by Rick Bretz
When a Navy ship stops serving the United States in defense of the nation, the next step can be the scrap metal yard, sold to another country or in the case of 164 other ships, become an interesting, floating museum.
The US Naval Ships Association states there are 164 Naval Museums throughout the United States. There are many more throughout the world from other countries. The site below gives a synopsis of the museum ships travelers can find while touring.
The USS Orleck is just one of those ships. However, the journey from the initial launch to where it floats today at a dock in Lake Charles, La., is an interesting story that involves two wars, another country, a hurricane and a few determined individuals.
She was named after Lt. Joseph Orleck, commander of the USS Nauset, and a World War II hero killed in action in the Gulf of Salerno when his ship took fire from German aircraft September 9, 1943. Lt. Orleck died while trying to save all of his crew as the ship went down. He was awarded the Navy Cross.
The Gearing Class destroyer was launched on May 12, 1945 by Mrs. Joseph Orleck. She served in the Korean War and then underwent an upgrade as part of what the Navy called the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization program in 1962. After that she served with distinction in the Vietnam War by providing Naval gunfire support missions as well as search and rescue and reconnaissance efforts.
From there in 1982, the history gets interesting as she was transferred to the Turkish Navy and renamed the TCN Yucetepe where she served the Turkish Navy until 2000.
In 2000, the Turkish Navy transferred the ship to the Southeast Texas War Memorial and Heritage Foundation where she was a Naval Museum to serve as a museum and memorial and it might stayed there at Ochiltree-Inman Park on the Southeast Texas coast but for Hurricane Rita in 2005. The hurricane damaged her during the storm and after receiving repairs the City of Orange voted to not let her return.
After several years docked and relocated from one place to another, the Lake Charles City Council voted to let her dock on their shores and on May 20, 2010, she was moved to the city where she rests today.