USS Sands (DD-243/ APD-13)

USS Sands (DD-243/ APD-13) was a Clemson class destroyer that took part in the early fighting in the Aleutians, supporting the fighting in the Solomons and on New Guinea, the invasion of the Palau Islands, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima and Okinawa

The Sands was named after a father and son pair of admirals. The father, Benjamin F. Sands, fought in the Mexican War and the American Civil War, capturing Galveston on 2 June 1865. The son, James H. Sands, also served in the Civil War and then had a long peacetime naval career, including a period as Superintendent of the Naval Academy.

The Sands was laid down at Camden by the New York Shipbuilding Company on 22 March 1919. She was launched on 28 October 1919 and sponsored by Miss Jane Mc Cue Sands. She was commissioned on 10 November 1920. Her acting commander at the time was Ensign William D. Leahy, who went on to serve as President Roosevelt’s personal chief-of-staff during the Second World War, making him the highest ranked member of the US military to see active duty during the war.

USS Sands (DD-243) under Brooklyn Bridge
USS Sands (DD-243)
under Brooklyn Bridge

Leahy was briefly replaced by anther temporary commander, before on 13 December Commander Robert L. Ghormley took over. Ghormley, who would commander her into 1922, went on to serve as the Commander, South Pacific Area, during the early phase of the Solomon Islands campaign.

On 3 January 1921 the Sands departed from New York, heading for Europe. She arrived at Brest on 16 January and spent the next seven months operating between British and French ports. In August-September she paid a visit to the Baltic, before in late September leaving France to head to the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea. By the time she arrived the fighting in the Russian Civil War was largely over, but the Greek-Turkish War was in full flow. The Sands reached Constantinople on 11 November, then in December moved into the Black Sea, where she observed as the ancient Greek populations of Samsoun and Trebizond were deported.

Her next mission took her into the eastern Mediterranean, where she visited Alexandretta (now Iskenderun), in the far north-eastern corner of the Mediterranean. She spent most of January 1922 supporting an American mission and relief distribution centre at Mersin, slightly further to the west along the Turkish coast. In February she was back in the Black Sea, where she took part in relief operations at Novorossisk, a Russian port just to the east of the Crimea. She then moved south to Samsoun before returning to Constantinople in mid March. On 22 March she departed for a second visit to Mersin, but by 7 April she was back at Constantinople. She then returned to the Black Sea, visiting Odessa, Theodosia, Novorossisk, Trebizond and Samsoun. She was at Samsoun in June 1922, a period that included a Greek and US bombardment of the city which briefly saw the allies take control of the area before the US ships were ordered back to Constantinople. The Sands arrived there on 9 July at the end of a very active deployment. Soon afterwards she departed for home.

From August-November 1922 the Sands underwent an overhaul at Philadelphia. In late December she joined the Scouting Fleet at New York, and on 3 January 1923 she left to take part in the annual winter manoeuvres in the Caribbean. In February 1923 she took part in Fleet Problem I, which was designed to test the defences of the Panama Canal. In March-April she operated in the Greater Antilles, before in May she returned to the US East Coast. She spent the rest of the year operating off the US East Coast, before departing for the Caribbean once again in January 1924.

This was the pattern of her operations for the rest of the 1920s – summers spent on the US East Coast and winters in the Caribbean.

From the spring of 1925 to the spring of 1926 she was commanded by John Reginald Beardall, who served as the Commandant of the US Naval Academy in 1942-45.

On 10 November 1930 the Sands moved to Philadelphia, and she was decommissioned on 13 February 1931.

Baback & Wilcox Boilers for Clemson Class Destroyers Baback & Wilcox Boilers for Clemson Class Destroyers

The Sands was recommissioned on 21 July 1932, and in August departed for her new base on the West Coast. She reached San Diego on 8 September, and soon settled into the regular pattern of operations on the Pacific Coast. At the start of 1933 she took part in exercises around Hawaii. In the spring she moved north to Washington State, before returning to San Diego on July. Later in the year she joined Rotating Destroyer Squadron 20, and remained in the reserve until April 1934. She then joined Destroyer Division 9, to take part in Fleet Exercises in the Caribbean. She took part in Fleet Problem XVI in the North Pacific in May 1935. In April 1936 she departed for the East Coast to take part in exercises in the Caribbean and New England, before returning to San Diego in October 1936. The next two years were spend in southern California, with three further trips to Hawaii in the spring and autumn of 1937 and the spring of 1938.

From the summer of 1937 until August 1938 she was commanded by James Henry Doyle, who rose to flag rank after the Second World War.

The Sands was decommissioned once again on 15 September 1938. This lasted for just over a year, before she was recommissioned on 26 September 1939 as part of the US reaction to the outbreak of war in Europe. She was assigned to the Neutrality Patrol, and operated in the Caribbean from December 1939 to the spring of 1940. She spent most of the rest of 1940 operating of the east coast of the US, before returning to California late in the year.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the Sands helped escort shipping along the US West Coast.


In the spring of 1942 the Sands was moved north to Alaska to help counter the Japanese invasion of the western Aleutians. She was used to carry out patrols and escort convoys in the area between mainland Alaska and the eastern Aleutians.

In August 1942 she supported a bombardment of Kiska Island, and at the end of the month the occupation of Adak.

In October 1942 the Sands left for San Francisco, where she was to be converted into a high speed transport. She was redesignated as APD-13 on 30 October 1942 and arrived at San Francisco on 5 November. The work was carried out quickly and she was able to leave San Francisco on 21 December, reaching Pearl Harbor before the end of the year.


On 22 January 1943 the Sands reached Espiritu Santo. She was used to transport supplies and reinforcements to Tulagi and Guadalcanal, while also acting as an escort to her convoys. On 29 January she was detached from this role to try and help rescue the damaged heavy cruiser USS Chicago (CA-29). Her first role was to escort the tug Navajo (AT-64) to the Chicago, then on 30 January to join the anti-aircraft screen of destroyers around the cruiser. However all of this effort was in vain. At 16.20 on 30 September Japanese aircraft found the formation, and the Chicago was hit by a torpedo, sinking 20 minutes later. The Sands suffered nine wounded by the explosion of a 20mm shell during this battle, and then picked up 300 survivors from the Chicago.

USS Sands (APD-13) in 1944
USS Sands (APD-13)
in 1944

She spent the first part of February escorting convoys to Guadalcanal. On 21 February she sailed for the Russell Islands, and on 23 February she landed a force of Marine Raiders on Pavuvu Island in the Russell Islands, without opposition. She then returned to a period of convoy duty.

In the spring of 1943 she was transferred to the 7th Amphibious Force, and on 14 May she left the New Hebrides to escort a convoy of LSTs to Townsville, Australia, arriving on 20 May. She then spent the rest of the summer performing a mix of escort and patrol duties in Queensland and helping to move Allied troops around the northern coast of the Papuan peninsula.

On 2 September the Sands embarked troops from the 9th Australian Division, which had returned from North Africa to help defend Australia. On 4 September she landed them to the east of Lae. A few days later she shelled the Japanese garrison at Lae. On 22 September she landed more troops just to the north of Finschhafen. October and November were spent moving reinforcements to the Huon Peninsula and onto various offshore islands.

On 15 December she attempted to land troops from the 112th Cavalry Regiment on the Amalut Peninsula of New Britain. However the Japanese opened fire while the rubber landing boats were still out at sea, sinking twelve of the fifteen involved. Most of the troops swam back out to sea, where all but sixteen were rescued by the Sands and another destroyer.

On 26 December the Sands took part in the more successful landings at Cape Gloucester, this time landing marines and then providing gunfire support during the initial advance inland.


On 2 January 1944 she landed troops at Saidor, and she spent the next two weeks operating between Buna and the Saidor area. On 18 January she arrived at Sydney for a brief rest, which ended on 28 January when she departed with cargo and personnel heading for New Guinea.

On 1 March she took part in the landings at Los Negros. After dropping her landing craft she provided gunfire support. On 4 March she landed reinforcements on Los Negros and she then returned to escort duties along the coast.

At the start of April she was used to help train army units in amphibious warfare. On 22 April she landed troops from the 162nd Infantry at Hollandia, and then provided gunfire support.

During the first half of May she carried out more escort and transport runs, before returning to California in mid May.

After an overhaul the Sands departed for Pearl Harbor, where she picked up 126 men from the 81st Division Reconnaissance Company. She then took part in the invasion of the Palau Islands. In mid September she formed part of the reserve for the invasion of Peleliu, and provided some gunfire support. On 18 September she landed the Reconnaissance Company on Red Beach on Anguar. On 19 September she embarked the 323rd Reconnaissance Company, and then landed them on Ulithi.

On 29 September she moved to Manus, where her boats were equipped with mine-sweeping gear and minesweeping personnel, ready to take part in the invasion of Leyte as part of Mine Squadron 2. The Sands approached Leyte Gulf on 17 October. On 18 October she picked up troops from Suluan Island, landed there by the Crosby. On 19 October her boats were used for minesweeping operations in the assault area. She then supported the boats as they came under Japanese fire near Tacloban. After completing their first mission, the boats were collected and moved to Dulag where they repeated the exercise. On 20 October the Sands provided gun support in both areas, Tacloban in the morning and Dulag in the afternoon. On 21 October she departed for New Guinea.

In November the Sands carried out a supply run to Leyte, then began to prepare for the invasion of Luzon.


On 2 January 1945 the Sands left San Pedro Bay, heading for Luzon. On 4 January the fleet became to come under air attack. On 5 January they reached Luzon, and on 6 January the fleet reached Lingayen Gulf, where it came under heavy kamikaze attack. The Sands bombarded Santiago Island. On 7 January she provided cover for the minesweepers and supported the underwater demolition teams as they removed obstructions from the landing area. From 8-13 January she carried out patrols in the transport area, before departing for Leyte then Ulithi.

On 1 March she joined a convoy heading for Iwo Jima, arriving on 3 March. She carried out patrols from 3-5 March, then departed for Saipan on 6 March escorting some of the empty transport ships. Between then and mid-June she made three runs to the Okinawa area escorting reinforcements.

This ended her active career. In mid June she left for the United States, arriving at San Diego on 11 July. She departed for Philadelphia on 29 August, was decommissioned on 10 October, struck off the Navy List on 1 November and sold for scrap in the spring of 1946.

Sands (APD-13) earned nine battle stars for World War II service, for the Eastern New Guineas (Lae, Finschaffen and Saidor), Rennell Island, Bismarck Archipelago (Arawe, Cape Gloucester, Admiralty Islands), the Palau Islands, Leyte landings, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Hollandia.

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



28 October 1919


11 November 1920

Sold for scrap

Spring 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 (3 October 2019), USS Sands (DD-243/ APD-13) ,

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