By Rear Adm. Brian Fort
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific
Those who adapt can overcome.
Consider the namesake of our Pearl Harbor-homeported USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), Rear Adm. Gordon Paiea Chung-Hoon.
Forged from the sea and seasoned in war, Chung-Hoon was a lieutenant assigned to USS Arizona (BB 39), Dec. 7, 1941. He was on a weekend pass that Sunday when Oahu was attacked and his ship was sunk.
In 1942, Chung-Hoon served aboard the light cruiser USS Honolulu (CL 48) and participated in some of the fiercest fighting in the war in the South Pacific, including in the Solomons.
In 1944, Chung-Hoon took command of USS Sigsbee (DD 502), a destroyer assigned with Carrier Task Force 58 off the coast of Japan.
On April 14, 1945, Sigsbee – along with seven Fletcher Class destroyers, steamed to picket stations, making them prime targets for nearly two dozen kamikaze (“divine wind”) suicide planes that attacked their ships.
One kamikaze got through Sigsbee’s fierce antiaircraft guns, missed the bridge, but smashed into the ship’s stern. The massive explosion destroyed a big section of the stern, knocked out the port engine and steering, and caused flooding in the aft third of the ship. In the midst of the chaos, Skipper Chung-Hoon’s loud voice came through, according to one witness: “Steady, gang.”
He led the crew in response to the attack, jettisoning damaged equipment and personally leading a repair crew to assess damage and seal and shore the after solid bulkhead. Twenty-two Sailors were killed that day, and 75 were wounded.
Chung-Hoon rose to the challenge in a crisis. He adapted, overcame and persevered. Rather than abandoning his damaged ship, he chose to save it and the Sailors he led. His Sailors kept up a steady rate of “prolonged and effective gunfire,” as described in his Navy Cross citation.
Today, USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) continues to build on their namesake’s legacy of toughness and sustainability. In the last two years, DDG-93 won the Secretary of the Navy Safety Excellence Award for afloat units, a Battle “E,” and a Green “H.”
Sailors aboard USS Chung-Hoon are excelling in performance, and it shows in promotions. Three Sailors were picked up for officer programs in 2017, and this year one senior chief frocked to master chief, five chiefs to senior chief, and 28 petty officers frocked to their next paygrade.
Last month, Chung-Hoon completed their naval surface fire support. Undersea warfare self-assessments will soon be underway executing their final certifications.
Most importantly, Chung-Hoon Sailors are focused on the main thing, warfighting readiness. They, like our other ready Sailors on the Pearl Harbor waterfront, have a sense of urgency.
They know they can adapt and overcome.
Rear Adm. Chung-Hoon, who fought both in World War II and in the Korean War, was part of a tough generation who helped freedom triumph over fascism.
His Sailors knew him for his calm humility and mastery of his ship’s systems, committed to the essentials of seamanship.
Chung-Hoon was born July 25, 1910. He became the first American admiral in the United States Navy of Chinese and Native Hawaiian ancestry and the first of his heritage to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. After a distinguished military and civilian career of service, he died one day before his 69th birthday, July 24, 1979, and is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, “Punchbowl.”
On September 18, 2004, the Navy commissioned USS Chung-Hoon here at Pearl Harbor.
U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Walter F. Doran said, “This is truly a great day for the United States, for the United States Navy, for the State of Hawaii and, I know, for the Chung-Hoon family. I’m confident the officers and men of this ship will be ready for any challenge.”
Rear Adm. Chung-Hoon’s niece, Michelle Punana Chung-Hoon, a good friend of the Navy, gave the commissioning order: “Sea warriors, man our ship and bring her to life!”
World War II Medal of Honor recipient Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, a leader who knew about adapting and overcoming adversity, served as keynote speaker at the commissioning.
“It is fitting that the ship that carries his name will be home-ported here in the same harbor where the Arizona memorial commemorates his fallen shipmates,” Inouye said.
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