USS Decatur (DD-5)

USS Decatur (DD-5) was a Bainbridge class destroyer. She was the first destroyer to be commissioned into the US Navy and served in the Philippines until 1917 then as an escort ship in the Mediterranean theatre.

The Decatur was named after Commodore Stephen Decatur, a famous American naval commander of the War of 1812. She was launched on 26 September 1900 and commissioned on 19 May 1902. She became the lead vessel of the 1st Torpedo Flotilla, where she was joined by all four of her sister ships. The flotilla took part in a series of drills off the US east coast during 1903, before in December 1903 it began a four month voyage to Cavite, in the Philippines, where it joined the Asiatic Fleet.

USS Decatur (DD-5) on trials, 1902
USS Decatur (DD-5)
on trials, 1902

During her time in the Philippines her normal routine was to spent the summer in Chinese waters, 'showing the flag' and carrying out drills, and the winter in the Philippines.

On 5 December 1905 the Decaturwas placed into the reserve to under go repairs to her boilers.

On 7 July 1908 the Decatur ran aground on a sand bar while she was under the command of the young Ensign Chester Nimitz. The ship was undamaged and was towed off the sand bar on 8 July, but Nimitz was court-martialed, found guilt of neglect of duty and issued with a letter of reprimand. This didn't harm his career, and within a year he had been given command of the First Submarine Flotilla.

She was placed out of commission for a second time on 18 February 1909, probably because of a shortage of personnel. She was recommissioned in the reserve on 22 April 1910 and placed back into full commission on 22 December 1910. She rejoined the Torpedo Flotilla and returned to her routine in Chinese and Philippine waters.

18in torpedo on USS Decatur (DD-5)
18in torpedo on USS Decatur (DD-5)

In August 1917 the flotilla left the Philippines and sailed to Gibraltar, where they arrived on 20 October 1917. The Decatur was used for patrols and escort duties in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic approaches as part of the US Patrol Squadrons. Two of her sister ships left after nine months, but Decatur and Dale remained until 8 December 1918.

The Decatur returned to Philadelphia on 6 February 1919 and was decommissioned on 20 June 1919. She was sold for scrap on 3 January 1920.

Displacement (standard)

420 tons

Displacement (loaded)

620 tons

Top Speed



4 Thornycroft boilers
2 Vertical Triple Engines


3000 miles at cruising speed




23ft 7in


Two 3in/25 guns
Five 6pdr guns
Two 18in torpedo tubes

Crew complement



26 September 1900


19 May 1902


Sold 1920

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

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 October 2015), USS Decatur (DD-5) ,

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