USS Semmes (DD-189)

USS Semmes (DD-189) was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the US Coast Guard in the interwar period and carried out a mix of experimental, training and escort work during the Second World War.

The Semmes was named after Ralph Semmes, a US Naval officer during the Mexican War and commander of the Confederate raiders Sumter and Alabama during the American Civil War.

USS Semmes (DD-189) at Guantanamo Bay, c.1919-20
USS Semmes (DD-189)
at Guantanamo Bay,

The Semmes was laid down at Newport News on 10 June 1918, launched on 21 December 1918 and commissioned on 21 February 1920. After her shakedown cruise she took part in exercises off the US East Coast during the rest of 1920, then took part in the normal winter exercises in the Caribbean early in 1921. She also made a brief visit to the Pacific, before in April she returned to Norfolk.

The Semmes was chosen to be one of the destroyers that were to be decommissioned in 1922. She moved to Philadelphia on 12 April and was decommissioned on 17 July 1922.

The Semmes was recommissioned in the Coast Guard on 25 April 1932. She was prepared for her new role at Boston, and then moved to her base at new London, where she began operations on 25 September 1932. Between 7 September and 10 November 1933 she was detached for service with the Navy, before returning to Coast Guard control. On 20 April 1934 she was officially returned to naval control.

In order to satisfy the terms of the London Naval Treaty the Semmes became an experimental ship, and on 1 July 1935 she was officially redesignated as the miscellaneous auxiliary AG-24. By this point she was already serving with Experimental Division 1, working alongside submarines to test out underwater sound equipment. She continued to carry out this role for the rest of the 1930s.

After the US entry into the Second World War in December 1941 the Semmes continued her experimental work. She was also used for training by the Key West Sound School. However she was also pressed into service as a destroyer, and carried out a number of escort missions and anti-submarine patrols.

On 6 May 1942, during one of her patrols, she collided with the British merchant ship Senateur Duhamel off Cape Lookout. The British ship sank, and the Semmes helped rescue her crew, before putting into port for repairs. These were completed by 3 June, and the Semmes returned to her mix of escort, patrol and test work.

After the end of the war in Europe the Semmes was used by the Underwater Sound Laboratory, New London, as part of the anti-submarine surface group of the Operational Development Force. She was also used by the Submarine School and the Fleet Sonar School, but this role only lasted until 21 May 1945 when she entered the Philadelphia Yard, where she was decommissioned on 2 June 1946. The Semmes was sold for scrap on 25 November 1946 and scrapped in 1947.

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



21 December 1918


21 February 1920


2 June 1946


25 November 1946

WWII Home Page | WWII Subject Index | WWII Books | WWII Links | Day by Day

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (24 July 2018), USS Semmes (DD-189) ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy