LOWRY departed Norfolk on 9 April 1968 with a full wartime complement of officers and men and proceeded via the Panama Canal to the Western Pacific for combat operations in the Tonkin Gulf and South China Sea.
On the evening of 26 May, LOWRY entered combat waters and in the early morning of 27 May, relieved as Naval Gunfire Support Ship for the southern sector of the Second Tactical Corps Area of South Vietnam. Operating in this section through 18 June, LOWRY fired her battery of six five inch guns in support of the Third Battalion, 50th Regiment, 101st Airborne, U.S.Army.
After an upkeep period in Sasebo, Japan, LOWRY proceeded to the Tonkin Gulf where she served as rescue destroyer and escort for the Norfolk-based attack aircraft carrier, U.S.S. AMERICA as she launched her air strikes against North Vietnam.
On 18 August, LOWRY took leave of her escort duties with AMERICA and joined the U.S. Navy's Operation Sea Dragon, the sea/air anti-infiltration effort north of the Demiltarized Zone. Her duties here involved the suppression of fire from North Vietnamese coastal defense batteries and the interdiction of attempts by the enemy to smuggle arms and munitions to the Viet Cong forces in the South.
LOWRY returned to the attack carrier striking force in the Tonkin Gulf for a short period with the AMERICA and the Norfolk- based carrier INTREPID, prior to her final tour on the gunline in October. The first ten days of October was spent in support of the 9th Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, firing on Viet Cong staging areas in the Mekong Delta Region.
On 10 October 1968, LOWRY began the long trip home to Norfolk. While in combat environment, she was credited with the destruction of six watercraft, eight bunkers and nineteen miscellaneous enemy structures. Forty-two Bunkers, forty one enemy structures and two watercraft were left damaged severely by her guns.
LOWRY returned to Norfolk on 27 November 1968, after steaming over 75,000 miles during an absence of almost eight months.
Commanding Officer, Commander Robert Lightbourn Blanding, USN was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for this cruise.
L O W R Y - G R A M
17 July 1968
Dear (Family of Lowry Crew Member),
Since departing Norfolk we have traveled over twelve thousand miles to the Coast of South Vietnam. While our trip across was spent in training and working together to form the LOWRY TEAM, our real job began on 27 May when we arrived off Phan Thiet, South Vietnam to begin our first tour on the Gunline. This duty called for us to fire our 5 inch guns in support of the friendly ground forces ashore, and this we did in support of elements of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division and army units of our allies, The Republic of Korea.
The training we did coming across really paid off and from the start the LOWRY TEAM was a team, each one helping the other and each man knowing his job and doing it well. The hours were long, as we were in port and starboard duty half of us fought the ship while half of us slept and we changed watch every six hours on and six hours off. Our cooks worked longer hours in preparing four meals a day to ensure everyone was fed.
There really wasn't that much routine either. We might fire all night and then at dawn run looking for one of our ammunition supply ships or one of our fleet oilers to replenish our bullets or our oil and our food supply. These were evolutions in which everyone took part. As the items of food or the bullets came across a high line strung between the two ships moving together less than a hundred feet apart they had to be cleared away and stored to make room for the next load coming across. Everyone worked willingly and as a team our spirit was high as evidenced by the fact that we loaded and struck below some 69 tons of ammunition in a 2 hour period one day and again 62 tons in about 3 hours in a night replenishment, during which we worked only by the loom of red lights.
From replenishment it was back to the Gunline to be ready for our next call for gunfire support. The task of ensuring we always got from one place to another safely fell to the Quartermasters who, using equipment ranging from modern electronic navigational aids to the age old methods of celestial navigation would plot our courses along this strange coast. Once we received a call for gunfire our radarmen were immediately busy plotting a distance (range) and direction (bearing) to the target for our gunners so they in turn could bring the guns to bear and fire the rounds accurately.
The guns and the magazines are manned by men from every part of the ship, even the barber. These men worked hard and long keeping the ammunition moving up to the guns where the loaders would place the rounds into the chamber ready to fire. And fire we did in the 23 days on the Gunline we fired 4,228 rounds of ammunition more than LOWRY had fired in training for just this task in the past four years. Even the Sonarmen, who could not look for submarines in the shallow waters along the coast responded by manning some of the Bridge watch stations and the 50 caliber machine guns.
Throughout all of this we maintained communications with our bosses, our friends ashore, other ships in the area, and on board between the various watch stations throughout the ship. The radiomen, who, around the clock were on station operating their teletypes, telegraph keys, and various modern electronic radio receivers and transmitters to keep in touch with the outside world. While visual signaling, the age-old method of communication, was handled by our signalmen, who by flag hoist, flashing light, and semaphore (hand flags) transmitted messages when radio silence was paramount. The task of maintaining internal communication fell to the Interior Communications Electricans who spent many long hours making sure every station no small burden for these few dedicated men.
The various electronic equipments used by our remote control stations has been maintained and kept in proper working order by our talented and hard working Electronics Technicians. The electronic equipment associated with gunnery has likewise been maintained and kept in peak working order by our Fire Control Technicians. Without the many long hours put in by all of our Electronics Whiz Kids we would not always have been able to do our job.
Probably the most unsung heroes are our men who operate and maintain the engineering plant, yet their job is important to the comfort of all of us and the ability of the ship to meet any operating commitment. Our men worked twelve hour or longer days in the sometimes 120 degree heat of the firerooms and enginerooms to provide the mobility of the ship, steam to heat water for hot showers, electrical power for lighting and cooking, and electrical power to operate the laundry, the guns, the electronic equipment and many other services we so often take for granted.
Behind all of these men are the storekeepers who maintain over 30,000 repair items at their fingertips ready to issue night or day should a requirement exist.
On leaving the Gunline we headed for Pusan, Korea with a brief stop for fuel at Kaosiung, Taiwan. A pleasant three day rest was enjoyed by all of us. We were fortunate also to have Major General LEE and Brigadier General KIM of the Republic of Korea Army pay us a visit and tour our ship.
From Pusan we traveled over to Sasebo, Japan for a six day stay alongside one of the repair ships. This time afforded us a chance to catch up on a lot of routine maintenance and repair work that we could not do underway. While again many of our men put in long hours here, the assistance and help of the men from the repair ship did much to relieve us of some of the work.
Being shipshape and rested we once again put to sea to return to the Gulf of Tonkin with a brief fuel stop at Okinawa.
We are now in another phase of operations which involves escorting an attack carrier as she launches her planes for strikes ashore. We are her gun support unit in the event of attack and her rescue destroyer should one of her planes go down nearby. We are all rested and we are alert doing our job effectively and efficiently as we can.
Throughout this letter I have tried to give you a view of our day-to-day work, but more than that I want to stress the fact that we are a team, the LOWRY TEAM working in smooth coordination with skill, enthusiasm and dedication to meet our commiitments and to complete our mission. I am proud of each of the members of this LOWRY TEAM and their spirited performance of each duty.
In closing I want to point out one member of the LOWRY TEAM who I would like you to help so we can keep him busy. This man is our Postal Clerk who dilligently works to keep our mail moving and who sorts and delivers the mail that arrives. Let's keep him busy delivering your mail, he will be happier and so will we all. Write often please and we will do our best to keep you informed.
R. L. Blanding, Commanding