USS Vance

Click here to visit the official USS Vance website

USS Vance had an interesting experience after its participation on Operation Deep Freeze.

Between Dec. 1965 and March 1966 Vance served in Vietnam. During this time frame her new commanding officer,  LCDR. Marcus Aurelius Arnheiter, created such an uproar on Vance that he was removed as Vance's CO after just 99 days of command. Several articles from the Vance's web site are reproduced here. For more information on this modern day navy "Caine Mutiny", search the Internet for a copy of "The Arnheither Affair", by Neil Sheehan.


      (Destroyer Escort/Destroyer Escort Radar Picket/Weather Destroyer Escort)


             THE NAVY

             The Arnheiter Incident

             From Herman Melville's Captain Vere (who hanged Billy Budd) to Herman Wouk's Captain Queeg (who rolled ball bearings during the Caine mutiny), naval literature has teemed with tales of rumbustious skippers and mutinous crewmen. Of late, the U.S. Navy has pitched and rolled to a real-life story that has all the elements of legend: a destroyer in war-torn waters, a highanded captain called Marcus Aurelius Arnheiter, a roster of rebellious junior officers respectively named Hardy, Generous and Belonte, ·and a precipitate change of command that reverberated clear to the Secretary of the: Navy -- thereby        threatening the careers of some of the service's brightest brass.  When Lieut. Commander Arnheiter took command of the U.S.S. Vance in Pearl Harbor shortly before Christmas 1965, he found the aging radar-picket destroyer "literally crawling with cockroaches," her bridge and ladders mottled with "coffee spillage," her forecastle the scene of frequent fistfights in which nonrated men "routinely  intimidated, threatened and physically struck" their superior petty officers.

 Turns on the Bollard. The officers themselves mostly reservists eager to return to civilian life- ere "living in extreme messiness," and they barely deigned to say "Aye, aye, sir."  Though the Vance had won an E for engineering excellence and performed commendably on lonely, months-long patrols in the northern Pacific, she seemed a slack ship to Arnheiter's eye, and only "a taut ship is a happy ship." Arnheiter was up-taut  himself: a Naval Academy "ring-knocker  he was passed over  once for lieutenant and at 40 was one of the oldest Annapolis men of his rank with command responsibility. Aware that he would be heading for Viet Nam six days later, Arnheiter took a  few more turns on the bollard.

 He "promulgated" Elbert Hubbard's "A Message to Garcia" to  the crew, instituted daily inspections, held a series of "all hands aft" services, where he quoted from Admiral Farragut and  Stonewall Jackson. Since the Vance would be involved in  Operation Market Time, the Navy's screening of Vietnamese coastal junk and sampan traffic for Viet Gong infiltrators,  Arnheiter also insisted on a refresher course in small arms , ordered the purchase of a $950 speedboat from the ship's  recreation fund. Though the 20-knot boat was supposedly to be  used primarily for off duty water skiing and swimming parties, he had it mounted with a .30-cal. machine gun for patrol work,  since it was much faster than the Vance's motor whaleboat.

 "Marcus Mad Log." Along with the Vance's twelve other officers, Lieut. R. S. Hardy Jr., the executive officer, wasted no  love on the new skipper; he felt that Arnheiter was too zealous. Operations Officer William T. Generous, a bespectacled  lieutenant who had undergone psychiatric treatment before Arnheiter's accession, resented the fantail services; a Catholic, he considered them a Protestant imposition, and at Hardy's suggestion wrote a letter of complaint to a Catholic chaplain.Gunnery Officer Luis G. Belmonte, another lieutenant, took umbrage when Arnheiter asked him to wade fully clothed into the water off Waikiki to shoot a picture of the skipper and his  visiting wife in an outrigger. Belmonte began keeping a "Marcus Mad Log" of Arnheiter's actions and came up with 34 separate complaints.  Etiquette & Close Support. In the log he noted that Arnheiter once drank spiked eggnog aboard, and kept a pitcher of brandy in the officers' mess to pour over his peaches and ice cream -- a blatant violation of nonalcoholic Navy Regulations. At a ship's party in Guam, the skipper ordered Generous to sit cross-legged at his feet, and had another officer roll up his trouser legs and act as a "pom-pom girl." He also ordered his officers to give impromptu speeches at dinner on cultural subjects (sample theme: "Opera-Box Etiquette in Milano'?.

 But it was  Arnheiter's gung-ho tactics in combat off Viet Nam that really upset the junior officers.   So eager was Arnheiter to remain "on the line" in the South China Sea that he filed false spare-parts reports, claiming to have fewer aboard than he did so that he would not have to  share them with other destroyers, and thus risk having to go  back to port to replenish. That, too, violated Navy Regs. On patrol duty, he was combative to a fault. In hopes of locating Communist shore batteries, Arnheiter sent the speedboat close inshore to draw their fire, meanwhile bringing the Vance and  her 3-in. guns into the largely uncharted shoal waters off the coast to strike when the Reds revealed themselves. Several times, he fired his pistol at "sea snakes" near junks that his  men were inspecting; often he fired warning shots across Vietnamese bows with his own M-1 rifle when he felt that they were not responding swiftly enough to his heave to orders.

 During one amphibious operation off Nam Quan, Arnheiter whose orders were to stay well at sea and cut off any Viet Gong "ex-filtration" by boat --commanded his officers to file false position reports and then took the Vance in close some 20 times to bombard the shore. On another occasion,  Arnheiter brought the Vance within 250 yds. of the beach to blast a Buddhist pagoda that he suspected of being a  Communist automatic-weapons position-and, according to the junior officers, avoided grounding only because Exec Hardy "relieved the skipper at the conn" and wheeled the ship to safety.

 Eroded Authority. Word of Arnheiter's aberrations quickly  reached higher headquarters--most likely via the chapLain corps. Three months after he assumed command, the Vnnce was ordered to Manila for refitting and Arnheiter was summarily relieved. After a subsequent hearing,  at which the "Mad Log" was rewritten into 38 pages of anti-Arnheiter testimony, Vice Admiral B. J. Semmes Jr., chief of naval personnel, declared  Arnheiter guilty of "a gross lack of judgment and inability to lead people." Arnheiter now holds a minor post in San Francisco; Hardy, 32, is a lieutenant commander in Key West,  Fla.; Generous, 27, is studying for a Ph.D. at Stanford in U.S. diplomacy; Belmonte, 26, is in the San Francisco stock market.

 There it might have ended, save for Arnheiter's barrage of  letters to the Navy Department demanding a rehearing (the file  is nearly three feet deep), and the powerful endorsement of his cause this month by Captain Richard G. Alexander, 45, a hot-shot line officer who will take command of the U.S.S. New  Jersey when it comes out of mothballs next year to become the world's only operating battleship (TIME, June 9). It was Alexander who recommended Arnheiter for command in the first place, after they had worked together in Washington.

Warning that Arnheiter's relief at the hands of junior officers would erode authority throughout the service, Alexander brought his complaint directly to Navy Secretary Paul Ignatius. "Mr. Secretary," the four-striper argued in his statement, "what all of your officers will demand to know is just how in hell this  could happen in the United States Navy."

 Ignatius agreed to re-examine the case, but last week concluded  that there was "no valid reason for altering the decision."  Marcus Aurelius Arnheiter, 42, was thus finished as a career  officer. Alexander, Semmes and the other senior officers  involved in the case on both sides may also find their careers in jeopardy. If there is anything the Navy abhors, after mutiny, it is bad publicity. "We all have a little of the Captain Queeg in us," admitted one officer. "But Arnheiter had more than his share."

Bad Judgment, Lack of Integrity  

 Story from a Dallas area newspaper in 1968

 Bad Judgment, Lack of Integrity   -  Reason Cited for Arnheiter Removal

 WASHINGTON (UPI) -- The Navy said Friday that it relieved the controversial skipper of a destroyer escort operating off  Vietnam because he would create pretexts for shelling the shore -- without even knowing whether friendly forces were in the area.

The Navy cited this and other examples of what it called 'bad judgment and lack of integrity" as factors in its decision to relieve Lt. Cmdr. Marcus Arnheiter of command of the USS Vance on March 31; 1966.  The Navy made available the findings of a May, closed hearing into the Arnheiter case following an unofficial inquiry in Congress this week at which only pro-Arnheiter evidence was aired. The unofficial hearing was held by Rep. Joseph Resnick, D-NY.

Arnheiter, a 42-year-old Annapolis graduate, contends he was undermined by mutinous junior officers who resented his efforts to whip into shape a ship and crew that were woefully unprepared to go into war. But the Navy said Friday that the Vance he had taken command of was a "fine ship with and outstanding" record and in just three months its crew largely felt "they had become the laughing stock of the fleet."    The Navy said Arnheiter sought and created pretexts for departing from his assignment of inspecting junks operating in coastal waters.

It said Arnheiter "violated his operating instructions" by bombarding the Vietnam Coastline, without having been assigned such missions and without knowing whether U.S. or friendly forces were in the vicinity. There is strong evidence that he utilized the scout boat and the ship's motor whaleboat as 'bait' in an effort to draw fire from the shore, so the  Vance could return the fire in violation of policy," the Navy said. "it said  he covered up "his true position by sending false position reports."

 The Navy said Arnheiter also disregarded standing orders by stopping and boarding the French merchant ship SS Dinard without obtaining authorization from his operational command. The Navy said an "exhaustive review" of the case led to "the conclusion that Lt. Cmdr.  Arnheiter had been treated properly from a procedural point of view, that his relief was proper under the circumstances, the investigation was adequate, (and) that the review was thorough."

As to Arnheiter's charge that mutinous junior officers conspired against him, the Navy said "the most that can be said in this regard is that Lt.Cmdr. Arnheiter's failure in leadership cost him the willing support of all of the officers and many of the enlisted men of the USS


                                     APRIL 26, 1967

                                       Drew Pearson Says

                                Caine Mutiny All Over Again?

  WASHINGTON -- The Navy is trying to suppress the fantastic story of a real-life Caine Mutiny,   closely following the plot of the celebrated herman Wouk novel. This one happened not in World War II but aboard a radar picket destroyer on combat duty off Vietnam.

   The junior officers even kept a "Captain's Madness Log," as in the "Caine Mutiny." to use as evidence against their commanding officer. He is Lt Cmdr. Marcus Aurelius Arnheiter and the  "mutiny" took place aboard the U.S.S. Vance.

The investigative report shows clearly, however, that Arnheiter was no Captain Queeg.  Here is the story the Navy is trying to keep quiet:

 A group of young officers had been operating the U.S.S. Vance more like a yacht that a warship  until Arnheiter took command a few days before Christmas, 1965. At sea, they enjoyed a leisurely life, including movies every afternoon. At anchor, they went joy riding and water skiing in an  outboard motorboat they had acquired ashore.

 Discipline aboard the Vance was so relaxed that an enlisted crewman complained to his Congressman: "No one knows or cares what you are doing. You get no recognition for keeping  your gear up. In fact, no one knows whether it is working or not. The officers don't check us; they  don't Look at our logs. They don't inspect our gear or our spaces."

This letter got back to Rear Adm. Walter H. Baumberger, then commander of the Cruiser Destroyer Force in the Pacific, who cited it in a notice to all his ships. Without mentioning names,  he wrote: "The attached letter was recently received via Congressman... (it) points up the misuse  of a specific individual and states quite eloquently the frustrations experienced by a number of our young bluejacketts. It is my fervent hope that such a situation does not now exist in any of our ships."

 To restore combat efficieney aboard the Vance, Arnheiter began cracking down. This spoiled the  fun of his junior officers, who chafed under the new discipline.

 Shortly after Arnheiter became skipper, the ship was ordered to the war zone. Her mission was to patrol the coast, intercept the smuggling of Communist contraband and bombard enemy targets on shore. He mounted a .30-caliber machinegun on the outboard runabout, trained the ship's crew in the  use of the big three-inch guns and taught them how to use rifles in case they should have to repel  boarders. then he began patrolling close to the shore, searching the coves and inlets for suspicious  junks. He also requested spotter planes to point out shore targets for the ship's big guns.

 The junior officers complained that he was taking unnecessary risks and that they could patrol by radar beyond the barrier reef 20 miles out.  Soon they began to plot against Arnheiter. Once he saw in the ward room an open copy of  Herman Wouk's "Caine Mutiny Court Martial," the stage version of the original novel.

 Meanwhile, three subordinates -- Lt. Ray Hardy, the executive officer' lt. (djg) William Generous, the operations officer; and Ensign Louis Belmonte -- were compiling a long list of petty grievances against Arnheiter, entered by Bellmonte in the "Captain's Madness Log." The trouble really began when Generous, a Catholic, complained in a letter to a priest, Lt. Richard Osterman, that Arnheiter was compelling all hands to attend Protestant services on the ship's fantail.

 "Three times now," the lieutenant wrote, "the crew has been ordered aft.for these euphemistic church calls... I cannot accept illegality and infringement of my Constitutional rights. I seek relief  from this burden, but I do so anonymously, once again for the sake of my family. Is there  something that you can do?"

 Unknown to Arnheiter, Chaplain Osterman registered a complaint with higher authorities. Ensign  Belmonte, the lay Catholic leader on board, pressed the charges in complaints to other chaplains.

Investigation developed that the skipper, and Episcopalian, had not been holding Protestant services. Invocations and benedictions were offered, but were taken from the Navy's own booklet  of "Prayers at Sea." He had held these services in order to instill patriotism and prepare his men  spiritually for combat.

 One of Generous's specific complaints was that the crew had been called on to sing all four verses of "America," and that the reference in the fourth verse to "Our fathers' God to Thee, author of  liberty,' had Protestant connotations.

When the charges eventually were investigated, it was found "that although the nature of the initial lectures did have religious overtones, the tenor of the program subsequently changed to conform with the spirit of General Order 21 to which objection could not reasonably be raised."

 The other charges were even more petty, including the complaint that Arnheiter had declared candy "unfit for consumption" in order to give it to hungry Vietnamese children. Prior to these findings, however, Arnheiter was abruptly removed from his command. He was neither informed of the charges against him nor given an opportunity to reply. The admirals acted  precipitously out of concern for the ship's morale in a war zone.

  But having made their decision, they refused to back down -- even after investigation proved the charges to be frivolous.

 Thus Arnheiter was cashiered, in effect, for bringing discipline to his ship and pressing the war too vigorously.





Model of USS Vance, under construction

This plaque was found in Dunedin, New Zealand, Nov. 2001along with plaques from USS Mills and USS Calcaterra. It is now in the hands of a Vance shipmate.

This unique plaque was found on E-bay along with one from USS Wilhoite. They are both ceramic tiles that measure  6" X  6", the colors are bright and vivid. These plaques look as new as the day they were made. I don't know what their purpose was, or who made them. They are cork backed and have a small (built into the cork) hook for hanging on the wall.