The humble amphibious cargo ship Durham received its commission more than 51 years ago.

Through the course of its roughly 25-year career, it earned three campaign stars for service in the Vietnam War and did its best to avoid tyrannical COs, indifferent command master chiefs and the toxic internal politics of the pier.

It retired in 1994, threw a shadow box on its wall and was struck from the Naval Vessel Register five years ago.

On Sunday, the ex-Durham provided its final service to the nation when it got shot through and sunk by its active-duty brethren during this year’s Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, naval exercise.

Footage of the sinking exercise, known in Navy-speak as a SINKEX, shows the Durham bobbing along off Hawaii, minding its own business, when several rounds blast into its port side, sending brown and black smoke shooting up through the superstructure and out the starboard.

The Durham is hit several more times in the 40-second video but is not shown sinking into the briny depths.

Such SINKEXs offer crews the closest thing to reality when it comes to targeting and sinking a vessel, according to a Navy release.

“Simulation is a critical part of our training, but there is nothing better than to conduct live fire training,” Royal Australian Navy Capt. Phillipa Hay, the commander of RIMPAC 2020′s Task Force One, said in a statement.

Ten nations, 22 surface ships, a sub and about 5,300 personnel took part in this year’s RIMPAC, which spanned the last two weeks of August and took place entirely at sea to mitigate COVID-19.

To sink former Navy vessels like the ex-Durham, now known as a hulk, officials must adhere to environmental regulations and sink the vessel in at least 6,000 feet of water, 50 or more nautical miles from land, according to the Navy.

“Surveys are conducted to ensure people and marine mammals are not in an area where they could be harmed during the event,” the Navy said.

Hulks like the Durham are thoroughly cleaned and stripped of potential pollutants before they are sunk as well, according to the Navy.

Thank you for your service to this nation, ex-Durham. Fair winds and following seas.

Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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