USS John D. Ford (DD-228)

USS John D. Ford (DD-228) was a Clemson class destroyer that began the Second World War in the Pacific, and survived the disastrous battle of the Java Sea, before spending most of the rest of the war on convoy escort or anti-submarine duties.

The John D. Ford was named after John Donaldson Ford, a US sailor who fought in the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, retiring as a rear admiral.

The John D. Ford was laid down at Cramp’s of Philadelphia on 11 November 1919, launched on 2 September 1920 and commissioned on 30 December 1920.

USS John D Ford (DD-228) in the 1920s
USS John D Ford (DD-228)
in the 1920s

In 1921 she served with Squadron 3, Division 39 of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet (Pope (DD-225), Pillsbury (DD-227), John D. Ford and Truxtun (DD-229). In May 1921 the squadron visited New York for a recreational visit. In June they moved on to their summer base at Newport, Rhode Island. In August-October 1921 she visited Philadelphia, rejoining the squadron at New York early in October. They then sailed south to their winter base at Charleston, arriving on 12 October.

On 20 June 1922 the John D. Ford left Newport at the start of a trip east to join the Asiatic Fleet on. She travelled through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean and reached Cavite, Manila, on 21 August 1922. She spent the next twenty years operating in eastern waters. The US Asiatic Fleet’s standard year saw her ships operate in Chinese waters in the summer and around the Philippines in the winter, interrupted by the need to protect American interests during the ongoing series of crisis in China.

The John D. Ford was part of the massive naval effort to support the first successful round-the-world flight, carried out by a flight of four Douglas World Cruisers. The John D Ford was used to support temporary air fields on Hokaido and the Japanese Kurile Islands. She reached Yokohama on 7 April 1924, and took onboard officers from the Japanese Army and Navy whose role was to make sure the US ships didn’t go near any military bases. Her first task was to create an airfield in the Kurile Islands. Their first choice, Bettobu Bay, was blocked by ice, so they had to move to Hitokappu Bay. The John D. Ford and Pope arrived at the bay on 13 April. The John D Ford then moved to Paramushiru, the first planned stop on Japanese territory. The flight took longer than expected, and the John D. Ford had to be replaced by the Pope to take on fresh supplies The John D. Ford was back on station by the time the three remaining World Cruisers landed at Paramushiro on 17 May, towards the end of their flight west around the edge of the Pacific.

Later in the same year the John D Ford had to move to Shanghai, to protect American interests during the warlord period in China, arriving on 6 June. 

In 1926 tensions between the northern warlords and the southern-based KMT, eventually leading to the Northern Expedition. In May 1926 the John D Ford moved to Chinese waters to protect shipping against pirate raids.

On 24 March 1927 she supported the evacuation of American and foreign nationals, who were fleeing from anti-foreign violence at Nanking, after the city fell to Chiang Kai-Shek’s NRA.

Early in 1932 she was one of the US warships sent to Shanghai to protect US interests after the outbreak of fighting between Japanese and Chinese forces, arriving on 5 February.

Anyone who served on her during one of eight periods between 11 September 1926 and 11 October 1932 qualified for the Yangtze Service Record.

Anyone who served on her in six periods between 7 July 1937 and 7 September 1939 qualified for the China Service Medal.

After the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 he began to carry out neutrality patrols around the Philippines and in the South China Seas.


Crew of the USS John D Ford (DD-228) at Shanghai Crew of the USS John D Ford (DD-228) at Shanghai

On 8 December 1941, after the news of Pearl Harbor reached him, Admiral Thomas C. Hart decided to send his valuable auxiliaries away from Manila. Later in the day the seaplane tender Langley (AV-3) and the oilers Trinity and Pecos (AO-6) departed from Cavite, Manila, escorted by the John D Ford and the Pope (DD-225), heading for Borneo. After getting past the immediate danger zone, the destroyers left the auxiliaries and returned to Manila, arriving on the morning of 10 December 1941. They were thus present when the Japanese bombed the Cavite Navy Yard, causing severe damage. That evening the two destroyers left to escort the yacht Isabel (PY-10) and submariner tenders Holland (AS-3) and Otus (AS-20) to Balikpapan, Borneo. Early on 11 December the John D. Ford accidently fired a live torpedo, which nearly hit the Pope. On 12 December they met up with the cruisers Houston and Bloise, and the combined fleet reached Balikpapan on 14 December. On 15 December they moved south-east to Makassar on Celebes.

From 21-24 December the John D. Ford and Pope escorted the Boise to Balikpapan, then to Surabaya in north-eastern Java. On 31 December she left Surabaya, escorting the tanker George G. Henry and the tender Black Hawk to Port Darwin, Australia, arriving there on 6 January 1942.


On 11 January 1942 the John D. Ford left Surabaya, heading for Koepang on Timor. She was then used to screen the Marblehead as she attempted to catch Japanese ships reported at Kema on Celebes, but the Japanese were gone by the time the US ships arrived, and they moved back to Koepang.

On 20 January the John D. Ford sailed with a force heading for Balikpapan to attack Japanese shipping. This force consisted of two cruisers and four destroyers, but only the destroyers were able to take part in the actual attack on the night of 24 January 1942. The resulting battle of Makassar Strait was the only clear-cut victory for the Allies during this campaign. The Japanese were caught by surprise, and the John D. Ford was creditied with sinking the transport Tsuruga Maru. However she was also damaged by Japanese gun fire. After this success the destroyers returned to Surabaya, arriving on 25 January.

On 30 January the John D. Ford left Surabaya to escort the Dutch steamer Tjitjalengka. On 2 February she was ordered to join a US convoy heading to Java from Darwin. She reached Tjilatjap on the south coast on 4 February.

The John D. Ford then took part in the night attack on Japanese forces in Badung Strait on the night of 19-20 February 1942. This involved the Dutch cruisers De Ruyter and Java and the Dutch destroyer Piet Hein as well as the John D. Ford and Pope. The US destroyers were heavily engaged with a Japanese cruiser, and also helped trigger a clash between Japanese ships, confused in the night. The destroyers were back at Tjilatjap by 21 February. They then visited Christmas Island to pick up new torpedoes from the tender Black Hawk (AD-9) before sailing to Surabaya in the north-east of Java.

The John D. Ford was part of the ABDA fleet that was crushed at the battle of the Java Sea (27 February 1942). She left Surabaya on 25 February to hunt for a Japanese force in the Java Sea. She then returned to port, where the fleet was joined by five British ships, before the larger fleet sailed once again.

Early on 27 February the fleet was attacked by Japanese aircraft, and prepared to return to Surabaya. However Admiral Doorman then turned back to attack the Japanese fleet covering the invasion of Java. During the battle the Allies lost two light cruisers and three destroyers, while failing to sink a single Japanese ship. The John D. Ford escaped from the battle and reached the temporary safety of Surabaya. She was then one of four US destroyers given permission to escape to Australia, leaving Surabaya late on 28 February.  During the night they briefly clashed with the four Japanese destroyers of the Bali Attack Unit, but escaped intact. The destroyers reached Australia on 4 March 1942.

The John D. Ford spent the next two months escorting convoys along the Australian coast. She then departed for Pearl Harbor on 9 May, arriving there on 2 June and at San Franciso on 12 June. This marked the start of eleven months of fairly uneventful escort duty on the route between Pearl Harbor and San Francisco.


The John D. Ford’s time in the Pacific ended in May 1943. On 20 May she returned to the US west coast and on 24 May she left for the Atlantic. She passed through the Panama Canal on 4 June, and joined a convoy heading for Trinidad on 6 June. She then joined the Tenth Fleet, and spent six months operating on anti-submarine warfare duties in the Atlantic. This took her across the North and South Atlantic and into the Mediterranean, where she reached Casablanca.

In December 1943 the John D. Ford underwent some anti-submarine warfare training, preparing her to join an anti-submarine huner-killer group.


At the start of 1944 the John D. Ford joined the hunter-killer group built around the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) on her maiden operational voyage (along with the Alden (DD-211), John D. Edwards (DD-216) and Whipple (DD-217). The group departed from Norfolk on 5 January 1944. On 16 January aircraft from the Guadalcanal sank U-544 west of the Azores, although U-516 survived the same attack. The group reached Casablanca on 26 January. They returned to the US between 29 January and 16 February 1944.

On 14 March the John D. Ford left Norfolk as part of the escort of a convoy heading to the Mediterranean. On 29 March, while leaving Gibralter, she was rammed by the armed trawler HMS Kingston Agate, causing damaged that forced her out of the convoy. After repairs she returned to Norfolk, Virginia, on 1 May.

On 24 May the John D. Ford left Norfolk to start a year of convoy escort duty in the Atlantic, covering an area that reached south into Brazilian waters, north to Iceland and east to Casablanca.


The John D. Ford’s front line career ended in the spring of 1945. From 24 May-27 June 1945 she acted as a plane guard for USS Boxer (CV-21) during her shakedown cruiser. She then returned to Norfolk, where she was reclassified as the miscellaneous auxiliary AG-119 on 30 June 1945. In July-August she underwent a conversion at Boston Navy Yard, but by the time this was completed the war was over, and she was decommissioned on 2 November 1945. She was struck off on 16 November and sold on 5 October 1947.

John D. Ford received a Presidental Unit Citation  for her  'extraordinary heroism in action' during the Java Campaign, 23 January - 2 March 1942) and four battle stars for her World War II service, for Asiatic Fleet operations (8 December 1941-4 March 1942), Makassar Strait (23-24 January 1942) and Badoeng Strait (19-20 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



2 September 1920


30 December 1920

Sold for scrap

5 October 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

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (20 June 2019), USS John D. Ford (DD-228) ,

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