USS Preble (DD-345/ DM-20)

USS Preble (DD-345) was a Clemson class destroyer that served as a mine layer in 1941-44, as a minesweeper during the invasions of Peleliu and Leyte and as a plane guard for aircraft carriers undergoing training in 1945. 

The Preble was named after Edward Preble, who fought during the American War of Independence then in the new US Navy, taking part in the campaign against Tripoli.

The Preble was laid down by the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine on 12 April 1919, launched on 8 March 1920 when she was sponsored by Miss Sallie MacIntosh Tucker and commissioned on 19 March 1920. An earlier attempt to launch her on 1 March was prevented by frozen grease on the slipway, which delayed the launch so long that the tide turned.

USS Preble (DD-345) moving at speed USS Preble (DD-345) moving at speed

On 11 April 1920 eight of her crew were drowned in Manzanillo Bay, Cuba, after an accident to the ship’s launch during her shakedown cruise.

After her shakedown cruise the Preble joined a Special Duties unit in Mexican waters. She arrived at Vera Cruz on 13 June 1920, but was then used to make three voyage to Galveston to collect medical supplies, including a serum to deal with an outbreak of the bubonic plague. In August she returned to the Atlantic Fleet on the US East Coast.

In January 1921 the Preble accompanied the Atlantic Fleet when it joined up with the Pacific Fleet in the Panama Canal, and during a cruise along the west coast of South America. The two fleets split up on 23 February and the Atlantic Fleet returned to the Caribbean.

On 20 June 1922 the Preble left Newport with Destroyer Squadron 15, heading for their new posting on the Asiatic Station. She reached Chefoo, China, on 26 August 1922 at the start of seven years in the Far East. Her time was largely split between Chinese waters in the summer and the Philippines in the winter.

In September 1923 she helped with earthquake relief in Japan.

From 12 June to 2 July 1924 she was used to assist the round the world flight of the Army’s Douglas World Cruisers. She was based at Rangoon and then Calcutta, delivering gas and oil for the aircraft.She also had to bring a new engine from Saigon to Haiphong, after one was written off.

Anyone who took part in operations at Shanghai from 4-31 August 1925 qualified for the Shanghai Expeditionary Medal.

In 1926 a fresh civil war broke out between the official government in the north and the Nationalists in the south. By 1927 Chiang Kai Shek’s Northern Expedition had reached the Yangtze, and the Preble was one of several American ships sent to the area to protect American citizens in the area.

USS Preble (DD-345) flying homeward bound pennant USS Preble (DD-345) flying homeward bound pennant

She was one of three destroyers that reached Shanghai in late February 1927. In mid March she was fired on by Chinese troops near Wuhu on the Yangtse while escorting a Standard Oil launch. The bridge was hit but there were no casualties. Towards the end of March she was sent to rescue Americans from Kiangyin and smaller ports below Kiangyin. She rescued 15 men, 14 women and 18 children in this period. In mid-April she was sent to Hankow, and returned fire on Chinese guns near Kianying Fort. She was fired on once again in mid-May 1927.

Anyone who served on her during three separate periods between 20 October 1926 and August 1927 qualified for the Yangtze Service Medal.

The Preble’s time in the Far East ended in 1929. She left Tsingtai on 12 July and reached her new base at San Diego on 17 August 1929. For the next few years she operated along the US west coast, somethings visiting the Caribbean and Canal Zone for exercises.

On 24 September 1932 she was allocated to Rotating Reserve Destroyer Squadron 20 at the Mare Island Navy Yard.

In May 1934 she took part in Fleet Problem XV, which included a mock attack on the Panama Canal, and a large scale fleet engagement.

In May-June 1935 she took part in Fleet Problem XVI, which was split between the Alaskan coast and Hawaii.

In April-May 1937 she took part in Fleet Problem XVIII, which was once again split between Alaska and Hawaii.

On 19 May 1937, after this exercise was over, the Preble was transferred to Minecraft, Battle Force, to be converted to a light minelayer. On 30 June 1937 she became DM-20. The conversion was complete by 20 September, when she left Hawaii to go to the US West Coast for mine laying training. She was back at Hawaii by December, and remained there until the attack on Pearl Harbor.


Although the Preble was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941, she was being overhauled, and was unable to get underway, or to fire at the Japanese, as her AA guns had been removed. Instead many of her crew moved to the Pennsylvania (BB-38), where they helped handle ammo, fought fires and helped the wounded.


The Preble’s overhaul was completed on 20 January 1942 and she joined the patrol operating just outside the entrance to Pearl Harbour. She remained in the area for most of the year, apart from a trip to French Frigate Shoals, 500 miles to the north-west of Oahu, in April 1942, to lay a large minefield.

In July the Preble moved north to lay a defensive minefield around Kodiak, Alaska. She then returned to Pearl Habor via Seattle where she underwent an overhaul.

On 6 December the Preble left Pearl Harbor heading for Fiji and New Caledonia.


For most of January 1943 the Preble was used on escort duties in the New Hebrides, but she was then used to support the fighting towards the very end of the Guadalcanal campaign.

The American Dictionary of Naval Fighting Ships has the Tracy, Montgomery and Preble laying mines in the mouth of the Tenambo River, Guadalcanal, to stop the Japanese using coastal waters to evacuate their troops. However this appears to be the only mention of the Tenambo River. This may be the same minefield as recorded below:

Crew of USS Preble (DD-345) Crew of USS Preble (DD-345)

On 1 February Preble, Montgomery and Tracy laid a minefield between Doma Reef and Cape Esperance, the first offensive mine field laid by US surface vessels in the Pacific War.

For the next two months the Preble was used on escort duties to the New Hebrides and Russell Islands.

On the night of 6 May the Preble, Gamble and Breese, escorted by USS Radford (DD-466) laid mines in Ferguson Passage, between Gizo and Vonavona (or Wanawana) Islands, to the south/ south-west of Kolombangara Island. On the night of 7-8 May this minefield sank the Japanese destroyer Kuroshio and damaged two more, the Kagero and Oyashio, which were then sunk by American aircraft.

On 24 May Preble rescued 85 survivors from torpedoed SS Stanvac Manila.

On 27 June the Preble joined the newly formed Task Group 36.2, which was formed to support the invasion of New Georgia (Operation Toenails). The Preble was part of TU 36.2.2, a mine laying group.

On the night of 28 June Preble, Gamble and Breese mined waters near Shortland Island to stop Japanese warships based on the island from attacking US forces that were landing on Rendova Island, New Georgia, on the morning of 28 June.

In July and August 1943 the Preble was used an escort ship.

On 25 August she was part of a task group that laid a minefield in Blackett Strait, to the west and south of Kolombangara. On the way out of the area the Preble and Montgomery collided and both were heavily damaged. However both were able to escape from the danger zone after some damage control efforts.

On 9 September the Preble departed for San Francisco for an overhaul.


The Preble was part of Task Force Small during the invasion of the Marshall Islands. On 30 January she formed part of the anti-submarine screen for the Salt Lake City as the cruiser bombarded Taroa Island. She reached Majuro on 3 February, where she continued to act in the anti-submarine screen, as well as laying some mines.

The Preble carried out three escort missions between Pearl Harbor and the Marshall Islands. She was then chosen for use as a mine sweeper, and underwent training in her new role.

On 6 September 1944 she departed from Purvis Bay, Florida Island, as part of the minesweeping units of Rear Admiral Oldendorf’s TG 32.5. The group arrived off Peleliu early on 12 September, and the Preble was used to search for possible acoustic mines in the gap between Anguar and Peleliu.

On 13 September the destroyer USS Perry (DMS-17) struck a mine. The Preble helped with the attempts to save the ship, but an hour after she hit the mine the order to abandon ship was given, and an hour later she capsized and sank. The Preble picked up the survivors from the Perry.

On 1 October the Preble arrived at Manus in the Admiralty Islands, to join mine sweeping Task Group 77.5. This arrived off the entrance of Leyte Gulf on 17 October, where she laid marker bouys and was then used as a mine destruction ship. After six days of this she returned to Manus. This effectively ended her combat career.


After a period of training at Manus, the Preble reached San Pedro Bay on 1 January 1945, but one month later she departed for Pearl Harbor, then to San Francisco for repairs, where she arrived on 8 March.

The Preble was back at Pearl Harbor by 8 May, where she was redesignated as a miscellaneous auxiliary vessel AG-99 on 5 June. She was used as a plane guard and escort for aircraft carriers undergoing training in the area.

She was then used to escort the Vella Gulf (CVE-111) to Guam, arriving on 20 July, then on to Okinawa. The Preble returned to Guam, then escorted the Sitkoh Bay (CVE-86) to Samar, in the Philippines, arriving on 20 September.

On 9 October she departed for the United States, reaching Norfolk on 20 November. She was decommissioned there on 7 December 1945, struck off the Navy List on 3 January, and sold for scrap on 26 October 1946.

Preble earned 8 battle stars, for Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, the southern Solomons, New Georgia, Kwajalein and Majuro, the souther Palau Islands, Leyte and Lingayen Gulf.

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



8 March 1920


19 March 1920,

Sold for scrap

26 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 (14 July 2021), USS Preble (DD-345/ DM-20) ,

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