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Fletcher-class destroyer
USS Fletcher (DD-445) in her original layout, 1942
Class overview
Name: Fletcher-class destroyer
Builders:
Operators:
Preceded by: Gleaves class
Succeeded by: Allen M. Sumner class
Subclasses: Ariake class
Cost: $6 million
Built: 3 March 1941 to 22 February 1945
In commission: 4 June 1942 to 1971 (USN), 2001 (Mexico)
Completed: 175
Cancelled: 13
Lost: 19, plus 6 not repaired[1]
Preserved:
General characteristics
Type: Destroyer
Displacement:
Length: 376.5 ft (114.8 m)
Beam: 39.5 ft (12.0 m)
Draft: 17.5 ft (5.3 m)
Propulsion: 60,000 shp (45 MW); 4 oil-fired boilers; 2 geared steam turbines; 2 screws
Speed: 36.5 knots (67.6 km/h; 42.0 mph)
Range:
Complement: 329 officers and men
Armament: Varied; see § Armament

The Fletcher class was a class of destroyers built by the United States during World War II. The class was designed in 1939, as a result of dissatisfaction with the earlier destroyer leader types of the Porter and Somers classes. Some went on to serve during the Korean War and into the Vietnam War.[3]

The United States Navy commissioned 175 Fletcher-class destroyers between 1942 and 1944, more than any other destroyer class, and the design was generally regarded as highly successful. Fletchers had a design speed of 38 knots and a principal armament of five 5-inch guns in single mounts with ten 21-inch torpedoes in two quintuple centerline mounts.[4] The Allen M. Sumner and Gearing classes were Fletcher derivatives.

The long-range Fletcher-class ships performed every task asked of a destroyer, from anti-submarine warfare and anti-aircraft warfare to surface action.[5] They could cover the vast distances required by fleet actions in the Pacific and served almost exclusively in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II, during which they accounted for 29 Imperial Japanese Navy submarines sunk.[6][failed verification] In a massive effort, the Fletchers were built by shipyards across the United States and, after World War II ended, 11 were sold to countries that they had been built to fight against: Italy, Germany, and Japan, as well as other countries, where they had even longer, distinguished careers. Three have been preserved as museum ships in the U.S. and one in Greece.

Description

The Fletcher class (named for Admiral Frank F. Fletcher, Medal of Honor recipient and holder of two Distinguished Service Crosses) was the largest destroyer class ordered. It was also one of the most successful and popular with their crews. Compared to earlier classes built for the Navy, the Fletchers carried a significant increase in lethal firepower, including anti-aircraft weapons and increased armor plating; this contributed to greater displacement and overall weight and height increase. Their flush deck construction added structural strength; however, it did make them cramped, as less crew space was available below decks compared with a raised forecastle.

Design

Technical drawing of the Fletcher-class destroyer.
Technical drawing of the Fletcher-class destroyer.
Launch of Fletcher and Radford, May 3, 1942
Launch of Fletcher and Radford, May 3, 1942

The Fletcher-class was the first generation of destroyers designed after the series of Naval Treaties that had limited ship designs heretofore. The growth in the design was in part a response to the challenge that had dogged U.S. Navy designs in coping with long range operations in the Pacific Ocean. They were also to carry no fewer than five 5 in (127 mm) guns and ten deck-mounted torpedo tubes on the centerline, allowing them to meet any foreign design on equal terms. Compared to earlier designs, the Fletchers were large, allowing them to adapt to evolving defensive priorities through the addition of two 40 mm Bofors quadruple mount anti-aircraft guns as well as six 20 mm Oerlikon dual AA gun positions. This addition to the AA suite required the deletion of the forward quintuple torpedo mount, a change done under the 4 April 1945 anti-kamikaze program.[7]

Fletchers were also much less top-heavy than previous classes, allowing them to take on additional equipment and weapons without major redesign. They were fortunate in catching American production at the right moment, becoming "the" destroyer design, with only the Fletcher-class derivatives, the Sumner and Gearing classes, following it.[6]

The first design inputs were in the fall of 1939 from questionnaires distributed around design bureaus and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. The design parameters were the armaments desired of the next destroyer. As such, the questions were of how many guns, torpedoes, and depth charges were seen as desirable. Also asked was at what point would the design grow large enough to become a torpedo target instead of a torpedo delivery system.[8] The answer that came back was that five 5 in (127 mm) dual-purpose guns, twelve torpedoes, and twenty-eight depth charges would be ideal, while a return to the 1500-ton designs of the past was seen as undesirable. Speed requirements varied from 35 to 38 kn (40 to 44 mph; 65 to 70 km/h), and shortcomings in the earlier Sims class, which were top-heavy and needed lead ballast to correct this fault, caused the Fletcher design to be widened by 18 in (46 cm) of beam.[9] As with other previous U.S. flush deck destroyer designs, seagoing performance suffered. This was mitigated by deployment to the Pacific Ocean, which is relatively calm compared to the Atlantic.[10]

To achieve 38 kn (44 mph; 70 km/h) with a 500-ton increase in displacement, shaft horsepower was increased from 50,000 to 60,000 compared to the previous Benson and Gleaves classes. The Fletchers featured air-encased boilers producing steam at 600 psi (4,100 kPa) and 850 °F (450 °C), with two 350 kW steam turbine driven electrical generators and a 100 kW emergency diesel generator.[11] Typically, Babcock & Wilcox boilers and General Electric geared steam turbines were equipped, although other designs and manufacturers were probably used to maximize the rate of production.

Armament

127 mm MK 30 gun from a Fletcher class destroyer (1942) Bundeswehr Military History Museum, Dresden
127 mm MK 30 gun from a Fletcher class destroyer (1942) Bundeswehr Military History Museum, Dresden
Forward 5"/38 caliber guns as viewed from the bridge
Forward 5"/38 caliber guns as viewed from the bridge

The main gun armament of the Fletcher was five dual-purpose rapid-fire 5 inch/38 caliber (127 mm) guns in single Mk-30 turrets, guided by a Mark 37 Gun Fire Control System, including a Mk 12 fire control radar and a Mk 22 height-finder (both replaced by the circular Mk 25 radar postwar) linked by a Mark 1A Fire Control Computer and stabilized by a Mk 6 8,500 rpm gyroscope.

Ten 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes were fitted in two quintuple mounts on the centerline amidships, firing the 21-inch Mark 15 torpedo. Anti-submarine armament was two depth charge racks for 600-pound charges at the stern, augmented by six K-gun depth charge throwers for 300-pound charges amidships.

Besides the main dual-purpose guns, initial (April–May 1942) anti-aircraft armament was light; a quadruple 1.1"/75 caliber gun (located in an elevated tub between the number three and four 5"/38 caliber gun mounts), and six Oerlikon 20 mm cannons (two in front of and below the bridge, and four amidships). Beginning in June 1942, the 1.1" gun was replaced by a twin Bofors 40 mm gun mount, plus another twin mount on the fantail between the depth charge racks. In February 1943, the fantail-mounted Bofors was removed, and instead, one twin mount was placed on each side of the aft funnel, bringing the total number of 40 mm barrels to six. In 1942 and 1943, the number of Oerlikon cannons was steadily increased. Ships were often modified before leaving the shipyard with a seventh 20 mm mount in front of the bridge behind the number two 5"/38 caliber gun mount, and anywhere from one to three mounts on the flying bridge depending upon the bridge configuration of the ship. In combat, commanders often requisitioned additional guns, and some Fletchers mounted up to thirteen 20 mm cannons. In June and July 1943, two more twin Bofors mounts were added in place of the 20 mm cannons in front of and below the bridge, giving a total of ten barrels. With this modification, the Oerlikon cannons were rearranged and their number was standardized at seven; four amidships and three in a heart-shaped mount on the fantail.

Due to the increasing threat from kamikaze attacks, beginning in July 1945 some ships returning to the United States for refit received further antiaircraft modifications, replacing the forward set of quintuple torpedo tubes with a large gun platform housing two quadruple 40 mm guns (for a total of fourteen barrels). The seven single 20 mm guns were replaced with six twin mounts (four amidships and two on the fantail, rather than three as before).

Three (Pringle, Stevens, and Halford) were built with aircraft catapults, resulting in the deletion of the rear torpedo tube mount and number 3 5-inch gun mount. This alteration was not a success in service and was not repeated. These three destroyers were later converted to the normal Fletcher-class configuration.

Service

Nineteen Fletchers were lost during World War II; six more were damaged, evaluated as constructive total losses, and not repaired.[1] Postwar, the remainder were decommissioned and put into reserve.

Korean War

With the outbreak of the Korean War many were returned to active duty. During this time 39 were refitted under project SCB 74A, reducing their overall main armament and the number of torpedo tubes to accommodate other weapons. A new ahead-throwing weapon called Weapon Alpha was installed in many of the ships. Others carried trainable Hedgehogs. Eighteen ships were redesignated as escort destroyers (DDE), optimized for anti-submarine warfare; these reverted to destroyer (DD) designation in 1962.

World War II Destroyer Shipbuilders map from Department of Defense (DoD)
World War II Destroyer Shipbuilders map from Department of Defense (DoD)

Other navies

Many of the ships were sold to other navies during the mid-1950s, including:

Argentina: 5
Brazil: 7
Chile: 2
Colombia: 1
Greece: 7
Italy: 3
Japan: 2
Mexico: 2
Peru: 2
South Korea: 3
Spain: 5
Republic of China (Taiwan): 4
Turkey: 4
West Germany: 6

Any remaining were broken up in the 1970s. The last Fletcher in service, BAM Cuitlahuac (ex-John Rodgers), left the Mexican navy in 2001, meaning the total service life of the Fletchers stretched over almost six decades and into the 21st century.[1]

Argentina

A total of five Fletchers were transferred to the Argentine Navy in two batches. The first batch of three ships was transferred in 1961 and the second in 1971. By the late 1970s, the ships were obsolete and they did not play a significant role in the Falklands War, being stricken that year for scrapping or use as a target ship.

Pennant Ship name Former name Acquired Fate
D-20 ARA Almirante Brown USS Heermann 14 August 1961 Scrapped in 1982
D-21 ARA Espora USS Dortch 16 August 1961 Scrapped in 1977
D-22 ARA Rosales USS Stembel 7 August 1961 Scrapped in 1982
D-23 ARA Almirante Domecq Garcia USS Braine 17 August 1971 Sunk as a target on 7 October 1983
D-24 ARA Almirante Storni USS Cowell 17 August 1971 Scrapped in 1982

Brazil

Pennant Ship name Former name Acquired Fate
D27 Para USS Guest 5 June 1959 struck in 1978, sunk as a target on 23 February 1983
D28 Paraiba USS Bennett 15 December 1959 struck and scrapped in 1978
D29 Paraná USS Cushing 20 July 1961 struck in 1973 and scrapped in 1982
D30 Pernambuco USS Hailey 20 July 1961 sunk as a target about 1982
D31 Piaui USS Lewis Hancock 1 August 1967 struck and scrapped in 1989
D32 Santa Catarina USS Irwin 10 May 1968 struck in 1988 and sunk as a target in 1990
D33 Maranhao USS Shields 1 July 1972 struck and scrapped in 1990

Chile

Pennant Ship name Former name Acquired Fate
D-14 Blanco Encalada USS Wadleigh 26 July 1962 struck in 1982, sunk as a target on 28 September 1991
D-15 Cochrane USS Rooks 26 July 1962 struck in 1983, scrapped
N/A N/A USS Charles J. Badger 10 May 1974 scrapped and cannibalized

Colombia

Pennant Ship name Former name Acquired Fate
DD-01 ARC Antioquia USS Hale 23 January 1961 struck in 1973, scrapped

Greece

Pennant Ship name Former name Acquired Fate
D-06 Aspis USS Conner 15 September 1959 struck in 1991, scrapped in 1997
D-16 Velos USS Charrette 16 June 1959 Active - In commission as museum ship since 1991
D-28 Thyella USS Bradford 27 September 1962 struck in 1981, scrapped in 1981
D-42 Kimon USS Ringgold 18 September 1981 struck in 1993, scrapped in 1993
D-56 Lonchi USS Hall 9 February 1960 struck on 10 October 1990, scrapped in 1997
D-63 Navarinon USS Brown 27 September 1962 struck in 1981, scrapped in 1981
D-65 Nearchos USS Wadsworth 15 October 1980 struck in 1991, scrapped in 1991
D-85 Sfendoni USS Aulick 21 August 1959 struck in 1991, scrapped in 1997
N/A N/A USS Claxton February 1981 scrapped and cannibalized
N/A N/A USS Dyson February 1982 scrapped and cannibalized

Italy

Pennant Ship name Former name Acquired Fate
D-560 Lanciere USS Taylor 2 July 1969 struck in 1971 and cannibalized to provide spare parts for her sisters in Italian service
D-561 Fante USS Walker 2 July 1969 struck and broken up for scrap in 1977
D-555 Geniere USS Prichett 17 January 1970 struck and broken up for scrap in 1975

Japan

Pennant Ship name Former name Acquired Fate
DD-183 JDS Ariake USS Heywood L. Edwards 10 March 1959 struck in 1974, scrapped in 1976
DD-184 JDS Yūgure USS Richard P. Leary 10 March 1959 struck in 1974, scrapped on 1 July 1976

Mexico

Pennant Ship name Former name Acquired Fate
E-01 ARM Cuauhtémoc USS Harrison 19 August 1970 Dismantled
E-02 ARM Cuitláhuac USS John Rodgers 19 August 1970 Scrapped in 2011

South Korea

Pennant Ship name Former name Acquired Fate
DD-91 ROKS Chung Mu USS Erben 16 May 1963 possibly scrapped
DD-92 ROKS Seoul USS Halsey Powell 27 April 1968 struck in 1982, scrapped in 1982
DD-93 ROKS Pusan USS Hickox 15 November 1968 struck in 1989, scrapped in 1989

Taiwan (Republic of China)

Pennant Ship name Former name Acquired Fate
DDG-108 ROCS Kwei Yang USS Twining 16 August 1971 struck in 1999, scrapped
DDG-109 ROCS Ching Yang USS Mullany 6 October 1971 struck in 1999, sunk as a target on 1 November 2001
DDG-918 ROCS An Yang USS Kimberly 1 June 1967 struck in 1999, sunk as a target on 14 October 2003
DDG-919 ROCS Kuen Yang USS Yarnall 10 June 1968 struck in 1999, scrapped


Surviving ships

The former USS Cassin Young preserved as a museum ship in 2007
The former USS Cassin Young preserved as a museum ship in 2007

Four Fletcher-class destroyers are preserved as museum ships. Three are in the United States and one is in Greece, although only Kidd retains her World War II configuration.

Velos is the only vessel still in commission. Velos alongside G. Averof are ceremonially commissioned by the Hellenic Navy having Palaio Faliro as their base. Their crew are active Officers of Hellenic Navy. Velos still retains its complete armament and equipment(as modernized in 1950s). In September 2019 its crew took her to Thessaloniki for a short 3 month stay. As of October 2020, she remains in Thessaloniki and she has been visited by over 157.000 visitors.

All three American museum ships have been designated as National Historic Landmarks.[12][13][14]

Surviving ships

Surviving parts

Notes

In 2018, Kidd was used as the filming location for the fictional USS Keeling (codenamed Greyhound), from C.S. Forester's novel The Good Shepherd, in its appearance in the book's 2020 cinematic adaptation, Greyhound.[24][25]

Ships in class

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c destroyerhistory.org: Fletcher class
  2. ^ "USS Bush-Fletcher class". Retrieved 12 April 2007.
  3. ^ Friedman, Norman. US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (revised edition, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2004), pp.111-112.
  4. ^ Friedman p.472
  5. ^ Friedman p.111-112
  6. ^ a b Friedman, pp.111-112
  7. ^ Friedman, p.118
  8. ^ Friedman, p.112
  9. ^ Friedman, pp.112-113
  10. ^ Friedman, p.111
  11. ^ George Stewart (31 July 2013). "Life on a Fletcher Class Destroyer in the 1950's".
  12. ^ Harry A. Butowsky (May 1985). "USS The Sullivans (DD-537)" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination. National Park Service.
  13. ^ "NHL nomination for USS Kidd". National Park Service. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  14. ^ "NHL nomination for USS Cassin Young (destroyer)". National Park Service. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  15. ^ "USS Fletcher (DD-445, later DDE-445)". public1.nhhcaws.local. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  16. ^ "radford-museum – USS Orleck DD-886". Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  17. ^ cfitzgerald@chronline.com, Celene Fitzgerald /. "Veterans' Museum to Receive Historic Navy Ship's Mast". The Chronicle. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  18. ^ "USS KIDD Veterans Museum". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  19. ^ "USS Dyson Bell". www.verduinwebs.com. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  20. ^ "Flag Honors Hall of Fame | Naval ROTC Alumni Society". Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  21. ^ "USS Knapp - bridge: Fujifilm X System / SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review". www.dpreview.com. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  22. ^ "Fletcher-Klasse Mark-30 Turm Walkaround (124) Scalenews". Scalenews (in German). Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  23. ^ "Handfestes Phänomen am Bahnhof Marbeck". www.fletcher-oldies.de. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  24. ^ J.D. Simkins (March 2020). "'Greyhound' trailer puts Tom Hanks at the helm of a Nazi-hunting WWII destroyer". Military Times.
  25. ^ Jeremy Krail, Sydney Kern (9 April 2018). "Tom Hanks' WWII drama filming aboard USS Kidd this week". ABC Baton Rouge WBRZ 2. Louisiana Television Broadcasting LLC.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)

Bibliography