The DD-864 is not the first ship to be named HAROLD J. ELLISON. In 1944, the Harold J. Ellison (DE-545), a JOHN C. BUTLER Class Destroyer Escort, was being built at the Boston Navy Yard; however, construction was cancelled on 10 June 1944. The HAROLD J. ELLISON (DD-864), (affectionately called "Happy Jack" by its crew members), was launched by Bethlehem Steel Company, Staten Island, New York on 14 March 1945. The ship was sponsored by Mrs. Audrey Ellison, widow, and commissioned on 23 June 1945, with Commander J.C. South in command.
U.S.S. HAROLD J. ELLISON (DD-864) is the United States Navy’s oldest destroyer in active service and one of the most distinguished of her class. In the 38 years since she was launched at Staten Island, New York, ELLISON has made 16 deployments to the Mediterranean and Europe, circumnavigated the globe to fight in Vietnam and shown the American Flag in dozens of ports on continents. The destroyer has been host to tens of thousands of visitors ranging from school children to an emperor.
Two generations of Navymen, around 3,000 in all, have served aboard the ship they nicknamed "Happy Jack". Several of her 23 commanding officers went on to achieve flag rank. Twelve shipyard overhauls, along with continuous maintenance by her crew have kept ELLISON combat-ready into the 1980’s.
An U.S.S. GEARING (DD-710) class destroyer, she was built by the best engineering talent and workmanship of her day. The offensive power of (5" guns, 5 21" torpedoes, 40MM guns Anti-submarine weapons, and the structural strength embodied in her 390 foot length, represented an effective collection and application of all the know-how learned during the last war. U.S.S. HAROLD J. ELLISON (DD-864), a 2250 ton, long hull destroyer, was the 100th ship built by the Bethlehem Steel Company.
She was named in honor of Ensign Harold J. Ellison, USNR, who was killed in the Battle of Midway. As a member of Torpedo Squadron EIGHT, he was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, and also the Navy Cross, the citation for which reads:
The ship was scheduled to join the Pacific Fleet for the final assault against Japan, but before it had completed it’s shakedown cruise, the war in Asia was over and the ship was permanently assigned to Destroyer Division FORTY-TWO of Destroyer Squadron Four of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet with it’s home port as Norfolk, Virginia.
On 21 October 1945, in Norfolk, Virginia, Ellison was selected to participate in the Navy Day Sunday Memorial Services, a special day of mourning and tribute to those in all services who lost their lives at sea, or in the air over the sea, in defense of the United States. The Secretary of the Navy had designated 23 ports scattered from Maine to Guam, from Puerto Rico to Dutch Harbor so that all people of the United States might have an opportunity to participate in the service. Flowers, the traditional ceremony for those who lost their lives at sea were scattered by the ship and plane, an expression of sentiments of a grateful nation. Representatives of the three major faiths, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish boarded Ellison and held ceremonies for which the ship put out to sea beyond landfall and there scattered the floral tribute.
No baptism of screaming shells or strident Kamikazes was needed to integrate the ship in an effective unit of the Atlantic Fleet. Quickly and efficiently the ship accepted its responsibilities, assumed its share of burdens, and began to fashion the character, morale, and esteemed reputation that it zealously guards today. The year 1946 and 1947 slipped quickly by. They were years of growth for the Ellison. Training cruises during which the ship provided 2 weeks refresher periods to advance the state of training of more than 300 Naval Reservists, fleet exercises that tested and proved the ability and stamina of her crew, and special anti-submarine warfare training were the main ingredients of the active diet upon which the ship thrived. Not only was the name Ellison known throughout the fleet, out also among an impressive list of ports in the U.S. and elsewhere, ports such as Trinidad, Kingston, Jamaica, New York, Casco Bay, Guantanamo, Bermuda, New Orleans, Charleston and Washington were examples of places where the ship left good-will as it’s calling card.
In the fall of 1947 Ellison was ready to take its part as guardian of the peace in Europe. Sailing on the 11th of November 1947, it encountered the Atlantic winter’s truculent fury as its deck and superstructure were washed again and again by thunderous storms. 70 knot winds driving waves as high in feet lashed at the ship mercilessly for nine days after which the still of Gibraltar spelled a pleasant welcome to her tired and strained seams.
Then for four months, as a unit of U.S. Navy Forces, Mediterranean, the name and fame of the Ellison was spread over two continents, the romantic coasts of Europe and veiled harbors of Moorish Africa, Taranto, Athens, Malta, Naples, Leros, Tripoli, Salonika, Tangiers, and Corfu were some of the names where Ellison carried the flag of the United States. Highly competitive soccer contests in the public square of Corfu, basketball games at guerilla-stricken Salonika and baseball games in the desert of Tripoli are all a memorable part of that colorful tour. Yet, all through those four months, the ship was maintained in a high state of readiness. When called upon to transport U.S. Marines at a time when their presence in that area seemed essential to insure protection of our interests, she did so willingly and with dispatch earning the admiration of all.
Returning to the states in March 1948, Ellison once again was assigned the duties of training naval reservists. Then it was called upon to demonstrate its efficiency in shore bombardment at Bloodworth Island. There it turned in a shooting performance that had never been seen excelled by a ship of its type. After a Navy Yard Overhaul at Boston, the ship proceeded to Guatanamo Bay, Cuba for a six-week refresher-training period. She left there at a peak of operational readiness and prepared again to leave for Europe.
This time in company with the U.S.S. GYATT (DD-712) she was assigned to the Northern European Forces under CINCNELM. In less than five months her screws churned over 25,000 miles. Once again their determination to show the flag and spread American goodwill to the people of Europe, this time to the countries of England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Denmark, Holland, Portugal and Germany. Even a short sojourn into Casablanca was included when the ship took part in a vain search in the vicinity for a downed B-29. The tour was a festive one, highlighted by cocktail parties, gracious civic dinners, and trips that satisfied the wanderlust of all.
The ship had now earned its pinfeathers. Full proof of this was witnessed by the fact that on 1 July 1949 it was awarded the Battle Efficiency Award by Chief of Naval Operations. Part of the citation reads:
During the late summer and fall of 1949, Ellison continued reserve training, worked diligently on advanced ASW exercises, and participated in three weeks of Arctic maneuvers under winter conditions with the Second Task Fleet. Off again, 6 Jan 1950, for the familiar waters of the Mediterranean, Ellison added new ports to her growing list including Beirut, Trieste, and Istanbul. Upon return to the states, 2 June 1950, she entered the Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia for a regular three months overhaul. Completion of the overhaul found Ellison headed for Guantanamo Bay once again for refresher training. Many faces among the offers and men, but the same spirit, saw her make an enviable record during the five-week period under the Training Command.
On 10 January 1951, the ELLISON departed Norfolk on her fourth trip to European-Mediterranean waters. Following two months of renewing old acquaintances in the Mediterranean, the ship accompanied the U.S.S. PERRY (DD-844) on a tour of various ports in England, Scotland and Germany. This tour, like the one in 1948, was a festive one yet overall lay the shadow of potential conflict. Of necessity, a complete readiness was maintained at all times. In April, the British submarine AFFRAY was reported lost and both the PERRY and ELLISON immediately offered their services in the search for the unfortunate sub. For several days and nights the search was carried on, but unfortunately met with no success.
On 17 May 1951, the ELLISON returned to Norfolk and once more resumed the training of Reservists and Midshipmen.
During July 1951, she was in Norfolk at the Convoy Escort Piers and spent the time next to a tender for upkeep and maintenance. In August, the ELLISON was off on another Midshipmen cruise to give these future officers grounding in practical experience at sea. The ports visited on this three-week cruise were New York, Colon, Panama and Guantanamo Bay.
In September and October, participation in the LantFlex games, an amphibious operation, kept her at sea for five weeks. November saw the ELLISON off for Vieques, Puerto Rico, for independent ship operations. With December came another period beside the tender.
In January, as a member of Task Group 87.1, the ELLISON crossed the Atlantic to the Azores and then northward to the "Emerald Isle". She put into Londonberry, Ireland on 28 January 1952 and then proceeded to England where she stopped at Bristol and Liverpool. Leaving England for the continent, she arrived at Amsterdam on 14 February 1952. She then toured northern Europe with short sojourns at Brest, Bremerhaven, Copenhagen and Oslo and then returned to the British Isles. On 14 March, the ship was released for further duty in the Mediterranean.
The ELLISON arrived at Gibraltar during the waning days of March and sailed the blue seas of the Mediterranean putting into Crete, Istanbul and Athens and Rhodes, all of which were now familiar to her from previous cruises. The ship returned to Norfolk on 24 May 1952 after an exceedingly rough crossing, when five storms were encountered in succession.
Next came a period in the yard until November when another cruise to Guantanamo Bay was made for refresher training. She returned to the United States for the Christmas Holidays after which she returned to Cuba for more operations, from 6 to 26 January 1953. On completion of this training, the ship once more returned to Norfolk arriving on 28 January 1953.
On 9 March 1953, she moved to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for a period of repairs and preparations for another long voyage to her old stomping grounds, the Mediterranean, and on 24 April, she departed for Europe once again.
The first port of call was Oran, Algeria; this was followed by such ports as Cagliardi, Golfe Juan, Trieste, Ancona, Bari, Athens, Kavalla, Istanbul and Gibraltar.
After a little more than two months in the Mediterranean, the ELLISON left for Northern Europe. Ports in England, France, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Scotland and Ireland were visited. A ship party was one of the many events that took place during the ships stay in Londonberry, North Ireland. Other events, such as tours of local business concerns and points of interest were carried on in each port visited.
The last port of call before the ELLISON left for home, was Plymouth, England. It was here that Captain INGHAM was relieved by Commander J.T. BURKE, Jr. On 9 October 1953 the ELLISON departed for Norfolk, Virginia.
For a period of two months, the ELLISON was tied up at the C.E. Piers for leave and upkeep. At the end of this period, she once more departed Norfolk. This time she was headed for the warm and sunny Caribbean to take part in Operation SPRINGBOARD. After six weeks of hard work with a few days of relaxation in such ports as Havana, San Juan, St. Thomas and Kingston under her belt, she was homeward bound once more, while participating in the NATO Operation NEW BROOM with the Canadian and U.S. Navies.
From the time of her arrival on 20 February 1954 until 4 May, the ELLISON prepared for another trip to the Mediterranean, which took her to the familiar ports of Gibraltar, Genoa, Barcelona and Naples before returning to Norfolk in early July.
After participating in fleet exercises along the Atlantic Coast of the United States for three months, the ELLISON entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for overhaul.
Tests in late January 1955 proved the ship and her equipment to be in first-rate condition, so she left 3 February for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and refresher training in the Caribbean. Six weeks of strenuous exercises in friendly competition with other ships of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet were brightened by short visits to Kingston, Jamaica and Santiago, Cuba.
Returning to Norfolk in late March, the ELLISON, with the rest of her division, participated in anti-submarine, air-defense and convoy-escort exercises, which demonstrated her versatility and capacity for hard, work in true Destroyer tradition.
On 6 July 1955 Commander J.T. BURKE, Jr. was relieved as commanding officer of the U.S.S. H.J. ELLISON by (then) Lieutenant Commander M.E. WALL, while the ship was in the process of preparing for another cruise to renew acquaintances for the eighth time with her Mediterranean friends.
The ship has earned a Fleet wide reputation for dependability and has been honored to receive the Destroyer Force Battle Efficiency Award five times in her twenty years of commissioned service. Although too late for World War II, ELLISON was steaming off the troubled coast of Lebanon during the uprising of July and August 1958, and was stationed in the Persian Gulf during the Kuwait Crisis in July of 1961. ELLISON is equipped for and has been on station for two Spacecraft recovery missions. ELLISON completed Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM 1) in January 1963. At that time, she was equipped with the newest and the most advanced electronics an Anti-submarine warfare weapons. As a unit of Destroyer Squadron THIRTY-TWO, ELLISON was assigned to Task Group Alfa and contributed significantly to the development and evaluation of Anti-submarine warfare tactics. In August 1965, ELLISON was assigned to DESRON TWENTY-FOUR on a temporary basis and began preparation for an extended deployment.
In September 1965, ELLISON depart Norfolk, joined the Newport contingent of DESRON TWEMTY FOUR at sea the next day, and set course for the Panama Canal as the first Atlantic Fleet Destroyer augmentation to the Pacific Fleet for the Vietnam war. On November 11, ELLISON arrived in Vietnam Combat Zone, twenty years after her scheduled date for Pacific service. In addition to Rescue Destroyer, Screening and Patrolling duties, ELLISON fired over 1,000 rounds of five-inch ammunition on various Viet Cong targets, often firing in support of friendly troops.
Rejoining the Atlantic Fleet, ELLISON headed south in 1967 to visit Brazil, cross the equator and round the southern tip of Africa enroute to the Middle East. During a port visit in Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie was a guest aboard the ship. ELLISON also showed the flag in Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique and Pakistan.
In her homeport of Norfolk, she celebrated the Silver Anniversary of her commissioning on June 23, 1970. ELLISON returned from her last major deployment with U.S. Middle East Force in March 1971. In July 1971, ELLISON was assigned to DESRON THIRTY-SIX.
In the past twelve months, ELLISON has participated in various NATO Strike Force and Fleetwide exercises. On July 1, 1972, ELLISON was transferred to the Naval Reserve Force at which time she was assigned to DESRON THIRTY-FOUR.
While in the Naval Reserve Force, ELLISON’s primary mission was the training of Naval Reservists from all regions of the United States. Along with various reserve units, she became the underway-training platform for a Selected Reserve Crew located in the Norfolk, Virginia area. U.S. Naval Public Relations were heightened when the "Happy-Jack" visited Winter Harbor, Maine for the annual Lobster Festival in August of 1972. Even though the ELLISON sailed with a nucleus crew reinforced with drilling reservists, she participated in Fleet Exercises such as Strong Express in the North Atlantic and proved capable of operations with all other fully manned units of the Fleet. After undergoing a thorough INSURV inspection in December, 1972, followed by a six-month overhaul in her homeyard of Portsmouth, Virginia, the ELLISON underwent type training in the Caribbean and engaged in Naval Gunfire Support Exercises. Rest and relaxation were encountered in ports such as Port-au-Prince, San Juan and Bermuda.
The year of 1974 brought ELLISON back into the limelight as she departed Norfolk, Virginia for the Mediterranean with the aircraft carrier U.S.S. INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62) and two other escorts on 19 July 1974. While in the Mediterranean Sea, ELLISON participated in U.S. SIXTH Fleet Operations. After numerous port visits, she returned to her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia.
On 30 November 1974, U.S.S. ELLISON (DD-864) was transferred to DESRON THREE-ZERO. With this transfer, her homeport was changed officially to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Though no longer deployed overseas she continued her reserve training mission. Ellison kept a busy schedule,steaming thousands of miles a year along the eastern seaboard. Her duties have ranged from Representing the Navy in local festivals to shadowing Soviet Naval vessels in the Caribbean.
As she prepares for transfer to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, ELLISON remains fully operational, Still capable of steaming at 33 knots and ready to add further chapters to her distinguished career. On October 1,1983 she was strickened from the US Navy and transferred to the Pakistan Navy and became the PNS SHAH JAHAN (D-164). She was cannibalized for parts, and then sunk in an exercise.