U.S. Navy - A Brief History of Destroyers

The Destroyers

A Brief History of U.S. Navy Destroyers
Part I -- The Early Years

American Naval History, 1984
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

All images below are hyperlinked to larger images for better viewing. All images are official Navy photographs.

picture, caption follows Nov. 24, 1902 - The first U.S. destroyer, USS Bainbridge (DD 1), was commissioned. Bainbridge, was actually a torpedo boat destroyer, was 250 in length, displaced 420 tons, and had a speed of 29 knots. She carried a crew of 75.
picture, caption follows June 1, 1916 - The destroyer USS Lamson (DD 18) commanded under Capt. Frederick M. Wise, was joined by the USS Panter (AD 6) in landing marines on the port of Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. The landing was in response to a threatened insurrection on the island.
picture, caption follows Aug. 29, 1916 - Congress approved President Woodrow Wilson's request for to build a navy equal to any in the world. The Naval Act of 1916 authorized 50 destroyers built over a three year period.
picture, caption follows Apr. 6, 1917 - Congress overwhelmingly approved President Wilson's request for a declaration of war against Germany. Navy strength at this time was 4,376 officers and 69,680 enlisted. During the previous two and a half years, the United States held a "neutral" trade relationship with Great Britain with Germany continuously attacked American vessels around the British Isles.
picture, caption follows May 4, 1917 - The first U.S. warships reached the European theater at Queenstown, Ireland. Commander Joseph K. Taussig's Destroyer Squadron 8 included USS Wadsworth (DD 60), USS Conyngham (DD 58), USS Davis (DD 65), USS McDougal (DD 54), USS Porter (DD 59), and USS Wainwright (DD 62). Vice Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, the British commander asked Taussig when his squadron would be ready for service, he replied, " We are ready now, sir."
picture, caption follows Sep. 16, 1917 - The first American killed in action during World War I was Gunner's Mate First Class Osmond K. Ingram. He was serving aboard the destroyer USS Cassin (DD 43) when he was blown overboard by a German torpedo. For his heroic deeds, Ingram was later awarded the Medal of Honor and became the first enlisted man to have a ship named after him.
picture, caption follows Nov. 19, 1917 - USS Chauncey (DD 3) sank after it was rammed by SS Rose, a British merchantman. Chauncey lost 21 men including her captain. The collision occurred approximately 110 miles west of Gibraltar.
picture, caption follows Dec. 6, 1917 - USS Jacob Jones (DD 61) was torpedoed and sunk by the U-53 near Scilly Isles off the coast of Great Britain. Sixty-four crewmen were lost. The U-boat commander surfaced for prisoners, and radioed the position of the sinking destroyer to the U.S. naval base at Queenstown, Ireland. Thirty-five sailors were later rescued.
picture, caption follows March 19, 1918 - USS Manley (DD 74) was severely damaged and 56 of her crew was killed after an accidental detonation of 18 depth charges when the ship rolled against the British auxiliary cruiser Motagua off the Irish coast.
picture, caption follows Sep. 8, 1923 - USS Chauncey (DD 296), USS Delphy (DD 261), USS Fuller (DD 297), USS Nicholas (DD 311), USS S.P. Lee (DD 310), USS Woodbury (DD 309), and USS Young (DD 312) ran aground on their way to San Diego at Point Pedernales, off Santa Barbara, CA. The ships were part of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 11. There were only 22 lives lost in the wreckage.
  Dec. 6, 1923 - U.S. Asiatic Fleet destroyers were ordered to join other navies off Canton to assist in the protection of foreign lives and property during the Chinese civil wars.
picture, caption follows March 3, 1924 - USS Billingsley (DD 293) landed sailors and Marines at Tela, Honduras, to protect American property and lives.
  Sep. 2, 1940 - An agreement between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill led to the transfer of 50 World War I destroyers to be transferred to the Royal Navy. The destroyers were requested to help combat German U-boats. In return, the U.S. was given 99-year leases to British bases in Bermuda, Newfoundland, and the West Indies.

Last Update: 23 June 2009