1 January found LOWRY in her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, in the midst of a leave and upkeep period which commenced upon her return from Western Pacific waters on 27 November 1968. She is presently assigned as a unit of Destroyer Division 222, Destroyer Squadron 22, Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 8 of the U.S. Second Fleet. On 14-15 January, an administrative/material inspection was conducted by Commander, Destroyer Squadron 22, for which LOWRY received an overall grade of 88.19 (EXCELLENT). February was spent primarily in preparing for the forth coming at sea period as a unit of TG 27.2/TG83.7. On 17 February, the Bronze Star Medal with the Combat “V” was presented to the Commanding Officer, Commander Robert L. Blanding, United States Navy, for outstanding performance of duty while Commanding Officer of U.S.S. LOWRY (DD-770) in the Vietnam Theater from May 1968-October 1968. The presentation was made by Rear Admiral Frank Price, United States Navy, Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 8.
On 24 February, the ship got underway as a unit of TG 83.7 and transited from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Caribbean Operating Areas. During this transit we performed three underway replenishments, tow with the U.S.S. CANISTEO (AO-99) and one with the U.S.S. NEOSHO (AO-143). Also accomplished during this transit were various ASW exercises and plane guard duty with the U.S.S. WASP (CVS-18). LOWRY changed operational control to TG 27.2 on 8 March and commenced training in Operation SPRINGBOARD 69. From 9 to 11 March, LOWRY conducted gunnery exercises, streamed VDS, and held one underway replenishment with U.S.S. NEOSHO (AO-143).
LOWRY spent the period 11-14 March in the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Putting to sea on 14 March to continue operation SPRINGBOARD and on this date carried out an underway replenishment with U.S.S. NEOSHO (AO-143). The LOWRY entered the port of Frederiksted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands on 18 March, the previous four days being spent performing assorted gunnery exercises, streaming VDS, ASW exercises (both DASH and torpedo tube firings), and an underway replenishment with U.S.S. NEOSHO (AO-143). The ship got underway from St. Croix on 21 March for the resumption of Operation SPRINGBOARD, with an underway replenishment from U.S.S. NEOSHO (AO-143) and Naval Gunfire Support firing performed at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, the same day. A towing exercise was conducted with the U.S.S. DAMATO (DD-871) on 22 March, with gunnery practice and an underway replenishment from U.S.S. NEOSHO (143) occurring the following day. A port visit at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, took place from 24-26 March. During this inport period, LOWRY assisted Commander, Destroyer Division 222 in conducting the Operational Readiness Inspection of U.S.S. DAMATO (DD-871). The completion date for Operation SPRINGBOARD 69 was 25 March. On that date, Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 8 embarked in U.S.S. NEOSHO (AO-143).
After conducting task group operations in the Caribbean Operating Areas on 26-27 March, LOWRY commenced the transit to Norfolk, Virginia. During this transit type training in AAW and ASW was conducted. Underway replenishments from the U.S.S. NEOSHO (AO-143) were conducted on 28 and 31 March and 2 April. The ship arrived at Norfolk, Virginia on 4 April 1969 and commenced upkeep/training and a tender availability from 7 to 25 April with U.S.S. SHENANDOAH (AD-26). At this time preparations were begun for participation in exercise EXOTIC DANCER II.
Twelve midshipmen from the University of Michigan and Miami University of Ohio were embarked on 4 May for six weeks of summer training afloat. Commander, Destroyer Squadron 22 was embarked on 12 May, the day on which the ship put to sea for a shakedown cruise prior to exercise EXOTIC DANCER II. LOWRY returned to Norfolk on 13 May and got underway on 15 May to participate in Operation COUNTRY CONSTABLE, a firepower/AAW demonstration for the President of the United States conducted off the Virginia Capes on 17 May 1969. The LOWRY returned to Norfolk on 17 May and was underway on 19 May for participation in exercise EXOTIC DANCER II as a unit of TF 26.
Underway replenishments were conducted with U.S.S. CHIKASKIA (AO-54) on 21 and 24 May. 24 May an underway replenishment with U.S.S. AUCILLA (AO-56), ASW exercises, and DASH flight operations were held. Another underway replenishment with U.S.S. AUCILLA (AO-56) took place on 27 May. 28 May found the ship performing a visit and search of U.S.S. MONTRAIL (LPA-213). Also this date, LOWRY rescued a survivor from a small fishing craft which burned to the waterline and sank at LAT. 18 degrees 6 minutes 20 seconds North, LONG. 63 degrees 36 minutes West. The survivor was Allen L. Joiner, a civilian, of Vieques, Puerto Rico.
29 May was a sad day for LOWRY, for this date while practicing Naval Gunfire Support at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, an inbore explosion occurred in the left gun of Mount 51. As a result of the explosion, a fire was started within the mount and the barrel was sheared approximately three feet from the breech end of the gun and about eleven feet of the barrel was lost over the port side of the ship. Seaman Jay Dee Good, Bxx xx xx, United States Navy, the most seriously injured of the casualties, was MEDEVACED by helicopter to the U.S. Naval Hospital. Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, within minutes of the explosion. He died at 1645 local time, 29 May 1969, as a result of injuries received in the explosion. In addition to Seaman Good, fourteen other personnel sustained injuries as a result of the explosion. LOWRY proceeded to U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, and effected temporary repairs to Mount 51 to insure watertight integrity for the transit to Norfolk. The ship put to sea on 1 June 1969 with the destination being our homeport of Norfolk, Virginia.
A formal investigation into the circumstances connected with the casualty to Mount 51 was opened on 1 June and was completed prior to arrival Norfolk. Captain W.B. Morrow, U.S. Navy, Commander, Destroyer Squadron 22 was appointed investigation officer by Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 6. LOWRY arrived in Norfolk on 4 June and that date commenced a tender availability with U.S.S. TIDEWATER (AD-31) which lasted until 20 July. Captain H.W. Hiller, U.S. Navy, on 6 June, assumed duties as Commander, Squadron 22 in a ceremony which took place aboard LOWRY (CDS2, CDD22, CCDF4 were present). Our 12 midshipmen were debarked on 20 June. Another group of 22 midshipmen from a variety of Colleges and Universities were embarked for a summer training cruise on 11 July. LOWRY became a ship of Destroyer Squadron 32, Destroyer Division 321 on 1 July 1969. Also during the month of July the LOWRY was awarded the Operations “E” and the BATTLE EFFICIENCY “E” for Destroyer Squadron 22. A new Mount 51 was fitted prior to our next underway period.
The ship got underway on 11 August for exercise RIMEX II-70 as a unit of TG 27.2. On 14-15 August, two underway replenishments were accomplished from U.S.S. CHIKASKIA (AO-54). We entered U.S. Naval Station, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, on 16 August for a pre-exercise briefing. The same day LOWRY got underway in an emergency sortie as part of the exercise. An underway replenishment from U.S.S. CHIKASKIA (AO-54) took place on 18 August, as did gunnery exercises and DASH flight operations. Exercise RIMEX II-70 was completed on 21 August, and we entered Roosevelt Roads the same day for a post-exercise critique. We stood out of Roosevelt Roads the morning of 22 August and arrived at Frederiksted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, later in the afternoon. After a three day port visit, LOWRY got underway for Norfolk, Virginia, stopping briefly at Roosevelt Roads to take on fuel. The LOWRY was inport Norfolk on 30 August, at which time 22 midshipmen were debarked.
A tender availability with the U.S.S. SHENANDOAH (AD-26) was held 1-22 September. An official visit from the Honorable J.W. Warner, Under Secretary of the Navy, was held 3 September. 15 September, the annual Medical Inspection by Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet took place. The ship put to sea on 3 October for Port Canaveral, Florida, to perform as a supporting unit for Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine’s Demonstration and Shakedown Operations. A successful structural test firing of our newly fitted Mount 51 was completed on 4 October 1969 while transiting to Port Canaveral. LOWRY arrived at Port Canaveral on 5 October and commenced DASO Operations with U.S.S. WOODROW WILSON (SSBN-624). Lieutenant Commander R.D. Rodgers, USN, was relieved as Executive Officer by Lieutenant Commander L.A. Gilliland, Jr., USN, on 8 October 1969. The LOWRY with some 125 dignitaries and guests embarked witnessed on 15 October the firing of a Polaris Ballistic Missile from the WOODROW WILSON (SSBN-624) at LATITUDE 28 degrees 26.9 minutes North, LONGITUDE 80 degrees 02.3 minutes West. A port visit at Port Everglades, Florida, took place from 16-20 October.
From 20-27 October, LOWRY conducted DASO Operations at Port Canaveral with U.S.S. JAMES MONROE (SSBN-622). On 30 October, LOWRY was again in her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia. On 24 November 1969, LOWRY was assigned duties as a Naval Reserve Training Ship and became a unit of Reserve Destroyer Squadron 30, Reserve Division 301 with a new homeport assignment of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A tender availability with U.S.S. SHENANDOAH (AD-26) took place from 1-15 December. The LOWRY ended 1969 in Norfolk, Virginia, in an upkeep/leave status as a unit of the Reserve Training Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, after having served as an active fleet destroyer for more than twenty five years.
The New Year found the LOWRY nearing the end of an extended Holiday leave period which the officers and crew were able to put to good use in preparation for the change of homeport. On 13 January, LOWRY departed Norfolk for her first transit of the Delaware River. She arrived in her new homeport of Philadelphia the next day for permanent duty as a Naval Reserve Training ship in RESDESRON THIRTY. On that day, COMRESDESRON THIRTY and the commanding officer of her reserve crew, Commander E.L. Bixby, U.S.N.R., welcomed LOWRY to the Reserve Program and her new homeport.
The last day of January, LOWRY departed Philadelphia for Norfolk to embark a reserve crew for her first two week underway reserve training cruise. Departing Norfolk in company with the U.S.S. WILLARD KEITH (DD-775), LOWRY encountered a storm and extremely rough seas off Cape Hatteras that battered the ship severely, left the bridge without glass in it’s windows, and several of the crew with minor injuries and severe “Mal de Mer”. Steering causalities incurred as a result of the storm were repaired during a brief stop at Mayport, whereupon she continued to Andros Island to provide services there for Andros. A long weekend of liberty in Port Everglades gave the crew an opportunity to recuperate before the return voyage to Norfolk. On the morning of 12 February, prior to entering port, a change of command ceremony was held on board for the first time in almost two years. Commander F.C. Casewell relieved Commander R.L. Blanding, who departed the ship that afternoon in Norfolk for duty with COMCARDIV TWO.