USS Peary (DD-226)

USS Peary (DD-226) was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the Asiatic Fleet from 1922 and was sunk by Japanese aircraft at Darwin on 19 February 1942.

The Peary was named after Robert Edwin Peary, a US navy officer and Arctic explorer who retired with the rank of Rear Admiral.

The Peary was laid down by Cramp’s of Philadelphia on 9 September 1919, launched on 6 April 1920 and commissioned on 22 October 1920.

In October 1921 the Peary was part of Squadron 3, along with the Pope and John D. Ford, based on the US East Coast.

The Peary was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet in 1922. She followed the standard pattern of life in the Pacific, spending her winters in the Philippines and her summers in Chinese waters, often serving with the Yangtze Patrol Force, protecting US interests during a period of civil war and foreign invasion in China.

On 11 December 1923 she departed from the Philippines with the Pillsbury, Noa (DD-343) and Sicard (DD-346) heading for Canton. The fleet arrived at Canton on 15 December as part of an international force sent to convince the Kuomintang government of Canton not to seize part of the income from the Canton Maritime Customs.

In the autumn of 1924 she was with the Yangtze Patrol Force. She was present at Hankow in September-October.

USS Peary (DD-226) from the right
USS Peary (DD-226)
from the right

In June-July 1925 she landed some of her crew at Shanghai to protect US interests during unrest in the city. Anyone who took part qualified for the Shanghai Expeditionary Medal.

From 20-28 September 1928 she was part of a small US fleet (Pope, Stewart, Peary and Pillsbury) that visited Nagasaki to give their crews a recreational break. This was followed by gunnery exercises in Alacrity Bay on 29 September, a visit to Shanghai to refuel, night spotting practices on 3-4 October and long range firing practices on 4 October, in which the Pope, Peary and Pillsbury sank the decommissioned gunboat USS Elcano (PG-38). 

The Peary was sent to Shanghai after the outbreak of fighting between the Japanese and Chinese there early in 1932, arriving on 5 February 1932.

Anyone who served on her in one of nine periods between 15 September 1926 and 25 October 1932 qualified for the Yangtze Service Medal.

In the autumn of 1935 she visited Hong Kong, and then along with the Pope, Pillsbury and Black Hawk paid a visit to French Indochina, arriving at Tourane on 16 October and Saigon on 22 October, returning to the Philippines at the start of November.

In June 1936 she was the flagship of Destroyer Division 15 in Chinese waters, when Commander John L. Hall took command of the division. He held that post until 20 March 1937.

Her commander from 1 March-13 December 1937 was Joseph Charles Hubbard, killed on USS San Francisco during the Japanese air attack on the US fleet off Guadalcanal on 12 November 1942 (early in the naval battle of Guadalcanal).

The Peary returned to Chinese waters for spells between 16 August-17 November 1937, and in December 1937, January 1938, Febuary 1938 and from 15 July to 14 October 1938.

In April 1939 the Peary and the Pope took part in a tour of the southern Philippines, island hopping as they moved south. They were back at Manila by 24 May.

The Peary returned to Chinese waters one final time, between 31 May and 7 September 1939.

Anyone who served on her during six periods between 16 August 1937 and 7 September qualified for the China Service Medal.


The Peary was at the Cavite Navy Yard when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She was still there when more than fifty Japanese bombers attacked on 10 December, inflicting heavy damage on the base. The Peary was hit by one bomb which struck forward, killing eight of her crew and damaging her superstructure. Other bombs began a fire in a torpedo overhaul shop on the wharf next to the Peary and she had to be towed to safety by the minesweeper Whippoorwill. The Peary’s captain, Commander H.H. Keith, was wounded in the raid and replaced by Commander J.M. Bermingham.

The Peary was soon sent away from the Phippines in an attempt to reach safety. On her voyage she was attacked twice by Japanese aircraft. On 26 December 1941 she was attacked by Japanese aircraft while underway, but wasn’t hit.

On 27 December 1941 she reached Campomanes Bay on Negros Island, where her captain decided to spend the day. She was camouflaged with green paint and palm fronds, and these may have helped protect her from Japanese attack when five bombers passed over her during the day,

On 28 December 1941 she was spotted by a four engined Japanese bomber while at sea. The first bomber shadowed her until three more joined her later in the day. The four aircraft then attacked, with 500lb bombs and four torpedoes. The Peary slowed down enough to avoid the first two, which passed in front of her, while two more passed behind her. The bombers then withdrew, without scoring any successes. By the end of 1941 the Peary had reached Darwin.


USS Peary (DD-226) on fire at Darwin, 19 February 1942 USS Peary (DD-226) on fire at Darwin, 19 February 1942

For the first six weeks of 1942 the Peary operated out of Darwin, carrying out a series of anti-submarine patrols in the local area.

On 15 February the Peary, along with the Houston (CA-30) and the Australian sloops HMAS Swan and HMS Warrego left Darwin to escort a convoy to Timor. They were sighted by a Kawanishi H6K flying boat on their way, and attacked by 35 Mitsubishi G4Ms, but anti-aircraft fire drove off the attackers.

On 19 February the Japanese carried out a heavy raid on Darwin, using 189 aircraft from the carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu. The Japanese sank 11 ships, forced three to run aground and damaged 25 during the attack. The Peary was amongst the casualties. She was attacked by dive bombers at around 10.50am and hit by five bombs. The first exploded on the fantail. The second was an incendiary that exploded in the galley deck house. The third didn’t explode. The fourth hit the forward ammo magazines, which exploded. The firth was an incendiary that exploded in the aft deck house. 80 men were killed and 13 wounded from her crew of 120. The Peary was fatally damaged by the attack and sank stern first at 1.00pm.

The survivors from the Peary were used to crew the newly converted auxiliary USS Victoria (AO-46), a tanker that had survived the campaign in the Dutch East Indies where she was known as the George G. Henry.

The Peary received one battle star for World War II service, for Asiatic Fleet actions between 8 December 1941 and 19 February 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)

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



6 April 1920


22 October 1920

Sunk by air attack

19 February 1942

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 (11 June 2019), USS Peary (DD-226) ,

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