Fighting Ships of the US Navy 1883 - 2019, Volume Four, Part Two, Destroyers (1919 - 1937)

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Venner F. Milewski, Jr.
ISBN
978-83-66549-63-0
Other Publication Information
223 pages, Hard Cover, B&W Photos
MSRP
$52.00
Provided by: Casemate Publishers - Website: Visit Site
Cover Image

This book provides a comprehensive encyclopedia of the US Navy Destroyers commissioned after WWI (from 1919 ) until just before WWII (to 1937). It includes primary reference data and relevant photographs of individual ships for each class of destroyers during this period. While photo captions provide brief stories and glimpses into the drama accompanying each ships’ maritime history, the paragraph text is rather perfunctory. These efficient descriptive paragraphs leave room for the rich photographic record included for each ship.

  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations
  • Destroyers
  • 17 Clemson Class (DD-186 to DD-347)
  • 18 Farragut Class (DD-348 to DD-355)
  • 19 Porter Class (DD-356 to DD-363)
  • 20 Mahan Class (DD-364 to DD-379)
  • 21 Gridley Class (DD-380, DD-382, DD-386 to DD-393)
  • Camouflage
  • Bibliography
  • Camouflage Design Sheets
  • Ship Name Index

Some of the reference data found for each individual ship record includes: name, hull number, builder, dates for keel laid, launching and commissioning - all conveniently located in a banner above each brief (single paragraph) description. These descriptions include the authorization and contracting dates, the first commanding officer (CO), ratings and classifications, decommissioning ( and recommissioning) dates locations and transfers of ownership. It also includes executive summaries of their significant operational actions and demise in service (often, but not always, by sinking).

Missing from individual ship paragraphs are physical details such as dimensions, empty and loaded weights, etc. These details are summarized for each class in tables which quantify the following class specifications: Hull Characteristics (including physical dimensions, displacement tonnage, draft and crew), Armament (including guns, torpedoes and anti-submarine depth charge projectors and tracks), and Engineering Characteristics ( including speed, engines, horsepower, screws, boilers and fuel capacity).

Also featured are camouflage details which include B&W depictions of camouflage schemes for top, starboard and port views. These provide useful accompaniment to such details provided in photo captions wherever relevant and visible. The rigging details are missing from the camouflage drawings but can be inferred from numerous high resolution photos for individual ships of each class in various perspectives, lighting, timeframes and operational situations.

The extensive use of photographs in this book deserves special praise. Each photo was carefully selected and thus provides high resolution images covering various time periods, lighting, and operational perspectives. Two very important photographic details when modeling destroyers are the camouflage schemes and rigging features. Both are gratuitously provided. While not all photos depict camouflage and rigging details usefully, the shear volume of photos collectively provide the needed information. These photos make this a very useful book, and an essential reference to both the modeler and destroyer enthusiasts.

Commissioning

The contract, keel laying, launch (along with sponsors), and commissioning details are listed along with the first commanding officers (1st CO).

It is interesting that these busy 1st COs ranged from Ensign (O1) to Commander (O5). These COs cut their teeth in the destroyer fleet and were mostly remarkable naval officers.

ENS William I Leahy: 1st CO of the USS Sands DD-243 (commissioned 10 Nov 1920). He was the son of William D. Leahy ( the first 5-star admiral, the senior naval officer during WWII - and as FDR chief of staff was considered the 2nd most powerful man in the world during the war). Admiral William D. Leahy was only a captain in 1920, but he must have already wielded great influence.

Other notable first commanders:

  • LCDR Leo Hewlett Thebaud: 1st CO of the USS Herndon DD-198, USS Bainbridge
  • DD-246 and as a CDR 1st CO of USS Clark DD-361. He would rise to the rank of vice admiral, and served in both world wars.
  • CDR Russell Willson, 1st CO of the USS Southard DD-207. He would invent the Navy Cipher (Code) Box, relieve Nimitz of ComBatDiv1 in 1939, and rise to the rank of Vice Admiral.
  • CDR Raymond A. Spruance, 1st CO of USS Percival DD-298, one of our greatest Admirals.
  • LCDR Charles E. Rosendahl, 1st CO of
    • USS William James DD-308 commissioned 30 Sept 1920
    • USS Yarborough DD-314 commissioned 31 Dec 1920
    • USS Marcus DD-321 commissioned 23 Feb 1921
    • USS Melvin DD-335 commissioned 31 May 1921

Rosendahl would earn the Navy Cross by saving his ship the USS Minneapolis (CA-36) after losing the bow to enemy gunfire on 30 Nov 1942 in the Battle of Tassafaronga off Guadalcanal and then returning it to Tulagi on one boiler. He achieved rank of Vice Admiral.

This book underscores the incredibly high price paid by these destroyers and their crews during World War II. The prices paid are described without prejudice or sentimentality, but the book conveys information that evokes strong feelings of gratitude and sadness that facts can’t hide.

The first USN ship lost in action in WWII was the USS Reuben James DD-245 which was torpedoed and sunk on Halloween 31Oct1941 by German submarine U-562 while escorting a convoy off Iceland. About 115 crewmen were lost, including all of the officers. Only 41 men were saved.

Service Distinctions and Ship’s Demise

There is a faithful accounting of ship encounters including collisions, groundings, significant damage and sinkings, which often include crew-casualty assessments. There are some reports of damage inflicted by these destroyers, but not a complete accounting which is difficult if not impossible. There are many of these ships which were transferred to the Royal Navy, and in some instances (USS Herndon DD-217 -> HMS Churchill -> Dyatelin) ultimately transferred to Russia.

Of the 212 destroyers covered here, 59 were casualties, 31 of which were sunk by enemy action in WWII (most of which were Clemson Class.) One ship, USS Stewart DD-224 was refloated and repurposed by the Japanese at Surabaya, Java in April 1943. 53 Clemson Class destroyers were scrapped between 1930 and 1936 in accordance with the London Treaty for Naval Limitations.

USS Moody DD-277 was scrapped in accordance with the London Treaty, but the hulk was then sold to MGM Studios for $35000 and purposely sunk 21 Feb1933 off California for a sea battle scene in the movie Hell Below. The book lists the sale price to MGM of $5000, and identifies the movie as Sea Pigs.

The timelines in which ships were struck from the US Navy register; and, ultimately where and when scrapped is recorded for each individual ship. In many cases the scrap value is recorded ( $147 - $20838). Some ships tended to be sold for exactly the same amounts - many for $5789 and many others for $8777.

The low price $147 for the flagship USS Delphy DD-261 represents a sale as is, where is, since it was scrapped in-place where it was grounded and wrecked in the fog in the Santa Barbara Channel, 8 Sept 1923. Other Clemson-class destroyers followed flawed navigation from Delphy and foundered, collided and grounded in the same disaster, and were ultimately scrapped and sold for $147 along with Delphy. The book includes a photo of the aftermath of this disaster. This was not a good day for the US Navy.

The highest recorded sale price $20838 was received from the Boston Metals Co. in Baltimore, MD, for the Mahan class destroyer USS Cummings DD-365 on 17 July 1947.

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