guy:

(Or approximate)

The attack in International waters hit the Panama-flagged chemical/oil tanker Kokuka Courageous (19,349t), owned by Singapore-based Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) and carrying a load of methanol; along with the Norwegian-owned (International Tanker Management) Marshal Islands-flagged oil tanker Front Altair (62,849t) with a load of crude, early on June 13. Both were carrying what Japan’s Trade Ministry says were “Japan-related” cargo.

The attacks occurred off the Emirati port of Fujairah, also on the Gulf of Oman, approaching the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes.

Kokuka Courageous Front Altair

“The timing was considered sensitive as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Iran on a high-stakes diplomacy mission.”

5th Fleet’s release on the matter through CENTCOM:

TAMPA (NNS) — U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local time from the motor tanker (M/T) Altair and a second one at 7a.m. local time from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

Both vessels were in international waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls. USS Bainbridge was approximately 40 nautical miles away from the M/T Altair at the time of the attack and immediately began closing the distance.

At 8:09 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) in the vicinity of the M/T Altair.

At 9:12 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observes the FAC/FIAC pull a raft from the M/T Altair from the water.

At 9:26 a.m. local time the Iranians requested that the motor vessel Hyundai Dubai, which had rescued the sailors from the M/T Altair, to turn the crew over to the Iranian FIACs. The motor vessel Hyundai Dubai complied with the request and transferred the crew of the M/T Altair to the Iranian FIACs.

At 11:05 a.m. local time USS Bainbridge approaches the Dutch tug Coastal Ace, which had rescued the crew of twenty-one sailors from the M/T Kokuka Courageous who had abandoned their ship after discovering a probable unexploded limpet mine on their hull following an initial explosion.

190613-N-N0101-115 GULF OF OMAN (June 13, 2019) In this Powerpoint slide provided by U.S. Central Command damage from an explosion, left, and a likely limpet mine can be seen on the hull of the civilian vessel M/V Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019, as the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), not pictured, approaches the damaged ship. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

190613-N-N0101-116 GULF OF OMAN (June 13, 2019) In this Powerpoint slide provided by U.S. Central Command damage from an explosion, left, and a likely limpet mine can be seen on the hull of the civilian vessel M/V Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019, as the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), not pictured, approaches the damaged ship. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

While the Hendijan patrol boat appeared to attempt to get to the tug Coastal Ace before USS Bainbridge, the mariners were rescued by USS Bainbridge at the request of the master of the M/T Kokuka Courageous. The rescued sailors are currently aboard USS Bainbridge.

190613-N-SS350-0135 GULF OF OMAN (June 13, 2019) Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) render aid to the crew of the M/V Kokuka Courageous. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Waite/Released)

At 4:10 p.m. local time an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

The U.S. and our partners in the region will take all necessary measures to defend ourselves and our interests. Today’s attacks are a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce.

The U.S. and the international community, stand ready to defend our interests, including the freedom of navigation.

The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.

The attack comes a month to the day after what is described as “Coordinated teams of divers using limpet mines incapacitated the vessels in a series of timed detonations” to damage four tankers from the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Norway off the Emirati coast.

The underwater damage to the Saudi Arabian tanker Al Marzoqah May 12

Saudi Arabian tanker Amjad was one of those attacked in the Port of Fujairah May 12

And the beat goes on…

Google Operation Praying Mantis to see how this is going to end up.

Coming at your from 1988: