Destroyer Squadron 23 is a flotilla of United States Navy destroyers and frigates based out of San Diego, California. The squadron consists of the following ships:
DESRON 23 is best known for its actions during World War II, most notably the Battle of Cape St. George, under the command of then-Commodore Arleigh Burke. Currently, the DESRON is assigned to Carrier Strike Group Eleven, which includes USS Nimitz (CVN-68), USS Princeton (CG-59) and Carrier Air Wing Eleven.
Destroyer Squadron 23 was activated May 11, 1943 at the Boston Navy Yard, with Captain M.J. Gilliam in command. The original vessels of the squadron were USS Foote (DD-511), USS Charles Ausburne (DD-570), USS Spence (DD-512), USS Aulick (DD-569), USS Claxton (DD-571), USS Dyson (DD-572), USS Converse (DD-509) and USS Thatcher (DD-514).
On June 29, 1943, Destroyer Squadron 23 became part of Admiral William F. Halsey's Third Fleet. Less USS Aulick, Destroyer Squadron 23 assumed duty on patrol and escort in the Southwest Pacific.
Destroyer Squadron 23 earned its reputation—and a Presidential Unit Citation—under its second commodore, Captain Arleigh Burke, who assumed command on October 23, 1943. On November 24, 1943, during the Battle of Cape St. George, the squadron engaged six enemy destroyers. In what has been described by tacticians as "near perfect surface actions", the squadron sank four enemy destroyers, and damaged two, one badly, without injury to themselves. In the period November 1943- February 1944, the Little Beavers fought in 22 separate engagements and were credited with destroying one Japanese cruiser, nine destroyers, one submarine, several smaller ships, and approximately 30 aircraft.
Destroyer Squadron 23's operations in the Pacific continued through the Liberation of the Philippines. The squadron returned to the United States on October 19, 1945 and were presented the Presidential Unit Citation by Admiral Burke and Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal.
Presidential Unit Citation:
- For extraordinary heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces during the Solomon Islands Campaign, from 1 November 1943 to February 23, 1944... Destroyer Squadron Twenty-three operated in daring defiance of repeated attacks by hostile air groups, closing the enemy's strongly fortified shores to carry out sustained bombardments against Japanese coastal defenses and render effective cover and fire support for the major invasion operations in this area ... The brilliant and heroic record achieved by Destroyer Squadron Twenty-three is a distinctive tribute to the valiant fighting spirit of the individual units in this indomitable combat group of each skilled and courageous ship's company...
In February 1946, the squadron was inactivated and the ships were sent to Charleston, South Carolina for lay-up.
On April 4, 1956, the squadron was reactivated as Destroyer Division 231 under the command of Captain E. K. Wakefield, with USS Picking (DD-685), USS Stephen Potter (DD-538), USS Preston (DD-795), and USS Irwin (DD-794). The squadron was rededicated as the "Little Beavers" on December 12, 1956 by Rear Admiral Chester Wood, Commander Cruiser Destroyer Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet in ceremonies at Long Beach, California.
USS McClusky (FFG-41) was part of the squadron in 1986.
The mascot of Destroyer Squadron 23 is Little Beaver, a character made famous by Fred Harmon's Red Ryder cartoon strip. This cartoon was very popular during the squadron's operations in World War II.
Due to the high tempo of operations during the squadron's operations in the South Pacific, the ships' crews often said they were busy as beavers. This sentiment led to an illustrated painting by a crewman named James Bowler on the side of one of USS Claxton's torpedo tubes. The painting depicted Little Beaver shooting an arrow at Japan's Prime Minister Tōjō.
During an inspection of USS Claxton, then-Commodore Arleigh Burke observed the painting. He liked it so much that he adopted the logo (minus Tojo) for use by the entire squadron and it remains in use to this day.
Commodores of the Little Beavers over the years:
- M. J. Gillian (May 1943 - October 1943)
- Arleigh A. Burke, later Chief of Naval Operations (October 1943 - March 1944)
- T. B. Duncan (March 1944 - July 1945)
- W. C. Ford (August 1945 - February 1946)
- Decommissioned (February 1946 - April 1956)
- E. K. Wakefield (April 1956 - April 1957)
- Harry D. Sturr, World War II submarine commander (April 1957 - April 1958)
- J. E. Smith (April 1958 - May 1959)
- T. H. Morton (May 1959 - February 1960)
- T. D. Cunningham (February 1960 - July 1960)
- J. L. Kelly, Jr. (July 1960 - June 1961)
- F. E. McIntire (June 1961 - September 1962)
- Robert A. Schelling (September 1962 - July 1963)
- C. R. Dwyer (July 1963 - December 1964)
- J. C. Hill (December 1964 - November 1965)
- L. E. Davis, Jr. (November 1965 - July 1967)
- R. E. Spreen (July 1967 - July 1968) (Later Chief of Naval Ordinance and rank of Rear Admiral)
- J. J. Doak (July 1968 - January 1970)
- W. H. Rogers (January 1970 - May 1971)
- G. M. Neely (May 1971 - February 1973)
- Conolly (February 1973 - June 1974)
- Donald P. Roane (June 1974 - October 1976)
- Stuart D. Landersman (October 1976 - November 1978)
- M. L. Treiber (November 1978 - March 1981)
- G. C. Flynn (March 1981 - April 1983)
- W. H. Kersting (April 1983 - June 1985)
- T. A. Barthold (June 1985 - May 1987)
- W. E. Kelly (May 1987 - March 1989)
- W. R. Schmidt (March 1989 - March 1991)
- R. L. Miller (March 1991 - December 1992)
- Thomas E. Utegaard (December 1992 - July 1994)
- K. P. Green (July 1994 - July 1995)
- Barry M. Costello (July 1995 - February 1997)
- P. M. Garrett (February 1997 - July 1998)
- C. W. Patten (July 1998 - July 2000)
- R. S. Riche (July 2000- July 2002)
- Charles W. Martoglio (July 2002 - September 2003)
- Gordan E. Van Hook, Bronze Star recipient for his actions on USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) (September 2003 - July 2005)
- Michael E. Smith (July 2005 – November 2006)
- Adam S. Levitt (November 2006 - May 2008)
- Troy A. Stoner (May 2008 - July 2009)
- James L. Autrey (July 2009 - December 2010)
- Jesse Wilson (December 2010 – May 2012)
- William J. Parker III (May 2012 − present)
Jones, Ken (1997). Destroyer Squadron 23: Combat Exploits of Arleigh Burke's Gallant Force. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-412-1.