Robert Thomas Mills
Petty Officer First Class
United States Navy
Clearlake Highlands, California
July 13, 1942 to June 26, 1972
ROBERT T MILLS is on the Wall at Panel W1, Line 50

Robert T Mills
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"I served on the Benjamin Stoddert and was aboard on June 26, 1972, 0910 hours. I spoke to LCDR Martin in the radio shack that morning when he came in to pick up his message traffic."

"The photo for Martin came from The United States Navy Memorial." (The Virtual Wall contacted the US Navy Memorial and they have no objection to posting their photos).

"This is a wonderful thing that you do. I, for one, am grateful to you for your service."

"I also have pictures of the other three shipmates that perished due to the mount 51 explosion. I will locate each web page and forward them to you. Thank you,"

Lou Tennenini, RM2
USS Benjamin Stoddert (DDG-22)
USN 1968-72

In response to the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam in the Spring of 1972 (the "Easter Invasion") President Nixon directed that the naval forces operating off-shore be reinforced. A considerable proportion of the reinforcements consisted of "gun line" ships - destroyers and cruisers suitable for providing naval gunfire support to troops ashore.

USS BENJAMIN STODDERT (DDG-22) was one of the gun line ships, and she conducted numerous fire support missions without incident. However, on 26 June 1972 she suffered an explosion in a 5" turret, killing two crewmen outright and wounding a number of others.

According to Navy logs, the USS Benjamin Stoddert was underway for fire station "H" in South Vietnam, arrivng at 0610 hours. They maneuvered at various courses and speeds in that vicinity, watching the sunrise at 0620 hours.

At 0823 hours, they commenced fire on pre-designated targets. From then until 0848 hours, the ship, using Mount 51, fired on various targets, expending almost 200 rounds of 5" ammunition. During this period, they also received and evaded enemy fire. At 0848 hours, they commenced the cooling of Mount 51 and evacuated all of the unnecessary personnel from the area.

At 0852 hours, a Motor Whale Boat (MWB) from the USS Hammond arrived and picked up two civilian technical reps from Mount 51 and were clear of the ship by 0854 hours.

At 0910 hours, an explosion occurred in Mount 51 and General Quarters were sounded - the forward 5-inch mount suffered a misfire which left a live round hung up in the barrel. Sadly, efforts to extract the live shell failed when it exploded, killing two sailors outright and mortally wounding two others. 0914 hours, they logged a 'man overboard' on the port side entry. He was identified as LCDR Martin - he was standing in the doorway and the explosion threw him overboard. MWB away from Stoddert to pick up Martin. The blast also heavily damaged the gun mount and nearby living spaces. At 0921, a man reported to still be in Mount 51, presumed dead, and identified as GMG1 Mills. The Stoddert, at 0922 hours called for Medical support from USS Eversole. Received medical support from Doctor who had come on board from the USS Eversole.

At 0943 hours, they cleared the double check for securing all lighting and power to Mount 51. More support requested at 0946 hours for emergency medevac. Received doctor from USS Hull. By 1105 hours, they had transferred WIAs (Uhler-died two days later on June 28; and Larson-died on August 8; and one other who survived) to USS Providence, removed the body of Mills from the Mount, received the Eversole's Chaplain aboard, and restored power to parts of ship with the exception of Mount 51.

Departing immediately for Subic Bay, the guided-missile destroyer spent the next month in port, replacing the wrecked gun mount and repairing other damage. The four men who died from the explosion in Mount 51 were:

GMG1 Robert Mills was survived by his wife, Janet, 2 sons, Robert and Wilbart, who were living in Round Lake Illinois at the time, and his parents Robert E and Elaine P Mills of Clearlake Highlands, California.

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