USS Sampson (DD-394)

USS Sampson (DD-394) was a Somers class destroyer that served with the Neutrality Patrol in 1940-41, in the Southeast Pacific in 1942-43, supported the occupation of Emirau and the invasion of Biak and then spent the last few months of the war on trans-Atlantic convoy escort duties.

The Sampson was named after William Thomas Sampson who served in the US Navy during the Civil War, surviving the loss of the ironclad Patapsco, and remained in the Navy long enough to command the US fleet at the battle of Santiago of 1898, where his fleet destroyed the Spanish fleet.

USS Sampson (DD-394), late 1930s USS Sampson (DD-394), late 1930s

The Sampson was laid down at the Bath Iron Works of Bath Maine on 8 April 1936, launched on 16 April 1938 and commissioned on 19 August 1938.

The Sampson’s shakedown cruise took her to European waters in October-November 1938. She then joined the Battle Force of the US Fleet and was based at Boston.

On 8 March 1939 she left Boston to take part on fleet maneuvers around Cuba and Puerto Rico, returning to Yorktown on 12 April. On 20 April 1939 she left Hampton Roads heading for the US West Coast, arriving at San Diego on 12 May 1939. She spent the next twelve months operating along the US West Coast.

From 1 April-20 June 1940 she took part in the fleet exercises around Hawaii, before returning briefly to San Diego. She then departed for the east coast on 5 July, arriving at Norfolk on 20 July. From 14 November-15 Decemmber 1940 she carried a US Government Mission on an economic survey of the British West Indies. She then joined the Neutrality Patrol, covering an area from Placentia Bay in the north to the Caribbean in the south.

On 8 April the Sampson and Wasp (CV-7) took part in a search for a missing patrol aircraft, but without success.

In the summer of 1941 US forces took over from the British and Canadians on Iceland. On 3 September the Sampson left Boston to escort a convoy to Iceland, arriving at Hvalfjordur Fjord on 16 September. She remained there until 23 October when she departed as part of the escort for a convoy which arrived at Boston on 4 November.

In the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the Sampson and Warrington (DD-383) patrolled off Newport from 23 December 1941 to 12 January 1942, before both departed for the Canal Zone.  


The two destroyers reached Balboa on the Pacific end of the canal on 17 January and joined the Southeast Pacific Forces. Their task was to escort convoys from Balboa to the Society Islands mixed with patrols along the coast of South America.

On 25-29 January 1942 the Sampson took part for the missing submarine S-26 (SS-131) which had sunk after colliding with PC-460 in Panama Bay on 24 January. Her wreck was found, but the only survivors were three men who had been on the bridge when the collision happened and were thrown overboard.

On 1 February she departed for Balboa to escort twelve troopships to the Society Islands. On 12 February she diverted to inspect Marquesa Island, and arrived at Bora Bora on 18 February. She patrolled in those waters until 9 March when she departed for Panama with the Trenton, arriving on 23 March.

For the next year she spent most of her time operating along the west coast of South America, visiting ports in Ecuador, Chile and Peru. She also made a number of trips to the Society and Galapagos Islands.


USS Sampson (DD-394), Gulf of Panama,1943 USS Sampson (DD-394), Gulf of Panama,1943

On 7 May 1943 Sampson returned to Balboa at the end of her last South American cruise. She departed on 23 May to escort troopships to Noumea in New Caledonia on 13 June. She then moved to Bora Bora to escort a convoy of troopships to Noumea, arriving on 8 July. She then met up with the Warrington at Pago Pago in American Samoa and the two steamed for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 20 July.

On 27 July the Sampson and Warrington left Pearl Harbor to escort four Army troopships to Syndey, Australia, arriving on 8 August. She then moved to Noumea and spent the next few months based at Noumea and Espiritu Santo, escorting convoys to Guadalcanal and Florida in the Solomon Islands. On 2-3 October she attacked a suspected submarine while escorting a convoy from Noumea to Espiritu Santo. A heavy oil slick appeared, but no submarine was destroyed.


On 16 February she escorted the oiler Atacosa (AO-66) as she refuelled FG 39 south-east of the Tauu Islands.

In March the Sampson took part in the operation to occupy Emirau Island, from where the Japanese bases around the northern shores of New Ireland could be watched. On 15 March she was one of four destroyers that left Espiritu Santo as part of the screen for the escort carriers Natoma Bay (CVE-62) and Manila Bay (CVE-61). The force joined by four battleships and on 20 March carried out a joint air and sea bombardment of Kavieng on New Ireland, while the 4th Marine Regiment landed on Emirau.

In early April the Sampson escorted a convoy from Port Purvis in the Florida Islands to Espiritu Santo. On 11 April she picked up the armed guard from the merchant ship Titan, who had been stranded on Cook Reef, and transported them to Efate in the New Hebrides. On 17 April she left there to escort the Ataseosa to Kukum Beach, before moving to Guadalcanal. Over the next few days she moved to Borgen Bay on New Britain, then Purvis Bay and eventually Milne Bay on New Guinea, arriving on 11 May.

At Milne Bay she joined the 7th Fleet, ready to take part in the invasion of Biak Island. On 20 May she became the flagship of Rear Admiral W. M. Fechteler, commander of Task Force 77. On 25 May while she was at Humbolt Bay Major General H. Fuller, commander of the 41st Division, and his staff came onboard. Between them the two men commanded the landings at Bosnik on Biak, which took place on 27 May. On the afternoon of 27 May the Sampson was almost hit by a twin engined Japanese aircraft that had been damaged by AA fire. This aircraft flew over the Sampson, hit the water and then hit the sub chaser SC-699 starting major fires that took some putting out. Late on 27 May the Sampson left Biak to escort eight LSTs back to Humbolt Bay, arriving on the following day (presumably without Fechteler or Fuller!).

USS Sampson (DD-394) from USS Saratoga (CV-3). USS Sampson (DD-394) from USS Saratoga (CV-3).

This ended the Sampson’s time in the Pacific. She headed back for the Panama Canal and on 25 June joined the United States Atlantic Fleet at Cristobal in the Canal Zone. On 28 June she departed to escort the troopship General Tasker H. Bliss to New York, arriving on 4 July. The Sampson became the flagship of Captain H.T. Read, Commander of Task Force 63, on 19 July. On 24 July she departed as flagship of the escort of Convoy UGS-49, which reached Bizarte in Tunisia on 13 August. She departed for New York with a west-bound convoy on 8 September. This was the first of five round trips across the Mediterranean.

Sampson got underway from Cape Sudest on 5 June, and touched the Samoan and Society Islands, en route to Cristobal, Canal Zone, where she reported for duty to the United States Atlantic Fleet on 25 June. Three days later, she sailed as the escort for troopship, General Tasker H. Bliss, and arrived at the New York Navy Yard on 4 July. She became flagship of Capt. H. T. Read, Commander, Task Force 63, on 19 July, and shifted to Hampton Roads, Va., on 21 July in preparation for transatlantic, convoy-escort duty. Three days later, she sailed as flagship of the escort for Convoy UGS-49 which reached Bizerte, Tunisia, on 13 August. She returned to New York, guarding a westward convoy, on 8 September 1944, and made four subsequent round trips to the Mediterranean, finally arriving at Boston on 19 May 1945.


The Sampson returned to Boston after her fifth trans-Atlantic convoy on 19 May 1945. She remained at Boston until 1 July, when she departed for Annapolis. On 7 July she put to sea carrying midshipmen and joined task group TU 23.21.1 (Cincinnati (CL-8), Marblehead (CL-12), Raleigh (CL-7), Sampson and Somers (DD-381)), which took part on battle practice off Cuba, Puetro Rico and the Virginia Capes, before returning to Hampton Roads on 30 July.

On 19 August the Sampson departed for Guantanamo Bay for another training operation. She then went to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where she arrived on 16 September to be inactivated. She was decommissioned on 1 November 1945, struck off on 28 November and sold for scrap on 29 March 1946.

Sampson earned one battle star for World War II service, for Western New Guinea.

Displacement (standard)

1,850t (design)

Displacement (loaded)

2,130t (design)
2,766.6 (Sampson)

Top Speed

37.5kts (design)
38.56kts at 53,271shp at 2,179t on trial (Sampson)


2-shaft General Electric turbines
4 boilers
52,000shp design


7,500nm at 15kts (design)
10,540nm at 15kts at 2,143t on trial (Sampson)
7,020nm at 12kts at 2,750t wartime
4,250nm at 20kts at 2,750t


381ft 6in


36ft 10in


Eight 5in/38 SP guns in twin mounts
Twelve 12in torpedos in three quad mounts
Eight 1.1in AA guns in four twin mounts
Four 0.5in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


Laid Down

8 April 1936


16 April 1938


19 August 1938

Sold for scrap

29 March 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 (22 June 2022), USS Sampson (DD-394) ,

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