Memorial Day activities in Waukon to include mobile museum of U.S.S. Wainwright

The U.S.S. Wainwright DLG-28/CG-28 mobile museum pictured above will be on display in Waukon during the Memorial Day weekend, May 23-25. The general public can visit the mobile museum to learn more about the U.S. Navy warship's service and its involvement in such conflicts as the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War. Local area residents Virgil Thorstenson and Dean Bechtel both served on the ship during their military careers. Submitted photo.

Memorial Day activities in Waukon will include a special visitor this year, as a mobile museum exhibiting the history of the U.S.S. Wainwright will make a stop during a tour of the Midwest. The traveling museum houses assorted artifacts from its U.S. Navy warship namesake and provides a history of the ship and its activities while in service to the United States, which resulted in the vessel being the most decorated ship in the Atlantic Fleet at the time of her decommissioning in 1993.

During its visit to Waukon, the traveling museum will be parked in the initial block of First Avenue NW along the south edge of the Allamakee County Courthouse property. The museum will be opened to the general public according to the following schedule:
Saturday, May 23 - 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sunday, May 24 - 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Monday, May 25 - Following the Memorial Day Parade.

The U.S.S. Wainwright Veteran's Association was formed in 1987 to find and bring together the shipmates that served aboard the U.S.S. Wainwright. Two area men, Virgil Thorstenson and Dean Bechtel of the rural Monona area in Allamakee County, are members of that Association, being two of the more than 4,000 men who served aboard the U.S.S. Wainwright during her service.
The Association made efforts to save the ship itself as a museum once she was decommissioned, but was denied the opportunity. However, before the ship was sunk in 2002 as a live fire training target, members of the Association were permitted to remove items from the ship to create a traveling museum, which was commissioned in 2010 during the Biennial Reunion of the U.S.S. Wainwright Veteran's Association in Louisville, KY.

The U.S.S. Wainwright was named in honor of five men who served with distinction in the U.S. Navy. The first U.S.S. Wainwright served in World War I. DD-62 was commissioned May 12, 1916 and was a Trucker class Destroyer. She was named for U.S. Navy Commodore Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright, his cousin, Commander Richard Wainwright, and his son, Master Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright, Jr.
The U.S.S. Wainwright was part of the first American Naval Unit to be sent to Europe when the United States entered World War I. The U.S.S. Wainwright served in Europe until early 1919, when she returned home. She was decommissioned May 19, 1922.

April 15, 1940 the second U.S.S. Wainwright was commissioned and named in honor of the three Naval Officers listed above, as well as Rear Admiral Richard Wainwright. The DD-419 was a Sims class Destroyer and protected the American shores from her commissioning until 1942, when the ship was sent to Europe to provide escort duty. The U.S.S. Wainwright served as part of the covering force for the Allied invasion of Morocco and the Naval Battle of Casablanca.
In July of 1943, the U.S.S. Wainwright participated in the invasion of Sicily and provided gunfire support. In December 1943, the U.S.S. Wainwright captured the crew of the German U-Boat-593.  In 1944, she assisted the U.S. troops attempting to break out of the beach heads at Anzio and Nettuno on the Italian mainland.
After the European operations ended, the ship briefly went to the Pacific before returning home. After World War II ended, the U.S.S. Wainwright was designated a target ship for nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll in 1946. The ship remained in Bikini Atoll for scientific inspection for two years after the nuclear testing. In October of 1946 the U.S.S. Wainwright was decommissioned, and it was sunk as a target in July of 1948. The U.S.S. Wainwright earned seven battle stars for its World War II service.

January 8, 1966, the third U.S.S. Wainwright was commissioned and named for the above four U.S. Naval Officers along with Commodore Richard Wainwright, a Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. The DLG-28 was a Belknap Class Destroyer Leader, and it is from this third ship that the contents of the mobile museum were harvested.
DLG-28 served in three combat tours during the Vietnam War. Her first deployment to the war zone was in June of 1967 as PIRAZ (positive radar advisory zone) in the Tonkin Gulf. Her duties included radar and visual surveillance of air contacts in the Gulf and also directing American Strike aircraft to the targets ashore.
The second deployment to Vietnam was in 1968, when the Wainwright again took over PIRAZ duties in the Gulf of Tonkin. The U.S.S. Wainwright participated in Operation Rolling Thunder during this deployment, which was the most intense air/ground battle during the Cold War period.
In November 1970, the U.S.S. Wainwright served her third deployment to Vietnam. She briefly served as PIRAZ before becoming the coordinator ship for the northern and southern SAR stations. The U.S.S. Wainwright received four battle stars for service in the Vietnam War.
After the Vietnam War the U.S.S. Wainwright served in various Mediterranean Support Cruises from 1972 through 1992. In 1975, she had a designation change from a DLG to a  CG (CG-28), a Guided Missile Cruiser.
The U.S.S. Wainwright would once again see combat in April of 1988 during Operation Praying Mantis, an action waged by U.S. Forces against Iran for a mine attack on the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts. The U.S.S. Wainwright, along with other U.S. forces, destroyed the Iranian Serri Oil Platform used for Iranian Naval Intelligence in the Persian Gulf.
During this action an Iranian Fast Attack Craft, the Joshan, fired a harpoon missile at the Wainwright which was diverted by CHAFF fired by Wainwright. The Wainwright and U.S.S. Simpson fired standard missiles at the Joshan severely damaging it. It was eventually sunk by gunfire from the Wainwright and other Naval ships. The Wainwright also fired on and shot down/disabled several Iranian combat aircraft, which is believed to be the first surface-to-surface naval battle since World War II.
The U.S.S. Wainwright was decommissioned November 15, 1993. In June of 2002 the Wainwright was sunk as a live fire target as part of a U.S. Navy training exercise.

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