USS Bainbridge (DD-246)

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) was a Clemson class destroyer that escorted convoys to Iceland in 1941, served on escort duty along the US coast in 1942, trans-Atlantic convoys and one spell with a hunter-killer group in 1943 and helped training up new warships in 1944-45.

The Bainbridge was named after William Bainbridge, an American naval officer who fought in the quasi-war against France, the war against the Barbary corsairs, and the War of 1812, commanding USS Constitution during her victory over HMS Java.

Depth Charge Racks on USS Bainbridge (DD-246)
Depth Charge Racks on
USS Bainbridge (DD-246)

The Bainbridge was laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Co at Camden, New Jersey, on 27 May 1919, launched on 12 June 1920 and commissioned on 9 February 1921. Her first permanent commander was Hewlett Thebaud, who later commanded the American naval forces in Ireland after the American entry into the Second World War, the cruiser USS Boise during the invasions of Sicily and mainland Italy and Cruiser Division Ten in the Pacific.

After entering service the Bainbridge served with the Atlantic Fleet’s Destroyer Squadrons. She spent most of 1921 operating along the US East Coast, often with a half crew. She spent the first three months of 1922 taking part in gunnery and engineering exercises in the Caribbean. Another brief spell on the East Coast followed, before on 2 October 1922 she was one of twelve destroyers from Squadron 12 that departed for the Mediterranean to reinforce the US presence in Turkish waters.

The Bainbridge arrived at Constantinople on 22 October 1922. She spent the next few months based at Constantinople, and paying regular visits to ports around the Black Sea, Anatolia and in Greece. She was also used as a mail ship and to transport passengers between the ports. This routine was interrupted on 16 December 1922 when she found the French military transport Vinh-Long on fire in the Sea of Marmora. The Bainbridge was alongside when the French ship’s aft magazine exploded, forcing the two ships apart. The same happened when the forward magazine exploded, so Lt Commander Walter A Edwards decided to ram the Vinh-Long to allow the survivors to escape. Thanks to his daring move the Bainbridge was able to rescue 482 of the 495 passengers and crew of the Vinh-Long. He was awarded the French Legion of Honor and the American Medal of Honor for his efforts. On 18 May 1923 the Bainbridge and her division departed for home, after peace talks at Lausanne appeared to be making good progress.

After her return to the United States the Bainbridge joined the Scouting Fleet, based on the East Coast. This fleet’s general pattern of operations saw her ships based on the US coast in the summer and in the Caribbean in the winter, with trips further afield to deal with various local crisis and to take part in the annual fleet exercises.
 
On 5 September 1923 the Bainbridge was used as an observation platform for General Billy Mitchell’s bombing tests, which saw a force of Martin MB-2 or NBS-1 bombers attack the USS New Jersey (BB-16) and USS Virginia (BB-13) off the coast of North Carolina. Both of the battleships were sunk, demonstrating the potential impact of air power, but the results were controversial, and the Navy was able to argue that the battleships were stationary, unmanned, outdated and not firing back.

Early in 1924 the Bainbridge took part in Army-Navy Problem No.2 which involved the Battle Fleet and the Scouting Fleet, those Army units based in Panama, and was designed to test the defences of the Panama Canal.

Early in 1925 the Bainbridge took part in Fleet Problem V, which once again involved the Battle Fleet and the Scouting Fleet, and took place on the voyage north from the Panama Canal to San Diego. The combined fleet then moved to Hawaii for further exercises. She returned to the East Coast in July.

USS Bainbridge (DD-246) at sea, 23 July 1944 USS Bainbridge (DD-246) at sea, 23 July 1944

The Bainbridge missed the first part of the 1926 exercises while undergoing an overhaul, but took part in the later stages in March-April. She spent part of the rest of the year carrying out short naval reservist training cruises.  

The Bainbridge set off to take part in the 1927 exercises, but had to return to New York to have mechanical problems fixed. After the repairs were completed she was diverted to the coast of Nicaragua, where she spent the period between 27 April and 4 June supporting a force of US Marines on land and the Special Service Squadron off the Pacific coast.

Anyone who landed in Nicaragua between 27 April 1927 and 4 June 1927 qualified for the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal.

After a similar pattern of activities in 1928-1930 the Bainbridge was decommissioned on 23 December 1930.

The Bainbridge was recommissioned on 9 March 1932 and spent the next eighteen months in reduced commission with Rotating Reserve Squadron 19. Her role in this period was to carry out more training cruises with the Naval Reserve.

In August 1933 a revolution broke out in Cuba, against the rule of the increasingly dictatorial President Machado, at least partly inspired by the US Ambassador. On 1 September 1933 the Bainbridge was placed into full commission as part of Destroyer Division 8 of the Scouting Force (with Goff (DD-247), McFarland (DD-237), and Reuben James (DD-245)). The squadron was sent to Cuban waters to protect US interests. Machado fell from power, but attempts to replace him with a more representative government failed, and the revolt marked the start of the rise to power of the dictator Fulgencio Batista. The Bainbridge and her sister ships remained in Cuban waters until the spring of 1934.

Early in 1935 the Bainbridge took part in Fleet Problem XVI as part of the Scouting Fleet. This exercise took place in the north-eastern Pacific, and in its aftermath the US fleet remained on the west coast. In the autumn the Bainbridge and her division were officially transferred to the Battle Fleet, becoming DesDiv 17, part of DesRon 6, with their base at San Diego.

In 1936 she took part in Fleet Problem XVII, off the Pacific Coast of Panama, then visited Alaska and Hawaii.

In 1937 she took part in Fleet Problem XVIII around Hawaii. On 20 November 1937 she was decommissioned for the second time, and her crew used to man one of the new destroyers that entered service that year.

Second World War

The Bainbridge was recommissioned once again on 26 September 1939 after the outbreak of war in Europe. She was allocated to the Neutrality Patrol, and patrolled the eastern approaches to the Panama Canal from early in 1940 to the summer. After the fall of France she joined a force that was assembled in case the US needed to occupy Martinique, before returning to her patrol duties.

Enclosed Bridge on USS Bainbridge (DD-246)
Enclosed Bridge on
USS Bainbridge (DD-246)

In February 1941 the Bainbridge moved to Norfolk, Virginia, to join the Atlantic Fleet. She joined Task Force 4 (also known as the Support Force) and began to prepare for convoy escort duties. In May she formed part of a line of elderly US destroyers that was put in place in case the Bismarck approached American waters on her one and only sortie.

In the summer of 1941 the United States agreed to take over on Iceland, previous occupied by the British to prevent the Germans capturing the island. In late July the Bainbridge formed part of the escort for a powerful US fleet that transported fighter aircraft and supplies to Reykjavik. She spent the first half of August in Iceland, the first of several visits. In September she joined Task Force 15 to escort another convoy to Iceland, and in November she escorted a third convoy to the island. She then entered the Boston Navy Yard for repairs.

Three weeks into her availability, the United States formally entered World War II after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Bainbridge completed her repairs near year's end, leaving Boston on 29 December and returning to Argentia on 1 January 1942.

Anyone who served on her between 1-18 August and 8 September-17 November 1941 qualified for the American Defense Service Medal

The Bainbridge completed her repairs late in 1942 and departed from Boston on 29 December, arriving at Argentia on 1 January 1941.

1942

The Bainbridge carried out a fourth convoy run to Iceland in late January 1942. She then moved south to New Orleans, where she was based for three months from late February, acting as an escort for local convoys in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, during the ‘Second Happy Time’, a period when the U-boats were able to operate quite freely off the US coast. This was followed by nine months carrying out the same role along the eastern seaboard, ranging from Key West and Guantanamo Bay in the south to Hampton Roads and New York in the north. This duty lasted until the end of January 1943.

1943

On 1 March the Bainbridge departed from Chesapeake Bay as part of Task Force 37, to escort a convoy to Casablanca. This marked the start of a period operating on the trans-Atlantic convoy route. In late April she escorted another convoy across the Atlantic, this time to Algiers. She escorted a return trip from 7-20 May.

In mid-June the Bainbridge, Overton and MacLeish (DD-220) joined the Santee (CVE-29) to form Task Group 21.11, an anti-submarine hunter-killer group. In the second half of June the group formed a loose escort for Convoy UGS-10 to Casablanca.  On 7-12 July the group escorted Convoy GUS-9 through the eastern Atlantic danger zone, and then set off on a hunting mission south of the Azores. In the next two weeks the group attacked six U-boats, sinking U-159 and U-509, and forcing U-373 to return to port. The group then escorted a west-bound convoy back to the United States. During the return trip aircraft from the Santee sank U-43 (30 July)

On 28 July the Bainbridge rescued Ensign Thomas Edward Jamson after a flight deck crash on the Santee. On the following day Jamson was transferred back to the Santee on a high wire.

By August 1943 she had a 20mm gun on top of the pilothouse and a hedgehog launcher aft of her forward 3”/50 gun.

The Bainbridge and the Santee group then escorted a convoy across the Atlantic once again from 26 August-14 September. They then escorted another convoy through the eastern Atlantic danger zone before carrying out a second anti-submarine sweep off the Azores. This time they had no success, and returned to the US on 12 October.

The Bainbridge, MacLeish and Simpson escorted the Santee on a third trip across the Atlantic, arriving in Casablanca on 13 November. On 14 November the group put back to sea to meet up with President Roosevelt on USS Iowa (BB-61) at the end of his voyage to Casablanca, on his way to the Cairo and Teheran conferences. This was followed by a third anti-submarine sweep, once again without success.

After her return to the United States the Bainbridge and Simpson were sent to New York to be converted into fast transports, but the plans were cancelled and they were replaced by the Clemson (AVD-4) and George E. Badger (AVD-3). The Bainbridge resumed her earlier coastal escort duties.

1944

This role continued until June 1944. The Bainbridge then joined the forces supporting new or repaired warships on their shakedown and training cruises. Her first customer was the new carrier USS Hancock (CV-19) from mid June to mid July 1944. In late July and August she worked with the new battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64). In September she worked with the submarines Dragonet (SS-293) and Sea Cat (SS-399). In September she worked with the heavy cruiser USS Alaska (CB-1). In October she worked with the Savannah (CL-42) on her post-repair shakedown.

1945

In late January-mid February 1945 the Bainbridge worked with the new carrier USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31). On 14 February she suffered damage when she was hit by a practice torpedo while being used as a target ship. The damage was repaired at Trinidad, but soon after she returned to duty in late February she was damaged by an explosion in her paint locker. This time the repairs lasted into April, but she never really returned to fully active service. In June she was ordered to move to Philadelphia, where she was decommissioned on 21 July 1945. She was struck off on 13 August 1945 and sold for scrap on 30 November 1945.

Bainbridge (DD-246) earned one battle star during World War II, for service with Task Group 21.11 between 13 June-6 August 1943.

Displacement (standard)

1,190t

Displacement (loaded)

1,308t

Top Speed

35kts
35.51kts at 24,890shp at 1,107t on trial (Preble)

Engine

2-shaft Westinghouse geared tubines
4 boilers
27,000shp (design)

Range

2,500nm at 20kts (design)

Length

314ft 4in

Width

30ft 10.5in

Armaments

Four 4in/ 50 guns
One 3in/23 AA gun
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple mountings
Two depth charge tracks
One Y-Gun depth charge projector

Crew complement

114

Launched

12 June 1920

Commissioned

9 February 1921

Sold for scrap

30 November 1945

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (21 October 2019), USS Bainbridge (DD-246) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Bainbridge_DD246.html

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