USS John D Edwards (DD-216)

USS John D Edwards (DD-216) was a Clemson class destroyer that survived the disasterous battle of the Java Sea in 1942, and was then mainly used on escort duties, first in the Pacific and then in the Atlantic, along with one spell serving with an anti-submarine hunter-killer group in the Atlantic.

The John D. Edwards was named after a US sailor who was killed when the destroyer USS Shaw (DD-68) collided with the troopship HMS Aquitania on 9 October 1918. She had originally been named USS Stewart, but was renamed to commemorate Edwards in October 1919, one year after the disaster.

DD-216 was laid down on 21 May 1919. She was launched on 18 October 1919 and commissioned on 6 April 1920.  

USS John D Edwards (DD-216), March 1928
USS John D Edwards (DD-216),
March 1928

On 14 May 1920 the John D Edwards left Philadelphia to join the US naval forces in Turkish waters. She was used to provide communication facilities in the Near East and to evacuate refugees, mainly from southern Russia. Late in 1920 she was sent to the Crimea to evacuate refugees attempting to flee from the Red Army after the defeat of Baron Peter N. Wrangel’s White Army. She spent just under a year in Turkish waters, before departing for the Far East on 2 May 1921 to join the Asiatic Squadron.

From September 1921 until January 1922 her captain was Eugene Thompson Oates, later to serve as the commanding officer of the US naval base on New Georgia and as chief of staff in the Western Carolines area.

The John D Edwards reached Cavite on 29 June 1921. She spent the next four years with the Asiatic Fleet, spending the summers in Chinese waters and the winters in the Philippines. In Janaury 1923 she helped with the relief effort after an earthquake devastated Yokohama and Tokyo. In 1924 she was posted off the Chinese coast as the Chinese Civil War reached a bitter peak. She left the Far East on 18 May 1925.

The John D Edwards reached New York on 13 July 1925. From 1925-1928 she spent most of her time based at Norfolk, and was used on training cruises along the East Coast and in the Caribbean. Early in 1927 the John D. Edwards took part on the US intervention in Nicaragua, and anyone who served on her on one of four periods between 9 January and 13 February 1927 qualidied for the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal.

Late in 1927 the John D Edwards visited the Mediterranean. She then moved back to the Pacific, and until 1 August 1929 was based on the US West Coast. She was then allocated to the Asiatic Fleet once again, reaching Yokohama on 26 August. She returned to the normal routine of winters in the Philippines and summers in China, helping to protect US interests after the outbreak of open warfare between Japan and China. During this period she operated with the Yangtze Patrol, South China Sea Patrol and Neutrality Patrol.

Early in 1932 she was part of the American fleet that moved to Shanghai after the Japanese attacked the city.

Anyone who served on her during one of eight periods between 22 May 1930 and 25 October 1932 qualified for the Yangtze Service Medal.

Anyone who served on her during one of four periods between 7 July 1937 and 7 September 1939 qualified for the China Service Medal.

In the first half of 1939 her captain was Milton Edward Miles, who later served as the commander of the US Naval Group in China from May 1942 until August 1945, eventually with the temporary rank of Rear Admiral.

Dutch East Indies

When the war broke out in the Pacific she had just left Balikpapan, with the Whipple (DD-217), Alden (DD-211), Edsall (DD-219) and the tender and repair ship Black Hawk. Her first task was to search for survivors from HMS Prince of Wales, sunk by Japanese air attack east of Malaya. This was followed by two months of patrol, escort and anti-submarine work as the Allies attempted to stop the Japanese advance south from the Philippines to the Dutch East Indies.

USS John D Edwards (DD-216) transfering movies and laundry from USS Saratoga (CV-3)
USS John D Edwards (DD-216) transfering movies and laundry from USS Saratoga (CV-3)

At the start of February 1942 the John D. Edwards left Bunda Roads as part of Destroyer Squadron 29, allocated to a combined US-Dutch task force that was sent to try and intercept a Japanese convoy heading for the Java Sea. The fleet was spotted by the Japanese late on 3 February, and attacked by Japanese bombers on 4 February (battle of the Makassar Strait). The Japanese attacks damaged the US cruisers Marblehead (CL-12) and Houston (CA-30), forcing the Allied fleet to withdraw. The John D Edwards was used to escort the damaged cruisers through the Lombok Strait to Tjilatjap on the south coast Java.

The Japanese continued to advance into the Dutch East Indies. On the night of 19-20 February 1942 the John D Edwards was part of a ABDA fleet that attempted to intercept a force of Japanese destroyers and transports in the Badung Strait, on the east coast of Bali. Despite outnumbering the Japanese, the Allies were outclassed in night fighting, and lost one destroyer without sinking any Japanese ships. After the battle the John D Edwards returned to Surabaya on Java.

The Naval campaign in the Dutch East Indies was ended by the Battle of the Java Sea, in which the ABDA fleet was almost wiped out. The fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral Doorman of the Dutch Navy, attempted to intercept a Japanese invasion force heading for Java, but the fighting ended in disaster. The Allies lost five cruisers in the battle or its aftermath. By the time the fighting was over, the John D Edwards and most other US destroyers had used up all of their torpedoes, and they were sent Surabaya to refuel, before being ordered to dash south for Australia. A flotilla of four US destroyers left Surabaya on the night of 28 February. They survived a brief clash with Japanese ships in the Bali Strait, but didn't attempt to stand and fight. Instead they made for Fremantle, Australia, arriving a few days later.

Escort Duties

Her arrival at Fremantle ended the most dramatic period of the John D Edwards’s service career. She spent two months escorting convoys from Australia, before returning to Pearl Harbor on 1 June 1942. For the next year she escorted convoys from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco, before on 15 June 1943 she reached Brooklyn, to begin a period of nine months split between cruises along the US East Coast and escort missions to North Africa.

On 5 January 1944 she formed part of the task group formed around the new carrier Guadalcanal (CVE-60), alongside the Alden (DD-211), John D. Ford (DD-228) and Whipple (DD-217). This group hunted for submarines in the Atlantic, and on 16 January 1944 aircraft from the Guadalcanal sank U-544 and damaged U-516. The group reached Casablanca on 26 January. It then returned the States between 29 January and 16 February 1944, without finding any more submarines.

From then until the end of the war in Europe the John D Edwards escorted convoys in the Atlantic and helping train submarines off the Panama Canal Zone. In mid July 1944 the John D. Edwards and the Unimak hunted for a submarine believed to be operating near Jamaica. They were then diverted to try and rescue the crew of a crashed aircraft, but only found wreckage and one body.

After the end of the fighting in Europe the John D Edwards was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 28 July 1945 and sold for scrap in January 1946.

John D. Edwards received three battle stars for World War II service, for service with the Asiatic Fleet (8 Dcember 1941-4 March 1942), The Badoeng Strait fighting in the Dutch East Indies (19 February-20 February 1942) and Convoy UGS-36 (1 April 1944).

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)

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 October 1919


6 April 1920

Sold for scrap

January 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


WWII Home Page | WWII Subject Index | WWII Books | WWII Links | Day by Day

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 December 2018), USS John D Edwards (DD-216) ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy