USS McFarland (DD-237/ AVD-14)

USS McFarland (DD-237/ AVD-14) was a Clemson class destroyer that was converted into an aircraft tender, taking part in the fighting at Guadalcanal where she was damaged by Japanese bombing. She spent the rest of the war operating with aircraft carriers training off the US West Coast.

The McFarland was named after Seaman John McFarland who served in the US Navy during the American Civil War, leaving his sickbed to take the wheel of USS Hartford during the Battle of Mobile Bay, winning the Medal of Honor.

The McFarland was laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Corps of Camden on 31 July 1918, launched on 30 March 1920 and commissioned on 30 September 1920. She was briefly allocated to the Atlantic Fleet, but then departed for European waters on 30 November 1920. She spent two months in the English Channel, before departed for Gibraltar on 31 January 1921. At the start of March she reached Split, Croatia, where she spent four months with the Adriatic Detachment. She then moved to Constantinople where she joined the Turkish Waters Detachment on 31 July 1921.

At the end of June 1922 Destroyer Division 39 arrived in the eastern Mediterranean, allowing the McFarland, Childs, Fox, Overton, Reuben James, Sands, Sturtevant and Williamson to return to the United States. However this would be a short visit, as tensions rose in the eastern Mediterranean, as Allies prepared to return control of Constantinople to the Turks.

USS McFarland (DD-237) at Venice, 1922-23 USS McFarland (DD-237) at Venice, 1922-23

The McFarland was part of a large force of destroyers that left Hampton Roads on 2 October 1922, heading for the eastern Mediterranean. She was part of Destroyer Division 41, with the Barry (DD-248), Goff (DD-247), King (DD-242), Overton (DD-239) and Sturtevant (DD-240). The destroyers arrived at Constantinople on 22 October. She remained in the area into the spring of 1923, carrying out a mix of humanitarian and diplomatic roles in the Black Sea and around Anatolia.

On 15 September 1923 the McFarland was allocated to the Scouting Fleet, based at Newport. She spent most of the next seventeen years operating off the east coast and in the Caribbean.

In 1925 she visited the Pacific to take part in that year’s Fleet Problem an attack on Oahu.

Anyone from her crew who landed in Nicaragua between 19 March-8 April and 12-24 April 1927 qualified for the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal.

In 1931 she was placed in the reserve at Philadelphia, spending a year out of commission.

In September 1933 the McFarland was taken out of the rotating reserve, with the Bainbridge (DD-246), Goff (DD-247) and Reuben James (DD-245). All four joined Destroyer Division 8 of the Scouting Force, which was then sent to Cuban waters to protect US interests after a revolt broke out in August, overthrowing the increasingly unpopular President Machado.

On 5 November 1934 the McFarland collided with USS Ellis (DD-154) during night manoeuvres off the coast of Lower California. The Ellis suffered damage to her bow, which required repairs at San Diego followed by fuller work at Mare Island.

From June 1934-May 1935 she was commanded by Captain Jerome Lee Allen

Second World War

In 1940 the McFarland was converted into a seaplane tender and on 2 August 1940 she was redesignated as AVD-14. She was recommissioned on 5 October and joined the Pacific Fleet.

On 5-6 December 1941 she took part in short exercises with her fellow tender Avocet (AVP-4). While the Acocet returned to port, and was present when the Japanese attacked, the McFarland remained at sea, and was conducting anti-submarine manoeuvres off Maui when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In the aftermath of the attack the McFarland patrolled to the south-west of Pearl Harbor, returning to port on 9 October.

One of her crew was wounded at Pearl Harbor (Garland Harris Shinn), but only because he was serving a custodial sentence on the Tangier at the time!

During the first seven months after the American entry into the war she was based at Pearl Harbor. She was also used to carry reinforcements to Palmyra and Johnston Islands and to evacuate civilians from the islands.

On 2 June 1942 she departed for the South Pacific. She reached Noumea on 16 June. On 15 July she detected a Japanese submarine in Bulari Pass, to the south of New Caledonia.

The McFarland took part in the US landings on Guadalcanal. She formed part of Task Group MIKE-FOUR, with the task of supporting PBY-5s operating to the north and east of Guadalcanal.

On 6 August 1942 she was supporting six PBY-5s (from VP-11 and VP-14) from Graciosa Bay, Ndeni, in the Santa Cruz Islands. Their role was to search the area to the north for Japanese activity.

On 9 August (the day of the battle of Savo Island) the McFarland rescued the crew of a patrol aircraft that had been forced to ditch. Her search planes were sent out on the same day, as part of a wider search, but without finding anything.

On 26 August the McFarland escorted the William Ward Burrows (AP-6) from Efate, heading for Guadalcanal.

After the initial landings the McFarland’s carried out a mix of supply runs and casualty evacuation missions, while also supporting aircraft that were taking part in reconnaissance flights around the areas.

On 16 October 1942 the McFarland was attacked by nine dive bombers at Lunga Roads. The eighth hit a fuel barge that was being towed on her starboard quarter, and the barge had to be cut free. The ninth aircraft hit the McFarland’s stern, knocking her rudder and steering engine out. The McFarland suffered eleven dead and twelve seriously wounded in the battle, and was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for her role in the battle.

One American fighter aircraft, flown by Lt Col Harold W. Bauer of Marine Fighting Squadron 212, attacked the Japanese formation. He claimed four victories before he ran out of fuel. The encounter was citied in Bauer’s Medal of Honor citation.

This ended the McFarland’s brief front line career. She was towed to Florida Island, where initial repairs were carried out in Tulagi Harbor. These were completed by 26 November, and she then moved to Espiritu Santo. After further repairs she was ready to make her way to Pearl Harbor, arriving on 29 December.

The damage to the McFarland meant that the Thornton had to be withdrawn from the North Pacific theatre to replace her.

The McFarland was repaired by 17 April 1943, and departed for the West Coast. She returned to her DD-237 designation on 1 December 1943 and spent the rest of the war based at San Diego. She was used to operate with aircraft carriers taking part in training exercises and pilot qualification flights.

On 30 September 1945 the McFarland departed for the East Coast, where she was decommissioned on 8 November 1945. She was struck off on 19 December and sold for scrap on 29 October 1946.

McFarland received two battle stars for World War II service, for Pearl Harbor and her actions at Guadalcanal on 16 October 1942.

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



30 March 1920


30 September 1920

Sold for scrap

29 October 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 (21 August 2019), USS McFarland (DD-237/ AVD-14) ,

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