USS Fox (DD-234)

USS Fox was a Clemson class destroyer that served in Alaskan waters for most of the Second World War, mainly on escort and patrol duties.

The Fox was named after Gustavus Vasa Fox, who served in the US Navy during the Mexican War and at the start of the American Civil War, before serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1861 to the end of the war.

The Fox was built by the New York Shipbuilding Co of Camden, New Jersey. She was launched on 12 June 1919 and commissioned on 17 May 1920.

The Fox was one of five Clemson class destroyers that were armed with 5”/51 calibre guns in place of the 4in guns used on the rest of the class.

USS Fox (DD-234) underway in the 1920s or 1930s
USS Fox (DD-234) underway
in the 1920s or 1930s

The Fox was chosen for overseas service. Official US Navy sources disagree on the exact dates of her voyage, with her description in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships saying she left Newport, R.I. on 27 August and reached Constantinople on 21 September, while other sources make her part of Destroyer Division 40, which departed for Turkish waters on 2 October 1920 and reached Constantinople on 22 October (a compromise view is that she did indeed travel earlier, but then joined the division after it arrived).

The Fox served with the US Naval Detachment Operating in Turkish Waters, serving in the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea. She visited a series of ports around those coasts, and supported American interests and charity efforts in the area, as well as acting as a station ship,  a mail ship and a passenger ship.

In November 1920 she was one of a number of American ships that were rushed to Sevastopol to help evacuate refugees fleeing from the victorious Bolsheviks, after they had forced Baron P. Wrangel to retreat to Sevastopol.

The Fox departed from Constantinople on 8 July 1922 and reached Philadelphia on 27 July. She underwent a refit, and then returned to Turkish waters, arriving back at Constantinople on 22 October 1922. On 23 March 1923 the Fox collided with the British cruiser HMS Ceres at Constantinople, suffering damage near her bows (over the first ‘2’ of her hull number). She had to be drydocked to have the damage repaired.  She was used on communications and intelligence duty during this second, shorter, spell in the Near East, which ended when she departed for home on 18 July 1923.

In September-October 1923 the Fox was attached to the Scouting Fleet, and took part in a series of fleet manoeuvres around Newport, Rhode Island. She was then allocated to the 3rd Naval District, which was based at New York. For the next seven years she helped train Naval Reservists from that area. In the autumn of 1930 she moved to Philadelphia, and on 2 February 1931 she was decommissioned.

On 1 April 1932 the Fox was recommissioned and placed in the rotating reserve, but this was a short-lived assignment and she was fully recommissioned on 18 June and allocated to Destroyer Division 1, Squadron 1 of the Scouting Force. On 2 July she and her division left for the west coast, reaching San Diego on 22 July. The Fox spent the period between 1932 and 1938 operating off the US west coast, with the Scouting Force and later the Battle Fleet. She took part in the annual fleet exercises, which took her west to Hawaii and south to the Panama Canal. She also made two visits to the Atlantic and Caribbean, one in 1934 and the second in 1936.

On 14 May 1938 the Fox departed for the east coast, where she was decommissioned once again on 16 September 1938.

This spell out of service was ended by the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939. The Fox was recommissioned on 25 September and joined the Atlantic Squadron. From October 1939 to August 1940 she was used on escort and patrol duties along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean. In August 1940 she moved to Balboa, at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal, which became her base until 25 October, when she departed for San Francisco. Over the winter of 1940-41 she was part of the Local Defence Forces of the 12th Naval District, which covered the coast of northern California. This lasted until 2 January 1941, when she moved north to Seattle to join the 13th Naval District (Washington State and Oregon). She underwent an overhaul in March-June 1941 and was detached back to the 12th Naval District from 20 August-9 October 1941.

The Fox appeared in Japanese intelligence reports just before Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese Consul at Seattle reported that she was one of fifteen ‘Coast Guard’ ships that had passed through the harbour in single file to commemorate Navy Day on 27 October 1941.

Second World War

On 12 December 1941 the Fox left Bremerton, Washington, to escort the SS Southerland to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. She arrived there on 18 December, and was then used to escort merchant ships to Sitka, Kodiak and Dutch Harbour, before returning to Seattle on 12 February 1942.

USS Fox (DD-234) after collision with HMS Ceres, 1923 USS Fox (DD-234) after collision with HMS Ceres, 1923

She then carried out screening duties from Seattle, as well as briefly acting as the ready duty ship at Port Angeles, on the north-west coast of Washington State (14-18 March 1942). She also carried out three escort missions to San Pedro (Los Angeles). She then spend exactly one year (21 May 1942 to 20 May 1943) escorting a series of twelve convoys heading north to Alaska. The fourth of these missions saw her escort a transport to Chernofski Bay (about half way along the Aleutian chain), before escorting four Soviet submarines back to San Francisco. This period also saw her modernised at Seattle (3 July-8 September 1942).

On 25 May 1943 the Fox left Seattle to serve as a patrol and escort vessel along the Alaskan Coast, as part of the Northwest Sea Frontier. This also saw her acting as a transport ship, moving Naval, Marine and Coast Guard personal from Seattle to Kodiak and Adak. This role lasted until 25 March 1944.

On 15 April 1944 the Fox left Seattle to move south to San Francisco, where she joined the Southern California Sector of the Western Sea Frontier Forces and operated around San Diego. She carried out anti-submarine exercises, helped train men at the Sound School, carried out escort duties and helped make movies.

On 26 April 1944 the Fox arrived at Puget Sound Navy Yard where she was converted into a miscellaneous auxiliary, becoming AG-85 on 1 October. On 11 November she arrived at her new base of Alameda, where she served under the Commander, Fleet Air. From November 1944 to September 1945 she was used to help train aircraft crews and as a target ship of aerial torpedo exercises.

The Fox moved to the East Coast late in 1945, and was decommissioned on 29 November 1945 at Norfolk, Virginia. She was sold for scrap on 12 November 1946

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

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


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


2,500nm at 20kts (design)


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



12 June 1919


17 May 1920

Sold for scrap

12 November 1946

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 (30 July 2019), USS Fox (DD-234) ,

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