Retired U.S. Navy destroyer headed for Jacksonville for new life as a floating military museum

The USS Orleck was launched at the end of World War II and served the U.S. Navy during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Tom Szaroleta

The Florida Times-Union

The USS Orleck, a former U.S. Navy destroyer that saw combat in the Korean and Vietnam wars, is heading to Jacksonville to begin a new life as a floating military museum.

The Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association announced Tuesday that it has acquired the ship and that it will soon be Jacksonville-bound after passing a seaworthiness inspection last month in Texas.

Plans call for the Orleck to be towed from Port Arthur, Texas, to Jacksonville in late February or early March. It is to be berthed at the westernmost pier at the Jacksonville Shipyards, near the Berkman Tower. The ship will be docked perpendicular to the shoreline, with its stern facing inward.

Daniel Bean, president of the association, said the Orleck will become a museum focusing on the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era. “Unlike any other warship on display in the United States, our focus will be on Vietnam,” he said Tuesday in a ceremony at Manifest Distillery.

The 390-foot ship has a long and colorful history. It’s a Gearing Class destroyer that was built in Texas and launched in May of 1945, near the end of World War II, at a cost of $6.3 million. It operated as part of the Seventh Fleet during the Korean War, then underwent extensive renovations under the Navy’s Fleet Rehabilitation and Maintenance program in 1962.

During the Vietnam War, it earned the nickname ” Gray Ghost of the Vietnam Coast” and fired more rounds in support of ground troops than any ship in the Navy. The ship earned 18 Battle Stars, four during the Korean conflict and 14 during the fighting in Vietnam.

It later served as a training ship and appeared in the TV miniseries “Winds of War.” In 1982 it was transferred to the Turkish Navy, where it was renamed the TCG Yücetepe, serving until 2000.

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