USS Simpson (DD-221)

USS Simpson (DD-221) was a Clemson class destroyer that served in the Mediterranean in 1922-4, the Asiatic Fleet in 1925-1932 and on convoy escort duties and anti-submarine duties in the Atlantic during the Second World War.

The Simpson was named after Edward Simpson, a US naval officer during the Mexican War and the American Civil War, who served with the East Gulf Squadron and the West Gulf Squadron and took part in the attack on Mobile. He retired with the rank of Rear Admiral in 1886.

The Simpson was laid down at Cramp’s of Philadelphia on 9 October 1919, launched on 28 April 1920 and commissioned on 3 November 1920.

For most of 1921 the Simpson operated with the Pacific Fleet, taking part in a series of training exercises off the US west coast, and visiting Valparaiso, Chile.

USS Simpson (DD-221) from the left
USS Simpson (DD-221)
from the left

At the end of 1921 the Simpson was allocated to the US forces in the Mediterranean. She passed through the Panama Canal on 12 December 1921, underwent an overhaul at Philadelphia, and left Newport on 6 June 1922.

The Simpson departed for the Mediterranean on 12 June 1922 with the Bulmer, Litchfield (DD-336), Parrott (DD-218), Edsall (DD-219), MacLeish (DD-220) and McCormick (DD-223), reaching Gibraltar on 22 June. The Simpson served with the United States naval Detachment in Turkish Waters under Rear Admiral Mark L. Bristol from 29 June 1922 to 26 February 1924. Soon after her arrival the Greek-Turkish War came to a end, and the Turks reoccupied Smyrna. The city caught fire a few days after the Turks took over, and the Simpson helped with the massive evacuation effort that followed. Anyone who landed between 8-13 September 1922 qualified for the Smyrna Expeditionary Medal. For the rest of her time in the area she visited ports around the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean, protecting US citizens and helping the American Relief Assocation. After her recall she visited a number of ports in the western Mediterranean and into the Channel, ending at Southampton. She departed from Southampton on 1 July 1924 heading for Norfolk.

After the overhaul was completed, the Simpson underwent a period of training in the Caribbean, before she was assigne to the Asiatic Fleet. She reached the fleet at Chefoo (Yantai), China, on 14 June 1925. For the next few years she followed the general pattern of life in the Asiatic fleet, spending her winters in the Philippines and summers in Chinese waters, helping to protect US interests during the ongoing Chinese civil wars and the first Japanese attacks.

Soon after her arrival the Simpson rescued some missionaries from Deep Bay (2-3 July 1925), close to Hong Kong. She was also used to support the gunboat patrols in the Yangtze.

In March 1927 she was part of the western naval squadron that mived to Nanking after the city fell to Chang Kai-shek’s Nationalists, who then began to attack foreigners in the city. US and British ships carried out a short bombardment of the city and rescued their citizens. Chang blamed the attacks on deserters and communists, and used them to justify his bloody purge of communists from within the Nationalist movement later in the same year.

On 26 August 1928 the minesweeper Avocet ran aground in a typhoon. The Simpson, MacLeish and Parrott all took part in the rescue efforts, including being used to race past at high speed to try and use their wakes to dislodge her. The Avocet was finally rescued on 29 August.

On 7 December 1931 the Simpson was selected to join the Rotating Reserve at the Mare Island Navy Yard, but before she could leave the situation in China deteriorated after the Japanese attacked Shanghai (January 1922). The Simpson was used to support American diplomants in the Chinese capital (at the time Nanjing, further up the Yangtze. She moved to Shanghai on 11 February, then to Swatow on 23 February. She remained there until 2 April, when she finally departed for the Philippines. Her destroyer squadron left Manila on 18 April, heading for home.

Anyone who served on her between five sets of dates between 7 January 1927 and 18 February 1932 qualified for the China Service Medal.

The Simpson underwent a refit at Mare Island, then on 28 September 1932 joined Destroyers, Battle Force, based at San Diego. Form the next few years she took part in regular fleet exercises and operated along the US west coast as well as paying occasional visits to the East Coast. During one of those visits she colladed with the Milwaukee (CL-5) during a night exercise off Guantanamo Bay on 7 May 1934. As a result she needed repairs at Philadelphia. Once there were complete she took part in the summer training programme at Newport, and didn’t return to San Diego until 10 November. After her return to the west coast she took part in the 1936, 1937 and 1938 fleet problems.

In 1939 the Simpson returned to the East Coast to undertake training duties. Between 5 June and 30 August she carried out three training cruisers for midshipmen from the Naval Academy (operating with the Decatur (DD-341), Claxton, Fairfax (DD-93), Roper (DD-147) and Babbitt). This was followed by training cruisers for the Naval Reservists, but this pattern was disrupted by the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939. The Simpson moved to the Caribbean, where she took part in a mix of patrols and exercises. In the summer of 1940 she carried out one midshipman and one reservist training cruiser, before returning to the Neutrality Patrol.


The Simpson was soon involved in the undeclared American involvement in the naval war in the Atlantic. She joined the support force that was created on 18 March 1941 to protect convoys carrying Lend Lease supplies across the Western Atlantic. At first she operating along the US East Coast, but between 30 June and 3 September she escorted two convoys east from Argentia to the Mid Ocean Rendezvous Point off Greenland. On 24 September she met the first westbound convoy to get a US escort, and helped bring it safely from Iceland to Argentia, arriving on 4 October.

Anyone who served on her between 22 June-13 July 1941 or 29 July-7 November 1941 qualified for the American Defense Service Medal.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s declaration of war the Simpson’s mission remained the same, but she was able to escort convoys all the way to Britain.


The Simpson was damaged by bad weather off Iceland on 15 January 1942, but despite that she remained on transatlantic convoy duties until 28 April 1942. She then entered the Boston Navy Yard for an overhaul, before she returned to duties on the US East Coast.


In February 1943 the Simpson escorted a convoy to Casablanca, to support the fighting after Operation Torch. On 28 April 1943 she began a second overhaul at the New York Navy Yard, which was over by May. After the overhaul she escorted a convoy from New York to Curacoa in the West Indies, and then made two round trips between Curacoa and Londonderry.

During 1943 many of the older destroyers joined hunter-killer groups based around escort carriers. On 29 August the Simpson joined the group built around USS Santee (CVE-29). The group then escorted a convoy from Bermuda to Casablanca. This was followed by a period of anti-submarine patrols of the Azores, before it joined a west-bound convoy on 22 September. The group left the convoy on 26 September after a U-boat was reported to be operating near the Azores. The group returned to the US on 12 October.

The Santee’s group put to sea again on 28 October (with the Bainbridge, MacLeish and Simpson). It reached Casablanca on 13 November after a quiet crossing. On the following day the group put back to sea to escort President Roosvelt as he made his way to Cairo on USS Iowa (BB-61), on his way to one of the series of wartime conferences. The group then made a return trip across the Atlantic, reaching Norfolk on 9 December.

This ended the Simpson’s front line service. On 1 December she was selected for conversion into the fast transport APD-27, and she moved to New York where the work was to be carried out, but in January 1944 she was replaced by USS George E. Badger (DD-196/ AVD-3). This conversion was also soon cancelled.


The Simpson returned to convoy escort duties, but this time operating along the increasingly safe East Coast. From 29 December 1943 to 9 April 1944 she was used to escort the Antaeus (AG-67), a troop ship operating along the coast. She was then used to escort new capital ships during their shakedown cruisers.

On 4 July she joined the screen of the new battleship Wisconsin (BB-64) as she left Norfolk heading for Trinidad for her shakedown cruise.

At the start of August she escorted the new cruiser USS Alaska (CB-1) as she sailed down the Delaware River on the way to her shakedown cruise.

At the start of September she escorted the new cruiser USS Vicksburg (CL-86) as she returned to Hampton Roads after shore bombardment exercises off Puerto Rico.

During this period she also escorted the Missouri and the carriers Ticonderoga and Antietam.

On 23 May 1945 the Simpson was classified as a miscellaneous auxiliary AG-97. Her armament was removed, and she was given racks to carry practise torpedoes and a winch for towed targets. From June 1945-May 1946 she supported ships training at Guantamano Bay.

On 11 May 1946 the Simpson reached Philidalephia, where she was inactivated. She was struck off on 19 June 1946 and sold for scrap on 21 November 1946.

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



28 April 1920


3 November 1920

Sold for scrap

21 Noveber 1946

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 May 2019), Title,

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