Tag Archives: flush deck destroyer

Warship Wednesday, July 8, 2020: Service Guarantees Citizenship

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 8, 2020: Service Guarantees Citizenship

Naval History and Heritage Command NH 108363

Here we see the Wickes-class tin can USS Roper (Destroyer No. 147) in an undated overhead bow-on shot early in her career. As yesterday was the 113th birthday of her most famous crewmember, it only seemed important to shine some light on this often-overlooked but well-traveled warship.

Roper was one of the iconic first flight of “Four Piper” destroyers that were designed in 1915-16 with input from no less an authority as Captain (later Admiral) W.S. Sims. Beamy ships with a flush-deck, a quartet of boilers (with a smokestack for each) were coupled to a pair of Parsons geared turbines to provide 35.3-knots designed speed– which is still considered fast today, more than a century later. The teeth of these 314-foot, 1250-ton greyhounds were four 4-inch/50 cal MK 9 guns and a full dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes.

They reportedly had short legs and were very wet, which made long-range operations a problem, but they gave a good account of themselves. Originally a class of 50 was authorized in 1916, but once the U.S entered WWI in April 1917, this was soon increased and increased again to some 111 ships built by 1920.

Roper was laid down on 19 March 1918, at the height of the German’s Michel Offensive in France, at the William Cramp & Sons yard in Philadelphia. She was the first ship to carry the name of LCDR Jesse M. Roper (USNA 1872) who, as skipper of the gunboat USS Petrel in 1901, lost his life in a fire attempting to rescue a trapped seaman.

However, USS Roper came too late to join the Great War, commissioned on 15 February 1919. Nonetheless, after shakedown, she crossed the Atlantic and served in the Med and the Black Sea during the tumultuous period that included the breakup of the old Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empire coupled with the heartbreak of the Russian Civil War.

Roper, pre-1922. NH 108361

Transferring to the Pacific Fleet, Roper would be placed decommissioned in 1922 and rest in mothballs until 1930 when she was refit and reactivated. In contrast to her quiet time during the 20s, the 1930s would be a time of active participation in a series of fleet problems and maneuvers that ranged from the Eastern seaboard to the Caribbean and Alaska.

An undated overhead image of Roper underway, likely early in her career and after her 1930 reactivation. Note her stern depth charge racks. NH 108364

From the same set, with a good overview of her guns and profile. NH 108362

Enter Mr. Heinlein

With a tradition that his family fought in every American war going back to the days of Bunker Hill, Robert Anson Heinlein, born in Missouri in 1907, entered the U.S. Naval Academy as a Mid in 1925. He had a bit of family support on campus, as his brother Rex had been admitted the previous year, a factor that led Robert to have to pester U.S. Sen. Jimmy Reed to burn another service academy appointment on a Heinlein, reportedly hitting the senator with over 50 letters.

The younger Heinlein, “Bob” to his classmates, was an expert rifleman and a member of the fencing team, winner of the 1927 Epee medal. Academically 5th in his class of 243, he graduated 20th due to demerits with the 1929 class– one that included the future RADM Edward J. O’Donnell, RADM Warner S. Rodimon and VADM James H. Flatley– and has a very entertaining page in that year’s Lucky Bag. Headed to the fleet, the newly minted ensign shipped out for one of the choicest assignments, the brand-new carrier USS Lexington (CV-2).

LEXINGTON at the fleet concentration, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaiian Islands, 16 February 1932. Heinlein would have been aboard her at the time. NH 67634

Lex’s skipper, while Ensign Heinlein was aboard, was the taciturn Ernest J. King, future WWII CNO. This cheerful guy:

Captain Ernest J. King, USN, Commanding officer of USS LEXINGTON (CV-2), is shown the Olympic Cup by Chief Gunner Campbell, on 5 September 1931. The cup had recently been won by LEXINGTON’s runabout crew. 80-G-462576

In 1933, Heinlein left the mighty turbo-electric carrier for the much smaller and almost in comparison “retro” tin can, Roper, where he would serve as gunnery officer until he left the Navy on a medical discharge due to a case of TB.

Over the course of 46 novels and dozens of short stories, Robert Heinlein was always flanked by what he learned and remembered from his days as an Annapolis Mid and as a young line officer in the fleet.

Of course, Bob would settle for a career as a renowned science fiction author; winner of several Hugo Award prizes for groundbreaking science fiction. He was able to loop back around during WWII as an aeronautical engineer at the Navy Aircraft Materials Center at PNSY, bringing fellow sci-fi legends Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp with him to do their part.

Meanwhile, Roper had a war of her own to fight

Off Cape Cod on 7 December 1941, the Great War-era destroyer was soon on convoy duty during the height of what the German U-boat skippers deemed “The Happy Time” of Operation Drumbeat (Paukenschlag) due to the widespread availability of targets in American waters. As such, this included several instances of picking her way through floating wreckage and rescuing lifeboats crammed with U-boat survivors.

USS Roper (DD-147) Escorting a convoy, out of Hampton Roads, Virginia in 1942. Ships of the convoy are visible on the horizon. Roper is wearing Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage. NARA 80-G-K-580

USS ROPER (DD-147) View taken while underway in Hampton Roads, on convoy escort duty, circa 1942. Note camouflage. 80-G-K-467

On the night of 13-14 April 1942, Roper made a weak sonar contact in shallow water off North Carolina’s Bodie Island lighthouse, inside an area dubbed “Torpedo Junction” due to the high rate of submarine actions in the region and began prosecuting it. The contact turned out to be the Type VIIB German U-boat U-85 of 3. Flottille. Realizing he was caught in the shallows with no room to move, the sub’s skipper, Oblt. Eberhard Greger, made for the surface to fight it out, making turns for 17 knots while snapping a torpedo from its aft tube at his pursuer– from just 700 yards away- which only narrowly missed, running down the port side of the oncoming tin can’s hull.

The engagement went down to deck guns at a range of 2,100 yards, with Roper’s forward 3-incher busting the sub’s pressure hull just aft of the conning tower on her third round as one of her .50-caliber Brownings, manned by a Chief Boatswains Mate, kept the Germans from their own guns. The U-boat disappeared below the waves, stern first, before Roper’s torpedo tubes could be brought to bear.

A painting of the destroyer USS Roper (DD-147) engaging the German Type VII submarine U-85, during the night of 13/14 April 1942, near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Artist unknown. Image from the 1967/68 Edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships via Navsource. http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/147.htm

Greger and crew apparently attempted to abandon ship as it was going down but, in a sad fog of war incident, all perished as Roper’s crew, in the dark and fearing another U-boat was in the area due to another, albeit unrelated sonar contact, continued depth charging the area after the sub submerged for the final time. When dawn broke, Roper’s crew recovered 29 bodies, which were later interred at Hampton National Cemetery.

Roper’s attack report is in the National Archives and makes for interesting reading. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/133887377

The wreck and war grave that is U-85 is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and protected as part of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. In just 100 feet of water, she is a popular dive site.

With her “kill” Roper became an inaugural member of the U.S. Navy’s sub-busting club in the Atlantic War, although the milestone of the lonely battle was kept secret until after the war. She was in good company, as her sister ship, USS Ward (DD-139), fired the first U.S. shots of the Pacific War, sinking a Japanese midget submarine outside of Pearl Harbor just before the attack there.

The rest of Roper’s 1942 was spent in less eventful coastal patrol and escort service, shifting to riding shotgun on Caribbean-to-Mediterranean convoys building up Allied forces in North Africa and the 1943 push to Sicily and Italy.

In October, entered Charleston Navy Yard for conversion to her next role, that of a WWII littoral combat ship.

Green Dragon Days

With the changing pace of the new naval war, the Roper, as with most of her class, was converted to other uses, being too small for fleet work. She lost her 4-inch guns, which went on to equip armed merchant ships, as well as her torpedo tubes. Also leaving were half of her boilers, which dropped her speed down to 25-knots. She was given a trio of newer high-angle 3-inch/50 guns, one 40 mm AA gun, and five 20 mm AA guns, and the capability to carry up to 300 Marines or soldiers for a brief period. In this new role, she was re-designated as a high-speed amphibious transport (APD-20). Where her torpedo tubes once were, she now carried four 36-foot LCP landing craft on davits.

Such converted, these ships, usually painted in an all-over alligator green scheme, became known as “Green Dragons.”

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Starboard Quarter. File 11-21-43-4.” Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Bow, Down View. File 11-21-43-6. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Starboard Bow. File 11-21-43-2. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Starboard Bow. File 11-21-43-7. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

US Navy Yard, SC, November 21, 1943. USS Roper, (APD-20) Stern View. File 11-21-43-5. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

These conversions had a hard war. They transported troops to beachheads, served as escorts for transports and supply vessels, conducted anti-submarine patrols and survey duties, operated with Underwater Demolition Teams and commando units, performed messenger and transport duties, conveyed passengers and mail to and from forward units, and were involved in minesweeping operations.

On 13 April 1944, Roper steamed across the Atlantic to join the massing 8th Fleet at Oran and subsequently landed units of the reformed French Army on the Italian coast at Pianosa on 17 June. By August, she was part of the Dragoon Landings in southern France, landing troops on Levant Island with TF 86/Sitka Force. Her charges were 14 officers and 269 men of the elite “Black Devil” commandos of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, 1st Special Service Force who landed, and subsequently fought the small Battle of Port Cros in which they captured the five forts on the islands from the German Army.

Roper’s report of landing operations on the Ile du Levant with Sitka Force is digitized and in the National Archives. 

Reaping the Devine Wind

With the days of amphibious landings in Europe at an end in 1945, Roper sailed for the Pacific for the first time in WWII. Just three days after arriving at Nakagusuku Bay on the southern coast of Okinawa, she was hit by a Japanese kamikaze, a Zeke that was being pursued by three F4U Corsairs, the latter being a factor that prevented AAA fire from being directed at the incoming suicide plane. The Zeke hit Roper’s forecastle at 0922 on 25 May, starting fires in the CPO and Wardroom country which were extinguished in about an hour but left her forward magazines flooded. Her First Lieutenant, Lt. (JG) Thomas Walsh, was killed on deck via flying debris. Ten of her crew were lightly wounded with seven being evacuated to the hospital ship USS Relief. 

USS ROPER (APD-20) as damaged by a suicide plane attack, 26 May 1945. The plane’s port wing had sheared off and entered the ship’s starboard side, making a 6-foot hole about f-feet above the waterline. The fuselage of the Zeke glanced off the ship’s forecastle and exploded 30 feet off her beam. The plane’s propeller chewed several 3-foot-long gashes in the forecastle’s deck. The pilot’s helmet, jacket, and “pieces of his anatomy” were found hanging from Gun. No. 1. Courtesy of Admiral H.W. Hill. NH 66192

Roper’s kamikaze report is digitized and available in the National Archives. 

Of her class, 13 of her sisters were sunk in WWII, most early in the war while trying to stem the Japanese tide off Guadalcanal or, in the case of two, due to German U-boats in the Atlantic. The famous Ward, similarly, converted to an APD, was sunk off Ormoc in the Philippines on 7 December 1944 by a kamikaze. A similar fate befell sister USS Palmer (DD-161/DMS-5) in the Lingayen Gulf. Likewise, sister USS Dickerson (DD-157/APD-21) was so badly hit by a kamikaze in April 1945 off Iwo Jima that she was scuttled.

As for Roper, ordered back to the States to complete her own kamikaze repairs, she departed the Ryukyus on 6 June and reached San Pedro a month later. With the end of the war, her those repairs were not undertaken, and she was instead decommissioned on 15 September 1945 and scrapped the following year.

Roper earned four battle stars during World War II and the largest part of her currently in existence is an anchor that is on display at an entrance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There has not been a second USS Roper on the Navy List.

Most of Roper’s WWII war diaries, as well as a set of her plans, are in the National Archives. 

Today no Wickes-class tin can survive. The last one afloat, USS Maddox (DD–168), was scrapped in 1952 after serving in the US, then RN, then Canadian, then Soviet navies.

However, one of the class, USS Walker (DD-163), has been given new life in the excellent alternate history series Destroyermen written by Taylor Anderson. It is, um, science-fiction. Go figure.

As for Heinlein, whose wartime work for the Navy ironically included kamikaze detection and defense, died in 1988, aged 80. His body was eventually cremated, and his ashes scattered over the Pacific from the deck of a warship. Before that, he addressed the Mids in 1973 during which he noted:

What you do have here is a tradition of service. Your most important classroom is Memorial Hall. Your most important lesson is the way you feel inside when you walk up those steps and see that shot-torn flag framed in the arch of the door: ‘Don’t Give Up the Ship.’ If you feel nothing, you don’t belong here. But if it gives you goose flesh just to see that old battle flag, then you are going to find that feeling increasing every time you return here over the years… until it reaches a crescendo the day you return and read the list of your own honored dead – classmates, shipmates, friends – read them with grief and pride while you try to keep your tears silent.

In 2001, Virginia Heinlein, who had a long naval history herself and was the prototype of the strong female characters in many of her husband’s novels, endowed the Robert Anson Heinlein Chair in Aerospace Engineering at Annapolis.

Specs:

USS Roper (DD-147): Booklet of General Plans – Inboard Profile / Outboard Profile. National Archives Identifier: 109188795 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/109188795

(As completed)
Displacement: 1,247 long tons (1,267 t)
Length: 314 ft 4 in
Beam: 30 ft 11 in
Draft: 9 ft 10 in
Propulsion: 2 × geared steam turbines, 2 × shafts
Speed: 35 kn
Complement: 231 officers and enlisted
Armament:
4 × 4 in /50 cal guns
2 × 3 in /50 cal anti-aircraft guns
12 × 21 in torpedo tubes (4×3)

(1943, APD conversion)
Speed: 25kn
Complement: 180 officers and enlisted, up to 300 troops for short periods
Armament:
3 x 3inch/50
1 x 40mm Bofors
5 x 20mm Oerlikons

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

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Warship Wednesday, Sep 25, 2019: The Unsung Hero of Dutch Harbor at 100

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Sep 25, 2019: The Unsung Hero of Dutch Harbor at 100

3 US Navy PT-boats Aleutians in June 1943 eaplane tender GILLIS AVD12 PBY Catalina Higgins boats Mk 19 torpedo tubes.

Official USN Photographs (National Archives) 80-G-K-9454 (Color).

Here we see three, in a beautiful original color photograph, a trio of Higgins-type PT-boats belonging to Motor Torpedo Squadron 13, moored alongside the old seaplane tender destroyer, USS Gillis (AVD12, ex-DD260) in Casco Cove, Massacre Bay, Attu Island, Aleutians, 21  June 1943. Note the PBY-5 Catalina flying-boat astern of our aging tin can.

One of the massive fleets of Clemson-class flush decker destroyers, like most of her sisters, Gillis came too late for the Great War. An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemsons were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

USS Gillis is the only ship named for Commodore John P. Gillis and RADM James Henry Gillis.

Commodore John P. Gillis was a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He fought in the Mexican-American War where he was captured at Tuxpan. Subsequently, between 1853 and 1854, he sailed with Perry to open Japan to the West. Gilles later served in the Civil War by providing support to the Union blockade effort, commanding the warships Seminole, Monticello, and Ossipee, in turn.

RADM James Henry Gillis (USMA 1854), a Pennsylvania native, during the Civil War, commanded Michigan, Franklin, the flagship of the European Squadron, Lackawanna, Minnesota, and Hartford, the flagship of the Pacific Squadron before retiring from the Navy in 1893 “having never lost a man at sea.”

USS Gillis was built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Quincy, Mass. and commissioned 3 September 1919, LCDR Webb Trammell in command– some 100 years ago this month.

Destroyer USS Gillis (DD-260), 29 May 1919, Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts.

Her peacetime service was brief. Gillis sailed from Newport, R.I., 17 December 1919 and moored at San Diego 20 January 1920. She joined the Pacific Fleet Destroyer Force in tactics and maneuvers along the West Coast until decommissioned at San Diego 26 May 1922.

NH 53731

In all, Gillis spent just under two years with the fleet in her first stint on active duty.

Gillis (DD-260) Laid up at San Diego, California, circa 1929 in rusty and crusty condition. Photographed by Lieutenant Commander Don P. Moon, USN. Note the ship’s rusty condition. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1973. NH 78286

When the drums of war started beating in Europe and Asia in the late 1930s, Gillis was recommissioned in ordinary 28 June 1940, then soon reclassified as seaplane tender destroyer AVD-12, a mission that importantly saw her fitted with an early radar set. Following conversion, which included swapping out her torpedo tubes for aviation store space and some extra AAA guns and depth charges, she was placed in full commission at San Francisco, 25 March 1941.

USS Gillis (AVD-12) Photograph dated 14 February 1941. The ship appears to be painted in Camouflage Measure One. Catalog #: 80-G-13141

As noted by DANFS:

Gillis was assigned as tender to Patrol Wing 4, Aircraft Scouting Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. In the following months she performed plane guard patrol between San Diego and Seattle with time out for aircraft tending duties at Sitka, Alaska (14-17 June); Dutch Harbor and Kodiak (15-31 July). After overhaul in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard she returned to Kodiak 16 October 1941 to resume tending of amphibious patrol planes in Alaskan waters. She was serving at Kodiak when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Just six months later, she was at rest in Dutch Harbor on the morning of 3 June 1942. Almost simultaneously with their attack on Midway, a strong task force under Japanese RADM Kakuji Kakuta, comprising the carriers Ryujo (10,000 tons) and Jun’yo (25,000 tons) as well as their escorts and a naval landing force, attacked the Aleutians in Alaska.

But Gillis had the upper hand.

In the harbor that morning with the two old flush-deck destroyers King and Talbot, the submarine S-27, Coast Guard cutter Onondaga, and the U.S. Army transports President Fillmore and Morlen, Gillis had the advantage of radar and her operator picked up the incoming Japanese airstrike at 0540. With that, she and the other ships weighed anchor and stood out with all hands at battle stations. Likewise, the Army detachment at nearby Fort Mears was alerted.

Had they been sunk at their moorings and Dutch Harbor more badly damaged, the effort to keep/hold/retake the Aleutians would have surely been a tougher task, diverting key U.S. assets from other theaters– such as Guadalcanal.

Further, the Japanese, in turn, got a bloody nose that morning from the old school 3-inch M1918 AAA guns and .50 cal water-cooled Browning of Arkansas National Guard’s 206th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft), which splashed a few Japanese planes. Meanwhile, a PBY that Gillis was tending stitched up 19-year-old PO Tadayoshi Koga’s Zero (which crashed and was recovered in remarkable condition– an intelligence coup) and a group of Army Col. John Chennault’s P-40s out of Unamak accounted for a few more. The Gillis claimed two planes shot down. No ship was damaged.

Koga’s Zero

Not a bad day’s work for an isolated outpost.

Three days later, while on air-sea rescue patrol, Gillis made three depth charge runs on an underwater sound contact.

DANFS= “A Japanese submarine violently broached the surface revealing its conning tower and propeller, then disappeared. Gillis was unable to regain contact. She was credited with damaging this underseas raider in the combat area off Umak Island.”

Starting on June 9, PBYs of VP-41, operating from Dutch Harbor, initiated what became known as the “Kiska Blitz,” a series of extreme long-range shuttle attack bombing missions by the flying boats of PatWing Four to plaster the Japanese ships at that occupied Aleutian island, using Gillis, which had forward-deployed closer to the action, at Nazan Bay off Atka island. This took amazing 48-hour sorties with the old tender providing fuel, hot meals and extra 250-pound bombs to the Catalinas until she was out of bombs to give. This lasted for several days, with Catalinas of VPB-42 and 43, until a Japanese scout plane discovered the seaplane tender and her position was compromised.

This drawing was made by the intelligence units of the U.S. 11th Air Force, showing a dual Imperial Japanese Navy Type 11 Early Warning Radar site on the captured Alaskan island of Kiska in Oct 1942. It was built by the Japanese in response to the PBY blitz.

On June 13, before retiring from Atka, Gillis was ordered to carry out a “scorched earth” policy, setting fire to all buildings and a local Aleut village to leave nothing of use to the Japanese. She later fought off a sortie from three four-engine Mavis bombers from Kiska while in Kuluk Bay, Adak. To her brood, she added the plywood PT-boats of MTBRon 13.

Higgins 78-foot torpedo boats of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 13 (MTBRon 13) moored in Attu, Alaska, Jul 1943. Note PT-75 and PT-78 nested outboard of their squadron-mate and a PBY Catalina patrol plane taking off. 80-G-475727

After that, joined by four other tenders, Gillis formed the mothership backbone of Patrol Squadrons 41, 43, 51, 62; consisting of 11 PBY flying boats and 20 PBY-5As. By October 1943, however, the other tenders were withdrawn, and she was the only one in operative condition forward deployed to the Aleutians.

USS Gillis (AVD-12) leaving ARD-6 Dutch Harbor, Alaska 80-G-386650

With the theatre dying down, by April 1944 Gillis departed Dutch Harbor for the West Coast where she was given an overhaul and served as a plane guard off San Diego. She was then ordered forward into the Pacific to rejoin the shooting war.

She then sailed with RADM M. L. Deyo’s Gunfire and Covering Force, en route via the Marshalls, Marianas, and Ulithi for the Invasion of Okinawa, arriving off Kerama Retto 25 March 1945. There, Gillis guarded minesweepers and stood by UDT teams clearing approaches to the western beaches of Okinawa. After invasion forces stormed ashore 1 April, she tended observation and patrol planes at Kerama Retto and performed air-sea rescue patrol.

USS Relief -AH-1 In a Western Pacific Harbor, probably at the time of the Okinawa Campaign, circa April 1945. USS Gillis -AVD-12- is in the left background Catalog #: 80-G-K-3707

On 28 April, Gillis departed Okinawa in the screen of USS Makassar Strait, bound via Guam to San Pedro Bay, Philippine Islands. She returned by the same route in the escort screen of Wake Island (CVE-65). That carrier-launched planes 29 June to land bases on Okinawa and Gillis helped escort her back to Guam 3 July 1945.

Gillis won two battle stars, for escort and antisubmarine operations in the American area (1941-44) and Okinawa.

Gillis departed Guam for home 8 July 1945. She arrived at San Pedro, Calif., 28 July and decommissioned there 15 October 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy List 1 November 1945. She was sold to NASSCO, Treasure Island, CA, for scrapping 29 January 1946.

As for her sisters, seven Clemsons were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war. Those four-pipers not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Sister USS Hatfield (DD-231) decommissioned 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap 9 May 1947 to NASSCO, the last of her kind in the Navy.

The final Clemson afloat, USS Aulick (DD-258), joined the Royal Navy as HMS Burnham (H82) in 1940 as part of the “Destroyers for Bases” deal. Laid up in 1944, she was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948.

None are preserved and only the scattered wrecks in the Western Pacific, Honda Point, the Med and Atlantic endure.

Specs:

USS Gillis (DD-260/AVD-12): Outboard profile from Booklet of General Plans (NARA) 117877196

Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots (65.7 km/h)
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 kn (28 km/h)
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1920)
4 x 4?/50cal guns
1 x 3″/23AA
12 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019: The final Four-Piper

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019: The final Four-Piper

NH 64543

Here we see the Clemson-class “four-piper” flush-decker torpedo boat destroyer USS Hatfield (DD-231) in dry dock at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on May 23, 1932, with a newly-fitted bow. One of a tremendous class of vessels some 156-strong, she had a long and varied career, ending it as the very last of her type in U.S. service.

An expansion of the almost identical Wickes-class destroyers with a third more fuel capacity to enable them to escort a convoy across the Atlantic without refueling, the Clemson’s were sorely needed to combat the pressing German submarine threat of the Great War. At 1,200-tons and with a top speed of 35 knots, they were brisk vessels ready for the task.

“They kept the sea lanes open” – Invest in the Victory Liberty Loan WWI, poster from 1918 by LA Shafer, Niagara Litho Co. Buffalo, NY, showing a four-piper destroyer armed with 5-inch guns dressed in dazzleflauge jumping between a merchantman and a dastardly German U-boat, the latter sent by the Kaiser to send passenger liners to the bottom.

However, they were was built too late for the war.

The hero of our story was named after naval hero John Hatfield, a young man who volunteered for service and, appointed Midshipman 18 June 1812, served on the small armed schooner USS Lady of the Lake as part of the force commanded by Lt. Isaac Chauncey on Lake Ontario. During the assault on York (now Toronto) in April 1813, Hatfield was killed while leading his ships small boats in a combined arms attack that netted the giant British Royal Standard taken from the Parliament House (and currently in the USNA collection).

Laid down 10 June 1918 at New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, N.J, Hatfield just missed her Great War and commissioned 16 April 1920. Her early career included a fleet review by President Harding at Hampton Roads and training cruises in the Caribbean. Interestingly, although almost every four-piper carried a battery of five 4″/50 cal singles, she was one of a handful (DD-231 through DD-235) that were commissioned instead with four 5″/51 cal guns. Due to the extra weight, no depth charge racks were installed on these more heavily gunned sisters

Hatfield Launching at The New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey. NH 53688

With the Allied High Commission in the former Ottoman Empire needing muscle, on 2 October 1922, Destroyer Division 40, composed of the destroyers Bainbridge (DD-246), Fox (DD-234), Gilmer (DD-233), Hatfield (DD-231), Hopkins (DD-249), and Kane (DD-235), and Destroyer Division 41, composed of the destroyers Barry (DD-248), Goff (DD-247), King (DD-242), McFarland (DD-237), Overton (DD-239), and Sturtevant (DD-240), sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, for Constantinople.

The destroyers arrived there on 22 October, under the command of RADM Mark Lambert Bristol, who had his flag on the humble station ship USS Scorpion, a Warship Wednesday alum, who spent years in the Bosporus moored to the quay and connected by telephone with the Embassy. Hatfield remained in the region until 31 July 1923, when she was given orders to proceed back to the West Coast.

In the early 1920s, the Black Sea was an American lake, as the Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Ottoman fleets had largely ceased to exist while the British and French fleets, facing near bankruptcy and mutinous crews, respectively, were keen to send only a few vessels to Constantinople and Odesa and withdraw them as soon as possible. At its height, the U.S. fleet in Constantinople included over 26 warships including the battleships Arizona and Utah, a dozen destroyers, heavy and light cruisers, floating repair shops, and transport ships.

NH 803

Assigned to the U.S. Scouting Fleet, her stomping ground ranged from New York to Panama including a tour of gunboat diplomacy off the coast of Nicaragua throughout February and March 1927, during the civil war in that country in which the U.S. backed the conservative Solórzano government. For this, Hatfield picked up the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal.

The next year, Hatfield was part of the squadron that carried President Coolidge to Cuba and Haiti for the Pan-American Conference.

U.S. Navy destroyers moored side-by-side after a day’s maneuvers in Haitian Waters, circa the later 1920s or the 1930s. These ships are (from front to rear): USS Kane (DD-235); USS Hatfield (DD-231); USS Brooks (DD-232); and USS Lawrence (DD-250). The first three destroyers carry 5″/51 cal guns mounted on their sterns, while Lawrence has the more typical four-piper popgun, a 4″/50 cal, mounted atop her after deckhouse, with a 3″/23 anti-aircraft gun on her stern. Note bedding airing on the ships’ lifelines. NH 52227

USS Hatfield (DD-231) In San Diego Harbor, California, during the early 1930s. She was one of only five flush-deck destroyers to carry 5/51 guns. Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 64542

USS Hatfield (DD-231) and sister USS Humphreys (DD-236) circa 1928

Hatfield had a crack up with the USS Sands (DD-243), a sistership, during maneuvers 40 miles off Newport, Rhode Island, 13 September 1930. Damage control was quick and she was towed to Brooklyn Navy Yard by tugs Sagamore (AT-20) and Penobscot (YT-42) for repairs.

Photo via Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. 08_06_006245

Transferred to San Diego in 1932 after a brief stint in ordinary, by April 1936 she was deployed to friction points once again, serving off Spain in the neutrality patrol during the Spanish Civil War as part of Squadron Forty-T commanded by RADM Arthur P. Fairfield. This special task force, initially comprising the old cruiser Raleigh, fellow four-piper USS Kane, Hatfield, and the Coast Guard cutter USCGC Cayuga, saved hundreds of U.S. and foreign nationals during the conflict. In all, she would spend 19 months there, returning to the U.S. at the tail end of 1937, returning to mothballs for a few months.

USS HATFIELD (DD-231). (1920-1947). Collection of Gustave Maurer. NH 2216

When WWII erupted in Europe, Hatfield was dusted off once more and recommissioned 25 September 1939 for assignment to FDR’s East Coast Neutrality Patrol looking for U-Boats, a mission she would continue through August 1940 when she was sent to the West Coast, arriving at Bremerton for operations in the Northern Pacific as part of the rusty old tin cans of DESDIV 82.

In the days immediately after Pearl Harbor, the obsolete flush decker was sent to sparsely defended Alaska, where she spent her “shooting days” of WWII. Even equipped with sonar, radar, and a smattering of machine guns for AAA use, destroyer technology had passed her by.

Destroyer evolution, 1920-1944: USS HATFIELD (DD-231), USS MAHAN (DD-364), USS FLETCHER (DD-445). NH 109593

Hatfield 26 May 1942, at Puget Sound, Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington. Note rafts, torpedo tubes, boat, radar at mainmast. Also, note barrage balloons 19-N-30086

Hatfield on 26 May 1942, at Puget Sound, Washington 19-N-30085

As noted by DANFS: “In the uncertain early months of the Pacific war, Hatfield convoyed merchant ships to Alaskan ports, helping to carry the supplies necessary to establish bases in the North. She continued this vital duty in the bleak and dangerous northern waters until 13 March 1944, when she returned to Seattle.”

Relegated to work as an auxiliary (AG-84) in October 1944, she finished her military service towing targets and assisting with underway training. Hatfield decommissioned 13 December 1946 and was sold for scrap 9 May 1947 to National Metal & Steel Corp., Terminal Island, Calif, the last of her kind in the Navy. Only spending about 36 months of her 26 years out of commission — a rarity for her class– Hatfield had some 22 skippers in her long career.

Some of her original builder’s plaques are on display at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

And of course, there are a number of postal cancelations from this far-traveled greyhound.

Destroyer USS HATFIELD DD-231 Villefranche France Naval Cover MhCachets 1 MADE

As for her sisters, seven Clemson’s were lost at the disaster at Honda Point in 1923, and 18 (including six used by the British) were lost in WWII including one, USS Stewart (DD-224), which was famously raised by the Japanese and used in their Navy only to be recaptured by the USN and given a watery grave after the war. Those four-pipers not sold off in the 1930s or otherwise sent to Davy Jones were scrapped wholesale in the months immediately after WWII. Besides Hatfield, the penultimate Clemson in US service was USS Williamson (DD-244) which was decommissioned 8 November 1945 and sold to the breakers on 4 November 1948.

The final Clemson afloat, USS Aulick (DD-258), joined the Royal Navy as HMS Burnham (H82) in 1940 as part of the “Destroyers for Bases” deal. Laid up in 1944, she was allocated for scrapping on 3 December 1948.

None are preserved and only the scattered wrecks in the Western Pacific, Honda Point, the Med and Atlantic endure.

Specs:


Displacement:
1,215 tons (normal)
1,308 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft. 4.5 in
Beam: 30 ft. 11.5 in
Draft: 9 ft. 4 in
Propulsion:
4 × boilers, 300 psi (2,100 kPa) saturated steam
2 geared steam turbines
27,600 hp (20,600 kW)
2 shafts
Speed: 35.5 knots (65.7 km/h)
Range: 4,900 nmi (9,100 km) @ 15 kn (28 km/h)
Crew: (USN as commissioned)
8 officers
8 chief petty officers
106 enlisted
Armament:
(1920)
4- 5″/51cal guns
12 × 21 inch torpedo tubes (4 × 3) (533 mm)

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