Downes DD-375

USS Downes (DD-375) was a Mahan class destroyer that was badly damaged at Pearl Harbor, but was rebuilt using her old machinery and a new hull and returned to action in time to support the invasions of the Marianas and Leyte, before ending the war on patrol duty around Iwo Jima.

USS Downes (DD-375) underway 1938 USS Downes (DD-375) underway 1938

The Downes was named after John Downes, who fought in the US Navy during the war with Tripoli and the War of 1812, going on to serve as Commodore of the Pacific and Mediterranean Squadrons.

The Downes (DD-375) was launched at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 22 April 1936 when she was sponsored by Miss S. F. Downes, a descendant of Captain Downes, and commissioned on 15 January 1937. However she didn’t leave the Navy Yard until 1 March.

The Downes was allocated to the Pacific Fleet, arriving at San Diego on 24 November 1937. This was her home port for the next two and a half years, before she took part in the move of the Pacific Fleet to Pearl Harbor in April 1940.

In March-April 1941 she took part in a fleet cruise to Samoa, Fiji and Australia. In the autumn she visited the US West Coast, but was back at Pearl Harbor by the end of November.

USS Cassin (DD-372) and USS Downes (DD-375) after Pearl Harbor USS Cassin (DD-372) and USS Downes (DD-375) after Pearl Harbor

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 the Downes was in drydock along the Cassin (DD-372), with the Pennsylvania (BB-38) at the other end. The Pennsylvania was protected against torpedo attack by the dry dock, but the destroyers were vulnerable. An incendiary bomb landed between them, causing a fire that was then fuelled by oil from a damaged tank. Both destroyers were able to open fire, although on the Downes that involved assembling the breech plugs of the 5in guns, which had been removed for an alteration, and fetching suitable 0.5in ammo from the Cassin. The machine guns were used against the initial Japanese attacks, and one 5in gun was fired manually at 8.45 to see if the ship was stable enough to use those guns while in dry dock.

Soon after this dive bombers attacked the drydock, starting fires in the dry dock and onboard the Downes. In addition an attempt to put out the fires by letting water into the drydock failed, and burning oil rose with the water, eventually triggering explosions in the ammo and torpedo warheads. The two destroyers had to be abandoned, and suffered heavy fire damage. The Cassin then slipped off her keel blocks, and came to a rest against the Downes (where she remained until 5 February 1942).

1942-1943

The decision was eventually made to salvage the machinery and weaponry from the two destroyers, ship it to Mare Island, and rebuild them using new hulls but the old machinery. The original Downes was decommissioned on 20 June 1942, and the newly rebuilt ship was recommissioned at Mare Island on 15 November 1943.

1944

The Downes departed from San Francisco on 8 March to escort a convoy to Pearl Harbor. She then moved on to Majuro, where she arrived on 26 March.

From then until 5 April she blockaded the Japanese held island of Wotje Atoll.

Aft deckhouse on USS Downes (DD-375) Aft deckhouse on USS Downes (DD-375)

After a trip back to Pearl Harbor, she arrived at Eniwetok on 6 May, becoming the task unit commander for the offshore patrol and the harbour entrance control vessel. She also carried out rescue missions, picking up one pilot in the lagoon at Eniwetok and four crewmen near to Ponape.

On 15 June the Downes and the Onslow (AVP-48) left Eniwetok to escort the Pocomoke (AV-9) to Saipan.

In July the Downes escorted convoys from Eniwetok to Saipan to support the invasion of the Marianas. She was at Eniwetok on 20 July when she rescued the crew of the Tuscana (AKN-3)’s Buoy Boat No.1 after they had to abandon ship while stranded on a reef.

During the invasion of Tinian she patrolled off the island, provided fire support for operations around Marpi Point, and bombarded Aguijan Island.

USS Downes (DD-375) bombarding Marcus Island USS Downes (DD-375) bombarding Marcus Island

On 9 October she took part in a bombardment of Marcus Island, carried out to divert attention from a carrier attack on Nansei Shoto.

On 14 October 1944 the Downes left Saipan to join TG 38.1, which was hoping to intercept any Japanese ships that came out to attack damaged cruisers Canberra (CA-70) and Houston (CL-81) as they retreated to safety after suffering damage in air attacks, but the Japanese failed to bite.

The task group then moved to Leyte to support the landings on 20 October. On the same day the Downes departed for Ulithi for replenishment, but was then called back to screen the carriers during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. After the battle was over she resumed her voyage to Ulithi.

1945

The Downes continued on to Pearl Harbor for an overhaul, before returning to Ulithi on 29 March 1945 as part of the escort of a convoy.

She then moved on to Guam, where from 5 April to 5 June she carried out patrols, air sea rescue missions, escort duties and training with submarines in the Mariana Islands.

From 9 June she performed the same role from Iwo Jima.

On 19 September, after the end of the war, the Downes left Iwo Jima heading for the United States, carrying some returning servicemen home. She reached Norfolk on 5 November and was decommissioned on 17 December 1945 and sold on 18 November 1947.

Downes received four battle stars for World War II service, for Pearl Harbor, the Mariana Islands, the Marcus Island raid of 1944 and Leyte.

Displacement (standard)

1,487.9 standard

Displacement (loaded)

2,102.6t

Top Speed

37.8kts at 44,477shp at 1,749t on trials (Mahan)

Engine

2-shaft General Electric turbines
4 boilers
46,000shp design

Range

6,500nm at 12kts design
7,300nm at 12kts on trials (Mahan)
6,940nm at 12kts at 2,200t wartime
4,360nm at 20kts at 2,200t wartime

Length

341ft 3in

Width

35ft 6.5in

Armaments

Five 5in/38 DP guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in three quad mounts
Four 0.50in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement

158

Laid down

 

Launched

22 April 1936

Commissioned

15 January 1937

Sold

18 November 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 (16 February 2022), Downes DD-375 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Downes_DD375.html

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