The tin can sailors of the destroyer escort USS Kirk (DE-1087) are quick to point out that their primary mission—the “bottom line” of antisubmarine warfare—had been to hunt and kill. The Kirk’s legacy, however, is bound up in compassion and mercy; the little DE was an integral part of the rescue of tens of thousands of refugees.
The Kirk was one of 46 Knox-class destroyer escorts. She was commissioned on 9 September 1972 at Long Beach, California. Events during the ship’s second western Pacific cruise, beginning in March 1975, indelibly marked her and her crew.
The Vietnam War by this time was no longer an American conflict, and the South Vietnamese were in dire straits. The People’s Army of Vietnam was rapidly advancing and would soon threaten Saigon. Evacuation of nonessential U.S. personnel began as early as late March.