USS Farragut (DD-300)

USS Farragut (DD-300) was a Clemson class destroyer that served in the Pacific during the 1920s, narrowly avoiding disaster at Honda Point, and taking part in many of the Fleet Problems of that period.

USS Farragut (DD-300) in Dry Dock, 1925 USS Farragut (DD-300) in Dry Dock, 1925

The Farragut was named after David Farragut, one of the most famous US admirals of the Civil War.

The Farragut was laid down by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp at San Francisco on 4 July 1918 and launched on 21 November 1918. She was sponsored by the wife of Captain Templin M. Potts, the President of the Board of Inspection and Survey in the Pacific. She was commissioned on 4 June 1920 with Commander Pierre L. Wilson in command.

After being commissioned she joined Destroyer Division 32, Destroyer Flotilla 5, Destroyer Squadron 4 of the Pacific Fleet, with her base at San Diego.

At some point soon afterwards she appears to have been placed in partial commission, as on 31 March 1922 she returned to full commission. From 18-29 June she took part in the Portland Rose Festival, on the coast of Oregon. The rest of 1922 was taken up with gunnery and tactical exercises.

The Farragut took part in Fleet Problem I, which was carried out in the Panama Canal Zone in February 1923. She was part of the Blue Fleet, which had the task of defending the canal, but was unable to prevent an aircraft from the Oklahoma (BB-37) (simulating a carrier strike force) from ‘destroying’ the Gatun spillway on the canal. The Farragut departed Panama after the exercises on 1 April 1923, but suffered from engine problems and had to be towed for part of the voyage home.

Crew inspection on USS Farragut (DD-300) Crew inspection on USS Farragut (DD-300)

In the spring of 1923 she and DesDiv 31 took part in torpedo practice and gunnery exercises with the Battle Fleet Plane Detachment. On 29 June the division began a cruise north, visiting San Francisco, Marshfield, Oregon and Seattle. On 27 July she took part in a naval review carried out for President Warren G. Harding, who was returning from a trip to Alaska. However Harding was seriously ill by this point, and died on 2 August.

In August 1923 the Farragut and the rest of Destroyer Division 31 took part in cruise to San Francisco. The return trip, in early September, ended in disaster. On 8 September the flagship, USS Delphy (DD-261), misjudged her location, and turned east into what her officers believed was the Santa Barbara Channel. Instead they were heading for the coast near Honda Point. The Delphy ran aground at just after 9pm, the first of seven destroyers that ran aground and were lost. The Farragut and Somers (DD-301)were the next in line, and slowed down just enough to avoid disaster. Both ships touched ground, but were able to back off. The five destroyers behind them all avoided grounding at all. The Farragut and the Somers were the only destroyers that were damaged but survived. The Farragut had a small hole in her bottom, but the damage was only slight. The commander of the Farragut was court martialed after the disaster, but acquitted.

The Farragut returned to San Diego on 10 September to have the damage repaired. Some of the work was done by the destroyer tender Melville (AD-2), but some of it required her to be hauled out of the water using a marine railway at La Playa. Once the repairs were completed she returned to her normal routine of training.

USS Farragut (DD-300) rolling in heavy seas USS Farragut (DD-300) rolling in heavy seas

The Farragut was involved in Fleet Problems II, III and IV, which took place in January-February 1924, but it isn’t clear if she took part in all three. On 2 January 1924 she departed from San Diego as part of the escort of the Battle Fleet, reaching Balboa in the Canal Zone on 16 January. She was with the fleet as it moved from Colon to Culebra Island between 25 January – 1 February, then moved north to visit Savannah, George (29 February-14 March). She was back with the fleet for torpedo practice from 18-31 March (possibly part of Fleet Problem IV). The Farragut returned to the Pacific in mid-April and was back at San Diego on 22 April. 

The Farragut took part in fleet exercises at the end of June, then a two month overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in September-October.

In March-April 1925 the Farragut served as the flagship of DesDiv 31 during Fleet Problem V, the first to include an aircraft carrier, the Langley. The carrier was judged to have been a success, and increased the Navy’s interest in fleet aviation.

In April the Farragut joined the fleet on a voyage to Hawaii, arriving on 27 April. This first visit didn’t last long, and on 7 May she departed for Bremerton, Washington, carrying men being transferred back from Hawaii. After an overhaul at Bremerton, she departed for Hawaii once again on  14 July, arriving on 19 July.

On 31 August 1925 the Navy attempted to carry out a non-stop flight from San Francisco to Honolulu, using a PN-9 flying boat piloted by Commander John Rodgers. A line of ships was placed along the route to help guide her, and the Farragut was the eighth ship in line. However on 1 September the aircraft was forced by a lack of fuel, and despite an extensive search the Navy was unable to find it. Luckily Rodgers and his crew were able to rig a sail using fabric taken from the wings, and sailed 450 miles in ten days, getting to within ten miles of the island of Kauai before they were finally spotted by the submarine USS R-4 (SS-81). Despite not having reached Hawaii, the aircraft had flown 1,841.12 miles, a distance record for her class of seaplanes that lasted for five years.

Torpedoes for USS Farragut (DD-300) and USS Thompson (DD-305) Torpedoes for USS Farragut (DD-300) and USS Thompson (DD-305)

On 27 January 1926, while the Farragut was taking part in long-range battle practice, a cartridge exploded her no.2 4in gun. The base of the cartridge case and the breech-plug assembly were blown out backwards, and as the Farragut’s guns were only shielded, and not contained in enclosed gun houses, the fragments did a great deal of damage, passing though one funnel and damaging another, damaging the guns ammo rack, a life rack, passing through the bridge, and damaging wiring and voice tubes. Seaman 2nd Class Otis L. Bogar died later on the same day and Chief Boatswain’s Mate Joseph Becker, the gun captain, died on the following day. At least seven other men were injured.

The initial court of inquiry discovered that the cause of the explosion had been damage to the firing pin point, which had broken off when the previous round was fired, and become lodged in the mechanism. When the breech was being closed ready to fire the next shell, this broken tip struck the cartridge before the breech plug was fully in place, causing the explosion. The court found that Becker had unwitting and indirectly caused the accident, but had not been guilty of misconduct, inefficiency or negligence. However Admiral Hughes, commander-in-chief of the Battle Fleet disagreed, and concluded that Becker had been at fault. The Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance both agreed.

In February-March 1926 the Farragut took part in Fleet Problem VI, held off the coast of  Central America. In the summer she took part in a cruise up the west coast, again visiting Bremerton.

Early in 1926 the Farragut took part in Fleet Problem VII, which saw one fleet attempt to escort a convoy then establish a remote base, while the other fleet attempted to stop them. The Farragut was part of the blocking fleet. After the fleet problem was over the Farragut visited Guantanamo Bay, where it took part in the Annual Military Inspection (18-26 March). She then took part in a fleet cruise up the east coast, visiting New York, Newport Rhode Island and taking part in joint Army-Navy manoeuvres off Hampton Roads from 29 May-4 June. After that she departed for home, and was back at San Diego on 25 June.

Somers (DD-301), Farragut (DD-300), John Francis Burns (DD-299), Percival (DD-298) and Stoddert (DD-302)Somers (DD-301), Farragut (DD-300), John Francis Burns (DD-299), Percival (DD-298) and Stoddert (DD-302)

In the spring of 1928 the Farragut took part in Fleet Problem VIII, which was carried out between San Francisco and Hawaii. She visited Pearl Harbor after the end of the exercises, and was back at San Diego on 23 June.

In July 1928 it was announced that the Farragut had been awarded first class prize money in the competitive long range battle practice seasons of 1927 and 1928. She kept up this level of performance, and in September 1928 was awarded the battle efficiency pennant for her class.

In the summer of 1928 the Farragut visited Oregon and Washington, and underwent an overhaul at Puget Sound. By the end of August she was back with the Battle Fleet at San Francisco, and from 1-4 September she visited the Pacific Southwest Exposition at Long Beach.

In January 1929 the Farragut took part in Fleet Problem IX, which was one of the first to include an aircraft carrier on each side. During the exercise the Saratoga was sent with one cruiser on a raid to attack the Panama Canal, successfully hitting its target. However this also demonstrated the vulnerability of unescorted carriers, as she was later ‘sunk’, ironically by the 8in guns of the Lexington! The Farragut remained in the Canal Zone until 11 March, when she departed for San Diego, arriving on 22 March. 

In June-July the Farragut visited the Pacific Northwest. She was at Portland on 22 August for the dedication of a bronze memorial to Lt. William R. Broughton, RN, who was a member of Captain George Vancouver’s Discovery Expedition, which explored the coast of the Pacific north-west in 1791-95. She then took part in joint Army and Navy exercises in September 1929.

This ended her active career. Her Yarrow boilers were now badly worn, and the Navy decided to replace the Yarrow powered ships with almost unused ships from the reserve. The Farragut was decommissioned at San Diego on 1 April 1930 and struck off on 22 July. She was then scrapped by the Navy and her materials sold off on 31 October 1930 to satisfy the terms of the London Naval Treaty.
 

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)

Armour - belt

 

 - deck

 

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

21 November 1918

Commissioned

4 June 1920

Struck off

22 July 1930.

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
How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 August 2020), USS Farragut (DD-300), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Farragut_DD300.html

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