USS Bulmer (DD-222)

USS Bulmer (DD-222) was a Clemson class destroyer that served in the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea in 1922-24, and with the Asiatic Fleet from 1925 onwards. She survived the disastrous campaign in the Dutch East Indies in 1942, and went on to serve with anti-submarine hunter-killer groups in the Atlantic in 1943-44.

The Bulmer was named after Roscoe Carlyle Bulmer, the US naval representative at a post First World War conference to examine the problem of mine clearance, and early in 1919 took command of the operation, before dying at Kirkwall on 5 August 1919 of injuries he suffered in a car crash on the road from Stromness to Kirkwall.

The Bulmer was launched at Cramp’s of Philadelphia on 22 January 1920 (with Bulmer’s daughter Anita Poor Bulmer as her sponsor) and commissioned on 16 August 1920.

USS Bulmer (DD-222), early 1920s
USS Bulmer (DD-222),
early 1920s

In 1920 the Bulmer joined Destroyer Division 10 of the Pacific Fleet, based at San Diego. Over the next year she operated along the US West Coast, as well as paying visits to other ports. In 1921 she visited Valparaiso, Chile (31 January-5 February), Balboa, Panama (15-23 February) and Monterey (17 June-1 July). She spent October and the first half of November in the dry dock at the Mare Island Navy Yard.

In December 1921 the Bulmer moved to her new home port at Charleston. She spent the winter in port, before in  March moving to Philadelphia to go into the dry dock. On 22 May 1922 she was ordered to join the US Naval Forces in European Waters. On 5 June 1922 she joined up with the Litchfield (DD-336), Parrott (DD-218), Edsall (DD-219), MacLeish (DD-220), Simpson (DD-221), and McCormick (DD-223). The flotilla crossed the Atlantic on 12-22 June 1922. The Bulmer then continued on to Constantinople.

The Bulmer’s first task was to tour the Black Sea, visiting Novorossiyks (12-13 July), Odessa (1-2 July), Samsun (Turkey) (31 July-1 August), Varna (18-25 August), Odessa (26 August-16 September), Yalta (16-17 September), Feodosia (18 September), Novorossiyks (19 September) and Samsum again (21-29 September). In October she operated in the Sea of Marmora, and in late November she entered the Eastern Mediterranean, where she visited Jaffa (1-2 December), Alexandria (3 December) and Beirut (5 December).

The Allied occupation of Constantinople came to an end between 23 August and 23 September 1923, after the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne (23 July 1923). The Bulmer spent the rest of her time in European waters in the Mediterranean, visiting Palermo (1-19 January 1924), Naples (31 January-13 February), Alexandria (16-18 February), Marseilles (24-30 March), Bizerte (31 March-18 April) and Venice (21-28 June).

On 1 July 1924 the Bulmer departed from the Mediterranean, reaching Boston on 26 July. She underwent another overhaul, which lasted until 11 December.

At the start of 1925 the Bulmer moved to Guantanamo Bay to take part in exercises with DesDiv 39. On 14 February she passed through the Panama Canal, heading for her new base at San Diego, but events in China, and in particular an increase in violent disorder around Shanghai, triggered by a dispute around a Japanese factory and made worse when the largely British led Shanghai Municipal Police fired on protestors who were besieging a police station on 30 May 1925, killing nine.

The Bulmer was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet, and after training around Pearl Harbor in May, departed for China on 29 May. She reached Chefoo on 3 June 1925, while the protests about the shootings were in full swing. However the Bulmer wasn’t involved to any great extent in the events of 1925, although she did spend 25 September-16 October at Shanghai, before departing for Manila.

The Bulmer returned to China in 1926, operating around Shanghai and in the Yangtze, before returning to Manila at the end of the year.

US Destroyers at Chefoo, 1930s US Destroyers at Chefoo, 1930s

Early in 1927 Chinese mobs overran a series of British concessions. The Bulmer was present at Wuhu when the concession there was overrun on 11 January, and visited to Shanghai before returning to Manila at the start of March. In the aftermath of the troubles around Shanghai Chang Kai-shek launched an attack on the Chinese Communists, starting a civil war that would eventually destroy his regime. The Bulmer was used to protect US interests around the Chinese coast, splitting her summers between the South China and Yangtze patrols. In 1927 she also visited Thailand and Saigon and in 1928 Nagasaki and Yokohama.

On 28 January 1932 the Japanese attacked Shanghai. On 29 January the Bulmer was sent to the city, arriving on 1 February. She joined a sizable US fleet which was used to protect the International Settlement. She spent much of the first half of 1932 close to Shanghai, before the crisis came to an end.

Anyone who served on her on one of sixteen sets of dates between 7 January 1927 and 7 August 1932 qualified for the Yangtze Service Medal.

In August 1937 the Japanese attacked Shanghai for the second time. The Bulmer was rushed to the scene, arriving on 1 September 1937. She was largely an observer as the Japanese and Chinese fought around the city, although spent some of her time escorting merchant ships. As the battle came to an end the Bulmer left on 11 November, ironically heading for Yokohama, Japan, where she underwent a period of upkeep and maintenance.

In 1938 she visited Shanghai, the South China Sea, Chefoo, Tsingtao, Amoy and Swatow. Once again she spent the winter of 1938-39 in the Philippines.

In 1939 she returned to Chinese waters once again, spending most of the summer in Southern China.  

In 1940 she spent less time in Chinese waters than normal, but did serve with the South China Patrol and pay a visit to Shanghai. This was the last year in which the established pattern of life in the Asiatic Fleet took place, and on 21 October 1940 Admiral Thomas C. Hart, commander of the Asiatic Fleet, withdrew all major US resources from China, leaving only the Yangtze gun boats.

Anyone who served on her on one of four sets of dates between 7 July 1937 and 4 September 1939 qualified for the China Service Medal.


The Bulmer spent the summer of 1941 on a mix of patrol and training duties in the Philippines. From 24 August-28 September she was in the Navy Yard at Cavite, and from 29 September-6 October in the Dewey Dry Dock.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the Bulmer was at Manila. From 11-16 December she was used to escort ships through the minefields in Manila Bay. On 15 December she had to tow the tanker George G. Henry out of a dangerous spot in the minefield between Corregidor and Bataan. Admiral Hart didn’t want lose all of his destroyers in the Philippines, and on 16 December the Bulmer departed for Surabaya on Java in the Dutch East Indies, arriving on 24 December.

On 27 December 1941 the Bulmer left Surabaya with Task Force 5, made up of the cruiser Marblehead (CL-12), the submarine tender USS Holland (AS-3), the minesweeper USS Whippoorwill (AM-35), the former carrier and now aircraft tender USS Langley (AV-3), the fast destroyer transport USS William B. Preston (AVD-7) and her fellow Clemson class destroyers USS Steward (DD-224) and USS Parrott (DD-218). Their initial task was to join up with a convoy coming from Hawaii.

The Task Force visited Booby Island (1-3 January 1942) in the Torres Strait (between the north-eastern tip of Australia and New Guinea), where on 2 January it was joined by the cruiser Houston. The convoy arrived on 3 January, and the fleet reached Darwin on 5 January.

The Bulmer’s next task was a patrol along the islands between Timor and Java, a key part of the ‘Malay Barrier’ protecting the northern approaches to Australia. She was at Kupang Harbor, on the western end of Timor on 10-11 January. She then moved north-west (with the Pope (DD-225) and Marblehead) to Saleh Bay in the middle of Sumbawa in the Lesser Sunda Islands (15-16 January), returned to Kupang (18-19 January) and then Waworada Bay on the south-eastern shores of Sumbawa (21-22 January), before moving west to Surabaya (25-30 January 1942) in eastern Java.

On 1 February the Bulmer left Surabaya as part of Task Force 5, heading north into the Makassar Strait (between Borneo and Sulawesi) in an attempt to intercept a Japanese convoy that was believed to be heading for Surabaya. On 4 February the task force was attacked by a large force of Japanese bombers, which targeted the cruisers. During the resulting battle of the Makassar Strait (4 February 1942) the Marblehead was hit and badly damaged by Japanese bombs and for some time was only able to steam in circles. The Houston was also hit, and the Allied fleet was forced to retreat. During the battle the Bulmer used her anti-aircraft guns, and went to the aid of the Marblehead. The Bulmer was part of the force that was sent to escort the Marblehead to Tjilatjap on the southern coast of Java.

On 14 February the Bulmer was part of the ABDA fleet that left Bandar Lampung in southern Sumatra, screening the Dutch light cruiser De Ruyter (along with the Stewart and Barker). On 15 February the fleet was attacked by Japanese bombers. The Bulmer was shaken by near misses, but came closest to suffering serious damage when she nearly collided with HMS Exeter late in the day. The Bulmer reached Batavia on Java early on 16 February, and then returned to Tjilatjap.

On 19 February the Bulmer was detached from the main fleet and along with the Barker ordered to escort the destroyer tender Black Hawk (AD-9) to Exmouth Gulf, Australia, arriving on 27 February (along with the submarine tender USS Holland (AS-3) and the submarine Stingray (SS-186). As a result she missed the disastrous battle of the Java Sea, in which all of the heavy ships present with the ABDA fleet were sunk.

During March and April 1942 the Bulmer was used to escort ships through the minefields around Fremantle, on the south-western coast of Australia. She was also used as a anti-submarine escort for other ships passing through the area.

On 1 May she left Fremantle heading for Sydney, and she operated around the south-eastern coast for much of May, before departing for Pearl Harbor on 22 May (with her sister ship USS Paul Jones).  After a lengthy voyage that took her to Efate, Fiji and American Samoa before reaching Pearl Harbor on 16 June. After a brief period of upkeep she left Pearl Harbor on 22 June as part of Task Force 15, escorting a convoy to San Francisco. During the crossing she was used to rescue two Japanese prisoners of war who had jumped off the transport Republic (AP-33) in an attempt to escape. She reached San Francisco on 29 June.

The Bulmer underwent a brief overhaul at Mare Island, which was over by 8 July 1942. Between then and May 1943 she operated as a convoy escort vessel on the trip between Pearl Harbor and San Francisco.


In May 1943 the Bulmer was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. She reached New York on 14 June, and joined TG 21.12, an anti-submarine hunter killer group built around the escort carrier USS Core (CVE-13), serving with the Barker and the Badger. The group departed on its first voyage on 27 June, escorting Convoy UGS-11 for the first two weeks of its voyage to Gibraltar. The group was detached form the convoy on 11 July, 700 miles to the south of the Azores, and transferred to the home bound convoy GUS-9. While escorting this convoy, aircraft from the Core sank U-487 (13 July) and U-67 (16 July).  U-487 was caught on the surface, with some of her crew sunbathing! 33 survivors were picked up from her. Only three men survived from U-67. After these successes the group was detached on 17 July to carry out an aggressive sweep, but as was so often the case this failed, and the group returned to Hampton Roads on 31 July without any further successes.  On 21 July the Bulmer had been used to rescue the three crew of a Grumman TBF-1 Avenger that had been unable to return to the carrier.

On 16 August the group set sail as part of the escort of UGS-15, but the Core’s turbine’s developed problems and they had to return to the US, arriving on 2 September. Although the voyage was cut short, on 24 August the Core’s aircraft sank U-185. The Bulmer was sent to investigate, and rescued twenty-two survivors from U-185.

The Bulmer was detached from the group. From 16-28 September she escorted the seaplane tender USS Albermarle (AV-5) from Norfolk to Swansea. The Albermarle was being used to carry equipment for US anti-submarine squadrons that were about to begin operations from British bases.

In mid-October the Bulmer joined a second hunter-killer group, this time Task Group 21.16, formed around the USS Block Island, along with the destroyers Paul Jones, Parrott and Barker. The group left the US on 15 October as part of the escort for convoy UGS-21. On 17 October the group was detached to hunt for submarines to the north of the Azores. On 25 October U-488 was detected on the surface, and the Parrott managed to hit her conning tower with her 4in guns, but the submarine escaped. On 28 October aircraft from the Block Island sank U-220 and damaged U-256. This trip ended at Casablanca on 5 November 1943.

The group left Casablanca on 10 November, escorting Convoy GUS-220. Once again it was detached to search for submarines around the Azores, once again without success. The group reached Norfolk on 25 November.

The group set sail once again on 15 December, as part of the escort for convoy UGS-27. Once again it was detached after a few days. On 27 December the group was sent to intercept the German blockade runner Alsterufer, but she was sunk by Allied aircraft on 28 December, before the Block Island group reached the area.

On 29 December Bulmer and Parrott found a wolf pack of nine U-boats, but the weather was so bad that the Block Island’s aircraft couldn’t take off. The U-boats were able to escape, and even briefly threatened the carrier. The group reached Casablanca on 4 January 1944.


On 8 January 1944 the Block Island group put to sea to guard two British convoys.

On 11 January the Bulmer’s sonar picked up a target, and the Bulmer dropped 38 depth charges in four attacks.

On 13-14 January 1944 during one of these voyages, Bulmer and other escorts made several attacks against a German wolf pack of submarines in the eastern Atlantic. Bulmer conducted her attacks very aggressively and although not officially credited she probably sank or severely damaged the German submarine e U-377.

On 13-14 January 1944 the Bulmer and her group attacked a German wolf pack in the eastern Atlantic. During this attack the Bulmer was considered to have damaged or even sunk U-377, but that submarine made her last report on 15 February, after the attack, in which she did report a clash with a search group. The U-377 disappeared on her way back to base, and may have been sunk by HMS Wanderer and HMS Glenarm on 17 January. 

On 13 January British aircraft sank U-231, but most of the crew managed to escape from the sinking submarine. On 14 January the Bulmer picked up seventeen survivors, including the captain, Wolfgang Wenzel, who was then transferred to the Block Island for medical treatment.

The group returned to Norfolk on 3 February 1944. The Bulmer briefly visited Boston Naval Drydock, before undergoing anti-submarine refresher training (18-28 February 1944). Between 4 March and 25 June 1944 she served as a convoy escort on the transatlantic routes.

After more refreshing training she underwent maintenance at Boston (13-29 July). She was then assigned to Task Force 28 at Quonset Point, Rhode Island (1 August), and given the task of sweeping Narragansett Bay. This lasted until the start of October. From 4 October-15 November she took part in anti-submarine exercises from Port Everglades in southern Florida.

After these exercises were completed, the Bulmer was converted into an aircraft tender. She was redesignated as AG-86 on 1 December 1944, and was then sent to the Panama Canal Zone, arriving on 27 December 1944. She was used for training with new submarines, including the Lamprey (SS-372),  Hackleback (SS-295), Tigrone (SS-420) and Tirante (SS-419), from a base off the western end of the canal.


The anti-submarine work lasted until July 1945 when she returned to Port Everglades where she became a target ship for airmen training in air-to-surface attack tactics. She underwent her final overhaul at Brooklyn between 19 August and 26 September 1945.

By now the Bulmer was increasingly elderly, and after the war she was surplus to requirements. She was decommissioned on 16 August 1946, struck off the Navy List on 25 September 1945 and sole for scrap on 28 February 1947. 

Bulmer received two battle stars for her World War II service, one for Philippine Island Operations (8 December 1941- 6 May 1942) and the second for her service in the Core’s TG 21.12 (27 June- 21 July 1943).


Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

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


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


2,500nm at 20kts (design)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4in


30ft 10.5in


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






Sold for scrap

28 February 1947

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.
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (13 May 2019), USS Bulmer (DD-222) ,

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