Finds her Roots
By Commander Bruce Linder
LCDR Arthur James Elliot, II was mortally wounded on December 29, 1968 while leading River Squadron 57 on an interdiction mission on the Vam Co Dong River in the Mekong Delta area of South Vietnam. He received the Bronze Star with Combat "V" for heroic achievement in coordinating suppressing fire and personally directing his patrol boat to provide covering fire for the other units during the action in which he was hit by enemy rocket fire.
On October 15, 1973, the keel of the fifth SPRUANCE-class destroyer was laid by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Less than two years later the new ship was christened USS ELLIOT (DD 967) in honor of LCDR Arthur Elliot. USS ELLIOT was commissioned on January 22, 1977.
Naval service is steeped in tradition and requires dedication, sacrifice and respect for the unpredictable fury of the seas. A sense of tradition can be a source of courage and strength to a ship. When Mrs. Albert B. Elliot christened USS ELLIOT (DD 967) in honor of her son, she said:
"May she serve with distinction and pride and, as the years go by, forever reflect the courage and valor of the man whose name she bears. May God bless this ship, her officers and crew."
According to tradition, the spirit of the sponsor enters the ship at the time of christening and remains there forever. The ship becomes a part of her, and she a part of it as it sails the seas.
Since USS ELLIOT (DD 967) is the first ship named after LCDR Arthur Elliot, one might suspect that her roots are recent. A close look at the ship's coat of arms, however, indicates that her heritage reaches back to early America. The crest, composed of a mainmast and mainsail, symbolizes the Elliot family's long association with the nautical heritage of their native state of Maine. Generations of the family engaged in the shipbuilding and sailing trades, including LCDR Elliot's paternal grandfather and namesake Arthur James Elliot, whose shipbuilding firm launched the last five-masted schooner ever built. Elliot's heritage, however, goes beyond the service of LCDR Elliot and his family.
Only within the last year have the men of ELLIOT become more aware that she is actually the second USS ELLIOT. By pure chance, MMC Harry Settles was temporarily serving onboard ELLIOT and remarked that his father had served on the original USS ELLIOT. Although his story was taken incredulously at first, the Chief proved himself by bringing in old photographs and his dad's ELLIOT hatband.
The hunt for ELLIOT's roots was now begun in earnest. Research revealed that the original USS ELLIOT (DD 146) was named after LCDR Richard McCall Elliot. LCDR Richard Elliot was killed onboard USS MANLEY (DD 74) on March 19, 1918 when her depth charges exploded in a collision with a British ship in the convoy Manley was escorting. USS ELLIOT (DD 146) was launched July 4, 1918 by William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, PA; sponsored by Mrs. R. M. Elliot, widow of LCDR Richard Elliot; and commissioned January 25, 1919. With a length of 314 ft. 5 in. and a displacement of 1,247 tons, the original ELLIOT would be dwarfed by its modern SPRUANCE-class destroyer descendant which has a length of 563 ft. 4 in. and a displacement of 8,020 tons. During the early 1920s ELLIOT stood by in China during civil disturbances which threatened American lives and property. Her service spanned three decades, and during World War II she earned a battle star for action off the Aleutian Islands.
Armed with this information, CDR Eugene E. Cragg, Jr., Commanding Officer of USS ELLIOT (DD 967), contacted the Naval Historical Center at the Washington Navy Yard to inquire about obtaining any artifacts of the original ELLIOT. Within a few months, the ship received the ship's plaque from the first ELLIOT. After some cleaning and polishing it was ready for prominent display for all hands. The ship has also received an original photograph showing the original ELLIOT at anchor off Shanghai, China on the Fourth of July, 1920. That photo was donated by VADM Ingolf N. Kiland, USN (Ret.), an original plankowner of the ship.
ELLIOT's roots not only go back in time, but stretch overseas to Scotland. The ship has enjoyed a warm relationship with the Elliot Clan Society for several years, which has included correspondence and occasional ship visits with American members of the Elliot clan. The Elliot Clan is a worldwide society of Eliots, Eliotts, and Elliotts. Sir Arthur Eliott of Rexburghshire, Scotland (Clan Chief) recently wrote:
Your mention of an earlier destroyer named ELLIOT caused me to look out an album of portrait drawings of World War I, which had been left to me by my mother (who was American). Sure enough, in this album is a portrait of LCDR Richard McCall Elliot. According to the citation, he was distinguished for exceptional bravery onboard U.S. destroyer AYLWIN in 1915 by rescuing men in the flooded engine room after the boiler had exploded. As you say, sadly, he was killed only a few years later in a collision with a British ship while escorting a convoy.
With this letter describing the heroism of the original ELLIOT's namesake the search is complete. ELLIOT's roots are deep and her tradition of naval service and sacrifice inspiring.
USS ELLIOT (DD 967), homeported in San Diego, California, is currently serving overseas on her fourth Western Pacific deployment. During her previous deployments she participated in numerous fleet exercises, rescued Vietnamese refugees, and received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for search and rescue efforts following the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 airliner incident off the coast of Sakhalin Island. In keeping with the tradition of the original USS ELLIOT (DD 146), which also served in the Pacific, USS ELLIOT (DD 967) will continue to serve honorably and ably into the twenty-first century.