US DESTROYERS 1942-45
ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR DAVE McCOMB President of the Destroyer History Foundation is a well-known racing sailor and lifelong student of naval history who has organized shipmate events and delivered presentations to veterans'groups and active duty commands. He lives on Lake George, New York, USA.
PAUL WRIGHT has painted ships of all kinds for most of his career, specialising in steel and steam warships from the late 19th century to the present day. Paul's art has illustrated the works of Patrick O'Brien, Dudley Pope and C.S. Forester amongst others, and hangs in many corporate and private collections all over the world. An Associate Member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists, Paul lives and works in Surrey, UK.
NEWVANGUARD • 165
US DESTROYERS 1942-45 Wartime classes
ILLUSTRATED BY PAUL WRIGHT
First published in Great Britain in 2010 by Osprey Publishing, Midland House, West Way, Botley, Oxford, 0X2 OPH, UK 44-02 23rd St, Suite 219, Long Island City, NY 11101, USA E-mail: [email protected]
© 2010 Osprey Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, electrical, chemical, mechanical, optical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Inquiries should be addressed to the Publishers. A CIP catalog record for this book is available from the British Library
AUTHOR'S NOTES This book is a product of years of warm relations with an extensive network of World War II shipmates, family members, and friends. It reflects particular contributions from Captain Doug Aitken, Captain Cal Calhoun, Bill Cole II, Nate Cook, Captain Russell Crenshaw, Jr., Captain Dave Davenport, George Eisenberg, John Everett, Jack Fitch, Warren Gabelman, Red Lail, Joe Moll, Captain Charlie Nelson, John O'Neill, Vice Admiral Ray Peet, Ari Phoutrides, Vane Scott, Doug Starr, Doug Turpen, and Captain Bill Vose, plus the much appreciated work of other respected sources including Rick Davis, Ed Finney, Chuck Haberlein, Terry Miller, Vince O'Hara, Captain Pete Orvis, Tim Rizzuto, Steve Roberts, Randy Short, Mike Staton, Paul Stillwell, and the staff at the National Archives and Records Administration. Squadron tables show initial or intended composition only. Those wishing to explore this subject in more detail may find additional photographs, maps and track charts, records, and tables at www.destroyerhistory.org.
Print ISBN: 978 1 84603 444 2 PDF e-book ISBN: 978 1 84908 267 9
Page layout by: Melissa Orrom Swan
The following abbreviations indicate the sources of the images used in this volume:
Index by Alan Thatcher
NARA - National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD
Typeset in Sabon and Myriad Pro
NH - Naval History & Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.
Originated by PDQ Media, Bungay, UK Printed in China through Worldprint Ltd 10 11 12 13 14 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
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DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
• The Fletcher Class • The Allen M. Sumner Class • The Gearing Class
DESTROYERS IN ACTION
Guadalcanal New Georgia Bougainville The North Pacific The Central Pacific The Atlantic The Philippines Iwo Jima and Okinawa Japan
• Dimensions and Design Specifications • Fletcher Class Armament Variations • Allen M. Sumner and Gearing Class Armament Variations
US DESTROYERS 1942-45 WARTIME CLASSES INTRODUCTION Fletcher-class destroyer La Vallette in a drawing made at sea on a navigation chart of the Philippines. Using whatever media were available on board, shipmate George Eisenberg produced more than 350 works and emerged from World War II as the Navy's most prolific combat artist, later honored for "capturing the souls of our sailors and ships... in a hauntingly realistic and personally touching way." (Courtesy of George S. Eisenberg, georgeseisenberg.com) " <,
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The 1940s represented the zenith of a technological era when machines displayed their muscle on the outside and when their performance depended more on an operator's skill than on computational science. On land, at sea, and in the air, the period spawned visceral designs that still excite interest today; and among warships, none were more advanced than the destroyers the scrappy "tin cans" - those most versatile of surface combatants upon which every larger ship type depended as a first line of defense against all forms of attack. By 1941 the term "destroyer" had come to mean a compact fighting machine, bursting with crew, and with serious hitting and staying power. In addition to the enormous machinery needed to drive it well above its theoretical hull speed, such a ship carried as much armament as deck space and stability would permit. Inevitably its small size also made it a natural choice for any assignment where larger ships were ill-suited or too expensive to risk, from giving battle in confined waters to maintaining station on J 3r J
exposed radar picket lines to delivering the mail. Not surprisingly, by the end of World War II, nations around the world had placed in commission more than 1,000 destroyers large and small - and of all these, none earned more acclaim than the US Navy's 2,100-ton Fletcher class and its larger Allen M. Sumner- and Gearing-class derivatives. Their numbers alone would have ensured recognition: by the end of World War II, 2 8 7 had entered service - doubling the US Navy's destroyer force including 175 Fletchers, the largest destroyer class ever built. More significant was their thoroughbred design, in which was achieved a long-sought-after balance of ruggedness and seaworthiness, armament, speed, and protection. As built, they were also striking in appearance - the Fletchers in particular exhibiting hull proportions, grace, and overall harmony worthy of a yacht. For those who knew them, however, their real renown stemmed from their record in battle. Manned by a mix of regular Navy veterans and wartime recruits who trained hard and fought harder, they became the US Navy's workhorses during three years of combat in the Pacific. There, on a grand stage on which nearly all of them saw action, the "fighting Fletchers" and late-war Sumners answered every threat and carved out for themselves a place among the outstanding fighting ships of all time.
DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT Their design was evolutionary. Its origin followed the unhappy discovery that the 1,620-ton Benson and 1,630-ton Gleaves classes from fiscal years 1 9 3 8 , '39 and '40 were top-heavy and could not carry five 5-inch guns and ten torpedoes as designed. In October 1939, a month after war had broken out in Europe, the Navy's General Board began its normal practice of scheduling internal hearings regarding design characteristics for a new destroyer to be funded in the 1941 fiscal year. The result was an enlarged 2,050-ton design that could comfortably mount the Bensons' originally intended armament. On January 27, 1940, Secretary of the Navy Charles Edison approved it and soon the firm of Gibbs & Cox was selected as design agent. The pace of events quickened on May 10, when Germany stunned the world with its "blitzkrieg" invasion of the Netherlands and Belgium. On June 1 1 , Congress appropriated funds for both the first of 25 Fletchers and, as their delivery could not be expected for two years, also authorized more destroyers of the preceding classes. Urgency increased further on June 14, when German tanks entered Paris. On the 17th, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold Stark requested $4 billion to expand the Navy by 70 percent. A month later, on July 19, Congress passed the VinsonWalsh "Two-Ocean Navy" Act, the largest single naval building program in US history, which provided for 115 additional destroyers.
The first two Fletchers, the future Nicholas and O'Bannon, under construction at Bath Iron Works on Maine's Kennebec River on New Year's Day 1942. Christening had to be scheduled during slack water at high tide, so that the newly-launched hulls would not ground in the narrow river or be swept upstream into the Carlton Bridge in the background. (NARA19-N-35340)
ABOVE A long-anticipated launch day, May 3,1942: F/efcher (left) begins her slide down the ways; Radford (right) will be next at Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, Kearny, New Jersey. (NARA) A B O V E RIGHT Sixty thousand horses will soon pass this way: Strong's rudder and twin screws on christening day, May 17,1942. The 2,100tonners' large turning radius forced shiphandlers to steer by varying engine speeds in confined waters. Sumners and Gearings had twin rudders. (NARA)
The Fletcher Class
Design for the "2,100-ton" class began with a "flush-deck" hull descended from the raised-forecastle 1,630-tonners but with increased draft amidships for greater strength. At 376Vi feet, its overall length was 28Vi feet (nearly 8 percent) greater than the Bensons and Gleaves but bow freeboard was reduced by a foot (5 percent).
Internally, engineering spaces...