The Somers-class were a class five large destroyers built for the United States Navy in the 1930s, large fleet destroyers as the previous Porter, intended to deal with the Japanese “special types”. Named after naval heroes they were commissioned between 1937 and 1939 with the same heavy armament but also twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes and a more modern machinery designed by Gibbs & Cox. Suffering the same stabiliy issues, two were later rebuilt. They all saw extensive service between the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific as convoy escorts, only earning collectively 6 battle stars. Only Warrington was lost, due to a hurricane north of the Bahamas on 13 September 1944. #ww2 #usn #USnavy #destroyer #somers
Design of the class
The Somers class was not just a repeat of the Porters. They were still originally designed as answers to the large “special type” IJN destroyers and initially intended to be flotilla leaders. Instead of 1400 they went for a 1850 tonnes standard hull according to the London Treaty, which proved still too light for their heavy armament. The admiralty however gave te Porter design to modify to Gibbs & Cox naval architects from New York. The Modifications included new high-pressure and high-temperature boilers allowing the truncating of exhausts into a single stack and weight savings like the removal of reload torpedoes and addition of a third torpedo tube banks in exchange (12 instead of 8), but they were still over-weight and top-heavy.
Hull and general design
As a “repeat porter” all that was said about the latter class was still true. The Somers looked like “mini cruisers” with their four twin turret main armament. But they weight-saving measures had the Porter’s tripod masts removed and she only shared the hull and main superstructure bridge and aft tower intact, but now they were caracterized by their single pole mast aft of the bridge and single funnel, making them immediately standing out from other USN destroyers, like an overgrown version of the Bagleys. The new boilers enabling a single stack, added to weight savings like reload torpedoes had a reward for the admiralty: The installation of an extra quadruple centerline torpedo tube mount, making for three banks and given their particular placement allowing them to all fire on the same broadside, enabled the largest toprpedo broadside of any USN destroyer so far, better than even the four-banks Bagley-Gridley-Benshams serie.
The hull design was a repeat of the Porters, an enlarged, elongated version of the Farragut’s, with a forecastle extended by bulwarks for sea keeping. It measured 381 ft (116 m) overall by 36 ft 2 in (11.02 m) in beam and a mean draft of 10 ft 4 in (3.15 m). There was a superstrcture forward supporting the superfiring “B” twin turret, followed by a raised platform for a quad AA mount, and a two-level bridge with the caracteristic prismatic shape, its wings supported by the structure below. The hull displaced 1,840 tons standard and 2,767 tons fully loaded. It is unsure if measures has been taken for stability concerning their fuel tanks placement and drainage.
The amdiship section, aft of the funnel, comprised three elevated mounts for the triple TT banks, one axial aft of the single funnel, and two other broadside, in échelon. The hull aft section comprised a deck quartederck strcuture supporting a two-levels aft tower for the aft fire control turret, a short mast to carry the hanging radio cables, the aft projector, aft AA quad mount, and “C”, “D” turrets in a superfiring pair.
The Somers class were the first US destroyer to use 600 psi (4,100 kPa) steam superheated boilers, with a temperature ported to 850 °F (454 °C), standard for US warships built in the late 1930s. They were shared notably by the rebuilt Battleships if the New Mexico class.
The ships had two shafts, driven by General Electric geared steam turbines, with cmbined low pressure, high pressure (LP, HP) sections.
They were fed by four Babcock & Wilcox boilers. This ensemble produced an output of 52,000 shaft horsepower (39,000 kW) as designed, and up to 53,271 shaft horsepower (39,724 kW) on trials (50,000 shp (37,000 kW) for the Porters and 37 knots).
This in turn allowed a speed as designed of 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph) but they reached 38.6 kn (71.5 km/h; 44.4 mph) on trials.
The propellers were likely a repeat of the Porter’s, bronze type, true screw, with solid (cast) manganese bronze made by New York shipbuilding (three bladed), diameter 11 feet and with variable pitch on 15 inches diameter shafts.
Range was comparable to the Porters, but greater, at 7,020 nmi (13,000 km; 8,080 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph) cruise speed, versus 6,380 nm.
The same armament -except the torpedo tubes- was repeated. the goal was still to outmatch a special type destroyer in a gunnery duel. For this, they carrier a “cruiser-like” four twin turret arrangement. These were special mounts, only enabling a limited elevation and made for surface engagements only, but the same 5-in/38 guns shared by the USN.
Main: 4x 5-in/38 Mark 12, Mounts Mark 22
Mark 12/Mk 22 Mount turrets fully enclosed turrets – sketch from OP-1112, HNSA
The Mark 22 turret was unique to the Porter-Somers classes leaders. The four Mark 22 single purpose twin enclosed mounts were adopted to save weight with a simple gun cradle and compact turret compared to the Dual Purpose ones.
The Mark 22 was manufactured to 52 units, enough for 13 destroyer leaders of both class, provided with a first batch of 104 barrel plus spares.
They weighted 75,250 lbs. (34,133 tons) apiece, elevated -10 to +35° at 11.6°/sec. with a traverse of 290-330° (at 14.7°/sec.) depending on their position with upper mounts having the clearest arc. For this, they used a 15 hp training motor and 5 hp elevating motor. Guns were separated by 72 inches (183 cm) versus 84 inches (213 cm) to lower shell interference.
Shells were AAC Mark 34 Mod 10 (55.18 lbs./25 kg), 20.75 in (52.7 cm) long and carrying a 7.25 lbs. (3.3 kg) Explosive D or Composition A charge. The complete round had a Brass cartridge 127 x 679 mm, 12.31 lbs. (5.58 kg). 300 rounds were carried for each gun, 2,400 per ship. More on the 5-in/38 Specs: 5-in/38 Mark 12/22:
Max ROF ?
Muzzle velocity 2,600 fps (792 mps)
Effective range 16,739 yards (15,298 m) at 35°
Approx. barrel life 4,600 rounds
Maximum firing range 45° 4,389 m (4,800 yd)
Penetration 5-in (127 mm) at 4,000 yards (3,660 m)
Torpedoes: 3×4 21-in Mark 15
The ships carried when completed the Mark 15 torpedo with a practical broadside of twelve torpedoes depending on the ship’s angle (safe angle) to fire. In addition, the admiralty developed the “curved ahead fire” concept using post-launch gyro angle to enable all torpedoes to curve around and reach the same target. So with some tweaking, two or even four banks could have been mounted side by side as for the Bagley/Gridleys. It was not done for obvious stability reasons, but with more displacement there was a potential for a 24 torpedo “broadside” by leaving a single axial bank. Nevertheless, this was the largest axial torpedo tubes banks configuration of any US destroyer.
Specs, Mark 15: Weight: 3,438 lbs. (1,55 kg) for 288 inches (7.3 meters) Range: 6,000 yds/45 knots (5,500m/83 km/h) or 15,000 yds/26.5 knots (13,500 m/49 km/h) Warhead: TNT Mod.3 HBX 494 lbs. (224 kg), Detonator Mk 6 Mod 13 with contact exploder Engine: Wet-heater combustion/steam turbine, compressed air tank/Methanol Guidance system: Gyroscope with settings (for the curve ahead fire)
Anti-aircraft (AA) protection comprised two quadruple 1.1-inch “heavy machine guns” mounts, called the “chicago piano”, and two .50-caliber Browning heavy machine guns. The 1.1-inch mounts were jusged inadequate in 1941 and it was planned to replace them asap, as well as removing the Brownings and adding 20 mm oerlikon guns (see later, armament upgrades). More on these.
The Somers’ anti-submarine warfare suite was classic, with two seven-charges racks at the stern (14 in all). Later four “K-gun” depth charge throwers were added on either side (see later).
This ASW weaponry was completed by the QCA sonar:, early type, spherical and underwater, under the hull. This was Manufactured by CMB. 24 cycles frequenty, M/S spherical projector, 400 Watts, electric hoist and train.
Fire Control and sensors
Mark 35 SP Fire Control Director
Unique to the Porter and Somers, two Mark 35 Fire Directors were carried, “cruiser type” systems made only for surface engagements. They were installed on top of the pilot house and after deckhouse. Heavy fire control for destroyers, they were larger and suited for more range than the ubiquitous Mark 33 director. Wartime reconstruction saw the removal of these to save weight, and replace them with lighter and more versatile Mark 37 or 38 fire control systems.
Only installed in 1942-43, they received a set of three radars. One was fitted on top of the pole mast, another was used for rangefinding on top of the forward Fire Control Tower, plus an antenna aft. There were the follwing standards:
SC Radar: 220 KW Air/Surface Search, VHF band 60 Hz Bwt 10–25° Pwdt 4–5 μs Range 48–120 km (30–75 mi) @90–180 m (98–197 yd) (Top mast)
SG Radar: 50 KW Surface Searc. Frq 3 GHz PRF 775/800/825, Bmwdt 5.6°/15°, Pwdt 1.3–2 μs RPM 4/8/12, Range 15 nmi @200 yd
Mk 3 radar: Beam width 9°, antenna with sum dipoles length 4 wave lengths. Medium Wave Fire Control for Main Battery. Compatible with the Mark 35 director.
Mk 12.22 radar: Installed on USS Selfridge in replacement for the Mark.3. Medium Wave Fire Control for Dual Purpose Batteries, goes with the Mark 37 FC Director.
By 1942, all ships had both 1.1-in/75 mounts removed as the Brownings, as well as the axial quad 21-in TT to regain stability, and instead two twin 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 Bofors added as well as five single 20mm/70 Oerlikon Mk 4, and six DCT Throwers, three per side abaft the pilot house aft (62 DC at all).
Until 1943 they also received a SC, SG, and Mk 3 radars.
By 1943 USS Warrington, Sampson and Davis and Somers by the autumn of 1944 were modified, and one 5-in/38 turret removed, but an extra twin 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 added in place, and an extra 20mm/70 AA gun. In the spring, USS Jouett had the same modification.
The case of USS Davis
Later in 1944 USS Davis was completely rebuilt with new superstructures and weight savings. All three remaining turrets were removed. Six single 20mm/70 were removed and two 2 DCT (50 DC at all) and the now obsolete Mk 3 radar.
In place, she gains a new, lower and sleeker silhouette, and two twin 127/38 Mk 12 DP turret, fore and aft, and a third single (Fletcher type) 127mm/38 Mk 12 DP turrets. AA armament was now two quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 placed lower, tw twin 20mm/70 Mk 4 and a new Mk 12.22 radar.
In the of summer 1945, USS Jouett underwent the same transformation, making them completely different ships but better adpated to their screeing tasks at time of Kamikaze attacks. But in case it was too late. The reconstruction of four of the Porte-Somers class (With Selfridge as a prototype, and Phelps) was the most extensive ever done for any USN ww2 destroyer, and considered relatively successful. One goal was to cure their stability problem, the other to made them more relevant with the evolving context of Pacific operations, notably as better AA platforms to screen fast carriers.
USS Somers in Ocean Grey, 1938 USS Warrington in Measure 16 camouflage, April 1943, USS David in measure 32, May 1945
⚙ Somers class specifications
1,840 tons standard, 2,767 tons full load
381 ft x 36 ft 2 in x 10 ft 4 in (116 x 11.02 x 3.15 m)
Most that was said for the Porters is still valid here. These ships were designed for duelling with IJN destroyers, but like ships too specialized, based on paper ideas, they fare less well in the reality of wartime. Gibbs & Cox put some effort in their machinery which saw improvements, and efforts were made to lighten them up, but this was contradicted by the choice of the admiralty to shohorn an extra TT banks, added to an already artillery-heavy ship, the largest torpedo broadside seen anywhere at the time. The result was still overbloated ships that were dangerously unstable.
Fortunately none was sunk due to natural causes and with time, captains put great care to calculate fuel load and avoid mishaps that happened to two Farragut class ships in a typhoon by late 1944.
Like their prececessors, as the reality of combat negated their initial role (they never duelled with IJN destroyers in practice), the admiralty waited for the opportunity of battle damage and long overhauls to transform two of the five ships like the Porter’s Selfridge was, combining five DP guns (their hull was too flimsy for three twin mounts) and resolving for good their stability issues. They were still not as valuable as Gearing/Sumner class ships, but at least more than in their initial prewar form. The concept of flotilla leader died in its classic form with WW2. It was “resurrected” however in the 1950s.
Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-26202-0.
Friedman, Norman, US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (Revised Edition), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis:2004, ISBN 1-55750-442-3.
Gardiner, Robert and Chesneau, Roger, Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946, Conway Maritime Press, London:1980. ISBN 0-83170-303-2.
Silverstone, Paul H. (1965). U.S. Warships of World War II. London: Ian Allan Ltd.
This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
USS Somers was built at Federal, Kearny (New Jersey), commissioned at the New York NyD on 1 December 1937. After sea trials and working out, shakedown cruiser, she was tasked to carry a consignment of gold from the Bank of England to New York. On 6 November 1941 with USS Omaha while patrolling the Atlantic (netrality patrols) she captured the German freighter Odenwald carrying 3800 tons of scarce rubber and disguised as the US merchantman Willmoto.
In November 1942, USS Somers, wtill with USS Milwaukee (CL-5) and USS Cincinnati (CL-6) intercepted the German blockade runner Anneliese Essberger, near Brazil.
In January 1943, USS Somers and Memphis (CL-13) were sent to Bathurst, Gambia (West Africa) as an escort for the Casablanca Conference. Next, she was relocated to the now Free French base of Dakar, Senegal, escorting Richelieu and Montcalm to the United States for an overhaul. By March 1943, she was based in Trinidad, patrolling off the Brazilian coast.
On 1st January 1944 she intercepted the German blockade runner Westerland. In May 1944, she escorted a convoy to Britain to prepare for D-Day. She also took part in the invasion of Normandy, stil as escort.
By August 1944 she took part in Operation Anvil Dragoon, the Southern France invasion. She rpovided naval gunfire and close support as well as ASW patrols when it was over. On 15 August 1944, already she spotted and sank the German corvette UJ6081 and sloop SG21 at the Battle of Port Cros. Her gunnery support lasted for two days near Toulon and she also duelled with German shore batteries east of Marseilles, taking some damage in return.
In September 1944, USS Somers stayed in the Mediterranean Sea, patrolling and stopping in Ajaccio, and Oran. She departed from there on 28 September for New York, to be overhauled at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, until 8 November. After a refresher training at Casco Bay she joined another convoy to Britain on 23 November, making four transatlantic escort missions until back to New York on 12 May 1945, and spent the remainder of the war training off the eastern seaboard. By July 1945 she made a summer cruise to the Caribbean with midshipmen.
On 4 August 1945 she returned in Charleston for a short overhaul, until 11 September. After that she reported to the 6th Naval District for decommissioning, which was done at Charleston on 28 October 1945. She was sold to Boston Metals of Baltimore on 16 May 1947, stricken in January.
USS Warrington (DD383)
USS Warrington prewar.
Named after Lewis Warrington, and officer made famous during the raid on the Barbary coast in 1812, she was built at Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, launched 15 May 1937 and commissioned on 9 February 1938. After sea trials, she did her shakedown cruise to the West Indies bt April–May 1938, and was in New York City for post-shakedown availability, tactical training off Cape Cod, maneuvers with SubDiv 4 off New London. and by October a refresher training off Cuba.
On 4 December, she was based in Rhode Island at the head of DesDiv 17, DesRon 9, training with USS Enterprise and Yorktown for Fleet Problem XX.
USS Warrington underway in Las Perlas Archipelago, Panama 23 April 1943
February 1939, saw her at Key West, escorting the cruiser carrying Pdt. Franklin D. Roosevelt and CNO Admiral William D. Leahy assiting to the 1939 annual Fleet exercise. She ended at Charleston by 3 March. By 9 June at Fort Hancock (New Jersey) she embarked King George VI and Queen Elizabeth for passage to Manhattan. At Norfolk on 26 June she crossed the Panama Canal for San Diego and later took part in Fleet Problem XXI off Hawaii. She remained in Pearl Harbor and trained along the east coast until April 1941 for Fleet exercises, being in Pearl by December 1940.
From 18 April 1941 she took part in the Atlantic “Neutrality Patrol” with the cruisers Cincinnati, Memphis, and her sister USS Davis, on the eastern Caribbean and western Atlantic, cut by escort missions, like escorting SS Acadia from Recife in Brazil to Puerto Rico. She returned to San Juan on 3 November, stopped in Norfolk and entered Charleston for an overhaul.
USS Warrington off Panama 23 April 1943
After the attack on Pearl Harbor she resimed patrols along the Atlantic coast, from Norfolk to Newport. She later escorted HMS Duke of York into Norfolk. By January 1942 she ws transferred to the southern sector, from Balboa, Panama Canal and retransferred to the Southeast Pacific Force.
She patrolled there for next 16 months, escorting merchant/supply/troopships between Panama and the Society Islands, and patrolled the southeastern Pacific shores down to Callao in Peru. She also ocasionally served as target and training ship for submarines or Army patrol bombers. By December 1942, she escorted USS South Dakota heavily damaged after the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal into Balboa and to New York. By 23 May she escorted her last convoy to the Society Islands, stopping at Bora Bora on 4 June for new orders.
She was redeployed closer to action in the southwestern Pacific, from Nouméa in New Caledonia and rededployed to Australia, Samoa, Hawaii, Guadalcanal, and the New Hebrides for various convoy missions. She notably escorted the Bougainville invasion force, which gave her AA gunners the occasion to fire on IJN air raids, claiming sole credit for downing the first plane and assisted for the second. She made runs between Guadalcanal and Espiritu Santo and in March was part of the ASW screen for an escort carrier task group supporting TF 37 striking at Kavieng. She escorted ships to Emirau Island, to the New Hebrides, and by April joined TF 37 at Efate and to Sydney, the back to Efate, Havannah Harbor in May to team with USS Balch to New Guinea, Milne Bay, Capes Sudest and Cretin. She escorted LSTs there into Humboldt Bay and on the 25th, made a shore bombardment mission at Wakde Island for the 6th Army.
USS Warrington underway 9 August 1944
After a stop at Hollandia she escorted other LSTs to Biak Island, also assigned to a shore fire control group. She returned with TG 77.8 at Humboldt Bay and returned in June in Biak for support. She was also seen in Manus, Admiralties, Espiritu Santo and returned to the United States with Balch via via Bora Bora and Panama Canal, to New York for an overhaul concluded in August, a refresher cruise off Maine, more modifications at Norfolk Navy Yard. While underway off the Florida coast she was signalled an inpending hurricane, but rode relatively well through, but it worsened and she was flooded on 13 September, cutting her electrical power, main engines, steering engine while trying to reach Hyades. She launched a distress call but by noon orders were given to abandon ship. At around 12:50, her crew evacuated, she was completely flooded and sank. The crew was searched by USS Hyades, Frost, Huse, Inch, Snowden, Swasey, Woodson, Johnnie Hutchins, ATR-9 and ATR-62 which rescued only 5 officers and 68 men. She was stricken on 23 September 1944.
USS Sampson (DD384)
Built at Bath Iron Works, USS Sampson, 2nd of the name, was launched 16 April 1938 and Commissioned on 19 August. After sea trials and a shakedown cruiser in European waters (October-November) she headed to Boston, assigned to the Battle Force and taking part from March 1939 to combined fleet maneuvers off Cuba-Puerto Rico. By 20 April she was redircted to the west coast, San Diego, on 12 May, followed by fleet tactics, combined battle practice off the Hawaiian Islands until 20 June 1940. By December she carried a government mission compiling an economic survey of the British West Indies.
Part of the Neutrality Patrol on the eastern seaboard from the Carribean to Newfoundland, by 3 September 1941 she was off Boston, ASW patrolling on the shipping lanes and went to Hvalfjordur in Iceland, back to Boston on 4 November and escorting convoy HX 153 (7-13 Oct) and ON 28 until 3 Nov 1941. By December, she was patrolling with USS Warrington off Newport in Rhode Island, from December 1941 to 12 January 1942 until reaching Panama and transiting to the Southeast Pacific Forces. They tried to located the sunken USS S-26 lost on 24 January after a surface collision off Panama Bay.
She escorted twelve troopships in February and arrived in Bora Bora, joined USS Trenton back to Panama, Balboa in March. She made a serie of coastal patrols from Balboa to South America, down to Callao, Peru and between the Society and Galapagos Islands. This ended on 7 May 1943, and she was sent to New Caledonia by June, escorting troopships in June-July. From Pago Pago in Samoa, she joined her sister USS Warrington back to Pearl Harbor. On 27 July both escort four Army troopships for Australia, Sydney, and proceeded later to New Caledonia and edscorting ships from there to Espiritu Santo but also Guadalcanal, Purvis Bay, Florida and the Solomon Islands. On 2-3 October she located and fired on an IJN submarine, which submerged, depth charges her, but no kill.
Sampson underway in the Gulf or Panama, 14 March 1943
By March 1944 USS Sampson escorted USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62) and Manila Bay (CVE-61) for a raid on Kavieng in New Ireland on 20 March also covering the 4th Marine Regiment. Later she escorted a convoy at Port Purvis, Florida Island to the Solomons and to Espiritu Santo. She escorted in April troopships to Borgen Bay in New Britain and was in Milne Bay on 11 May. Joining the 7th Fleet in New Guinea by 20 May she became flagship, Rear Admiral W. M. Fechteler of TF 77. She was in late May visited by Major General Horace H. Fuller, 41st US Army Division with his staff to confer with Fechteler for an amphibious assault on Biak Island, Schouten Islands. After the naval bombardment in which she took part, the first wave landed. On the 27th they were attacked by four twin-engined Japanese aircraft, all destroyed, but the 4th attempted to crash into Sampson, passed just over her bridge before hitting the water, but sliding into SC-699, badly damaging her. Sampson later moved to Humboldt Bay.
She later returned in the Canal Zone, returned with the Atlantic Fleet on 25 June, escorted the troopship General Tasker H. Bliss to New York and on 4 July started an overhaul. She became flagship of Capt. H. T. Read from TF 63 in Hampton Roads and started new transatlantic convoy-escort duties, notably escorting Convoy UGS-49 to Bizerte in Tunisia, 13 August and back to NYC. From September 1944 and into May 1945, she multiploed these escorts. She was in Boston on 19 May until 1 July, moved to Annapolis, Maryland to carry midshipmen for a training cruise and battle practice off Cuba and the Virginia Capes, until 30 July. From Norfolk on 19 August she trained off Guantanamo Bay before being inactivated in Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 16 September, decommissioned on 1 November 1945, struck on 28 November and sold for BU on 29 March 1946. She earned a single battle star for her service.
USS Davis (DD 385)
Built at Bath Iron Works, USS Davis (after Charles Henry Davis, civil war admiral), she was laid down on 28 July 1936, launched on 30 July 1938 and Commissioned on 9 November 1938. After sea trials, shakedown cruise in the Carribean, fleet training and drills, she was assigned to Neutrality Patrols in the North Atlantic from September 1939. On 13 November, she sailed from Boston to Galveston and from there patrolled in the Gulf of Mexico, alternated with training exercises. She transited on the west coast from 11 March 1940 to 26 April 1941 and back to the Caribbean until december 1941.
USS Davis escorted ships and patrolled along the east south american coast, notably from Recife, Brazil. On 19 July 1942 she rescued 10 men from the torpedoed British sailing ship Glacier. On 19 December 1943 she went on from Recife. She captured the German blockade runner Burgenland on 7 January 1944. Next, she was sent in New York on 15 April 1944 for a refit, while escorting USS Franklin (CV-13).
USS Davis, DD-395, underway in 1945
She sailed for Britain on 14 May as a convoy escort, arriving at Plymouth on the 25th. On 5 June she was underway from Milford Haven in Wales with a convoy in preparation to the invasion of Normandy. She arrived on 7 June and during a patrol, duelled with a German E-boat. She made trips from Devonport to the Baie de Seine, Normandy un June and on the 21th she hit a mine, having her whole port quarter badly damaged. She survived. She made emergency repairs and sailed to the Isle of Portland, for further repairs and afterwars to Charleston in South Carolina on 11 August for permanent repairs, which were double bt a full reconstruction as seen above, along the lines of the rebuilt ships of the Ported class, Selfridge and Phelps.
She was back to her last convoy escort missions by 26 December 1944, until 21 June 1945, making foursuch trips between New York and Britain.
After her last one, she was sent to Norfolk, Virginia on 10 July, awaiting her fate. She was decommissioned on 19 October 1945 and was sold for BU on 24 November 1947.
USS Jouett (DD389)
USS Jouett (after Rear Admiral James Edward Jouett (1826–1902) “Fighting Jim Jouett of the American Navy” of the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War) was built at Bath Iron Works in Maine, laid down on 26 March 1936, launched 24 September 1938 and commissioned on 25 January 1939.
After sea trials, shakedown and training where she sailed to England and Ireland and back to Norfolk on 29 April 1939, USS Jouett started Neutrality Patrols along the East and the Gulf of Mexico. On Pensacola Bay by 15 February 1940 she escorted USS Tuscaloosa with President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard on a cruise to the Gulf of Panama and back to Pensacola by 1st March 1940. She went back to the Panama Canal, crossed and reported for dury in Pearl Harbor on 10 April 1940.
During the whole of 1941 and until the attack she trained extensively as aircraft carrier screen ship, perfecting tactics. By 18 April she escorted USS Yorktown through Cuba and then Spain, Trinidad, on 19 May. Next she joined a composite force under Rear Admiral Jonas H. Ingram guarding against German surface or submarine attacks on the Atlantic. Jouett was at Port of Spain when the attack on Pearl Harbor started, and was undergoing ASW patrols between Brazil and Africa. She carried Army engineers to Ascension Island on 30 March 1942 to built an airfield. She escorted oil tankers from Trinidad, havinbg U-Boat spots and attacks along the way. By December 1942 she was in Charleston for an overhaul. By 21 January 1943 she was back escorting ship to and from Natal, Brazil.
There she hostedd President Getúlio Vargas on 27 January 1943 for a conference on board USS Humboldt, with President Roosevelt, which brought closer naval cooperation. Jouette resumed escort duties in February and by 14 May looked for U-128 signalled off Bahia, Brazil. Eventually the chased under with the sub, under constant air attack, surfaced and sunk by gunfire from USS Jouett and Moffett. Still with Admiral Ingram’s 4th Fleet she served for the remainder of 1943.
By January 1944 she patrolled with USS Omaha, intercepting the German blockade runner SS Rio Grande with crude rubber aboard. On 5 January patrol planes reported “floridian”, and unknown ship later identified as the blockade runner Burgenlund. Both US ships caught her by radar, vectoring aerial attacks and they closed in, ad while the crew placed Scuttling charges she was sunk by gunfire after 17:30.
USS Jouett was back in Charleston by March 1944 for training operations in Casco Bay (Maine) and an escort mission to England by May 1944. She was assigned newt to the Reserve Fire Support Group prepared for Operation Overlord. She arrived arrived off Omaha Beach on 8 June, escorting steamers and suppored troops ashore, repelling an air attack and by 21 June screened British heavy cruisers for a shore bombardment, providing ASW screen for the Omaha Beach area. More convoy escort missions followed to and front the Firth of Clyde, until 12 July 1944. Next she moved to Algeria, Oran and was prepared to take part in Operation Anvil Dragoon in southern France. From Naples on 14 August she was in the Delta assault area next, acting as command ship for the Convoy Control Group until 3 September. After patrolling off Toulon by left by early October for Cap Ferrat supporting by gunfore American troops ashore, destroying mines off San Remo on 9 October, bridges, and covering minesweeping operations.
From Oran on 31 December she returned to Charleston for an overhaul. After a refresher training in Casco Bay by April, she escorted another convoy to England and Cuba and by 15 August 1945, she was ordered to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. She was decommissioned there on 1 November 1945, and scrapped in 1946. For her service she received 3 battle stars, making her the most decorated ship of the Somers class in WW2.
The Alaska class were the “great white elephants” of the US Navy in WW2. Their conception went back to the start of the war, when limiting treaties became obsolete, based on a rumored IJN “cruiser killer”. The US Navy studied a new standard of “large cruiser” by default of a better terms. Some even dubbed them “battlecruisers” but there is now a consensus they were just their own thing. The Japanese B64 projected super-cruisers were never completed, nor the German P-class in Z plan, leaving the three Alaska class pretty solitary worldwide and in US service, seeing little service in WW2 as well as postwar due to their enormous maintenance cost. #ww2 #usn #usnavy #pacificwar
USS Alaska, colorized by Hirootoko Jr.
Origins going back to “treaty cruisers”
It’s a long debate, but which had been still not fully settled to this day: How much the conventional treaty cruisers impacted new warfare concepts in the interwar, due to the ban on new battleships. We can trace back indeed the genesis of the Alaska class to post-Washington treaty dicussions in all admiralties round the world. By definining the caliber 8-inches for “heavy cruisers”, assorted with a displacement limited (and the 6-in caliber) for light cruisers, the treaty defined a new standard which -as some admiralties believed- could alleviate the lack of battleships for some operation outside the traditional frame of cruisers, inherited from frigates.
Thes new cruisers were based on a brand new standard initiated by the Royal Navy, which already looked a “cruiser killers”, the Hawkins class, first to have 7.5 in guns (which was rounded to 8-in later). They had been created to deal with German commerce raiders (those of Von Spee in particular) and be posted in far away overseas, but when completed they had no more purposed and were single-out for their oddity. Standard British cruisers were “light” in post-WWI definition, as any other cruiser in the world, with 6-in guns only.
USS Northampton, one of the early USN treaty heavy cruisers
Deprived of their precious battleships, the admiralties looked at these 10,000 tonnes new ships and wondered, how much 8-in guns we can cram into these ships ? Many believed that having eight or nine of them firing HE shells twice as fast as any battleship gun could just outperform -added to superior speed to choose the engagement timing- any capital ship. The threat of battlecruiser in 1922 was now a remote chance. They had been banned and only the British retained three of these. Thus, the heavy cruiser became the new thing for these early interwar navies, a new territory to explore. And indeed, the light cruiser standard was soon sidelined and all navies started to crank out heavy cruisers as if there was no tomorrow.
Soon, the trend was “more gun, more speed” at the detriment of the armour. The logic is speed and the capacity to outrange any adversary whatever his ships might be was a deciding factor.
For example, the Hawkins 7.5 in guns (191 mm) reached 14,200 yards (13,000 m). Not bad consideing battleship guns of the 12-in caliber BL 12-inch Mk VIII gun (obsolete by then) reached 10,000 yds effective. But sure, BL 15-inch Mark I were able to reach 33,000 yards.
The first US heavy cruisers however, the Pensacola class, tried to pack a punch for a small tonnage, below 8,000 tonnes if possible. Their ten 8-inch/55-caliber gun were an amazing attempt to do more cruisers on the allocated global tonnage, with more guns -ten- than anything afloat at the time. And these guns reached a target at 30,050 yards (27,480 m), so almost the same as any battleship.
Thus, some already expressed the fear that if an enemy navy used such cruisers, they had to answer in nature (same type) or find a ship providing a competitive advantage, a “cruiser killer”.
The Deutschland class “pocket battleships”
The game changer in 1929 was the launch in Germany of the Deutschland-class “pocket battleships”. They completely rewrote the rules. Based on 10,000 tonnes, they brought a kind of artillery that can surclass any heavy cruiser, while retaining a speed advantage over any capital ship of the time.
The U.S. Navy therefore sought to counter these, fearing that might start a new arms race (which happened with the French Dunkerque class) and made heavy cruisers already obsolete if this became a new trend. Planning for ships able to counter these in a more concrete way emerged in 1936 after the deployment of the Scharnhorst-class.
The new unseen Japanese threat
This was compounded in 1936 as Japan retired from all treaties, and became super-secretive about its naval plans. Rumors grew that Japan was building its own new large cruiser class, the B-64 class, precisely as “cruiser-killers” capable of seeking out and destroying post-treaty heavy cruisers and between limited armor protection (vs. 12-in shells only) to preserve a speed of 31–33 knots and their 12-in artilley. However, as shown in the WW2 IJN cruiser lineage, this fear was based on partly bogus intel.
The Japanese already in 1918 with Hiraga’s “Design X” were Large Cruisers which were caracterized by four single shielded 305mm/45 (12 in) Type 37 Cannons, never approved.
However in 1937 came the first serious incentive to get he new USN “large cruisers” design going. The so-called “Chichibu Kadekuru” hypothetical Large Cruiser class designed as “heavy armored cruisers” according to US documentation of the time, with four planned, rated as 12-15.000 tons, 30 knots, six 12-in guns (probably 2×3 or 3×2). In a memo they were suspected to be “Japanese Deutschlands”, cheating on treaties. However of course this class emerged from combined erroneous informations between interpretation of what the Japanese said after 1936, misinformation or simply False information fabricated to convince the congress to vote for new warships.
But this was enough to motivate wargames and extrapolations which only fed the cause of larger heavy cruisers. In a strange twist of fate, this program was soon learned by the Japane, which in answer imediately started a “real programm”, the B-65 class. A Japanese “fake” which turned real, forcing to upgrade the B64 had the Soviet Navy start to plan the Stalingrad class
Author’s reconstruction of the B64
The B64 “cruiser killer” had a moderately size artillery while displacing 32,000/34,800 tonnes based on 802ft 6in oa x 89ft 3in wide hull, 160,000 shp for 33 knots, with 7.5-in armour immune against heavy cruiser’s shells at a time the Japanese ignored the Alaska class completely. The most interesting aspect was their triple 12.2 in guns battery in three triple turrets. They were dubbed much later “midget Yamatos”. These were a real project, moderately documented, and aimed at US treaty cruisers and post-treaty cruisers (so after September 1939). The Baltimore class were of course considered.
Design of the B-64 started in 1939 whereas test were carried out with the new long rangee 12.2-in (310 mm) guns. The design was completed in 1941.
However when the USS Alaska construction was revealed, and specs confirmed, the armament was changed by the IJN admiralty to 14.2-in (360 mm) guns in a 3×2 configuration, and approved in 1942. Eventually by that time, the IJN had other prorities, and none was laid down. The upgraded B65 were not much longer “cruisers” only based on their speed and armour. They could be seen as a new version of the Deustchland concept, based on a greater wartime tonnage. In the end however, they were considered in most publications as capital ships, no longer “cruisers”, leaving the Alaska class program unmoved in any way (see later).
Start of the design
The initial impetus in 1931 with the Deutschland class did not was followed by any action, but the 1937 Japanese “super cruisers” of the B-64 class, alleged to be more powerful than the current US heavy cruisers. It’s in 1938 that the General Board asked the Bureau of Construction and Repair (BuC&R) to conduct a “comprehensive study of all types of naval vessels for consideration for a new and expanded building program”. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the time was still very much interested in naval matters, more than previous presidents, and may have taken a lead role in further developments.
He notably allegedly wanted to counter IJN raiding abilities, which could in turn would enable the USN to answer German pocket battleships, existing and planned, as advanced by some authors. These were only informal discussion and they were never recorded, thus impossible to verify. Some authors also speculated this was “politically motivated” and not strategically planned, even encountering some opposition from the Admiralty. Roosevelt after all also put his personal weight in the conversion of Cleveland class hulls into “fast light carriers“, something also opposed by the Navy, and in particular admiral Ernest King, and still won his case based on authority alone.
Design of the class
A tortuous design process
The Alaska class faced numerous changes and modifications along the way in its layout in 1939, fed by the intervention of departments and individuals along the way. This explained why the design was also delayed. Before September 1939, treaties went into the way of such ships: They fit nowhere and were already beyond tonnage limits in all categories.
At least nine different layouts were discussed between C&R (later BuShips) and BuOrd:
The latter went from a 6,000-ton Atlanta-class AA cruiser (not shown here) to a variety of “overgrown” heavy cruisers with triple turrets, or even a 38,000-ton “super baltimore”:
Scheme S511-06 Heavy Cruiser Study: Preliminary design plan dated 18 January 1940: Largest size cruiser (Baltimore like) based on a 38,700 tons standard displacement. The main battery shows no less than twelve (4×3) 12″/50 guns, with a secondary battery of 8×2 5-in/38 guns, for 212,000 hp and 33.5 knots, and a hull 850 x 99/104.5 x 31.5 feet plus good Anti-torpedo side protection (four internal bulkheads) as shown in the section. Judged too ambitious. The final decision was to not go beyond 25,000 tonnes.
Scheme S511-07 Heavy Cruiser Study: “Proposed Heavy Cruiser – CA2-A”, 19 January 1940. Large cruiser proposal, 25,600 tons standard. Main battery: 3×3 12-in/50 guns, 6×2 5-in/38 guns, 150,000 horsepower for 33.5 knots. Hull 800 x 90 x 26.8 feet and good ASW side protection with four internal bulkheads as shown here in the hull section drawing. It had a rounded stern, generous aft section beam as for battleships and two aft catapults, one crane. Still in profile, this looked like a beefed up Baltimore.
Scheme S511-14 Heavy Cruiser Study: “Heavy Cruiser Study – Scheme 2” dated 19 March 1940. The smallest proposal studied based on 15,750 tons standard displacement. 4×3 8″/55 guns, 6×2 5″/38 guns, 120,000 hp, 700 x 72 x 23.5 ft hull.
Scheme S511-15 Heavy Cruiser Study: “Heavy Cruiser Study – Scheme 3” dated 20 March 1940. Baltimore-like heavy cruiser, based on 17,300 tons standard but with 3×2 12″/50 guns (plus 6×2 5″/38) for 120,000 hp and a 710 x 74 x 24.5 ft hull.
Scheme S511-16 Heavy Cruiser Study: “Heavy Cruiser Study – Scheme 4-A – “Convertible” dated 10 April 1940: A glorified Baltimore, reaching 17,500 tons standard with twelve 8″/55 guns (4×3) but convertible to 3×2 12″/50 guns twin turret mounted in the 1st, 2nd and 4th barbettes. She would have been seconded by twelve 5″/38 (6×2) guns based on 120,000 hp for 33.1 knots.Dimensions 710 x 74.5 x 24.7 feet. Scheme 4B was 6x 12-in/50 guns based on 17,850 tons, 25 feet draft, 33 knots.
Scheme S511-17 Heavy Cruiser Study: “12-Inch Gun Cruiser Study, CA2F” with hull sections for Schemes. The closest to the final design. Note in particular the “cruiser style” superstructures and bridge in particular. Later she went to a battleship style tower-structure instead.
Preliminary design plan prepared for the General Board dated 19 June 1940 for a ship displacing 24,700 tons standard, 28,300 tons trials with her main battery, seven 12″/50 guns (2×2 and 1×3 aft), twelve 5″/38 guns (plus light AA) for 150,000 hp and 33 knots. This was a 750 eet by 84 and 29 feet in beam and draught. The plan was 1:32 scale. Like for all these profiles, this was part of “Spring Styles Book” at the U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
The final General Board adopted a consensus view. In an attempt to keep the displacement under 25,000 tons, the ships were to have a limited underwater protection making them easy preys for Japanese torpedoes and or even shells in a plunging trajectory, even large shell’s close hits.
The final design agreed on was a “scaled-up Baltimore” with the same machinery as the Essex-class aircraft carriers, meaning a greater beam, in order to retain 33 knots. The consensus also fell on nine 12-inch guns in three triple turrets and standard belt and deck protection against 10-inch gunfire.
The Alaskas passed the critical stage as being budgeted in September 1940. They were however part of a much larger order called the Two-Ocean Navy Act in the most significant USN extension of its history. However the Essex-class being ordered at the same time (in large numbers) meant that from their primary surface-to-surface role, carrier group protectoion was added in her primary roles, a capability favored by Admiral King, which as said before, did not liked the Alaska’s concept overall. It was a concession whuch did not hampered mich the ship’s overall capabilities. In that escort role, their large hull had as side effect far more stability, making them far more valuable base for AA upgrade and additions than heavy cruisers. At the same time, they were the “insurance card” against reported Japanese super cruisers in case. Some also saw these ships kept for escort a way to free up cruisers for their intended role of scouting and preying on enemy communications lines.
Hull and general design
Final design, as published in ONI
The final hull displaced 29,771 long tons (30,249 t) standard and 34,253 long tons (34,803 t) full load, so way more than the intended 25,000 tonnes standard. It was a compromise between the designs shown above. The hull seen from above, was less shaped like a battleship (pear style), narrow forward for very fine entries, and bulkier aft. It was not shaped as a larger Baltimore-class ship either, with a transom stern. Instead, it was a compromise between the two, with a bulkier aft section, fine entries but still narrow-waist and with a near-transom rounded stern.
Design of the after deck house, NARA
She had a flush-deck hull also, with a prow gradually raised to the point it towered twice as high compared to the stern, for good sea keeping. The final version even included a bulwark.
The hull was 791 ft 6 in (241.25 m) long at the waterline and 808 ft 6 in (246.43 m) overall for a beam of 91 ft 9.375 in (28.0 m) at the largest section aft, and a draft rabging from 27 ft 1 in (8.26 m) mean up to 31 ft 9.25 in (9.68 m) when fully loaded.
USS Missouri and Alaska in Norfolk 1944, helping to appreciate the different in hull shape.
Armour protection layout
The main armor scheme was a compromise from several early design studies. The base line was the full protection offered against any 8 inch shells at any range. She had her 12 inch guns to essentially out-range any of these cruisers.
–Armor Belt 9 inches thick, tapered down at the bottom to 5 inches (228.6-127mm) with an inclination downwards to 10°, and external. It covered more of the waterline than a conventional cruiser.
–Deck armor varied by three layers between 3.8 to 4 in (97–102 mm) instead of the 1-3 inches thick (16mm to 76mm) initially planned, the thickest being the bottom of the citadel under the waterline.
–Weather (main) deck: 1.4 in (36 mm)
–Splinter (third) deck: 0.625 in (15.9 mm)
–conning tower was armored with 10.6 inches sides (269 mm) walls, with a 5 inches (127mm) roof.
–Turrets: 12.8 in (330 mm) face, 5 in (130 mm) roof, 5.25–6 in (133–152 mm) side and 5.25 in (133 mm) rear.
–Barbettes: 11–13 in (280–330 mm)
This was the “poor child” of the design. Still, the underwater protection was designed to resist a 700 lb TNT torpedo warhead with variations of early designs showing a 500lb charge as minimum to narrow the waist and reduce weight, unknowingly of the Type-93 “Long Lance” Torpedo (which boasted a 480 kg (1,100lb) warhead…
The torpedo itself was found and examined in 1943 and of the Alaska’s underwater defense was better than any due to better longitudinal stiffening due to a longer main armor it was well below Battleship standards of the time. Still, she was provided a double bottom instead of the planned triple bottom.
However the double bottom design was reinforced by the ammunition magazines to make for a stronger double bottom design, and without increased weight or strength compared to a triple bottom design, a clever compromise.
Alaska’s auxiliary diesels
The Alaska combined four propeller shafts driven by General Electric steam turbines each, double stage and with double-reduction gearing, fed in turn by eight Babcock & Wilcox boilers.
The Alaska Class used very high pressure (up to 634 psi) boilers, had for the first time reliable double-reduction gears for her steam turbines helping improving efficiency, reducing total weight for the same targeted speed. By 1936, the boiler standard was 600 psi at 850° F and a large pressure enabled speeding up the turbines more for a total output of 180,000 horsepower versus 150,000 horsepower for a lower pressure machinery of the same size and weight.
There was a catch however, as these extreme pressured had not been tested throughly yet so these figures were something to kept relatively expecptional, or not abuse for it to cause any damage for an extended length of time. Thanks to this output, a top speed of 31 kts could be obtained for long periods, helped in part by a favourable hull ratio of 8.8. (The average cruiser was 10, the average battleship 6). This final powerplant enabled an normal top speed of 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph).
But when overloading the turbines, the ship was even able to maintain runs of 35 kts for a short run. Still, some in the Navy complained that she could have been equipped with the same machinery as a battleship, and retired from it an even greater output (such as 200,000 horsepower) and a speed estimated to 36-37 knots as a result, on par with a Scharnhorst or the estimated speed of a B-64/65.
USS Alaska in a tight turn, 1944. The class was not very agile, having a very large turning cicle and bleeding speed fast.
This would havd allowed an Alaska to prey on cruisers as intended, and chase down nearly any other ship while enabling to flee even the latest generation of fast battleships. However at the time her machinery was first designed, she was to be used against ships believed to be slower than her, so the additional machinery weight and additional cost was not considered justified, especially if that was going to need any more sacrifice in protection, already compromised.
Main: Three triple 12-in/50 guns
USS Guam in a firing exercize
As built, the Alaska class had nine 12-inches/50 caliber Mark 8 guns.
They were mounted in three triple turrets, two turrets forward and one aft. The “2-A-1” configuration was classic, used by US heavy cruisers as well as modern battleships.
The latest 12-in guns manufactured for the U.S. Navy of the Mark 7 were intended for the Wyoming-class (1912) and gun technology went quite a long way since.
The Mark 8 was still based on the Mark 7, but of far better quality and refinement as well as with a longer caliber. As stated by the ordnance, it was “by far the most powerful weapon of its caliber ever placed in service”. Design process started in 1939. The final ordnance piece weighted 121,856 pounds (55,273 kg), barrel and breech. It was tested and shown able to sustain 2.4 to 3 rounds a minute on average, versus one on the Mark 7.
Its tailored shells weighted 1,140-pound (520 kg) each. The Mark 18 armor-piercing (AP) was able to cross 38,573 yards (35,271 m) range when fired from an elevation of 45° (which was far better than the Wyoming’s Mark 7). Each of these had a calculated 344-shot barrel life, more than the 16″/50 Mark 7 of the Iowa class. This made the Alaska indeed, the best armed cruisers of World War II, estimated equal or superior to the venerable battleship standard 14″/45, thus they would have been also a nightmare for any IJN capital ship in case.
The turrets simply retook the Iowa-class design, but smaller of course and adapted in several ways:
-Two-stage powder hoist (1-stage on Iowa), making them safer and faster.
-Projectile rammer transferring shells from storage to the “barillet” feeding the guns. (Later this proved unsatisfactory, and not installed onr Hawaii)
Only ten turrets were manufacture, with one spare at $1,550,000 apiece. They ended as the most expensive gun/turret combo ever purchased.
USS Alaska’s secondary battery in fire drill
The secondary battery of the Alaska class comprised twelve dual-purpose (anti-air and anti-ship) 5-in/38 (six twin mounts, four on the superstructure sides, two centerline fore and aft as in all designs but the first). This ensured better arc of fire overall, although some argued that she could have crammed three per side with some design revision. Given the performances of these, this was still good enough completed by an extensive AA, more than any other cuiser in US inventory. Full history and specs.
Famous photos of the time showing the crew of a 40 mm/56 battery in drills.
The light anti-aircraft armament as planned was fifty-six (56) barrels of 40 mm Bofors guns, spread on the decks through fourteen quad mounts. Full specs
For close-in air defence (the smaller bubble), thirty four (34) 20 mm single barrels Oerlikon guns were provided, placed in various positions across the decks. As a reminder, a Baltimore boasted 48×40 mm and 24×20 mm and 60×40 mm/36×20 mm on a North Carolina in 1945. Full specs of the 20mm Oerlikon
Curtiss SC Seahawk being recovered by USS Alaska after climbing on the landing mat, awaiting pickup by the ship’s crane. This model was piloted by Lieutenant Jess R. Faulconer, Jr., USNR. 6 March 1945 (cc)
As planned for completion in 1943, the first two would have been equipped with four Vought OS2U Kingfisher, and the third by the more modern Curtiss SC Seahawk. However photos shows generally the latter. Nothing was planned for USS Hawaii.
Curtiss SC from USS Alaska, March 1945 (from the photo above), author’s profile
Close view of the catapults, USS Alaska
MS32/7C design scheme for USS Alaska.
USS Alaska in Measure 32, design 7c
USS Alaska in Measure 22, 1945
USS Guam as completed in measured 32/7c. All: From shipbucket, author Ian B. Roberts, wikimedia under CC licence.
Construction & Fate
Launch of USS Alaska
The Alaska class was to have six ships laid down originally. But when it became apparent that the concepts behind appeared already obsolete, the next three scheduled to be laid down by June 1943 were canceled. The two completed in wartime, USS Guam and Alaska, were launched in 1943, and USS Hawaii in March 1945, and where the first two were completed in June and September 1944, the last wasnot. One reason fpor the delays before and during construction was a sudden and dramatic shortage of steel. Already anticipated for smaller ships, misc. vessels started to be built in wood, and like in WWI, concrete made its return for many projects (or vital ships for the USN morale like the ice cream barge). USS Alaska was ordered as CB-1, at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, on 9 September 1940. She was laid down on 17 December 1941, launched 15 August 1943 and completed on 17 June 1944, so almost four years. She was place in reserve as soon as 17 February 1947 and mothballed until sold for BU at Newark in 1961. USS Guam (CB-2), named after the island and territory, soon to be under Japanese occupation, was laid down on 2 February 1942, launched on 12 November 1943 and completed on 17 September 1944. She had the same fate as her sister and ended BU at Baltimore in 1961.
USS Hawaii (CB-3) was delayed and laid down on 20 December 1943, CBC-1 on 3 November 1945 when launched, mothballed without completion but many projects. Eventually discarded and sold for BU at Baltimore, 1960. USS Philippines (Commonwealth of the Philippines) as CB-4 was to be laid down when cancelled by June 1943. USS Puerto Rico as CB-5 went through the same fate. USS Samoa (American Samoa) as CB-6 suffered the same fate.
They proved in operation that they were a difficult concept to deal with, leacking their intended adversary, reduced to fire support duties and AA escort (something any other ship can do) while being very expensive in maintenance, crew, and in the 1950s eventually outclassed by missiles. These dinosaurs had no place in the fleet and they were placed in reserve in 1947 already.
About their “recycling”
In 1958, the Bureau of Ships prepared two feasibility studies for a guided-missile cruisers conversion one, with removalof all armament and fitting of four different missile systems, jusged way too costly at $160 million, followed a halving this conversion, to the aft part, at $82 million, still overpriced in a context of budget cutting. They were sold for scrap after being stricken in 1960, but the near complete USS Hawaii was also considered for a conversion very early. She would have been in fact the first USN guided-missile cruiser, and this would have lasted until 26 February 1952 before being cancelled. He conversion to a “large command ship” followed (CBC-1) like Northampton, but on 9 October 1954 she was back at CB-3 and eventually stricken on 9 June 1958 sold for BU one year before her sisters (more detail later). It should be mentioned that the admiralty as early as 1942 explored the possibility of converting the ships while very early in construction, into aircraft carriers. The sad fate of these ships, seeing only a couple years of active service, is to be placed at the same level of the many massive spending for little results in the end for the taxpayer’s money. Like Howard Hugues’s “spruce goose” which was to replace liberty ships, or the dramatically mediocre and complete industrial disaster that was Brewster.
USS Alaska in july 1944
⚙ Alaska specifications as built
29,780 t. standard -34 253 t. Full Load
(246.43 x 27.76 x 9.70 m)
4 shafts GE turbines, 8 Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 150,000 hp
33 knots ()
3×3 12-in, 3×2 5-in/38 DP, 14×4 40mm, 34x 20 mm AA, see notes
Belt 220, turrets 315, bridges 80-100, blockhouse 270 mm
USS Alaska (CB-1)
USS Alaska off Philly NyD, 30 July 1944
USS Alaska being completed by June 1944, commissioned on 17 June under command of Captain Peter K. Fischler steamed down to Hampton Roads escorted by destroyers USS Simpson and Broome to be deployed for her shakedown cruise in the Chesapeake Bay and Caribbean, notably off Trinidad, escorted by USS Bainbridge and Decatur. She returned to Philadelphia Navy Yard for post-shakedown fixes and alterationsn receivig notably four Mk 57 fire control directors for her secondary battery. On 12 November 1944 she left Philadelphia with USS Thomas E. Fraser for two weeks of extra trials off Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, and left on 2 December, for the Pacific via the Panama Canal, arriving in San Diego on the 12th. Gun crews started a training in shore bombardment and AA screening accoridng to her future tasks.
On 8 January 1945, USS Alaska left California for Pearl Harbor (13 January), participating in more training, assigned to Task Group 12.2 bound for Ulithi, on 29 January, arriving on 6 February and merged into Task Group 58.5 (TF 58 – Fast Carrier Task Force). TG 58.5 was assigned to the screen, and USS Alaska in particular was assigned to the veteran carriers USS Enterprise and Saratoga. They head for Japan on 10 February for air strikes against Tokyo and its area, in impunity, and USS Alaska was transferred to TG 58.4, supporting the assault on Iwo Jima. She screened the carriers for 19 days and was back to Ulithi fore resupply and rest.
USS Alaska in the Atlantic, 1944
USS Alaska was back with TG 58.4 for the campaign of Okinawa, assigned to screening USS Yorktown and Intrepid leaving Ulithi on 14 March bound for an area southeast of Kyushu for the first air strikes with USS Alaska having her first battle: The Japanese launched a massive Kamikaze attack and her anti-aircraft gunners claimed a Yokosuka P1Y bomber trying to hit USS Intrepid. It’s her radars that launched the alert of another impending attack and ten minutes later, her gunners spotted and shot at by error a lone Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter, the pilot was uninjured. Later she downed a Yokosuka D4Y “Judy”.
When USS Franklin was badly damaged by bomb hits and a kamikaze, USS Alaska and USS Guam, now in the same unit, as well as two other cruisers and destroyers were detached, forming 58.2.9 in order to escort the crippled Franklin to Ulithi. They were attacked and USS Alaska claimed another D4Y. It happened that gunfire from one of her 5-inch guns accidentally caused flash burns on several men nearby which became her only casualties of war. She became fighter director due to her better air search radar, vectoring fighters in interception along the way, and downed a Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu. On 22 March at last TG 58.2.9 arrived in Ulithi, Alaska departing immediately to return to TG 58.4.
She went on screening aircraft carriers off Okinawa but on 27 March, was detached for the bombardment of Minamidaitō, soon joined by Guam and two light cruisers and escorted by DesRon 47. The night of 27–28 March she landed 55 12-inch shells, 352 5-inch on target. After refuelling they were back to Okinawa to support the landings from 1 April. On the 11th, there was another air raid and she downed one Japanese plane, assisted a second and claimed what was possibly a rare Ohka “Baka” piloted rocket-bomb. On 16 April she claimed three, assisted with three. The routine went on and she was never hit.
USS Alaska under air attack in 1945
USS Alaska returned to Ulithi for a resplenishment, she arrived on 14 May, still assigned to the same group, which just changed name for TG 38.4. She was soon back to Okinawa to resume her anti-aircraft defense role and by 9 June she was detached with Guam to bombard Oki Daitō. She was sent to San Pedro Bay (Leyte Gulf) for rest and maintenance, until 13 July, then reassigned to Cruiser Task Force 95 (Rear Admiral Francis S. Low.). On 16 July, Alaska and Guam made a sweep into the East China, Yellow Seas, sinking any Japanese shipping on sight. On 23 July they joined a major raid into the estuary of the Yangtze River, off Shanghai. She learned about the Japanese surrender on 15 August.
Guam and Alaska at anchor off the coast of China, 1945
On the 30th, Alaska left Okinawa for Japan, with the 7th Fleet occupation force, and moved to Incheon (Korea) on 8 September to support operations until 26 September, headed for Tsingtao to support the 6th Marine Division, until 13 November and bacl to Incheon for her first take on Operation Magic Carpet, with troops aboard, just demobilized. She left for San Francisco, and from there, after resplenishment, corssed Panama for the Atlantic on 13 December, arrived in Boston Navy Yard (18 December) for reserve preparations. She left on 1 February 1946 for Bayonne in New Jersey, to be berthed in reserve. On 13 August, she was placed in reserve, still able to be refitted for service, and was not decommissioned until 17 February 1947. For her WW2 service she was awarded three battle stars.
In 1958, BuShips made two feasibility studies by demand of the board to see if the large cruisers were suitable for a conversion as large guided missile cruisers. The guns turrets were to be removed and four different missile systems installed, but at a cost of $160 million this was denied and the second sty left the forward battery intact and missiles installed aft, now down at $82 million, but it was shelved again. The large ships were too costly to operate and of little use at that stage, and Alaska was stricken for good on 1 June 1960, sold on the 30th and BU by Lipsett Division, Luria Brothers.
USS Guam (CB-2)
USS Guam in shakedown off Trinidad, 13 November 1945
USS Guam was was completed by September, commissioned on the 17th under command of Captain Leland Lovette. She left Philadelphia on 17 January 1945, after her shakedown cruise in the Carribean, sailed through the Panama Canal and after a stp to San Diego, sailed to Pearl Harbor (8 February), being visited there was Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal. On 3 March, she sailed to Ulithi, for her first deployment, joining her sister Alaska on 13 March. Under command of Admiral Arthur W. Radford, her group was tasked to raid the Kyushu and Shikoku as part of TF 58, arriving on 18 March. There, she soon faced her first kamikazes and bombers attacks, USS Guam being detached to escort USS Franklin back to Ulithi until 22 March.
At her return she was assigned to Cruiser Division 16 (CruDiv 16), part of TG 58.4 deployed off Okinawa. The night of 27–28 March, saw her shelling a Japanese airfield on Minamidaitō. She was back at screening carriers during the operations off Nansei Shoto, until 11 May. After resplenishment at Ulithi she was back off Okinawa with TG 38.4, part of reaorganized TF 38 (Halsey’s 3rd Fleet). She screened carriers during the sweeps of Kyushu. USS Guam and Alaska were detached again for shelling airfields at Oki Daitō on 9 June. Her group was sent for a refit and long resplenishment and rest at San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf, from 13 June to mid-July.
USS Guam at Philly NYD, October 1944 and in the Delaware River in January 1945
Back to Okinawa where the campaign was mostly over, USS Guam was reassigned to TF 95 as flagship for Rear Admiral Francis S. Low with USS Alaska. This cruiser force was deployed on 16 July for a sweep into the East China and Yellow Seas, targeting shipping, but with meagre results. They did the same on the Yangtze river with a large force, with three battleships and three escort carriers, off Shanghai, but again, this was pretty uneventful. The force was back off Okinawa by 7 August.
USS Guam became flagship of the “North China Force” (RADM Low) tasked to show the flag in the region between Tsingtao, Port Arthur, and Dalian. On 8 September 1945, as the war ended, USS Guam entered Jinsen in Korea to provide cover for the occupation. She left Jinsen on 14 November for San Francisco with many demobilized Army soldiers, arriving on 3 December. On the 5th, she sailed out for Bayonne, New Jersey, demobilized, then decommissioned on 17 February 1947. Although part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, conversion projects went to nil and she was stricken on 1 June 1960, sold on 24 May 1961 to Boston Metals Co., Baltimore, towed there on 10 July 1961. She likely earned two battle stars for her service.
USS Hawaii (CB-3)
Launch of USS Hawaii on 3 November 1945, the war has ended for months by then and her fate was very uncertain
Like the Montana-class battleships and rest of the Alaska-class, USS Hawaii saw her construction suspended in May 1942. Materials and facilities were diverted for other more urgent constructions. Over 4,000 long tons of steel plates pre-assembled for Hawaii were reused from July 1942. USS Hawaii returned on the construction queue on 25 May 1943 but not CB-4, CB-5 and CB-6, cancelled for good on 24 June 1943. USS Hawaii’s keel was laid on 20 December 1943, she was launched on 3 November 1945, but completion work was halted in February-April 1947 due to a massive budget reduction, when she was 82.4% complete with her main battery turrets fitted, superstructure almost complete, to be removed as she entered the reserve fleet, Philadelphia NyD.
In construction, details of the bridge and stack area
From there, her “purgatory” commence. Built far too late based on a concept that was proven wrong (Her prewar concept of “cruiser killer” was now completely obsolete), apart for screening and shore bombardment like her sister, there was little esle to do for her. And there were many ships that can do the same more efficiently.
Thus, the admiralty board started a serie of plans to have her converted. Here is this story:
S-511-50 “Aircraft Carrier, Converted from 12″ Cruiser (Class CB 1-6)” First Aircraft carrier conversion (1942): Preliminary design plan prepared for the General Board to explore possible carrier conversions of CB type cruiser hulls under construction.
The “Advance Print” plans were dated 3 January 1942, represents what could have been the conversion of USS Hawaii and folloinwg ships if cancelled mid-construction. This was eventually similar external appearance to the Essex (CV-9) class, but with lower freeboard, two aircraft elevators, one catapult, and a somewhat shorter 839 feet long flight deck offset to the port side. Aircraft capacity was also inferior, perhaps around 70 aircraft adn the design would have had reduced steaming endurance, modest ASW protection. But overall far more valuable than any of the CVLs. “Spring Styles Book”, Naval Historical Center, U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
Second conversion project (1948): Hawaii was the first considered under project SCB 26 conversion to an aircraft carrier, but on a modernized package. She owould have been fitted with an aircraft crane, two aircraft catapults on the stern and looked similar to a completed Graf Zeppelin-class in some ways. One of the particulars of her designs was to be able to launch the JB-2 “Loon” cruise missile, from a hydraulic catapult installed on her forward flight deck. The conversion was authorized in 1948, scheduled to be completed in 1950 under the designation of CBG-3. It was canceled in 1949 as all plans to equip ships with ballistic missiles based on the danger presented by the volatility of the rocket fuels and unreliable guidance systems at the time.
Guided-missile cruiser designs (1946-48)
Similar to the unfinished battleship Kentucky, USS Hawaii was to become a test platform for guided missiles development by September 1946. As CB(SW) she would have been rearmed with sixteen 3-inch (76 mm) L70 guns (8×2) for conventional close defence, and missiles mounted toward the bow, with in additional two “missile launching pits” (early ancestors of modern VLS) located near the stern. Armor was removed, but the plan was never carried out, probably based on cost concerns.
In 1948, project SCB 26A proposed her conversion to a Ballistic Guided Missile Ship. She would have been fitted with 12 vertical launchers based on the German V-2 (short-range ballistic missiles) and 6 launchers for the new SSM-N-2 Triton surface-to-surface cruise missile. The latter was more reliable as a cruise missile and the design process was approved by September 1946. Designers settled on a guided missile weighting 36,000-pound (16,000 kg) and ramjet-powered paired with solid-fuel rocket boosters to reach 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km) at Mach 1.6–2.5, in 1950. The final version was awaited by 1965, but between the SSM-N-9/RGM-15 Regulus II and UGM-27 Polaris submarine-launched cruise missile coming, the project was terminated in 1957. The design was also modified to fire the XPM (Experimental Prototype Missile) instead of the Triton, until cancelled for the RIM-8 Talos.
Large command ship (1951)
SCB 83 was another attempt to complete the hull with a valuable addition to the USN: The project started in August 1951 was similar to the USS Northampton on a larger scale, with more expansive flag facilities, fully capable radar and communication systems to be an organic part of a carrier task force. No facility for amphibious operations was procured and armament comprised an impressive array of …sixteen 5″/54 caliber guns in single mounts. Her superstructures would have been tailored to support the AN/SPS-2 on top of a forward towerand AN/SPS-8 on the aft superstructure and a lighter SC-2 mounted on top of a short tower, aft of the stack to “tropospheric scatter communications”.
USS Hawaii could also have carried two Mk37/25 fire-control directors fore and aft of the superstructure for her main guns. Conversion was eventually authorized as CBC-1 on 26 February 1952 and it was even integrated in the 1952 budget. The hull saw the removal of her 12″ turrets and delays were imposed to enable extra experience from USS Northampton to be analyzed before the conversion design was even finalized. Some in the admiralty believed a light carrier such as USS Wright -Saipan class) could have reached the same objective at a much smaller cost overall, and the conversion was cancelled in 1953.
Polaris launching ship
In February 1957 the project “Polaris Study–CB-3” was published, and she would have been modified to house and operate twenty Polaris missiles mounted in silos where the third main turret would have been. It was completed by two Talos surface-to-air missile launchers fore and aft with reloads, two Tartar SAMs on either side of the superstructure and an ASROC ASWR in place of the second main turret. But it stayed at paper stage.
On 9 June 1958 at last, USS Hawaii was struck from the Register and she was sold to Boston Metals, Baltimore, on 15 April 1959; towed there on 6 January 1960 and broken up.
USS Hawaii being towed away for scrapping, 20 June 1959
“Large Cruisers”, the debate on Alaska’s categorization
The US Navy designation was ‘large cruiser’ (CB) -there is no signification in the second letter- and most leading reference works consider them as such, or more colloquially “cruiser killers”. Various other works alternately described these as neo-battlecruisers, despite the US Navy officially never classified them as such. The Alaskas were named after outer territories or insular areas of the United States, a reflection of their intermediate status, between larger battleships and heavy cruisers. They really were isolated in their own branch.
The Baltimore rose to 17,000 tons at full load, whereas Prinz Eugen reached 20,000 tons. However their main armament still remained eight or nine 8-in (203 mm) cannons. With the Alaska, went for the 12-in or 305 mm caliber, a call nack to early pre-dreadnoughts. Their distribution and the general outlook brought them much closer to contemporary battleships, hence the term “battle cruisers” sometimes put forward. This take into account their speed of 33 knots and relatively light armor. But in that case what are the Iowa class ? What would have been the Montanas ?
So the Alaska class, along with the Dutch Design 1047 battlecruisers, Japanese Design B-65 were the only known fully realized “heavy cruisers killers” ever built, described alternatively in the litterature “super cruisers”, “large cruisers” or even “unrestricted cruisers” (from treaties).
The case for “battlecruisers” was never never official and a bit lazy as designation, reserved for true capital ships, which were not. Early in its development, however the designation “CC” used for the Lexington class was given, casting doubt.
USS Alaska in manoeuvers in front of USS Missouri, 1944
However, this designation was changed to “CB” of “large cruiser” (created for her) and all the teams and personal involved at design stage were discouraged to use the term “battlecruiser” at any level. The U.S. Navy named the ship as overseas U.S. territories rather than states or cities to symbolize this intermediate status further.
The Alaska class with their final superstrcture though looked more toward US battleships in appearance and their displacement was indeed twice that of a Baltimore class, just 5,000 tons shy of the Washington Treaty’s battleship standard displacement limit (35,000 long tons). They were even longer than a King George V class or North Carolina class.
The final package made them proof against German “pocket battleships” (11-in shells) both Deutschland and Scharnhorst-class but they were plagued by an inadequate underwater protection, even inferior to the French Dunkerque or German Scharnhorst. They needed a close destroyer escort at all time, which was fine if they stayed in the same task force, but defeated their use as a “cruiser hunter”, or by taking chances at full speed.
As for providing an adequate AA protection to the task force, their secondary battery was lacking compared to their displacement, twice as much as a Baltimore class. They had the same 5-in/38 gun battery, albeir compansatd by a better light AA and a margin to add more. Part of this was explained by their adoption of broadside aircraft catapult like older US cruisers and unlike battleships, sacrificing a lage portion of the superstructure. They would have been better off with rear catapults, enabling a shoehorn an extra pair of 5-in/38 turrets.
They also possessed aircraft hangars and single large rudder, so less redundancy than a battleship, and combined to their great length made for a turning radius of 800 yd (730 m) exceeding even larger battleships and carriers, and making them quite unwieldy, beeding precious speed in excess for any manoeuver and defeating the purpose of chasing down cruisers in the first place. Author Richard Worth summed up this by declaring that their had the “size of a battleship but the capabilities of a cruiser”. Yet they proved as expensive to build and maintain as any battleship, which combined by overall lesser capabilities and armor deficiencies with no advantage in speed compared to the Iowa class, did not favored their case long-term.
And still, many publications of the time, out of official reach, went on calling her a battlecruiser. Official navy magazine All Hands for example in its article describe “The Guam and her sister ship Alaska are the first American battle cruisers ever to be completed as such.” Author Chris Knupp noted that these ships not only retook the same recipes, but “fulfilled the battlecruiser role by creating a larger, more powerful heavy cruiser whose design already offered less armor and higher speed, but by enlarging the ship they gained the heavier firepower”. Their armour-displacement ratio was indeed 28.4%, and it was even inferior to a ship built as such, like HMS Hood (32%) and only the Lexington-class had the same 28.5%. Armament-wise she was weak if compared to WWI standards, but on paper as her lighter guns had performances way above and beyond those of the “classic battlecruisers” still in service in WW2. So again, pleading her cause as battlecruiser.
CQM takes sextan reading on USS Alaska, 1945
“Alaska III (CB-1)”. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command. 11 June 2015.
Cressman, Robert (2000). The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II. NIP
Egan, Robert S. (March 1971). “The US Navy’s Battlecruisers”. Warship International. International Naval Research Organization. VIII
Gardiner, Robert & Chesneau, Roger (eds.). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922–1946.
Friedman, Norman (1984). U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History. NIP.
Garzke, William H. Jr.; Dulin, Robert O. Jr (1976). Battleships: United States Battleships in World War II. NIP
Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two. NIP
Breyer, Siegfried (1973). Battleships and Battle Cruisers, 1905–1970. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.
Dulin, Robert O., Jr.; Garzke, William H., Jr. (1976). Battleships: United States Battleships in World War II. NIP
“Hawaii”. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History & Heritage Command.
Parsch, Andreas (2003). “SSM-N-2”. designation-systems.net.
Scarpaci, Wayne (April 2008). Iowa Class Battleships and Alaska Class Large Cruisers Conversion Projects 1942–1964. Nimble Books LLC.
“USS Hawaii (CB-3); 1940 program – never completed”. Navy Department, Naval History & Heritage Command.
Whitley, M. J. (1995). Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. NIP.
The Bagley-class destroyers were a group of eight destroyers built for the United States Navy during the 1930s. They were designed to serve as multipurpose warships capable of conducting a wide range of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, convoy escort, and surface combat. The Bagley class was ordered under the 1934 Naval Act, part of a series for the United States Navy in the late interwar, Following the Farraguts, Mahan and Gridleys. The ships were named after naval officers who had served during the American Civil War and the Spanish-American War.
They saw extensive service during World War II, all eight seeing action in the Pacific theater. They were involved in most operations and battles of the time including Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, Philippines and Leyte Gulf, Saipan, iwo Jima and Okinawa. Although lacking AA they Bagleys they proved to be rugged and reliable and screened their assigned carriers effectively.
After the war, the Bagley-class destroyers were rapidly decommissioned and scrapped. None were preserved as museum ships, although artifacts can be found in various naval museums around the United States.
USS Patterson in 1944
The Bagley class were a direct follow-up of the Gridley, the only admiralty design of the FY1934 programme, and largely identical, but with eight built in four separate yards, and considered generally less flimsier, but also heavier and slower than the Gridleys. They were built at Norfolk, Boston, Mare Island and Puget Sound. Bagley, Blue, Helm, Mugford, Ralph Talbot, Henley, Patterson and Jarvis like the Gridleys saw the toughest combats in the Pacific, being present in critical raids and operations, with USS Blue, Henley and Jarvis lost in action. Still, they earned collectively 70 battle stars. #ww2 #pacificwar #guadalcanal #battleofleyte #usn #usnavy #destroyer #bagley
Design of the class
Reconstructed plans, USS Blue.
The Mahan class represented, in effect, an attempt to achieve maximum des troyer gun battery at the possible expense of torpedo battery; it was alleged, for example, that the raised centreline torpedo tube might well be ineffective in combat. Before any Mahans had been completed to test this view, a new destroyer class was designed, trading one gun for a fourth bank of torpedo tubes. The resulting ship still had a broadside of only eight tubes, but by 1936 it appeared that torpedoes could be set to turn through wide angles after launch, so that a single ship could fire all sixteen torpedoes in a single heavy salvo.
These ships fall into two groups: Bethlehem Steel built four Gridleys (DD380 , 382 , 400 and 401) and the Navy Yards built eight Bagleys (DD386–393). It appears that the former were much flimsier, perhaps for higher speed (for which bonuses were paid); they alone of modern US destroyers received no 40mm guns in wartime, only (ultimately) 8-20mm. All ships has 2 DC racks. Trials figures were 47,265shp = 38.99kts at 1774t (Gridley), and 47,191shp=36.8kts at 1969t (Blue). In 1945 all four Gridleys lost two TT banks upon re-assignment to the Atlantic Fleet. The Bagleys, on the other hand, were fitted with a twin Bofors aft, plus 6-20mm, without loss of other armament, prior to the emergency AA refit programme of 1945, when all four TT banks would have been removed. The emergency battery envisaged, 2 quadruple and 2 twin Bofors, and 2 twin 20mm, was not fitted to any of these ships.
Hull and general design
USS Bagley before the war, starboard side, showing the extensive truncating to the single funnel.
The hull of the Bagleys was a near-repeat of the Gridleys, but with more fuller shapes: They appeared overall less “flimsy” than the Gridleys: They reached 341 ft 8 in (104.14 m) overall, versus 340 ft 10 in (103.89 m) so about the same lenght than the Gridleys, but were slightly less beamer, at 35 ft 6 in (10.82 m) versus 35 ft 10 in (10.92 m) but with higher draft, at 10 ft 4 in (3.15 m) light and 12 ft 10 in (3.91 m) fully loaded, versus 12 ft 9 in (3.89 m) and fuller hull forms, as well a reinforcements. They were less plagued by stability issues than the Gridleys overall.
This traduced into a greater displacement, 1,407 tons (light), for speed trials, 1,624 tons (standard), and 2,245 tons fully loaded versus 1,590 tons standard and 2,219 tons full load. Speed, expectedly was believed to be a tad slower, notably because they did not used the same powerplant as the Gridleys, from bethlehem, but those of the Mahans, made more for fuel economy (and thus range) than speed.
Armament-wise they were a repeat of the previous Gridleys, without change. Design-wise also, with the same standardized appearance, single large funnel, tall bridge with glasshouse and fore control on top, single mainmast aft of it, extensive superstructures with gaps leaving some leeway for the broadside torpedo tubes banks.
USS Jarvis in 1938
USS Helm’s funnel and trunctated exhausts.
In short, to situate the Bagleys in this 22-destroyers serie, they were a Navy design (Admiralty Board) duplicating the Mahan class machinery for better range, having prominent boiler uptakes and single stack whereas the Gridleys were a proposal from by Bethlehem Shipbuilding with advanced high-pressure boilers for better speed at the cost of range. The Benhams were a Gibbs & Cox design and just had a new boiler design enabling three boilers, and same efficient as the Mahans. They were considered overall the best of the three.
The Bagleys class propulsion plant repeated the Mahans design, with a boiler’s exit steam pressure of 400 psi (2,800 kPa) and 700 °F (371 °C) improving fuel economy, augmented by boiler economizers and double reduction gearing as well as cruising turbines. All these combined to produce a better range at 6,940 nmi (12,850 km; 7,990 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). This was 1,400 nmi (2,600 km; 1,600 mi) better compared to the Gridleys, which appeared “fast but short-legged”.
This two main geared steam turbines whatever the yard, came from General Electric. Each was subdivided between a high-pressure (HP) and low-pressure (LP) units, feeding into a common reduction gear. Steam was provided by four Babcock & Wilcox boilers, feeding first the HP turbine, exhausted in turn to the LP turbine, which exhausted to a condenser. These LP cruising turbines were geared to the HP turbines in such a way thay could be engaged or disengaged and enabled better efficience at low speeds, producing considerable fuel economy.
All told, they produced a tad less output than the Gridleys at 47,200 shp (3,000 shp less) still managing a nominal 36.8 knots (68.2 km/h) on trials. None reached the blazing speeds of the Gridleys. The 42 knots demonstration by Bethlehem was mostly a way to get bonuses.
Forward battery of a Bagley class ships escorting USS Enteprise, 16 June 1944.
The Bagleys were similar to the Gridleys and Benhams for this arrangement “torpedo-first”, with four 5-inch (127 mm) dual purpose guns in single mounts, two forward, two aft in superfiring positions, and diverging as for the Gridleys in two forward fully enclosed Mark 25 mounts and two aft shielded Mark 21 mounts.
Their ace card and mainn assets were the same impressive sixteen 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes arrangement in four quadruple mounts, two per broadside facing each others. They also had a very weak AA armament in 1941, soon augmented by 20 mm Oerlikon guns when available. They lacked 40 mm Bofors but for a few ships. ASW was also a duplicate of previous Gridleys, with two dephjt charges rackes later completed by four to eight Y-Guns. Fire controls were the same and radars, sonars were also added later.
Main: 4x 5-in/38 Mark 12
Mark 25 forward fully enclosed mount for the Mark 12 38-caliber 5-in gun
As with most other US destroyers of this period, the 5-inch guns featured all-angle power loading and were director controlled, making them as effective as the technology allowed against aircraft. By late 1942, radio proximity fuses (VT fuses) made them much more effective. As in the last two Mahans, the two forward 5-inch guns were in enclosed mounts, while the aft guns were open. Specs: 5-in/38 Mark 12:
Max ROF 450, Practical 250-320, cyclic 900 rpm
Muzzle velocity 820 m/s (2,700 ft/s)
Effective range 914 m (1,000 yd)
Maximum firing range 45° 4,389 m (4,800 yd)
The Mark 25 mount Mod 0 Weighted 42,000-44,900 lbs. (19,051-20,367 kg), had an elevation rate of 15 degrees per second for 15/+85 degrees, trained at 28.7 degrees per second and the gun recoil was of 15 in (38 cm).
Torpedoes: 4×4 21-in Mark 15
The initially planned Mark 11/12 torpedo was replaced after completion by the new and promising Mark 15 torpedo in 1938, enabling better performances overall. The ships still had a practical broadside of only eight torpedoes, the same as any European destroyer, but inferior to the IJN “special type” destroyers inaugurated by the Fubuki class in 1926.
But the admiralty worked around the “curved ahead fire” concept: Using the adjustable post-launch gyro angle and change the ship’s bearing at full speed, the two broadside could be launched nearly simultaneous, as the sixteen-torpedo spread ahead of the ship was curved arnoud to reach the same target despite starting from opposite directions. The reasoning of the dmirakty for such an heavy torpedo armament was a reflection on the post-London treaty cruisers lacking torpedoes. Eventually wartime shattered these expectations and even the Bagleys had torpedo tubes removed for more AA. Specs, Mark 15: Weight: 3,438 lbs. (1,55 kg) for 288 inches (7.3 meters) Range: 6,000 yds/45 knots (5,500m/83 km/h) or 15,000 yds/26.5 knots (13,500 m/49 km/h) Warhead: TNT Mod.3 HBX 494 lbs. (224 kg), Detonator Mk 6 Mod 13 with contact exploder Engine: Wet-heater combustion/steam turbine, compressed air tank/Methanol Guidance system: Gyroscope with settings (for the curve ahead fire)
Installation of AA guns on USS Blue and Ralph Talbot
Light AA armament as designed in 1936 was pretty weak, just four .50 caliber machine guns (12.7 mm) which appeared enough to deal against 300 kph of less attack biplanes of the time. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a rude wake up call, and if it was though to equip them wth the quad 28mm/1.1 in “Chicago Piano” they caused by their weight a stability issue, as would the later 40 mm Bofors mounts. After Pearl Harbor they received one twin 40 mm Bofors (1.6 in) mount completed by six 20 mm Oerlikon cannon (0.8 in) and afgter refits in late 1944 and 1945, they had their torpedo tubes replaced by extra light AA (see later, upgrades). Overall, their AA defence was much consistent and better than the Gridleys.
USS Henley’s stern, the two ASW racks are well visible
The Bagleys’ anti-submarine warfare (ASW) suite started with two eight-charges rolling, sloped stern depth charge racks. Later during the war they obtained four K-gun depth charge throwers either side for at least a few ships according to photos of the time.
Fire Control and sensors
Mark 33 fire control tower on top of the Bagley class USS Henley.
It was the essentially the same as the Gridley’s, with a Mark 33 open-top fire control. The Mark 33 GFCS was the US DD standard Fire Control System, coupled with the Mark 10 Rangekeeper and analog fire-control computer. This rangekeeper was mounted atop the open director, not in a separate plotting room inside the hull. Firing solutions were computed for aerial targets moving at up to 320 knots or 400 knots in a dive for AA fire.
After 1942, some had their directors enclosed, with a Mark 4 fire-control radar added atop or a Mark 4 radar enabling detection range up to 30-40,000 yards and enabling all weather detection. The Mark 33 also used tachymetric target motion prediction, however it was too slow for AA operation. The issue was solved by the introduction of the Mark 27, but it was not retrofitted on the Bagley class due to stability issues, as it was much heavier than the Mark 33.
This FCS was completed in wartime by radars and sonars, namely the: SC Radar: The GE SC had an “A” scope, IFF connection, gyro-compass repeater link, 30-75 miles ± 200 yards accuracy later ± 100 yds on the SC-1 whereas bearing accuracy was ± 5°.
220 kW Air/Surface-search radar (VHF band/60 Hz PRF), bmw 10–25°, psw 4–5. SG Radar: 50 KW Surface Search Frq 3 GHz PRF 775/800/825, Bmwdt 5.6°/15°, Pwdt 1.3–2 μs RPM 4/8/12, Range 15 nmi @200 yd* Mk 12.22 Radar: Medium Wave Fire Control for Dual Purpose Batteries, goes with the Mark 37 FC Director* QCA sonar: Early type, spherical, underwater. Manufactured by CMB. 24 cycles frequenty, M/S spherical projector, 400 Watts, electric hoist and train*
By early 1942 when permitted (generally at pearl Harbour) they all traded their four 0.5 in/90 browning HMGs for six single 20mm/70 Mk 4, placed on wings at the bridge, amidship platform and rear superstructure.
By late 1942 they obtained another extra single 20mm/70 Mk 4 and four 4 DCT or Y-Guns with a total of 44 Depth Charges (and presumably a QCA sonar at some point)
Between there and 1944, at various stages in their career for the surviving ships, they obtained a SC, SG, and Mk 12.22 radars and in 1944 at least they obtained a twin 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 Bofors gun.
By 1946 before commission, DD386, 388-390, and 392 had all their 5-in/38 Mk 30 and Mk 21 left, a twin 40mm/60 Mk 1, seven 20mm/70 MK 10, but at the cost one two of their 21-in TT banks, as well as four DCT and their two DCRs.
Old author’s profile of the Bagley, new illus awaited
USS Ralph Talbot in Measure 21, October 1942
USS Patterson, Measure 31 2D, March 1944
⚙ Bagley class specifications
1,624 tons st, 2,245 tons full load
341 ft 8 in x 35 ft 6 in x 12 ft 10 in (104.14 x 10.82 x 3.91 m)
USS Jarvis in May 1942
The Bagleys were not just copy-pastes of the Gridleys. They retained the fuel-efficient power plants of the Mahan-class combined with a stronger hull giving them slightly lower speed than the Gridleys, but also the extended range of the Mahans. They repeated the typical silhouette with single stack and four main guns, with two forward enclosed mount, aft open mounts (not on the Benhams), and they were all, unlike the Gridleys away at sea, at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Their Pacific compaign was just as fierce and merciless, with Jarvis, Blue, and Henley lost in combat. In 1944 Mugford was almost lost to a kamikaze but survived thanks to her crew, being out of action for six months. Ralph Talbot shared the same fate and almost sunk off Okinawa. If Bagley, Helm, and Patterson were decommissioned in 1945, Mugford and Ralph Talbot still found som use in Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests (Bikini atoll) as still lies, highly irradiated today, at Kwajalein.
US public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990 Greenwood Press.
Friedman, Norman (2004). US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (Revised ed.). NIP
Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger (1980). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946. Conway Maritime Press.
Silverstone, Paul H. (1965). U.S. Warships of World War II. London: Ian Allan Ltd.
Main query on scalemates
Yankee Modelworks 1:350, DD-387 USS Blue Resin kit Kobo hiryu 工房飛竜 1:700, USS Patterson DD-392 (1942) Kraken Hobbies 1:700, Destroyer – Bagley/ Benham/ Gridley Class XP Forge 1:1200, USS Patterson DD-392 (1943) Iron Shipwrights 1:350. Book: USS Patterson US Navy Booklet of General Plans Navy Yard New York, Mare Island Navy Yard.
The Bagley class destroyers in service
USS Bagley (DD386)
USS Bagley was commissioned on 12 June 1937 with Lieutenant Commander Earl W. Morris in command. She did her sea tria,s carribean shakedown cruise in the Caribean and training on the eastern seaboard with the Destroyer Force, Atlantic fleet, but after the war broke out she made her last western seas fleet exercizes, being sent in Pearl Harbor in 1940. She rotated through through the canal for eastern waters exercizes. By ealry December 1941, she was out of Pearl Harbor, in exercizes with DesDiv 7 and the carrier task force (USS Enterprise and Lexington). On 3 December with DesDiv 8 during an AA exercise, she had starboard side bilge keel tore loose and she crawled down to 10 knots, heading for Oahu and shifting berths in Oahu the 6th, a pivotal decision. She was on the starboard side of berth B-22, Southeast Loch, being repaired and serviced by the dock.
At 0755 on 7 December her crew first spotted the dive bombers in action over nearby Hickam Field and she went to general quarters, starting to fire her four puny .50-cal. HMGs at the B5N “Kate” passing down her port side, foing little impression. At 08:00 one of these, possibly hit by another larger AA gun, explided 30 feets ahead of her. The second attack saw her guns blazing again at 08:40, notably a group of Aichi D3A “Val” over Ford Island and the dry docks. She claimed at least six but they were probably shared. At 09:40, she made it to the channel and open sea, but without her commanding officer (CO), executive officer (XO), and gunnery officer (GO) ashore. She went on searching for the attackers out on the open sea by Lt. Philip W. Cann, and soon teamed up with Uher sister USS Patterson, but she was forced to get back after not finding anything, and patrolling the area until recalled.
USS Bagley off Mare Island NyD in Measure 31-Design 1D
USS Bagley screened TF 14 at Pearl Harbor and was at sea with USS Saratoga, patrolling west of Oahu and covering a convoy to Samoa. On 11 January she could not prevent I-16 torpedoing Saratoga and Bagley escorted her back to Pearl Harbor, soon entering restricted availability (23 January-3 February) to received her four precious 20-mm Oerlikon AA guns.
She soon left Oahu by late January to join TF 11 with USS Lexington accompanied by four cruisers and nine destroyers for a supply run of Christmas Island, Canton Island (Phoenix Islands) as well as New Caledonia. TF 11 joined the ANZAC HMNZS Achilles and HMNZS Leander and USS Chicago, two destroyers by mid-February to prevent a Japanese attack in the sector. She headed next for Bougainville, Solomons.
On 20 February at 1707, nine IJN Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers, and started barking her 20 mm battery. On of these, badly damaged and falling, heading for Bagley’s stern, but she was destroyerd ans splashed by USS Aylwin, 200 yards (200 m) of her. After Upkeep and repair in a dry dock she only left Pearl Harbor on 30 April 1942 ferrying personal to Palmyra, Christmas and Society Islands. By 9 May, off Bora Bora she met USS Hunter Liggett to escort a Convoy to the Fiji Islands on 15 May. After patrolling the area she headed for upkeep to Brisbane, Australia, reassigned to TF 44, sothwest Pacific force.
She protected convoys in and out of Australia with her sister USS Henley (DD 391) making underway night battle practice with TF 44 cruisers, until mid-July. She was in Auckland, NZ on 20 July, joining TF 62 for Operation Watchtower (invasion of Guadalcanal).
She headed for the Fiji Islands with USS Chicago, Salt Lake City, HMAS Australia, Canberra, Hobart, eight destroyers to cover 12 transports. They arrived in the Solomon and off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, on 7 August. She became one of the “Southern Force” picket patrol ships before accompanying Australia, Canberra, and Chicago south of Tulagi. However this night an atack force of seven Japanese cruisers (Radm Gunichi Mikawa) from Rabaul fell on them. At 01:44 according to Bagley, IJN floatplanes dropped flares allowing a quick and decisive first broadside from the Japanese.
Bagley turned sharply to port to to launch her starboard torpedo tubes, but they were never aimed properly and the first four missed. In the confusion it is even possible she accidentally hit HMAS Canberra to starboard. She tried to find the Japanese but later at 03:00 she found the burning Astoria and tried to rescue survivors. This was her take on the Battle of Savo Island that famously left the Marines stranded for months at Guadalcanal with fewer supplies than expected.
USS Bagley went to shore with nearly 400 survivors from Astoria at daylight, while carying back 325 men to Astoria to fight fires and trie to patch her, but this was for nil. Her medical officer and pharmacist’s mates treated the survivors the best they could before transferred to President Jackson and she headed for Nouméa with TF 62.
On 15 March 1943, USS Bagley ws reassigned to TF 74, 7th Fleet and prepared for the New Guinea operation, departed from Townsville on 27 June 1942 with Henley and SC-749. She escorted six LSTs (2,600 Army troops and airfield equipment) to Woodlark Island. She escorted back Henry T. Allen between Milne Bay and Brisbane. She later escorted another convoy to New Guinea, Milne Bay in October and then a third convoy also from Townsville to Milne Bay, returning in December. She was in Buna on 8 November, escorting three LSTs to Finschhafen and six more convoys out of Buna. On 23 December with TU 76.1.41 to Cape Gloucester at 14:30 she had to fend a large Japanese air raid, sinking USS Brownson, damaging USS Shaw. She was back in Buna on 28 December and operated to Saidor, New Guinea. She was back on 2 January 1944.
She made another convoy mission to Saidor on 5 February and to Cape Gloucester. Afterwards she made her long trip back home for a well-deserved overhaul in San Francisco, from 27 February in eight weeks and back in operation on 5 May after training for Operation Forager (Marianas invasion). From Pearl Harbor she arrived to the Marshall Islands on 29 May, Majuro on 3 June and screeing four fast carrier task groups, and USS Bunker Hill (TG 58.2).
She then took part in the Saipan Operations in June and shortly after to the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Bagley that day fired on three planes, downing a “Val” and a “Kate” at 6,000 yards (5,000 m) astern with her main artillery as well a Zero passing at 1,000 yards (1,000 m) to her starboard.
On 25 June she was back to the Marianas for two weeks of Marine Corps artillery support, landing some 700 main gun rounds (HE as well as white phosphorus, starshell) north eof Saipan. After resupplying in July she resumed and sent 537 main rounds, even 20mm and 40mm on caverns entries aand signalled positions on the rocky hills.
She screened Enterprise during the strikes on Okinawa and Ryukyus by September, and Appari, Philippines, then Formosa.
USS Bagley took part in the Battle for Leyte Gulf but as part of Halsey’s futile pursuit force. It was over on 25 October and TG 38.4 launched attacks on Luzon five days later.
By early November in ulithi she had an overhaul from the tender USS Markab (AD-21) and returned with TU 77.4.1 for Hoggatt Bay and Tulagi. In December she trained and received repairs from USS Briareus for Operation Musketeer (the landings on Luzon) in which she took part. On 30 December, she arrived on the Palaus.
USS Bagley in February 1945
She then screened the 12 escort carriers of TG 77.2 and 77.4 with 19 other destroyers to Kossol Roads (1 January 1945) in Leyte Gulf and Mindanao Sea, Lingayen Gulf, witnessing later the destruction of USS Ommaney Bay by a Kamikaze.
She followed the TGs in the South China Sea and repelled four Japanese kamikaze raids, seeing Columbia, Manila Bay, Australia, and Stafford badly damaged. After 09:00 on the 13th, USS Salamaua wa sbadly hot, followed at 09:08 by a lone Nakajima Ki-43 “Oscar” which targeted USS Bagley. She managed to shoot her dow at 3,600 yards (3,300 m) and it crashed at 1,000 yards (1,000 m), port beam. They all retired to Ulithi (23rd) and were prepared for the landings at Iwo Jima in February.
USS Bagley was attached then to TG 52.1 and commenced operations on 25 March, screening USS Anzio until April. On 28th she followed them during a raid on Sakishima Gunto. On 24 May, she had her first generator break up, so she headed for Leyte Gulf to USS Markab for repairs.
On 15 June she departed for Kerama Retto and TG 32.1 during striked on Okinawa. Her main battery director failed and she retired to join USS Yosemite and then moved to Saipan on 5 July, Apra harbor, having a new director installed on 14 July. She was back to Saipan on the 15th and on the 6 August escorted a convoy to Okinawa. After the end of the war, she headed for Saipan, resting for 10 days and visited by Rear Admiral Francis E. M. Whiting and staff. She carried them to Marcus Island (31) for a surrender ceremony on board of Rear Admiral Matsubara Masata.
Returning to Saipan on 2 September, she reported to the 5th Fleet commander for orders, and sailed to Okinawa, and to Japan, Sasebo (20 September) actiing a minefield marker between Sasebo, Nagasaki, and Wakayama.
She left Sasebo on 29 October for home via Pearl Harbor, to San Diego on 19 November. Not chosen for the Bikini Atoll while back in Pearl Harbor by April 1946 she was inactivated on 2 May, decommissioned on 13 June and towed to San Diego for sale. Stricken on 25 February 1947 she was sold for BU on 8 September 1947. For her service she earned 12 battle stars.
USS Blue (DD387)
USS Blue in … ocean blue livery (measure xx) off Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 11 April 1942.
Commissioned on 15 August 1937 (she was launched in May), she spend the rest of the year in sea tria,s and shakedown, training cruises along the east coast and Caribbean. USS Blue when declared ready was assigned to the Pacific in August 1938 (a year after) and became flagship Desdiv 7, Desron 4, training with the Battle Fleet along the west coast. From April 1940 she was sent to Pearl Harbor. She returned home for an overhaul at Puget Sound in February–March 1941 and trained in April, and was in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Unlike larger ships she was able to quickly raise steam and sail out, in search of the Japanese fleet, without her staff but just four ensigns on board. She was part of the offshore patrol until early January 1942.
She was assigned to the screening of USS Enterprise for the raids on Wotje, Maloelap, Kwajalein Atolls, and the Marshall Islands. On the 24th of February she took part in the Wake Island attack and by March–June 1942 she escorted convoys between Pearl Harbor and San Francisco and proceeded to Wellington in New Zealand (18 July).
Assigned TG 62.2 she was present at the Battle of Guadalcanal on 7 August providing fire-support and screening and also at the Battle of Savo Island on the 9th, helping rescuing the crews from HMAS Canberra. She patrolled of Nouméa, New Caledonia on 13-17 August and returned to Guadalcanal on the 21th. But at 03:59 the following day while underway in the “Ironbottom Sound” she was spotted and torpedoed by the Japanese destroyer IJN Kawakaze. Her main engines were quickly flooded, her shafts deviated, her steering gear jammed and she had nine men killed, 21 wounded in the explision. Despite her crew’s effort she was doomed and on 23 August an attempted towing to Tulagi failed. Her captain decided to have her scuttled at 22:21, on 23 August. Despite her short career she nevertheless managed to earn five battle stars.
USS Helm (DD388)
USS Helm prewar
USS Helm was commissioned on 16 October 1937, her first captain being Lt. Comdr. P. H. Talbot. After sea trials and shakedown, in march 1938 she was found training in the Caribbean and was attacjed to the Atlantic Squadron from 1 October 1938 and in 1939 was assigned to the Carrier Division 2 (CarDiv 2) for Problem XX. In May 1939 she moved to San Diego for the Pacific fleet screeing maneuvers and sailed to Hawaii. She was there during the attack on 7 December.
When the first raid commenced USS Helm was at West Loch, en route to deperming buoys and became the only ship underway this week end. General quarters were ordered and she managed to down one plane, although slightly damaged by bombs near-misses. At 08:17 she left West Loch Channel, rushed to the Pearl Harbor Inlet when a lookout spotted the midget sub HA. 19 snagged on a reef. She shot it and missed and saw the two crewman fleeing, one drowning, the other made POW, the very first of WW2. Next, she was assigned to USS Saratoga arrived from San Diego.
On 20 January 1942 she rescued Department of the Interior workers from Howland and Baker islands using her whaleboats. Later this day she was attacked but missed by an IJN patrol bomber. She was back in Pearl on 6 February. New Hebrides: She departed on 15 March 1942, to escort the advance base party there, Efate on 19 March and escorted the ships back. She rescued survivors from SS John Adams later from the oiler Neosho sunk at the Battle of Coral Sea on 17 May. These men were taken to Brisbane, Australia, where Helm joined the Australian-US Task Force 44, under Rear Admiral Victor Crutchley, on 19 May. For two months she patrolled off the Australian Coast. On 22 July she operated at the Fiji Islands. Next in August, Guadalcanal and Tulagi, managing to shoot down several attacking aircraft durinf the landings.
Next, she was present at the Battle of Savo Island screening USS Vincennes, Quincy, and Astoria in the night of 7-8 August her sisters Blue and Ralph Talbot stationed as picket northwest of Savo Island. Alarm was sounded by USS Patterson, HMAS Canberra was quickly torpedoed, and later Helm assisted the burning Astoria and withdrawn to Nouméa. A few weeks of escort to Guadalcanal followed, based in Australia. She also escorted convoys to New Guinea.
On 15 May 1943 she rescued the crew of the hospital ship Centaur sunk by I-177 off Brisbane. She escorted an LST for a landing in June 1943 and protected Milne Bay. She bombarded Gasmata on 29 November and sortied on 14 December (Admiral Crutchley) for the operation on Cape Gloucester. Next she was in Saidor for Admiral Barbey amphibious “hops.” and screening the cruiser force
By 1944 she was still off Guadalcanal and Milne Bay and on 19 February 1944 went back to Pearl Harbor and then Mare Island escorting USS Maryland, on 4 March. She left San Francisco on 5 May 1944 for a refresher training underwya to Pearl Harbor and made it to Majuro on 4 June, then Kwajalein to take part in the invasion of the Marianas with TF 58, departing Kwajalein on 7 June.
She provided air support for the landings and was back to the Bonin Islands on 18 June and took part on 19 June to the Battle of the Philippines.
She operated to the Bonin and Volcano Islands and the invasion of Guam, followed by the Palau Islands on 25 July 1944, with resupplies at Eniwetok or Ulithi. In 24 September she sortied again for strikes in the Palaus, Okinawa (10 October) and Formosa. USS Helm claimed a bomber on 13 October and assisted more.
On 24 October the assault on Leyte, and following this the Japanese attacked. She was screening the carrier groups northwards after the decoy fleet of Admiral Ozawa.
Helm later provided direct support for the landings on 26 October. With USS Gridley she sank 1-46. She was back in Ulithi on 2 November.
She took part in the next landings in the Philippines and screening new air strikes but was detached from TG 38.4 for Manus, being prepared for the landings at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon. In Sulu Sea, she helped repelling heavy air attacks up to 23 January, and she left for Ulithi.
Next she was prepared for the invasion of Iwo Jima, sailing out on 12 February, and starting operations on the 19th. She rescued survivors of USS Bismarck Sea sunk on 21 February. Operations went on until 7 March and she went to Leyte for repairs. Next she took part in the invasion of Okinawa from 27 March, and assisting troops on 1 April in fire support operations. She also shot down many Kamikaze and left on 19 June.
Later in 3-6 August she searched for USS Indianapolis survivors. She was returning to Ulithi on 15 August. Back to Okinawa and Iwo Jima she joined the Bonins patrol, a rescue team until 8 September. She was in Sasebo as shipping guide and patrol vessel and departed for Pearl Harbor and San Diego in late October and arrived in November.
She was decommissioned in Pearl Harbor on 26 June 1946, stricken and sold for BU on October 1947. She earned 11 Battle stars.
USS Mugford (DD389)
USS Mugford in 1944
USS Mugford, laid down in 1935 was commissioned on 16 August 1937. After sea trials and Carribean shakedown, she skipped fleet training on the east coast and went directly to the Pacific by late 1937. She trained between West Coast and around the Hawaiian chain, alternated with upkeep. Until 30 July 1940 she was under command of Lt. Cdr Arleigh Burke (yes, this one) being awared a Battle “E” for gunnery excellence.
On 7 December 1941 she was present at Pearl Harbor as flagship DesDiv 8, DesRon 4. She was berthed at B6, Navy Yard for ovehaul and the presonal present managed to raise steam to get underway. Her gun crew managed to shoot down three planes in 10 minutes and she steamed out of Pearl Harbor to search for the Japanese. Later she was in the Wake Island relief force and later was an escort from Australia until mid‑1942.
On 7 August USS Mugford while off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal she took three near misses and one hit. She shot down two attackers, but suffered 8 killed, 17 wounded, 10 missing. She shot down another on the 8yh, and rescued two enemy aviators. On the 9th, she made a run to join the first Battle of Savo Island, and rescued 400 survivors from USS Vincennes and Astoria.
After repairs in Sydney, in September-December, she operated in the Coral Sea and and northern coast of Australia from Brisbane. She also escorted ships to Milne Bay in New Guinea, took part in the attack on Woodlark Island and bombarded objectives in August. By September she escorted LSTs for the invasion of Lae and took part in the preinvasion bombardment of Finschafen. On 20 October she was attacked by 60 enemy planes, shot down some and survived.
On 15 May 1943 she rescued survivors of AHS Centaur off Queensland and by 14-15 December took part in the Landings on Arawe in New Britain followed by the attacks on Buna and Cape Gloucester. While off on the 25th she was heavily attacked by enemy raid, taking three near misses, shooting one during the second attack, and having one killed, six wounded, widespread damaged and waterline holed. She had some repairs in Milne Bay, and returned operating off Saidor. On 10 January 1944 she had full repairs in Sydney and resumed operation in New Guinea, with Huon Gulf and escorting ships to Union Islands. She was back in Pearl Harbor on 24 February, escorting USS Maryland to Puget Sound and being overhauled at Mare Island from 5 March until 10 May.
Back to Pearl Harbor she trained for the Marianas operation, starting with the attack on Majuro on 11 June, and she screened battleships bombarding Saipan and Tinian, returned to the carrier screen for the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Next she operated in the Marshalls, invasion of Guam (she acted as radar picket between there and Rota). On 28 August with TF 38 she screened carriers during the attacks on the Bonins, Yap, and Palau, Okinawa, Formosa and Luzon. She claimed downing many attackers all this time.
Assigned to TG 38.4 on 24 October she headed north on reports of an attack on northern Luzon and was present at the Battle off Cape Engaño ending the Battle of Leyte Gulf. On 5 December 1944 she spotted enemy aircraft in Surigao Strait and downed a “Val”. Badly damaged herself she had 8 killed, 14 wounded and received temporary repairs before heading for San Pedro and then the US for permanent repairs at Mare Island, from 5 January 1945 to 4 March 1945.
Back on mid‑March, she served as radar picket between Ulithi and Saipan and after the war, sailed with TG 55.7 to repatriated Allied POWs from Japan to Okinawa and screen carriers during the occupation of Nagasaki‑Sasebo; She headed for San Diego on 19 November, was stripped and designated for Operation Crossroads, decommissioned 29 August 1946. After the blast in Bikini she served for experiments in decontamination, and was sunk off Kwajalein 22 March 1948. She received 7 battle stars for her service.
USS Ralph Talbot (DD390)
Ralph Talbot in Hawaiian waters, circa January 1943.
USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) named after USMC 2nd Lt. Ralph Talbot (1897–1918) awarded the MoH in World War I. Commissioned on 14 October 1937, she soldiered in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor attack to the Battle of Okinawa. She notably participated to the Battle of Savo Island with Task Group 62.6 (TG 62.6), took part in the Battle of Kolombangara, New Georgia and New Guinea campaigns, Bismarck Archipelago, Marianas, West Caroline, Leyte, Luzon, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, earning 14 battle stars. She ended contaminated at Operation Crossroads in Bikini, August 1946.
USS Henley (DD391)
Second ship named after Captain Robert Henley, officer in the young USN during the Quasi-War with France, War of 1812 and Second Barbary War, USS Henley was commissioned on 14 August 1937. Her career was shorter than her sisters. She started operations with DesDiv 11 by late 1938 and sailed to Pearl Harbor on 14 April 1941. On 7 December 1941 she was moored in East Loch, being the first destroyer to shoot the initial wave. She claimed a “Val” and shared another. and later attacked a midget sub outside the harbor. Next she escorted ships to Midway but spent most of 1942 in ASW mostly in Australian waters. She took part in the battle of Guadalcanal.
She met her fate while off the beachhead at Finschafen in New Guinea on 21 September 1943: The 10 Japanese torpedo bombers attack was repelled, as she shoot down, 3 assisted 3 more, but on 3 October with USS Reid and Smith she sighted two torpedoes from Ro-108, she evade these but was struck by a third, too fast to be avoided. Her port side, blew up and she lost her keel. At 18:29 she was evacuated and later she sank stern first, loosing 1 officer and 14 men. She earned 4 battle stars.
USS Patterson (DD392)
She was named after Daniel Todd Patterson, a very early USN history figure. Commissioned 22 September 1937 she was soon sent to the Pacific, Pearl Harbor from On 3 June 1940. Present on 7 December she was one of the first to fire and sally out in search of the enemy. She fought notably at Guadalcanal, the Battle of Savo Island, lost her bow during the New Hebrides campaign, and escorted the fast carrier force during all their operations in 1944-45, earning 14 battle stars. She was decommissioned on 8 November 1945, stricken on 25 February 1947 and sold.
USS Jarvis (DD393)
Jarvis December 1937
Named aft midshipman James C. Jarvis, killed during the Quasi-War with France she saw heavy action in the early Pacific campaign, notably participating in the invasion of Guadalcanal. She was sunk to the south of Guadalcanal on 9 August 1942 with all hands, a rare case. She was hit by an aicraft torpedo off Savo Island, was save by her crew abd underway under her own power bu the Japanese mistaking her for an escaping cruiser sent an attack of 31 planes from Rabaul. Overwhelms she was soon hit by several torpedoes and according to Japanese records, “split and sank” this 9 August 1942. She earned 3 battle stars.
The Gridley-class destroyers were four 1500-ton fleet destroyers according to the London Naval Treaty, laid down by June 1935 and March 1936, commissioned in 1937-38 and largely based on the previous Mahan-class destroyers: Same hull but single stack and reviewed powerplant, for greater speeds and an amazing sixteen 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes arrangement but reduced artillery. They inaugurated a famous trio of 22 identical destroyers (with the Bagleys and Benhams). USS Maury (DD-401) became the fastest #USN destroyer at 42.8 knots. They were all very active in #WW2, seeing most battles and operations of the Pacific, notably escorting carriers. USS Maury receiving a Presidential Unit Citation and the class earning collectively 44 battle stars. #pacificwar #guadalcanal
Design of the class
ONI schematics showing the position of the torpedo tubes banks.
A record sixteen torpedo tubes
The four Gridleys proceeded from the idea of gradually improving the Mahan class design. They were were part of three classes sharing the same characteristics, laid down in 1935-1937, and each with small incremental improvements: Gridley (4, the “prototypes”), Bagley (8 ships) and Benham (10 ships). They all favored a massive torpedo armament in response to the Japanese “special types”, destined to give them an advantage in broadside. But the cost was to loose their five guns, reduced to four 5 inch (127 mm) (which was by the way the European standard for this 1500 tons class of ships). However the main reason behind this moved can be seen as the preception in the admiralty that the last nine of the seventeen US Treaty cruisers lacked torpedo armament. On the long run anyway, eventually all these torpedoes were removed in 1941 for increased AA.
If BuOrd (The bureau of Ordnance) had no counter-indications to swap to four quadruple mounts for a destroyer, this was a sheer amount, in stark contrast with the late wartime destroyers designs, which returned to just two axial banks, albeit quintuple. Having four axial banks was the ideal solution but impossible due to the hull’s lenght and displacement, the Bureau of Construction and Repair (BuC&R) and the Bureau of Engineering (BuEng) teamed up to find another variant of the solution already tested on the previous Mahans, which had a single axial bank and two side banks.
This was just the next logical step: Putting all four banks in broadsides. In practice, this allowed to bring the superstructure amidships loser together, leaving empty room to allow the banks to freely rotate to their max traverse and procure the greatest possible arc of fire. Still, these prevented the opposite side banks to fire the other side. There were also blocking gears to prevent firing onto the structure or interfere with other banks. By the way this formula was not new of course: It was already chosen for the mass-built WWI “four-pipers” of the Wickes and Clemson class, but with triple banks. A larger beam allowed for quadruple ones.
The other particular was that the two banks port and starboard were facing each other rather than outwards.
Of course, if on one hand these destroyers had largest number of torpedo tubes, impressive on paper, their actual broadside was only the same as any destroyer of the time, at least in Europe. Japanese DDs had three axial banks. They had no reloads abnd traded these for a complete U-turn to fire the other broadside. A destroyer tactic was based around this. The broadside arrangement (not unique to US destroyer, the French did the same on their large “super destroyers” of the Terrible and Mogador classes.
A new step in US Destroyer Design evolution
As usual the other playground for the Bureaus and the admiralty board was to compare machinery arrangements. The Gridleys were designed by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co., and the latter proposed advanced high-pressure boilers, built by them, but married to essentially the same geared steam turbines used on the 1933 Farragut class. This had an afverse effect on their range. The following Bagleys at the contrary duplicated the Mahan class machinery. The Benhams were designed by NY agency Gibbs & Cox, the same team behing the Mahan class design advanced machinery. But they had a new boiler type allowing a reduction from four to three and the same efficient turbine arrangement as the Mahans class.
So in a nutshell, the Gridleys were seen as rather “conservative” and leaning more on the Farraguts, with just better boilers and a single funnel, but twice as much torpedoes. The latter was a caracteristic shared by all three designs, but the next Sims class, albeit still sharing the same single funnel, returned to a more rational torpedo armament of two reloadable axial banks and five guns.
The next Benson/Gleaves, mass built, stil not free of tonnage restrictions, embraced a four boilers solution and returned to the two funnels arrangement, while swapping to quintuple banks, which brought paradoxically a better broadside than the Gidley-Bagley-Benhams. But they reached 1,800 tonnes. This led ultimately to the war-winning design of the Fletchers, same recipe but stretched out for better AA armament, range and speed: On a 2,325 tons standard, they managed 38 kts and 6500 nautical miles in range. To compare, the Gridleys managed 38.5 kts, and same range but at two less speed (12-knots instead of 15 on that range). The real game-changer for the Fletchers were their better acommodations due to a larger size, which enabled notably room for improvements in AA aramement, immensely improved. A 1945 Fletcher was provided with up to five 127mm/38 Mk 12 (which were dual purpose and arguably with the best fire control), two quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 and two triple 40mm/56 Mk 1.2, then four twin 20mm/70 Mk 4 aznd three single 20mm/70 Mk 4. They had extra buoyancy and no issue of stability.
To compare the tonnage-restricted Gidley-Bagley-Benhams only had seven 20 mm Oerlikons in wartime. They even entered the war with four liquid-cooled Browning 0.5-in machine guns…
Hull and general design
If the hull of the Mahans was kept for easing design time, Bethlehem Yard which was behind the Gridleys, managed to reinforce it amidship to support the broadside banks. The main idea was to avoid excessive rolling. They had two series of portholes in 1938, on the forecastle, but the lower one was plated over during wartime. They retained -apart the single funnel- the general profile of previous ships, with a superfiring main gun pair forward and aft and a relatively tall bridge built at the end of the forward structure, topped by the Mark 33 fire control system. Single mainmast behind (latter reinforced to support a radar), with boats on davits abaft the main funnel. Rounded stern and the usual anti-collision frames welded on it.
In wartime, despite their stability issue common to all treaty “1,500 tonners” no serious reconstruction was envisioned. They gained AA gun positions forward of the bridge and in superstructure wings forward, amidship and aft, for a total of seven or eight gun positions. They kept their tall bridge all along.
The Gridleys’ boilers showed quite an upgrade from the Mahan class (design by Gibbs & Cox with overheating steam boilers and smaller turbines) and Bethlehem Works, a renown boiler maker at the time, proposed the Navy a revolutionary new model allowed a steam pressure raised from 465 psi (3,210 kPa) to 565 psi (3,900 kPa). This enabled previously unheard of superheated steam at 700 °F (371 °C). This procured increased steam pressure on a still compact design, but also contributed to fuel economy as the oil ignition was instantaneous. Still, these were basically Yarrow-type boilers in their general scheme, but improved all around by Bethlehem Steel, notably with reinforced strenght to cope with the increased pressure.
This was all due to better quality boiler steel.
Turbines were however a simple retake of three Farragut class, a rather older and less efficient design compared to those of the Mahan class. These were also Parsons-type, reaction turbines also built by Bethlehem Steel and were provided a single-reduction gearing, no cruising turbines. Range was thus reduced to 5,520 nautical miles (10,220 km; 6,350 mi) compared to 6,940 nautical miles for the previous Mahans. Still, Bethlehem procured the fastest destroyers ever to the Navy, but another yard could have married the Mahan’s turbines with Bethlehem boilers, a marriage in heaven only possible by wartime, as the Navy would have forced this solution over usual peacetime contract arrangements. Bethlehem was free to choose its own arrangement.
The Gridleys were a letdown compared to previous (and next designs): Having four 5 inch (127 mm) dual purpose guns in single mounts was of course less appealing than five. But at the time, weight restriction and space for an extra torpedo tube bank was inevitable, calculations-wise. This did not bother much the admiralty if compensated by such close-quarter potential. However the small hull on a restructed treaty-bound tonnage did not offered much in terms of upgrades.
Main: 4x 4-in/38 Mark
The 5 inch guns were similar to the Previous Mahans, featuring an all-angle power loading, and were director controlled to the best against aircraft of the 1936 generation (still biplanes). By late 1942 a great improvement was achieved by using radio proximity fuses for extra effectiveness. The two forward guns were in fully enclosed Mark 25 mounts, but the after guns were open, under shields, not fully enclosed Mark 21 DP pedestal mounts. The fully enclose mounts, the new destroyer standard, was tested on the last two of the previous Mahan class and proved successful.
Mark 25 Main gun mount
Specifications 5-in/38 Mk.12:
Max ROF 450, Practical 250-320, cyclic 900 rpm
Muzzle velocity 820 m/s (2,700 ft/s)
Effective range 914 m (1,000 yd)
Maximum firing range 45° 4,389 m (4,800 yd) Read More
Torpedo Armament: 16x 21-in TTs
Planned initially in 1936 to carry Mark 11 and later Mark 12 torpedoes they obtained the promising Mark 15 in 1938 as the Bagleys and Benham. One tactic suggested to use the new torpedoes was a “curved ahead fire”, using the adjustable post-launch gyro angle to launch a sixteen-torpedo spread ahead instead of a U-turn. It is not sure if this was practiced, or even used in action during the war. The Mark 15 anyway suffered from a mediocre reliability. Mark 15 Torpedo Mod 0 specs: Weight: 3,438 lbs. (1,55 kg) for 288 inches (7.3 meters) Range: 6,000 yards at 45 knots (5,500 meters at 83 km/h) or 15,000 yards at 26.5 knots (13,500 meters at 49 km/h) Warhead: TNT Mod.3 HBX 494 lbs. (224 kg), Detonation mechanism Mk 6 Mod 13 contact exploder Engine: Wet-heater combustion/steam turbine with compressed air tank and Methanol 26.5/33.5/45 knots Guidance system: Gyroscope
AA: Initial and wartime
In common with all US surface combatants in the 1930s, light AA armament was weak to say the last, ans the Gridleys were no exception, delivered in 1938 with just four .50 Browning heavy machine guns (12.7 mm). It was woefully inadequate as shown at Pearl Harbor. Soon all these ships were refitted with seven 20 mm Oerlikon cannon but due to stability reasons they receoved no 40 mm Bofors guns and kept their torpedo tubes, instead of additional light AA guns.
The Gridleys class came with the standard two depth charge racks aft. Drawings shows these had the capacity of eight depth charge each. Settings were done manually on the fly as the dial was accessible from the sides. Photographs shows a wartime augmentation of four K-gun depth charge throwers installed on either side abaft the aft superstructure, so eight in all.
1944 Mare Island refit, USS Mac Call
By early 1942 they lost their four 0.5-in/90 HMGs but gained six 20mm/70 Mk 4 1942 and four Depth charges throwers (Y-guns) aft for 44 DC in all
Between 1942 and 1944 they gained a SC and a SG radars as well as a Mk 12.22 radar.
By mid-194 they all received an extra single 20mm/70 Mk 4 AA guns, and later USS Gridley, Craven, McCall received another extra 20mm/70 Mk 4 (so eight)
By the spring of 1945, all they all lost their two aft torpedo tubes banks. In 1946, DD380, 382 and 400 kept their two 127mm/38 Mk 25forward and two 127mm/38 Mk 21 gun mounts aft, eight 20mm/70 Mk 10, two TT banks, four DCTs and two DCR and a QCA sonar, added in between. It seems also that the bridge was modified, with portholes instead of the original fragile glasshouse.
Sensors: FCS, Radars and Sonars
Mark 33 gun fire-control system: For aerial targets moving at up to 320-400 knots for AA fire, Mark 4 FC radar added atop from 1942 or Mark 4 radar for 30-40,000 yards detection. SC Radar: The GE SC had an “A” scope, IFF connection, gyro-compass repeater link, 30-75 miles ± 200 yards accuracy later ± 100 yds on the SC-1 whereas bearing accuracy was ± 5°.
220 kW Air/Surface-search radar (VHF band/60 Hz PRF), bmw 10–25°, psw 4–5. SG Radar: 50 KW Surface Search Frq 3 GHz PRF 775/800/825, Bmwdt 5.6°/15°, Pwdt 1.3–2 μs RPM 4/8/12, Range 15 nmi @200 yd* Mk 12.22 Radar: Medium Wave Fire Control for Dual Purpose Batteries, goes with the Mark 37 FC Director* QCA sonar: Early type, spherical, underwater. Manufactured by CMB. 24 cycles frequenty, M/S spherical projector, 400 Watts, electric hoist and train*
HD Illustration of USS Bagley in July 1938
1590 tons standard, 2219 tons full load
340 ft 10 in x 35 ft 10 in x 12 ft 9 in (103.89 x 10.92 x 3.89 m)
The large (but narrow) funnel for all four boilers was allowed by the fact these boilers produced a overheated steam, better than on the Mahan class and on a more compact machinery raise power without stretching the hull. Therefore the Gridleys were not only the fastest destroyers of the US Navy (DD-380 for example on trials, at 1,774t displacement managed 38.99kts and xxx 42 knots empty). But the FY1934 and FY1935 torpedo advantage was more a paper fantasy in the end than a practical solution in battle. They never really put an efficient tactic to maximize this. At the contrary this proved a liability given their unsufficient buoyancy and hull strength, and the end result was a stability not allowing much armament upgrade in wartime, nor significant modernization. This default was shared by the remainder of the Bagleys and Benhams. Wartime use did not put much more issue and they performed the best they could in much difficult times in the Pacific without loss. The class comprised one of the most decorated destroyers of the USN, in partucular the “record-breaker” Maury and her 16 battle stars, her sister earning respectively ten, nine and nine battle stars for a grand total of 44 battle stars.
Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy 1775-1990. Greenwood Press
Friedman, Norman (2004). US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (Revised ed.). Annapolis NIP
Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger (1980). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946. Conway Maritime Press.
Silverstone, Paul H. (1965). U.S. Warships of World War II. London: Ian Allan Ltd.
Public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
USS Gridley was commissioned 24 June 1937 with Codr. Leroy W. Busbey, Jr. in command, fitted out at Boston Navy Yard and after sea trials, making her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean until 27 October 1938. She notably stopped at Puerto Rico, Cuba, and in Venezuela. After post-fixes at Boston Navy Yard until June she was reassigned the Pacific, via the Panama Canal to San Diego and DesDiv 11, starting tactical maneuvers off California. By 4 January 1939 she was present in the Caribbean Fleet Problem 20 and returned for a quick refit in Boston.
On 13 July 1939 she became flagship of DesDiv 11. From 2 April 1940 she took part in Fleet Problem 21 off Hawaii.
She was out of Pearl Harbor on 28 November 1941, providing an ASW screen for USS Enterprise (Admiral Halsey), and resupplied at Wake before returning to Pearl Harbor when warned in the morning of the ongoing air raid. She entered the harbor on the 8th, expeting a new attack and spent the next five months escorting transports and repair vessels. On 5 June 1942 she was sent to Kodiak, Alaska, with USS Nashville. She escorted transports and patrolled off Kiska and Attu, also shelling the former on 7 August 1942, while under command of Frederick Moosbrugger.
She left Dutch Harbor on 25 September 1942 for USS Saratoga task force in Hawaii, and further escort mission to the Fijis and New Hebrides. December saw her escorting the oiler Cimarron from Noumea (later converted as a Sangamon class carrier) refuallung the carrier task forces in the Solomons. Based in Purvis Bay, Solomons from 13 July, she escorted fast transports rescuing survivors from USS Helena in Parasco Bay and with her sister USS Maury escorted the LCIs from Guadalcanal to Tambatuni in New Georgia. She shelled shore installations on the 25th and supported the landing. She also destroyed Japanese landing barges in Vella Gulf on 10 August and returned to USS Saratoga TF until 25 August.
Back to Pearl Harbor with USS Suwanee and USS Long Island on 4 September 1943 she returned to San Diego, for a refit (11 September-26 October 1943). She was reassigned to the Gilbert Islands after a stop at Pearl Harbor on 10 November and Makin Island. She bombarded the latter and screened the carriers before patrolling the area and was back to pearl afterwards in December.
TF 58 departed Pearl Harbor on 18 January 1944 for Marshall Islands Campaign, escorted by USS Gridley, always faithful to USS Saratoga. She was present at the attack of Wotje and Eniwetok, the New Hebrides in March, protecting Yorktown, Princeton and Langley and took part in the New Guinea offensive. She was reassigned to USS Hornet TF on 7 June 1944 for the invasion of the Marianas and attacks on Saipan, Rota, and Guam with her other three sisters.
She took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (19-20 June) and tried to protect the carriers with a antiaircraft fire. She departed Eniwetok Atoll on 30 June 1944 for new striked on Iwo Jima, Guam, Yap, Ulithi and supported landings on Peleliu (15 September), claiming her first IJN attack plane. She screened TF 58 to Okinawa and Formosa and took part in the invasion of the Philippines. While in patrol off Luzon, 28 October 1944 with USS Helm she detected and sank I-51 with depth charges. Next days saw her repelling Japanese kamikazes. She escorted Franklin and Bellau Woods back to Ulithi on 2 November.
The last year of the war saw USS Gridley deployed in the Leyte landings, and screening escort carriers, used as bombardment and patrol ship off Lingayen Gulf, until 10 February.
After a last stop at Ulithi she escorted USS Mississippi back to Pearl Harbor, sailed to San Diego and crossed the Canal to New York, arriving on 30 March 1945 for her last overhaul. She was done on 22 June 1945 but was sent in Europe from July 1945 to January 1946. USS Gridley was eventually decommissioned in Boston on 18 April 1946 and sold, scrapped in 1947. She won 10 battle stars for her service.
USS Craven DD-382
USS Craven was commissioned on 2 September 1937 and after trials, shakedown and training in the Caribbean she started fleet training along the east coast but also experimental torpedo firing at Newport, Rhode Island (notably the new tactics developed for these ships, enabling a double launch in short time). She sailed from Norfolk on 16 August 1938 for the Pacific fleet at San Diego and too part in fleet problems 20 and 21 alternated with ports visits, but remaining based on the west coast. By April 1940 she was in Pearl Harbor, tasked of ASW screen for carriers.
During the Pearl Harbor attack, she was out at sea screeing USS Enterprise to Wake Island and back to Pearl Harbor. She was was damaged when colliding with USS Northampton during underway refueling on 15 December, and battered by heavy seas on 19 December. So she was repaired at Pearl Harbor later.
USS Craven took part in the Marshalls and Gilberts offensives, Wake Island assault and was back home for an overhaul on the west coast. On 8 April she escorted convoys from the west coast and after a stop at Pearl Harbor on 12 November 1942 she headed for Guadalcanal, escorting transports in and out for nine months. By 6-7 August 1943 she was part of the Vella Gulf raid which destroyed the IJN Kawakaze, Hagikaze and Arashi also damaging a cruiser.
From Efate on 23 September 1943 she returned to an overhault in San Francisco, and was back to Pearl Harbor for more oprtations by January 1944, screening TF 58 carriers for the raids on Wotje, Taroa, and Eniwetok and the Marshall Islands campaign, base in Majuro. Next were the Palau, Yap, Ulithi, Woleai raids and invasion of Hollandia, raid on Truk, Satawan, and Ponape. Back to Pearl Harbor for a short refit in May 1944 she was back with the 5th Fleet for the Marianas Operations, Guam, Saipan, Rota, Bonins, and took part in June to the Battle of the Philippine Sea. She was present during the summer raids on the Bonins, Guam, Yap, and Palaus.
USS Craven in March 1945. She spent her last months of service in Europe, seeing the Atlantic and Mediterranean
She was overhauled a last time in Pearl Harbor by October 1944, missing the battle of Leyte. By January 1945 after retraining she was sent to New York via the west coast and Panama. There from 26 January she took part in exercises and ASW patrols on the east coast, until 2 May. She was sent to Europe, Southampton, escorting a convoy and back to NyC. Based in Portland, Maine, in she carried the U.S. Minister to Tangier and proceeded to Oran, escorting various ships in the Mediterranean and training until 14 January 1946. Sent back to New York, she headed for San Diego and Pearl Harbor (16 March) to be inactivated. She was decommissioned on 19 April 1946, sold for BU on 2 October 1947. She win nine battle stars for her service.
USS McCall DD-400
USS Mac Call in 1938
USS Mc Call was commissioned on 22 June 1938 with Lt. Cdr John Whelchel in command. After sea trials and Carribean shakedown she was assigned to the Pacific, and crossed Panama to San Diego, reporting to Destroyers, Battle Force, 16 January 1939. She took part in two fleet problems and by 7 December 1941, like her sisters she was screening one of the lucky carriers that day, escorting USS Enterprise (TF 8) en route to Pearl Harbor from Wake and started to search for the IJN fleet. Only I70 was sighted, sunk by aicraft on the 10th. She stayed with Enterprise expecting a follow-up attack.
USS McCall next screened Enterprise and Yorktown attacking Japanese positions in the southern Marshall Islands and northern Gilbert Islands on 1 February 1942, and were back to Oahu on 5 February. On the 15th the force rebaptised TF 16 headed for Wake and Marcus Islands for raids on 24 February and 4 March. 6 weeks patrolling Hawaiian waters and escort ships to Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga were followed by the Aleutian Islands operations. She operated off Kodiak, and bombarded the western Aleutians. She had an overhaul in pearl Harbor in November, and joined TF 11 for the Battle of Guadalcanal. She would stay 10 months in the Solomons, operating from Nouméa for escort work and ASW patrols. On 19 September 1943, she went home for the first time sibce the war started, joining a convoy back to San Francisco, having a new overhaul followed by a refresher exercises.
By January 1944 she joined TF 58 for the Wotje, Taroa, and Eniwetok raids of February. By March, this was Palau, Majuro, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai, up to 1st April. She also covered landings at Hollandia as well as the raids of Truk, Satawan, and Ponape until 1st May. After workout and rest at Pearl Harbor, she operated off Majuro on 4 June and took part in the Marianas compaigns, being present dueing the landings on Guam, Rota, and Saipan. On 19 June she saw the Battle of the Philippine Sea and she was sent in the pursuit force against the IJN carriers, before returning to the screens and the Bonins raid; She had some rest and resupply at Eniwetok (from 27 June).
On 4 July, she screend the carriers raidng Iwo Jima. Next, USS McCall patrolled off Guam and on 10 July, 18:20 she spotted a heliograph from a cliff south of Uruno Point and sent a boatd to rescue the man, still within range of 6 in (152 mm) coastal batteries. This was George R. Tweed, RM1c, stranded on Guam since 1939, hiding from the Japanese His intel were vital for the next operations.
For nine weeks she screened the carriers striking again at Iwo Jima, Palaus, Yap, and Ulithi. On 10 October she steamed from Okinawa to Formosa and Luzon. Next she took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Mc Call underway 15 Jan 1945
USS McCall in November patrolled off Leyte and rested/resupplied at Manus. On 27 December she headed for Lingayen Gulf and the Luzon invasion. By mid-January 1945 she was reassigned to TG 78.12, escorting transports, alternated with fire support. By 19 February she arrived off Iwo Jima and took part in the battle until March, then escorted transports and provding on-demand shore bombardment, night illumination for the Marines. On 27 March she headed for the Volcano Islands area, Pearl Harbor and San Diego on 22 April, Panama, and an overhaul at New York NyD completed on 4 August. She was doing her refresher training at Casco Bay when the war ended.
In November she entered Norfolk Navy Yard for decommission on 30 November 1945, mothballed; and finally stricken on 28 January 1947, sold in November, scrapped in March 1948. Her service won her nine battle stars.
USS Maury DD-401
USS Maury as completed in mid-1938
Commissioned on 5 August 1938, USS Maury borke all records for her speed trials, by reaching 42.8 knots, but both with no ammo and minimal load, including just enough oil to perform the deed. She proved the USN the Bethlehem design capabilities. In practice she rarely again reached 36 knots. After Carribean shakedown and fleet problem, she was sent to the Pacific, Pearl Harbor, like her sisters screening USS Enterprise (TF 8) coming back from Wake and started a search of the IJN fleet, learning about the sinking of I-70 on 10 December.
In Jan-February she screened CV-6 for the raids on Maleolap Atoll, Taroa, and Reuters. Now reassigned to TF 16 she took part in the Wake and Marcus Islands raids, alternated with free ASW patrols. Back at Ohau she took part in antiaircraft exercises, and performed offshore patrol. On 30 April 1942 still with TF 16, Yorktown and Lexington, she took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea. She took part in the Battle of Midway with TF 17 on 4 June.
In later July she took part in the Tonga Islands sortie to the Solomons and the start of Operations on 7 August at Guadalcanal. She screened Enterprise and was present at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, on the 24-25th. This saw USS Enteprise very severely damaged and USS Maury escorted her to Tonga Islands and Pearl Harbor, arriving on 10 September. On 26 October, she was present at the Battle of Santa Cruz witnessing the loss of USS Hornet.
For 10 months with DesDiv 11 she operated in the Solomons from Nouméa and Espiritu Santo, between escort and ASW patrols. She saw the raids on Munda, Rendova, Russell, Vella Lavella, and New Georgia.
Her most important personal operation was under Captain Frederick Moosbrugger’s Task Group 31.2: The Battle of Vella Gulf, 6–7 August 1943 with her sisters USS Craven, and Dunlap. The daring raid was a surprise torpedo attack on IJN destroyers anchored there, sinking Hagikaze, Arashi, and Kawakaze. This was the first successful USN night torpedo engagement, a tasted of their own medecine for the Japanese. Later in August 1943, she departed for San Pedro and a 6-week overhaul before returning to TF 52 to and operations of Tarawa and Makin (Gilbert Islands Campaign) up to late November.
In Jan-Feb. 1944 USS Maury was back to screen carriers with TF 58 for the raids of Wotje, Taroa, Eniwetok, and Palau Islands. In March she was relocated to Majuro and assisted the raids on the Palaus, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai, landings at Hollandia, raids on Ponape, Satawan, and Truk.
USS Maury resupplied by USS Guadalupe (AO-32) as well as USS Lexington in November 1943
After a short refit at Pearl Harbor, she was back to TF 58 and present at Majuro on 4 June, then udnerway for the Marianas Islands. She bombarded Saipan, and screened the raids on Guam and Rota, and later Iwo and Chichi Jima. On 19 June she was present during the Battle of the Philippine and later Saipan operations. It was followed by the Bonins raid, until rest and resupply to Eniwetok from 27 June.
On 4 July, she was present during the raid at Iwo Jima, the landings on Guam and Tinian and for 9 weeks, she was with the carrier screen, striking Iwo Jima and be present for the offensive Peleliu, Ngesebu, Angaur, Yap, and Ulithi, Formosa and Luzon, Manila Bay and Leyte Gulf, and the battle at Cape Engaño.
By November she patrolled east of the Philippines for the Leyte and Samar landings and operations. After a resupply at Manus she was reassigned to TG 77.4 in December for the Lingayen Gulf and Luzon invasion, then TG 78.12 in January 1945 for convoy escort and TF 77 until 10 February 1945 in Lingayen Gulf. After a stop to Ulithi on 16 February she escorted with a sister USS Mississippi back to Pearl Harbor on 3 April.
For 6 weeks she performed training in Hawaiian waters, then departed for San Diego, crossed the Panama and entered New York Harbor and its Yard on 14 June for an overhaul, but the inspection team declared she would be more fitting to have her disposed of instead given her general state. On 18 August she was sent to Philadelphia for decommission on 19 October 1945, the first of the four destroyers to leave operations for good. Stricken on 1 November 1945, she was sold on 13 June 1946, resold and scrapped later. She won 16 battle stars and an Presidential Unit Citation, entering the conveted top ten of the most decorated US warships of this war.
US Navy 50 Escort Aircraft Carriers (1942-44): USS Casablanca, Liscombe Bay, Coral Sea, Corregidor, Mission Bay, Guadalcanal, Manila Bay, Natoma Bay, St. Lo, Tripoli, Wake Island, White Plains, Solomons, Kalinin Bay, Kassan Bay, Fanshaw Bay, Kitkun Bay, Tulagi, Gambier Bay, Nehenta Bay, Hoggatt Bay, Kadashan Bay, Marcus Island, Savo Island, Ommaney Bay, Petrof Bay, Rudyard Bay, Saginaw Bay, Sargent Bay, Shamrock Bay, Shipley Bay, Sitkoh Bay, Steamer Bay, Cape Esperance, Takanis Bay, Thetis Bay, Makassar Strait, Wyndham Bay, Makin Island, Lunga Point, Bismarck Sea, Salamaua, Hollandia, Kwajalein, Admiralty Islands, Bougainville, Matanikau, Attu, Roi, Munda.
The world’s largest carrier program
In late 1942, the USN urgently needed more aircraft carriers to face its obligations both in the Atlantic and Pacific. Conversion of existing C3 cargo hulls took time despite their seemingly easy and limited nature, and there was some desperation on how to increase the output.
In the early summer of 1942, Vancouver shipyard’s owner Henry J. Kaiser, already famous for the amazing output to deliver Liberty ships suggested the American government to manage the mass construction of a batch of 100 per year. His mass-construction simplification process and technology of continuous assembly and modular approach was, as he argued, adaptable to warships.
USS Guadalcanal(CVE-60) in 1944
President Roosevelt has become interested in the project, since in mid-1942, fleet carriers in construction were still far from ready and the need was urgent anyway. He confered with the yard’s team, Kaiser eventually being granted an offer to finance the construction of 50 aircraft carriers at once.
The Bogue class having been extensively tested successfully, it was proved that such vessels could provide air cover for the Pacific landing squadrons while continuing to serve in the Atlantic. Rather than scatter other series between several models of converted freighters, Henry J. Kaiser, the wealthiest holder of the largest and most prolific shipbuilding yards in Vancouver, Canada, proposed to the Admiralty to produce 100 escort carriers in record time (less than a year), based on his method of building Liberty Ships.
The Casablanca became the most prolific class of aircraft carriers in history. Although narrower and crampier than the Bogue class, their larger holds made it possible for them to carry more planes and fuel. They were also much faster thanks to their turbines, coming from fast cargo ships designed to escape U-Bootes. They were actually built in record time, the first, the USS Casablanca, laid down in November 1942 and into active service by July 1943 whereas the last one, the USS Shamrock Bay, was laid down in November 1943 and active in March 1944 (So in just in 5 months !).
They were ready in time for the great pacific operations, and 5 would be sunk in combat, USS Liscome Bay in November 1943, Gambier Bay and St Lô the same day during the battle of Leyte – victim of the Japanese guns. Kamikazes would also claim the USS Ommaney Bay in January and the USS Bismarck Sea in February 1945. After the war, some served for a time as ASW support and carriers thanks to their onboard helicopters. Most were broken up in 1960. They were a pure product of wartime and never intended to last long.
Genesis of the need, specifications and design
In WWI already, UK experimented in converting light cruisers to airplane carriers, as HMS Cavendish and depite the project was cancelled, it became subject of interest in the earlu interwar, more promising in some ways that the ponderous battleships conversiosn for fleet use. In 1925 already, the USN General Board considered the conversion of cruiser hulls to aircraft carriers. Treaty limitations still allowed for uncommitted construction tonnage to enable more carriers than authorized, using the treaty loophole of less than 10,000 tons ships. The IJN also took that alley, resulting in the Ryujo. About this uncommitted tonnage for small carriers, the board eventually reported:
“Incomplete studies of the subject by the Bureau of Construction and Repair and the meagre information available concerning the performance of airplanes from carriers of approximately 10,000 tons displacement does not justify building them at this time.”
“light” carriers resurfaced by May 1927 when LCdr. Bruce G.Leighton analyzed the problem in “Light Aircraft Carriers, A Study of their Possible Uses in So-Called ‘Cruiser Operations,’ Comparison with Light Cruisers as Fleet Units.” He already distinguished between CVL’s and CVE’s roles, between capital ships attack, fleet support and ASW patrols and reconnaissance. He considered them “worthy substitute for the light cruiser, or even preferable”.
In March 1939, Capt. John S. McCain, Sr. onboard USS Ranger (which experimented precisely the viability of such intermediate-light designs), wrote to the Secretary of the Navy about the ututility of eight “pocket-size” fast carriers (which Ranger was not) in orer to supplement fleet CVs rarther than replacing them.
Rear Admiral Ernest J. King answered his letter about a complete lack of enthusiasme for the idea and a diverisons of resources, suggesting instead that the Range was not the way forward due to her meagre air group and that the USN should pursue the largest air group reachable on the allocated tonnage instead (which was the goal with the Essex class). The Bureau of Construction and Repair however in 1940-41 as the war was on full swing, considered the feasability of converting fast passenger ships with short flight decks. By November 1940, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) confirmed SecNav when reporting the Chairman of the U.S.Maritime Commission that the characteristics of aircraft have changed in sauch a way no converted merchant vessel would be satisfactory as an aircraft carrier.
But some lowered ranks in the navy did not dropped the ball and “short-circuit” the hierarchy by directly calling President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former naval officer, scretary of the navy, and always interested by it, actively enter the controversy. He pointed out that UK was now fighting a merciless war on the Atlantic against U-Boats and as many U.S.-built military aircraft arrived in leand-lease, as well as 50 destroyers, her urged the need for an escorting and aircraft-carrying ship for faster delivery rather than in the usual cargo crates. By mid-February 1941, Rear Admiral William F. Halsey wrote to CiC Adm. King:
“A previously stated expectation, that the Navy would be called upon to provide transport for Army aircraft, has now materialized in the current diversion of Enterprise and Lexington to transport 80 pursuit planes from the West Coast to Hawaii. To continue with primary reliance on aircraft carriers for such work, as is our present neces-sity, seriously endangers the availability of air-offensive power in the Fleet.”
Adm. Husband E. Kimmel endorsed it from his position as Commander, Aircraft Battle Force to the CNO. By October 21, 1940, the CNO received a memorandum from the President’s Naval Aide about testing the conversion of a merchant into an aircraft carrier. But it was bolder than just an aicraft taxi: It was to carry indeed 8 to 12 helicopters of the new Sikorsky type -not yet operational- or airplanes tailored for small decks and hangars. The idea of a quick conversion to spread an air cover ahead of convoys and detect U-Boats, dropping smoke bombs for the escorts to pick up.
The CNO on 30 December 1940 dediced to ask the chairman of the Maritime Commission to investigate this possibility. By 2 January they consulted their lists and found two refugee Danish ships offering such conversion capability. Later investigation however demented that prospect. The conference determined that the intended ships should be of standardized design for plans to be easily ported on mass-construction ships, and that the air group and types question should be further investigated.
They also estimated that defence should included four AA pom-poms and one 5-inches surface gun. But the converted merchant ship idea was definitely “in the tubes”. On January 6, 1941, Adm. Harold R. Stark, the current CNO, wanted a new conference in his Washington office to further discussed the matter. The autogiro type was soon eliminated (The IJN howewever will adopt it nevertheless) and that dropping smoke bombs only was a waste of time (as well as blimps). A better loaded aircraft with depht charges or bombs would be a better ASW proposal overall. The short deck idea was thus also dropped (This would not deter the Royal Navy to convert MACs (Merchant Aircraft Carriers)).
The meeting also concluded that diesel should bu used to eliminate smokestacks. The Maritime Commission was consulted for the conversion of C-3 cargo ships. They in response, answered that the Mormacmail and the Mormacland were suitable for conversion and available. This was reported to President Roosevelt and that a full conversion would last three months and acquisition was sanctioned on March 6, 1941. On June 2 was commissioned USS Long Island (AVG-1), and plans were made to convert the Mormacmail, but the Bureau of Aeronautics wanted a 350 feet deck to land its SOC SeaGulls. Long Island had a 362 feet deck, one elevator, a small hangar and 16 planes.
Mormacland was eventually sent to the RN as HMS Archer when completed by November 1941. Long Island essentually replaced USS Langley as a new test and training ship. It soon underlines the need of a broader deck and two elevators instead of one, as a longer flight, better AA and higher hangar. On December 26, 1941, the Secretary of the Navy approved the conversion of 24 merchant hulls as part of the 1942 shipbuilding program (The Bogue class). In March, her ordered the conversion of cruiser hulls (the ten CVLs or Independence class). However for large series, there were at the time only twenty C-3 hulls available for conversion and ten were already planned for the Royal Navy. Meanwhile USS Charger (CVE-30) tested more ideas andreplaced CVE-1 as training ship with closer caracteristics to the Bogues and subsequent CVEs.
The remaining four CVEs of the 1942 program were converted from Cimarron class fast fleet oilers (T3 class) later the Sangamon class, larger, with a larger flight deck of 503 feet by 85 feet, and enough hangar space to accomodate two small squadrons. They were rushed-completed for Operation Torch.
Meanwhile, the experience of the Atlantic convoy shed some light on possible CVE improvements, notably on carrier operations and tactics to adapt to the new U-Boats tactics, the placement of the catapult and elevators. Service experience with the Sangamon class brough some interresting returns. Reports were written on their daily used of TBF-1 Avengers, SBD-3 Dauntless and F4F-4 Wildcat in support of landing operations while in TF 34. Reports about their commitment in combat air patrol and anti-submarine patrols were noted.
All in all as commented the Atlantic Commander in Chief (CinCLant)
“The CVE’s proved to be a valuable addition to the Fleet. They can handle a potent air group and, while their speed is insufficient, thev can operate under most weather conditions and are very useful ships.”
. This report was not lost to Ernest King and revised his opinions.
This was balanced by Captain Calvin T. Durgin which reported:
“Due to their low speed, lack of protection and light armament, it is considered hazardous to employ a CVE group in operation where there is likely to be an effective enemy opposition.
Such a group can, however, be used to advantage, and is capable of inflicting substantial damage to the enemy in assault where the enemy air and sea opposition is negligible or when it is
being contained by other superior forces. When this situation exists, the CVE is well equipped to provide all support until landing strips are established ashore, and it can be effectively employed for bombardment spotting, combat air patrols over beaches and surface forces, for all forms of air reconnaissance missions and for bombing, rocket and strafing attacks.”
By the time the four Sangamons rejoined the Pacific at the end of 1942, the carried fleet was down to USS Enterprise and the Saratoga.
President Roosevelt before that announced new escort carriers would be built when visited by Shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser. He impressed the President with his plan for mass production of escort carriers, a plan browing and under supervision by the Maritime Commission since early 1942.
USS Casablanca (CVE-55), the first of these, was commissioned July 8, 1943, leading a serie from CVE-55 to CVE-104. The order was complete by July 8, 1944, an impressive achievement. But the Sangamon class led to study a larger variant planned for the 1944 building program which became the first Navy-designed escort carriers for which hull and propeller model tests were carried out at the David W. Taylor Model Basin. The design was approved December 10, 1942 and the contract was let on January 23, 1943. The Commencement Bay (CVE-105) class was born. They measured 557 feet for a 19 knots speed, trial displacement of 23,100 tons. Most were commissioned just before V-J Day and incorporating all lessons learned since USS Long Island while the CVE type at large earned the respect of the Fleet by its service.
By December 13, 1944, the Escort Carrier Force, Pacific, was created and fell under command of RAdm. Durgin which evaluated the Sangamon class in North Africa. This was the result of the large number of escort carriers now available to the Fleet, thanks to the Casablanca class. Experience at Palau, Morotai and Leyte all pointed out better planning was necessary not to jeopardize their usefulness and unleash their full potential. Scot MacDonald, based on reports by VADM. (THEN RADM.) Calvin T. Durgin, Commander, Escort Carrier Force, Pacific for NAVAL AVIATION NEWS, Dec. 1962. Src
About Henry J Kaiser
Henry John Kaiser (May 9, 1882 – August 24, 1967) was an American industrialist, “father of modern American shipbuilding”. He started in the construction industryand notably worked on the Hoover Dam. He formed Kaiser Aluminum and Kaiser Steel and later established the Kaiser Shipyards as a logical follow-up. Of course his most famous creation were the 2700+ Liberty ships of World War II, out-building what German U-Boats can sunk. After the war he turned to Kaiser Motors and the booming post-war automobile industry. He also diversified in the 1960s to other sectors.
Escort carriers fitting out at Kaiser Shipyards circa April 1944
Of course it’s for his shipyards Henry J Kaiser was best known.
The Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, California became the fastest and largest ship producer in the world, but it was not done on a single day: Henry J. Kaiser had been building cargo ships for the U.S. Maritime Commission already by the late 1930s. After September 1939, he started to receive additional orders from the British government and knowing his capability would be soon overrun by orders he established his first Richmond shipyard, in December 1940.
This soon accompanied by an innovative medical care (later “Kaiser Permanente”). The four Richmond Kaiser Shipyards built 747 ships in World War II which was an unsurpassed industrial effort for shipbuilding. His ships became the world’s cheapest built in 2/3 less time and at 1/4 cost. Robert E. Peary was became the recold holder of faster ship of that size ever assembled, in less than five days (it was a state-sponsored competition among shipyards). All in all by 1945 the yard built $1.8 billion worth of ships.
He achieved this feat by adapting production techniques specific to cargo ship construction with an emphasis on hyper-standardization and taylorization at any level, with an average construction time of 45 days. The Liberty ships were succeeded by the faster Victory ships. He changed his assembly techniques by visiting Ford, which convinced him to swap to welding instead of riveting. Not only it took less strength (and thus, was a job open to women) and was easier to teach, especially for unskilled laborers. Sub-assembliy and modularity was also key in the process.
The choice of Kaiser/Vancouver yard
The success rate of the first led to the establishement of no less than three others shipyards, in Ryan Point (Vancouver), Columbia River (Washington state) and Swan Island (Portland, Oregon). He built also smaller vessels and one was turned in just 71 hours and 40 minutes at Vancouver yard on November 16, 1942.
Perhaps it’s no mystery that this was Kaiser/Vancouver which was chosen by Kaiser for his proposal to the president of a hundred Kaiser hulls converted as escort carriers, just reusing the techniques he mastered well, with assistance for the Navy for all the proper military fittings and installations. Although this was done in the completion phase.
The Vancouver Shipyard was an emergency shipyard, constructed along the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington (not Canada !) for the U.S. Maritime Commission in 1942. The shipyard was located on the Pacific Northwest as the Oregon and Swan Island ones (both in Oregon). This yard started production in March 1942 over an area of 200 acres (81 ha) and five different types were delivered, but the most famous one by far were the Casablanca-class escort carriers, the yard’s largest “production line”. On Google Maps
Vanport, Oregon, nicknamed “Kaiserville” in 1943. This mushroom city was a feat of wartime public housing setup in Multnomah County.
This yard had a payroll of 38,000 workers which came mostly from Vanport, Oregon were considerable housing was raised to house the workforce in the area. In fact as it often happened in a yard built in such a “remote” location, a city practically emerged from the ground up, fed by additional personal and services dedicated to this workforce. The city was however almost destroyed by the 1948 Columbia River flood.
After the war, the Shipyard had no more orders (as the others in Oregon) and they were sold to Gilmore Steel for just $3.25 million.
At Kaiser Vancouver (now part of Portland subburbia), each new carrier was to be delivered as an “empty box” with a landing deck, catways, fittings for future sponsons, truncated exhausts, a wide and completely empty hangar and lift, and a small island with a lattice, also empty. The completion supervised by the Navy comprised all the electrical lighting and wiring, and basically everything above the main deck, so from the hangar floor.
“Wendy Welder” at Richmond Shipyards. Feats of rapid construction were far less impressive for escort carriers due to the higher level of technicity.
One problem with welded hulls which surfaced after presidential approval for construction, and was more obvious after the war, was the issue of brittle fracture. This caused the loss of some Liberty ships in cold seas: Under both heavy load, bad weather and welding defects, welds failed, and hulls cracked, sometimes in two. Minor changes and more rigid welding control was only implemented from 1947, eliminated Liberty ship losses until 1955.
Kaiser also took part in the Joshua Hendy Iron Works of Sunnyvale in California building the standard EC-2 triple expansion steam engines used on all Liberty ships (the Victories had turbines). This led to the establishement of California Shipbuilding Corporation.
Anyway, welding did not affected the escort carrier life as apparently no significant accident was ever recorded and the losses by gunfire (St Lô) or Kamikaze attacks (xxx) were due to regular battle damage and fire rather than any structural issue. None broke in two as the result of severe impacts.
Term of building of the first 10 ships was 241-287 days, last ships of the class were built in 101-112 days or three months and a half on average. This was less stellar than Liberty Ships, but for warship construction of that scale and role, totally unheard of (and never surpassed). For comparison, a Yorktown class carrier took four years, an Essex-class two and a half. The same pre-fabrication and sub-assembly lines were used in a “leaf-pattern” to feed the central assembly line where the hull was assembled. This part was the fastest, and close to Liberty ships’s average delivery rates. It was the completion part which took most time.
As indicated above, the “empty box” delivered to the Navy needed to received many additional systems. Sensitive aviation fuel lines needed to be properly installed and checked, as well as the holds containing ammunitions (from bullets to depht-charges bombs and rockets), the intercom tested as well as communications lines to the AA gunners, machinery and central operation, and all the electronic equipments around the radars, displays, etc. They needed to be carefully calibrated. Crews were far larger than on Liberty ships (62 on average, counting the gunners and navy personal) versus on escort carriers: 910–916 officers and men total, including 50–56 for the air group, pilots and maintenance crews alike. This was more than ten times and implied far more accomodations, food and amenities to setup.
Vancouver Shipyards production setup
The hull chosen was the S4-S2-BB3 type according to the Maritime Commission Board registry. This was not even a wartime, but a prewar (for the US) project and registration. The U.S. Maritime Commission type S4-S2-BB3 emerged in 1941 as the Atlantic Convoys developed as the will to participated to the British desperate chase for aircraft carrier superiority. Planners estimated that military air cover was a crucial component of convoy escort and devise a type of small escort carrier based on the more civilian C4 type. The latter were 4th in rank and largest generic cargo type (hence the “C”).
The C4 were inspired by a designed originally for the American-Hawaiian Lines in 1941, and by late 1941, plans were taken over by the US Maritime Commission which designed a dedicated cargo/troopships in 3 shipyards: Kaiser Richmond, CA Yard No.3 Kaiser Vancouver, WA and Sun SB & DD in Chester PA. These were the largest cargo ships ever designed by MARCOM, with a single screw steam turbine and 9,900 shp, capable of 17 knots. The S4 was equipped ironically with a VTE which seems a step back, but sturdy enough to procured a top speed two knots above, at 19 kts.
Internally by the Commission the S4 were also described as “Kaiser-built Escort Carriers, Special Attack ships, Operation Crossroads”.
According to Kaiser-Vancouver logs here is the detail:
Legend: Hull# | Original Name | Type | MC# | Delivery Date | Pennant and final name:
301 | HMS Ameer | S4-S2-BB3 | 1092 | Jul-43 | CVE 55, renamed Alazon Bay, later Casablanca, scrapped 1947
302 | Liscombe Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1093 | Aug-43 | CVE 56, torpedoed and lost in the Pacific 1943
303 | Alikula Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1094 | Aug-43 | CVE 57, renamed Coral Sea, then Anzio, scrapped 1960
304 | HMS Atheling | S4-S2-BB3 | 1095 | Aug-43 | CVE 58, renamed Anguilla Bay, later Corregidor, scrapped 1960
305 | HMS Atheling | S4-S2-BB3 | 1096 | Sep-43 | CVE 59, renamed Mission Bay, scrapped 1960
306 | Astrolabe Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1097 | Sep-43 | CVE 60, renamed Guadalcanal, scrapped 1960
307 | Bucareli Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1098 | Oct-43 | CVE 61, renamed Manila Bay, scrapped 1960
308 | HMS Begum | S4-S2-BB3 | 1099 | Oct-43 | CVE 62, renamed Natoma Bay, scrapped 1960
309 | Chapin Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1100 | Oct-43 | CVE 63, renamed Midway, later St. Lo, kamikazied and lost at Leyte Gulf 1944
310 | Didrickson Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1101 | Oct-43 | CVE 64, renamed Tripoli, scrapped 1960
311 | Dolomi Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1102 | Nov-43 | CVE 65, renamed Wake Island, kamikazied off Okinawa 1945, scrapped 1947
312 | Elbour Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1103 | Nov-43 | CVE 66, renamed White Plains, scrapped 1959
313 | HMS Emperor | S4-S2-BB3 | 1104 | Nov-43 | CVE 67, renamed Nassuk Bay, later Solomons, scrapped 1947
314 | Kalinin Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1105 | Nov-43 | CVE 68, damaged at Leyte Gulf 1944, scrapped 1947
315 | Kassan Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1106 | Dec-43 | CVE 69, scrapped 1960
316 | Fanshaw Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1107 | Dec-43 | CVE 70, damaged at Leyte Gulf 1944, scrapped 1959
317 | Kitkun Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1108 | Dec-43 | CVE 71, damaged off Mindoro 1945, scrapped 1947
318 | Fortaleza Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1109 | Dec-43 | CVE 72, renamed Tulagi, scrapped 1947
319 | Gambier Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1110 | Dec-43 | CVE 73, sunk by gunfire at Leyte Gulf 1944
320 | HMS Kedive | S4-S2-BB3 | 1111 | Jan-44 | CVE 74, renamed Nehetna Bay, scrapped 1960
321 | Hoggatt Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1112 | Jan-44 | CVE 75, scrapped 1960
322 | Kadashan Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1113 | Jan-44 | CVE 76, scrapped 1960
323 | Kanalku Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1114 | Jan-44 | CVE 77, renamed Marcus Island, scrapped 1960
324 | Kaita Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1115 | Feb-44 | CVE 78, renamed Savo Island, scrapped 1960
325 | Ommaney Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1116 | Feb-44 | CVE 79, kamikazied and scuttled off Mindoro 1945
326 | Petrof Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1117 | Feb-44 | CVE 80, scrapped 1959
327 | Rudyard Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1118 | Feb-44 | CVE 81, scrapped 1960
328 | Saginaw Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1119 | Mar-44 | CVE 82, scrapped 1960
329 | Sargent Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1120 | Mar-44 | CVE 83, scrapped 1959
330 | Shamrock Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1121 | Mar-44 | CVE 84, scrapped 1959
331 | Shipley Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1122 | Mar-44 | CVE 85, scrapped 1961
332 | Sitkoh Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1123 | Mar-44 | CVE 86, scrapped 1961
333 | Steamer Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1124 | Apr-44 | CVE 87, scrapped 1959
334 | Tananek Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1125 | Apr-44 | CVE 88, renamed Cape Esperance, scrapped 1961
335 | Takanis Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1126 | Apr-44 | CVE 89, scrapped 1960
336 | Thets Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1127 | Apr-44 | CVE 90, later LPH 6, scrapped 1967
337 | Ulitaka Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1128 | Apr-44 | CVE 91, renamed Makassar Strait, to be sunk as target 1959 but grounded and broke up
338 | Wyndham Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1129 | May-44 | CVE 92, scrapped 1961
339 | Woodcliff Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1130 | May-44 | CVE 93, renamed Makin Island, scrapped 1947
340 | Alazon Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1131 | May-44 | CVE 94, renamed Lunga Point, scrapped 1960
341 | Alikula Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1132 | May-44 | CVE 95, renamed Bismarck Sea, kamikazied and lost off Iwo Jima 1945
342 | Anguilla Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1133 | May-44 | CVE 96, renamed Salamaua, damaged in Lingayen Gulf 1945, scrapped 1947
343 | Astrolabe Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1134 | Jun-44 | CVE 97, renamed Hollandia, scrapped 1960
344 | Bucareli Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1135 | Jun-44 | CVE 98, renamed Kwajalein, scrapped 1960
345 | Chapin Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1136 | Jun-44 | CVE 99, renamed Admiralty Islands, scrapped 1947
346 | Didrockson Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1137 | Jun-44 | CVE 100, renamed Bougainville, scrapped 1960
347 | Dolomi Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1138 | Jun-44 | CVE 101, renamed Matanikau, scrapped 1960
348 | Elbour Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1139 | Jun-44 | CVE 102, renamed Attu, sold for scrap 1947 but resold as Gay, scrapped 1949
349 | Alava Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1140 | Jul-44 | CVE 103, renamed Roi, , scrapped 1947
350 | Tonowek Bay | S4-S2-BB3 | 1141 | Jul-44 | CVE 104, renamed Munda, scrapped 1960
Impact of the Casablanca class on the war
It cannot be overstated as much WW2 involved an industrial colossal effort, several times greater than WWI, the first large scale industrial global war, and unlike any conflict of the past. At least the cold war only asked an incremental, peacetime evolution were output was gradually overshadowed by quality. In WW2, this was a Darwinian prospect. By December 1941, the “free world” seemed defeated on all fronts. Tanks and planes were produced by tens of thousands to be thrown into the furnace, but also ships – not small boats, but very large ones, demultiplying air power, seemingly the great winner of WW2.
Fifty aicraft carriers was an unprecedented number for that kind of vessel, never surpassed so far. It can be argued that they were so fast-buult, so simplified and low-cost they became “consumable” carriers a bit like the Liberty ships from the same yards, built with the same techniques, and as promised, a batch of 50 joined the 143 aircraft carriers built in the United States during the war. Perhaps the closest and only comparable endeavour today are the US Burke class destroyers, by cost and complexity several fold above the capabilities of the nimbler carriers.
By bolstering air power at low coast and quickly, these “Jeep carriers” spared the already hard-pressed Essex-class and Independence class making the bulk of the offensive fast carrier force of the Vth fleet in 1943-45. They provided indeed air cover for the numerous amphibious fleets deployed in the island-hopping campaign of the pacific, but also supply fleets, vital to keep TF38/58 operational on the long run, and the long supply chain which needed escort since Pearl Harbor to the far outreach of the Pacific, down to the US shores.
These 50 escort carriers were also split and part (a small one however) also took part in the vital role of escorting convoys in the Atlantic, since ASW warfare’s best answered soon appeared to be aviation, not least because U-Boats were more easily spotted from the air (and strafe them), but also to shoot down the Luftwaffe’s long range spotting planes such as the Fw200 Condor. The fifty carriers played this unglamorous but vital part of operations until construction stopped in July 1944. After the war, there fortune were diverse, many were stricken outright, other as late as 1960-64, still used as specialized ships (like aviaton transport), and then joined the civilian market, converted as freighters.
Design of the Casablanca class
Casablanca in many respects reminded Bogue but had smaller displacement, two shafts and was faster. As a design basis the fast dry cargo carrier of S4-S2ВВ-3 type was used, but, unlike the predecessors, new carriers were built quite new, instead of earlier carriers converted from merchant hulls.
There were two propellers screws, on shafts driven by two Skinner Unaflow reciprocating, vertical quadruple expansion (9000 shp) steam engines. The final commercial evolution of the uniflow engine in the US was reached by the late 1930, up the early 1940s by the Skinner Engine Company from the Compound Unaflow Marine Steam Engine operating in a steeple compound configuration making it almost as efficient as a diesel. This was usual on car ferries on the Great Lakes and the Casablanca-class used two 5-cylinder Skinner Unaflow engines, but not steeple compounds.
They were fed by four Babcock & Wilcox boilers. These were the common marine type, with a main balloon and series of small tubes below for expansion, double-ended.
Total output was 9,000 shp (6,700 kW). This allowed a top speed of 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph). There was a provision onboard of 2,228 tons fuel oil (in addition of the 120,000 gallons/454,000 liters aviation gasoline) for a Range of 10,240 nmi (18,960 km; 11,780 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph).
The exhaust pipes were not truncated but rather ducted to the sides, two each side amidship and far apart to better vent smoke above the deck, at an ideal height for dispersion, as the wind blew stronger just over the deck surface, propelling the fumes outwards of the ship.
ONI Rendition of the ship – schematics.
It relied on the same usual “troika” of USN vessels of that era, with a single stern 5 in (127 mm)/38 cal dual-purpose gun, two quad 40 mm (1.57 in) Bofors anti-aircraft guns, and twelve 20 mm (0.79 in) Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannons around the flight deck’s sponsons.
Main: stern single 5-in/38
5-in/38 in action on USS Hollandia, 1945
This standard piece of ordnance shared by the whole US Navy and seen much as the best of its kind (a true dual purpose). The only issue of the Casablanca design was it’s location, a headache for engineers. It was placed on the poop deck and only could cover the rear 180° arc, with the landing deck partly above. The second issue was the lack of a protective shield against strafing or shrapnel in a naval engagement. More
40 mm Mounts
The twin mounts -there was no room for quad ones- were located fore and aft of the flight deck. These twin mounts were just in practice halved quad mounts. All parts were interchangeable. They had hydraulic-coupled drives to avoid salt contamination. These Mark IV twin mountings were derived from the Dutch Hazemeyer triaxial mounting from the minelayer Willem van der Zaan which took refuge in Britain in 1940. It was a self-contained mounting with its own rangefinder, radar and analog computer. There were two Mark IV water-cooled guns using track/pinion for elevation and training and a Ward-Leonard system for auto-tracking. It was somewhat delicate to use on small ships exposed to water spray, so more comfortable at the height of the carrier’s flight decks. It seems that crews preferred to use the manual mode over the power mode. It could elevate 25 degrees per second at 90°. The rest of the specs were the same as the common 40 mm/56 Mark 2. More
20 mm Mounts
Standard L70 Oerikon piece, single mount, shielded, and placed along the deck’s side galley. This changed overtime, but the usual plan was two single sponsons forward of the bridge (one each side), behind the twin Bofors covering the angles, and two others behind or abadft the island, then twin mount sponsons all along the deck aft. The usual figure was four of these either side, so eight for sixteen single mount, and four single sponson mounts. This was increased during the war, making more room for extra single or twin sponsons. There were also four directoros for the AA artillery located on either end of the ship, close to the Bofors mounts. More.
SC and SG Radars and other electronic equipments
The SC air search radar was standard on most small to medium ships of the USN. It was completed by an SG surface search radar.
The 100 Kw SC CXAM-type radar had a Pulse Width of 5 microsecond, 60 Hz frequency, 5rp scan rate and detection of a bomber 30 nm (60 km) away, of a battleship at 10 nautical miles (20 km), a destroyer at 3 nautical miles (6 km), which was the bare minimum, greatly improved with the SC-1.
The SG was also 1st-gen model, small cut parabola at the front of the lower platform of the derrick. It was a 50 Kw model with the pulse Repetition Frequency of 775, 800 or 825 Hz, 4/8/12 rpm frequency, and 15 nautical miles (30 km) aerial range 22/15 nautical miles (30 km) for a surface ship from a battleship to a destroyer.
Both were located on the derrick mast over the bridge.
Some units had their radar upgraded to SC-2 or SK (respectively) later in the war (1945).
They were fitted with two inboard elevators and a single steam catapult installed at the forward end of the flight dekc, to the right (port) unlike the Essex class which had it to the right, but in conformity to earlier designs. There was a single hangar with safety sprinklers and a damage control CP. Like other designs of the time, the avgas tanks were buried deep into the hull. The elevators had not the same size, the aft one was larger to accomodate planes without wings folded. Both rectalngular with rounded edges, the forwards one was in the axis, turned the aft one across. In total they carried 27 planes less spares, although the limited hangar space could not allow much to be suspended under the roof.
East Aircraft FM-2, VC-2, USS White Plains 1944
Globally, this air group was more diverse was usually assumed. It was composed of the F4F GM Wildcat as main fighter, but in some cases the F4U Corsair was operated as the F6F Hellcat. The SBD Dauntless dive bomber (SBD-5) was more common as the TBF Avenger. For reconnaissance some had one or two Curtiss SOC Seagull, F4F-P Wildcat but more rarely the F4U-P Corsair and F6F-P Hellcat.
The air group varied in time and role: For thos kept for convoy escort in 1943, notably in the Atlantic, the ypical air group comprised nine F4F-8/FM-2 and ten up to 12 TBF-1/TBM-3 Avenger.
By August 1944, USS Kasaan Bay had aboard 24 F6F-5 and 7 F6F-3N, so a very specialized batch of Hellcats, including a heavy reconnaissance component. This was 31, presumably many were a “permament park” on deck.
By April 1945 USS Fanshaw Bay typically had the “standard” air group comprising twenty-four F4F-8/FM-2 for air defence and six TBM-3 for any surface/ASW threat, showing air defence was paramount, notably to protect the assault fleet against Kamikaze attacks.
USS Savo Island at the same time however had twenty F4F-8/FM-2 and 11 TBM-1C plus four TBM-3, mostly used for attacks, notably over Japan. The latter were gradually equipped with rockets, but consumed bombs as standard.
Fighters: General Motors FM-1/2 Wildcat
FM-1 Wildcat takes off from USS Kassan Bay in 1944
FM-2 VC-10 onboard USS Gambier Bay October 1944: She was sunk at the battle of Samar
Eastern Aircraft FM-2, “judy” VC-14 USS Hogatt Bay (CV-75), Emirau Island (Bismarck Archipelago), May 1944.
Fighters: Grumman F6F Wildcat
F6F-5 taking off from USS Kasaan Bay off France, June 1944. The F6F was far less common aboard due to her larger size, and only adopted notably in some cases and missions, like landing cover, owing a possible appearance or enemy planes. Since it was far more rare for CVs escorting convoys, the nimbler Wildcat was the norm.
Same as above, F6F from VF-74 from VCE-69, France 1944
Fighters: Vought F8U Corsair
F4U-4 Corsairs of VB-3, USS Solomons, making their qualifications in july 1945
Torpedo-Bombers: Grumman/GM TBM Avenger
Grumman TBF landing on USS Marcus Island, 5 March 1944. This was a first. This “juggernaut” became common as standard torpedo bomber, but in around 1/3 of the entire air group, completed by Wildcats most of the time. It was preferred over the Helldiver, but its large weight meant for taking off, it needed the whole deck lenght, and landing was always a more perilous exercize compared to roomy fleet carriers.
Douglas SBDs and Grumman TBFs on an escort carrier in 1943
TBM flies above USS Saginaw Bay, 14 June 1944
Dive-Bombers: Curtiss SB2C Helldiver
An SB2C on USS Kwajalein during a Typhoon in late 1944. The Helldiver was not liked much and if part in some occasions of CVE’s air groups, it was reserved for special operations and in particular in amphibious landing cover, both to deal with any ground objectives, but also with an always possible enemy fleet attack, as shown during the battle of Samar (Taffy 3 defence).
Unfortunately i can’t find a profile of one.
Reconnaissance: Curtiss SOC Seagull
The U.S. Navy escort carrier USS Savo Island (CVE-78) underway in May 1944, location unknown. Note dismantled SO3C Seamew, a J2F Duck (minus its engine), and SOC Seagull and three F6F Hellcats lining the port side, with spare floats lashed down aft.
Tactics and combat actions
Pilot Briefing aboard USS Kasaan Bay in 1944.
When the first of these ships were commissioned in the summer of 1943, the face of the war in the Pacific already had drastically changed, as the USN was no longer “hanging by the nails” with a few interwar careers and cruisers to stand up to the IJN. The first two Essex class fleet carriers just arrived and relieved this fatigued force centered around the battered USS Enterprise and Saratoga, as well as the first seven CVLs (Independence class) that brought a breath of fresh air to the US Forces, enabling to consider a steady counter-offensive.
A hard to fit new type
USS Casablanca (ACV-55) about to be launched on 5 April 1943
Tactically, discussion in the admiralty board, submitted with this unexpected mass-built design, had little doubts about its use. Too slow to take part in main combat operation with the fleet (That was the role attributed to the core of TF38/58) they were relegated to two other forces: The assault fleet, mostly comprising troopships and their escort, and the slower auxiliary fleet, supply and depot vessels, repair ships and oilers. Both were to be protected by the fast carrier fleet, taking a more active role allowed by its speed.
The bulk of the assault and auxiliary fleet was made of civilian-grade ships capable of 15 knots on average. Thus the 19 knots of the Casablanca were perfectly adequate. The seocnd point was about their air group. It was not large enough for the air naval doctrine at the time. The “100-planes assault” or “sunday punch” was the new norm for fleet carriers, enabling a better coordination. The CVLs were mostly there to provide a CAP and resupplying losses. But the small groups of the CVEs limited them to air defence, which was shown in the majority of their composition, which was mission-dependent. They usually had a full fighter squadron, but a half-squadron for attack.
For those potentially deployed in the Atlantic, a perhaps more balanced air group as envisioned, with the TBF Avenger used as main ASW patrol/strike plane. The Luftwaffe was not really a threat by late 1943 over this theater. But for the sake of standardization the Casablancas were kept for the Pacific, which was not the case for the Bogue class.
USS Guadalcanal in the Battle of the Atlantic: Its TBMs about to be launched for an attack on U-544. The combination 5-in rockets/depth charges was found the best in early 1944.
Thus, a distinction was made for those assigned to assault forces: Their air group in proportion comprised a more balanced ratio of attack planes versus fighters in order to participate to the air support during the assault. Something that partly freed the fast carrier force for more important objectives, preventing reinforcements and distant strike assets (like airfields on other islands) for example or diversionary actions. In short the CVEs provided the “close air support” for the invasion force, both a permament CAP in case of Japanese aircraft from other airfields/bases not neutralized by the fast carrier force (which happened often, with unexpected Kamikaze attacks), and direct and on-demand air support.
A place found and secured
USS Bismarck Sea CVE-95 loading Douglas SBD Dauntless bombers from a barge circa in 1944.
The initial role as planned early in 1941 by President Rooselevelt was a quick conversion of merchant vessels to taxi all sortts of aircraft delivered via lend-lease. They could simply be flown instead of delivered by crate, transported to an airfield, assembled and tested, which was the usual way in peacetime. The Casablanca class carried all sorts of aircraft types, including very large ones. Here USS Thetis Bay loaded with eight Catalinas and a dozen smaller types under their shadow.
When the first CVEs were starting their training, meanwhile in the Pacific the Invasion of New Georgia was near its completion (30 June-5 August 1943). This was the first major Allied offensive in the Solomon Islands after Guadalcanal, a closing point to the gruelling match that was ongoing since last August 1942 and seeing many battles. Also the operations they missed were the Gilberts invasion from 20 July 1943 at Tarawa and Abemama atolls, Nauru Island (Operation Galvanic).
It’s by the end of the year that most CVE were at last fully ready for combat, with their pilots qualified. The invasion of Makin Island in September (Marines landed from USS Nautilus) and the full invasion in November supported by the first CVEs, and among these, three Casablanca-class vessels, which air group was mostly intended for assault, with Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers and Grumman TBF Avengers. These were USS Liscome Bay, USS Coral Sea and USS Corregidor.
The former was the sole loss (and first of the class), spotted at dawn on 24 November by the Japanese submarine I-175, arriving unnoticed prior to the invasion and by a single torpedo hit off a full spread. The torpedo detonated just outside, blewing up its aerial bombs stockpile, trigerring a detonation that broke her in two, with 644 going down, including flagship admiral, TG commander Rear Admiral Henry M. Mullinnix and Captain Irving Wiltsie, plus Pearl Harbor Navy Cross recipient Cook Third Class Dorie Miller (with a new fleet carrier named after him). The latter investigation shown the destroyer screen composed of USS Hull and USS Franks were not in place when this happened and they were not zigzaging, to make support operations easier.
USS Anzio (CVE-57) at Pearl Harbor, 5 October 1944
On the 15th, escort carriers provided direct support for landings on Mindoro and the next two days. By January 3-22, 1945 some 17 escort carriers covered the approach of the Luzon Attack Force as part of Task Group 77.4. They made preliminary strikes in the assault area and covered the landings, supported the inland advance. RAdm. Sample with six carriers, provided air cover and support at San Antonio (near Subic Bay) and by February, Adm. Durgin directed his carriers at Iwo Jima.
Damaged Hellcats F6F-5 aboard USS Admiralty Islands, 20 July 1944
In March he commited his reinforced carrier group at the Okinawa campaign at the head of Task Group 52.1 (18 escort carriers). Missions included pre-assault strikes, occupation support of Kerama Retto, pre-assault strikes on Okinawa, landings support, CAP and ASW patrols, daily close support.
USS Gambier Bay under fore at Samar, 1944
Losses of CVEs were not heavy according to WW2 standards. Five were lost in the Pacific and one Bogue class in the Atlantic. The losses were due mostly to unexpected attacks: Naval surprise for St Lô at Leyte, she never was supposed to deal with heavy warship gunfire, Kamikazes that went through or submarines sneeking in, classic loss clauses that had few remedies but better patrolling from escorting destroyers and heavier combined AA, better CAP tactics, or just avoiding negligence in the face of clever tactics as shown by the Taffy-3 case.
Camouflage Pattern MS-33 Design 3D for the Casablanca class.
Pattern sheet MS-33 10A
Pattern sheet MS-32 12A
Old author’s illustration of USS Casablanca in 1944. More recent ones ar coming, and a poster with the fifty carriers.
USS Liscome Bay, 1943
USS Guadalcanal, mid-1944
USS Shamrock Bay 1944-45
USS Bismarck Sea, 1944
USS Gambier Bay as she was when sunk at the battle of Samar in Taffy 3, Leyte October 1944.
1 x 5 in (127mm), 8 x 40 AA (4×4), 12 x 20 mm, 27 aircraft
The Casablanca class coldwar career (1946-1964)
USS Thetis Bay (CVHE-1) 1950s
A bunch of these carriers stayed active for a few more years after their initial decommission in 1946-47, which was the fate of all there fifty ships. With the war of Korea however an inspection commission examined those in the best general state to be refurbished and recommissioned, at least as aircraft/helicopter carriers/taxis. There were: USS Corregidor: Reactivated 19 May 1951 decomm. again 4 September 1958 Cape Esperance: Reactivated 5 August 1950, decomm. 15 January 1959 Thetis Bay: Reactivated 20 July 1956, decomm. 1 March 1964 Windham Bay: Reactivated 28 October 1950, decomm. 15 January 1959
First F-86s arrive in Korea on USS Cape Esperance, Nov 1950
USS Leyte CVA-32 and Reserve Fleet escort carriers at the South Boston Naval Annex 25 July 1953
Many were still around in 1958, in long preservation, and were simply discarded and scrapped or expended as targets like Makassar Strait in 1961.
Note: They will be the object of a separate article in the cold war section.
USS Thetis Bay (CVE-90) had the longest career, as from September 1945 she joined the “Magic Carpet” fleet, and by August 1946, joined the Tacoma group, Pacific Reserve Fleet.
She was reactivated from May 1955, leaving the Pacific Reserve Fleet, towed to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard to be converted under project SCB 122, the first USN assault helicopter carrier. On 1 July, she became CVHA-1, in support of attack transports for vertical assault capabilitie, recommissioned on 20 July 1956 with the aft section of her flight deck cut away. She trained with the Marine Corps Test Unit No. 1 in Camp Pendleton and taking part in amphibious training exercises off of the California coast.
The evaluation complete, she departed for the Far East on 10 July 1957. She would returned there in 1958. In 1959 she became LPH-6 and was repaired after Typhoon Billie while in Taiwan. She put to good use her 21 Marine Corps Sikorsky H-34s to ferry aid and transporting civilians after a massive flooding. Back in the US she took part in the first large-scale night landing of ground forces by carrier-based helicopters. She was back in the Pacific’s 7th fleet in 1961, and in 1962-63 operated off the Atlantic coast and Caribbean. She took part in the Cuban Missile Crisis‘s naval “quarantine” having a marine landing team ready for action. In late 1963 she helped Port-au-Prince after a storm, providing medical aid and food supplies.
In January 1964 she was sent to the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia for inactivation work, struck 1 March 1964, sold by December 1964, BU 1966.
A model of USS Gambier Bay
USS Sargent Bay CVE-83 underway 1944
US Navy escort carriers at San Diego circa in June 1944
USS Admiralty Islands CVE-99 ferrying planes 31 December 1944
John Gardiner Conway’s all the words fighting ships 1921-47
The Escort Carrier in the Second World War: Combustible, Vulnerable, Expendable!, By David Wragg, page 180
Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World, Norman Polmar, page 160
The modeller’s corner
General query on scalemates.com
The Casablanca class in action:
USS Lunga point in the Mndanao sea, 3 January 1945
USS Casablanca (CVE-55)
USS Casablanca at Puget Sound, July 1943, freshly completed.
Construction of this famous lead ship was awarded to Kaiser in Vancouver, Washington as seen, with a contract signed on 18 June 1942 and symbol given AVG-55, as she was already the 55th escort carrier ordered at this point for US alone.
On 20 August she became ACV-55, for “auxiliary”. Laid down on 3 November 1942 as originall (HMS) Ameer, via lend-lease she was known there MC hull 1092, first of 50 vessels, and there was a special ceremony with the director, company’s staff and many officials of the Maritime Commision and USN. Note: I’ll spend a longer time on this one to showcase a typical career to the full. The next ships’s careers would be seen on a more succnt way.
On 23 February 1943, the second one, Liscome Bay, was transferred under lend-lease in place of ACV 55, and was renamed “Alazon Bay” (Alazan Bay in reality, Kleberg County, Texas) and changed again for Casablanca on 3 April 1942 as her sister was in between, renamed Lunga Point. Launched on 5 April that year, quickly built as promised, she was sponsored by no less than First Lady Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.
After a quick fitting out, always for that kind of ship, she was transferred to the Navy on 8 July and this time, officially commissioned on 15 July. Firts captain was Steven Ward Callaway. He was chosen as the one who will “write the book” for hundreds of captains on similars ships to follow.
It was however discovered during her sea trials a serious defect on her single propeller, both crippling speed and agility, so she was useless basically before being drydocked for replacement. Kaiser was not surprised in some ways as such teething problems were awaited; This ship was the first to hit water after all. For some time before being drydocked she was retained by the Navy as a training vessel in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, providing there too, a model of pilot certifications proper to these fifty carriers.
Until August 1944, she basically trained all carrier squadrons for the whole class and a training vessel for crews intended for the other Casablanca-class before commission, which took just two weeks between mastering the equipment and handle these. She also generatd tons of useful data on how she handled for prolonged periods at sea, general readiness and equipment’s use. Lessons learned were implemented on the fly on the new ships in construction;
By the summer of 1944 at last, USS Casablanca was drydocked to have her propeller corrected. Following certifications, she carried out at last her first war mission, departing on 24 August with personnel, airplanes, and aviation gasoline, from NAS Alameda (California), passing under the Golden Gate Bridge and off San Francisco before heading for Manus (Admiralty Islands). After a transport mission, taxiing aicraft and making at least her first long range mission she was back on 8 October 1944 to resume at Puget Sound her role as training carrier, as she was found quite valuable for the role. Due to this she had little occasion to see combat. She started to train pre-commissioning crews for the larger Commencement Bay-class also. A storm damaged her enough to need repairs in San Diego from 22 January 1945. On 12 February Captain John Lewis Murphy took command.
Back in the same role on 13 March, she was re-routed for a new transport mission, making a stop to Pearl Harbor, and proceeded to Guam, to unload part of her cargo, followed by another stop at Samar in the Philippines, but also Manus, and Palau. From 12 May she went back home to West Coast and her first overhaul, carrying bacl wounded personnel. They were mostly diverted to Pearl Harbor on 24 June. The summer of 1945 saw her transporting more personal and material to Pearl Harbor and Guam. While mud-way to the latter, the crew heard about Japan’s surrender.
By late 1945 she retook her old rolme as training carrier, providing pilot qualifications off Saipan and was later retrofitted into a troopship toparticipate in Operation Magic Carpet fleet, repatriating servicemen from around many locations in the pacific. She arrived in San Francisco on 24 September and was back in Pearl (September-October) for a second run to stopping at Espiritu Santo, Nouméa.
Her last run was between 8 December and 16 January 1946 (San Francisco-Yokohama). Back on the West Coast she departed on 23 January to Norfolk, and be mothballed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet from 30 May 1946, then fully decommissioned on 10 June, struck on 3 July and sold on 23 April 1947 for scrap, to a Chester Company. Her active life had been of just three years, exemplifying the way the whole class was throught to be a quick wartime expedient and little else.
But the role she played out of harm was invaluable for the whole class, giving quick and efficient training on all crews, something few aicraft carriers procured in their active life but perhaps the British HMS Argus.
USS Liscombe Bay (CVE-56)
USS Liscome Bay underway in 1945
USS Liscombe Bay (CVE-56) was named after a bay on Adak Island, in the Aleutian Islands. She was commissioned in April 1943.
After commission she moved to San Diego and than took aboard 60 aircraft before proceeding to San Francisco followed by training operations. On 11 October 1943, she became flagship, Carrier Division 24 (Rear Admiral Henry M. Mullinnix). On the 14th she received her air group and departed for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 27 October. After additional drills she was sent to join the invasion fleet of Operation Kourbash as part of Task Force 52 (RADM Richmond K. Turner), to the Gilbert Islands, her first and last mission.
USS Liscome Bay supported the invasion of Makin and proceeded to various bombardments with her air group on 20 November until Tarawa and Makin were captured. For more than 72h, her air group provided constant close air support, bombing Japanese positions, making 2,278 sorties. As part of Operation Galvanic they strafed and bombed airbases, and were called for quick support in ground operations as well as providing CAP for the landing area. USS Liscome Bay stayed with the rest of her task force to support Marines still fighting on Butaritari, whereas the rest of the fleet retired.
The invasion scrambled Admiral Mineichi Koga to send four Japanese submarines preying southwest of Hawaii, five near Truk and Rabaul to the Gilberts. Nine Japanese submarines were underway, but soon six were lost.
On 23 November I-175 (Lieutenant Commander Sunao Tabata) arrived off Makin and spotted the three escort carriers. She approached from 20 mi (32 km) southwest of Butaritari at 15 knots while the TG was traveling in a circular formation, seven destroyers, USS Baltimore, USS Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Mississippi, surrounding the three carriers. Liscome Bay was just in the center. But due to the risk of collisions they were not zig-zagging.
At 04:34, 24 November the destroyer USS Franks investigated a signal beacon, dropped from a Japanese plane, creating a screen gap and soon radar operators on New Mexico spotted a small blip (I-175 CT as she dove into position) and flight quarters were sounded at 04:50, but the crew returned to routine general quarters at 05:05 as 13 planes were prepared for dawn launching, readied on the flight deck, fueled and armed. Seven more were in the hangar but not readied, still she had a lot ammunitions stored below decks. Just as the TG made its turn to the northeast USS Liscome Bay had her side exposed to I-175, which fired a spread of three Type 95 “long lance” torpedoes.
At 05:10, the starboard lookout reported the torpedo wake, but there was little to do. It struck behind the aft engine room just as the carrier was turning, a lucky hit which detonated the bomb magazine. The resulting explosion created daylight over the whole area, with a mushroom nearly half a mile high, engulfing the ship. Shrapnel rained down 5,000 yards (4,600 m) away all around. New Mexico, just 1,500 yards (1,400 m) off had a fire starting by falling flaming debris, a sailor on USS Coral Sea being hit by… a fire extinguisher from Liscome Bay. The mushroom cloud above the ship soon reached several miles while nobody could see USS Liscome Bay anymore.
Her stern had been detached, clean through by the force of the detonation, the aft engine room was flooded instantly, the hangar and flight decks were heavily damaged, the superstructure and radar antenna collapsed on it, while a wild fire was soon out of control in the forward part of the hangar, igniting every planes parked on the flight deck which exploded in turn or fell off the deck. Fire-main pressure was lost an no pumps or fire fighting equipments worked. Other ammunition dumps soon started to detonate one after the other while gasoline was spread on the surrounding waters, catching fire. Thus, those jumping into the water had to escape underwater.
At 05:33, she listed to starboard and sink rapidly with still 53 officers and 591 salors and personal aboard. The list included Captain Irving Wiltsie, Rear Admiral Henry M. Mullinnix, Doris Miller.
The rest of the task group started evasive maneuvers, and at 05:40, USS Morris, Hughes and Hull arrived to the rescue, only catching men dead or dying. At 06:10 USS Maury spotted two torpedo wakes, 15 yards (14 m) from her while USS New Mexico’s radar operator spotted another echo, Hull and Gridley chaging on it. Macdonough went back to rescue a few more survivors until 08:00. In all 272 survived, albeit badly burnt or injured by shrapnel. This was more casulaties than the entire Japanese garrison on Makin.
On 4 February 1944, I-175 was detected and sunk by USS Charrette and Fair.
USS Anzio (Coral Sea) (CVE-57)
USS Anzio (CVE-57), ex Coral Sea underway.
USS Anzio (CVE-57) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier of the United States Navy. The ship was named after the Battle of Anzio, a World War II battle in Italy. She was commissioned in March 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II.
Anzio first saw action during the Marianas campaign in June 1944, providing air support for the invasion of Saipan. The ship also participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, where she provided air cover for the invasion of the Philippines.
In 1945, Anzio was assigned to the Western Pacific, where she took part in the Okinawa campaign. During this campaign, she was attacked by a kamikaze plane on April 12, 1945, but managed to avoid serious damage.
After the war, Anzio was used to transport US servicemen back home. She was decommissioned in April 1946 and later sold for scrap in 1959.
USS Corregidor (CVE-58)
USS Corregidor (CVE-58) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier of the United States Navy. She was named after the Battle of Corregidor, a significant battle fought during the early stages of World War II in the Pacific.
Corregidor was commissioned in May 1944 and initially served as an escort carrier for convoys in the Atlantic. In August of that year, she was transferred to the Pacific theater of operations and provided air support for the invasion of the Palau Islands in September.
The ship also participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, where she provided air cover for the landing forces in Leyte. In November, Corregidor supported the landings at Ormoc Bay, and then took part in the invasion of Lingayen Gulf in January 1945.
After the end of the war, Corregidor was used to transport US servicemen back home. She was decommissioned in March 1946 and later sold for scrap in 1959.
USS Mission Bay (CVE-59)
USS Mission Bay (CVE-59) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier of the United States Navy. She was commissioned in October 1944 and named after Mission Bay, a large man-made saltwater lagoon in San Diego, California.
During World War II, Mission Bay served in the Pacific theater of operations and participated in the invasion of the Philippines in December 1944. The ship also took part in the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945, where she provided air support for the landings and conducted anti-submarine patrols.
After the war, Mission Bay was used to transport US servicemen back home. She was decommissioned in June 1946 and placed in reserve. In 1951, the ship was reactivated and converted into an amphibious assault ship, redesignated as LPH-6. She served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War before being decommissioned in 1970 and sold for scrap in 1971.
USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60)
USS Guadalcanal underway 28 September 1944.
USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier of the United States Navy. She was named after the Battle of Guadalcanal, a significant battle fought during the early stages of World War II in the Pacific.
Guadalcanal was commissioned in March 1944. In September of that year, she was transferred to the Pacific theater of operations and took part in the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines.
The ship also participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, where she played a significant role in the sinking of the Japanese battleship Musashi. In January 1945, Guadalcanal took part in the invasion of Luzon in the Philippines and provided air support for the landings.
After the end of the war, Guadalcanal was used to transport US servicemen back home. She was decommissioned in January 1947 and later sold for scrap in 1959.
USS Manila Bay (CVE-61)
USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier of the United States Navy. She was named after the Battle of Manila Bay, a significant naval battle fought during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Manila Bay was commissioned in May 1944. In December of that year, she was transferred to the Pacific theater of operations and took part in the invasion of Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines in January 1945.
The ship also participated in the Okinawa campaign, where she provided air support for the landings and conducted anti-submarine patrols. In July 1945, Manila Bay was present during the initial occupation of Tokyo Bay.
After the end of the war, Manila Bay was used to transport US servicemen back home. She was decommissioned in May 1946 and later sold for scrap in 1960.
USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62)
USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier of the United States Navy. She was named after Natoma Bay, a small bay on the coast of California.
Natoma Bay was commissioned in July 1943 and initially served in the Atlantic, providing air support for convoys and conducting anti-submarine patrols. In November 1943, the ship was transferred to the Pacific theater of operations.
During World War II, Natoma Bay participated in a number of operations, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the invasion of Peleliu, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. She also provided air support for the landings at Lingayen Gulf and Okinawa.
After the end of the war, Natoma Bay was used to transport US servicemen back home. She was decommissioned in March 1946 and placed in reserve. In 1951, the ship was reactivated and converted into an amphibious assault ship, redesignated as LPH-8. She served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War before being decommissioned in 1970 and sold for scrap in 1971.
USS St. Lo (CVE-63)
USS St. Lo (CVE-63) was named after the Battle of Saint-Lô during the Normandy Campaign, commissioned on 23 October 1943 as USS Midway and renamed on 10 October about the battle. She also freed the name for the Midway armored carrier class. She would be the first and last ship in the USN bearing that name. As USS Midway, she left Astoria in Oregon on 13 November 1943, made her sea trials, shakdown cruise, and went back to dry dock post-fixes on 10 April 1944. She made a new shakedown on the west coast and two trips to Pearl Harbor and one to Australia carrying aircraft. At last for her 4th trip she departed wit the Composite Squadron 65 (VC-65) and met Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan’s Carrier Support Group 1 in June 1944, ready for the Mariana Islands campaign. During the trip she covered the convoy and once arrived started a serie of airstrikes on Saipan with her FM-2 Wildcats claiming their first 4 kills, damagine one more dueing their combat air patrol (CAP).
On 13 July 1944, she was sent in Eniwetok, for replenishment and on the 23th she sailed for the invasion of Tinian wit the same combined air support and CAP plus ASW patrol (ASP), and operated off Tinian until returning for supplies at Eniwetok on 28 July.
USS Midway remained in Eniwetok Atoll until departing on 9 August for Seeadler Harbor, Manus, in the Admiralty Islands.
On 13 September, she ws assigned to TF 77 for the invasion of Morotai. Two days after her air group sorties for air strikes and close support of troops ashore until the 22th. In after a refueling she resumed air operations in the Palaus and was back to the new forward resupply base (FRB) in Seeadler Harbor on 3 October, learnign she had been renamed USS St. Lo. (probably with some frustration by the crew) Communication codes had to be changed but pennant remained the same. At least the crew was briefed after the Battle of Saint-Lô which happened on 18 July 1944. Soon, her career was to end, but nobody knew at the time. Her service has been relatively “cushy” without much Japanese opposition until then. But it’s ironic that she was lost just a couple of weeks under her new name.
St. Lo departed Seeadler Harbor on 12 October to take part in the invasion of Leyte with the same mission, convoy air coverage, air strikes on arrival, close air support, CAP and ASP. This commenced on 18 October. Her area of operation was Tacloban, northeast of Leyte under command of Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague in a unit known as “Taffy 3” (TU 77.4.3) with six other escort carriers of her class (including Gambier Bay) and three destroyers, four destroyer escorts as their only defence. St. Lo was off the east coasts of Leyte and Samar launching strikes on 18 to 24 October between concentratons, installations and airfields.
Before dawn, 25 October while about 60 mi east of Samar USS St. Lo launched four Avengers deployed in ASP and prepared her air group for the initial airstrikes of the beaches. The Battle started at 06:47. Her ASP would play a role in these events as it’s Ensign Bill Brooks, pilot of one of these TBF Avengers which first spotted and reported the large “Center Force” (Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita) approaching from the west-northwest, just 17 miles away. Lookouts on St. Lo also reported one of the famous “pagoda-like” superstructures on the horizon, likeli from IJN Kongo. A dedperate call was made by Rear Admiral Sprague which ordered Taffy 3 to turn south at full speed. But with only at best 19 kts, the carriers were not aboit the cut it. Kurita closed in and opened fire at 06:58.
Immediately all air groups engaged in ground support were redirected to Kurita’s force. They had to brave their AA and attacked them, using at best the surrounding rain squalls to hide and emerge for new passed, landing to resupply and taking off again with every ordnance they possesses. This went on with all available plane and with the order to proceed to Tacloban airstrip to rearm and refuel as carriers were now managing to dodge salvos, making landings impossible.
At 08:00, the heavy cruisers were racibg forward, closing in on USS St. Lo’s abnd closing by her port quarter, at 14,000 yd (13,000 m) when starting precision furing, while the carrier answered with her only 5 in (127 mm) gun (claiming three hits on IJN Tone).
There was a 90 minutes mayhem, only interrupted by desperate destroyers attacks and smoke cover. Kurita’s forward forces closed to 10,000 yd (9,100 m) bot on her port and starboard quarters straddling her when she was visible through smoke screens. Kurita’s efforts were marred by these smoke screens, destroyer and attacks combined, having suddenly to change course or dodge ordnance. Soon aicraft arrived from Taffy 2 too in the south, ans those of Taffy 1 were also ordered to arrive asap.
Eventually the IJN cruisers and destroyers broke off, turning tail at 09:20. At 10:50, as St.Lô seemed saved, the Shikishima “Special Attack” (Kamikaze) Unit entered the fray. For 40 minutes they targeted the six carries despite fierce AA opposition and except USS Fanshaw Bay, they were all hit. St Lo was hit by a single A6M2 Zero (presumably Lt. Yukio Seki) which crashed on her flight deck at 10:51, after been deviated from over USS White Plains by AA damage. The fighter was carrying a bomb which in effect penetrated the thin flight deck, exploding on the hangar port side, meeting countless aircraft being refueled and rearmed.
The world’s famous photo showing “St Lô explosion”. This was not the resulting explosion but the initial strike of the Kamikaze. She was rocked afterwards by a serie of equally violent deflagrations caused by the cookoff of so many ordnance in the hangar, fuelled by high-octane aviation gasoline. The first major explosion following created a fireball rising 300 feet above the flight deck with the largest object seen above that fireball being aft aircraft elevator, sent to 1,000 feet above. The photo (which was soon on life magazine cover) was taken by a combat cameraman aboard USS Kalinin Bay (CVE-68). It is now open source, part of the USN collection and library of congress collection. It has been featured in countless books and documentaries, as the most iconic picture of the Battle of Leyte.
Unsurpringly gasoline fire started, ingniting all fuel lines and live ammunition stockpiles causing secondary explosions, until reaching the torpedo and bomb magazine wich caused a massive deflagration, with a mushroom hundreds of feets high (as caught by a world-famous photo) which sealed the fate of USS St. Lo: She sank 30 minutes later, carrying with her 113. Of the rather numerous survivors fortunately, sadly 30 more would later die of their burning wounds. USS Heermann, John C. Butler, Raymond and Dennis picked up 434 survivors that day. More were rescued later. USS St. Lô was the only carrier to be lost after a Kamikaze attack that day. Today, the wreckage of St. Lo is a popular dive site off the coast of the Philippines, where she sank.
USS Tripoli (CVE-64)
USS Tripoli (CVE-64) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier of the United States Navy, named after the Battle of Tripoli during the First Barbary War.
Tripoli was commissioned in April 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II. She participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, providing air support for the landings in the Philippines, and later in the Battle of Okinawa.
After the end of the war, Tripoli was used to transport US servicemen back home. She was decommissioned in March 1946 and placed in reserve.
In 1950, Tripoli was recommissioned and served in the Korean War, providing air support for ground troops and conducting anti-submarine patrols. In 1958, the ship was converted into an amphibious assault ship, redesignated as LPH-10.
Tripoli served in the Vietnam War and was involved in the Mayaguez incident in 1975, where she provided support for the rescue of the SS Mayaguez, a US merchant ship seized by Khmer Rouge forces off the coast of Cambodia. She was decommissioned in 1995 and sold for scrap in 2000.
USS Wake Island (CVE-65)
USS Wake Island (CVE-65) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier of the United States Navy, named after Wake Island, a coral atoll in the Pacific Ocean.
Wake Island was commissioned in July 1944 and initially served in the Atlantic, providing air support for convoys and conducting anti-submarine patrols. In November of that year, she was transferred to the Pacific theater of operations.
During World War II, Wake Island participated in a number of operations, including the Battle of Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa, where she provided air support for the landings.
After the end of the war, Wake Island was used to transport US servicemen back home. She was decommissioned in June 1946 and placed in reserve.
In 1954, Wake Island was transferred to the French Navy, where she served as Dixmude. She was decommissioned in 1960 and later scrapped.
USS White Plains (CVE-66)
USS White Plains (CVE-66) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier of the United States Navy, named after the city of White Plains, New York.
White Plains was commissioned in November 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II. She participated in the Battle of Okinawa, where she provided air support for the landings and conducted anti-submarine patrols.
After the end of the war, White Plains was used to transport US servicemen back home. She was decommissioned in February 1947 and placed in reserve.
In 1951, White Plains was recommissioned and served in the Korean War, providing air support for ground troops and conducting anti-submarine patrols. In 1955, the ship was transferred to the French Navy, where she served as Dixmude.
She was decommissioned in 1964 and scrapped in 1967.
USS Solomons (CVE-67)
The USS Solomons (CVE-67) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier that served in the United States Navy during World War II. The ship was named after the Battle of the Solomon Islands, which was fought in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
The USS Solomons was commissioned on December 23, 1943, and began its service as an escort carrier in the Atlantic Ocean, providing air support for convoys heading to Europe. In March 1944, the ship was transferred to the Pacific Theater, where it participated in the invasion of the Mariana Islands and provided air cover for the landings on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam.
In October 1944, the USS Solomons participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which was the largest naval battle in history. The ship provided air cover for the Allied forces during the battle and was credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft.
After the war ended, the USS Solomons was decommissioned in March 1946 and placed in reserve. The ship was later reactivated during the Korean War and served as a transport vessel, carrying troops and supplies to the Korean Peninsula. The USS Solomons was finally decommissioned in May 1958 and was sold for scrap in 1960.
USS Kalinin Bay (CVE-68)
USS Kalinin Bay (CVE-68) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier that served in the United States Navy during World War II. The ship was named after Kalinin Bay, a bay in Alaska.
USS Kalinin Bay was laid down on September 10, 1942, at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, and was launched on December 19, 1942. The ship was commissioned on March 27, 1943, with Captain Francis T. Ward as her commanding officer.
After completing her shakedown cruise, Kalinin Bay was assigned to Task Force 52, which provided air support for the invasion of the Marshall Islands. The ship then took part in the campaigns in the Marianas, Palau, and the Philippines, where she was credited with shooting down numerous enemy aircraft.
On November 25, 1944, Kalinin Bay was attacked by a kamikaze aircraft during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The ship suffered heavy damage, with 13 crew members killed and 60 wounded. However, the ship’s crew was able to save the ship and return her to service.
After repairs, Kalinin Bay returned to the Pacific theater and participated in the Okinawa campaign. The ship was decommissioned on April 17, 1946, and was sold for scrap in 1947.
USS Kalinin Bay received six battle stars for her service during World War II.
USS Kassan Bay (CVE-69)
USS Kassan Bay (CVE-55) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier that served in the United States Navy during World War II. The ship was named after Kasaan Bay, a bay in Alaska.
Kassan Bay was launched on May 1, 1943, at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, and was commissioned on August 23, 1943, with Captain William D. Sample as her commanding officer.
After completing her shakedown cruise, Kassan Bay was assigned to Task Force 52, which provided air support for the invasion of the Marshall Islands. The ship then took part in the campaigns in the Marianas, Palau, and the Philippines, where she was credited with shooting down numerous enemy aircraft.
In October 1944, Kassan Bay was part of Task Force 38, which supported the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines. During this time, the ship participated in the Battle off Samar, where she provided air support to the escort carriers and destroyers that were being attacked by a much larger Japanese force. Kassan Bay was credited with shooting down several enemy planes during this battle.
After the war, Kassan Bay was used to transport troops and equipment back to the United States. The ship was decommissioned on April 17, 1946, and was sold for scrap in 1947.
USS Kassan Bay received four battle stars for her service during World War II.
USS Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70)
USS Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70) was commissioned on December 22, 1943, and was named after Fanshaw Bay, a bay in Alaska. The ship was built by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company in Vancouver, Washington.
After completing her shakedown cruise, Fanshaw Bay was assigned to Task Force 52, which provided air support for the invasion of the Marshall Islands. The ship then participated in the campaigns in the Marianas, Palau, and the Philippines, where she was credited with shooting down numerous enemy aircraft.
During the Battle off Samar in October 1944, Fanshaw Bay was part of Task Unit 77.4.3, which was composed of six escort carriers and their escorting destroyers. Despite being heavily outgunned by the Japanese force, the escort carriers and destroyers fought valiantly to protect the landing forces at Leyte. Fanshaw Bay was hit by a kamikaze during the battle but was able to continue her operations.
After the war, Fanshaw Bay was used to transport troops and equipment back to the United States. The ship was decommissioned on April 30, 1946, and was sold for scrap in 1947.
USS Fanshaw Bay received six battle stars for her service during World War II.
USS Kitkun Bay (CVE-71)
USS Kitkun Bay (CVE-71) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier that served in the United States Navy during World War II. The ship was named after Kitkun Bay, a bay in Alaska.
Kitkun Bay was launched on February 5, 1944, at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, and was commissioned on April 1, 1944, with Captain Henry Farrow as her commanding officer.
After completing her shakedown cruise, Kitkun Bay was assigned to Task Force 58 and participated in the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign. She then provided air support for the Leyte and Luzon campaigns in the Philippines.
During the Battle off Samar on October 25, 1944, Kitkun Bay was part of Task Unit 77.4.3, which was composed of six escort carriers and their escorting destroyers. Despite being heavily outnumbered by the Japanese force, the escort carriers and destroyers fought fiercely to protect the landing forces at Leyte. Kitkun Bay was hit by a kamikaze during the battle, but her crew was able to contain the damage and keep the ship afloat.
After repairs, Kitkun Bay returned to action and participated in the Okinawa campaign. She also transported troops and supplies back to the United States after the war. The ship was decommissioned on May 1, 1946, and was sold for scrap in 1947.
USS Kitkun Bay received six battle stars for her service during World War II.
USS Tulagi (CVE-72)
USS Tulagi (CVE-72) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier that served in the United States Navy during World War II. The ship was named after the Battle of Tulagi, which took place during the Guadalcanal campaign in the Pacific.
Tulagi was launched on April 7, 1944, at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, and was commissioned on May 22, 1944, with Captain Walter H. Price as her commanding officer.
After completing her shakedown cruise, Tulagi was assigned to Task Force 38 and participated in the Philippines campaign, providing air support for the landings at Leyte and Luzon. She was then assigned to Task Force 58 and took part in the Okinawa campaign.
During the Battle of Okinawa, Tulagi’s aircraft were involved in numerous air strikes against Japanese positions on the island. She also served as a rescue ship for downed pilots and provided anti-submarine patrols to protect the fleet from enemy submarines.
After the war, Tulagi was used to transport troops and equipment back to the United States. The ship was decommissioned on April 5, 1946, and was sold for scrap in 1947.
USS Tulagi received two battle stars for her service during World War II.
USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73)
USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73) was named after Gambier Bay, a bay in Alaska. She was launched on November 22, 1943 at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, and was commissioned on December 17, 1943, with Captain Hugh H. Goodwin Jr. as her commanding officer.
After completing her shakedown cruise off San Diego, Gambier Bay was assigned to Task Group 52.2. On 7 February 1944 she sailed with 400 troops embarked for Pearl Harbor, and later rendezvous off the Marshall island. Her escort was the destroyer USS Norman Scott. She was also a taxi, flying 84 replacement planes for USS Enterprise. Back to San Diego via Pearl Harbor she carried aircraft in need of repairs, and qualified carrier pilots to Southern California. On 1 May 1944 she departed again, this time to join Rear Admiral Harold B. Sallada at the head of TG 52.11 for the Marshalls and invasion of the Marianas.
USS Gambier Bay there was tasked of close air support during the initial landings, for the Marines on Saipan, 15 June 1944. Her air group looked for enemy gun emplacements and troops as well as vehicles, all targets of opportunity. On the 17th, her combat air patrol managed to repel an attack of 47 enemy planes. In addition to the plane shot down, her gunners claimed two of the three attacking her.
The feat was repeated the following day, and the antiaircraft fire of the entire task group was even more intense. In all the eight pilots from VC-10 (composited) shared kills with the rest of the carriers and repulsed the attack with no loss. USS Gambier Bay stayed off Saipan for more CAPs and close support for the Marines. At the same time took place the Battle of the Philippine Sea. USS Gambier Bay was also present next at Tinian (19–31 July) and then Guam, for the same missions, until 11 August.
Both the ship received maintenance and the crew rest in the Marshalls. But on 15–28 September she was back supporting the assault on Peleliu and Angaur in the Southern Palaus. They were next sent to Hollandia in New Guinea, and Manus Island in the Admiralties, as invasion of the Philippines commenced. She was screened by four destroyer escorts shared with USS Kitkun Bay, tasked of escorting the transports and landing ships to Leyte Gulf. Next she was detached to join the escort carrier task uniy from Rear Admiral Clifton A. F. Sprague which assembled on 19 September off Leyte.
This TU comprised six escort carriers, three destroyers, four destroyer escorts, and had the radio call sign “Taffy 3”. This would become the most famopus unit in the whole three-days battle of Leyte that followed. The total force comprised indeed three groups of six-carrier task units. They were tasked ot maintain air supremacy over Leyte Gulf, eastern Leyte while TF-58 (Halsey) was the more mobile element, ready to pounce on any Japanese intervention. The invasion commenced and their air group caused havoc on the shore and inland, between enemy airfields and supply convoys to troop concentrations. The troops next received constant close air support, while a combat air patrolwas maintained. As the battle commenced, Taffy 1 and 2 were off northern Mindanao and off the entrance to Leyte Gulf while “Taffy 3” was off Samar.
The Japanese Southern Force was destroyed on 25 October in the Surigao Strait, the center force in Sibuyan Sea a day before was attacked by US Planes from Halsey’s Third Fleet, but the carriers were sent north to intercept the decoy carriers (Northern Force) off Cape Engaño. But the ruse worked, as meanwhile the Center force (presumed defeated by Halsey) sneaked in, just reinforced during the night, and comprising now four battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, 11 destroyers. They passed San Bernardino Strait by night in the fog, proceeded along the coast of Samar and arrived at dawn in Leyte Gulf under a mixed sky, with a visibility of circa 40,000 yards (37 km), with low overcast, occasional rain squalls.
“Taffy 3” was caught off guard and made an urgent call for help. The escort carriers steamed eastward, launch planes and turned south seeking concealment in a heavy squall. The combined air groups attacked with all they had, torpedoes, bombs, strafing, until their ammunition ran out, and even went to “dry runs” (dummy attacks) when ordnance was done, just to keep the enemy formation busy and dispersed, in order to delay the advance. This was one of the several feats of bravery, gallantry and ultimate commitment in this extraordinary “last stand”.
Smoke was laid down by the destroyers to cover the carrier’s escape. They ducked in and out of it and also playing with occasional rain to to engage the fleet at point-blank range. There were losses, but their torpedo runs bear fruit. They were umtimately ordered back to cover the carriers with more smoke. But the Japanese, faster than the escort carriers, soon caught up and started to spot their targets: USS Gambier Bay was fired on first, hit by several ships at once. He single poop 5-inch (127 mm) gun fired nevertheless at a cruiser, without visible results, while destroyers Heermann and Johnston made a run to try to repel the Japanese, they paid dearly for it, being straddled by IJN Yamato, with the largest guns of the war in a rare surface action.
USS Gambier bay in flames. IJN Tone or Chikuma can be seen closing in for the coup de grace (right).
USS Gambier Bay was ultimately set alight, and as shells splash down beside her at 08:20, a heavy shell hit right through her forward engine room. Only capable of 9 knots, it’s either the heavy cruiser IJN Chikuma, or Yamato or Kongō which claimed the fatal hits as she went to a crawl. Tone and Chikuma closed until they could brought their AA to bear and complete the carnage. Abandon ship was ordered, and she ultimately capsized at 09:07, sank at 09:11, but had still 800 survivors, rescued two days later by landing and patrol crafts, albeit Sharks took their toll. 147 of the crew was never seen again. The same battle saw the loss of her sister USS St. Lo, the destroyers USS Hoel, Samuel B. Roberts, and Johnston. USS Gambier Bay became the one and only US Navy aircraft carrier sunk exclusively by surface gunfire.
Nevertheless, her air group was completed by Aircraft from “Taffy 2” and by 09:25 signalmen saw the whole Japanese fleet retiring. The “miracle of Samar”. Her Squadron and those of “Taffy 2” claimed with the destroyer’s help, three enemy cruisers and a lot of damage to the others in Center Force. USS Gambier Bay would later receive four battle stars for her service, shared the presidential Unit Citation for Taffy 3 “for extraordinary heroism in the Battle off Samar”. Captain Walter V. R. Vieweg received the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism”. XO Richard R. Ballinger received the Silver Star “for conscious gallantry and intrepidity”.
USS Nehenta Bay (CVE-74)
USS Nehenta Bay (CVE-74) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier that served in the United States Navy during World War II. The ship was named after Nehenta Bay, a bay in Alaska.
Nehenta Bay was launched on December 11, 1943, at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, and was commissioned on February 3, 1944, with Captain Donald J. Ramsey as her commanding officer.
After completing her shakedown cruise, Nehenta Bay was assigned to Task Group 52.2, which provided air support for the invasions of the Marshall Islands and the Marianas Islands. She then participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, providing air support for the landing forces at Leyte.
After the war, Nehenta Bay was used to transport troops and equipment back to the United States. The ship was decommissioned on March 27, 1946, and was placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
In 1951, Nehenta Bay was reactivated and converted into an escort aircraft carrier (CVC-74). She was then assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the Korean War, providing air support for ground forces and conducting anti-submarine patrols.
Nehenta Bay was decommissioned for the second time on March 1, 1955, and was sold for scrap in 1959.
USS Nehenta Bay received two battle stars for her service during World War II and one battle star for her service during the Korean War.
USS Hoggatt Bay (CVE-75)
USS Hoggatt Bay (CVE-75) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier that served in the United States Navy during World War II. The ship was named after Hoggatt Bay, a bay in Alaska.
Hoggatt Bay was launched on January 18, 1944, at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, and was commissioned on March 11, 1944, with Captain Joseph J. Clark as her commanding officer.
After completing her shakedown cruise, Hoggatt Bay was assigned to Task Group 52.2, which provided air support for the invasions of the Marshall Islands and the Marianas Islands. She then participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, providing air support for the landing forces at Leyte.
Hoggatt Bay was also involved in the Battle of Okinawa, providing air support for ground forces and conducting anti-submarine patrols.
After the war, Hoggatt Bay was used to transport troops and equipment back to the United States. The ship was decommissioned on April 3, 1946, and was placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
In 1951, Hoggatt Bay was reactivated and converted into an escort aircraft carrier (CVC-75). She was then assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the Korean War, providing air support for ground forces and conducting anti-submarine patrols.
Hoggatt Bay was decommissioned for the second time on March 1, 1955, and was sold for scrap in 1959.
USS Hoggatt Bay received two battle stars for her service during World War II and one battle star for her service during the Korean War.
USS Kadashan Bay (CVE-76)
The U.S. Navy escort carrier USS Kadashan Bay (CVE-76) at San Francisco, California (USA), on 8 April 1945. She is painted in Camouflage Measure 21. Several Lockheed PV patrol bombers are carried on deck.
USS Kadashan Bay (CVE-76) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier that served in the United States Navy during World War II. The ship was named after Kadashan Bay, a bay in Alaska.
Kadashan Bay was launched on February 22, 1944, at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, and was commissioned on April 15, 1944, with Captain Miles T. McGettigan as her commanding officer.
After completing her shakedown cruise, Kadashan Bay was assigned to Task Group 52.2, which provided air support for the invasions of the Marshall Islands and the Marianas Islands. She then participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, providing air support for the landing forces at Leyte.
Kadashan Bay was also involved in the Battle of Okinawa, providing air support for ground forces and conducting anti-submarine patrols.
After the war, Kadashan Bay was used to transport troops and equipment back to the United States. The ship was decommissioned on June 1, 1946, and was placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
In 1951, Kadashan Bay was reactivated and converted into an escort aircraft carrier (CVC-76). She was then assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the Korean War, providing air support for ground forces and conducting anti-submarine patrols.
Kadashan Bay was decommissioned for the second time on March 1, 1955, and was sold for scrap in 1959.
USS Kadashan Bay received two battle stars for her service during World War II and one battle star for her service during the Korean War.
USS Marcus Island (CVE-77)
The USS Marcus Island (CVE-77) was an American aircraft carrier that served during World War II. She was named after Marcus Island, a small island in the western Pacific Ocean.
The ship was originally designed as a merchant tanker, but was converted into an escort carrier during construction. She was commissioned in November 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of the war, primarily providing air support for the Allied forces during the Battle of Okinawa.
The Marcus Island was part of Task Group 52.1, which was responsible for providing air cover for the amphibious forces landing on Okinawa. Her aircraft were used for reconnaissance, fighter cover, and ground attack missions.
After the war, the Marcus Island was used to transport American troops back to the United States. She was decommissioned in 1946 and placed in the reserve fleet. In 1959, she was sold for scrap.
During her service, the Marcus Island was awarded two battle stars for her participation in the Battle of Okinawa and the assault and occupation of Okinawa.
USS Savo Island (CVE-78)
The USS Savo Island (CVE-78) was an American escort carrier that served during World War II. She was named after the Battle of Savo Island, a naval battle fought in 1942 during the Guadalcanal Campaign.
The Savo Island was commissioned in April 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of the war. She was assigned to Task Group 52.1, which was responsible for providing air support for the amphibious forces landing on the islands of the Pacific.
The ship’s aircraft were used for a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, fighter cover, and ground attack. The Savo Island participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, providing air support for the American fleet during the largest naval battle of the war.
After the war, the Savo Island was used to transport American troops back to the United States. She was decommissioned in 1946 and placed in the reserve fleet. In 1959, she was sold for scrap.
During her service, the Savo Island was awarded two battle stars for her participation in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the assault and occupation of Okinawa.
USS Ommaney Bay (CVE-79)
Ommaney Bay, after an area at the south end of Baranof Island, Alaska which was part of the Aleutian campaign, was commissioned on 11 February 1944 with Commodore Howard L. Young in command.
She had her sea trials, tests and fitting out at Astoria in Oregon, before a shakedown in Puget Sound and sailed on 19 March 1944 from Oakland to Brisbane in Australia, with passengers and cargo, including many replacement aircraft. On 27 April she was back in San Diego and started qualification of her own air group for ten days, with fleet drills. She had a few more alterations and repairs, until heading on 10 June for Pearl Harbor. Until 12 August she trained there before heading for Tulagi prepared for the invasion of the Palau Islands. From 11 September until early October she started combat operations off Peleliu and Angaur. On 18 September one of her TBM-1C short of on fuel landed onto Peleliu’s airfield, the first to do so, as troops were still securing the surroundings.
Next, the carrier was back in Manus Island for rest and dsplenishment, before reassigned to Rear Admiral Felix Stump and his TU 77.4.2 also known by its radio code “Taffy 2” on 22 October. In the south of Samar, started the invasion support operations. However on 25 October, 01:55, Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid ordered the carriers to start reconnissances for any possibke IJN attack in a wide area around the invasion fleet at daybreak. Ommaney Bay took two hours to launch five fighters, seven torpedo bombers and they missed Vice-Admiral Takeo Kurita Center Force sneaking in. Where they were sent, they could have warned Taffy 3 well in advance and completely modify the battle. As the combat started, Taffy 2 soon rushed to help Taffy 3. Her airgroup has been credited with badly damaging IJN Chokai.
At 08:20, five Wildcats, six Avengers from Ommaney Bay attacked Mogami and also damaged her. 40 minutes later the Avengers joined 17 others crippling and sinking her for good three hours later as she was torpedoed by Akebono. This day saw the cxarrier launching six succesive attacks on the Japanese fleet with the rest of TG 77.4.1, largely responsible to turn the tide of a desperate fight. They appeared to have been more successful than destroyers, and fully confirming the navy that despite their small size, the escort carriers still could muster as much forces as any fleet carrier with the same effect if needed. Taffy 2 accepted aircraft from Taffy 3 due to the lost Gambier Bay and St Lo notably, or just low of fuel. She had to jettison her own aircraft to keep her flight deck operational. On 30 October, the battered, but victorious force retired for Manus, staying there for the most of November.
On 10 November as Ommaney Bay was docked in Seeadler Harbor, five miles (2.4 km) from the ammunition ship Mount Hood, she was suddenly rocked by the accidental explosion of the latter, one of the fiercest man-mande explosion in history. Sailors on deck were lifted off their feet by the blast, causing injuries, and soon after, compounded by the tidal wave provoked by the deflagration. While flamed fragments rained down, they oblied the safety crew to rapid extinguishing any start. On 12-17 December she was sent for various missions in Mindanao and the Sulu Sea for the invasion of Mindoro.
On 15 December the force was assaulted by 40 Japanese planes, kamikazes and escorts which came from former Clark Field and Davao, first reported at 7:00. The attack went on at 09:40, with one plunging with a bomb on Ommaney but missed, disengaging, two more missed and were shot down by Manila Bay and destroyer escorts. A single Yokosuka P1Y kamikaze however soon dove on Ommaney Bay from her port-bow side. The combined, directed AA fire from all ships eventually set it aloght 400yds (370 m) away and it crashed in the ocean, barely 27 m away. On 19 December she was back in respenihment. On 27 December she retutned for the landings at Lingayen Gulf, stopping at San Pedro Bay, and heading for the Sulu Sea on 3 January 1945.
On the afternoon of the following day, 4 January 1945 at 17:00 while underway in the Sulu Sea, her radar operator spotted 15 approaching Japanese planes 45 miles (72 km) away to the west, soon splitting into two groups to the rear and cented of the task group. All fighters were soon in the air, but their direction was plagued by false radar signals. In fact only army P-47 fighters intercepted and shoot down one. The one that escaped is believed to have sunk Ommaney Bay. This interception was not reported and at 17:12, a Yokosuka P1Y flying very low emerged and climbed, aiming at Ommaney Bay, approaching towards her bow. Captain Young confirmed the pilot was perfectly aware of his concelment, arriving in the blinding glare of the sun.
There were ten lookouts assigned on the island’s top open bridge with polaroid glasses in addition to the one on the signal platform. Without radar concept, the nearby USS New Mexico was was unable to react fast enough, when the plane arrived by complete surprise, slicing across the superstructure with its wing, which had everyone in the island plunging. Veering into the the flight deck, forward starboard side it released two bombs, one penetrating, detonating, and trigerring a serie of explosions. The second one crossed the hangar deck, rupturing the fire main and explosing in her starboard side. Water pressure forward lost, power, communications complicated matters, as the fire was now spreading fast thanks to a reuptured oil tank. The smoke became so thick all hope to combat fire in the hangar was abandoned.
Destroyers hesitated to close on Ommaney Bay to assist because of how firced and hot was the fire, knownin there was still plenty of ammunition aboard that can cookoff. After all, she was underway for an operation, at full ordnance capacity. USS Bell managed to get close enough to help fight fires with her pumps but collided. She started to evacuate the wounded at 17:45 but a few minutes afterwards the topside was just too hot. Stored torpedo warheads were signalled in the area which might be caught up by flames, and under threat to detonate when it was ordered to abandon ship. At 18:12, Captain Young was the last man to evacuate and an 18:18 as predicted, a fierce detonation followed, which collapsed the flight deck, projecting debris for miles around. She was scuttled by torpedoes at 19:58 from USS Burns. 95 sailors from Ommaney Bay were lost that day, plus 65 wounded. 7 more were killed during another kamikaze attack later. USS Shamrock Bay took her place for the operation in Lingayen Gulf.
Ommaney Bay burning after the attack (cropped)
The loss of Ommaney Bay highlighted the vulnerability of these escort carriers, not protected unline Independence and Essex class, to these types of attacks. This led the command to develop more effective countermeasures. But by all acounts the pilot of the Yokosuka P1Y was probably a veteran that knew perfectly what he was doing and achieved complete surprise, and success.
For her service USS Ommaney Bay was awarded one battle star.
USS Petrof Bay (CVE-80)
The USS Petrof Bay (CVE-80) was an American escort carrier that served during World War II. She was named after Petrof Bay, a bay on the coast of Alaska.
The Petrof Bay was commissioned in February 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of the war. She was assigned to Task Group 52.3, which was responsible for providing air support for the amphibious forces landing on the islands of the Pacific.
The ship’s aircraft were used for a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, fighter cover, and ground attack. The Petrof Bay participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, providing air support for the American fleet during the largest naval battle of the war.
After the war, the Petrof Bay was used to transport American troops back to the United States. She was decommissioned in 1946 and placed in the reserve fleet. In 1960, she was sold for scrap.
During her service, the Petrof Bay was awarded four battle stars for her participation in the Leyte Gulf landings, the Mindoro landings, the Lingayen Gulf landings, and the assault and occupation of Okinawa.
USS Rudyard Bay (CVE-81)
The USS Rudyard Bay (CVE-81) was an American escort carrier that served during World War II. She was named after Rudyard Bay, a bay on the coast of Alaska.
The Rudyard Bay was commissioned in March 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of the war. She was assigned to Task Group 77.4, which was responsible for providing air support for the Allied forces during the Battle of Okinawa.
The ship’s aircraft were used for a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, fighter cover, and ground attack. The Rudyard Bay was also used as a transport ship, carrying troops and supplies to various locations in the Pacific.
After the war, the Rudyard Bay was used to transport American troops back to the United States. She was decommissioned in 1946 and placed in the reserve fleet. In 1960, she was sold for scrap.
During her service, the Rudyard Bay was awarded one battle star for her participation in the assault and occupation of Okinawa.
USS Saginaw Bay (CVE-82)
The USS Saginaw Bay (CVE-82) was an American escort carrier that served during World War II. She was named after Saginaw Bay, a bay on the eastern coast of Michigan.
The Saginaw Bay was commissioned in June 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of the war. She was assigned to Task Group 77.4, which was responsible for providing air support for the Allied forces during the Battle of Okinawa.
The ship’s aircraft were used for a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, fighter cover, and ground attack. The Saginaw Bay was also used as a transport ship, carrying troops and supplies to various locations in the Pacific.
After the war, the Saginaw Bay was used to transport American troops back to the United States. She was decommissioned in 1946 and placed in the reserve fleet. In 1959, she was sold for scrap.
During her service, the Saginaw Bay was awarded three battle stars for her participation in the Leyte Gulf landings, the Mindoro landings, and the assault and occupation of Okinawa.
USS Sargent Bay (CVE-83)
The USS Sargent Bay (CVE-83) was an American escort carrier that served during World War II. She was named after Sargent Bay, a bay on the coast of Alaska.
The Sargent Bay was commissioned in July 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of the war. She was assigned to Task Group 38.3, which was responsible for providing air support for the Allied forces during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
The ship’s aircraft were used for a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, fighter cover, and ground attack. The Sargent Bay was also used as a transport ship, carrying troops and supplies to various locations in the Pacific.
On December 13, 1944, while supporting the invasion of Mindoro in the Philippines, the Sargent Bay was hit by a kamikaze attack. The resulting explosion and fires caused the ship to sink within an hour, with the loss of 87 crew members.
The Sargent Bay was the second American aircraft carrier to be sunk by a kamikaze attack. Her loss highlighted the vulnerability of American carriers to these types of attacks, and led to increased efforts to develop effective countermeasures.
For her service in World War II, the Sargent Bay was awarded two battle stars.
USS Shamrock Bay (CVE-84)
The USS Shamrock Bay (CVE-84) was an American escort carrier that served during World War II. She was named after Shamrock Bay, a bay on the coast of Alaska.
The Shamrock Bay was commissioned in August 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of the war. She was assigned to Task Group 77.4, which was responsible for providing air support for the Allied forces during the Battle of Okinawa.
The ship’s aircraft were used for a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, fighter cover, and ground attack. The Shamrock Bay was also used as a transport ship, carrying troops and supplies to various locations in the Pacific.
After the war, the Shamrock Bay was used to transport American troops back to the United States. She was decommissioned in 1946 and placed in the reserve fleet. In 1960, she was sold for scrap.
During her service, the Shamrock Bay was awarded two battle stars for her participation in the assault and occupation of Okinawa and the Third Fleet operations against Japan.
USS Shipley Bay (CVE-85)
The USS Shipley Bay (CVE-85) was an American escort carrier that served during World War II. She was named after Shipley Bay, a bay on the coast of Alaska.
The Shipley Bay was commissioned in September 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of the war. She was assigned to Task Group 38.3, which was responsible for providing air support for the Allied forces during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
The ship’s aircraft were used for a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, fighter cover, and ground attack. The Shipley Bay was also used as a transport ship, carrying troops and supplies to various locations in the Pacific.
After the war, the Shipley Bay was used to transport American troops back to the United States. She was decommissioned in 1946 and placed in the reserve fleet. In 1960, she was sold for scrap.
During her service, the Shipley Bay was awarded two battle stars for her participation in the Leyte Gulf landings and the Mindoro landings.
USS Sitkoh Bay (CVE-86)
The USS Sitkoh Bay (CVE-86) was an American escort carrier that served during World War II. She was named after Sitkoh Bay, a bay on the coast of Alaska.
The Sitkoh Bay was commissioned in October 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of the war. She was assigned to Task Group 38.3, which was responsible for providing air support for the Allied forces during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
The ship’s aircraft were used for a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, fighter cover, and ground attack. The Sitkoh Bay was also used as a transport ship, carrying troops and supplies to various locations in the Pacific.
After the war, the Sitkoh Bay was used to transport American troops back to the United States. She was decommissioned in 1946 and placed in the reserve fleet.
USS Steamer Bay (CVE-87)
USS Steamer Bay (CVE-87) was an American escort carrier that served during World War II. She was named after Steamer Bay, a bay on the coast of Alaska.
The Steamer Bay was commissioned in November 1944 and served in the Pacific theater of the war. She was assigned to Task Group 38.3, which was responsible for providing air support for the Allied forces during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
The ship’s aircraft were used for a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, fighter cover, and ground attack. The Steamer Bay was also used as a transport ship, carrying troops and supplies to various locations in the Pacific.
After the war, the Steamer Bay was used to transport American troops back to the United States. She was decommissioned in 1946 and placed in the reserve fleet. In 1960, she was sold for scrap.
During her service, the Steamer Bay was awarded two battle stars for her participation in the Leyte Gulf landings and the Mindoro landings.
USS Cape Esperance (CVE-88)
USS Cape Esperance (CVE-88) was named after the Battle of Cape Esperance, which took place during the Guadalcanal Campaign in 1942.
The Cape Esperance was commissioned on February 8, 1944, and completed her shakedown cruise in April of that year. She then joined the Pacific Fleet and participated in the Marianas Campaign, supporting the invasion of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian.
In October 1944, Cape Esperance took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in history. During the battle, she was part of the escort carrier group Taffy 3, which was attacked by a much larger Japanese force. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Taffy 3’s carriers and escorts fought back fiercely, and their actions helped to turn the tide of the battle in favor of the Allies.
After the war, Cape Esperance was decommissioned in June 1946 and placed in reserve. She was later transferred to the Maritime Administration and sold for scrapping in 1971.
USS Takanis Bay (CVE-89)
USS Thetis Bay (CVE-90)
USS Thetis Bay underway on 7 August 1944. The ship is painted in Measure 33, Design 10A camouflage
USS Thetis Bay (CVE-90) was named after Thetis Bay, located in the Aleutian Islands.
Thetis Bay was commissioned on March 15, 1944, and served in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. She participated in several major campaigns, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where she provided air support for the invasion of the Philippines.
After the war, Thetis Bay was used to transport troops and equipment back to the United States as part of Operation Magic Carpet. She was decommissioned on April 15, 1946, and placed in reserve.
Thetis Bay was later recommissioned on July 20, 1950, in response to the Korean War. She served as an aircraft transport and helicopter carrier during the conflict, earning three battle stars for her service.
After the war, Thetis Bay continued to serve in various roles, including as a training ship and as a transport for military personnel and equipment. She was finally decommissioned on January 15, 1964, and sold for scrap in 1965.
USS Makassar Strait (CVE-91)
CVE 90 and 91 in dock, 1954
USS Makassar Strait (CVE-91) was named after the Battle of Makassar Strait, a naval battle fought between the Allied and Japanese navies in 1942.
Makassar Strait was commissioned on April 15, 1944, and served in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. She participated in several major campaigns, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Battle of Okinawa, where she provided air support for ground forces.
After the war, Makassar Strait was used to transport troops and equipment back to the United States as part of Operation Magic Carpet. She was decommissioned on June 27, 1946, and placed in reserve.
Makassar Strait was later recommissioned on August 10, 1950, in response to the Korean War. She served as an aircraft transport and helicopter carrier during the conflict, earning two battle stars for her service.
After the war, Makassar Strait continued to serve in various roles, including as a training ship and as a transport for military personnel and equipment. She was finally decommissioned on February 15, 1960, and sold for scrap in 1961.
USS Wyndham Bay (CVE-92)
USS Windham Bay ferrying F86 jets to Korea in the 1950s
USS Makin Island (CVE-93)
USS Makin Island underway near Leyte, November 1944
USS Makin Island (CVE-93) was named after the Battle of Makin, a raid by the United States Marine Corps against Japanese forces in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II.
Makin Island was commissioned on April 9, 1944, and served in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. She participated in several major campaigns, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Battle of Okinawa, where she provided air support for ground forces.
After the war, Makin Island was used to transport troops and equipment back to the United States as part of Operation Magic Carpet. She was decommissioned on June 27, 1946, and placed in reserve.
Makin Island was later recommissioned on September 1, 1950, in response to the Korean War. She served as an aircraft transport and helicopter carrier during the conflict, earning three battle stars for her service.
After the war, Makin Island continued to serve in various roles, including as a training ship and as a transport for military personnel and equipment. She was finally decommissioned on May 15, 1959, and sold for scrap in 1960.
USS Lunga Point (CVE-94)
USS Lunga Point (CVE-94) was named after Lunga Point, a promontory on the island of Guadalcanal, which played a key role in the Guadalcanal campaign of 1942-1943.
Lunga Point was laid down on 15 December 1942 at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, and launched on 10 May 1943. She was commissioned on 10 November 1943, with Captain H. A. Guthrie in command.
After completing her shakedown cruise off the West Coast, Lunga Point was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in operations against Japanese forces in the South Pacific. She provided air support for the invasion of the Marshall Islands in January 1944 and the invasion of the Mariana Islands in June 1944.
In December 1944, Lunga Point was part of a task group that attacked Japanese shipping in the Sulu Sea. During the attack, she was hit by a kamikaze, which caused significant damage to her flight deck and hangar deck. She was able to return to port for repairs and rejoined the fleet in time for the invasion of Okinawa in April 1945.
After the war, Lunga Point was used to transport American troops back to the United States as part of the “Operation Magic Carpet” program. She was decommissioned in June 1946 and placed in reserve.
Lunga Point was reactivated during the Korean War and served as a transport for military equipment and personnel. She was decommissioned again in 1954 and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet. She was struck from the Navy List in 1959 and sold for scrap in 1961.
USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95)
USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95) was named after the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, which took place in March 1943 and resulted in a decisive Allied victory over Japanese naval forces in the South Pacific.
Bismarck Sea was laid down on 15 December 1942 at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, and launched on 17 April 1943. She was commissioned on 20 November 1943, with Captain J. W. Harris in command.
After completing her shakedown cruise off the West Coast, Bismarck Sea was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in operations against Japanese forces in the South Pacific. She provided air support for the invasion of the Marshall Islands in January 1944 and the invasion of the Mariana Islands in June 1944.
On 21 February 1945, Bismarck Sea was hit by a kamikaze during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The attack caused a massive explosion that destroyed the ship, killing 318 of her crew and leaving 605 others wounded. The remaining crew members were rescued by nearby ships.
Bismarck Sea received three battle stars for her service during World War II. Her wreck site was discovered by a team of researchers in 2018, located off the coast of the Solomon Islands at a depth of approximately 4,300 meters.
USS Salamaua (CVE-96)
USS Salamaua (CVE-96) was named after the Battle of Salamaua, which took place during the New Guinea campaign of World War II.
Salamaua was laid down on 7 June 1944 at the Todd-Pacific Shipyards in Tacoma, Washington, and launched on 21 July 1944. She was commissioned on 15 January 1945, with Captain W. W. Kilpatrick in command.
After completing her shakedown cruise off the West Coast, Salamaua was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the final stages of the war against Japan. She operated in Japanese waters and provided air support for the occupation of Japan until November 1945.
After the war, Salamaua was assigned to the “Magic Carpet” operation, which involved the transportation of American troops from overseas back to the United States. She made several “Magic Carpet” voyages before being placed in reserve in 1946.
Salamaua was reactivated in 1951 and assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. She operated in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, providing air support for fleet operations and participating in NATO exercises. In 1959, she was decommissioned and placed in reserve.
Salamaua was struck from the Navy List on 1 September 1959 and transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal. She was sold for scrap to the Nicolai Joffe Corporation of Beverly Hills, California, in August 1960.
USS Hollandia (CVE-97)
USS Hollandia (CVE-97) was named after the Battle of Hollandia, which took place during the New Guinea campaign of World War II.
Hollandia was laid down on 22 May 1944 at the Todd-Pacific Shipyards in Tacoma, Washington, and launched on 28 June 1944. She was commissioned on 6 December 1944, with Captain J. M. Shoemaker in command.
After completing her shakedown cruise off the West Coast, Hollandia was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the final stages of the war against Japan. She operated in Japanese waters and provided air support for the occupation of Japan until November 1945.
After the war, Hollandia was assigned to the “Magic Carpet” operation, which involved the transportation of American troops from overseas back to the United States. She made several “Magic Carpet” voyages before being placed in reserve in 1946.
Hollandia was reactivated in 1951 and assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. She operated in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, providing air support for fleet operations and participating in NATO exercises. In 1959, she was decommissioned and placed in reserve.
Hollandia was struck from the Navy List on 1 September 1959 and transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal. She was sold for scrap to the Nicolai Joffe Corporation of Beverly Hills, California, in August 1960.
USS Kwajalein (CVE-98)
USS Kwajalein 28 June 1944
USS Kwajalein (CVE-98) was named after the Battle of Kwajalein, which took place during the Pacific campaign of World War II. Kwajalein was laid down on 23 May 1944 at the Todd-Pacific Shipyards in Tacoma, Washington, and launched on 11 July 1944. She was commissioned on 18 November 1944, with Captain J. H. Carson in command.
After completing her shakedown cruise off the West Coast, Kwajalein was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the final stages of the war against Japan. She operated in Japanese waters and provided air support for the occupation of Japan until November 1945.
After the war, Kwajalein was assigned to the “Magic Carpet” operation, which involved the transportation of American troops from overseas back to the United States. She made several “Magic Carpet” voyages before being placed in reserve in 1946.
Kwajalein was reactivated in 1951 and assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. She operated in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, providing air support for fleet operations and participating in NATO exercises. In 1958, she was decommissioned and placed in reserve.
Kwajalein was struck from the Navy List on 1 March 1959 and transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal. She was sold for scrap to the Nicolai Joffe Corporation of Beverly Hills, California, in July 1960.
USS Admiralty Islands (CVE-99)
USS Admiralty Islands ferrying planes 31 Dec. 1944
USS Admiralty Islands (CVE-99) was named after the Admiralty Islands in the southwestern Pacific. Admiralty Islands was laid down on 15 June 1944 at the Todd-Pacific Shipyards in Tacoma, Washington, and launched on 30 August 1944. She was commissioned on 9 January 1945, with Captain M. C. Hines in command.
After completing her shakedown cruise off the West Coast, Admiralty Islands was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the final stages of the war against Japan. She operated in Japanese waters and provided air support for the occupation of Japan until November 1945.
After the war, Admiralty Islands was assigned to the “Magic Carpet” operation, which involved the transportation of American troops from overseas back to the United States. She made several “Magic Carpet” voyages before being placed in reserve in 1946.
Admiralty Islands was reactivated in 1951 and assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. She operated in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, providing air support for fleet operations and participating in NATO exercises. In 1958, she was decommissioned and placed in reserve.
Admiralty Islands was struck from the Navy List on 1 March 1959 and transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal. She was sold for scrap to the Nicolai Joffe Corporation of Beverly Hills, California, in July 1960.
USS Bougainville (CVE-100)
USS Bougainville (CVE-100) was named after the Battle of Bougainville, which took place during the Guadalcanal Campaign in 1943.
Bougainville was laid down on 15 August 1944 at the Todd-Pacific Shipyards in Tacoma, Washington, and launched on 21 October 1944. She was commissioned on 9 February 1945, with Captain J. M. Shoemaker in command.
After completing her shakedown cruise off the West Coast, Bougainville was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the final stages of the war against Japan. She operated in Japanese waters and provided air support for the occupation of Japan until November 1945.
After the war, Bougainville was assigned to the “Magic Carpet” operation, which involved the transportation of American troops from overseas back to the United States. She made several “Magic Carpet” voyages before being decommissioned on 30 June 1946.
Bougainville was transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal on 1 July 1960 and sold for scrap to the Nicolai Joffe Corporation of Beverly Hills, California, in October 1960.
USS Matanikau (CVE-101)
USS Matanikau (CVE-101) was named after the Battle of the Matanikau, which took place during the Guadalcanal Campaign in 1942. Matanikau was laid down on 6 October 1944 at the Todd-Pacific Shipyards in Tacoma, Washington, and launched on 7 December 1944. She was commissioned on 27 March 1945, with Captain S. S. Lewis in command.
After completing her shakedown cruise off the West Coast, Matanikau was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the final stages of the war against Japan. She operated in Japanese waters and provided air support for the occupation of Japan until November 1945.
After the war, Matanikau was assigned to the “Magic Carpet” operation, which involved the transportation of American troops from overseas back to the United States. She made several “Magic Carpet” voyages before being decommissioned on 30 June 1946.
Matanikau was transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal on 1 July 1960 and sold for scrap to the Nicolai Joffe Corporation of Beverly Hills, California, in October 1960.
USS Attu (CVE-102)
USS Attu (CVE-102) was named after the Battle of Attu, which took place in the Aleutian Islands in May 1943. She was laid down on 21 November 1944 at the Todd-Pacific Shipyards in Tacoma, Washington, and launched on 25 January 1945. She was commissioned on 30 April 1945, with Captain A. C. Sherman in command. After completing her shakedown cruise off the West Coast, Attu was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the final stages of the war against Japan. She operated in Japanese waters and provided air support for the occupation of Japan until November 1945.
After the war, Attu was assigned to the “Magic Carpet” operation, which involved the transportation of American troops from overseas back to the United States. She made two “Magic Carpet” voyages before being decommissioned on 12 June 1946.
Attu was transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal on 1 July 1960 and sold for scrap to the Nicolai Joffe Corporation of Beverly Hills, California, in October 1960.
USS Roi (CVE-103)
USS Roi was named after the Roi Atoll, one of the islands in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
She was laid down on 17 December 1944 at the Todd-Pacific Shipyards in Tacoma, Washington, and launched on 28 February 1945. She was commissioned on 25 June 1945, with Captain A. J. Malone in command.
After completing her shakedown cruise, Roi was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and participated in the occupation of Japan. She operated in Japanese waters until January 1946, when she was ordered to return to the United States.
Roi was decommissioned on 12 June 1946 and placed in reserve. She was struck from the Navy List on 1 March 1959 and sold for scrap in 1960.
USS Munda (CVE-104)
USS Munda (CVE-55) was a Casablanca-class escort carrier of the United States Navy during World War II. She was named after the Battle of Munda in the Solomon Islands, which took place in 1943.
The ship was laid down on 22 February 1943 at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington, and launched on 28 April 1943. She was commissioned on 27 August 1943, with Captain E. J. McCarthy in command.
After completing her shakedown cruise off the California coast, Munda departed San Diego on 27 October 1943, bound for the South Pacific. She arrived at Nouméa, New Caledonia, on 17 November and began operating with Task Group 37.4, providing air cover for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. She continued to provide air support for various operations in the Pacific theater throughout the war.
In addition to her service in the Pacific, Munda also participated in the invasion of southern France in August 1944, providing air cover for the amphibious landings.
After the war, Munda was decommissioned on 16 February 1946 and transferred to the Maritime Commission for disposal. She was struck from the Navy List on 12 March 1946 and sold for scrap to the Hugo Neu Corporation of New York City on 21 November 1946.
The Mahan-class were 18 standard fleet destroyers, 16 planned FY33 and laid down in 1934 and the last two (Dunlap and Fanning) FY34, all commissioned in 1936-1937. They were an improvement over the Farraguts, less on stability but more on armament with no less than 12 torpedo tubes and other innovations on a larger, 1,500 tons displacement. They also had a new steam propulsion system, lighter and more efficient and soon a standard of USN destroyers. They all saw action in the Pacific, notably Guadalcanal, Santa Cruz Islands, Leyte Gulf, or Iwo Jima. In between they performed a lot of different tasks with six lost in action, earning collectively 111 battle stars. #ww2 #usn #mahan #destroyers
Design Development and Construction
The Mahan-class destroyers were logical follows-up of the Farragut class. The admiralty board had the standard fleet destroyer validated and wanted a larger class with improvements when first planned in early 1933. On the design stage already the Farragut class destroyers were criticised by the USN chief staff for insufficient torpedo armament. It was made clear the following FY1933 class would require an upgrade on this point of view.
Notably members of the board fell in agreement with the choice of machinery, and wanted the most up-to-date arrangement possible, for better speed and range (this came later).
But the General Board mostly dealt with armament changes:
-The first proposal went with 12 torpedo tubes, to the sacrifice of a single 5-inch (127 mm)/38 gun.
-Next, it was proposed to retain all five guns AND the twelve torpedo tubes upgrade. The tradeoff was to have surface-capable guns only, which had simpler and lighter mounts.
The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) objected to this being against the new trend of versatile AA/surface defence role for the fleet. In his own terms he refused “subordinating the gun to the torpedo”
-Eventually a compromise was struck: A new engineering plant would be installed (after Gibbs & Cox’s proposal, see after), a new battery arrangement with No.3 gun moved to the aft deckhouse, ahead of No.4 mount. This cleared up the rear amidship section, enabling a third quadruple torpedo tube to be installed. Then, the two middle torpedo tube banks were moved to the sides, the centerline being used for a larger aft deckhouse.
This design had the merit to keep all planned dual five 5 in/38s. The tradeoff was that only the first two had gun shields (With the sub-class Dunlap they were swapped for brand new enclosed mounts).
The machinery was revolutionary at least on a destroyer: They were basically an adaptation of a land-based machinery, a new generation of steam propulsion system combining greater pressure and temperature, combined with a new generation lightweight steam turbine. There were less parts, and it was overall simpler and more efficient, easier to maintain and more economical. The use of double reduction gearing als helped to further reduce the size and weight of the turbine. The space was used to add low-pressure cruising turbines, helping to regain extra range as well. This was still paid globally wit 10% more displacement compared to the Farragut class.
The Mahans as approved and programmed FY1937 (first 16 vessels) under the NIRA Executive Order on 16 June 1933. The last two were authorised under the Vinson-Trammell Act of 27 March 1934 (as part of 95 destroyers up to DD-482). Contracts for the first six were attributed to three shipbuilders which lacked for the Navy an acceptable in-house design structure. Therefore New York’s Gibbs & Cox stepped forward as primary design agent. Having no experience but perfectly well-versed in passenger-cargo liners, especially for their innovative propulsion systems, they managed to attract the attention of the US Navy and were given also the design of the Farraguts. Naturally they were contacted for the Mahan class also. They promised a cheaper, faster, more efficient propulsion system with the systems seen above. This proved a revolution for US destroyer design.
2-views of the DD-376 in 1942. src: Unknown, from pinterest.
The Mahans were a tad larger and much heavier than the Farraguts, at 1,500 long tons (1,524 t) standard and up to 1,725 long tons (1,753 t) deeply loaded. They reached 341 feet 3 inches (104.0 m) in lenght, by 35 feet 6 inches (10.8 m) in beam, for a 10 feet 7 inches (3.2 m) drag=ught (normal). The Mahans had a tripod foremast and pole mainmast aft, but for better AA field of fire, no nautical rigging went bracing the tripod. The silhouette was in fact more reminiscent of the larger Porter-class destroyers.
The Mahans were fitted with the first emergency generators, which replaced the storage batteries of earlier classes. Gun crew shelters were built for the superimposed weapons, one shelter before the bridge and one atop the shelter deck aft. Their Complement reach approximately 250 officers and enlisted men.
These ships also carried among other equipments two signal lamps on the bridge’s wings, a single 24-in Model 24-G-20 searchlight on a platform aft of the rear funnel, in between TTs.
They also had two cutters under davits abaft the forefunnel-bridge as well as 12 life rafts, carried already inflated.
The propulsion was considerably improved over the Farragut standard as saw above. They had brand new lighweight and compact General Electric geared steam turbines (impulse-type, also called Curtis turbines). They drove two shafts for a total output of 46-48,000 shaft horsepower (34-36,000 kW) – The Farraguts went to 42,800 shp (31,900 kW) in comparison. Steam came from four also brand new Babcock & Wilcox/Foster Wheeler water-tube boilers. Steam was supereheated, raised from from 400 psi (2,800 kPa) to 465 psi (3,210 kPa) and reaching in temperature 648 °F (342 °C) to 700 °F (371 °C). Steam from the boilers went to the HP turbine, exhausted to the LP turbine, exhausted to the condenser.
The other innovation in the turbines was their Double reduction gearing making for smaller and faster-turning turbines. They were divided into a high-pressure and low-pressure turbines feeding the common reduction. The space freed was occupied by cruising turbines improving fuel economy at lower speeds. Boiler economizers also allowed to improve fuel economy as the latter was heated before being injected.
In all, the Mahans carried 523 long tons (531 t) of fuel oil enabling 6,940 nautical miles (12,850 km; 7,990 mi) at 12 knots, so far better than the Farraguts. Range increased was thus 1,000 nmi (1,900 km; 1,200 mi). All this came withing the same same space and weight as in the Farragut class hull.
2-view of USS Cushing, showing the position of the torpedo tubes, main and secondary armament in 1942 (the blueprints)
USS Lamson at Mare Island after transformations, 29 May 1944, ONI
USS Cushing transformations at Mare Island Arsenal 15 July 1942, ONI
Main: 5x 5-in/38 guns
The main battery comprised five dual purpose 5-inch (127 mm)/38 caliber guns Mark 12 Mod 0, as for the Farraguts. They were matched with single Open/Open-back Shield Pedestal Mounts Mark 21.
However they were served by the new Mark 33 gun fire-control system (see later). Forward gun shields only.
The real novelty however was the introduction of fully enclosed Mark 25 mounts on the last two ships, USS Dunlap and Fanning (DD-384/385). They also introduced the Mark 24 Mod 0 and Mod 1 stern mounts. They were completed as such, with the two Mark 25 enclosed mountings a the bow, three Mark 24 pedestal mounts at the stern. This is the only reasons they are considered by some as a sub-class within the Mahan class. All previous vessels only had Mark 21 pedestal mounts on all five positions.
Mark 25 Mod 0 specs:
Weight 42,000-44,900 lbs. (19,051-20,367 kg)
Elevation rate 15 degrees per second for 15/+85 degrees
Train rate 28.7 degrees per second
Gun recoil 15 in or 38 cm
USS Dunlap firing its Mark 15
Engineers found ways to shoehorn carry 12 torpedo tubes instead of eight. In three quadruple torpedo tube mounts. The Mark 11, then Mark 12 torpedoes were guided by the Mark 27 torpedo fire control system. The infamous Mark 15 torpedo became the new standard in 1938. Mark 15 Torpedoes:
⚙ Mark 15 Mod 0 Torpedoes Specifications
1934/35, Surface ships
3,438 lbs. (1,55 kg)/1,260 lbs. (572 kg)
22 ft 7 in (6.883 m)
Wet-Heater steam turbine
Mod 0: 494 lbs. (224 kg) TNT
6,000/45 – 10,000/33.5 – 15,000/26.5
Mark 12 Mod 3 gyro
Thsy only had four single .50 caliber machine guns (12.7 mm) heavy machine guns for anti-aicraft defence. This was deemed enough at the time (1933). They were located on a platform (2) forward and below the bridge, the last pair on the deck house forward of 5-in mount.
This was of course considerably reinforced during the war (see below).
Depth Charges Armament
Stern view showing the two aft guns and depht charge racks, USS Case.
They were fitted with two Depth charge roll-off stern racks, of ten each, 20 in all (noreloads). From 1942, four additional Y-Guns depth-charges thrower (3 reloads each) were added amidships, abeam the aft deckhouse, for better escort operation in the Atlantic, with circa 44 DCs in stock total.
Fire Control & Sensors
Mk33 Gun Fire Control System:
A Mk.33 on USS Henley (Bagley class)
The Mark 33 GFCS was the great destroyer stabdard Fire Control System, associated to the Mark 10 Rangekeeper analog fire-control computer. The rangekeeper was mounted the open director atop the bridge rather than in a separate plotting room. This was not the case with the following Mark 37 GFCS. Firing solutions were computed for targets moving at up to 320 knots or 400 knots in a dive.
An interwar generation, they had no fire-control radar initially. After 1942, some directors were enclosed with a Mark 4 fire-control radar added ontop. Other had a Mark 4 radar added over the open director. The latter enabled ranges up to 40,000 yards but more commonly 30,000 yards. Radar enabled to hit accurately vessels at night or in any weather. The Mark 33 used tachymetric target motion prediction and was overall satisfactory but was still heavy and suffered wartime production problems resolved by the Mark 37.
The computing mechanisms Mark 10 were found too slow though to reach initial solutions and changing it while in motion. The problem that before a new system could be installed, spaced needed to be found in the design below decks. The Mark 33 was also clearly inadequate against fast-moving aviation. The system still was to wait for the better Mark 37 to be installed, on later ship. The Mark 33 remained operational by default on the Farraguts, Mahan, Gridley, Bagley and Benham up to their decommission.
The great USN standard radar from 1942, fitted mostly on destroyers and light ships in general. The SC family sets had an “A” scope and IFF connections asw ell as gyro-compass repeater link.
The SC -and early SC-1- had a max reliable range of 30 miles for medium bombers at 1,000′ altitude. With preamplifier on the later SC-1 and SC-2/3, this was ported to a whooping 75 miles.
Range accuracy of the SC was ± 200 yards, later ± 100 yds on the SC-1 whereas bearing accuracy was ± 5°.
Made by General Electric it was a 220 kW Air/Surface-search radar working on VHF band at 60 Hz PRF, ofering a Beamwidth of 10–25°, Pulsewidth of 4–5 μs and range of 48–120 km (30–75 mi) with a precision of 90–180 m (98–197 yd).
SG Radar: 50 KW Surface Search Frq 3 GHz PRF 775/800/825, Bmwdt 5.6°/15°, Pwdt 1.3–2 μs RPM 4/8/12, Range 15 nmi @200 yd* Mk 12.22 radar: Medium Wave Fire Control for Dual Purpose Batteries, goes with the Mark 37 FC Director* QCA Sonar: Early type, spherical, underwater. Manufactured by CMB. 24 cycles frequenty, M/S spherical projector, 400 Watts, electric hoist and train* *according to navypedia
In early 1942, the Mahan-class destroyers had their AA armament improved but full refits only started for all ships until 1944. Most notably the need for more AA dictated the removal of one 5-inch/38 gun which was replaced by a learge platform accomodating two twin Bofors 40 mm guns (1.6 in) on each wing. Room was also found to shoehorn between four and six 20 mm Oerlikon (0.79 in) guns.
In January 1945, the two quadruple side torpedo tubes were also removed amidst kamikaze attacks, replaced by two 40 mm quad mounts, quite a useful move. In June 1945 the third centerline tube was also removed (leaving the destroyers without their close quarter surface best armament) accomodating two more 40 mm twin mounts behind the funnel. Directors for theser new 40 mm mounts were also added, as the Mark 33 FCS were ill-adapted for the task. These Mark 51s FCS were to replaced by new the GFFC Mark 63 installations with radar at the very end of the war, kept after it.
As for details: By early 1942, USS Mahan, Cummings, Drayton, Lamson, Flusser, Reid, Case, Tucker, Cushing, Perkins, Smith, Preston, Dunlap, Fanning had their admidship 127mm/38 as well as the four cal.05 browning removed. Seven single 20mm/70 Mk 4 were added as well as four 4 DCT (depht charge throwers) in addition to their two racks. This ported the provision to 44 DCs in all.
USS Conyngham in very early 1942 differed by keeping two of her 12.7mm/90 Browning HMGs and having only two 20mm/70 Mk 4 added as well as four twin 12.7mm/90 Brownings and still four DCT (44 DC at all). By late 1942, USS Shaw also kept two 0.5 cal. HMGs, but she was the only one fitted woth a quadruple 28mm/75 Mk 1 mount as well as four Oerlikon and four DCTs.
Between 1942 and 1944 except for USS Cassin and Downes they were fitted with a SC radar, a SG and Mk 12.22 radars.
Frm January 1943 to the summer of 1944, Mahan, Cummings, Drayton, Lamson, Flusser, Reid, Case, Perkins, Smith, Dunlap, Fanning obtained two more single Oerlikon guns and two twin 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 Bofors. USS Conyngham by the spring of 1943 hed four twin 12.7mm/90 and single 5-in/38 amidship removed, two 12.7mm/90 and two twin 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 bofors as well as three single 20mm/70 Mk 4.
USS Shaw in late 1943 had her “chicago piano” removed and instead two twin 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 added as a single 20mm/70 Mk 4
In 1944 USS Dunlap was the first to lost her central quad 533mm TT bank.
In 1945, most spectacular changes were made:
By January, USS Lamson had two twin Bofors removed as well as two side quad TT banks for the addition of two quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2
In June, USS Shaw lost a main guns, all her TTs and five Oerlikon guns for the addition of two quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2, and two twin 20mm/70 Mk 4.
Last to be upgraded during the war (in August), was USS Lamson which lost a quad TT.
In 1946, DD365, 368, 370, 371, 378, 385 typically had four 127mm/38 Mk 21 left, two twin 40mm/60 Mk 1, five single 20mm/70 Mk 10, all their TTs as well as 4 DCT, 2 DCR and a QCA sonar in addition to their unchaged radars since 1942. DD367 had lost all her TT banks, DD372 and 375 had two and DD384 as well.
USS Dunlap (DD-384-386) sub-class
The Dunlap class was a two-ship destroyer class, based on the Mahan design with some sources separating them entirely. However based on my reliance on Conway’s and practicity, these were integrated here. They did not share however the following numbers, but jumped a serie since the previous 16 ships stopped at DD-379. USS Dunlap (DD-384) and USS Fanning (DD-385), shared the same hull, powerplant, armament, but differed in having the the new Mark 25 enclosed mount fitted on two forward 5-inch/38 guns.
Their particularity were to have base rings housing projectile hoists rotating with the guns and with the ammunition fed from a handling room below, enabling much faster firing. Dunlap and Fanning were the first USN destroyers ever to have enclosed gun mounts, better protecting the crew compared to shields. They aldo had a light pole foremast and no mainmast, being lighter, less top-heavy compared to the Mahans and a way to go for future US destroyers in general.
Old author’s profile
HD rendition of USS Mahan, as commissioned in 1938. Note the tripod foremast and pole mainmast aft od the funnel. In 1939 this one was removed and replaced by small half-mast aft of the funnel. Standard Ocean Grey and large pennant markings were the norm as through the neutrality patrols of 1941.
Same ship, different timeline, showing her wartime modifications by late 1944 in the Philippines, shortly before she was attacked by Kamikazes (and sunk).
ONI pattern sheet MS-32, 3D for the Mahan class, port view.
⚙ Mahan class specifications
1,500 long tons standard 1,725 long tons (1,753 t) deep load (2,103 1945)
341 feet 3 inches x 35 feet 6 inches x 10 feet 7 inches (104 x 10.8 x 3.2 m)
USS South Dakota alongside USS Prometheus (AR-3) and two Mahan class DDs off North Africa, November 1942
Design wise, with a brand new, innovative machinery offering many innovations and advantages, and 12 torpedo tubes, plus their superimposed gun shelters as well as generators, the 135 tons increase over the Farraguts seems well used overall. The class was capable to raise steam faster, being more efficient and thus, having a better range, requiring less maintenance-intensive machinery (which went with lesser skilled specialists). The Mahans became therefore the new standard for US destroyers. The Farraguts, top-heavy and unwieldy, certainly paled in comparison. This design evolution however was not “in-house” but rather the external contrution of Gibbs & Cox flair for innovative machinery.
If transatlantic liners can have the world’s best machinery systems (which was often the case) these ships were seen very much as showcases of national tech. So why not make the best of US taxpayers by recycling these to the military. The advance taken by the USN in that matter (to compare with other fleets) also explains in part why US WW2 destroyers in general saw so much useful post-war service, for some until the 1990s. The base principe was kept with constant improvements between the Fletcher, Sumner and Gearings.
USS Perkins dealing with heavy weather, date unknown
All 18 ships saw action in World War II and all in the Pacific Theater (after some service in the Mediterranean/Atlantic). They saw the most important engagements of the war (unlike for the exmple the numerous Fletcher class), and that included the Guadalcanal Campaign, battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Battle of Leyte Gulf, and battle of Iwo Jima. They were “do-it-all-ships”, always on the breach for a variety of missions, between beachhead bombardment, close cover of amphibious landings, and traditional task force screening as well as convoy and patrols. She were tasked for anti-aircraft cover when integrated with task forces, and submarine warfare when detached in waters surrounding the area of operations (usually atolls and island coasts).
DD-366 in 1944
Six were lost in action (plus two expended in Operation Crossroads nuclear tests). The remainder were all scrapped due to their age conception, but they still saw reasonable service of about ten years before commission in 1936 and 1946-48 retirement. Ten years was short, still for taxpayer’s money. But their wartime service was particularly intense, and they chronically lacked proper maintenance, and having heavy use of her equipments and powerplant in particular, despite their innovative nature.
In short: In 1945 they were worn out. None survived today precisely because of this early retirement. Only the Fletcher class generation served long enough in the cold war to generate such preservation interest (and a new context, with more cash and veteran’s weight in the society for such enterprises). This was no a thing back post-WW2. Collectively their 111 battle stars testify this long, intense, even relentless World War II service. With one third of the class lost in action, this was indeed a rather high ratio for USN Destroyers.
Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775–1990. Greenwood Press.
Friedman, Norman (2004). U.S. Destroyers. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.
Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger (1980). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922–1946.
Hodges, Peter; Friedman, Norman, eds. (1979). Destroyer Weapons of World War 2. NIP
McComb, Dave (2010). US Destroyers 1934–1945. Long Island City, New York: Osprey Publishing.
Reilly, John (1983). United States Navy Destroyers of World War II. Blandford Press.
Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two. NIP
Rohwer, Jürgen; Hümmelchen, Gerhard (1992). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945. NIP
Roscoe, Theodore (1953). United States Destroyer Operations in World War II. NIP
Silverstone, Paul H. (1965). U.S. Warships of World War II. London: Ian Allan Ltd.
https://maritime.org/doc/plans/index.php Full plans set on maritime.org/
General Query on scalemates
Unlike WW1 USN DDs, the choice of kits for the Mahan class is a bit better, but just: Let’s cite USS Conyngham DD-371 by Iron Shipwrights at 1:350, USS Mahan DD-364 1942 by MidShip Models 1:700 which also done the USS Dunlap DD-384 1938 and the Rebuilt Mahan Class USS Cassin DD-372 in 1943. There is also a 1-700-194-MHN USS Mahan 1941 by Kraken Hobbies 1:700. Model Monlay fo thos tempted by 1:72 scratch made a 5″/38 cal. “Single Knuckle” Mount, early Mk.30 single-gun mount. Model Monkey 1:72 XP Forge also made its 1:1200 for wargaming.
As for books, the USS Cushing DD-376 by Model Monkey and USS Cushing DD-376 US Navy Booklet of General Plans, official US Navy in new 2022 Digital form, as USS Flusser DD-368 US Navy Booklet of General Plans from Federal Shipbuilding, Drydock Company and naval yard for a nice large scratchbuilt base.
The Mahan class destroyers in service
USS Mahan DD-364
USS Mahan (DD-364) was commissioned on September 2, 1936, named after Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, the prominent naval strategist, historian, naval academy professor and president. His works and legacy are still with us today.
She will be an example of career for the whole class, seen here in detail: USS Mahan was built by United Dry Docks of Staten Island, New York, he keel laid down on 12 June 1934, launched on 15 October 1935 (Christened by the admiral’s great-granddaughter), commissioned on 18 September 1936. She made the usual Caribbean initial training and shakedown touring South American ports for two months and only came back in July 1937 to Southern California, having rounded the cape. She took part in fleet training and was assigned to Pearl Harbor.
Nothing mych happened but her routine of yearly exercizes and upkeep on the Californian coast in 1937-41, while tension was mounting with Japan. Thus, she was kept to Pearl Harbor aven after the start of WW2 and transfer of many destroyers to the Atlantic for neutrality patrols. On 7 December 1941 under Commander R. W. Simpson, she was screening for task force 12 centered around USS Lexington, with three cruisers and four destroyers ferrying aircraft to reinforce Midway Island. Soon after they were dispatched TF 12 was asked to search for the Japanese and after failing to find them, were back in Pearl on 12 December.
Later in December, Mahan was detached with 103 Marines aboard landed on Johnston Island (about 750 nm west of Hawaii) while evacuating 47 natives and residents to Hawaii. Next Mahan was sent to escort a convoy to Samoa with Task Force 17 (USS Yorktown). TF 17 also raided Jaluit Atoll, Mili Atoll and Makin Atoll (Marshall-Gilberts). USS Mahan was off Canton Island by late February 1942 for patrol. In early April she escorted a Pearl Harbor convoy back to for San Pedro in California. She was directed to Mare Island Naval Shipyard for her first major wartime overhaul on the 18th.
Battle of Santa Cruz Islands
Back in Pearl Harbor in August 1942, after patrolling these waters by mid-October she was assigned Task Force 16 (USS Enterprise) also comprising USS South Dakota, two cruisers and seven destroyers. They were soon amalgamated with TF 17 (USS Hornet) as Task Force 61 (RADM Thomas C. Kinkaid) sent to Santa Cruz Islands to prevent the invasion of Guadalcanal.
On 26 October, Enterprise’s search planes spotted and attacked IJN Zuiho starting the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in motion. This first air-sea battle ended a bit as pyrrhic, but the screening destroyers, including Mahan, put up a fierce AA defence and were commended for their effort. Next, Mahan was sent with the fleet to Noumea, New Caledonia. On 27 October while underway a Japanese submarine was detacted and the convoy took evasive action but when it happened, USS Mahan and South Dakota collided, with quite extensive damage. She received temporary repairs at Noumea enough to proceed to Pearl Harbor where she received a new bow.
New Guinea Campaign
On 9 January 1943 she was back in action in the South Pacific, escorting convoys between the New Hebrides and Fiji while based off New Caledonia for the Guadalcanal Campaign. She visited and operated in Australian waters and in August she was based in Milne Bay, New Guinea. In August 1943, under Lieutenant Commander James T. Smith she was part of a strike on Lae, with three other US destroyers, bombarding Japanese installations at Finschhafen. The Lae Task Force (RADM Daniel E. Barbey) left Milne Bay for Lae with 8,000 Australian troops and landed them up to 4 September. On the 11th Salamaua and on the 16th Lae were recaptured, Mahan covering the landings and patrolling the area.
On 21 September she escorted another force from Buna, and carried an Australian infantry brigade herself. On the 22th, she was part of the attack on Finschhafen and soon withdrawed from the area when ten Japanese torpedo planes attacked. Theor combined AA fire downed eight of the ten. On 14 December 1943 she left Buna again to take part in the landing at Arawe in New Britain. She was part of the bombardment with four other destroyers. The force arrived off Arawe on the 15th, proceeded to the bombardement, forcing the Japanese to retreat.
On Christmas 1943 Mahan was sailing to Borgen Bay (Cape Gloucester, New Britain), meeting uncharted waters and with USS Flusser she was sent to sound out the channel. Two minesweepers layed buoys to create a path. On 26th, the Marines landed, and the afternoon the force repelled an attack. Later in February 1944, Mahan was assigned the 7th Flee covering a landing at Los Negros Island (Admiralty). However in March she was sent home for another overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, with extensive modifications. She left in July 1944 for Pearl Harbor and after refreshing exercises until 15 August she was sent to New Guinea on 20 October via Eniwetok, Jaluit, Guam, Saipan and Ulithi and escorting convoys towards Leyte. By late November 1944, she was patrolling Leyte waters.
Battle of Leyte and loss
Mahan was soon assigned the amphibious attack force on Ormoc. By the morning of 7 December 1944, she escorted the troopships carrying the 77th Infantry Division until they landed and patrolled the channel between Leyte and Ponson Island. Nine Japanese bombers and four escort fighters soon arrived on the scene and attacked the force, including Mahan, soon targeted by one of the first Kamikaze attacks, after the torpedoes had been launched. USS Mahan by that time had a strong AA and managed to shoot down four attackers but soon took three direct kamikaze hits, the most serious being a hit to her superstructure, near No.2 gun, decapitating her command.
In flames, Mahan was was ordered by Commander E. G. Campbell, which survived, toward the picket line in order to save her but soon order to abandon ship. She was assisted by USS Lamson and Walke, rescuing survivors. She had six missing, 30 seriously wounded, and she had to be finished off by torpedoes and gunfire. Her captain praised how his crew managed with the situation. She would receive received five battle stars for her service.
⚠ NOTE: The following career records has been generated using ChatGPT as a test. Enjoy (grin)
USS Cummings DD-365
USS Cummings (DD-365) was commissioned on April 28, 1936, named after Andrew Boyd Cummings, a naval officer who served during the Spanish-American War and World War I.
During World War II, Cummings served in the Pacific theater, participating in the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal campaign, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. She also took part in the Aleutian Islands campaign and the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
In 1945, Cummings was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and participated in the invasion of southern France. She earned 11 battle stars for her service during World War II.
After the war, Cummings served as a training ship and was eventually decommissioned in 1947. She was sold for scrap in 1948.
USS Drayton DD-366
USS Drayton (DD-366) was commissioned on October 9, 1936. She was named after Percival Drayton, a naval officer who served during the American Civil War.
During World War II, Drayton served in the Pacific theater, participating in the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal campaign, and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. She also took part in the Aleutian Islands campaign and the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
In 1945, Drayton was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and participated in the invasion of southern France. She earned 12 battle stars for her service during World War II.
After the war, Drayton served as a training ship and was eventually decommissioned in 1947. She was sold for scrap in 1948.
USS Lamson DD-367
USS Lamson (DD-367) was commissioned on November 20, 1936. She was named after Roswell H. Lamson, a naval officer who served during the American Civil War and the Spanish-American War.
During World War II, Lamson served in the Pacific theater, participating in the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal campaign, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. She also took part in the Aleutian Islands campaign, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Battle of Okinawa.
In 1945, Lamson was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and participated in the invasion of southern France. She earned 11 battle stars for her service during World War II.
After the war, Lamson served as a training ship and was eventually decommissioned in 1947. She was sold for scrap in 1948.
USS Flusser DD-368
USS Flusser (DD-368) was commissioned on November 2, 1936. She was named after Charles W. Flusser, a naval officer who served during the American Civil War.
During World War II, Flusser served in the Pacific theater, participating in the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal campaign, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. She also took part in the Aleutian Islands campaign, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Battle of Okinawa.
In 1945, Flusser was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and participated in the invasion of southern France. She earned 11 battle stars for her service during World War II.
After the war, Flusser served as a training ship and was eventually decommissioned in 1947. She was sold for scrap in 1948.
USS Reid DD-369
USS Reid (DD-369) was commissioned on December 30, 1936. She was named after Samuel Chester Reid, a naval officer who served during the War of 1812.
During World War II, Reid served in the Pacific theater, participating in the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal campaign, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. She also took part in the Aleutian Islands campaign, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Battle of Okinawa.
In 1945, Reid was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and participated in the invasion of southern France. She earned 13 battle stars for her service during World War II.
After the war, Reid served as a training ship and was eventually decommissioned in 1947. She was sold for scrap in 1948.
USS Case DD-370
USS Case (DD-370) was commissioned on March 8, 1937. She was named after Augustus Ludlow Case, a naval officer who served during the American Civil War.
During World War II, Case served in the Pacific theater, participating in the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal campaign, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. She also took part in the Aleutian Islands campaign, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Battle of Okinawa.
In 1945, Case was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and participated in the invasion of southern France. She earned 11 battle stars for her service during World War II.
After the war, Case served as a training ship and was eventually decommissioned in 1947. She was sold for scrap in 1948.
USS Conyngham DD-371
USS Conyngham (DD-371) was commissioned on March 19, 1937. She was named after Gustavus Conyngham, a naval officer who served during the American Revolutionary War.
During World War II, Conyngham served in the Pacific theater, participating in the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal campaign, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. She also took part in the Aleutian Islands campaign, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Battle of Okinawa.
In 1945, Conyngham was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and participated in the invasion of southern France. She earned 13 battle stars for her service during World War II.
After the war, Conyngham served as a training ship and was eventually decommissioned in 1947. She was sold for scrap in 1948.
USS Cassin DD-372
USS Cassin (DD-372) was commissioned on April 21, 1937. She was named after Stephen Cassin, a naval officer who served during the War of 1812.
During World War II, Cassin served in the Atlantic theater, participating in the Neutrality Patrol, the invasion of North Africa, the invasion of Sicily, and the invasion of Italy. She also took part in the Normandy landings and the invasion of southern France.
Cassin was heavily damaged during the Normandy landings when she was hit by a German shore battery. She was repaired and returned to service in 1944. She earned six battle stars for her service during World War II.
After the war, Cassin served as a training ship and was eventually decommissioned in 1946.
USS Shaw DD-373
USS Shaw (DD-373) was commissioned on September 3, 1936. She was named after John Shaw, a naval officer who served during the Barbary Wars.
During World War II, Shaw served in the Pacific theater, participating in the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal campaign, and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. She also took part in the Aleutian Islands campaign, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
On December 7, 1941, Shaw was moored at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the base. She was hit by three bombs and her forward magazine exploded, causing extensive damage. Despite the damage, Shaw was repaired and returned to service in 1942.
Shaw earned six battle stars for her service during World War II. After the war, she was decommissioned in 1945 and sold for scrap in 1946.
USS Tucker DD-374
USS Tucker (DD-374) was commissioned on August 26, 1936. She was named after Samuel Tucker, a naval officer who served during the American Revolutionary War.
During World War II, Tucker served in the Pacific theater, participating in the Guadalcanal campaign, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. She also took part in the Aleutian Islands campaign, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Tucker was awarded nine battle stars for her service during World War II. Decommissioned in 1945 she was sold for scrap in 1946.
USS Downes DD-375
USS Downes (DD-375) was launched on May 31, 1935, and commissioned on November 24 of the same year.
During World War II, Downes served in the Pacific theater and participated in numerous campaigns, including the Battle of Midway in June 1942. On December 7, 1941, Downes was undergoing overhaul at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard when the Japanese attacked. The ship was heavily damaged by bombs and torpedoes, and was later deemed to be beyond repair.
Downes was decommissioned on January 15, 1942, and her hulk was stripped of salvageable parts. The remnants were later used as a target for aerial bombing practice.
USS Cushing DD-376
USS Cushing (DD-376) was named after William Barker Cushing, a Union Navy officer who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Civil War.
The USS Cushing was launched on November 1, 1935, and commissioned on December 19, 1936. It was armed with five 5-inch guns, four .50-caliber machine guns, and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes. The ship had a top speed of 36.5 knots and a range of 6,940 nautical miles at a speed of 12 knots.
During World War II, the USS Cushing participated in numerous operations in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. On November 13, 1942, while on a mission to protect a convoy near Guadalcanal, the USS Cushing was hit by a torpedo fired by the Japanese submarine I-AS. The ship sank within minutes, with the loss of 77 crew members.
The USS Cushing received four battle stars for its service in World War II. In 1944, the Navy commissioned a new destroyer, USS Cushing (DD-797), which was named after the original USS Cushing.
USS Perkins DD-377
USS Perkins (DD-377) was named after George Hamilton Perkins, a U.S. Navy officer who served during the Spanish-American War and was later a U.S. Senator from California.
The USS Perkins was launched on December 1, 1935, and commissioned on January 20, 1937. It was armed with five 5-inch guns, four .50-caliber machine guns, and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes. The ship had a top speed of 36.5 knots and a range of 6,940 nautical miles at a speed of 12 knots.
During World War II, the USS Perkins participated in numerous operations in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. In October 1942, the USS Perkins was part of a task force that engaged in the Battle of Cape Esperance, during which it helped sink the Japanese cruiser Furutaka.
The USS Perkins also participated in the battles of Santa Cruz and Tassafaronga, and provided gunfire support for the landings on Bougainville, the Marianas, and the Philippines. The ship was awarded five battle stars for its service in World War II.
After the war, the USS Perkins was decommissioned on December 3, 1945, and sold for scrap on December 19, 1946.
USS Smith DD-378
Off Mare Island Naval Shipyard, 12 June 1944
USS Smith (DD-378) was named after Joseph W. Smith, a U.S. Navy officer who served during the Spanish-American War and was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Boxer Rebellion in China.
The USS Smith was launched on February 10, 1936, and commissioned on August 25, 1936. It was armed with five 5-inch guns, four .50-caliber machine guns, and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes. The ship had a top speed of 36.5 knots and a range of 6,940 nautical miles at a speed of 12 knots.
During World War II, the USS Smith participated in numerous operations in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. In October 1942, the USS Smith was part of a task force that engaged in the Battle of Cape Esperance, during which it helped sink the Japanese cruiser Furutaka.
The USS Smith also participated in the battles of Santa Cruz, Tassafaronga, and the Philippine Sea. It was awarded six battle stars for its service in World War II.
After the war, the USS Smith was decommissioned on December 16, 1945, and sold for scrap on December 19, 1946.
USS Preston DD-379
USS Preston (DD-379) was named after Samuel W. Preston, a U.S. Navy officer who served during the Mexican-American War and was later the Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy.
The USS Preston was launched on April 4, 1936, and commissioned on September 22, 1936. It was armed with five 5-inch guns, four .50-caliber machine guns, and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes. The ship had a top speed of 36.5 knots and a range of 6,940 nautical miles at a speed of 12 knots.
During World War II, the USS Preston participated in numerous operations in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. In October 1942, the USS Preston was part of a task force that engaged in the Battle of Cape Esperance, during which it helped sink the Japanese cruiser Furutaka.
The USS Preston also participated in the battles of Santa Cruz, Tassafaronga, and the Philippine Sea. It was awarded six battle stars for its service in World War II.
After the war, the USS Preston was decommissioned on December 16, 1945, and sold for scrap on December 19, 1946.
USS Dunlap DD-384
USS Dunlap (DD-384) was named after Robert Dunlap, a U.S. Navy officer who served during the Spanish-American War and was later the commander of the gunboat USS Petrel during the Philippine-American War.
The USS Dunlap was launched on December 27, 1934, and commissioned on March 25, 1936. It was armed with five 5-inch guns, four .50-caliber machine guns, and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes. The ship had a top speed of 36.5 knots and a range of 6,500 nautical miles at a speed of 12 knots.
During World War II, the USS Dunlap participated in numerous operations in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. In October 1942, the USS Dunlap was part of a task force that engaged in the Battle of Cape Esperance, during which it helped sink the Japanese cruiser Furutaka.
The USS Dunlap also participated in the battles of Santa Cruz, Tassafaronga, and the Philippine Sea. It was awarded nine battle stars for its service in World War II.
After the war, the USS Dunlap was decommissioned on November 25, 1945, and sold for scrap on January 22, 1948.
USS Fanning DD-385
USS Fanning (DD-385) was named after Nathaniel Fanning, a U.S. Navy officer who served during the American Revolutionary War and was captured by the British.
The USS Fanning was launched on October 15, 1934, and commissioned on March 15, 1936. It was armed with five 5-inch guns, four .50-caliber machine guns, and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes. The ship had a top speed of 36.5 knots and a range of 6,500 nautical miles at a speed of 12 knots.
During World War II, the USS Fanning participated in numerous operations in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. In October 1942, the USS Fanning was part of a task force that engaged in the Battle of Cape Esperance, during which it helped sink the Japanese cruiser Furutaka.
The USS Fanning also participated in the battles of Santa Cruz, Tassafaronga, and the Philippine Sea. It was awarded nine battle stars for its service in World War II.
After the war, the USS Fanning was decommissioned on November 25, 1945, and sold for scrap on January 22, 1948.
The first interwar Flotilla Leaders
Second step of the renewal of the US Destroyer force in the interwar, started with the Farragut class, the Porters were eight 1,850-ton large destroyers authorized by Congress on 26 April 1916 with funding delayed considerably. The tonnage limit followed the London Naval Treaty, with 13 ships of this size, that will be met by both the Porter and the later Somers class. The first four were laid down in 1933 at Camden NyD in New Jersey and the last four in 1934, at Bethlehem Steel Corp. Quincy, Massachusetts. Commissioned in 1936 they were seen as an answer to the “special type” of Fubuki-class destroyers of the Imperial Japanese Navy but answered to the flotilla leader type. Given their heavy armament they saw heavy action in WW2, notably in the Pacific, but soon proved difficult to upgrade due to metacentric height/stability issues. Only USS Porter was sunk, in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands (26 October 1942).
Congress blocks early interwar proposals
WoWs rendition of the 1919 destroyer leader project (“USS Hill”).
A Large destroyer leader type had been under active consideration since 1918, looking at the Royal Navy’s own experimentations, with the General Board recommending construction of five of them. This was pushed forward as the Navy, betting everything on dreadnoughts, lacked modern light cruisers, ordering in a hurry the ten Omaha-class. Having an immense quantity of Wickes and Clemson-class fleet destroyers also prevented the Congress to agreed on building flotilla leaders.
The General Board still wanted a leader to be given the new higher pressure/temperature steam propulsion turbines that were also to be adopted on the Farragut-class destroyers for extra range. Then came the London Naval Treaty. It showed that the Washington destroy standard was already made obsolete by the large French destroyers, as non-signatory of the treaty. There were recommendations following these, also some influence from the Geneva proposals for destroyers. A consensus fell to the Destroyer Leader being limited to 1,850 tons, and this was eventually included in the 1930 London treaty.
London Treaty Provisions
As per the treaty’s exact terms defining destoryers:
“Surface vessels of war the standard displacement of which does not exceed 1,850 tons (1,880 metric tons), and with a gun not above 5.1 inch (130 mm) caliber.”
Thus, the USN was globally allowed 150,000 tons (Britain 150,000, Japan 100,450). But the treaty also precised:
“not more than sixteen percent… shall be employed in vessels of over 1,500 tons (1,524 metric tons) standard displacement”
Hence the final counto of 13 flotilla leaders with a margin of fifty tons, for a 1,850-tonner. That’s what the naval staff started with for its flotilla leader project.
Still, there was debate regarding the realism of such displacement for a leader. In WWI indeed, it’s light cruisers (typical 1912-12 scout cruisers) or very heavy flotilla leaders (like the Italian Mirabello, Leone ect.) that led these flotillas, and they were all way above that tonnage.
And so, discussions went on back and forth between the admirakty and the Bureau of Construction & Repair (BuC&R) on torpedo armament, gun armamet, powerplant configuration and speed. It was soon realized that combining the firepower of a light cruiser to the 1850 tonnes hull was not going to cut it, if not for drastic construction mesures. In the end, at least the powerplant was settled as a repeat of the Farragut class machinery and more power. Armament was fixed to eight guns in four twin turrets, something unprecedented, and the guns were the brand new 5-in/38 types, fast-firing and potentially dual purpose. As for torpedoes, due to size issues, two side banks and one axial were chosen as a configuration.
The final design, like for the Mahan class was prepared by by Gibbs & Cox from NyC. It was validated in 1934.
Design of the Porter class
The Porter class in 1937-40. They looked very tall and top-heavy.
The final design was impressive for destroyers. These shared tripod mainmasts, after superstructure, superfiring 5-inch twin mounts forward and aft and therefore liked like mini-cruisers. The main issue was to pack all this on the tiny hull, yet still longer (381 feets oa – 732 waterline) and larger (36’6″) compared to the Farraguts (341’3″ and 34’2″ respectively). They had the same aft deck freeeboard but slightly higher forecastle as engineers feared she would “plough” heavily in foul weather. Both the general hull lines, bow shape, flare and stern shapes, were the same as the Farragut class essentially, also the Mahan class.
The big difference between the Farragut/Mahan and these, though, were these impressive superstructure. The bridge stand taller, alhough having the same shape, still two raked, unequal shape funnels, and extensive superstructure fore and aft. They were there to support and space-consuming configuration of forward and aft superfing turrets, something unheard of on a destroyer so far. Only Britain will venture there in 1936 with its Tribal class and the French already in 1935 when laying down their Mogador class, far more heavier than the Porters at 4,018 t (3,955 long tons) deeply loaded.
Needless to say also a 1,850 tons standard design was comparable to the Fubuki class, but not the 1937 Kagero or Asashio class (2,000-2,370 tons) which were standard, not leaders. The IJN will never venture into “leaders” but in WW2 for the first time proceeded with a “super-destroyer” design more intended for AA escort, the 1943 (2,701/3,700 t) Akizuki class.
Thus, when completed in 1936, there was nothing coming close in terms of armament on such a small package. They could have been considered the best “treaty flotilla leaders”, if not for obvious stability issues. Metacentric hight was above average, and despite weight-savings they would be hopelessesly top-heavy.
Only four of these destroyers were initially funded for FY 1934. In May 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), doubling this order to eight Porters (along with sixteen Mahans, four cruisers and the two Yorktown class carriers) in the wake of a state effort to reduced unemployment after the great depression.
The two batches were built respectively at New York Shipbuilding (DD-356-59) and Fore River Shipbuilding (Quincy Massachusetts) for DD-560-563.
They were ordered in 1933, laid down in 18 December 1933 (New York) and 2 January 1934 (Fore River), with the exception of USS Balch, on 16 May 1934. They were launched in 1935 for the most, USS Phelps, despite being laid down later than Porter, was launched in July, versus December for Porter. They were completed in 1936 August to December (Phelps was first) and Winslow in February 1937.
The class still bears the name of the first pennant in line, DD-356, hence USS Porter.
Hull and general design
The most striking aspect of the design were these tripod masts, alongside the impressive superstructures. They carried tall masts and platforms for projectors. Combined with their superfiring twon turrets, they really contributed to a tall and compressed allure, really unique in destroyer design. They looked tall and impressive, really fit for a flotilla leader. It seems their metacentric height ans duppose instability was not an issue at first. Captains knew they would be not pushed hard over or in heavy weather without care. Their masts in particuar were a source of heavy drag especially dangerous for broadside gusts. There never has been reasons to doubt their handling however, which was generally good, but indeed their roll was slow and deep and they “ploughed” a lot as expected, their saving grace being a tall prow and forecastle, preserving seakeeping.
As the original documentation 1 shows, the hull was built of 186 frames, with no transverse framing, with frame spacing of 2 feet. They measured between perpendicular 372 feets, and 381 feets and one half inch overall, with the typical fine entry with limited flare and broad aft section, the largest beam reached aft out the amidship section. Model breadth at D.W.L. reached 36 feets 6 inches. The raked funnels culminated at 46 feets and 5 inches (forward) and 44 feets 5 inches for the aft one. The pilot house towered at 43 feets 6 inches above the waterline, and the forward 1.1 in quad mount at 34 feets.
At main deck, this was 21 inches, a freeboard at the bow 23 ftees 8 inches, and at the stern with had a rounded deck and angular downwards slopind back face (“semi-transom”), was just 12 feets and 6 inches and a half. Official documentation gave them a 1,850 tonnes displacement standard as planned, and 2,131 tonnes fully loaded, which was still moderate for their role and armament.
They propeller shaft were inclined down aft at 0.5922 inches per feet. The rudder was 101 squares feet in surface (“projected area”).
The documentation reveals interesting points about the measures taken on stability:
It is specified calculation of ballasting were made based on “Condition II”, a state in which the ship was experiencing roll with fuel, water, ammunition and stores were expended. It was given the instruction to use fuel and water from the lower tanks last. There was a chart mentioning a “Minimum Safe Operational Displacement” which was 2,100 tonnes, with a mean draft of 11 feets 2-1/2 inches. If oil tanks were near-empty it was specified that water ballast should be taken onboard in place. The case of two of the Farragut class famously lost in the Typhoon Cobra were caught while refuelling, their tanks empty and captains not aware of this measures or not ordering it in time. Fortunately this never happened to any Porter class, which strangely gained a somewhat better reputation.
The Porters reused the same propulsion as the Farraguts. There was no time to look after something else.
They used for the first time (but like the Farraguts) superheated steam coming at 400 psi (2,800 kPa) pressure and 645 °F (341 °C). Due to the larger displacement, the powerplant was scaled up. Larger Babcock and Wilcox boilers, more powerful and torquy turbines with horsepower increased from 42,800 shaft horsepower (31,900 kW) to 50,000 shaft horsepower (37,000 kW).
In the end this procured the same 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph) with all the added weight and drag. Superheated steam improved fuel efficiency, and the four boilers in addition had economizers, preheating incoming feedwater.
The steam turbines came from New York Shipbuilding for the first batch and (presumably) GE for the other. They had single reduction gearing, no cruising turbines however. Called implulse & reaction type they had 11 high pressure stages and 17 low pressure ones. On th shaft, this gave 400 rpm at a combined 3,300 HP and 2,300 LP).
In addition, they carried two generators from GE coupled with two Cooper Bessemer Diesels engines. The latter were rated for 167.5 hp, of a high compression 4-cycle V-8 type, 1200 rpm,while the electric generators were of the 7-1/2 KW exciter type rated at 450 volts AC current, or 70 KW.
The turbogenerators from General Electric were DN-5 horizontal implulse 5 stages, Type ATB-FR 7565 Revolving field 6 pole, separatedly excited from overhung exciter, 450 volts 3 phased 200 Kw AC current. The DC exciter was a 5 KW 120 Volts 4 Pole type.
Bronze type, true screw with solid (cast) manganese bronze by New York shipbuilding, three bladed with a diameter of 11 feet, variable pitch and driven by shafts which were 15 inche sin diameter.
Load and Range
Official doc. shows they carried 235 tonnes of fuel oil in normal conditions, 635.33 tons max with a 95% full load. They had portable water tank which also acted as ballasts, 35.46 tonnes, a reserve of feed water, 84.4 tons and two diesel oil tanks for the generators, 24.25 tons each.
For the range, the ships nominally can reach 6,380 nautical miles (11,820 km; 7,340 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) and full load.
Due to weight issue, only the hull was strenghtened. The suprestructures were built with only standard mild steel plating, about 0.1 or 28 mm thick.
The Mark 22 Mod 0 turret was protected by 0.125 in (0.32 cm) of steel all-around. This was weak, and again to save weight, protecting only against shell splinters to some extent. To compare, later DP mounts such as the Mark 28 Mod 3 had a 2.5 in (6.35 cm) front plating to face strafing fire, destroyer shells and all splinters.
There were extensive discussions about the armament, the 5-inch (127 mm)/25 caliber anti-aircraft (AA) gun being favored as being easy to work with and train, perfect for a destroyer. The other candidate was the 5-inch/51 caliber surface gun type, much powerful with longer range, but slower to reload and useless against aviation. The discussion made more interesting as the 5-inch/38 caliber dual purpose gun became available in the early 1930s and the Ordnance Department favored it rather strongly. The 5-inch/38 caliber gun was simply a 5-inch/25 caliber gun with the same shells and longer barrel, but significantly increased range against both air and surface targets, also the first US successful dual-purpose gun.
In the end, the choice fell on the 5-10/38 Mark 12.
Mark 12 gun on Mark 22 mount and turret, sketch from OP-1112. Src: HNSA.
As put it by navweaps.com and in many other publications, the 5-inches 38 caliber revealed itself as the finest Dual Purpose gun of World War II. If proof was needed, it was still in service in countless ships in 1990.
It is also largely credited to down most of the Japanese aviation in WW2, perhaps more than the 40 and 20mm combined. It became the go-to gun on destroyers, cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers in WW2, providing an intermediate “FLAK” bubble that had no equivalent worldwide and made all Japanese air attacks from 1943 doomed to failure, even versus Kamikaze. Needless to say, the use of fuses and better fire control systems (and radars in 1944) were part of the package and immensely contributed to this success.
The 5-in caliber was not unknown in US naval ordnance, it has been the staple of the fleet since WWI but the interwar saw a boiling of new ideas about rapid-fire and dual purpose.
However the Mark 22 adopted for the Flotilla leaders was unique in many ways.
The Porter class was originally built with eight Mk 12 guns, in four Mark 22 single purpose (surface action only) twin enclosed mounts. The single purpose mounts were adopted to save weight, as it made the gun cradle simpler and the turret more compact.
The Mark 22 was shared by the Porter and Somers. Thus, 52 of such turrets were manufactured for the thirteen destroyer leaders, and a first batch of 104 barrels, followed by another as spares.
These turrets and mounts weighted 75,250 lbs. or 34,133 tons. The gun mounts elevated from -10 to +35 degrees at a rate of 11.6 degrees per second.
The arc of fire (traverse) depending of the position was between 290 and 330 degrees. Upper mounts had the clearest arc. They train at a rate of 14.7 degrees per second, which was slow, but consistent with an antiship role. For comparison the DP Mark 30 with Ford controls traversed to 34 degrees per second… The gun recoil was 15 in (38 cm).
These Mark 22 mountings used a 15 hp training motor and 5 hp elevating motor.
The Mark 22 also was different from the DP mounts in what the guns were separated by 72 inches (183 cm) versus 84 inches (213 cm) for the DP mounts. This made them more susceptible to interference.
There is not enough data however to indicate a loss of accuracy.
The shells used were probably the early AAC Mark 34 Mod 10 – 55.18 lbs. (25.0 kg) for 20.75 in (52.7 cm) in lenght. They used a 7.25 lbs. (3.3 kg) Explosive D or Composition A bursting charge, Brass cartridge 127 x 679 mm, 12.31 lbs. (5.58 kg), for a muzzle velocity of around 2,600 fps (792 mps), with an approx. barrel life of 4,600 rounds. Circa 300 were carried for each gun, thus 600 shells per mount, 2,400 per ship. At 35° range was 16,739 yards (15,298 m), but best penetration power was at 4,000 yards (3,660 m) where the AP shell can penetrate 5-in (127 mm) of hardened steel plating.
Mark 35 SP Fire Control Directors
Completely integral to these turrets and unique also to the class, were the Mark 35 Fire Directors, installed on top of the pilot house, and after deckhouse, close to the tripod masts. These were heavy fire controls more related to cruisers thand destroyers, and reinforcing the image of “mini-cruisers” of these very unique destroyers. To compare, the Farragut, Mahan and successors had a unique Mark 33 director. In fact, after reconstruction, they lost both Mark 35 to save weight, replaced by a unique Mark 37 or 38 fire control system.
Information is scarce about these rare Directors to say the least. I hope to cover them with the Somers class.
Early type, spherical, underwater. Manufactured by CMB. 24 cycles frequenty, M/S spherical projector, 400 Watts, electric hoist and train.
Only installed in 1942-43, they received a set of three radars. One was fitted on top of the pole mast, another was used for rangefinding on top of the forward Fire Control Tower, plus an antenna aft. There were the follwing standards: SC Radar: 220 KW Air/Surface Search, VHF band 60 Hz Bwt 10–25° Pwdt 4–5 μs Range 48–120 km (30–75 mi) @90–180 m (98–197 yd) (Top mast) SG Radar: 50 KW Surface Searc. Frq 3 GHz PRF 775/800/825, Bmwdt 5.6°/15°, Pwdt 1.3–2 μs RPM 4/8/12, Range 15 nmi @200 yd Mk 3 radar: Beam width 9°, antenna with sum dipoles length 4 wave lengths. Medium Wave Fire Control for Main Battery. Compatible with the Mark 35 director. Mk 12.22 radar: Installed on USS Selfridge in replacement for the Mark.3. Medium Wave Fire Control for Dual Purpose Batteries, goes with the Mark 37 FC Director.
Anti-aircraft protection was provided by two quadruple 1.1-inch (28 mm) mounts. in the 1930s this was considered sufficient. The infamous “Chicago Piano” were the staple of USN AA armament in the later interwar and prior to 1941. They were the fruit of many researches and development over the ideal medium AA gun in the early interwar, which led to the adoption of a 1.1 inches (28 mm) caliber, to be completed by the ubiquitous 0.5 in Browning heavy machine gun, common in the fleet. It was developed from 1928.
What was unique here, is that the Porter and Somers were large enough to carry two quadruple mounts, unlike the Farraguts and follows-up, which had single mounts.
They were located on platforms, one behind N°2 turret forward, at the foot of the bridge, superfiring above the upper turret and resulting in a tall superstructure overall. The second was located the same, but after the quarterdeck structure.
The 1.1″/75 was not a bad gun per se. When production started in 1934, when the Porters were just started, the cyclic rate was 140 rpm, and rose to 150 after improvements, but using 60 rounds clip magazines. There was a 2,700 ft/s (820 m/s) muzzle velocity and effective range of 7,000 yd (6,400 m). Completely obsolete in 1941 they were replace when possible on a one-to one basis by 40 mm Bofors. But weight savings had them removed entirely. AA was also completed by 20 mm Oerlikon guns which took less space.
USS Dunlap firing its Mark 15 torpedoes.
The Porters had the same eight 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes as the Farraguts. They had reloads for both so 16 torpedoes in all. These eight torpedo reloads were placed in special containers abeam the after stack, but reloading underway was a complicated and dangerous operation. The class was initially planned to carry Mark 11/12 torpedoes, but replaced later by the Mark 15 from 1938. These quad mounts were both located in the axis, high-up above the deck, fire and aft of N°2 funnel.
The Mark 15 torpedo was introduced in 1935. The Mod 0 weighted 3,438 lbs., and measured 22 ft 7 in (6.883 m). It had a negative buoyancy of 1,260 lbs. (572 kg), and carried a 494 lbs. (224 kg) TNT warhead at three settings: 6/10/15,0000 yards at 45/33.5/26.5 knots. They were powered by a Wet-Heater steam turbine, guided by a Mark 12 Mod 3 gyro.
Design Issues and upgrades
USS Porter as built, 1936. Common peacetime light grey livery (measure) with dark blue-grey decks (measure) and large identification numbers, white on black BG. src pinterest.
The “gold platers”, setting a new standard
The ships were also known as the “gold platers”. If they introduced all the features of the previous Farraguts, they also were latter re-equipped with the brand new 5-inch/38-cal dual purpose, later coupled with an increasingly better effective fire control system. When entering service both the Porters and Farraguts were criticized for their “over-lavish facilities” by old-timer accustomed to the Wickes/Clemsons. They thus started to refer to them as “gold platers.” The Porters were a confirmation of this standard, with six more classes (Farragut to Sims) class and the two thirteen destroyer leaders of the Porter and Somers classes. They still formed a really important step in the direction of wartime Fletcher class in many ways. Most bases were already setup by the Farragut and Porter.
Both both also shown what was possible and not desirable based on a strictly limited tonnage. The USN already had issues with their standard fleet destroyer (The Farraguts) and actually two were lost during Typhoon Cobra in 1945 while caught refuelling, their tanks empty. The Porter class were even more problematic: Their tall superstructures and heavy armament, based on a smallest tonnage possible (which was unique to US treaty calculations) were even worse, dictating comprehensive refits soon into the war, which were limited on the Farraguts. It soon appeared that by trying to answer the Fubuki, which only had two turrets, the Porters’s choice of four twin turrets mays sound only good on paper. Being already top-heavy while in service while lacking adequate AA without much room for additions (and serious stability issues), the first move was naturally to light them out.
Design evolution: USS Porter in 1941 and another ship in 1944
USS Porter in 1942. Note the early reconstruction results: Single pole mast, razed aft structure, single Mark 33 director, N°3 Mark 22 turret removed.
Reconstructions and Modernizations
In World War II dual purpose twin mounts were installed in place of their original turrets. Their 1.1-in “chicago Piano” Mark 52 were replaced in time by twin 40 mm Bofors and lighter 20 mm Oerlikons. The thord turret were alsp replaced by a Mark 53 twin Bofors. Engineers tried to add single 40 mm guns amidships, closer to the center of gravity, sacrificing the arc of fire, as extra 20 mm guns. Four K-gun depth charge throwers (DCT) were also added soon, in 1941, in addition to their racks for better ASW capabilities. Radars were also added systematically in 1942-43 when possible.
A few were rebuilt and DD-357, DD-359, DD-360 in 1944 had their torpedo tubes, K-guns, one ASW DC rack removed and replaced by extra AA, reaching sixteen 40 mm (3×4, 2×2) plus four (2×2) 20mm Oerlikon. Here is the detailed history of these modifications: Mid-1941: And up to early 1942, they all received an extra twin cal.50/90 Browning M1920, but had their spare torpedoes removed in order to have later three single 20mm/70 Mk 4 Oerlikon guns added. 1942-1943: All but USS Porter (sunk) received a new radar suite, the SC, SG, and Mk 3 radars October-December1943: The two quad 28mm/75 are removed and replaced by three twin 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 Bofors and three extra 20mm/70 Mk 4 Oerlikon AA. 1943-44 For McDougal, Winslow, Phelps, Clark, Moffett, Balch their No 3 main turret is removed and replaced by an extra quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2, and they gained 4 depht Charge Throwers in addition to their two racks (in total 48 DC). From late 1944 to early 1945: USS Selfridge, which lost her bow in action was completely rebuilt, having her four twin 127/38 SP removed as well as a twin 40mm/56 Bofors and Mk 3 radar. Instead she obtained two twin 127mm/38 Mk 12 DP, a single 127mm/38 Mk 12 DP (Fletcher standard) aft in N°3 position, and a quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 in N°2 position, plus the same two DCR and four DCT, 48 DC, but also a Mk 12.22 radar. In addition her superstructure was considerably changed. Heir tall forward bridge was cut down to the minimum, with an enclosed pilot house with portholes. On top of it was located the new Mark 37 Fire Control (she had two Mark 35 originally). She became the prototype for further reconstructions, radical but deemed quite successful and also ported later on the Somers class. USS McDougal, Winslow and Phelps quickly followed suite. August 1945: USS Selfridge, Winslow and Phelps had six 20mm/70 Oerlikon removed as well as their two 533mm TT banks and two DCT, one DCR removed plus 22 DC left. This was for the nenefit of adding an extra quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 Bofors and two twin 20mm/70 Mk 4 Oerlikon guns on a platform, with the displacement increasing to 2,154 tons standard and 2,857 tons fully loaded.
In January 1946, DD360 (USS Phelps) had two twin 127/38 Mk 38 and a single 127mm/38 Mk 30 installed and three quad 40mm/60 Mk 2, two twin 40mm/60 Mk 1, two twin 20mm/70 Mk 24, 2 DCT, 1 DCR left as well as their SC, SG, Mk 12.22 radars and QCA sonar. Only changed for DD362 (USS Moffett) was their three twin 127mm/38 Mk 22, single quad 40mm/60 Mk 2, three twin 40mm/60 Mk 1, six single 20mm/70 Mk 10, keeping the TTs, full DCT and DCR and older Mk 3 radar. That was before decommission.
ONI 1944 reconstruction schematics. The ultimate transformation of the class: Two twin DP turrets, 40 mm and 20mm guns, razed forward bridge
Armament-wise, there is a lot to say. Most of the destroyers keeping their Mk.22 mountings lost their turret No. 3 to save weight allowing to add extra AA, and ultimately they were removed entirely for two twin Mark 38 DP and a single single Mark 30 DP on those most rebuilt.
USS Porter (top) and Balch (bottom) reconstruction details at Mare Island and San Francisco – ONI
Design-wise, it’s clear that plasing all that armament and superstructures over a 1,850 tons hull was not going to cut it. The engineers followed very strict guidelines, but produced a design that has little room for additions, hence long term upgrades. The high metacentric values due to massive-top weight were to compare with the Pensacola class cruisers. They almost looked like destroyer versions of the latter. Sticking to the treaty limits in that case was to be very problematic when WW2 started. They all needed AA upgrades and the opnly way to do it was by massive reconstructions and deletions as shown above. Some even went so far as to completely change most ship’s caracteritics, but cure in the end their issues for good. USS Selfridge is a good example of that, going down to a single TT bank, only two twin 5-in/38 DP, single pole mast supporting a radar, razed bridge, eliminated rear structure, and massive AA upgrades.
Career-wise they all but one survived the war: McDougal, Winslow, and Moffett were part of the escort for the Newfoundland’s August 1941 Roosevelt-Churchill conference (Placentia Bay, Argentia) for the Atlantic Charter. USS Selfridge and Phelps fought at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Some did convoy escort in the Battle of the Atlantic where USS Moffett assisted the sinking of U-128 and U-604.
However it’s in the Pacific they shone best: USS Phelps was at the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway as USS Balch, where both assisted USS Yorktown to the end. Others also took part in the Guadalcanal and the Marianas campaign, like the Battle of Vella Lavella. The lead ship, Porter, was the only one lost, at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Island.
By September 1944 they were all moved to the Atlantic. s on 26 October 1942. USS McDougal and Winslow became AG-126 and AG-127 in September 1945, testing a new anti-kamikaze tactic, reconvertied along the lines of the Gearing-class radar pickets. Only Winslow survived scrapping: She stayed as a training ship until 1950, only scrapped in 1959, despite talks of preserving her. He have indeed no destroyer of the 1930s generation surviving today. Turning ships into museums was not a thing in the 1950-60.
“Gold Platters”: comparison between the Farraguts standard destroyers and Porters flotilla leaders
USS Porter as built, 1937. Common peacetime Light Gray 5-L livery (no measure assigned) with dark blue-grey decks and large identification numbers, white on black BG.
USS Clarke in measure 1 Dark Gray System, neurrality patrols, Atlantic, late 1941. Same ship with added ASW racks aft and extra DCTs aft.
USS Porter in measure 21 Navy Blue System (Navy Blue 5-N Vertical surfacesn Deck Blue, 20-B for vertical ones), 1942. Note the early reconstruction results: Single pole mast with radar, razed aft structure, single Mark 37 director, 20mm AA added.
(to come) USS Selfridge after loosing her bow at the battle of Vella Lavella, as rebuilt in April 1944: The ultimate transformation of the class: Two twin Mark37 DP turrets, 40 mm and 20mm guns, razed forward bridge. Measure 32 design 22D: Wavy pattern of light grey and black. Decks like 3D.
USS Phelps in October 1944: Measure 32 Design 3D: Light Gray 5-L, Ocean Gray 5-O, Black and for horizontal surfaces Deck Blue, 20-B, Ocean Gray 5-O.
⚙ Porter class specifications
1,850 tons standard, 2,663 tons full load
381 x 36 ft 2 in x 10 ft 5 in (116 x 11.02 x 3.18 m)
Two Mk35 GFCS (later single Mk35/37 GFCS, SC radar)
13 officers, 193 enlisted peacetime and 290 wartime
Video games rendition of the Porter class
Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Greenwood Press.
Friedman, Norman (2004). US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (Revised ed.). NIP
Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger (1980). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946.
Silverstone, Paul H. (1965). U.S. Warships of World War II. London: Ian Allan Ltd.
Public domain, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
USS Porter off Yorktown, Virginia, 19 April 1939.
After shakedown in waters off Northern Europe, Porter sailed to St. John’s, Newfoundland, as an escort for ceremonies linked to the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in May 1937. She was in Washington Navy Yard in June–July 1937 for post-shakedown fixes. Reassigned to the Pacific Fleet, she sailed to San Francisco via the Panama Canal and started service on the west coast in August 1937, until 1939, participating the fleet problems and training in the water of Hawaii, but had her home port at San Diego. Until late 1941 her peactime routine went on, unlike destroyers of the est coast, deployed in more and more agressive neutrality patrols versus U-Boats.
On 5 December 1941, USS Porter was not at Pearl Harbor. She patrolled with cruisers and destroyers in Hawaiian waters, hoping to catch the fleet, but was reassighned to a convoy on 25 March 1942 for the west coast, with ships needed repairs. She operated from there Task Force 1 for 4 months and was back on Pearl Harbor in mid-August 1942. Apart exercizes and escort missions for home, she stayed in the vicinity of Hawaiian waters. On 16 October 1942 she was reassigned to TF 16 for an escort mission to the Solomon Islands.
It’s there she took part in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands:
On 26 October air attacks went on the IJN fleet posted northeast of Guadalcanal. USS Porter as an escort was suddenly struck by one or several torpedoes. It was enough to flood her engine room and stop her dead on her tracks. Listing, she was slowly sinking. The captain ordered to abandon ship, all were evacuated, and USS Shaw was ordered to scuttle her by firing torpedoes.
Modern authors are debating still on the nature of the torpedo attack. Author Eric Hammel suggested she was in the path of a spread of three torpedoes fired by IJN submarine I-21. Richard B. Frank states that Japanese records are blank on this, and it was more a random, errant torpedo from a ditching US Navy Grumman TBF Avenger. Whatever the origin, she was stricken on 2 November 1942 but still earning a single battle star for World War II service. She had thus the shortest career of all porters, being also the only one sunk in action.
USS Selfridge DD-357 (1936)
USS Selfridge was commissioned at Philadelphia NyD on 25 November 1936. Her shakedown cruise conducted her in the Mediterranean (January-February 1937) after which she had her first post-shakedown fixes on the east coast via the Caribbean in March 1937. April-August saw extensive post-shakedown overhaul and training exercises off Philadelphia. In September she was in the Presidential escort in Poughkeepsie, New York. By October, she proceeded vua Norfolk to Panama Canal, but went back to Norfolk for another Presidential escort in November and went to the west coast for good on 9 December 1937.
Based in Pearl Habor, with the Battle Force, she became flagship DesRon 4 on 13 December 1937, at first based in San Diego. She took part in fleet problems 1938, 1939, 1940 and various exercises until reassigned to Pearl Harbor. On 7 December 1941 USS Selfridge just went back from an escort tp Palmyra Island. She was moored at berth X-9 and 5 min. after the attack started her crews were already firing, inclusing the main guns at max elevation. Since part of her crew was missing, she gathered mixed crew from other ships and sailed off Oahu, trying to catch the Japanese.
She was screening Saratoga duing the attempted (and cancelled) reinforcement run to Wake Island. In January 1942, she remained attached to the Saratoga group until she was torpedoed 500 miles southwest of Oahu and was escorted back to Pearl Harbor. After training in Hawaiian waters on 20 January she took part in the Canton Island convoy run. While underway on the 30th, she spotted and charged an enemy submarine, depht charged with no result but probable damage.
On 9 February she escorted USS Saratoga to Bremerton (Washington) for permanent repairs. In March back in Hawaii with a convoy she escorted another to Canton. In April she had Marine Corps personnel and mail on board to Palmyra and Christmas islands. She met another convoy at Bora Bora (Society Islands) bound for Samoa-Tonga. On 21 May 1942, she was en route for the New Hebrides and Australia and proceeded there to coastal escort until attached to TF 44. By mid-July she took part in a preparatory exercize in the Fijis, for Operation Watchtower.
On 7 August 1942, in the former TF 44, now TG 62.6, she escorted transports bound for Guadalcanal and at 06:20 she opened fire on a small IJN gasoline in Tulagi harbor. She covered the landings and at 13:20, repelled an air attack. The following day she screened the transports and on the 9th, picked up survivors of the disastrous Battle of Savo Island. Together wth USS Ellet, she finished off HMAS Canberra and proceeded to Noumea, New Caledonia.
For the remainder of August she screened carriers with the Australian group (TF 44) and on the 31th was back in Brisbane and from nine months she operated with TF 44 in the Coral Sea (Port Moresby operations). However soon she was nearly destroyed at the Battle of Vella Lavella.
In May 1943 as part of the 3rd Fleet she operated with TF 36 (later 37) and 38, 39, 34. By late September she covered the amphibious force’s LSTs to Vella Lavella, Solomon Islands and the “the Slot” when during the night of 6 October 1943, with USS O’Bannon and Chevalier she fell on six IJN destroyers escorting three destroyer transports 12 miles off Marquana Bay. In the ensuing firece night firghting, USS Chevalier was torpedoed and finished off, Selfridge and O’Bannon heavily damaged: USS Selfridge took an enemy “long lance” torpedo, which almost severed her bow, but O’Bannon also collided with Chevalier and was also heavily hit by gunfire. Selfridge had 13 killed, 11 wounded, 36 missing resulting of the action, but she still had some power and preserved her integrity thanks to her forward bulkhead. She was able to escape in the cover of night and was later escorted back to Nouméa. The crew managed the impossible to weld shut the forward bulkhead doors and hatchs to prevent water to seep in. Her return was a crawl more than anything else as her bow has been completely mushed.
DD-357 off Mare Island, 10 April 1944
Temporary repairs were made at Purvis Bay (Nggela Islands, southern Solomon Islands) and later at Nouméa. Permanent repairs which included a new bow and complete overhaul were made at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. After training out of San Diego, she was bacl at Pearl Harbor on 10 May 1944. She joined the Marianas Islands Campaign and first invasion assigned to TG 50.11. Later she was reassigned to screen TF 58 (fast carrier force) from Majuro by early June. She was affected to USS Bunker Hill’s group. On the 13th she took part in the shore bombardment of Saipan and night fire support as well as on the 14th, but departed on the 15th to screened the transport area during the landings. On the 17th, she rotated daytime support and nighttime harassment fire. Reassigned to TF 58 she became a link ship between TG 58.7 and 58.3.
She took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea but never had to fire on any IJN plane. On the 24th, she was off Saipan, two days later she was back in fire support, and departed Saipan on 11 July 1944. She escorted transports back to Eniwetok and returned with another to the Marianas, bound for Guam and for three weeks, provided screening and fire support. On 10 August, she was back to Eniwetok, and from there, Pearl Harbor, for an overhaul and rest. On 21 August she was ordered back to the Atlantic.
Via Panama on 7 September 1944 she sailed for New York, had a short overhaul and was assigned to TF 65 as flagship for escort to Tunisia. On 23 April 1945 she was back in Casco Bay, Maine to assist USS Eagle 56 (PE-56) when she exploded after beign hit by an U-Boat, also dropping nine depth charges at her. A Court of Inquiry initially later attributed this to a boiler explosion and more recently a torpedo again, from U-853. In May 1945, her last escort was complete ans she want back to New York on 7 June. After Upkeep and training in the Caribbean and Maine she sailed for NY, reached in September for inactivation. She was decommissioned on 15 October 1945, stricken on 1 November 1945, sold in October 1947. She had earned 4 battle stars for this service.
USS McDougal DD-358 (1936)
USS McDougal was completed and commissioned at New York Shipbuilding Corporation on 23 December 1936 after sea trials acceptance. After her shakedown cruise, she was placed under orders of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) until mid-1937 in the Pacific, Scouting Force and Battle Force, homeported to San Diego as flagship for DesRon 9. She took part in many drills, readiness cruises and battle problems in the eastern Pacific and Caribbean.
However after the war has started she was sent back to the Atlantic in the spring og 1941. On 5-7 August she escorted USS Augusta with President Franklin D. Roosevelt onboard to Placentia Bay for a meeting with Chuchill and setup “common principles” for postwar peace. On the 10th, she was task to transport the President Roosevelt to and from HMS Prince of Wales for the meeting which ended with the Atlantic Charter on the 12th. Two days after she was back off Maine and returned to her neutrality patrols along the east coast.
Next she was sent to convoy escort duty in the South Atlantic, operating from Cape Town in South Africa by December and was just arriving of Good Hope when informed of the Pearl Habor attack. Rushed back to Trinidad on 30 December she returned to her previous South American coast patrols on 18 January 1942. This went on until an overhaul at Charleston by July-August 1942, and stayed in the Caribbean, before being ordered to Panama on 31 August, corssing to be reassigned to the Southeast Pacific Force.
USS McDougal started with patrols off Pacific-coast Latin America on 7 September 1942 and for two years, until late 1944, the patrolled from Balboa in Panama Canal Zone and cruised from Nicaragua and the Magellan straits. She also ventured to the Galápagos, Juan Fernández Islands, stopping along ports in Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. She recorss the canal for the east coast and arrived in New York 4 September 1944. After crew’s rest and an overhaul she resumed escort duties on 12 September 1944, and reached UK while escorting convoy CU 39. For 6 months she made four more convoy escort missions and arrived in New York on 5 March 1945 with UC 57, goinf stright into overhaul.
She served with the Operational Development Force, Atlantic Fleet (TF 69) from Casco Bay until mid-September 1944 and was reclassified AG-126 on the 17th carrying out experimental operations including naval gunnery and radar. This went on for 1945 as well, and home ports such as Boston, Newport and Norfolk. In Boston by 15 December 1945 and Norfolk in March 1946, then New York on 15-16 June, decommissioned at Tompkinsville (Staten Island) on 24 June 1946. A TS for the Naval Reserve from 13 January 1947, under the 3d Naval District while (Brooklyn) she trained recruits until decommissioned a final time on 8 March 1949, sold for BU to H. H. Buncher Co. on 2 August, stricken on the 15th, and BU from September 1949.
USS Winslow DD-359 (1936)
USS Winslow was commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 17 February 1937 wuth Commander Irving R. Chambers in command. After outfitting in October she started her shakedown cruise to Europe. She passed her final acceptance trials off Maine and was reassigned to Battle Force Pacific. By Early 1938, she transited the Panama Canal to join DesRon 9 based in San Diego, California. For the next three years, she conducted operations in the eastern Pacific, between Hawaii and the west coast, homeported from San Diego.
In 1941, she was ordered back to the Atlantic and via Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, joined Norfolk. This summer was spent training with submarines off the east coast, and soon her first Neutrality patrols, with the pzarticular assignment of keeping an eye on interned Vichy French ships at Martinique and Guadeloupe (French Antilles, Carribean). By August she screen the heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37) escoring USS Augusta with the President to the argentia conference with PM Chrchill in August (Atlantic Charter).
She was sent to Halifax by November made ready for Convoy WS-12X bound to Southeast Asia via the Cape of Good Hope and Singapore. She departed on 10 November and while off Cape Town in South Africa learned about the Pearl Harbor attack and state of war. She left Cape Town for home, placed under command of Vice Admiral Jonas H. Ingrain with the 4th Fleet tasked of South Atlantic neutrality patrols. She patrolled the narrowing part of the Atlantic between Brazil and Africa looking after both U-Boats and German blockade runners, until April 1944, making brief overhauls back in the US by June 1942 and October 1943 in Charleston.
Passing under the Cooper River Bridge, Charleston, August 1945. Note her dark blue livery and rebuilt superstrtuctures. She was prepared for the Pacific but the war ended before she could get there.
From April 1944 she escorted warships from Boston via Norfolk to the West Indies. From August she escorted convoys from from New York to the British Isles and Ireland, five of them across the Atlantic. By March 1945 she was back in Charleston for her longest overhaul (4 month) and significant changes along the lines of USS Selfridge. She was prepared for the Pacific, and made a refreshed cruise off Maine, Casco Bay, but when ready to depart, the war was already over. She started like her sister USS McDougal a serie of experimental work, with AA ordnance and 17 September 1945, she became AG-127. She served with the Operational Development Force until decommissioned on 28 June 1950, placed in reserve (Charleston Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet) and stricken on 5 December 1957, sold on 23 February 1959. She apparently won no battle star.
Phelps DD-360 (1935)
USS Phelps was commissioned on 26 February 1936 with Albert H. Rooks in command. From November 1936 she screen with USS Chester the cruiser USS Indianapolis carrying the President to Buenos Aires, for the Inter-American Peace Conference of 1936. She also made good-will visits to Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro, completing her shakedown cruise. The rest of her interwar service was standard, she served with the Atlantic Destroyer force, between drills and yearly Fleet Problems in 1937, 38, 39 and 1940.
USS Phelps off San Francisco, 11 December 1942.
On 7 December 1941, USS Phelps was present during the attack, shooting down one attacker. In February-March 1942, she was part of the destroyer screen for TF 11 (USS Lexington) which attacked Huon Gulf, Lae and Salamaua in New Guinea, as well as the Gulf of Papua on 10 March. She thus took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea on 8 May, Phelps being reassigned to USS Yorktown when both carriers spitted. She ermeged from the battle without casualties, but was ordered to join the crippled USS lexington and finish her off with two torpedoes.
By June 1942, she screen American carriers at the Battle of Midway. In August 1942, she covered the Invasion of Guadalcanal.
She retired to the west coast in October for an overhaul and crew’s rest and was back to participate tp the invasion of Attu in Alaska by May 1943. She covered operations, bombarding Kiska. Back home she was reassigned to operations against Makin atoll, providing on-demand fire during and after the landings, in November 1943. In February 1944 she took part in the Marshall Islands campaign, bombarding Kwajalein and Eniwetok. From March 1944 she was placed as close protection of the previous fleet oilers and did not saw the assault on the Palau Islands. In June 1944 she took part on the Battle of Saipan, shelling on-demand the beach and inland objectives.
USS Phelps as rebuilt in August 1945, Casco Bay, Maine, alongside USS McCall.
After this, she was recalled for the Atlantic, steaming via the Panama Canal and entering Charleston harbor for her wartime major overhaul and reconstruction in August. In Novermber 1944 she reported for duty in Norfolk, escorting a convoy to Mers-el-Kebir in Algeria. She made four of such missions in all, and she was back in New York on 10 June. After the mayhem of the pacific campaign this was a quiet and uneventful service for the crew. She was decommissioned on 6 November 1945 in NYC, stricken on 28 January 1947 and sold for BU to Northern Metals Co. of Philadelphia. With twelve battle stars she remained the most decorated destroyer of the Porter class.
Clark DD-361 (1935)
USS Clarke was commissioned 20 May 1936 with H. Thebaud as fist captain. After the usual shakedown and trials, she served on the Atlantic coast, in the and Caribbean alterating between the winter and summer, including fleet problems on the Pacific, at Pearl Harbor, her home port from 1 April 1940.
From 3 March to 10 April 1941, she was to Samoa, Australia, and Fiji, and was overhaul at San Diego until departing on 27 December to escorted two convoys to Pearl Harbor. next she was seen in ASW patrols off Pago Pago in Samoa. From February-March 1942 she joine the carrier task force for the operations in New Guinea
In April-May 1942, she escorted four convoys between Pearl Harbor and San Francisco and went to Midway. Back to San Diego and later Balboa, Panama, she joined another convoy bound for Wellington, in New Zealand.
From 12 August and until 8 September, she escorted a convoy to Nouméa, New Caledonia of oilers responsible to resupply the main task forces. She was back in Auckland and escorted furtherconvoys to South Pacific island bases. She was detached for ASW patrols off Nouméa, and on 11 December 1942 reported to Balboa as flagship for the Southeast Pacific Force.
Until 10 August 1944, she toured South American ports (west coast) and crossed Panama for her east coast overhaul. From 4 September 1944 and 11 April 1945 she was based on the east coast, safeguarding transatlantic convoys to France and the British Isles. She won 2 batltle stars for her WW2 service.
On 15 June 1945, she was back in Philadelphia, where she was decommissioned on 23 October 1945, solf for BU on 29 March 1946.
Moffett DD-362 (1935)
USS Moffett was commissioned at Boston, Massachusetts on 28 August 1936. Under command of Andrew H. Addoms she left Newport, Rhode Island, her first homeport after trials and shakedown cruise for a new base of Boston for the Atlantic Fleet. She operated there between 1936 and 1941 alternativing between seasons and locations. On 24 April 1941 she was part of the South Atlantic Neutrality Patrol off Brazil. Next she operated off Puerto Rico, guarding against possible hostile action by the admiral commanding the French West Indies fleet (Martinique-Guadeloupe).
In August 1941 she was detached to protect USS Augusta carrying President Roosevelt to the “Atlantic Charter Conference” off Newfoundland.
During her convoy escort she also visited West African ports and this service went on until 1943. On 17 May with USS Jouett she escorted another convoy in the Caribbean, when patrol planes spotted and reported an U-Boat. Both arrived on the sport at 12:46, and Moffett sighted U-128. She straddled her with gunfire, until unable to dive, the crew surrendered. They were nearly all picked up on deck, 50 survivors and the captain.
USS Moffett off Boston September 1944
In August 1943 she escorted USS Memphis and merchant ship to Ascension Island when sonar-picked U-604. The latter was chased by her and aircraft until the night, until she surfaced 95 miles north of Trinidad. Moffett arriaved and hit her five times while surfaced, but she dove again, and was picked up three days later thanks to airborne patrols. Sonar contact was regained and Moffette badly damaged her with depth charges. Eventually, the U-Boat surfaced and was scuttled by her crew on 11 August.
On 26 March 1944, Moffett escorted Convoy YN-78 to England, planned for the invasion of Normandy, stopping in Wales and Northern Ireland. She was back in NyC on 11 May.
USS Moffett in Hampton Roads, 13 June 1944
On 1 August Convoy UGS-48 was air attacked by the axis while underway to Bizerte in Tunisia. The destroyer laid smoke in protection and manoeuvered brilliantly to dodge torpedoes in an attack that went up to the night, and of course shooting down some with antiaircraft fire. She was back to New York on 27 August and had an inactivity period, until her last escort missions, to Oran, in April 1945, followed by an overhaul in Boston. She was also sent for more in Charleston on 28 May and was still there in August, as the war stopped (and her ovehaul was suspended).
She was decommissioned instead of 2 November 1945, Reserve Fleet, stricken on 28 January 1947, sold on 16 May 1947. She received two battle stars.
Balch DD-363 (1936)
USS Balch Off San Francisco, California, following overhaul, 30 August 1943. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.
USS Balch was commissioned 20 October 1936. After her shakedown and initial training she served under the Chief of Naval Operations and departed Newport for the Pacific in October 1937, homeported to San Diego and DesDiv 7, Battle Force.
She became herself later flagship of DesRon 12 and later DesRon 6, taking part in various fleet Battle Problems, and cruises, various drilled in the Pacific but also returning to the Caribbean area. After Fleet Problem XXI at Pearl Harbor, she was sent to Mare Island Navy Yard of a short ovrhault until 1940. She made six cruises between Hawaii and the west coast, until December 1941.
Since 1st December she was part of Task Force 8, not in Pearl during the attack. She cruised in the Pacific and took part in the invasion of Tarawa in the Marshall Islands on 1 February 1942 (with bombardments).
From February 1942 to June 1944, she was tasked with screening and ASW patrol as well as fire support for the invasion of Wake Island, Doolittle Raid on 18 April, but also the Battle of Midway -she rescued 545 survivors of the crippled USS Yorktown) as well as the Guadalcanal landings in August, the Attu invasion (11 May-2 June 1943); and the lesser known Toem-Wakde-Sarmi landings on 25–28 May 1944. She also took part in the Biak Island invasion from 28 May to 18 June.
On 15 July 1944 she was back in NyC, reassigned to the Atlantic and making 5 rotation with Europe and the Mediterranean Between 2 August 1944 and 23 May 1945, notably visitin several North African ports. On 12 April 1945, Captain Alfred Lind took command and she ws reassigned to Task Group 60.11 until 8 May 1945, rescuing 46 survivors from SS Belgium on 14 April 1945. She was based in Oran, Algeria, and went home by June. She had earned 6 battle stars for her servive, the second most decorated of her class. On 16 June 1945, she commenced was inactivated Philadelphia, decommissioned on 19 October 1945 and sold for BU in 1946.
The Farragut class destroyers marked a turning point in ship design for the United States. They were the first design studied since 1917, and first destroyer type since the Washington Treaty signing and application in August 17, 1923, cloturing for good the mass-construction of the famous “four pipers”, emergency destroyer class of WWI.
The “four pipers” Inheritance
USS Crowninshield (DD-134) in 1939
At war in April 1917, the USN rapidly expanded its capabilities, to follow new battleships, but mostly to escort merchant traffic contested by German U-Boats in the first battle of the Atlantic.
These “four stackers”, “flush deckers” among other nicknames were the Wickes (111 built) and Clemson class (156 built). Two separated series for a grand total of more than 260 identical vessels, which were the culminating points of previous designs such as the 1916 Caldwell class.
They were designed with much simplifications in mind, inherinting most design aspects of the Caldwell, notably their flush-deck hull.
They were caracterized by the same four 4 in (102 mm)/50 caliber guns in lozenge arrangement (two amidships, one aft, one forward), a single 3 in (76 mm)/23 for AA defence and no less than twelve 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes in two triple banks installed on either side. The Wickes were just larger for more range, faster at 33 versus 32 knots. The Clemsons were essentially a minor redesign with greater fuel capacity for extended range.
The last of these were completed in the summer of 1922, whereas the Naval Washington Treaty was already signed (February).
Washington Treaty Provisions on Destroyers
Importantly in this treaty was expressed, page 73 under “auxiliary crafts” where layed Destroyers and Flotilla Leaders, in c., that “Destroyers and flotilla leaders 12 years of age from date of completion may be replaced by new construction. The keels of such new construction shall not be laid until the tonnage it is intended to replace is 11 years of age from date of completion”. Therefore all the “four pipers” completed in 1918 could be scheduled for replacement already in 1930, but the bulk were scheduled for 1933, setup as the starting point for any new construction.
The treaty introduced no provision in terms of individual tonnage or maximal armament for that matter, otherwise than a global tonnage, which mostly concerned capital ships.
London Treaty Provisions on Destroyers
The London treaty was scheduled to expire in 1936, and thus, after years of practices to go around most of the clauses, a new treaty was worked on to be proposed and signed to the same naval powers, negociated at London, and this time motivated by the recent wall street crash of 1929 and subsequent world’s financial crisis. In part fuelled by a vehemently pacifist public opinion expressed in Geneva, many wanted to harden the treaty several fold, not only prolongate the capital ship ban but making it indefinite, and also impose a ten years moratorium on cruisers, while imposing severe restriction on destroyers. Eventually, signatories only agreed on maintaining the ban deadline to 1936 but agreed to cap heavy cruiser construction (provisional ban on 8-in guns cruisers, with replacement clause), albeit freeing light cruisers from any limit up to 10,000 tonnes as defined in 1922.
In article 15 was specifically expressed for the first time that “Surface vessels of war the standard displacement of which does not exceed 1,850 tons (1,880 metric tons), and with a gun not above 5.1 inch (130 mm) calibre.” This adressed in part notably Japan creating its own over-armed “special type” in 1926 (the Fubuki class -1,750 long tons standard, 4x 5-in guns, three triple TT banks), avoiding a naval race in that category. Still, 1,850 tonnes gave some leeway to all signatories, but this excluded “destroyer leaders” (France for example went on with classes of 2,500 tonnes like the “Le Fantasque” class laid down in 1931, and both Italy, UK and the US looked at similar designs).
The US thus had the intention to built both classes, standard fleet destroyers under this tonnage, and destroyer leaders above. Between the Washington replacement clauses and a global tonnage of 150,000 tons (circa 85 destroyers, less with 2,000+ tonnes leaders), there was some leeway to rapidly ramp up production of several classes, even with the precision in XVI.4 that destroyer category should not reach 16% of the allowed total tonnage in vessels over 1,500 tons”, and that “no other destroyers exceeding 1,500 tons (standard) shall be constructed/acquired this reduction 16% has been effected”. In the next article it was also precised that up to 10% of the ‘cruiser’ category may instead be built as destroyers, leaving the admiralty some though about substituing heavier destroyer leaders.
DD-191 class project for a 1918 alternative flotilla leader, 1,525 tonnes, BuC&R design study (unknown exact date). Note the rather modern artillery disposition on superfiring pairs in the axis, reminiscent of British V-W classes. It however had three triple bank, one axial forward, two aft in échelon. Instead DD-191 was ordered as a regular Clemson class, USS Mason. But the design looks quite modern for its time.
A prelimnary study for a 1918 “large destroyer” design. Also modern with four superfiring 5-in guns fore and aft and a fifth amidhships. The same platform houses a 3-in AA gun. Without top view it’s impossible to determine the nature and location of the torpedo tubes banks. Note also the two funnels far apart.
Like for peacetime cruiser or capital ship, the admiralty soon agreed on an incremental development, with six standard fleet destroyers for each on average and four for flotilla leaders.
The Interwar Design Debate started much earlier than 1930 however, over a large flotilla leader type similar to the 1918 British V & W Class.
The 1919 2,200 tonnes destroyer leader design, with a forecastle, superfiring guns, which looked quite modern for its time.
By February 1919 already, a 2,200t design standard with five 4in guns, all centerline, and the same twelve torpedo tubes in wing banks was looked upon. The solution of wing bank answered potential problems perceived with axial torpedoes and allegedly prevented any over excited captain to fire all of these at once.
This 1919 design was not popular, most seeing it more as an offensive weapons like torpedo boats of old rather than a fleet and anti-submarine escort. Captains still expected to surge against enemy battlefleets using the Battle of Jutland as model.
F.S. Craven design (1920)
src: JSTOR “To the Edge of the Possible: U.S. High-Speed Destroyers, 1918-1953: Part 3, Chronological Development”
In 1920 however, Lt. Commander F.S. Craven submitted a design to the General Board encompassing most aspects underlines by destroyer captains, active and retired. It looked a bit dated, with a turtle-back forecastle believed to procure increased speed in smooth seas, and six 5-in guns in three triple mounts, a triple axial torpedo tube bank and two triple tubes on the centre line, aft of the rear funnel/aft deckhouse, plus exra free launch torpedoes on the fantail and a single 5-in AA gun. He saw it as a “disposable tool” to be thrown at an enemy fleet, unloading all torpedoes at once an escaping while firing those in the stern tubes.
Surprisingly, this design gained support, even ended approved by the CNO office in July 1920. The General Board tried to secure funds to built five FY1921, vetoed by the Congress. Between peacetime desarmament mood and the Washington treaty to the point of being launch, this was not the right moment, congressmen seeing the huge fleet of flushdeckers, some just completed, as perfectly sufficient without going into a new costly “adventurous design”.
1927 1400t fleet destroyer
Artist rendition of the Farragut class by Walter L. Greene.
In 1927, another new design was developed as a “standard”, fleet destroyer based on a 1,400t standard displacement with as specified, twelve torpedoes (two sextuple mounts !) on the centre line, and four 5-in guns, plus high pressure steam boilers. But this design study never got traction. Some aspects were liked by the admiralty, others not and there were in particular doubts avout the sextuple torpedo mounts, between complexity and weight. This never has been done, and at best, the IJN’s Shimakaze class introduced a quintuple bank in 1942, as well as the USN Sumner class in 1943. This was more realistic on a 2,500 tonnes displacement for topweight reasons.
Later in 1927 work began on a new destroyer leader design. This time the design teams produced a rangel of eight designs for ships of wildly different sizes, from a 1,421t destroyer to a 2,900 super-destroyer inspired partly by a new generation of French and Italian large destroyers. In 1928 the General Board designed on an intermediate set of specifications – no more than 1,850t displacement, four 5in/51 single purpose guns, twelve torpedo tubes and an endurance of 6,000 miles at 12 knots. This design didn’t offer much improvement over the Clemson class other than an increase in range and the move from 4in to 5in guns.
In April 1930 the London Naval Treaty was signed and did not imposed limits on destroyer in global tonnage, but still fixed an indovidual tonnage limit of 1,850 tons, macimal caliber of 5.1-in (130 mm) in accordance fo French Destroyer caliber. The US Navy was however capped to 150,000 tons of destroyers with 16% only authorized to be over 1,500 tons of light or standard displacement, which conformed the US admiralty in her new destroyer design basic attributes.
Two competing visions soon emerged:
-One faction wanted to built two types of destroyers, between large fleet leaders at 2,400 tons with a much heavied gun battery and capable of 28-30kts, alongside smaller fleet models capped at 1,100 tons standards but capable of 40kts with an emphasis on torpedoes.
-The second faction advocated for a single, versatile fleet type with enough range to travel across the Pacific and deter any Japanese expansion on the Philippines. This view fit a “universal” 1,500t standard type more in accordance to the Treaty and simplifying costs and maintenance. In fact this was also to gain more traction with the Congress, perhaps more reluctant to built costly “super destroyers” on one hand in peacetime, or useless models for the pacific on the other in case of war.
This, the Construction & Repair Bureau ((BuC&R) proposed from this three designs:
-Standard destroyer 1,375t
-Standard destroyer 1,500t
-Destroyer leader 1,850t.
They all shared the same battery of 5in/25 gun, more usable that the heavy 5in/50 gun once proposed. Of course they all adopted a raised forecastle and the artillery was axial and in superfiring positions.
-The 1,375t was to carry 16 torpedo tubes in four axial quad mounts, two either side for a full broadside of 8. This took quite some space on the beam.
-The 1,500t design had three axial triple mounts, 9 torpedo broadside.
-The 1,850t leader also had two axial quadruple mounts, and ideally four twin turrets.
Wow’s rendition standard view
Wow’s rendition, 3/4 view
Eventually the 1,500t design received most appraisal for its larger torpedo capacity, and ultimately led to the Farragut class. The 1,850t leader was further developed and ended as the Porter Class Destroyers, so both factions in the end “won”. The first lost its “light destroyer” (partly based on the ground that achieving 40 kts on this tonnage was unrealistic), but still had their leader. The other faction won its 1500 standard fit for Pacific Operations.
C&R started to produce in January 1931 a new, more refine 1,500t proposition in January 1931 with a standard displacement reevaluated at 1,725t, armed with two single 5in/38 DP guns in a forward superfiring pair, but also twin 5in single mounts on either side of the aft deckhouses, six in total, plus three triple torpedo tube, all axial (centre line) which was rejected outright by the General Board. The latter proposed instead five alternative layouts, advocating for only four, but better protected 5-in DP (dual purpose) guns and still three triple torpedo tubes in axial and side banks to shorten the hull and making it lighter. The Secretary of the Navy wanted a five guns, two quad torpedo tubes design, and like the Board compromised with just the two foward guns actually shielded.
Meanwhile, other “little hands” made a remarkable compilation of more grounded specifications. The list of desired improvements went directly from operational experience, with the Wickes and Clemson classes. It spanned over ten years was long and comprehensive. Captains notes were complied into the following general fields of complaints:
1-The pointed sterns deeply dug into the water and increased turning diameter ;
2-Flush deck designs provided a cheap, simple construction with hull strength, but proved wet in high seas ;
3-Cruising range on both the Wickes and Clemson classes was inadequate ;
The first point was adressed with a new transom stern, a brand new design that was testing in basin, and the second with a return to the raised forecastle, already agreed by all and designed in 1919 already. It was however far higher than prewar designs and more in tune with the punishing north atlantic conditions.
For the third point, The Clemsons partly solved the range issue by having wing tanks installed, high mounted and proving a wing point since they were unprotected. The new design was to expand the range and havning protected tanks to reach 5,980 nautical miles verssu 4,900 nautical miles for the Clemsons. Outside of these points, an ibcrease of performance, also noted akthough 32-33 knots was still “comfortable” in 1930, steady improvements in boilers and steam turbines technology since a decade promised more compact machinery tet more output. It allowed a greater speed and just two funnels whihch incidentally cause less drag.
This data effort was praised among others by Rear Admiral Emory S. Land, at the head of BuC&R, when communicating with the General Board of the admiralty: He comparing the new Farragut class in design in 1932 with the Wickes and Clemson classes seeing that the first was:
-3.3 knots faster.
-Double the general metacentric height resulting in greater initial stability.
-25% more armament with 5 axial main guns rather than four in positions only allowing triple broadside.
-35% more firepower due to the new 5 in/38 caliber guns Mark 12 (previously 4 in/50).
-Now all 8 torpedo tubes were on the centerline, for a full broadside either side.
-Guns were now fed by power hoist from the magazines, safer and quicker.
-Hey had a much higher freeboard with much better sea-keeping.
-Radius of action increased by 450 nautical miles (830 km; 520 mi).
-All this was done on a mere 22% rise in displacement, which was worth the past decade of advancements.
Final Design of the class
2-view details plan from the blueprints.com, reconstituted from original plans (cannot be found, possible not digitized yet).
Assuredly, the new DD-348 design was encompassing many design evolutions, starting with the forecastle, without knuckle, prolongated by two walls. The whole bow was raised considerably for a start, ensuring better seakeeping. In addition as suggested in 1930, only the forward main superfiring guns were protected by shields, which also acted against sea spray in heavy seas. All three aft guns were left without protection. It should be noted that a fifth gun was reserved in European navies, traditionally to flotilla leaders. “Standard” fleet destroyers only had four, plus a smaller dual purpose.
The profile was taller overall, and the bridge was no exception. It sat one level higher above the superstructure, above the chart room. It was prismatic but not like previous Wickes/Clemsons, with a flattened section forward, offering good peripheral vision with classic squared windows. The bridge wings were rectangular and went to full beam, but the upper open bridge deck formed the outboard corners of this prism. There were two morse signal lights on both main bridge wings corners. The signals storage bin was located aft of the structure, close to the foremast.
There was also the usual open bridge above with the main coincidence rangefinder and telemeter sitting above. The tall foremast was located at the dying end of this prism, composed of a single pole, in part supporting the derrick on top of which was located the formward projector platform. An old fashion whaler style lookout “bucket” was located almost atop the mast. Radio cables went downards to the mainmast aft.
ONI recognition drawing
The aft superstructure, which continued the forecastle to amidships, supported the only two squarish funnels, the aft one being truncated into a model twice as large as the forward one, rectangular and not round, which was more rational but odd. Four service boats were placed on davits on either side, and inflatable boats were suspended at the same locations, below. Immediately aft of tis structure was located the main N°3, unprotected. Then came the two quadruple torpedo tube banks, without separation between them as customary on European designs, generally were sat the AA gun platform. The quarterdeck structure aft supported a platform with the two torpedo tubes rangefinders, then a derrick with the aft projector, the mainmast, and gun N°4.
Seen from above, the hull had no flat section. The greatest beam was located a bit after N°3 gun amidship, flare was very limited and the forward deck was rather narrow, but broader aft, rounded seen from atop, but it had a knuckle to transition into a transom stern of sorts. That was new compared to previous designs and the result of many calculations to master wake turbulences. Engineers wanted the stern wave sortie to be as reduced as possible, notably to not loss buoyancy and “grip” for the proplellers. Water density was essential for an optimised thrust. The process that led to this shape is well detailed in JSTOR “To the Edge of the Possible: U.S. High-Speed Destroyers, 1918-1953: Part 3”.
Hull and general design
USS Alywin, plans, outboard profile (damaged unfortunately) and deck plans down to the machinery.
The new hull was based on a 1,365 tons standard displacement (so leaving a margin to install new equipments up to 1,500 tonnes) and reached 2,064 tons fully loaded.
It was however still narrow, 341 ft 3 in (104.01 m) long overall for a beam of 34 ft 3 in (10.44 m) -classic 1/10 ratio- but with a very tall forecastle, and a draft of “just” 16 ft 2 in (4.93 m). Still, metacentric height was considered good. But as said compared to European designs, there was very little flare, the forward section was quite narrow. This did not changed much throughout the following design, up to the Fletchers. The same generic hull shape was kept all along.
Propellers, rudders and stern as built (via navsource).
The Farragut-class benefited from ten years of advances in machinery design, boilers and turbines improvements: Steam pressure and temperature went from from 300 psi with saturated steam to 400 psi (2,800 kPa) now with superheated steam to 648 °F (342 °C). This new system increased turbines efficiency and improved the range considerably. Indeed, it was the first use of superheaters in a US destroyer. Economizers used boiler exhaust gas to preheat the feedwater, before it entered the boiler, thus also sparing fuel to boil the water.
The turbines were Parsons-type (licence built) reaction turbines, by Bethlehem Steel. They were divided into a high-pressure section, followed by a low-pressure section, but with refined components, sepcially gears and fans to take the most of the superheated steam. The turbine was then mated to a common reduction gear, drive the main two shaft. This was the general arrangement reused on all US Navy vessels. There was still however the single-reduction gearing of the previous class, whereas from the Mahan class onwards (next standards) and following, it was swapped for double-reduction gearing, making turbines more compact.
Wow’s rendition, Farragut’s 5-in/38 N°3 closeup
For a “standard”, the Farragut class was rather well armed, with five rather than four main guns. The caliber was standard for the time, but the sacrifice of the usual dual-purpose gun meant they were armed like WWI destroyer leaders. For comparison, the British A-B class destroyers only had four 4.7 in (120 mm) guns, but 2-pdr AA guns. Instead, AA was limited to four standard liquid-cooled 12.7 mm browning machine guns. Against 300 kph biplanes in 1933-34 this seemed already barely adequate. This was upgraded as soon as practicable.
At a time also many destroyers had triple torpedo banks. The choice of quadruple ones was also new (compared to the Clemsons), but it was the next obvious tendency in all navies. British A-B destroyers had such banks as the IJN. Fubuki class since 1926 already. And being axial, the full broadside was available on both sides.
As completed, these vessels were also devoid of any ASW weaponry. Anti-submarine means planned were to be a sonar and two DCRs ‘Depth charge Racks), but in wartime an increase of this capability with the installation of additional DCT (Depth charge Thrower) was planned, for what the deck had necessary reinforcements.
Main Artillery: 5x 5-in/38
Mark 21 Mod 1 with the associated shield.
The 5-inches (127 mm)/38 caliber guns were a great classic, which replacd the 4-in/25 caliber of the previous Clemson class. The shells weighted almost double, so firepower had a net increase compared to previous vessels. This was asked to counter IJN destroyers like the Fubuki class, which had six of them in three twin turrets. The 5-in/38 was the first successful true dual-purpose gun in the USN, mid-length compromise between the older 5″/51 low-angle and 5″/25 AA gun. It was developed as the Farragut class were just started in 1931 and in service when they were launched in 1934. It ised a vertical sliding-wedge (Mk12 Gun Assembly) with a 15 in (38 cm) recoil, elevation up to 85° (and depression -15°), average traverse of 328.5 degrees and ideal rate of fire of 15 rpm. Each explosive shell left the barrel at 2,600 ft/s (790 m/s). Fire control:
There was no secondary intermediate AA gun, thanks to the dual purpose capability of the guns. However it appeared later with the increased speed of all-metal monoplane that the AA capability was not longer relevant. At first, the four Browning 0.5-in/90 M1920 machine guns were possibly located on the wings. Their mounts does not appear on reconstructed plans.
In 1941, they were still there. However from may to September 1942, the USN pressed into service its first licence-built 20 mm oerlikon guns and eight 20mm/70 Mk 4 were installed in place of the N°3 main gun amidship, sacrificed. As the war progressed, when practicable, this was modified again with just three single 20mm/70 kept and the ones amidship replaced by two twin 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 Bofors which became the norm. By 1945 the standard was the same two twin Bofors, and five Oerlikon Mk 10. By that time, full displacement reached 2,307-2,335t, almost a thousand tons more than the original standard tonnage.
As completed, the ship had no apparent depht charge racks. They were added in mid-1941, as the sonar. Each of the racks hold 7 depht charges, so 14 in all. No provision for more is known.
In early to September 1942, they also obtained four extra DCT K-Gun type (Depth Charge Throwers) for 48 depth charges in total, a substantial increase. They had two Mark 1 Mod 1 racks installed aft, these were versions of the original Mark 1 Mod 0, cut down to hold five Mark 6 or three Mark 7 Depth Charges. They became the norm for Farragut and following. The Mark 6 (1938) was a redesigned WWI-era Mark 3, weighting 420 lbs. (191 kg) with a 300 lbs. (136 kg) TNT charge, a sink Rate or Terminal Velocity of 8 fps (2.4 mps) and settings range from 50 or 300 feet (15 – 91 m).
Mark 14 Torpedo Tube Bank for Mark 15 Torpedoes.
21″ (53.3 cm) Mark 15: In service from 1935, it replaced the 1938 Mark 13. It became the standard destroyer torpedo, replacing old stocks of Mark 11/12 used on the Wickes/Clemson and remained in service until 1944, with 9,700 mass-produced between 1940 and 1944. The Mark 15 Mod 0 weighted 3,438 lbs. for 22 ft 7 in (6.883 m) in lenght. it was powered by a Wet-Heater steam turbine and guided by the Mark 12 Mod 3 gyro. It carried a 494 lbs. (224 kg) TNT warhead on the base of three settings:
-6,000 yards (5,500 m)/45 knots
-10,000 yards (9.150 m)/33.5 knots
-15,000 yards (13,700 m)/26.5 knots
Fortunately it never suffered the same issues as the controversial Mark 14 used on submarines. It just did not hold the comparison with the infamous Japanese “long lance”.
Fire Control & Radars
SC radar. A classic early warning radar with a range between 48 and 120 km (30–75 mi).
The Fire controls of a Farragut class consisted in a Mark 33 standard Gun Fire Control Systems (GFCS) installed on top of the bridge. The Mark 33 GFCS was power-driven and a less sophisticated version of the Mark 37 on larger ships.
It used the Mark 10 Rangekeeper analog fire-control computer mounted in an open director rather and not in a separate plotting room due to the lack of space. The Mark 33 was inaugurated by the Farragut class and used on the Mahan, Gridley, Bagley and Benham classes.
In 1944, it is possible the surviving ships had been upgraded to the Mark 51 Gun Director, not the larger Mark 58 Rangefinder.
As for radars, the Farragut class was equipped from 1941 by 1942 to 1944 depending on availability, with the common SC and SG as well as the Mk 12.22 radar.
At the end of the war, they were also upgraded with a new sonar, the QCA.
USS Farragut in September 1939
Due to their long service life from 1935-36 to 1946-48 these destroyers generated tons of reports and their advantages soon turned in part into more controversial issues as new classes were introduced. In particular, they were found considered unstable in heavy weather, and while turning. They bled speed while healing at an alarming rate, so much so captains succeeding in command soon had the habit of warning themselves not to manoeuver full hard rudder if practicable.
This issue was caused in part by their hull shape, tall superstructures, and unlike other more acute designs like the Porter class and following, completely rebuilt, war-time modifications made them even more top-heavy, while they stayed in their original state. Two in fact famously sunk in the December 1944 typhoon: USS Hull and Monaghan. It seems to some witnesses they seemed to roll even worse in 1943-44 than in their interwar years, and even in the calmest weather it was borderline dangerous.
The court of inquiry after the Typhoon in 1945 aknowleged that for the destroyer lost, the basic stability of the Farragut-class was “materially less than other destroyers”.
We have to remember here however that these were experimental designs, despite having almost ten years of reflexion. Only the London treaty speed the design up and before a ship could be built on a new hull shape and superstructure, apart probable metacentric height there was no way to figure aout its behaviour in the real world. The overweight issue was common to many other contemporary US designs of the time, notably the Pensacola and even the Northampton class cruisers.
But unlike the destroyer leaders, partly rebuilt, the Farraguts stayed “in their juice” with further additions and little effort to remedy their problems than the usual “handle with care”. It’s true also that none was lost in action: USS Worden was wrecked during an Aleutian operations in 1943, on uncharted rocks at Amchitka island. Hull and Monaghan 18.12.1944 were lost due to the aforementioned Typhoon off Luzon. MacDonough on 10.5.1943 was hit in a collision with USS Sicard and repaired for six months. They served in the Pacific and as for battle records, made nothing much remarkable. All were present at the attack on Pearl Harbor and Monaghan sank a Japanese midget submarine that day, opening the hostilities on the US side by the first IJN naval “kill” outside aircraft shot down.
Appearance – Camouflage Schemes & renditions
Old author’s profile, as commissioned, with a large forward identifier and original light grey livery. Measure 32, design 3D Measure 32, design 6D Measure 32, Design 6D Measure 31, Design 6D Measure 32, design 32D
USS Farragut, 29 September 1944
Author’s HD rendition of USS Farragut as completed, off Norfolk during her extended trials and developmental tests in December 1934 USS Mc Donough in December 1943, Measure 21 Ocean blue USS Dale in measure 31 design 5D, May 1944
1,365 tons standard, 2,064 tons fully loaded
104.01 x 10.44 x 4.93 m ( 341 ft 3 inx34 ft 3 in x 16 ft 2 in)
Clavin, Tom & Bob Drury. Halsey’s Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue; Grove Press
Capsizing of USS Hull in typhoon off Luzon : Narrative by Lt. Commdr. Jame A. Marks, 18 December 1944
“Typhoon Cobra” by Carl M. Berntsen, SoM1/C, USS De Haven (DD-727) Sailors Association website
“Tide to History” by Greil Marcus, The Threepenny Review, Spring 2008
Typhoon Cobra, USS Hull (DD-350) & USS Hull (DD-945) association
Melton Jr., Buckner F. Sea Cobra, Admiral Halsey’s Task Force and the Great Pacific Typhoon Lyons Press
Greil Marcus: a life in writing by Simon Reynolds, The Guardian, 18 February 2012
First off, we have a 1:96 kit signed by The Scale Shipyard, and retooled in 1999. The “hottest” to these days are the Iron Shipwrights and Black Cat Models 1:350 (as well as the Commander Series Models kit), still maintained to this day. For this who want it compact, there is the Niko Model 1:700. General query on scalemates.
More on the USS Hull 1:350 by Iron Shipwrights
The Farragut class destroyers in service
USS Farragut (ex-Smith, DD348)
Built in Bethlehem, Quincy, laid down in Sept. 1932, launched 15.3.1934, HMS Farragut was commissioned in June 1934, 18th, commanded by Elliott Buckmaster. Her early service was spent into developmental operations, to test the klimits of a brand new, experimental design in the USN. These were vital operations, although already not results could be taken in account for the following Mahan class. She made a first long shakedown cruise from her first homeport, Norfolk in Virginia to the Caribbean and trained further along the east coast. On 26 March 1935 she hosted President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Jacksonville in Florida to meet at sea his private yacht. The president was a former secretary of the Navy ans always had been close to naval questions so he was quite interseted by this brand new design, so important for the future. Then, DD 348 turned into an escort while the Presidential yacht reached the Bahamas. On 7 April the President board her again for the return trip to Jacksonville concluded on 8 April.
USS Farragut was then reassigned to the Pacific fleet, assigned to her new home port, San Diego in California, transiting by Panama and arriving on 19 April 1935 with DesRon 20, naturally as flagship. The rest of the squadron was indeed composed of Clemson class vessels. She joined the annual west coast fleet maneuvers and pushed to Hawaiian waters, and due noth in the summer, training the Naval Reserve off Alaska, a routine that went on until 3 January 1939. After Carribean fleet maneuvers and an overhaul in San Diego the new international context meant on 2 October she was mived permanently to Pearl Harbor, screen fleets carriers going there. From 1 August 1941, she was still in exercises with the carrier task forces.
The “day of infamy” she was berthed in in East Loch with other destroyers. Onboard that day was Ensign James Armen Benham (engineering officer, senior) and managed with little crew available to fire her engines and had her moved down the channel while firing all along. The “improvized skipper” was later awarded the Bronze Star. Until March 1942 she stayed in Hawaiian waters and patrolled from there to San Francisco, escorting convoys.
On 15 April she was assigned to the USS Lexington (CV-2) task force and sent to the Coral Sea, later joining USS Yorktown (CV-5). She therefore took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May. From 6 May she was part of a unified TF 17 trying to make contact with the IJN “Mo” operation force (on Port Moresby) and detached in the searching Support Group. Attacked by aviation she contributed to the five aircraft shot down that day, unscaved.
She arrived in Cid Harbor, Australia on the 11th to resplenish and wait furher orders, before proceeding back to Pearl on 29 June after visiting Brisbane, Nouméa, Suva, Tongatapu, and Auckland while escorting a convoy. She sortied again on 7 July with the USS Saratoga (CV-3) task force for the Solomon Islands. She screened her during the assault on Guadalcanal on 7 August, and was detached to protect sea lanes. She was involved on the 25 in the air Battle over the Eastern Solomons.
After guarding convoys to Guadalana, she also escorted convoys from Australia to Espiritu Santo, Nouméa in new Caledonia Fiji before reaching back Pearl Harbor on 27 January 1943, for an new overhaul, AA and radar additions, and further training.
Next she was assigned to the Aleutian campaign task force, departing to Adak in April, patrolled Alaskan waters until 11 May and protecting troopship landing on Adak. She repelled an enemy submarine and went on in her patrols until June, then swapping on Kiska, also bombarding IJN objectives on the island and protecting the landings on 15 August. She left in September 1943 for San Francisco, after an intense eight month campaign.
Leaving San Diego on 19 October 1943, she stopped at Pearl and arrived in Espiritu Santo to cover the landings on Tarawa 20 November, returning to Pearl on 8 December. On 13 January 1944 she took part in the Marshall Islands Campaig, covering the carriers against submarines during the landings on Kwajalein and Eniwetok. She went on during the air strikes on Woleai and Wakde. By April 1944, patrolled off New Guinea during the landings at Hollandia and in May, Majuro.
She screened TF 58 off Saipan from 11 June 1944 and the landings, bombarding various objectives on demand at Saipan and Guam and placed as a radar picket during the Battle of the Philippine Sea 19-20 June, resplenishing at Eniwetok until 14 July. Next she was present off Guam for cover fire notably closer to the shore for the underwater demolition teams before the main assault. She was back to Guam on 21 July between patrols and sorties with the covering Fire Support Group. On 25 July this was off Rota, but she needed a solid overhaul and departed for Puget Sound Navy Yard.
Back from the drydock she proceeded to Ulithi, arriving on 21 November 1944, and escorting oilers of the support force for the carrier task force moving against Taiwan and Luzon. She was based in Ulithi and followed the assault on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, on carrier screen duties with her reinforced AA on 25-28 April 1945 and during the Ryukyus strikes. Until 6 August 1945, she escorted convoys between Ulithi and Okinawa, bu also served briefly as radar picket off Okinawa.
Her last mission was off Saipan when the war ended on 5 August. On the 21th she departed for the Brooklyn Navy Yard to be decommissioned on 23 October but only stricken on 28 January 1947, sold on 14 August 1947 for scrap. For her wartime service she earned 14 battle stars, this was far more than most Sumner and Gearing vessels just entering service.
USS Dewey (ex-Phelps) (DD349)
USS Dewey, ex-Phelps, ex-Dewey was started at basin 154 in Bath Iron Works by December 1932, launched 28.7.1934 and commissioned in October 1934 with Commander H. W. Hill in command.
She made two training cruises off Cuba including her shakedown cruise, stopping at Port-au-Prince in Haiti and returned to home port Norfolk. By April 1935 she was assigned to the Pacific fleet, sailing to San Diego (14 April), and like her sister Farragut until 1938 was part of carrier screens and local operations, fleet problems and battle practice, also cruising from Alaska to Peru, also making three stays in Pearl Harbor. From 4 January 1939 she took part in the Fleet Problem of the Atlantic Squadron but was soon back in Pearl Harbor on 12 October 1939 taking part in the fleet problems of that year and 1940.
She was making a tender overhaul when the attack on Pearl Harbor commenced, opening fire and in the afternoon, with her full crew aboard, sailed to patrol the Hawaiian waters, hoping to catch any IJN submarine or vessel. On 15 December she was assigned to TF 11 (USS Lexington) sent to relieve Wake Island, operation soon cancelled. In February 1942 still with TF 11 she sailed for planned raid on Rabaul, also canceled, but Dewey helped repelled an air attack of 18 bombers. She followed “lady lex” during the raids on Lae and Salamaua (New Guinea) on 10 March.
On 15 April 1942 she was part of the expedition to the Solomon Islands and on 5 May as the attack on Port Moresby was ongoing, her group was joined to that of USS Yorktown so she could take part in the battle of the Coral Sea. She tried to protect Lexington the best she could but had herself five crewmen wounded by strafing. USS Dewey later took part in the rescue of the cripplied carrier, saving 112. She joined Yorktown’s screen to Nouméa on 12 May and was back to Pearl Harbor on 25 May, this time with USS Enterprise.
Now assigned permanently to USS Enterprise task force she took part in the Battle of Midway on 6 June, back in pearl on the 9th. She was assigned to “Lady Sara”, USS Saratoga, bringing an air squadron to Midway on 22-29 June. By 7 she covered the initial landings on Guadalcanal and returned there for direct support shelling on 7 August. Attacked by Aichi D3A2 “Val” dive bombers, have a crewman wounded. She also helped the crippled USS Jarvis and towed USS George F. Elliott although she was later abandoned, and she took aboard 40 survivors.
USS Dewey stayed in the Solomons, escorting supply convoys, screening Saratoga at the battle of the Eastern Solomons on 24 August 1942. She escorted her after she took a torpedo hit on 31 August to Pearl Harbor, herself sent home at San Francisco, Puget Sound, for an overhaul. She was back on 27 December 1942 this time for the Alaskan operations, with her sister Farragut. She tried to pull out (but failed) USS Worden at Amchitka, and later rescued survivors. On 7 April 1943, she sailed for San Pedro and came back for the invasion of Attu on 11 May, followed by Kiska on 15 August, then taking back a group of LSTs to San Francisco (19 September). She spent there the remainder of the year, with a crew’s well deserved leave.
After stopping at San Diego she departed on 13 January 1944 for the new operating base of Kwajalein on 31 January, always as an escort, for the raid on Majuro (11 February) invasion of Eniwetok (18 February) and patrolling between there and Roi to Majuro. She also shelled Mille Atoll on 17–18 March and until 6 June screened TF 58 during the raids on Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai, invasion of Hollandia, the strike on Truk, and then the operations against Tinian and Saipan (11 June), called for shelling on Saipan and Tinian (13-14 June) destroying enemy barges and setting alight an oil dump. She took part in the Marianas landings, and took part in the battle of the Philippine Sea in June, rescuing downed pilots.
She covered transports on 1 July 1944 on their way to land on Guam and assoted this with close fire support for the underwater demolition teams, plus night harassing fire and patrols, until 28 July, followed by an overhaul at Puget Sound. She was back on 30 September 1944 integrating the screen for the logistics group, 3rd Fleet, on 10 October, present during TF 58 refueling operations for the Philippines invasion. However she was hit by the Typhoon on 18 December. Completely battered she eventually lost all power by noon, and powerless, she turned into the wave roll going down to 75° prompting the captain to prepare evacuation. She had a stack torn but no casualties. On 8 February 1945 she was repaired in Ulithi and sailed for Iwo Jima (17 February) assisting the burning USS Patuxent and caled for precision gunnery for the Marines, starting on 19 February. Her main guns repelled a fierce night Japanese counter-attack on the 23th.
She escorted a convoy to Leyte (4-6 March 1945) before returning to the logistics group deployed in support for the Landings on Okinawa (operation Iceberg), screening precious oilers refuelling the fast carrier task force preparing their initial air strikes. This went on with the Kuyshu raids until 15 August. At that time, she had won 13 battle stars. On 21 August, she headed for San Diego and by September she continue on the east coast to Brooklyn Navy Yard (25th) to be inactivated, then decommissioned on 19 October, but sold on 20 December 1946.
HMS Hull (DD350)
USS Hull underway in her navy blue livery (measure MS-33a), May 1944.
USS Hull was started in New York Naval Yard, Brooklyn in March 1933, launched 31.1.1934 and commissioned by January. She made her shakedown cruise in the Azores and Portugal, but also up to Britain before sailing back to San Diego via the Panama Canal, on 19 October 1935. Pacific Fleet tactical exercises, training went on and the next year she cruised to Alaska. In 1937 she made a fleet exercize off Hawaii and close to the carriers, acted as plane guard being moved after the start of WW2 in Pearl Harbor from 12 October 1939.
On 7 December 1941 USS Hull was berthed next to the tender USS Dobbin (AD-3) and under repairs, but the personal present managed to have her anti-aircraft batteries back in action. A low priority target she was unscaved, and able to depart on the 8th to join USS Enterprise (CV-6) as she approached to enter Pearl Harbor. She was assigned TF 11 (Admiral Wilson Brown) to screen USS Lexington (CV-2) en route to the Solomon Islands. For 3 months she escorted convoys between San Francisco and Pearl Harbor.
She was sent in the Fiji Islands to prepare for the landings at Guadalcanal, en route on 26 July and arriving on 7 August 1942, acting as antisubmarine screen along the transport’s columns. Her AA was put to good use when repelleing a bomber attack, and she shared several kills. To avoid the transport George F. Elliott, badly hit, to fall in Japanese hands, she finished her off. On 9 August she spotted and destroyed a presumably Japanese schooner off Guadalcanal and sailed for Espiritu Santo. She undertook three convoy escorts to Guadalcanal, and repelled air attacks on 9 and 14 September.
Back to Pearl Harbor on 20 October she was attached to USS Colorado (BB-45) as part of a new task force sent in the New Hebrides, departing on 29 January from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco, and after overhaul, sailed for the Aleutian Islands, starting with Adak on 16 April, training, and sent to Attu in May 1943 and by July-August provided shore bombardments on Kiska and the landings, unopposed.
Back to Pearl Harbor on 26 September 1943 she was prepared for the Wake Island invasion, escorting the escort carriers leading diversionary strikes whereas Gilbert Islands was targeted. She shelled Makin Is. on 20 November, and was back to Pearl on 7 December 1943, then proceed to a training off Oakland in California by 21 December, follopwed by the new year’s leave. In January she was back in the Marshall Islands with TF 53 from San Diego (13 January 1944). She stopped first in Kwajalein to escort transports and went on in screening and patrol also around Majuro. She took part of the shelling of Mille Atoll on 18 March and Wotje on the 22th.
Next she escorted the carriers launching an air raid on Truk (29–30 April) and was back to Majuro in May reassigned to Admiral Lee’s battleships force committed in the Marianas Islands campaign. Sge shelled Saipan on 13 June and protected minesweepers opening the way into the lagoon. On the 17 she joined Admiral Marc Mitscher’s carrier task force soon hit by four large air raids, Hull providing cover for Task Group 58.2. What followed was the “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” on 19 June. Hull’s AA gunners remained in high alert all along.
By July 1944 she operated off Guam and patrolled off the island and the next month was back in Seattle, Washington, for an overhaul until 23 October, returning to Pearl Harbor and missing the Battle of Leyte. Assigned to the 3rd Fleet refueling group in November 1944 she met the fast carrier striking forces in the Philippine Sea under William Halsey Jr. for a great refilling operation, which was badly hit by Typhoon Cobra on 17 December, which was her doom:
Hull was ordered to change course while wind increased the following day, the weather deteriorating so much she was soon unable to steer with the north wind on her port beam, rolling almost beyond recovery and everything on deck washed over. A gust stuck her into the water while at 70% list, and seawater poured in the pilot house and smokestacks. Her crew managed to avoid the worst but despite all their efforts, USS Hull remained stuck on her flank, at 80%. Captain Lt. Cmdr James A. Marks could only give loose instructions at that point, seeing his ship unrecoverable. He nearly escaped mutiny due to opposition by the executive officer (XO) Greil Gerstley (This inspired the novel “The Caine Mutiny” also taking place during Typhoon Cobra).
USS Tabberer and other ships managed to rescue in the storm, in appealing conditions, 7 officers plus the captain and 55 sailors but the ship sank with 11 officers and 191 sailors nevertheless. This loss, with USS Monaghan, led to a commission of enquiry and Halsey was replaced, saved from a sanction by the reports of several officers led by Nimitz claiming the individual responsibility of many captains not to have provided adequate measures to prevent the worst. Admiral Spruance, which took command in turn, nevertheless was also blamed when hit by typhoon Connie, still tremendous damage but no ship loss.
USS MacDonough (DD351)
USS MacDonough during the Aleutian campaign in mid-1943. Note the red band on the bridge’s center.
USS McDonough was started in Boston N Yd in Charlestown by May 1933, launched 22.8.1934 and commissioned on 15 March 1935 with Commander Charles S. Alden at the helm.
After a long shakedown cruise to Europe as her sister Hull, she also visited ports in western South America before proceeding via Panama to the Pacific Fleet, San Diego, entering into a routine of yearly training and long cruises from Alaska to Peru. By October 1939 like the other destroyers in her class she was reassigned to Pearl Harbor in Destroyer Squadron 1 (DesRon 1). On 7 December her crew rushed onboard to man the gun and she managed to shoot one Japanese aicraft. Later that day she join the effort to locate the Japanese fleet. The next three months and a half, she patrolled southwest of Oahu and started to escort convoys from the US west coast to Pearl, but she was detached to be deployed for the campaign of New Guinea, covering the Bougainville, Salamaua, and Lae air raids.
She also later took part in the Guadalcanal invasion as part of USS Saratoga screen. She remained in the area in August and ws present during the Battle of Savo Island and went on escorting supply convoys and reinforcements to Guadalcanal, and by late September escorted convoys between New Guinea, Espiritu Santo and Pearl Harbor. By late December she was sent to Mare Island Arsenal for her first major overhaul, ans stayed there until February 1943 and crew’s new year’s rest.
USS Macdonough, like many of her class’s ships took part in the northern Pacific campaign or The Aleutians Campaign. She indeed took part in the Attu Island attack, and patrolled from Adak until the landings on Attu. On 10 May however, in heavy weather she collided with one of the transport under her care, SS Sicard. Badly damaged, she was towed to Mare Island, repaired until 23 September. Next she sailed out ot join the Gilbert Islands Campaign. She covered the invasion of Makin Island on 20 November, being assigned as control ship to supervize landing craft areas and rotations. She entered the lagoon and provided close gunnery support during the Marines progression. On 23 November she returned to Pearl Harbor.
Next, USS Macdonough was assigned to join the Marshall Islands task force by January 1944, Northern Attack Force. She became the main fighter director ship off Kwajalein Atoll. On 29 January she moved to Wotje Atoll, providing shore bombardment and moved to Kwajalein. Next she carried out the support for the occupation of Roi-Namur, acting afterwards as radar picket before proceeding back to Eniwetok. On 21-22 February 1944 she shelled Japanese positions on Parry Island, at the entrance to the large Eniwetok lagoon.
By March 1944, she became the center ship for the whole TF 58 RDV point before proceeding to attack the Palau Islands. Next she was found fighting off Hollandia in New Guinea, shelling positions on 21 April. Next she acted as radar picket south of Truk in May, spotting and guiding USS Monterey (CVL-26) and USS Stephen Potter (DD-538) which chased and sunk the IJN submarien Ro-45, on 30 April 1944.
On 4 May she was sent to Majuro gathering point wating for the Marianas Invasion. From the Marshalls on 6 June she screened the fast carrier force on her first step, the assault on Saipan, screening, picket posting, and shore bombardment (west side). She was present at the Battle of the Philippine Sea and shared kills with othjer ships that day.Next she close covered underwater demolition teams opering on the beaches of Guam before the assault (other Farragut class ships with her). By 21 July she patrolled around Guam for submarines, and steamed to Pearl Harbor on 10 August.
After returning to the Admiralty Islands, Manus (15 September) in escort, she was present off Leyte on 14 October screening the troop transports, participating from afar to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Back to Manus she escorted anither convoy on 3 November and patrolled Leyte Gulf and the Surigao Strait. By December, she escorted yet another convoy off Ulithi, and was given the care of several fleet oilers vital for at-sea refuelling operation of the fast carrier force. In January 1945, she returned for a 3 month overhaul at Puget Sound before proceeding back to Ulithi and acting as a radar picket there on 5 July, before returning to convoys escort until 15 August, between Ulithi and Okinawa.
She was in Guam when notified to get back home, San Diego (3 September) and New York Navy Yard for inactivation and decommission on 22 October, then to be sold on 20 December 1946, to George H. Nutman of Brooklyn for scrapping. Her battle record counted at the time 13 battle stars, cherished up to this day on a board where veterans met in the postwar years.
USS Worden (DD352)
USS Worden leaving Mare Island Arsenal on 21 November 1942, in navy blue livery. Note the Bofors and Oerlikon AA mounts are well visible.
USS Worden was built at Puget Sound Naval Yard in Bremerton, started in December 1932 and launched on 27.10.1934, commissioned in January 1935. She departed Puget Sound on 1 April 1935 for her shakedown cruise via San Diego, and south, via Mexico, Guatemala, and Puntarenas in Costa Rica before corssing the Panama Canal on 6 May for Washington, D.C.. There, she embarked Rear Admiral Joseph K. Taussig the Assistant CNO and congressional party on the Potomac River, down to Mount Vernon. Later in Washington Nyd she had her guns were disassembled for alterations and sailed for Norfolk NyD for fixes, and trials off Rockland (Maine). She started training off New Bedford in Massachusetts and sailed to Guantanamo, Panama Canal, and to Puget Sound on 3 August 1935.
Her post-shakedown refit done she called San Diego as new home port for 4 years of intensive training, cruises and fleet problems. She also performed training for the Fleet Sound School based in San Diego while cruising from Alaska, to Peru. She made three stays in Hawaiian waters and by the autumn of 1937 with her sister Hull (DD-350) she screened USS Ranger (CV-4) to Callao in Peru at the same time as the Inter-American Technical Aviation Conference at Lima.
From 1 September 1939 USS Worden she started Neutrality Patrol and on the 22th September the CNO, admiral Harold Rainsford Stark (Admiral King was only appointed on 18 March 1942), directed the CiC to transfer temporarily, two heavy cruiser divisions and their attached destroyer flotilla flagship light cruiser plus two destroyer squadrons as the “Hawaiian Detachment” under Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews (flagship Indianapolis, CA-35), first step before the Fleet was entirely moved at Pearl Harbor. Until the attack USS Woredn performed fleet exercises cut by short upkeep periods on the west coast. Fleet Problem XXI was her last, in the Spring of 1940 seeing the whole Fleet based in Pearl Harbor.
7 December 1941 saw her berthed alongside the destroyer tender Dobbin (AD-3) in upkeep and being a secondary objective she was left unscaved, but not inactive. Gunner Quartermaster 3d Class Raymond H. Brubaker shot down indeed one “Val” with a Browning fifty cal. and after two houre like other destroyers she was open sea looking for the Japanese. She eventually picked up a submarine contact at 12:40 and dropped seven depth charges before joining the task force led by USS Detroit (CL-8), flagship, RADM Milo Draemel. After scanning southwest of Oahu and refualling at the USS Neosho (AO-23) she met Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch’s TF 11 built (USS Lexington).
After a new refuelling on the 11th she left the TF to escort Neosho to Pearl when USS Dewey (DD-349) spotted a submersible and attacked. Worden was back on 14 December to sail for Wake Island when recalled on 22 December. Patrol and escorts went on locally, and she attacked to suspected enemy submarine off Oahu on 16-18 January 1942. She escorted the seaplane tender Curtiss (AV-4), fleet oiler Platte (AO-24) via Samoa and Fiji to Nouméa, New Caledonia, the new south Pacific operating base for the USN, poiseed to retake the Solomons as a first step. She assisted in late February the merchantman SS Snark, after hitting a mine in Bulari Passage near Nouméa. On 7 March with USS Curtiss she headed for Pearl Harbor and was reassigned to TF 11 on 14 April.
With USS Lexington she was off New Hebrides on 1 May to joined RADM Fletcher’s TF 17 (USS Yorktown, CV-5). She was detached to escort fleet oiler USS Tippecanoe (AO-21) to Nouméa, missing the Battle of the Coral Sea.
USS Worden on the 14th met TF 16 (Halsey, USS Enterprise and Hornet) off Efate, New Hebrides, in time for the Battle of Midway. She left Pearl on the 22th with TF 16 (this time udner RADM Spruance) meeting TF 17 (USS Yorktown) north of Midway Island, “ambush position”. USS Worden screened Enterprise and Hornet on 4-6 June 1942, her AA fired at one occasion but made no kill. Back to Pearl Harbor she was assigned to TF 11 (USS Saratoga) flying reinforcement groups and spent the rest training. On 9 July she sailed for South Pacific but was detached to escort USS Platte to Nouméa and later both were back to USS Saratoga, stopping during a night to pickup 36 survivors of the sunken Army transport Tjinegara torpedoed by I-169 75 miles SW of Nouméa. South of Fiji Islands she escorted the invasion fleet for the Solomon campaign, but she was detached again to escort the fleet oiler Cimarron (AO-22) to Nouméa.
Back with TF 16 on 3 August she screened Saratoga during the Guadalcanal-Tulagi strikes. Soon however she would take part in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.
Still with Saratoga south of the Solomons, she escorted convoys to Guadalcanal and during the Battle, screened Saratoga and Enterprise which air strikes claimed Ryūjō and damaged Chitose. A week later I-26 torpedoed Saratoga and she escorted her to repairs via Tongatapu (Tonga) and Pearl Harbor, and then San Francisco on 4 October. USS Woredn soon departed to escort USS Gansevoort (DD-608) and USS Idaho to Puget Sound and she was back in San Francisco to join USS Dewey escorting USS Nevada in post-repair trials.
The loss of USS Worden in Constantine Harbor, Amchitka Island
On 27 December 1942, she like her sister, took part in the Aleutian campaign, escorting the convoy for the occupation of Amchitka Island. After stopping at Dutch Harbor in Alaska, on 12 January, she escorted USS Middleton (AP-55) on the shores of Constantine Harbor in Amchitka, but while maneuvering into the difficult, rock-jagged harbor, a strong current swept her onto a pinnacle penetrating her hull beneath the engine room. She was flooded and lost all power. USS Dewey tried to tow her out free, but the cable snapped while heavy seas tossed Worden further on the rocky shore until she broke up, CO, CDR William G. Pogue ordered to abandon ship. But he was swept overboard and later fortunately rescued while unconscious. 14 sailors drowned and the ship was struck from the list on 22 December 1944, with 4 battle stars for her credit.
USS Dale (DD353)
Started at New York NYd in Brooklyn by February 1934, launched 23.1.1935, USS Dale was completed in June 1935. USS Dale made her southern shakedown cruise (13 February – 6 March 1936 via Galveston in Texas and escorting President F. D. Roosevelt’s cruise in the Bahamas. Based in San Diego, she took part in yearly fleet problems and cruised from Alaska to Callao in Peru, and training gunners for San Diego’s school. On 5 October 1939, she was assigned to the Hawaiian Detachment.
The day of the attack on Pearl Harbor she was moored with DesDiv 2, Berth X-14, sandwiched after USS Aylwin, USS Farragut, herself, and USS Monaghan. Ensign F.M. Radel was onboard that day, spotting the Japanese’s first attack on USS Utah and signalled General Quarters. He ordered to light all boilers and man all guns. At 08:10 the .50-caliber started backing and soon the five-inch guns, with the ready rooms, fortunately not at shore under lockers. The gunners in their position could do little however and at 08:15 she shot down a “Val” attacking USS Raleigh.
At 08:20 she ready to get underway and when clearing her anchorage, saw a torpedo passing under her bow, exploding on Ford Island. At 08:44 she was close to USS Monaghan dropping depth charges on a midget sub closing on USS Curtiss. At 25 knots she left the harbor with Monaghan behind, and was soon framed by dive bombers, strafed, while near the entrance. She had close misses but no damage.
Later another attack saw her gunners claiming the leading plane, the remainder two being driven off. She had to make frequent course changes and high speed bursts to foil air attacks, making her sonar useless to track down Japanese subs. USS Worden was made Commander of DesRon 1 and Dale was the third ship in column, investigating three enemy transports signalled off Barbers Point (bogus report) she screened USS Detroit, USS Phoenix, USS St. Louis, and USS Astoria which sorties to try to catch the Japanese, being assigned station 9 at 25 knots. She however had to turn back, having the pinion bearings on the reduction gear failing, retiring at 10 knots. After repairs she tried to reach the task force, but full repairs were needed and she was assigned offshore patrol in sector 1 until joining TF 8.4.
From 14 December 1941 to 17 March 1942, she screened Lexington and Yorktown during the Salamaua–Lae raids (New Guinea) and by 11 Mays was sent to Mare Island for her first wartime overhaul. She left in June San Francisco for a back up of the forces comitted in the Battle of Midway, assigned convoy escort missioned between Viti Levu, Fiji, Efate, Espiritu Santo, and prepared for the Guadalcanal campaign. In August she covered the landings and escort reinforcements. She was back in Pearl Harbor until 10 November and next was attached to USS Washington and USS South Dakota, then the latter alone going back to San Francisco. There, she was prepared for the Aleutian campaign operations.
On 9 January 1943, she left San Francisco for Aleutian waters, supporting the landings of Amchitka until 19 March, and on the 22th patrolled west of Attu, preying on enemy shipping. They were soon involved to fight off a superior force at the Battle of the Komandorski Islands. USS Dale soon duelled with the Japanese cruisers, screening the damaged USS Salt Lake City to safety. Later she screened transports into Attu and covered the attack on 11 May, detached to patrol around the island on 1 August. She took part in the preinvasion bombardment of Kiska the following day, screened more transports for the 13 August landing, joining USS Kane and taking part in the Rat and Buldir Islands attack on 22 August. She left Adak on 5 September 1943 for Pearl Harbor, screening a returnbing oilers convoy and training off Pearl Harbor until 5 November, then escorted LSTs en rout for Makin on 20 November.
She was back to San Diego on 13 January 1944 for upkeep and returned with new Essex class carriers assigned the assaults on Kwajalein and Eniwetok. She was in the Marshalls until 22 March and attached to TF 58 for the raids on Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai until 1st April and Hollandia operations (21-24 April), strikes on Truk, Satawan and Ponape until 1st May. On 6 June-30 July she was in the Marianas, making direct shellings of Saipan and Guam and screening carriers, taking part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
Like her sisters she covered underwater demolition teams by night. Her second overhaul was done at Bremerton NyD in August-October 1944 and she joined Pearl Harbor and Ulithi with TF 38, missing the battle of Leyte but assisting the Philippines invasion (25 November-8 December) and then screen TF 58 durng the Chinese coast raids (Formosa, Luzon, Okinawa), then the first carrier strikes on Kyushu island. She escorted the logistics group at five occasions (between Ulithi and Okinawa). On 11 June she headed for Leyte and escorted another convoy to Ulithi, patrolling until 29 July and back to Okinawa. On 15 August she was escorting a convoy off Japan. Afterwards she sailed home to San Diego (7 September) and transited to the east coast, New York on 25 September, decommissioned on 16 October 1945, sold on 20 December 1946 with 14 battle stars to her credit.
USS Monaghan (DD354)
Built at Boston N Yd from Novemner 1933 and launched on 9.1.1935, USS Monaghan was completed in April 1935. Her early career 1935-39 was the same as other destoryers of her class. She served in the Pacific, San Diego, alternativing between training cruises from Alaska to Peru and yearly fleet problems. In October 1939 she was attached to Pearl Harbor permanently, her new home port, taking part in the last fleet problem in 1940.
On December 7, 1941, she was a “ready duty” destroyer this sunday, ans to 07:51 was ordered to join the other sentry at sea that day, USS Ward, just sinking an unidentified submarine off the entrance, hourse before the attack itself. While she was underway the air attack started and her AA crew was firing furiously. At 08:27 she was underway to spot a signalled midget submarine in the harbor. Captain LCdr. Burford order to ram the submarine when spotted, the latter turning and firing its torpedo at USS Monaghan, but they missed from 50 yards on her starboard. Monaghan did not missed and rammed the midget, and dropped two depth charges for good effect. However the shallow waters bounced the explosion back to her stern, lifted out of the water. Out of control, Monaghan percuted a barge, but had little damage.
The next week after patrolling offshore, she joined USS Lexington for the later cancelled Wake Island operation. With USS Dale and Aylwin she also attacked an enemy submarine, which was reported sunk. After patrols off Pearl Harbor she sailed with USS Lexington and later detached to escort a convoy to the west coast and back; Then she was reassigned to TF 11 (Lexington) and sortied for the south Pacific on April 15, 1942.
On 4 May she was part of the screen later implied in the Battle of the Coral Sea, with Yorktown and Lexington starting launching air strikes on Tulagi and Gavutu. A pyrrhic victory was secured on 8 May, the 7, sinking Shōhō and repelling a convoy, and on the 8th, USS Monaghan detached to transmit important messages and preserving radio silence for the main formation. Later she tried to locate survivors of USS Neosho and Sims. She was back to TF 16 and back to Pearl Harbor on 26 May.
Next, she was en route with TF 11 at the Battle of Midway. She was in the screen of the combined Hornet, Yorktown and Enterprise force north of the island as they manage to sink the four main enemy fleet carriers of the Kido Butai. Monaghan screened USS Enterprise and detached on 5 June to rescue downed pilots, which were many. At 18:30 she assisted the badly damaged USS Yorktown, guard her from possible air attack, but it’s Japanese submarine I-168 which manage to evade the screen and launche a full broadside that claimed Yorktown and Hammann, Monaghan, Gwin, and Hughes however dealt a sever blow to the submarine but failed to sink her. She escaped.
After Midway she was back in Pearl Harbor on 13 June and sailed for the Aleutians Operations. While en route in foul weather, foggy night, she collided with a transport and received temporary repairs at Dutch Harbor, enough to return to Pearl Harbor. She escorted a convoy to the west coast and entered Mare Island at Vallejo for full repairs, and escorted ships back to Fiji when done on 17 November. She sailed for Nouméa and there, hit an unidentified underwater obstruction, bending her propellers, and had to steam back to Pearl Harbor to have her port screw replaced, being out of drydock on 21 February 1943.
This time she returned to the Aleutians, reassigned to TG 16.69, escorting the cruisers USS Richmond and Salt Lake City on the 26 March at the Battle of the Komandorski Islands. Between heavy artillery fire and agressive torpedo runs, the outnumbered force managed to repel the Japanese. USS Monaghan spent the est of the month in Patrols and shore bombardment, aletrnated with escorts until the end of the summer. She chased a Japanese submarine I-7 avacuating troops fromp kiska, which ultimately was driven on rocks and abandoned.
She made another escort from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco and then San Pedro, to escort three new escort carriers to the Gilbert Islands, via Espiritu Santo (13 November) taking part in the pre-invasion air strikes of Tarawa.
Back to the west coast in escort she was back to the escort carriers off San Diego, bound for the Marshalls, screening them northwest of Roi; On 7 February 1944 she was in Majuro, screening USS Pennsylvania to Kwajalein and assisting the attack on Eniwetok also bombaring Parry Is. on 21/22 February.
On 22 March she was part on an antisubmarine screen for the fast carrier force striking Palau, Woleai, and Yap. On 13 April-4 May, she covered the Hollandia landings and made a strike at Satawan, Truk, and Ponape. Next she took part in the invasion of Saipan in June. She screened TF 58 at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and patrolled off Saipan. After the usual resupply run at Eniwetok she took part in the invasion of Guam in July, still in the antisubmarine screen. She covered the underwater demolition teams off Agat and provided harassing fire on 18-19 June. On 25 July she was sent to Pearl Harbor and Puget Sound for an overhaul, back to Ulithi in November 1944.
She escorted three fleet oilers meeting on 17 December TF 38, for the pmanned Mindoro invasion. As she planned to refuel she had her ballast reduced to make room for fuel, which only aggravated her natural stability issue. This had fatal consequences when Typhoon Cobra. Of the 790 lives the 3rd Fleet suffered that day, USS Spence, Hull, and Monaghan sank. Only six men survived her sinking rescued by USS Brown. Other sailors signalled she had rolled more and more severely until capsizing to starboard. She was later struck from the register, but earned 12 battle stars.
USS Aylwin (DD355)
USS Aylwin was built in Philadelphia N Yd, started in September 1933 like USS Farragut but launched on 10.7.1934 and commissioned in March 1935. After inistial yard trials, fitting out, she was sent to the Naval Torpedo Station in Newport to load her torpedoes and make more trials until sent to Philadelphia on 8 May for her shakedown cruise. She toured European countries between Portugal and Spain, France, inspected in Cherbour by ambassador Jesse I. Straus. Next she visited Bremen, Gothenburg, Brussels (Visited there by the Belgian royal family, King Leopold III and Queen Astrid), and finishing with Dover, and back to Philadelphia for post-shakedown fixed.
Next, she departed for the Carribean. She crossed the Panama Canal on 7 October and made a plane guard mission off Guatemala, while testing the flying boat XP3Y-1 (PBY Catalina prototype).
Back with USS Hull she arrived in home port San Diego on 19 October. Peacetime routine with the Fleet was the same as her sisters, and like her in October 1939 she was pressed to join Pearl Harbor as part of the “Hawaiian Detachment”. Her still peacetime service saw the 1940 fleet problems and neutrality patrols in Hawaiian waters, plus West Coast upkeep periods.
On 18-19 March however, USS Aylwin out of Pearl Harbor for off-shore patrol and exercises was making a night tactical exercise, ordered with other destroyers to join the fleet’s center. But at 22:51 while in doubt, she opened her fighting lights sighting a ship arriving fast on her port bow. Maintaining her course and speed she tried soon to to avoid contact but at 23:04, she was percuted by USS Farragut’s bow on her port side at a 90-degree angle.
She had her plating and 23 frames destroyed and her bow torned down and almost severed while a fire erupted.
It was extinguished by the intervention of Fire parties from USS Dale, Stack, Philadelphia, and Sterett while a party from USS Indianapolis assessed the damage, making temporary repairs.
USS Detroit tried (but failed) to tow USS Aylwin back to Pearl, then USS Turkey. Drydocked, she was back in normalcy until November. The day of the attack of 7 December 1941 she was moored to buoy X-14.
She only had a single boiler in operation, providing at least for her auxiliary services, and had half her crew present. With them, she returned fire during the attack and soon had two boilers lit up and within 15 minutes she could depart, ordered at 08:29 by the Destroyers Battle Force Commander to be underway asap. She had a Japanese near-miss at 08:50, 75 yards off her starboard bow while she headed for the channel. Still with half her crew under and under command of Ensign Stanley B. Caplan (eight months experience) she maintained continuous AA fire, her crews claiming “at least three aircraft”.
She proceeded to patrol the waters in search of Japanese subs, investigating a reported sighting. Abnormal screw propelled vibrations caused by a near-miss however were noted. She went on with her service until the following day, following the Enterprise task force back into Pearl Harbor. The 9th she was back in antisubmarine patrols close to the entrance. After a sound contact on 10 December she dropped five charges without results. She later had her damaged propeller repaired. Ensign Caplan was later recommended for the conduct of the ship despite his young age and inexperience.
USS Aylwin was part of the Lexington task force for the later cancelled Wake Island operation, and covered TF 11 back to Pearl Harbor before Christmas. Shs later covered a convoy od evacuees from Hawaii to the west coast. After repairs and alterations at Mare Island until 10 January (she notably receoved 20 mm Oerlikon guns) she joined USS Perkins, escorting the liners President Coolidge, President Monroe, and Mariposa to San Francisco. Next she escorted USS Neosho, Castor, Pyro, Crescent City back to Oahu. With TF 11 she take on plane-guard duties while underway to New Guinea. During a training she acidentally fired a live torpedo in Hull’s direction on 13 February, but warned her sister in time to avoid it.
She latyer convoy the ANZAC force (USS Chicago, HMNZS Leander, Achilles, HMAS Australia) with USS Lamson and Perkins and later joined TF 11 en route to Bougainville and the Bismarck Archipelago.
She later picked up by radar 17 Mitsubishi G4M bombers from Rabaul at 10:30, repelled by USS lexington’s CAP, inclusing ace Lt. Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare’s F4F Wildcat reporting six in this fight.
Meanwhile, Aylwin and other fired their antiaircraft guns on the remainder. Her 20 mm gunners claimed one of these, attempting to crash into USS Bagley. Aylwin later was detached from TF 11 to escort fleet oiler USS Platte to Pago Pago in Samoa and Pearl Harbor. On 10 March she departed to escort 18 ships (convoy 4072) from Honolulu to San Francisco Bay, on 22 March. After upkeep at Mare Island she covered convoy 2054 to Pearl from te 31th. On 15 April she left to join TF 11 for the South Pacific.
Intel report an incoming assault on Port Moresby and TF 11 joined TF 17 on 1 May. At 09:55 of the 7yh, USS Aylwin still screened Lexington during the Coral Sea Battle. She also rescued a pilot from a down SBD-3 Dauntless from VS-5 ditching near her. Later she retired off Tonga Islands. She refuelled from USS New Orleans, assisted Lexington and taking aboard 37 officers and 92 ratings plus USS Yorktown’s famous Lt. (jg.) E. S. McCuskey of VF-2, which decisive actions later at Midway would make him a national hero.
USS Alywin, possibly in late 1942 or 1943
On 15 May USS Aylwin screened Yorktown and brought TF 17 in Nukualofa Harbor (Tongatapu), transferring personal to USS Portland and rfueling from her, patrolling off the entrance before joining USS Astoria escorting USS Harriett for their voyage back home. On 28 May USS Aylwin screened Enterprise and Hornet north of Midway and on 4 June was presetn at the Battle of Midway. On 11 June seh was detached to escort the oiler USS Kaskaskia to the Aleutian Islands and TF 8. With TF 8 she screened USS Louisville and three light cruisers, six destroyers escorting them to Women’s Bay, Kodiak Island and back to Kaskaskia, and then Hawaii. She stayed in the Yard for upkeep, and departed on 2 August to screen the escort carrier USS Long Island bound for Guadalcanal. She assisted the assault on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu.
After the disastrous Battle of Savo Island, Aylwin brought escaping transports back to Suva, Fiji, refuelling and awaiting instructions. Shewas ordered to the New Hebrides, Vila Harbor, Efate on 17 August, then Mele Bay and with USS Dale and Helena she escorted Long Island to Guadalcanal. She was refuelled by USS Cimarron (Same type as the Sangamon class carrier). After offshore patrols at Efate she escorted Long Island to Espiritu Santo, refuelled at Pago Pago in Samoa, moved to Canton Island and escorted transports there. As part of TG 15.4 and with USS Conyngham she headed for Nouméa and Tongatapu, assigned to the damaged USS North Carolina to Pearl Harbor. In November, she escorted a convoy to Espiritu Santo.
Off Santa Cruz Islands, Vanikoro Island she protected the seaplane tender USS Ballard to Vanua Levu and back to Espiritu Santo, but developed steering issues. Fixed, she resumed ASW patrols dollowed by plane guarding USS Nassau until 22 November. From Nouméa she escorted USS South Dakota via Bora Bora, to California, herself fixed at Mare Island and departing on 8 January 1943 for Alaska with USS Bancroft and Dale.
She took part in the invasion of Attu on 11 May 1943 after many escort missions and some shelling on Kiska (8-9 July) she was back in Adak, and from there, San Francisco leaving in 19 October, screening USS Sangamon, USS Chenango, and USS Suwannee of the namesake class to the New Hebrides, Espiritu Santo and until December 1943 she screened carriers Sangamon and Suwannee at the Gilbert Islands, then with USS Bailey escorted back USS Maryland to Pearl Harbor and then escorted Tennessee and Colorado to San Francisco.
After upkeep at Alameda, USS Aylwin escorted a LST convoy from San Diego to Hawaii, Kauai and sailed to the Marshall Islands, Kwajalein. She stayed there apart a supply run to Majuro and back and then Eniwetok with USS Hall, MacDonough, and Monaghan, shelling Parry Island. Next she was assigned to TG 58.2 (USS Bunker Hill, Hornet, Monterey, Cabot, under RADM Alfred E. Montgomery). In April, it was deployed in air strikes through the Carolines. Her AA gunners fired on the 29th and 30th, later rescuing the crew of a downed Curtiss SB2C “Helldiver” from Bunker Hill. Next she operated off New Guinea for the Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay, Humboldt Bay operation and was back for supply on 4 May and short upkeep with USS Prairie.
In June she departed Majuro for the Marianas Islands with TF 58, being part of the Northern Bombardment Unit (TU 58.7.2) on North Saipan and part of the antisubmarine screen for the battleships USS Alabama and South Dakota, then back to the carriers as they refueled. She rescued two aviators from USS Bunker Hill and another lated during the bombardment of Guam. On the 17th, she was in escort mission, missing the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Back to Eniwetok on 28 June she escorted USS Wichita and St. Louis furing on Guam and bombarding installation on the northern shores herself, assigned Asan Beach. She stayed as a distant support during the night beach obstruction demolition work and later relieving USS Dewey on 21 July off Asan Beach, herself by Dale later.
She covered transports northwest of Orote Point and Agana Bay then covered a cruiser bombardment of Rota Island before going back to Eniwetok and in August, steamed back to Bremerton, Washington, for a major overhaul. She sailed back with USS Colorado and Farragut via San Pedro and Hawaii, after some refresher training to the Philippines sector with USS Baltimore, San Juan, and three destroyers. From Ulithi on 21 November she arrived on station by December 1944, missing the battle of Leyte two months prior.
On 10 December she became flagship of Commander TG 30.8 replenishment group. Captain Jasper Acuff conducted her group from Ulithi on behalf of the 3rd Fleet and met TF 38, cprotecting the refueling operations. However Typhoon Cobra soon fell on the area and USS Aylwin was found to roll 70 degrees to port, later having two Machinists swept overboard, then the chief engineer, never to be seen again. She developed a leak in her engine room at 19:30 but survived. She was repaired at Ulithi just before Christmas by USS Markab. She left Ulithi by January 1945 and went on with her replenishment group escort the next month, part of TG 50.8 with USS Crowley, Weaver, Suamico, Shasta, Wrangell. Together she reached Iwo Jima on 21 February. On the 23th she was reassigned to TF 54 fire support group replacing USS Tuscaloosa.
She was assigned the southern sector of Iwo Jima and on 23-24 February took part in the proper Battle of Iwo Jima, before refuelling at Ulithi and be prepared for operations off Okinawa, patrolling between Kerama Retto and Ulithi. She went through her second typhoon on 5 June 1945 assisting USS Pittsburgh, loosing her bow, even searching for the latter. She was back to Guam on 10 June and by 6 July sailed back to the Carolines, Ulithi and escorting Convoy UOK-39 to Okinawa. Back to Ulithi she acted as picket station B-6 on 3 August but was soon detached so search for survivors of USS Indianapolis. She only located three deriving bodies, making a burial at sea.
On 13 August she escorted troopships to the Marianas, entering Apra Harbor just before the surrender. Ordered back to Hawaii with USS MacDonough escorting the CVE USS Rudyerd Bay, she arrived in Pearl, embarked passengers and headed from the 27th to the West coast. She later left San Diego transited Panam on 20 September, and reached New York City on the 25th, decommissioned at the yard on 16 October, struck on 1 November and later sold to George N. Nutman of Brooklyn by December 1946 to be scrapped on 2 September 1948. She received 13 battle stars for her Pacific Campaign.
Battleships (1942-44): USS Iowa (BB-61), New Jersey (BB-62), Missouri (BB 63), Wisconsin (BB 64), Illinois (BB 65), Kentucky (BB 66)
The Iowa class battleships were the last built in the US, and memorable ships at more than one title. They were the culminating point of a standard design worked out since 1934, but built for speed, and the first using the escalator clause to reach a larger tonnage. If their WW2 career was short, they emerged from the reserve to take part in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, putting their main artillery to good use when older fast battleships had long met the scrapyard. If their fate seemed sealed after 1973, they were unexpectedly resurrected and completely modernized during the Reagan administration to counter the Soviet Kirov class battlecruisers. They fired their last rounds in the gulf war of 1991 and are now preserved as the world’s last active battleships. #USN #ww2 #coldwar #iowa #newjersey #missouri #mightymo #wisconsin
A fitting end to this year’s study of WW2 USN Capital Ships.
Note: This post, like the one on the Queen Elisabeth class, is so large in scope, that it will be limited to the construction and WW2 career of the Iowa class. A new post will be dedicated on their cold war career and comprehensive refits in 2023.
The last USN battleships: Iowa class
All four Iowas in formation for the first and last time of their carrer. An historical photo for the pinnacle of conventional warship development.
The Iowa class were originally six fast battleships ordered in two batches, in 1939 and 1940. They were intended at first as very fast ships, almost battlecruisers, to intercept the Japanese Kongō class while still able to take their place in the battleline. The Iowa class were also designed to meet the Second London Naval Treaty‘s “escalator clause” reaching the limit up to 45,000-long-ton (45,700 t) of standard displacement.
Ultimately only the first four were completed, while USS Illinois and Kentucky were laid down, but canceled in 1945 and 1958, and scrapped. Ultimately the new Montana class were preferred, but also cancelled in July 1943 in favor of completing the Essex-class fleet carriers as the last battleship class ever designed for the United States Navy.
This made the four Iowa-class, the last battleships ever commissioned in the US Navy. They had a short but eventful carrier in the Pacific in 1944-45 protecting the Fast Carrier Task Force during the last phases of the Island Hopping Campaign, until the surrender signed on “Mighty Mo”. Decommissioned in 1947 in long term reserve, they were recommissioned for Korea and Vietnam. Completely modernized in the 1980s (a full chapter here) they became missile-carrying battleships (with quite amazing alternative projects) fighting in four major US wars. This post will dive deep into these very long careers, but before that, their development whereabout, design in detail, construction, the fate of their cancelled sister ships, a bit on the Montana class, their modernizations history, until the great 1980s refit.
Very early origins could be traced back to the various discussions and preliminary designs leading to the North Carolina class battleships, so all back to May-June 1935 when the General Board asked for a new battleship design with three design studies submitted and discussed. The first two proposals had 14-in guns, but ”C” (over 36,000 long tons) and with 30.5 knots proposed eight 16-inch/45-caliber in a classic 4×2 configuration. In short a fast version of the West Virginia. The caliber choice was going to stick later, as the Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) announced its new standard being a new “super-heavy” 16-inch shell, leading to the updated proposals “A1”, “B1” and “C1”. The problem was they all went beyond the 35,000 tones standard authorized, to 40,000 long tons.
Importantly, as dicussions progressed the new “fast battleships” as called that way by the General Board, could have their top speed used as adjustment variable, not to compromise the protection, and the Naval War College suggested 23-knot as a good compromise as shown in their own war games, compatible with older standard super dreadnoughts. Five more proposals were studied until September 1935 with a speed pushed again to 30.5 knots but still discissions about nine 14 inch or 16-inch guns, the latter reaching 41,100 t.
Eventually Designers reported as how hard it was to deliver a balanced design over a 35,000 tons limit to reach 30 knots a massive output was needed, and so a large hull. Even quadruple turrets (14-in guns) were studied. By October 1935 the board settled on “A”, and if possible four battleships to match the rebuilt Kongō class.
The Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations, president of the Naval War College decided by late October 1935 to work on “K” design, to be further developed. But the game changer in the treaty, was that the US benefited from an exception, the “Escalator Clause” in the case a country adhering previously to the Washington Naval Treaty was out.
Of course there was no mystery about who, which happened to be Japan. This clause, enable signatories, engaged to limit themselves to 14-in (fixing the main armament of the King Georges V class as we know), could swap to 16 inches, allowed to all three signatories during discussions. This also applied to Italy, that also retired and went for the 15-in Littorio class. The signing date was 1st April 1937 indeed. As time pressed, initial plans for the new US fast battleships were to require a rapid “switch” option from 14 to 16-inch after being laid dow, which proved nightmarish for the engineers. However on 27 March 1937, Japan’s position was made clear to all and the US played the “escalator clause”, and this despite political pressures to tone this down on President Roosevelt by the congress and democrats at large.
Beyond the escalator clause: Vinson and Vinson-Walsh Acts
Blueprint, C&R outboard profile of the North Carolina class (still showing portholes) in 1937.
Eventually the conclusions of the Consequences of the London Naval Treaty (1936) signed by Britain, France, and the United States had conformed the 35,000 tons and 16-inch as max caliber confirmed. The treaty started to apply by January 1937 and from 1934 onwards already, there has been planning of 45,000 tons plus vessels in case the Japanese pull-out from the Washington accord, which they did eventually by refusing the London prolongation. Eventually the last 35 designs studied in 1936 were mrre variations five base designs published on 15 November 1935. All were about 35,000 long tons to fit a possible production FY1937. The problem was, compared to the Kongo, that thet were all around 27 knots-26.5 knots and sizes of 710 to 725 ft but still wild discussions and variants in artillery.
The second major decision after the Escalator Clause was the second Vinson Act of 1938. It officially authorized the construction of these first fast battleships, and from 35,000 tons/14-inch guns BB-55 were laid down at New York Naval Shipyard, leaving still time to alter the blueprints and swap to the later classic nine 16-inch guns while protection was equal to 14-in shells immunity. The second Vinson Act was to grant an increase of capital ship size of 20% and get rid of the London Treaty limitations.
On June 30, 1938 what was known as the “sliding scale” clause enable a 16-in armed 45,000 tons for good, raising the bad will showed by the Japanese to British inspection. This led to six new ships, outside the fiorst two “prototypes”, USS North Carolina and Washington. These were important for the next phase buildinf four SOUTH DAKOTA class with revision and then a pair of the IOWA Class, on a modified North Carolina design. Modified indeed: By looking at all three battleship classes side by side seen from above it appeared clearly the North Carolina design was simply shortened or at the contrary stretched up to accomodate more power or protection depending on the case.
Evbentually, the Vinson-Walsh Act of July 19, 1940 had this first act passing the treshold of “wartime level” which was curcial into authorizing 18 new fleet aircraft carriers of the Essex class and two additional Iowa-class and five larger, better armed montana class, the first “not-limit” wartime design. This went with 33 cruisers, 115 destroyers and 43 submarines.
“Plan Orange”: The war with Japan scenario
Initial design scheme for the Montana class (at the time S511-13 Battleships Study scheme 8 BB65 study, 15 March 1940)
Plan Orange was a written senarion to be played at the naval college, of an attack of Japan on the US. This took place in the Pacific, not the atlantic, and had consequences for ships’s designs, not only to comply with greatr range, but also to what Intel reveals about Japanese capital ships at the time. War planners anticipated a main combat in the Central Pacific, this with an extended line of communication and complicated logistics vulnerable to fast Japanese cruisers.
The standing force of super dreadnoughts in Hawaii at the time, with their 21-knot were just too slow to face Japanese task forces, while in a scissors/paper.rock fashion, the faster carriers and cruiser escorting them would be easy prey for a composite force of fast battleships (such as the rebuilt Kongō-class) and fast cruisers. The US Navy was a “fast detachment” capable or operating with and outside of the battle line and met these opponents on more equal terms. All knew that because of the previous limitations, neither the North Carolina-class or South Dakota-class can met the ideal speed to fit the task. They were more likely to be deployed with the main battle line or on the Atlantic.
I short, the USN planned battleships designs capable of 30 knots but also had the idea of contituting a special strike force of fast battleships with carriers and destroyers to act independently as a scouting force. This concept would evolve into the Fast Carrier Task Force, with battleships ending as mere auxiliaries or escorts. In all cases, engineers were now free to work on a larger tonnage design, thanks to the escalator clause being ratified by all signatories in June 1938, and establishing the limit to 45,000 long tons (45,700 short tons).
The “slow” battledesign scheme was apparently an elongated version of this, sometimes called the “Ohio class”.
Two designs by the General Board
The process had its roots in the first studies if early 1938, under the direction of Admiral Thomas C. Hart at the time, the head of the General Board using an additional 10,000 long tons (10,200 t) to give some extra possibilities. The first option was a mer development of the 27-knot (50 km/h; 31 mph) “slow” battleship design, with increased armament and protection, and a “fast” design capable of 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph) and more. The “slow design” ended as the better protected one, based on a shorter hull, the South Dakota-class.
The board was even enthusiastic about the possibility to mount no less tha nine 18-inch (457 mm)/48 guns, with more protection for 27-knot, enabled by the large tonnage. The “fast” design however was ultimately the one retained (which turned put to be the Iowa class). The “slow” design ended with a twelve 16-inch guns design 60,500-long-ton Montana class, from September 1939 as all limits were not out.
Priority went to the “fast” design only, clearly aiming at the Japanese Kongō-class battlecruisers, also taking into account the Panama Canal gates width as superior beam limit.
C&R fast battleships early study
The “fast” design was worked out by the Design Division section of the Bureau of Construction and Repair (C&R). The general concept was that of a “cruiser-killer” that can also engage fast Japanese battleships on equal terms. The study was led from 17 January 1938 by Captain A.J. Chantry. The base design comprised not nine but twelve 16 in guns and twenty 5-inch DP guns on a Panamax beam, and unlimited displacement with 35 knots and 20,000 nm range at 15. This resulted in a massive, 50,940 long tons standard battleship but the catch was a compromised protection just sufficient to stop 8-inch (200 mm) heavy cruisers guns.
Thus, designs “A”, “B”, and “C” followed by late January with better draft and revised armor, and instead of 5-in, a battery of twelve 6-inch (152 mm) guns in eight twin turrets. “A”: 59,060 long tons standard, 4×3 16-inch guns, 277,000 shp (207,000 kW) for 32.5 knots. “B” was 52,707 long tons standard, 32.5 knots but based on 225,000 shp (168,000 kW) and 3×3 16-in turrets. “C” was 55,771 long tons (56,666 t) standard, but had 300,000 shp (220,000 kW) for 35 knots and a 512 feet (156 m) long citadel.
“B” main belt ran for only 496 feet (151 m).
The Battleship Design Advisory Board Enters discussions
Battleship Study, preliminary design, showing on 8 July 1940 the recoignisable silhouette of the BB61 and outlines differences with the BB65 scheme (Montana class).
In March 1938, the General Board had an influx of recommendation for its branch, the Battleship Design Advisory Board: Naval architect William Francis Gibbs, Ny Ship building CEO William Hovgaard, John Metten, Joseph W. Powell, and Joseph Strauss, former admiral at the head of the ordnance dept. Not satisifed with C&R they asked for a new design study just based on a larger South Dakota-class design (stretched out, the extra space used to add boilers and possibly larger turbines). This would enable to reach 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) on just 37,600 long tons. They estimated that to reach 33 knots they would need 220,000 shp (160,000 kW) on 39,230 long tons standard, well below the “escalator clause”.
This, compared to the more ambitious C&R studies, led the General Board to think that it was still possible to design a more moderate (and thus cheaper, the Congress still had to ratify this) to have a well balanced 33-knot while keeping even some margin with the “escalator clause”. Politically that would mean to think the US was not going to led a new arms race. Something proper to reassure Roosevelt and feel better when facing its majority or the Congress, but also the admiralty that still had a “wartime reserve” of useful displacement estimated to 5,000 tonnes and more.
However, further studies by C&R contradicted these enthusiatic design estimations:
-More speed needed more freeboard fore and amidships (so heavier hull) which also implied more armored freeboard, up to a feet in height.
-The consequence of above meant more weight to be braced to meet structure requirements.
-This trigerred in turn a larger power plant to maintain the speed. This resulted in a net increase of 2,400 long tons (2,440 t) even on conservative estimates. This also nullified the 5,000 long tons (5,080 t) of useful reserve (to add extra armour for example) and better AA.
The draft needed to be increase as well not to lost buoyancy but this enable a narrower beam and a bit required power (since lower beam-to-draft ratio reduces wave-making resistance). This also allowed the ships to be shortened, reduced overall weight. The General Board was dubmbfounded that 6 knots was traduced by an increase of 10,000 long tons, based on the South Dakota design. A harsh recall to reality.
Looking for a new 16-in gun
However for this “price”, the new battleship had to show a bit more than extra speed: There were discussions of replacing the 16-inch/45 caliber Mark 6 of the South Dakota class by the new, heavier 16-inch/50 caliber Mark 2 which were an old design inherited from the canceled Lexington-class battlecruisers and first South Dakota class battleships. The projectiles were much heavier and potent than the 16-in/45, but this traduced in an additional 400 tonnes for each triple turret, larger barbette (39 feet 4 inches versus 37 feet) and in the end a global increase of 2,000 long tons for the main battery alone, reaching now 46,551 long tons.
The Bureau of Ordnance preliminary design however, gave the Board some home, with the guarantee a large turret could still use for loading the 45-caliber gun turret’s barbette. To chase extra weight and save 1,500 tonnes, it was decided to play on lower armor thickness in some places. But the most important move was to use, like for the Essex class carriers, a new construction steel using Special Treatment Steel (STS) in certain areas. It acted as a structural armor. All this enable to lower the displacement down to 44,560 long tons standard. That’s the General Board looked at on 2 June 1938.
The “stretched South Dakota”. Comparison between the three classes
Work went on with the Bureau of Ordnance being allocated the turret design with a larger barbette, while C&R worked on the smaller barbette option. However without communication between these entities, a reunion in November 1938 about the contract design shown that the larger barbette would required too much alterations to the North Dakota basic design as a starting base. At the same time the board was adamant not return to the 45-caliber was acceptable.
Before this new challenge, it’s again the Bureau of Ordnance that broufght up an elegant solution: In between, they had been working on a new 50-caliber gun called Mark 7, lighter and smaller. This enabled the same diameter as for the 45 caliber. This made them small barbette compatible, and thus, both the North Carolinas and South Dakotas could be in the future upgraded to the new 50 caliber gun as well without much trouble.
The new turret with this lightweight Mark 7 gun saved a total of 850 long tons (864 t) total, enabling again some extra room for future weight increase, while stil treaty bound by 1938. At last the latest contract design stated a 45,155 long tons (45,880 t) standard displacement estimated to reach 56,088 long tons (56,988 t) fully loaded. Based on the second Vinson act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to program and fund the construction in June of the new Iowa class battleship at an estimated US$100 million unitary cost.
Final design at New York Navy Yard
The contract design was finalized gradually and blueprints generated in the New York Navy Yard which was the lead shipyard. Revisions included:
-New foremast design (notably stronger to fit future radars)
-1.1-inch (27.9 mm)/75 AA “Chicago Piano” by 20 mm (0.79 in)/70 caliber Oerlikon plus 40 mm/56 Bofors
-Moving the combat information center (CiC) further down into the armored hull.
-Comprehensive redesign of the internal subdivision of the machinery rooms based on tests:
> Longitudinal subdivision doubled with 50% less flooding risk and less uptakes in the third deck.
-Beam enlarged by a foot due to this (0.30 m) at 108 feet 2 inches (32.97 m) overall, still panamax, but now reaching 45,000 tonnes again.
Photo by Norman Friedman via navsource.org of the Iowa model. It had a hull slot fared over when built prewar 12-foot navigational range finders, range clocks, pair of boat cranes never fitted, boat stowage replaced by three quad Bofors.
It should be recalled that it did not mattered much by the time: Both Britain and France renounced in turn the Second London Naval Treaty as WW2 started, and design displacement could not slip to 45,873 long tons (46,609 t) standard without causing a stir, which was still about 2% overweight. Now compare this to Bismarck and Yamato… The keels of both USS Iowa and New Jersey were laid down in June and September 1940, and as planned, a radical increase in anti-aircraft armament and extra splinter protection, more crew accommodations, heavier and more numerous additional electronics resulted in a new figure by 1944-45 of 47,825 long tons for 57,540 long tons (58,460 t) fully loaded. This would change again during their cold war career.
Missouri plans. Note, all original blueprints are kept by the Library of Congress, accessible here.
Based on the latest design idea, which was to simply stretch out a South Dakota, design was quick to adapt and refine, allowing to spare perhaps six month of new calculations.
Seen from above, the three battleships, sharing the same panamax beam, the family traits are obvious. All three shared the same hull design, almost rectangular for the amidship sections, with some flare at the bow and rounded stern. Flat sides, internal armour, and flush deck, gradually going up for an entire level, were all common traits.
The silhouettes however shared little in terms of superstructures, apart the location of the three turrets. The exhausts were truncated with wildly different funnel designs: Two narrow funnels close apart for the North Carolinas, single large funnel for South Dakotas and two large ones far apart for the Iowas. However the superstructures of the Iowas had much more in common with those of the North Carolinas. Indeed, they were simply copied, notably for the main tower design, stronger, taller and roomier than than of the North Carolinas.
The space in between the forward bridge tower and aft one was massively stretched out. But the amidship deck design was about the same. Indeed, instead of just five twin turrets at least two more could have been crammed either side. This was not done as for again, design simplification and the extra space allocated to more quad 40 mm Bofors mounts, which took about the same space but were lighter and can be positioned higher up.
The Iowa class went on with the tradition of “all-or-nothing” armor scheme inaugurated on the standard battleships of pre-WWI, and continued on by the South Dakota class, which perhaps had the best protection of any US capital ship to date. This protection was designed for full immunity against plungin fire (16-inch/45-caliber guns) at a particular distance set: Between 18,000 and 30,000 yards (16,000 and 27,000 m; 10 and 17 mi). At the time, the Krupp Cemented armour was the best process available for the time, and a Class A face-hardened K.C. armor as well as Class B homogeneous KC were used throughout, the remainder being protected by the newly developed special treatment steel (STS). This high-tensile structural steel was comparable to Class B and found its way onto the hull plating, creating with inferior thickness, another layer of protection.
The citadel, ie the unsinkable “raft”, buoyancy reserve at the center of the ship, consisted of magazines and engine rooms, both under STS outer hull plates 1.5 inches (38 mm) thick, and behind the refular Class A armor belt. For the bulkheads, they diverged between the Iowa and New Jersey and the Missouri and Wisconsin. This protection against raking fire ahead was considered almost overkill due to their top speed. The main difference overall with the previous South Dakota, apart the longer citadel, was that armor was installed while in early construction and prior to the launch, since the STS notably was part of the structure. In general, the immunity zone was still good against 16-in/45 shells, but far less against 16-inch/50-caliber, especially with the Mk. 8 armor-piercing shell (“heavy shell”) compbining greater muzzle velocity and better penetration. The General Board just hoped the Japanese were not going to take that path. The Nagato class 41cm (16.1 in)/45 were considered inferior, the Yamato were unknown, and perhaps only the new Sovietsky Soyuz class battleships 406 mm/40 B-37 guns came close.
-Magazine, Engine rooms: 1.5 in (38 mm) STS plating
-Main armor belt, citadel: class A 12.1 inches (307 mm) thick + 0.875-inch (22.2 mm) STS back plating
-Internal sloping main belt 19 degrees, equivalent 17.3 in (439 mm) class B (from 19,000 yards).
-Lower belt to triple bottom: 1.62 inches (41 mm).
-Armored citadel transverse bulkheads: 11.3-inch (287 mm) Class A. (batch 2 14.5 in (368 mm))
-Weather Deck armor: 1.5-inch-thick (38 mm) STS
-Main armor deck: 6-in (152 mm) Class B + STS
-Splinter deck: 0.63 in (16 mm) STS.
-Magazines (third deck): 1-inch (25 mm) STS
-Wall between the magazine rooms and turret platforms: 2x 1.5-inch STS bulkheads under barbettes
Main Battery Protection
ONI recoignition drawing
The Iowas had larger turrets, and they were as heavily protected:
Faces: 19.5-inch (495 mm) Class B + STS
Sides: 9.5-inch (241 mm) Class A
Rear: 12-inch (305 mm) Class A
Roof: 7.25-inch (184 mm) Class B.
-Barbettes: 17.3 inches (439 mm) Class A abeam and 11.6 inches (295 mm) inwards, down to the main armor deck.
Secondary Battery and others
The conning tower has been put into question (it was eliminated from cruisers) but was maintained with walls 17.3 inches (439 mm) class B anf topped by a 7.25 inches (184 mm) roof. The secondary battery turrets and the handling spaces below received 2.5 inches (64 mm) STS. Propulsion shafts, steering gear compartment: 13.5-in (343 mm) Class A sides, 5.6–6.2-in (142–157 mm) above.
Iowa class ASW protection
The Iowa class torpedo defense was a repeat of the South Dakota design. A few modifications were made however to adress some issues detected during caisson tests. It was basically an internal “bulge” composed of four longitudinal torpedo bulkheads, behind the outer hull plating. This internal sandwich was 17.9 feet (5.46 m) in depht, spending the energy of any known torpedo warhead.
Armor belt also went down to the triple bottom reaching 1.62 inches (41 mm), becoming one of the torpedo bulkheads. Its joint was reinforced with buttstraps to compensate of the structural discontinuity. This internal bulge was designed to deform elastically in order to absorb energy: The the two outer areas dividied into many compartments were filled with liquid, either seawater or oil. Pumps and valves would be used for counter-flooding as well.
The liquid in any case was supposed to “eat” th einitial detonation blast energy and slowdown any splinters before hitting the lower armored belt. The fourth one was an empty compartment behind, destined to absorb remaining energy. Outside the citadel for the lower ones, they were used for extra storage but had all watertight roof apertures only, no side door, which could have weakened the internal wall.
In between, Caisson tests went on in the Navy, and by 1939 the South Dakota’s scheme was found less effective than the North Carolinas’ due to the lower armor belt. It was too rigid and thus, had the explosion displacing the final holding bulkhead inwards. To fix this it was decided that both the third deck and triple bottom structure, behind the lower armor belt, would be reinforced, and brackets placement changed as well.
Thus, with a bit more time for polishing details, the Iowas’ ASW protection system was improved over the South Dakotas class, between modified transverse bulkheads, thicker lower belt at the bottom joint, and larger internal bulge overall. Built later, USS Illinois and Kentucky even had extra modifications, since it was decided to eliminat knuckles along certain bulkheads, improving the whole system to an estimated 20%. The Montanas would gave gained a relatively similar system, albeit even more refined, as well as the other unbuilt last two Iowa class. All in all, with the wartime freeing extra tonnage, it was decided to simple extened the citadel aft to included the steering gear and power control room, way aft of the ship. That was somthing completely new and ensure a greater level of survivability. This extra space beyond the barbette also included refrigerated compartments, fruits and vegetable storage room as well. This extra protected space also increased the buoyancy of the ship.
The question of aerial bombing:
About aerial bombing, notably from high altitude with AP bombs, some still had doubts about their capacity to withstand that kind of damage. It was compounded by the develomment of the Norden bombsight, fearing something comparable of the Japanese side, fortunately, not only this was too late to make any extra armor additions, bu the war proved time and again that high altitude bombing against capital ship was a phantasm, and in the end, largely ineffective against maneuvering warships.
Main engine control room on USS New Jersey
The Iowas class having more hull space was granted extra room for a far larger powerplant than its predecessors: It consisted of eight Babcock & Wilcox boilers feeding four sets of double reduction cross-compound geared turbines. Each turbine drove its single shaft. For comparison, it was the same on the South Dakota class: Four GE/Westinghouse steam turbines and eight Babcock & Wilcox three-drum express type boilers. But the output differed. For such contract, Iowa and Missouri also were provided their four geared turbines each by General Electric, and Westinghouse for New Jersey and Wisconsin.
They were protected by flooding in a new way, longitudinally divided into not four (South Dakota class), but eight compartments, alternating boilers and engine rooms. Indeed, this design incorporate larger turbines and the machinery space too more volume, hence reducing the useful beam for the ASW protection. This ensured that at worst a single torpedo could only disable 1/4 of the engine power. HP turbines were rated at 2,000 rpm and the shaft, through reduction gearing, went down to 225 rpm to the propellers but varied with the speed setup.
Four “fire rooms” well separated by using the outer and inner turbines arrangements each housed two M-Type boilers. Their working pressure was 600 pounds per square inch (4,137 kPa; 42 kgf/cm2) and maximum superheater temperature being set at 850 °F (454 °C). These were of the same type as those on the South Dakotas.
The steam setup was directed by a mix for each set, of a high-pressure (HP) turbine combined with a low-pressure (LP) turbine in a 2-expansion system. The steam passes through the HP one at 2,100 rpm and whilst depleted, passes through the LP turbine, now at 50 psi (340 kPa). This was the most optimized way to deal with all produced steam. Leaving the low presure turbine, exhaust steam went to a condenser to be reciculated as feed water into the boilers. A closed loop which however imposed some additions from the internal waters tanks. But little was lost oustide leakage. Three evaporators producing some 60,000 US gallons daily or 3 liters per second were used to produced fresh water for the whole ship, also for the crew.
Despite similar configuration, this plant produced some 212,000 shp (158,000 kW) versus 130,000 shp (97,000 kW) on the South Dakota class. This explained the speed difference, also in part due to the better hull ratio. This enable the Iowa class a record 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h; 37.4 mph) fully loaded, and up to 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph) under normal displacement, not even “light” trials with minimum load (no ammo, food, water, reduced crew, and minimal oil). These kind of fancy speed trials were a peactime thing. We can only guess how these figures could have been outpassed, perhaps even 35 kts. After all, there was no governor.
To compare, this was about the same as the German Scharnhorst class, considered as “battlecruisers”. They were faster than the Richelieu (32), Litorrio (31), King George V (28), Yamato (28), and Bismarck (30). This was largely sufficient to deal with the Kongo class (30) anyway.
The range was also adequate for the pacific: They carried 8,841 long tons (8,983 t) of fuel oil. As a rsult, this gave them a calculated range of 15,900 nmi (29,400 km; 18,300 mi), at 17 knots cruise speed. As for agility, in addition to the outer propellers, steering counted on the two semi-balanced rudders. This enable a tactical turning diameter of 814 yards (744 m) at 30 knots, down to 760 yards (695 m) at 20 knots. Of course at 30-33, the Iowa class and their long gull bled more speed in hard turns than the South Dakota or North Carolina class.
The Iowas had four screw propellers: The outboard pair (4-bladed) were 18.25 ft (5.56 m) in diameter. The inboard pair (5-bladed) were 17 ft (5.18 m) in diameter, and more optimised for cruising. This different propeller design was adopted after comprehensive basin testing to evaluate the effect of propeller cavitation. There was a clear drop over 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph). The same studies went on improving the PT-Boats as well, as a completely different scale, and later cruisers of the Salem and Worcester class. The two inner shafts housed in skegs to blend into the hull and reduce the flow of water to the propellers. Thus also improved structural strength at the weaker stern.
Electrical generators onboard USS New Jersey
In either of the engine rooms were installed a pair of 1,250 kW Service Turbine Generators (SSTGs). Each provided non-emergency electrical power, rated at 10,000 kW on 450 volts (alternating current). There were an additional, backup two 250 kW emergency diesel generators in case the main engines were all flooded, to at leat produce minimal power to lighting, pumps and save the ship. It was also envisioned a new redundancy in case of battle-damage: Electrical circuits could be more easily repaired or bypassed. The lower decks alsh had a “Casualty Power System” with a new set if three-wire cables and wall outlets usable to reroute power. These were the first time such baskup was setup. Indeed during the second battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, USS South Dakota was left without power, due to battle damage and technical error at the worst critical moment. This elactrical power had room to spare to add extra AA, and did not necessitated much change until 1945.
Main Guns: Nine 16-in Mk12
Iowa’s 16-in guns and barbette scheme
The 16-in/50 could claim the coveted claim of best naval gun of WW2 (and perhaps of all times since no battleship has been done since). The closest contender would be the British BL 15-inches Mk I naval gun, which however is older. Although it shared some caracteristics with the 45 caliber used on the previous North Carolina and South Dakota, it was tailored to fire a new shell, the “super heavy” 16-in AP which was though enough to defeat any known armor for a decade, but started completely different, to fire the relatively light 2,240 pound (1,016.0 kg) AP Mark 5 instead when preliminary studies started 1938. But in 1939 it was swapped for the “super-heavy” 2,700 pound (1,224.7 kg) AP Mark 8 before any battleship of the new class was even laid down. By performances, this made them equal or superior to the larger 46 cm (18.1″) Japanese (Yamato class) while being much lighter, a prowess which also saved time and energy to find comprises during the design phase of the new battleships.
With modern electronics during their cold war career they showed also an amazing accuracy in multiple occasions. The gun was designed and built in record time to equip the Iowa class when completed, in 1943. Each Mark 7 gun was composed of a liner and A tube plus its jacket and three hoops, two locking rings. The tube had its own liner locking ring as well as a yoke ring and screw box liner. The bore was plated over in chromium to extent its life. The breech was classic, using the Smith-Asbury Welin opening downwards.
The Mark 7 weighted 267,904 lbs. (121 tons including breech) while measuring 816 in (20.7 m) and had a rate of fire of 2 rounds per minute, with a muzzle velocity dependong on the round: AP Mark 8 – 1800 to 2,500 fps (762 mps), the former with reduced charge, and the HC Mark 13 between 2,075 and 2,690 fps (820 mps). Its approximate barrel life was 290 rounds and each gun was provided with 130 rounds. More refinement were made during the cold war and new shells introduced.
Loading the gun
Ammunitions: This gun fired the following:
-AP Mark 8 Mod 0-8: 2,700 lbs. (1,225 kg)
-HC Mark 13 Mod 0-6: 1,900 lbs. (862 kg)
-HC Mark 14 Mod 0: 1,900 lbs. (862 kg)
-Practice rounds Target Mark 9-16: 2700 or 1,900 lbs. (861.8 kg)
The AP Mark 8 carried a 40.9 lbs. (18.55 kg) warhead
HC Mark 13/14 carried the same 153.6 lbs. (69.67 kg) warhead.
The HE Mark 19 was a special “shotgun” round carrying 400 M43A1 grenades
The standard battery seen on the North Carolina and South Dakota class: Twenty 5 in (127 mm)/38 caliber Mark 12 in twin turrets. They were placed along the superstructure, in two rows and superfiring, alternated position to reach the best possible arc of fire at about 180° either side. This did not changed during WW2, albeit AA artillery did.
These turrets were of the Mark 28 Mod 2 twin dual-purpose mount type, weighting 56,295 lb (70,894 kg) and capable of −15 degrees to 85 degrees. They fired AA, illumination, white phosphorus shells for night fighting at 15–22 rounds per minute. The shell was quickly manually loaded, each weighting 54 and 55 lb (24–25 kg). They could be associated with full charge, a full flashless charge, and reduced charge. Depending on these, muzzle velocity of ranged from 2,500 to 2,600 ft/s (790 m/s). Each turret was supplied by 450 rounds and life expectancy of the barrels was 4,600 rounds.
They were all ten directed by four Mark 37 fire control systems through remote power control (RPC).
AA Guns: Eighty 40mm/70
The Iowa class came out with fifteen quad 40mm/56 Mk 1/2 for USS Iowa herself, twenty for her sisters, posted, from bow to stern, two on either side of the footbridge on sup. deck, one optional on B turret, two upper in the bridge, six at different levels close to the aft funnel, two at the superstrcture’s end, one on X turret, and two at the bow. However Iow soon obtained four more to reach the same total as her sisters, with little changes over time. In 1946 they swapped for the 40mm/60 Mk 2 model, and kept them in the 1950s, but they dwindled down until 1955. After the great refits of the 1960s-80s, they completed disappeared while secondary 5-in/38 were redyced to three turrets either side. (this will be more detailed on the cold war article).
AA Guns: Fifty 20mm/70
USS Iowa was planned and completed with fifteen quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 (60), and the same number of 20mm/70 Mk 4 Oerlikon. On BB 62, 63 New Jersey & Missouri, this was ported twenty quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 (80) and forty-nine 20mm/70. In 1944 the potency of the Bofors on the Oerlikon was recoignised already. BB 64 Wisconsin had an interesing mix of twenty quad 40mm/56 but also two twin 20mm/70 Mk 4 AA guns and the same forty-nine dingle mount Mk 4. By late 1945, New Jersey, Missouri and Wisconsin had their light AA reduced to just 17 single 20mm/70. In 1946, they all retained 20 quad Bofors. This was comparable to the North Carolina (24 at best) or South Dakota class (18 at best), thanks to their largest deck surface.
The earliest search radars on USS Iowa as completed were the SK air-search radar and SG surface-search radars in 1943. The first was on the mainmast’s top and the other on the forward fire-control tower. The first was later replaced by the SK-2 air-search radar and a modified version of the SG surface-search radar. Of course, these models were again upgraded between 1945 and 1952 while a SP height finder was placed on the main mast.
Typically they carried in 1943-44 the following: One SK, Two SG, One Mk 3, two Mk 8, four Mk 4 FCS radars. BB 63 and 64 were completed with a Mk.27 instead of the Mk.3, and four new Mk 12.22 radars for BB 64 as completed.
In 1945, modifications were extensive, with the adoption of the SC-2, SK-2, SP, SU, two Mk 13, four Mk 12.22 FCS radars, Mk 27 radars, and the TDY ECM suite for USS Iowa (March). By 1946 the usual set was one SK, two SG, one SR, two Mk 13, one Mk 27, four Mk 12.22 radars and same TDY ECM suite.
In 1952, AN/SPS-10 surface-search radar and AN/SPS-6 air-search radar replaced the SK and SG radar systems, respectively. Two years later the SP height finder was replaced by the AN/SPS-8 height finder, which was installed on the main mast of the battleships.
Fire control radars:
-As commissioned, two Mk 38 gun fire control systems (FCS), with Mark 8 FC radar for the main battery.
-Four Mk 37 gun FCS with Mark 12 FC radars plus Mark 22 height finding radar (HFR) for the secondary (5-in) battery.
-Upgrades: Mark 13 instead of the Mark 8 for the main battery, Mark 25 instead of the Mark 12/22 for the secondary battery. Despite their age, they remained active with few electronics improvements for the whole career of theese ships.
These were perhapos the most advanced FCS of their day, with a range estimation prividing a clear accuracy advantage as shown during the engagement off Truk Atoll (16 February 1944), USS Iowa straddling out IJN Nowaki at 35,700 yards (32.6 km; 17.6 nmi) a record for the time.
Electronic countermeasures (ECM) was installed indeed at the end of the war for the first time, including SPT-1 and SPT-4 equipment, for passive ESM, with two DBM radar direction finders, three intercept receiving antennas to detect the radar source. The more active TDY-1 jammers were installed on either side of the fire control tower. Postwar they were among the first to receive the Mark III identification, friend or foe (IFF) system, then Mark X in 1955.
Vought OS-2U Kingfisher, USS Iowa 1944
Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk, VO1b, USS Iowa 1948
When first commissioned the Iowa-class battleships came with two aircraft catapults aft like previous designs, served by an axial crane. Initially plans were to adopt the Curtiss SOC-3 Seagull, but its poor performances meant it was replaced outrugh when commissioned with the Vought OS2U Kingfisher. In 1945 was adopted in replacement the smaller, faster Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk. They were used for artillery spotting but were used in between for search-and-rescue missions, saving the life of numerous aviators, notably when covering TF 38/58 in air raids. They were used despite better fire control systems now assisted by radars.
The early cold war saw the Seahawk still in use at least until 1947-48, but catapults were removed, freeing space used as a helicopter spot, the real revolution of the Korean War.
SC-1 Seahawk taxiing up to sea-sled, USS Iowa, July 1947
Crew, Stats, and other specifics
Port view of the Bridge
Flying bridge of the USS Missouri
Crew members painting the starboard anchor.
-The two anchors were of stockless bower type, 30,000 pounds. The chains counted “12 shots” (1,080 feet long) with the outboard swivel shot, 110 pounds for each link.
-Construction cost for each ship in 1940 was $90,000,000.
-Tank Capacity: 2.2 million gallons, fuel oil.
-Aviation gas. cap. 37,000 gallons of aviation fuel.
-Fresh water: 210,000 gallons with boilers recycled feed.
-All urinals and all but toilet on the Iowa class was flush with saltwater.
-Four meals were served, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and mid-rats (midnight)
-Two free service ice-cream machines
-834 tons of food stoared aboard for each long terme sortie
-7 tons daily consumed, fresh food (1.5t), frozen (2t) dry (3.5 tons).
-119 days at sea possible before resupply for food alone, not fuel or ammo
-Tailors, cobblers, barbers a board
-Fully wirking printing shop for the ship’s journal
-Library and Oratory
-Medical facilities: Dentist and full hospital
-Post office on 2nd Deck.
Standard camouflage scheme for the Iowa class in 1944. Measure 32 Design 7a
16-in guns barrel elevated
Old author’s illustration of the Iowa USS Iowa with her unique Measure 32 camouflage, Philippines sea, December 1944
New profile (to come soon)
Belt: 307+22, main deck 178, bulkheads 287, barbettes 439, turrets 495, CT 440mm, see notes
2,700 (WWII and Korea)
The Iowa class in service
USS Iowa (BB 61)
Built at the New York Naval Yard from 27 June 1940 to launch on 27 August 1942, she was completed and commissioned on 22 February 1943. After sea trials, she started her shakedown cruise and service with the Atlantic Fleet on the 24th, starting with the Chesapeake Bay, along the coast. She stopped in Argentia on 27 August in case the KMS Tirpitz made a sortie in the North Atlantic from Norway to prey on convoys.
On 25 October she was in maintenance at Norfolk NyD for post-cruise fixes. Next, she became the “presidential yacht”, carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Cairo and Tehran Conferences, fitted with a tailored bathtub as the president could not use a shower.
The staff also comprised Secretary of State Cordell Hull, CiC Admiral William D. Leahy and General George C. Marshall, CNO Ernest King, and for the Air Force Henry “Hap” Arnold plus Harry Hopkins. They landed at Mers El Kébir in Algeria on their way to Tehran escorted by the destroyer USS William D. Porter, known for its torpedo drill that turned into near catastrophy when a nactual loaded torpedo was sent into the path of USS Iowa, which was warned at the last minute and turned hard. Sje trained her main guns on William D. Porter in case…
Iowa completed her votage on 16 December back home. Roosevelt addressed the crew by stating it appeared Iowa was to him a ‘happy ship’ and wished the crew good luck.
USS Iowa in late 1943
USS iowa became flagship of BatDiv 7 (Admiral lee), departing on 2 January 1944 via the Panama Canal to join the Marshall Islands compaign. Until 3 February she escorted TF 58 for their air strikes under RADM Frederick C. Sherman’s TG 58.3 focusing on Kwajalein and Eniwetok. Next, she accompanied carriers assaulting Truk in the Caroline Islands. She was however detached with other battleships on 16 February 1944 to prey on Japanese shipping around Truk, notably on their northern retreat path. With USS New Jersey, she sank the Japanese light cruiser Katori fleeing after Operation Hailstone. One of the rare surface engagements of these battleships.
On 21 February she was now part of TF 38 (renamed TF 58, 5th Fleet) for operations against Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam, in the Marianas. On 18 March 1944, USS Iowa as flagship of Admiral Willis A. Lee, shelled Mili Atoll (Marshall). In return she was hit by two Japanese 4.7 in (120 mm) shell, with little damage. Back in TF 58 on 30 March 1944 she covered new air strikes (Palau-Woleai).
Until 28 April, she escorted the carriers hitting Hollandia, Aitape, Wake in support of landings in Aitape and Tanahmerah, New Guinea. Next this was the second Truk raid on 29-30 April, then Ponape (Carolines) on 1st May.
New strikes followed on Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Rota, and Pagan Island, on 12 June and she was detached to shell IJN installations on Saipan and Tinian (13–14 June).
Battle of the Philippine Sea, Leyte, and Campaign
USS Iowa in 1944
On the 19th June she took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea as part of TF 58 escort, put her AA to good use by repelling four massive air raids, claiming three enemy aircraft alone, many more assisted. She was part of the pursuing fleet claiming a torpedo plane and assisting another. In July, she covered other raids off Marianas, notably landings on Guam. She left Eniwetok with the 3rd Fleet and covered the landings on Peleliu (17 September). Next, she covered more raids in the Central Philippines before the invasion. On 10 October she was off Okinawa for air strikes on the Ryukyu Islands, Formosa (Taiwan). She was back for raids against Luzon (18 October) and until MacArthur’s landing on Leyte two days later.
Then came Operation Shō-Gō 1, a last ditch attack by three fleets which became the Battle of Leyte at large. Iowa escorted TF 38 attacking Japanese Central Force (Admiral Kurita) going through the Sibuyan Sea. The fleet was attacked, and retreated, which left Admiral William “Bull” Halsey to send Iowa and other ships with TF 38 in hot pursuit of the Northern Force retreating from Cape Engaño. On 25 October 1944, as this retrating fleet came into range Iowa’s guns, it was learned the Central Force was just falling on Taffy 3 off Samar. TF 38 was forced to reverse course, but the 7th Fleet resisted fiercely forcing the Japanese to retreat before they could be met by Halsey and his battleships. The great showdown of capital ships was avoided there. Iowa remained afterwards in the Philippines to cover more strikes against Luzon and Formosa.
However on 18 December, TF 38 was hit by Typhoon Cobra while 300 mi (480 km) east of Luzon. The core of the storm came with little warning and the task force was caught pants down with many destroyers ttrying to refuel from larger ships. Hurricane-force winds claimed USS Hull, Monaghan, and Spence, damaging a cruiser, five aircraft carriers, and three more destroyers, 790 officers and men lost as well as 146 planes. Iowa reported no injuries, biut lost her Vought Kingfisher, washed overboard, and had a shaft damaged. This required her bacl to the US after some hasty repairs in a floating drydock. She was back in San Francisco on 15 January 1945. The overhaul Iowa saw her bridge enclosed, addition of AA, new search radars and fire-control.
Last Operations against Japan
USS Iowa in repairs, floating drydock ABSD-2 in Manus, admiralty Islands, 28 December 1944
Iowa was back at sea on 19 March 1945, bound for Okinawa (15 April), relieving sister ship New Jersey as flagship. From 24 April, she supported carrier operations there. She went on with TF 58 for strikes off southern Kyūshū (25 May-13 June) on the Japanese mainland. Next raids on northern Honshū and Hokkaidō and more striked on 14–15 July this time with direct shore shelling: She devastated Muroran Industrial complex in Hokkaidō. Hitachi (Honshū) was next in her scopes, between 17-18 July. She bombarded Kahoolawe on 29-30 July and escorted the last fast carrier strikes in early august until ceasefire orders were received on 15 August.
On the 27th, with USS Missouri (“Mighty Mo”) she entered Sagami Bay for the surrender of the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal, then Tokyo Bay assistined, with sailors from Missouri on her board to make room for numerous officials, for the surrender ceremony on USS Missouri. She was Halsey’s flagship for the surrender ceremony on 2 September and covered operations of the occupying force. Next, she took part in Operation Magic Carpet, with GIs and freed POWs aboard brought bacck home, departing Tokyo Bay on 20 September.
He cold war service will be seen in a later post.
USS New Jersey (BB 62)
USS New Jersey and Richelieu (bg) on 7 September 1943 off Hampton Road. The two fastest battleships at the time. Richeloeu just joined the allies, being refitted in New York, with New Jersey was brand new, commissioned in May.
Marshall Islands Campaign
USS New Jersey was Launched on 7 December 1942 at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, commissioned on 23 May 1943. Her fitting out completed, she trained her initial crew in the Atlantic, making her first shakedown cruise in the Caribbean Sea. This process went on from May until December 1943. On 7 January 1944 she was assigned to the Pacific fleet, and went through the Panama Canal bound for Funafuti in Ellice Islands, arriving on the 22th. She was assigned to the Fifth Fleet, and met with Task Group 58.2 for the Marshall Islands Campaign. Like her other sisters her main tasks eere to screen aircraft carriers while TG 58.2 flew strikes against Kwajalein and Eniwetok until 2 February before the landings taking place on 31 January.
USS New Jersey became flagship on 4 February, while in Majuro Lagoon, varrying the mark of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, 5th Fleet. She took part in Operation Hailstone, a massive attack on Truk Lagoon, Carolines. It went on at the same time as the assault on Kwajalein with the goal of achieving the conquest of the Marshalls. By 17-18 February, the raid claimed among others two Japanese light cruisers and four destroyers. USS New Jersey destroyed a trawler by gunfire and co-claimed the destroyer IJN Maikaze. She also claimed at least an enemy aircraft before being back in the Marshalls on 19 February.
On 17 March and until 10 April she stayed with USS Lexington(ii), RADM Marc Mitscher’s flagship during the attack on Mille, and joined TG 58.2 for a strike in the Palaus, also bombarding directly Woleai. Admiral Spruance left for USS Indianapolis and she sailed from Majuro on 13 April and until 4 May 1944 in another strike, returning to Majuro. These hit Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay and Humboldt Bay in New Guinea but also Truk again (29–30 April). She claimed two enemy torpedo bombers these days and shelled Ponape on 1 May.
Mariannas Islands Campaign
USS New Jersey shelling Tinian in June 1944
Before being prepared for the invasion of the Marianas, USS New Jersey on 6 June took part on Admiral Mitscher’s Task Force for preinvasion air strikes starting on 12 June, claiming an enemy torpedo bomber, bombarding next Saipan and Tinian to prepare for the landings on 15 June. The Japanese prepared massive counter-attack, their formations shadowed by US submarines into the Philippine Sea. Admiral Spruance and Admiral Mitscher gather their forces and went forward in interception. USS New Jersey opened fire on 19 June 1944 on the remaining Japanese aircraft that went through the massive USN air screen, part of the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
She played her part in the “Marianas Turkey Shoot”, the fleet learning that the IJN Taihō and Shōkaku had been claimed by USS Albacore and Cavalla, plus USS Hiyō bya aviation from USS Belleau Wood and two more Japanese carriers and a battleship damaged. USS New Jersey AA crews managed to shot down any aproaching aircraft before they could engage.
USS new Jersey’s AA was hard at work during the Battle of the Philippines sea.
USS New Jersey crowned the Marianas campaign by strikes on Guam and Palaus before returning to Pearl Harbor (9 August). She became there flagship of Admiral William F. Halsey Jr. and on the 24th, flagship of the 3rd Fleet. On 30 August, she departed again to join Ulithi, her new advanced base for eight months of the Philippines Campaign. She escorted TF 38, the fast carrier task force on striked in the Philippines but also Okinawa, and Formosa. By September she escorted the force striking the Visayas, southern Philippines, Manila and Cavite, Panay, Negros, Leyte, and Cebu.
By October a sweep was done to hit Okinawa and Formosa while Leyte landings were prepared from 20 October.
This trigger the IJN’s last gamble. This almost succeeded as the northern force drew away Halsey’s force despite her was tasked initially to protect the landings. Center Force entered the gulf through San Bernardino Strait and fell on Taffy 3 protecting the landings. Halsey meanwhile reversed course, having sank by aviation four carriers, a destroyer and cruiser, New Jersey meanwhile rushed south to try to catch Center force, already defeat and retreated. Like Iowa, she was declined her duel with IJN capital ships.
USS New Jersey during a stiff storm in the Western Pacific, 8 November 1944
USS New Jersey was back in close protection of the fast carriers fleet near San Bernardino, on 27 October 1944. Dhe covered new striked on central and southern Luzon. Two days after a fierce Kamikaze attack followed, and USS New Jersey claimed a plane aiming for USS Intrepid. The carrier’s rounds landed by accident on USS New Jerdey, wounding three. On 25 November she claimed three more Japanese planes, one however hitting USS Hancock. Intrepid was jit by another kamikaze hit by New Jersey gunners. She did the same for anothers targeting USS Cabot.
On 18 December 1944, TF 38 was badly hit by Typhoon Cobra. As a fleet flagship, USS New Jersey had a highly experienced weatherman aboard, Commander G. F. Kosco from the MIT and expert on hurricanes in the West Indies, but he completely missed the signs of the sudden typhoon. The battleship was hit on 18 December, but New Jersey remained largely unscathed. She was in Ulithi on Christmas Eve, visited by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz.
USS New Jersey from 30 December 1944 to 25 January 1945 accompanied carriers hitting Formosa, Okinawa, and Luzon, the Indo-China coast, Hong Kong, Swatow and Amoy, and again Formosa and Okinawa. Back at Ulithi on 27 January Halsey left New Jersey, replaced on the 29 by RADM Admiral Oscar C. Badger II, BatDiv7.
Iwo Jima and Okinawa
She was present for the attack on Iwo Jima, screeing CVs attacks on 19–21 February, and took part in the first major carrier raid on Tokyo 25 February, being attacked by air. She later was seen in the conquest of Okinawa (14 March-16 April). Her AA gunners did wonders to repel Kamikaze strikes, haing both seaplanes budy rescuing downed pilots. In all she claimed three assisting in many more.
On 24 March 1945 she was committed to heavy bombardment, on the invasion beaches. After this, she was sent home of a major overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. This was over on 4 July as she departed for San Pedro, then to Pearl Harbor and Eniwetok, then to Guam, arriving on 14 August, as flagship of the 5th Fleet (Spruance). She learned the end of the war and went to Manila and Okinawa before heading for Tokyo Bay 17 September as flagship for successive commanders of the occupation forces until replaced on 28 January 1946 by USS Iowa. She took part in Operation Magic Carpet with circa 1,000 troops, landed at San Francisco on 10 February. She would be decommissioned in 1948. She earned 9 battle stars for her WW2 service, but will earn more in the future.
USS Missouri (BB 63)
BB 63 was built at Brooklyn Navy Yard, laid down on 6 January 1941 and launched on 29 January 1944, christened by Margaret Truman, daughter of Harry S. Truman a senators from the namesake state. She was fitted-out work quickly, commissioned four month afterwards on 11 June with Captain William Callaghan in command.
After initial sea trials off New York from 10 July, she made a trip to Chesapeake Bay to starte her shakedown cruise whilst doing initialtraining, in company of the new “large cruiser” USS Alaska, and destroyers in case of U-Boats. Once done, she headed on 11 November via the Panama Canal to San Francisco. Fitting-out work, with post-fix maintenance were carried out at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, notably to serve as fleet flagship.
On 14 December, she sailed from San Francisco to Ulithi, the gathering point for the fleet in the Carolines, meeting it on 13 January 1945. She became HQ for VADM Marc A. Mitscher and was assigned to Task Force 58 on its way on 27 January for a strike on Tokyo, in preparation of Iwo Jima’s future assault. As her sister she was tasked of AA screen duties as part of TG 58.2 (USS Lexington, Hancock, San Jacinto). She also resupplied her escorting destroyers as oilers were left behind.
From 16 February her units started operations off Kyushu before returning to Iwo Jima, which invasion started on 19 February. USS Missouri at her first evening shot down an incoming lone Japanese bomber (likely Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu “Helen”). TF 58 left the area in March to resupply in Ulithi while Missouri was reassigned to the Yorktown task group (TG 58.4) and was underway again from 14 March. On the 18th, the battleship claimed/co-assisted in downing four Japanese aircraft. During a massive Kamikaze counter-attack USS Franklin was badly damaged, Missouri being detached to cover her withdrawal. She was back on the 23-24 reassigned to the preparatory bombardment of Okinawa as part of TF 59 with her sisters USS New Jersey and Wisconsin. They rained steel on the southern coast of Okinawa on 24 March, diverting attention as the main landing was on the western side. She spent 180 rounds that day and returned in protection of TG 58.4.
On 11 April she repelled another kamikaze attack, but one wetn through and hit her side, below the main deck. A gasoline fire on deck rapidly ignited but was suppressed. Damage was light and she stayed on station. On the 17 another attack left two crewmen badly wounded after one Kamikaze exploded on the stern crane and ended on the wake. She returned with TF 58 to Ulithi on 5 May having 5-6 six aicraft kills and six assisted. On 9 May she left Ulithi for Apra Harbor in Guam arriving on the 18th, visited by William F. Halsey Jr. which made the ship his flagship for the whole TF 38.
On 21 May, she sailed back to Okinawa, arriving six days afte, and shelling positions around the island. She soon left for the north, covering more air strikes on Kyūshū (2-3 June). She went through a typhoon (5–6 June) largely unscaved. Operations resumed on 8 June and retired to Leyte Gulf (13 June). The fleet returned to the Japanese Home Island on 1 July, Missouri being integrated into 38.4. Attacks started on 10 July and went to Honshū and Hokkaidō on 13-14 July while on the 15 she left to join the detached TG 38.4.2 sent shelling industrial facilities in Muroran on the northernmost island of Hokkaido. A second mission was done in the night of 17–18 July with HMS King George V. Next they were back as carrier screens. This time for raids on and around Tokyo, later resuming attacks on northern Japan (9 August). The A-Bomb of Nagasaki, then second, and Soviet Invasion resulted in a reddition announced on 15 August.
For the next two weeks preparations commenced for the occupation of Japan and on the 21, Missouri sent 200 officers and men to USS Iowa, to form a large landing party, in Tokyo, at first tasked to find weapons and gathered them. Captain Murray was informed that his ship would host the surrender ceremony setup on 31 August. Crew started frantic preparations, including cleaning the decks and painting everything anew. “Mighty Mo” entered Tokyo Bay on 27 August, escorted by IJN Hatsuzakura. While in Kamakura a courier gave them the flag flew by Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, displayed during the ceremony. On 29 August al ships had dropped anchor, Missouri symbolically close where Perry was 92 years prior. Poor weather had the ceremony pushed back to 2 September.
Admiral Chester Nimitz boarded BB 63 on the morning, with Gral Doug MacArthur as Supreme Commander a bit later, and Japanese representatives led by PM Mamoru Shigemitsu barel ten minites later at 08:56. MacArthur opened the 23-minute surrender ceremon with a well prepared discourse before the signing and by 09:30 Japanese emissaries departed. On 5 September, Halsey made USS South Dakota his new flagship and Missouri departed Tokyo Bay to take part in Operation Magic Carpet landing in Guam, and then Hawaii, on 20 September. Later she was made flagship of Admiral Nimitz on the 28th, for a vivtory reception. Later she would depart Pearl Harbor for the East Coast, New York City (23 October) as flagship Atlantic Fleet (Admiral Jonas Ingram), firing a 21-gun salute for Truman during Navy Day ceremonies. Soon after some cadet training she was sent in reserve. The rest of her career is truly amazing. For her service in WW2 she earned eight battle stars.
Battle Honors painted on her bridge, as preserved today.
USS Wisconsin (BB 64)
USS Wisconsin completed her trials, initial training, both in the Chesapeake Bay before post-fixes and depart Norfolk on 7 July 1944 for the British West Indies. She made her shakedown cruise off Trinidad and returned to the yard for alterations. On 24 September 1944 she sailed for the West Coast via Panama and arrived in the Pacific Fleet on 2 October, hitting Hawaii for local training exercises before proceeding to the Western Caroline Islands, and dropping anchor at Ulithi to joined the 3rd Fleet, on 9 December, preparing for her first wartime mission, months after completion.
She was on time for the reconquest of the Philippines and was planned to cover landings on the southwest coast of Mindoro (Luzon) so she was assigned to protect the 3rd Fleet’s Fast Carrier Task Force or TF 38, launching raids over Manila and surrounding bases. On 18 December TF 38 was hit by Typhoon Cobra while trying to refuel at sea some 300 mi (480 km) east of Luzon. There was considerable damage on several carriers and several destroyers lost, but USS Wisconsin only had to report two injured sailors after the typhoon.
She next covered the occupation of Luzon, troops hitting Lingayen Gulf, while BB 64′ AA batteries watched over TF 37 launching air strikes against Formosa, Luzon, and Nansei Shoto in an attempt to destroyer Japanese air power there on 3–22 January 1945, including a sortie in the South China Sea.
New raids were done on Saigon and Camranh Bay in French Indochina and the raids claimed 41 Japanese ships, wrecking the docks port installations and destroying aircraft facilities around. Formosa was hit by six raids, the last on 21 January. Raids were also performed on Hong Kong, Canton, Hainan Island plus Okinawa. Afterwards, USS Wisconsin was reassigned to the 5th Fleet (Admiral Raymond A. Spruance) was the new commander. She covered TF 58 moving directly for raids on the Tokyo area. On 16 February, they arrived by heavy weather a achived surprise, launching devastating raids. During the air counter attack, USS Wisconsin and other escorts shot down altogether some 322 enemy planes (some claimed by fighters), while Helldivers and Avengers, Corsairs claimed 177 more on the ground. Japanese shipping was also crippled in the whole area and installations.
Iwo Jima and Okinawa
Wisconsin next moved with TF 58 to Iwo Jima, arriving on 17 February, this time leaving her main battery bark in anger in preparatory bombardment and direct support for the landings from 19 February. She left with TF 58 for more raids on 25 February, to Honshū before retiring for resplenishment to Ulithi on 14 March. Later southern Honshū was hit, Kure and Kobe devastated, leaving dozens of ships dead in the warer. On 18–19 March now just 100 mi (160 km) southwest of Kyūshū, TF 58 repeated air strikes in depth. However a vigorous Kamikaze attack left USS Franklin crippled. Whike USS Wisconsin’s AA barrels were cooling, the fleet retired, while repelling another Japanese attack with 48 Kamikaze.
On 24 March, Wisconsin started her first naval bombardment on the Japanese soil. She trained her 16 in guns on Okinawa. Japanese positions and installations in all marked areas for landings were reduced to rubble. Meanwhile, a last-ditch operation was underway, in which were committed the remnants of the IJN, notably the mighty battleship Yamato. However, none of the battleships ever had to be detached and seek combat with the giant, which was intercepted and dealt with by a deluge of ordnance from all the air groups sent.
Meanwhile though, there was anothr masive Kamikaze attack, for which the Combat air patrol shot down 15, the rest being dealt for close and personal by the massed AA gunfire. Still, one managed to crash on USS Hancock. On 11 April, Wisconsin and other units had to fend of other kamikaze attacks, which grew in numbers and intensity and reached a treshold, leaving the crew shaking. This time again, 17 were claimed by the CAP, 12 by ship’s AA. This was not the last though as another force of 151 Kamikaze hit TF 58, there again dealt for between the CAP and AA, radar helping. They still managed to hit USS Intrepid, Bunker Hill, and Enterprise along this period.
Last raids on Japan
By 4 June, TF 58 was hit by a typhoon -again- and again USS Wisconsin rode out the storm unscathed. Operations were resumed on 8 June on Kyūshū. Ny that time, Kamikaze missions were rare in between with all that was flyable to be mustered and thrown into the cauldron: 29 planes were dealt with. Wisconsin’s floatplanes rescued a downed pilot from USS Shangri-La also.
Next, Wisconsin went to Leyte Gulf on 13 June for repairs and replenishment. On 1 July she was back in Japanese home waters for more carrier air strikes, with particular attentio to the Tokyo area. The fleet went even closer to shore since Japanese response was anemic.
On 16 July, USS Wisconsin at last fired her main battery directy at the steel mills and oil refineries at Muroran in Hokkaido. She also flattened industrial facilities in the Hitachi Miro area on Honshū and NW of Tokyo, joined also by British battleships of the BPF. After the aviation devastated Yokosuka and sunk Nagato the fleet was free to ream the coast unempeded, into August, the lat attack taking place on 13 August, and an attomic attack combioned with the Russian invasion of Mandchuria led the Japanese surrender on the 15th.
USS Wisconsin took her guard duties if the occupying force entering Tokyo Bay on 5 September to see her sister USS Missouri on which was signed the surrender earlier. It was time for assessment. Since departing home she had sailed some 105,831 mi (170,318 km) and claimed three enemy planes shot by herself, assited dozens others on four occasions. As usual practice she also her own screening destroyers some 250 times. Wisconsin earned five battle stars for her World War II service.
The unbuilt Iowas, 1940
USS Illinois (BB-65)
USS Illinois in construction, 1944
The Navy initially planned to develop the previous alternative design using the escalator clause, lower but better protected and armed, designated “BB-65” (Montana class). However with industrial mobilization in 1940 the Navy intstead deided to authiroze the next BB-65 and BB-66 ax extra Iowa class design. USS Illinois and her sister sister ship diverged as calling for all-welded construction to saved weight. They were powered by four General Electric steam turbines, same armoured change, and for armament, the same but eighty 40 mm Bofors AA guns and forty-nine 20 mm Oerlikon AA guns.
Since the Missouri the frontal bulkhead armor rose to 14.5 in (368 mm). There were also a better protection for the torpedo defense system increasing its potency for 20% compared to USS Iowa, also from Missouri.
BB-65 was assigned the name USS Illinois by the Preliminary Design Branch at BuC&R. Funding was authorized though the Two-Ocean Navy Act by the U.S. Congress, on 19 July 1940, being the fifth Iowa-class ship. Contract was assigned on 9 September 1940 as BB 66 USS Kentucky and part of the funding came from the auction of “King Neptune”, a Hereford swine which toured Illinois as a fundraiser ($19 million were earned as war bonds).
Construction had been put on hold after the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, leaving time for BuShips to work on an aircraft carrier conversion proposal for both (see later). At the end of calculation it was estimated thay would have carried lass aircraft than the Essex class and the latter needed less time to be built than the full conversion. So they were soon reverted as battleships and construction resume, albeit at the lowest priority.
Eventually, BB 65 was laid down at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 6 December 1943 with an expected completion at around 1 May 1945, but it was not so by 11 August 1945 when cancelled, 22% complete Stricken on 12 August 1945 her hulk was to be half-completed in roder to test nuclear weapons on her. The $30 million to complete her was too much for the admiralty and it was decided to instead to BU her on slipway. But for this she had to wait in the dockyard until September 1958 before proceeding.
Her bell is now a treasured item of the Memorial Stadium, at the University of Illinois, loaned by the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington NyD to the Naval Reserve Officers (NROTC) at the university, rung for football team scores.
USS Kentucky (BB-66)
USS Kentucky’s hull in 1950, floated out of drydock to allow USS Missouri to be repaired after runing aground
USS Kentucky (BB-66) had the same construction as her sistr BB 65 (Illinois). Construction was suspended to decide if a conversion as aicraft carrier was worthy or not, and when proved the second case, she was laid down at Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, earlier than her sister, on 7 March 1942. Construction was given low priority, and she was still not launched when suspended in August 1945. This was resumed for launch on 20 January 1950, just to be broken up in Baltimore in 1959.
Carrier conversion project
The first suspension arrived after her keel was laid down, in June 1942, just after Midway. Her bottom structure was launched, feeing the place for LST construction, on 10 June. After CV conversion idea was abandoned by BuShips her completion as battleship was resume, but at very low priority. Work resumed on 6 December 1944 when her keel structure was moved to Dry Dock 8. By now her completion was estomated by late 1946. In December 1945n the war has ended and some proposed she would be completed as a dedicated anti-aircraft battleship, as the French Jean Bart, and construction was suspended again in August 1946 for BuShip to study the question. No decision was made ultimately, and construction resumed again on 17 August 1948, going on until 20 January 1950, but that this point the admiralty expected much in missiles and estimated her days has passed. She was floated out of her drydock to repair Missouri in her place.
Project SCB 19 (1948)
Project SCB 19 concerned her as a prototype for a missile-carrier conversion that would also be ported on the the incomplete USS Hawaii. The idea was to combined her heavy artillery and guided missiles, now refined. Kentucky was chosen for this conversion, the first “guided missile battleship”. It would have consisted only in the installation of two twin arm launchers RIM-2 Terrier SAM on the aft deckhouse, and associated AN/APG-55 pulse doppler interception radar, AN/SPS-2B air search radar. At that stage, Kinetucky was about 73% complete, basically up to the second deck so that the installation of the missile system, reloads, storage spaces and exlectronics would have only be additions to that point. Some alwo wanted to explore the addition of eight SSM-N-9 Regulus II or SSM-N-2 Triton nuclear-tipped cruise missiles to justiyfy her large hull.
Project SBC 19 was eventually authorized in 1954, USS Kentucky becomin BBG-1, with a conversion complete as estimated in 1956. But it was cancelled based on maintenance cost. It was estimated that it wouyld make more sense on a heavy cruiser instead, which became the Boston-class. And it proved wise as rapid advances in missiles and electronics soon rendered them obsolete and costly to operate. In between a smaller “fleet escort” type could carry a more balanced missile array for the same task as a fraction of the cost. Heavy guns however were still in demand.
Second missile conversion project (1956)
So that led to the last twist in this story: By 1956 she would had carried two Polaris nuclear ballistic missile launchers (sixteen reloads), four RIM-8 Talos SAM launchers (2x 80 in storage) and 12x RIM-24 Tartar SAM (504 missiles), which were all new systemsn while keeping her lain artillery and protection. But by July 1956 an estimation for completion placed it to July 1961, and it was cancelled under the Kennedy administration based on cost concerns. (Again, there were still four battleships in reseve for the artillery role, and she was costly in maintenance as a missile platform, even large).
Therefore after all this time, her keel being laid down in 1942, USS Kentucky was never completed and became a hulk in the mothball fleet; Philadelphia NyD, until 1958. There was another surprising twist: Hurricane Hazel hit the reserve and on 15 October 1954 her moorings ceded, and she broke free, to run aground in the Delaware River. In 1956 she was removed and partly dismantled to serve as parts reserve, to repair USS Wisconsin damaged in a collision with USS Eaton, on 6 May 1956. At last she was stricken on 9 June 1958 and sold for scrap at Boston Metals in Baltimore, on 31 October, towed there to be BU on February 1959.
Her boilers and turbine sets were recycled into the new Sacramento-class fast combat support ships (Sacramento and Camden in 1961-64). Sailors of these ships passed o their precious experience to those aboard New Jersey during the Vietnam War and toured all remaining Iowa class vessels as they were modernized in the 1980s.
The never built Montanas, 1942
USS Montana (BB-67) was planned to be the lead ship of this second class, divering by having a second aft turret (so eight in all) for 80,000 tons displacement, and a much better protection an AA, while keeping the same speed. She was assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard as BB-67 but her keel, like the others, was never laid down and she was canceled. Montana was the only US state never to have a battleship named after her. USS Ohio (BB-68) was to be the second of the class, ordered to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. USS Maine (BB-69) was the third, assigned to the New York Navy Yard. USS New Hampshire (BB-70) was the fourth Montana-class, assigned to the New York Navy Yard, and USS Louisiana (BB-71) was the fifth and final of the class, assigned to Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia and last ever BB (Battleship) ever authorized for construction. We will return there on a comprehensive study in a standalone post.
During the Korean War, the battleships provided naval gunfire support (NGFS) for United Nations forces, and in 1968, New Jersey shelled Viet Cong and Vietnam People’s Army forces in the Vietnam War. All four were reactivated and modernized at the direction of the United States Congress in 1981, and armed with missiles during the 1980s, as part of the 600-ship Navy initiative. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Missouri and Wisconsin fired missiles and 16-inch (406 mm) guns at Iraqi targets.
Costly to maintain, the battleships were decommissioned during the post-Cold War draw down in the early 1990s. All four were initially removed from the Naval Vessel Register, but the United States Congress compelled the Navy to reinstate two of them on the grounds that existing NGFS would be inadequate for amphibious operations. This resulted in a lengthy debate over whether battleships should have a role in the modern navy. Ultimately, all four ships were stricken from the Naval Vessel Register and released for donation to non-profit organizations. With the transfer of Iowa in 2012, all four are part of non-profit maritime museums across the US.
USS Iowa prior to launch. This bow design was unique to this class.
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Designing the Iowa Class Battleships – Battleship New Jersey. Generally one of the largest resource on all topics related to the class, by Ryan Szimanski.
BB New Jersey channel: What the Navy doesn’t like about the Iowas
The American Dreadnaught (1968): The USS New Jersey Is De-Mothballed And Recommissioned To Join The Fleet For Service In Vietnam. Written By Battleship Historian Richard Hough, Narrated By Martin Gabel, Musical Score By Thom George.
The subject has been well covered. Given the importance of the ships, some individuals went up to create 1/72 scratchbuilt models, and some manufacturers provided difficult parts for them, such as Takom with its USS Missouri Battleship Mk.7 16″/50 Gun Turret No. 1. Next scales are more reasonable: Strike Models made these in 1:144 (many parts also exist in 3D printing), Sterling Models ventured into a 1:192 apparently never released and a collector now but made another with new tooling. GPM made recently a 1:200 and another with laser cut frames as well as Trumpeter. Then came the awaited 1:350 with Blue Ridge Models, HobbyBoss, JoyYard, Life-Like, Monogram, Otaki, Pyro, Revell, Tamiya, Trumpeter, VeryFire, and then 1:400 by Academy, Hapdong Tech, JSC. 1:450 by FROG, Hasegawa. 1:535 with Advent and Atlantis, Revell and Revell-Monogram, the rare Monogram 1:545, Monogram 1:566. 1:600 by ARII and Aurora, CC LEE and Kangnam, Micro Ace. 1:665 by Otaki, Kellogg’s, Monogram, Pyro. Then the unmistakable 1:700 by Academy, Fujimi, Pit-road, Tamiya, Trumpeter, VEE Hobby, Very Fire. Then 1:720 by Revell. Also the super-rare 1:888 Missouri by Ideal Model Aeroplanes and Supplies; and more conventional 1:900 Academy, Kitech, Lindbergh, Metal earth and Mini Hobby, Nichimo (part of a package of ships), Zhengdefu and a cohort of smaller ones, 1:1014, 1:1200, 1:1250, 1:2000, 1:1550, and countless parts and photo-etch. A review of 1:600 class kits
The “wooden marvels” were known by many names during WW2, but the official and generic “PT-Boat”, meaning “Patrol, Torpedo (Boat)”. They were an unknown type for the USN in WW1, as there was no need for such “naval dust” when a large battlefleet was available mostly to project power. Therefore, it’s the only the conditions of war that urged the need for these small vessels, although the acquisition process started already back in 1938. Three standards emerged from a three years long competition, Elco, Higgins and Huckins. Wooden-built not to tax strategic materials, they were deployed in all theater of operations, not only the Pacific but Mediterranean, and even the Channel. Small, but well armed and fast, they proved able to perform a large variety of missions, but they also paid a heavy price for their dangerous close quarters missions. PT-Boats certainly played their contribution to the allied victory in WW2, but nothing comparable to the rest of the fleet, submarines included.
Modest and relatively inexpensive, PT-Boats’s inflated fame was largely earned in the Pacific, especially in the Solomons and Philippines. They proved able to distrupt traffic within the confines of innumerable islands, lagoons and archipelagos of the Southeast Pacific in close collaboration with US Marines. They were the supreme “jacks of all trades”, from ASW patrol to skirmishing, ground support, spec ops, troop transport, supply, AA cover, and raiding deeply into enemy lines. The “barge busters” also rarely engaged destroyers or even cruisers, but their inflated successes in early 1942 needs to be toned down.
The shining moment of the 800+ PT Boats ever built was “only” the sinking of IJN Terutsuki off Guadalcanal. This was meagre for thousands of sorties, but overall axis losses amounted to hundreds of units sunk and a thousand more or less seriously damaged, most being light vessels. They were also significantly larger than other equivalents of the allies, the small Thornycroft MTBs, MAS from Baglietto or G5s from Tupolev, in fact closer to the British Fairmiles, Italian MSs or Russian D3s.
These generous dimensions and flexibility meant it was possible to install almost “a la carte” armaments and equipments depending of the unit commander’s tasks at hand. They proved modular enough for these quick reconfigurations, and by 1943, all had radars to operate by night. Their flexibility meant they could operate from a great number of bases scattered over the theater of operations, sometimes close to known IJA garrisons or bases. They also earned dedicated ships (converted Barnegat class ships) for maintenance, supply and repairs, ranging from five to 40 PT-Boats depending of the squadrons present. Overall, although not impressive compared to larger ships or submarines, manned by courageous, resourceful crews, they played their part into sometimes seriously disrupting enemy operations, wherever they went, and thus securing their place in the USN while not taxing traditional military yards or using strategic materials.
WWI US Navy MTBs
WWI Hickam’s PT Boat
Hickmans’s Sea-sled broadside view in San Diego, California
When the war broke out in August 1914, the US want nothing of an involvement but prospect for possible exports for the belligerents, also covering the USN own needs. William Albert Hickman, a Canadian designersettled in California, wrote for his own initiative procedures and tactics for a fast and agile (and seaworthy!) torpedo motorboat using his system, to be used against battleships and cruisers. This proposal went to Rear Admiral David W. Taylor at the time directing the USN Bureau of Construction and Repair (C&R, later BuShips) and the next month Hickman received a greenlight to draft plans of a 50-footer (15 m) “Sea Sled” torpedo boat, with an inverted vee planing hull (an early form of catamaran, using partly wing-in-ground effects), which he designed, as he was also a small boat builder. He submitted this design to the Navy, hoping of some contract, and in a return letter by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, the latter explained he had to reject it, based on the fact the US was not at war, not on technical grounds.
Hickman, undeterred, sent his proposal to the British Admiralty in October, which was interested but expressed doubts that such as small boat, even pushed to 60 feet, would be enough to cope with the north sea. Hickman, still willing to obtain a contract, built on private funding a demonstrator, which was a ’41-footer’ (12 m) carrying a single 18-inch Whitehead Mark 5 torpedo, common at the time. In February 1915, he demonstrated it in a show run at 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph), in winter so in rough sea condition off Boston. It was attended by both US and foreign representatives. No contract followed. The British Admiralty representative there however, Lt. G.C.E. Hampden, reunited back home in summer of 1915 the Lieutenants Bremner, and Anson to discuss the possibility of developing such boat at home. They approached John I. Thornycroft for an equivalent, a process that ultimately led to the CMB line or “Coastal Motor Boat” of which a serie entered service from April 1916.
British 1916 CMB, plan and in action
In August 1915 though, the US General Board approved the test of a single experimental small torpedo boat which could carried by rail or a regular steamer on deck. Thie boat, redignated C-250 was awarded not to Hickman but Greenport Basin and Construction Company in New York. Construction took time and it was delivered for official testings by the summer of 1917, but failed to reachs its specs. A second boat designated C-378, based on Hickam’s sea sled design was ordered, from him this time between late 1917 and early 1918 depending on the sources. Hickam just went with his own prototype built in September 1914 crossed with the C-250 designed (when he failed the competition).
C-378 training with a floatplane in 1918, showing it was almost as fast.
This new prototype was C-378 was tested just before the Armistice, which resulted in a cancellation of the whole program (and compehensible frustration of Hickman).
Nevertheless, the Hickman C-378 which weighted 56,000 lb (25,000 kg) reached 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph) during trials. This tim, Hockman went for a 1,400 horsepower (1,000 kW) aviation engine, amd long runs maintaining 34.5 kn (63.9 km/h; 39.7 mph), while tossed in winter, braving a northeaster storm, going up through 14 ft waves. For the time, and even to this day, it’s nothing but an achievement for such type of vessel. Despite this there was no utility for it but endless testings. The “Sea Sled” was not forgotten and came back in 1939, being used by the Army and Navy as a rescue boat or a seaplane tender during the interwar.
Already in 1922, the US Navy agreed that they needed torky combustion engines for their propulsion, but wanted to test the two CMB types in service in the RoyalNavy at the time: A 45-footer (14 m), and the 55-footer (17 m). They were tested extensively, the larger of the two being put to numerous and various trials until 1930. Nothing followed.
In 1938, as boots noises were heard throughout Europe and in Asia, the rejection of treaties and nationalism at an all-time high, the US Navy looked upon procuring theor own MTBs, at least for testing and defensive purposes. The admiralty sponsored a design competition to small boat builders. The goal was to obtain a highly mobile attack boat, in part inspired by WWI actions, like those of Italian MAS, or British models against the Bolsheviks in 1919. Prizes would be awarded for the winning design, and in 1940, about 12 manufacturers answered with at least a prototype. Canada and Great Britain however would supply the initial needs of the US Navy from December 1941. There was also a perceive need from probable belligerents of an incoming war, which became reality in September 1939.
In 1938 so, the USN restarted an investigation, this time based on the numerous boat builders that flourished before the 1929 crisis and which were still there. They excluded Hickman’s Sea Sled in defining two different classes. They wanted to create a 54-footer (16 m) boat and a 70-footer (21 m) which were more appropriate to be seaworthy. This was strickly restricted to a small cadre of respected naval architects, and the Navy, Hickman nont being among them. More on the topic of the Hickman’s PT
The competition was published on 11 July 1938, with this time four types defined (two more were added, destined to the same boat builders):
-A 165-foot subchaser (Future PC type)
-A 110-foot subchaser (Future SC type)
-A 70-foot motor torpedo boat
-A 54-foot motor torpedo boat.
The prize for each was set to $15000, including an extra $1500 for those reaching the final competition ring. All designs were to be submitted on 30 March 1939.
-The “70 footer” was restricted to the whole size range until 80 feet. It was able to carry not one but two standard Naval 21-inch torpedoes and four depth charges, with two .50-cal HMG for close protection, and sustain a speed of 40 knots in all sea conditions, and this over 275 miles, or 550 miles at cruising speed, around 30+ knots. These were quite stringent conditions.
-The “54 footer” was restricted to 20 tons for easy transport, 40 knots but 120 miles/240 miles, and armament of two torpedoes plus depth charges and single .50-cal machine-guns, plus a smokescreen generator.
September 1938 arrived (concluding a busy summer!), 24 designs being received for the 54 footer, 13 for the 70 footer.
George Crouch (one of the particpants), which new full well about the merits of Hickman’s Sea Sled design wrote that he esteemed his design far superior to BuShips, until it was specifically excluded from the competition. Three designers for the first, five for the other were retained for the second round of the competition. They were asked to submit detailed plans for their respective boats with a deadline set on 7 November. On March 21, 1939, the final round was concluded. The USN announced that Sparkman and Stephens won the grand prize for the 70-footer category, Professor George Crouch with Henry B. Nevins, Inc. winning for the 54-footer category.
Contracts thus followed, placed to two yards to produce these, in May 25. Sparkman and Stephens (the 70 footer) was asked to scale up their design to 81 feet overall, while Higgins Industries contacted by the Navy on the behalf of Henry B. Nevins, Inc. since they had the capability to deliver the new prototypes PT5 and PT6. On June 8, it’s Fogal Boat Yard that was contracted to built the PT-1 and PT-2 and Fisher Boat Works to built the PT-3 and PT-4 all four for the 54-footer (Crouch design) and Philadelphia Navy Yard (PT-7, PT-8) for two new 81-footer this time in-house designed by BuShips, mainly in aluminum and with no less than four engines.
Later Higgins built a second PT-6 “Prime” of its own initiative. It was completely redesigned by Andrew Higgins using his own methods but incorporating in part (the aft hull section), Hickman’s inverted V design, notably for its landing crafts. They built later the PT-70 incorporating further improvements over PT-6 Prime.
Meanwhile, the Navy went on testing the new boats just delivered. They were gruelling tests, in realistic conditions, and fully armed. This revealed limitations and many issues that had to be solved before even meeting requirements and specifications. The Navy continueed to push for continual improvements until they reach an agreement over the satisfactory working design, one which could be used as standard.