USS FORREST SHERMAN DD-931
Cape Coral, Florida 33993
Phone (239) 800-2744
The USS Forrest Sherman DD-931 was the first of a new class of destroyers developed after World War II, and the prototype of all the fast ships in today’s modern Navy. Named for the then youngest Chief of Naval Operations and hero of the recent war, Forrest Percival Sherman, she was commissioned in 1955 by Admiral Arleigh Burke and the Admiral’s widow, Mrs. Delores Sherman. She was known as “the Last of the Great Gun Ships”.
A long and distinguished career as a war ship ended in 1982 when she was decommissioned and laid up in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as part of the inactive fleet. The ship was an engineering marvel, ranging from her 1200 pound steam plant enabling her to go faster than any ship afloat to date, her fully automatic gun control systems that allowed her to take on multiple targets, to her fully air conditioned crew spaces that made the ship more habitable. She had participated in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, rescuing many of the escaping combatants, the invasion of Lebanon where she received a unit citation, the protection of the Straits of Formosa in the Pacific, to the filming of the only movie made with the Cinemiracle process WINDJAMMER, a documentary of the Norwegian sailing ship CHRISTIAN RADICH. However, the Sherman had not seen the end of its battles. While three of her sister ships had been retained as museum/display ships in New York, Washington, and Bremerton; the Sherman was sold twice for scrap and towed away to meet her fate. Somehow she escaped the breakers torch and was taken back by the Navy and returned to Philadelphia. She was then scheduled to be sunk as part of a Naval exercise in January of 2001.
The USS Forrest Sherman DD-931 Foundation, Inc., a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation registered in Maryland, was formed in late 2000 to save and restore this historic vessel as a museum/display ship dedicated to the memory of the late Admiral for whom she was named, and as an official State of Maryland memorial to Navy/Marine Corps veterans of the area. The founding officers of the Foundation were Kurt A. Wagemann, President; Robert Mehlrose, Vice President; and George C. Lussier, Jr., Secretary/Treasurer. A Board of Directors consisting of CAPT. Russell S. Crenshaw, Jr., USN (ret), CAPT Frederick Kelley, USN (ret), CAPT A. Jim Booth, USN (ret), CAPT John E. Sherman, USN (ret), Paul F. Nace, Rowland S. Johnson, and James S. Stirling later joined these officers.
In late November 2000 the Foundation petitioned the Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command to stop the sinking exercise of the Sherman to allow it time to prepare a request to have the ship removed from the disposal list and put into a formal “Donation Hold” category. This category is reserved by the Navy for prospective historic vessels that are eligible to enter the historic fleet. Once in this category a ship is protected from scrapping, sinking, or being disposed of in any other manner.
At a meeting in the Naval Sea Systems Command offices in Washington, President Kurt Wagemann was informed that Vice Admiral George P. Nanos, Jr., Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command had ordered that the Sherman be temporarily removed from the disposal list to give the Foundation time to prepare a formal request to have the ship placed into a donation hold. Incidentally, Pete Nanos had served as Engineering Officer on the Sherman early in his career from 1974-1976.
In June of 2001 the Foundation submitted a lengthy request to the Naval Sea Systems Command to have the Sherman formally placed into a donation hold. This request contained much documentation as to the historic value of the ship, proposed financial statements and budgets, as well as letters of support from the Governor of Maryland, both United States Senators, many members of the Maryland Congressional Delegation, and many civic and business leaders from the area.
In late July of 2001 the Chief of Naval Operations notified the Foundation that the Navy had voluntarily removed the Sherman from the disposal list and placed her into a two-year donation hold status. This was the first time in the history of the Navy that such an action had been taken. By this action the Navy has recognized the importance of the Sherman to Navy history, and the desire to see her maintained for future generations.
The Foundation has embarked upon a $5 million Capital and Endowment Campaign drive to restore this historic ship, and to establish an endowment for future maintenance needs. Included in the budget is $173,000 for various planning and feasibility studies. The actual restoration and infrastructure for the ship will be in excess of $2.5 million, with almost $2 million being spent in the ship yard after the ship is towed from Philadelphia and before she reaches her home berth in the Inner Harbor. The remainder of the $5 million is to establish a trust fund for future maintenance of the vessel. Ticket sales will provide funding for the day-to-day maintenance, but every 5-7 years the ship must be dry-docked for hull maintenance and repairs. These estimates have been obtained, with the assistance of the Historic Naval Ships Association, from other ship museums throughout the country with similar type destroyers. The Maryland Historical Trust, in recognizing the importance of this project, has made a generous grant to commence the fund raising process. Ketchum, Inc., the largest firm specializing in advising non-profit fund raising, is being retained by the Foundation to conduct a planning study to determine the direction of this fund-raising drive. Efforts to raise funds will primarily come from the private sector, but assistance from Federal, State, and Local governments is also being pursued.
A complete history of the USS Forrest Sherman DD-931, and the efforts of the Foundation to restore this historic vessel, may be found on the Foundation’s home page on the web at: www.ussforrestsherman.org.