Laid down at Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co.’s Port Newark, New Jersey facility 7 September 1944, the third Gearing-class destroyer built there, she was christened 15 April 1945—named for Private Edward Earl Gyatt, USMC, killed in a Japanese counterattack following the landing at Tulagi, British Solomon Islands, 8 August 1942—and commissioned as DD 712 on 3 May. Although this was too late to see action in World War II, she completed shakedown and training in the Atlantic; then operated in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea and in 1947 sailed to Montevideo to represent the United States at the inauguration of the new President of Uruguay. Thereafter, through early 1955, she operated in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
In the mid-1950s, facing a dramatically-changing air threat and missiles capable of Mach 2, the US Navy under Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke embarked on an aggressive program to upgrade defense of its fast task forces. As Terrier, the Navy’s first guided missile design, required systems that could detect and track such fast-moving targets and as a destroyer hull could not fit bulky installations of this type, a larger ship was called for; new construction, based on the Mitscher-class DLs already in commission, was therefore approved.
Testing was needed in the meantime, however, and Gyatt was chosen for this purpose. Entering Boston Naval Shipyard 16 September 1955, she decommissioned 31 October and was modified as follows:
Thus altered, Gyatt became—after cruisers Boston (CAG 1) and Canberra (CAG 2)—the US Navy’s third guided missile-equipped surface warship. Reclassified DDG 712 on 1 December 1956 and recommissioned 3 December, she served as a “better than anticipated” test platform for installations in larger, purpose-built ships to come—the Farragut-class frigates beginning in December 1959 and the Charles F. Adams-class destroyers in 1960.
Soon recognized as the first ship of a new type and accordingly designated DDG 1 on 23 May 1957, the “One” continued in this role for five years, by which time all the Farraguts and half the Adams had commissioned. At Charleston beginning 29 June 1962, therefore, her missile battery was removed and on 1 October she reverted to her DD 712 designation.
For six more years from January 1963, specially equipped for service with the Operational Test and Evaluation Force, Gyatt operated in the Atlantic and Caribbean. The stresses of her missile-launching and hull-stabilized past eventually caught up with her, however, and when her hull began cracking from amidships aft, it was seen as cheaper to scrap than to maintain her. Decommissioned on 26 September 1969 and stricken on 22 October, years before many of her Gearing sisters, she was not retained as a museum ship as her crew had fondly hoped but expended as a target on 11 June 1970 off the Virginia Capes.
Today, Gyatt’s reunion organization remains active and a well-written, detailed history may be found on its web site.
Sources: Friedman, History and Recollections of Gyatt Shipmates, Gyatt shipmate Fred Barata, Naval History & Heritage Command: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.