USS Delphy (DD-261)

USS Delphy (DD-261) was a Clemson class destroyer that was most famous for being one of the seven destroyers lost in the Honda Point disaster of 1923.

The Delphy was named after Richard Delphy, a US sailor who was killed in action during the War of 1812.

The Delphy was launched by Bethlehem at Quincy, Mass, on 18 July 1918 and commissioned on 30 November 1918.

From 23-31 December 1918 the Delphy was used to test submarine detection devices at New London. On 1 January 1919 the Delphy rescued survivors from the Northern Pacific, which had run aground off Fire Island, New York.

USS Delphy (DD-261) being launched
USS Delphy (DD-261)
being launched

The Delphy left New York on 13 January to join the Atlantic Fleet, which was then carrying out its annual winter visit to the Caribbean. She took part in the exercises, then returned to New York on 14 April.

At the end of April 1919 the Delphy put to sea to help support the first transatlantic seaplane flight.

On 19 November 1919 the Delphy left Boston heading for the west coast, arriving at San Diego on 22 December. She joined the Destroyer Squadrons, Pacific Fleet and took part in torpedo exercises. She was then placed into the reserve on 12 June 1920. On 27 December 1920 she departed for Bremerton, Washington, arriving on 4 January 1921 to begin an overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard,

Between 22 July 1921 and 20 March 1922 the Delphy was based at San Diego, with a 50 percent complement. She then underwent another overhaul.

From 6 February to 11 April 1923 the Delphy took part in exercises with the Battle Fleet off Balboa. She then took part in experiments with torpedoes.

On 25 June 1923 the Delphy and Destroyer Division 31 departed for a cruise to Washington. On the way back she took part in exercises with the Battle Fleet.

Early in September 1923 the Delphy was part of a large force of destroyers that was heading south along the California coast heading for Santa Barbara.

Crew of USS Delphy (DD-261) besides their ship Crew of USS Delphy (DD-261) besides their ship

On 8 September the destroyers were turning east to enter the Santa Barbara Channel (where the coast turns east, creating a channel between the mainland to the north and the Channel Islands to the south), but the coast was hidden in a thick fog. The destroyers were actually much further north than they believed, and they ran aground. The Delphy was the squadron leader, and was the first to run aground. She hit the rocks at 21.05, and ran ashore at 20 knots. Her stern ended up below the surface. The third ship to run aground, the Young, ran into the Delphy and capsized. The only fatalities in the disaster were on these two destroyers – 3 on the Delphy and 20 on the Young.

A great deal of effort went into salvaging as much as possible from the destroyers. On 21 September the first attempt was made to remove the two torpedoes on the Delphy, but without success. On 22 September one of the torpedoes was removed. An attempt to remove the second one on 24 September also failed.

By 8 October the Delphy had broken up and disappeared from sight. 

Lt. Commander H.G. Donald, the Squadron Engineer, was issued with a Letter of Commendation for securing the Delphy’s boilers and helping to organise the landing of the crew.

The Delphy was officially decommissioned on 26 October 1923 and sold as a wreck on 19 October 1925.

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



18 July 1918


30 November 1918


8 September 1923

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 (17 February 2020), USS Delphy (DD-261) ,

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