Across the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, four destroyers from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23 have the watch. While four destroyers deployed from one DESRON at the same time is not unusual, this group is special because these ships are from the Navy’s most storied DESRON, the “Little Beavers” of DESRON 23.
“Under the command of Commodore Arleigh Burke, DESRON 23 was the only destroyer squadron of World War II to be awarded a group Presidential Unit Citation,” said current Commodore, Capt. Bill Daly. “Today we tend to refer to the DESRON staff as the Little Beavers, but it’s the ships and their Commanding Officers that are the true lineage of the original Little Beavers.”
The Little Beavers of World War II executed decisive victories at the battles of Empress Augusta Bay and Cape St. George. Seven of the eight commanding officers eventually rose to flag rank and included naval greats such as Vice Adm. Bernard Austin and Rear Adm. Herald Stout. In the Battle of Cape St. George, Cmdr. Burke’s training and tactics resulted in DESRON 23 ships sinking three Japanese destroyers without suffering a single hit from the enemy.
Today, USS Sampson (DDG 102), USS Halsey (DDG 97), USS Preble (DDG 88), and USS Higgins (DDG 76), along with the Commander, Destroyer Squadron 23, are deployed as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group.
All four ships are currently conducting missions across the 2.5 million square miles of water area that make up the U.S. 5th Fleet, including the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, and Arabian Sea. Destroyers are multi-mission warships, capable of a wide-array of missions, to include surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, maritime interception operations, and more.
“I am so proud of this crew – they are ever at the ready conducting many different events in theater,” said Cmdr. Tim Labenz, commanding officer of USS Sampson. Sampson was recently recognized for their efforts by President Donald J. Trump in a teleconference held while they were underway in the Red Sea.
Across the area of operations, Cmdr. Allen Maxwell, commanding officer of USS Preble, understands how the past is shaping his ships current operations. “On Preble, we understand our lineage with the Little Beavers, and this crew trains and operates in theater today with an eye to preserving this squadron’s legacy and current standards of superb operational readiness.” Preble’s training recently paid off, as their quick response provided aid to a fishing vessel in distress while on patrol off the coast of Iran.
The phrase “The Little Beavers” was adopted by Burke after he saw the cartoon character being painted on torpedo tubes on one of the DESRON ships in 1943. Little Beaver was the companion character to Red Ryder in the newspaper comic strip, “The Adventures of Red Ryder,” which ran from 1938-1964. To this day, Little Beaver remains a hallmark symbol of this famous squadron.
Destroyer Squadron 23 is on a regularly scheduled deployment with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. TRCSG is comprised of Carrier Strike Group 9 staff, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23 staff, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, and the DESRON 23 ships: the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97), USS Higgins (DDG 76), USS Preble (DDG 88) and USS Sampson (DDG 102), as well as USS Bunker Hill (CG 52).