CDR Donald D. Sheppard

don_sheppard02CDR Don Sheppard passed away on 15 February, 2004. As LCDR, Don was the Isbell’s Executive Officer from 1970-71. LT Jim Dillon was Isbell’s Weps Officer under Don and passes along these comments about him:

“Don Sheppard left Isbell while we were in Singapore (November 1971). He went on the the US Naval postgraduate School at Monterey and then became logistics officer on the staff of US Naval Forces Europe. After that he had a tour as CO of his own destroyer before he retired in about 1978. He had entered the Navy as a seaman in 1948, and 30 years was the limit at the

“Don’s book, “Riverine: A Brown-Water Sailor in the Delta” – which dealt with “Game Warden” operations up the Bassac River has become a classic that has been studied by everyone at the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Naval War College and by every nation in the world that has any pretense or hope of ever projecting naval power during the past quarter century.

“When Don was working “Game Warden” up the Bassac River he forced the medical people to submit false reports because he did not want to be removed from command as a consequence of the repeated wounds that would have mandated his removal. Later as XO of the USS ARNOLD J. ISBELL (DD-869) he inspired us all. I do not have to tell you that Don Sheppard and John Kerry were two peas in a pod in every way that was important.

“We do not have Don Sheppard or anyone like him anymore, and I fear that our nation is not capable of producing another Don Sheppard in these days of “Force Protection” considerations.

“After leaving the U.S. Navy Don became vice president of E-Rail, the U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese shipping company E-Rail served as the liason between Japanese merchant vessels and U.S. and Canadian railways.”


During his naval career Don earned the Silver Star, Legion of Merit with Combat V, Three Bronze Stars for valor, two Purple Hearts, two Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry, a Vietnamese Honor Medal, and the Presidential Unit Citation.

Don last made his home in Huntington Beach, CA.


(Images taken from his book jackets.)


Books by Don Sheppard:

Destroyer Skipper: A Memoir of Command at Sea
Bluewater Sailor: The Memoirs of a Destroyer Officer
Riverine: A Brown-Water Sailor in the Delta, 1967


11 Responses to “CDR Donald D. Sheppard”

  1. Wade Says:

    Just finished, RIVERINE, This is quite possibly the best piece of war non-fiction I have ever read. Anyone who wishes to better understand Naval operations in Vietnam must pick up this book!

  2. namriverrat69 Says:

    I served with CDR Donald Sheppard on the Isbell. He was a great man. He had just written RIVERINE and he asked if I would read the first chapter. It was a great story. I spent a year on the rivers of I Corps 69-70. At the end of my tour my mother.I got orders to Isbell while home on leave. That was when I first saw Mr. Sheppard come walking down the pier in Subic Bay. He struck an imposing yet unassuming figure. As a YN2 I had a lot of personal contact with him. When we got back stateside I got orders to go back to Vietnam. CDR Sheppard offered to get me out of my orders. This offer was so out of the ordinary. I thanked him but chose to go back to Vietnam to get out of the Navy as soon as possible. A vet will understand why.

    CDR Sheppard was such an outstanding officer. He had a real feel and understanding of enlisted men – which is common with the white hat officers I served with. CDR Sheppard was the best officer I served under. I found out he passed away shortly before the 2008 reunion. I was saddened to hear he lived only 25 miles from where I live and I worked around his city of Huntington Beach. God bless you CDR Sheppard. God blessed us with your presence and impact you had on our lives. Thank you Sir!

  3. namriverrat69 Says:

    Another lesson in proof reading. I meant to say “at the end of my first tour of duty in Vietnam my mother died. I enjoyed my time on Isbell although it was only 5 or 6 months and have fond memories of my shipmates and time at sea amidst everything that was going on.

  4. Don Kemp Says:

    I just came across a large photo of then LCDR Don Sheppard while he was on RRB near the Bassac River. He is pictured shooting a flaming long bow into a fortified VC bunker. Picture was taken on Nov. 20, 1967. If anyone knows how to contact any of his family and they would like to have the photo, have them contact me. Email listed below.

    • Cameron Says:

      Don Kemp,

      Do you still have that photo? I think I may have found one of his family members.

      Cameron Menezes

      • Daniel Sheppard Says:

        I’m the son of Don, I have many mementos, I’m sure I can dig that pic out

      • Cameron Menezes Says:


        Thanks for your response. I enjoyed your father’s books. His books were different from any other war/sea story that I’ve ever read, and I appreciated his honesty regarding his personal victories and failings.

        The books, of course, are a wonderful 20th century-version of rollicking tales from the times of sailing ships.

        Hope you don’t mind my curiosity, but at what point in your dad’s career were you born? Has anyone else in your family embarked on a military career?

        Hope that you are well.

        Cameron Menezes

    • James Tucker Says:

      Hi my name is James Tucker and my best friend growing up was one of Don Sheppards grandsons Chase Sheppard. I met Chase when he was 3 and I was 5 we lived on the same street in the city of Brea California. Dan Sheppard who was Don’s son was like my second dad growing up. I met and had know Don Sheppard quite well and went to many family functions with his family over the 30 years we were friends. I actually have a few items that I was allowed to keep when Don passed away from his home in Huntington Beach. I actually got an exhaust gauge from the USS Carpenter that was on a plaque that was hanging on his wall in his home office with all his medals and other military memorabilia. That plaque I donated to a family who was putting a museum together for the USS Carpenter. I think Don would have approved of my gift to his fellow navy men. Don was a badass m.f. He always had a cigar in his mouth, wore button down shirts with the chest opened up ,always had sunglasses on and drove a Cadillac and had a different women with him everytime I seen him. Don’s a legend in my eyes and the way he passed away most people wouldn’t agree but Don left a note to his son Dan saying he was done with his mission in life and that he was going out like real men do, shot himself in the head in Feb. 2004. My best friend Chase Don’s grandson also passed away in 2011 at the age of 30 but I’m still in contact with Dan Sheppard and his ex wife Gail. I know for sure Dan would be shocked and very grateful to get this photo of his father. I forgot to mention that I have the very first published book of Riverine also signed by Don. Please email me back or I can be reached at 657 335 5258 as I’d like to get in contact with you about this. I live in Costa Mesa California. My email is
      Thank you so much for reaching out to the Sheppard family.

      Sincerely James Tucker

  5. Mrs. Gail Sheppard Says:

    Cameron, his son, Daniel, was born 11/28/55. None of Don’s children embarked on a military career but he definitely left a legacy. They loved him fiercely, as did I.

    • Cameron Menezes Says:

      Mrs. Sheppard,

      I am deeply honored that you took a moment to write back. I own all of Comm. Sheppard’s books and have read them so frequently that they are literally ragged. Each time I read one of the books, I glean a new perspective or insight.

      I never served in the military due to medical reasons, though I always dreamt of serving as an officer on a destroyer. Years after the Navy turned me down, I discovered Comm. Sheppard’s books. His works allowed me to vicariously spend time on that destroyer bridge.

      I recently purchased and gifted Blue Water Sailor to a gentleman who served as an enlisted man on a destroyer in Southeast Asia during Vietnam. His family tells me that your husband’s book caused him to shed tears as he recalled those 50 year-old memories. Just thought I’d let you know.


      Cameron Menezes

  6. source Says:

    There is definately a lot to know about this subject. I like all of the points you have made.

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