Following his successful command of the Card, Captain Isbell was on duty with the Tenth Fleet, Anti-submarine Warfare, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., for a year. He then reported to the Pacific Fleet for assignment as Commanding Officer of USS Yorktown. It was while taking passage on USS Franklin prior to assuming command that Captain Isbell lost his life when the carrier was hit by bombs from a Japanese plane off Okinawa on March 19, 1945.
Her keel was laid down on 14 March 1945 at Staten Island, New York, by the Bethlehem Steel Company. She was launched on 6 August 1945 sponsored by Mrs. Arnold J. Isbell, the widow of Captain Isbell; and commissioned on 5 January 1946 with Commander Carlton B. Jones in command. She joined the Atlantic Fleet and operated off the east coast. In January 1947, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and homeported at San Diego. She spent the remainder of her US Navy days homeported on the West coast.
Onboard the USS Arnold J. Isbell, On duty, Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam 15 March 1966, Tuesday
Yesterday was a big day here for us again. The North Viet's shot down a sea plane while it was attempting to rescue downed pilots. A plane from the (USS) Ranger went into the scene to protect them from junks, but, it got blown out of the air by heavy grown fire. Help was called for by the other planes & the (USS) Berkley & (USS) Isbell rushed to the area.
Before long, four A4's & three Helos were also called, and the rescue of 6 pilots was made, two men were still missing.
A red lifeboat was drifting off out starboard side, about 500 yards away. The helo stood by ready but unable to drop cause of near by VC Junks firing at both the helo & pilots in the rafts with small caliber machine gun fire.
Then, three planes flew in and fired rockets at the junks, leaving them burning, smoking & damaged. This continued by more junks coming & the planes receiving & returning fire. One junk got a direct hit, it was a beautiful sight. What ever they had onboard the junk went up like roman candles.
As we commenced to close in on the life rafts to execute (the) pick-up of the downed pilots we received battery (fire) from the beach and small caliber, from the rear, from the junks.
There were 5 or more of us standing on the ASROC deck when the first battery hit right overhead,. 5 guys looked like 50 guys scrambling every which way for cover.
The Chief had walked out to take a look, I was behind him, (when the round hit), the next & another, and more blast(s) hit all around us. The Chief pushed me threw the door & got back in & locked it tightly. I was pretty shook-up. At that time I heard a scream from one of the guys out side, then M1 rifle firing. It was the ASROC guard, he was still out there. When the Chief took a look outside he was firing his M1, HA!!
The junks commenced small caliber firing upon us, then - Spencer SM3, a Signalman, manned the 30 caliber gun fired back. He shot the whole aft section of the junk off before it sunk!!
In the mean while, the beach was still bombarding us with heavy battery. We've made one pass & went back in for more. We were ready for a third pass when the (USS) Berkley, (Commander DESRON 13 onboard), gave us the order to get out of there, and fast, while she covered us with shore bombardment. Also, the planes covered us.
We needed cover because we had entered a small bay with land surrounding us with-in one mile on all corners & the battery was mounted at the base & mouth of the bay, (ambush)
We could hear them shooting & the blasts hitting real close, while sitting in the radio shack. We stood quite listening to them, one out of every four blasts was our ship returning fire, the rest was enemy fire, and it really shook our ship.
The helo's finally picked up the pilots, all but two men, who were latter spotted dead in the water.
All together, we had eliminated one small fleet of heavily armed junks & silenced two of the heavy gun positions on land. They, (Vietnam guns), shot down one sea plane, one A4 jet fighter, & put holes in a helo leaving it crippled. But, they just put blast dents in the Isbell.
Oh well, ComSeventh fleet is putting the old man, (LTC M.B. Lechleiter), up for a commendation medal, for outstanding performance of the Isbell. I talked with the captain this morning, he is pretty well pleased with the crew's performance and seems very happy!
They'd never have to give anybody a medal for bravery onboard this ship, the guys are too nuts to be scared!! Standing on the ASROC deck while a battle is going on?
Right now we are just floating around, relaxing and taking it easy, waiting for our next chance to challenge ol' Charlie, and to see who gets the next pilot(s).
We'll be out here up in the Tonkin Gulf, eager to do our part, so that the wives & mothers of these brave pilots know that whenever, or if ever, their son's hit the drink & are in trouble, some one, someplace, will be searching & trying for them, ready to give his life for their rescue.
We are just one of the many rescue teams that work through-out Vietnam. Some are on land, some in the air, we are at sea.
Well mom, I guess that's all for now. Say hi to everyone for me, and take care.
Love, Your Son,
(Personal parts of letter omitted)
DO YOU REMEMBER THIS INCIDENT? WHAT CAN YOU RECALL? DO YOU KNOW WHERE WE WERE, LOCATION TO VIETNAM.. ETC.