USS Pope (DD-225)

USS Pope (DD-225) was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the Asiatic Fleet from 1922 until she was sunk by Japanese aircraft on 1 March 1942.

The Pope was named after John Pope, a US naval officer in the early years of the American Civil War, taking part in the blockade of the Gulf Coast and the battle at Heads of Passes on 12 October 1861.

The Pope was laid down at Cramp’s of Philadelphia on 9 September 1919, launched on 23 March 1920 and commissioned on 27 October 1920.

The Pope was assigned to Squadron 3, Division 39 of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, in reduced commission with her base at Philadelphia. In 1921 she moved between her winter base at Charleston and her summer base at Newport. On 30 July-1 August 1921 she escorted President Harding on a cruiser to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

From 12 January-27 April 1922 she took part in maneuvers with the battleships division off Guantanamo Bay. She then underwent a refit, before departing for service with the Asiatic Fleet on 12 May. She travelled via the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean, and reached the Asiatic Fleet at one of its summer bases, Chefoo, China, on 26 August. The Pope joined Squadron 15, Division 43, and took part in the summer exercises.

USS Pope (DD-225) at Algiers, 1922
USS Pope (DD-225)
at Algiers, 1922

The Pope soon settled into the standard pattern of life in the Asiatic Fleet, spending her summers in Chinese waters and her winters in the Philippines.

From 9 September-9 October 1923 the Pope served with the Yangtze Patrol Force, operating in the river.

In 1924 the Pope helped support the USAAC’s Round the World Flight, the first successful aerial circumnavigation of the world.

In the spring of 1925 a dispute in a Japanese factory escalated into large scale rioting, with foreigners the main target. The US Navy sent marines ashore to protect American citizens. Anyone who took part in the landings in June-July 1925 qualified for the Shanghai Expeditionary Medal.

In 1926 she took part in a formal visit to French Indo-China.

USS Pope (DD-225) off Luzon, 1924 USS Pope (DD-225) off Luzon, 1924

On 3 January 1927 a mob attempted to storm the British concession at Hankow on the Yangtze. The Pope and the gunboat USS Pigeon (AM-47) used their landing forces to protect the British. The British and their allies were evacuated on the following day, and the concession was overrun.

The Pope was still based at Hankow in March 1927 when Chinese Nationalist troops captured the Nanking. Parts of the Nationalist Army attacked westerners in the city, triggering a western intervention. The Pope didn’t take part in the attack on Nanking, but protected US interests elsewhere on the Yangtze.

In November 1928 she visited Guam. In 1929 she visited Japan.

Her captain from April 1929 until October 1930 was Theodore E. Chandler, who later rose to flag rang and took part in Operation Dragoon before moving to the Pacific to take part in the battle of Leyte Gulf. He was fatally injured by a kamikaze attack on 5 January 1945 and died on the following day.

In February 1932 she was part of a sizable US flotilla that moved to Shanghai to protect US interests after the Japanese attacked the city.

Anyone who served on her during twelve periods between 3 September 1926 and 8 October 1932 qualified for the Yangtze Service Medal.

On 3 February 1933 she joined Squadron 5, Division 15 of the Asiatic Fleet.

Landing Party from
USS Pope (DD-225),
Hankow, 1927

In 1934 and 1935 she paid visits to Japan. In 1935 she made another visit to French Indo-China. In 1936 she visited the Dutch East Indies.

After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and the outbreak of open fighting between the Japanese and Chinese the Pope helped evacuate US citizens from northern China, staring with Lao Yao and Tsingtao from 19 September 1937.

From 15 July-20 September 1938 she operated off Chinwangtao, on the northern Chinese coast.

From 5 June 1939 she operated with the South China Patrol Force to evacuate US consulates and citizens from areas endangered by the Japanese. From 14 June-19 August she was posted off Swatow (Shantou) and Pehtaiho, watching a Japanese fleet that took part in the occupation of Swatow.

After the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe in September 1939 most US warships were withdrawn from Chinese waters. The Pope returned to Manila on 12 October and joined the neutrality patrol around the Philippines.

On 6 May 1940 she joined Division 59 of the Asiatic Fleet. From 11 May-24 June 1940 she returned to Chinese waters for the last time, before returning to Manila in late June to rejoin the neutrality patrol.

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


After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Admiral Hart, commander of the Asiatic Fleet, send his last few large ships away from the Philippines. The Pope departed on 8 December, escorting the seaplane tender USS Langley (AV-3) and the oilers Pecos (AO-6) and Trinity (AO-13) to Balikpapan on Borneo.

The Pope left Balikpapan on 15 December as part of Task Force 5 (with the cruisers Houston and Boise and the destroyers John D. Ford, Pope and Parrott). Their initial task was to escort the submarine tenders Holland (AS-3) and Otus (AS-20) to Surabaya on Java, where they arrived on 17 December.

On 31 December the Pope let Surabaya as part of the escort for the tanker George G. Henry, which was heading for Port Darwin in Australian. The small fleet also included the cruiser Boise (CL-47), the destroyer John D. Ford (DD-228), the destroyer tender Black Hawk (AD-9) and two submarines.


This fleet reached Darwin on 6 January 1942, where the Pope took on fuel from the George G. Henry.

On 22 January the Pope was at Koepang Bay, Timor, along with the cruiser Marblehead and the destroyers Ford, Parrott and Paul Jones. Supported by the Boise they were sent north to attack a Japanese fleet believed to be moving from Borneo across the Makassar Strait to Celebes. The two cruisers were soon knocked out of the mission by various mishaps, leaving the four destroyers to make a night attack on the Japanese. The resulting battle of the Makassar Strait was just about the only significant success during the attempt to defend the Dutch East Indies. The destroyers attacked on the night of 23-24 January, causing a great deal of confusion on the part of the Japanese, who don’t ever appear to have realised they were under surface attack. Four transport ships and one patrol boat (a converted First World War era destroyer) were sunk and two transports damaged.

The Pope was based at Tjilatjap in southern Java when the Japanese invaded Bali. Admiral Doorman, commander of the ABDA fleet, decided to carry out a three wave attack on the Japanese using ships coming from three different directions. The Pope was to form part of the first wave, with the cruisers De Rutyer and Java and the destroyers Piet Hein and Ford. The Ford and Pope were heavily engaged in the fighting, in which two Japanese destroyers were believed to have been sunk. After the battle of Badoeng Strait the Pope returned to Tjilatjap.

The Pope missed the battle of the Java Sea because of an engineering problem. She thus still had her full load of torpedoes after the battle, and was chosen to try and escort the British cruiser HMS Exeter to safety (along with the British destroyer HMS Encounter). They were sent on a dangerously exposed northern route that took them north from Surabaya on Java then west between Java and Borneo, heading for the Sunda Strait between the western end of Java and Sumatra. The Exeter was too large to use the shorter route via the Bali Strait. The hope was that this fleet would avoid the Japanese surface fleet which was believed to be further to the east.

Unfortuartly on 1 March 1942 the small Allied fleet ran into a larger Japanese force, made up of four heavy cruisers and four destroyers. The Allies attempted to escape, with the two destroyers trying to keep the Japanese away from the cruiser, but eventually the Exeter suffered a hit that crippled her. Her captain ordered the Encounter and Pope to try and escape. During this phase of the battle the Pope fired all of her torpedoes and 140 salvoes of 4in fire. The captain of the Encounter refused to leave, and both British ships were sunk at about the same time, around noon. The Pope made it some way to the west before being attacked by Japanese dive bombers. Her boiler was hit, reducing her speed, and she began to sink. Her captain ordered his men to abandon ship. The Japanese rescued 151 survivors from the Pope along with most of the survivors from the Exeter and Encounter. Sadly only 124 of the 151 men survived the Japanese prison camps.

The Pope was later the victim of a certain amount of confusion. Her sister ship Edsall was also lost in this campaign, and a short film of her destruction, taken from the Tone, was released by the Japanese. In this film the Edsall was misidentified as HMS Pope, and this was later incorrectly ‘corrected’ to USS Pope, so many early books showed the picture of the Edsall as the Pope.

Pope received two battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation for her World War II service. The battle stars were awarded for Asiatic Fleet operations from 8 December 1941 to 1 March 1942 and one for Makassar Strait (23-24 January 1942) and Badoeng Strait (19 February 1942-20 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



23 March 1920


27 October 1920

Sunk by air attack

1 March 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 (6 June 2019), USS Pope (DD-225) ,

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