Farragut Class Destroyers

The Farragut Class Destroyers were the first new American destroyers to be ordered after the First World War, and was a major improvement on the flushdecker destroyers, with a raised forecastle, 5in dual purpose guns, an increase in speed and a new stern that improved their turning circle. They were the first in a series of loosly related designs that spread over nine inter-war destroyer classes.

Technically the eight ships of the Farragut Class were authorised by Congress in 1916, as part of a final batch of twenty four wartime destroyers. Twelve were built as the last Clemson class ships (DD-336 to DD-347), but the last twelve (DD-348 to DD-359) weren't ordered at the time. The authorisation thus lay dormant for a decade and a half while the Navy attempted unsuccessfully to get funding for them. Congress agreed to fund the first five in June 1931 (fiscal year 1932), and the last three in June 1932 (fiscal year 1933).

The Interwar Design Debate

During the intervening years the Navy produced a series of designs for destroyers. Their main objective was to produce a large flotilla leader type of destroyer, similar to the British V & W Class ships. By February 1919 this had evolved into a 2,200t design (an increase of 1,190t over the standard displacement of the Clemson class), which carried five 4in guns on the centre line and carried twelve torpedo tubes in wing mounts (partly because of potential problems with centre mounted torpedoes and partly to make sure that each ship could fire two salvoes by making it impossible for an over excited captain to fire all of his torpodes at once. The flushdeck design was abandoned in favour of a slightly raised forecastle.

The 1919 design wasn't popular in the destroyer force, where the idea of the destroyer as a fleet defense and anti-submarine vessel hadn’t really caught on. Instead it was seen as an offensive weapon for use against the enemy battlefleet, in the expectation that the next war would see a repeat of the Battle of Jutland. In 1920 Lt. Commander F.S. Craven, who had served in destroyers, submitted a design to the General Board that reflected the general view of the destroyer community. This ship had a turtle-back forecastle, which in the earliest US destroyers had increased speed in smooth seas, but reduced it in more normal Atlantic conditions, and six 5in guns carried in three triple mounts. Extra torpedoes were to be carried - one triple tube in place of No.4 Gun, two triple tubes on the centre line between the rear funnel and aft deckhouse and more torpedoes on the fantail (where they had proved to be unusuable when placed there in the past. A single 5in anti-aircraft gun would be carried. Craven saw the destroyer as a largely disposable weapon, which would carry out a single attack on the enemy fleet, using all of its torpedoes tubes at once. Six spare torpedoes would be carried for the stern tubes so that the destroyer could fire a parting salvo while attempting to escape. Despite all of the Navy's wartime experience, this design actually gained some support and was approved by the planning division of the Office of the CNO in July 1920. The General Board attempted to get funds for five of these ships to be built in Financial Year 1921, but Congress refused. This was the era of naval disarmament, and there was no political will to fund new large destroyers when the US Navy had hundreds of new flushdeckers, some only just entering service.

In 1927 another new design was developed, this time for a normal destroyer. This was for a ship of 1,400t standard displacement, which would carry twelve torpedoes in two sextuple mounts on the centre line, be armed with four 5in dual purpose guns and be powered by new high pressure steam boilers. This was a design study only and no attempt was made to get it built.

Later in 1927 work began on a new destroyer leader design. This time the design teams produced a rangel of eight designs for ships of wildly different sizes, from a 1,421t destroyer to a 2,900 super-destroyer inspired partly by a new generation of French and Italian large destroyers. In 1928 the General Board designed on an intermediate set of specifications - no more than 1,850t displacement, four 5in/51 single purpose guns, twelve torpedo tubes and an endurance of 6,000 miles at 12 knots. This design didn't offer much improvement over the Clemson class other than an increase in range and the move from 4in to 5in guns.

In April 1930 the London Naval Treaty was signed. The Washington Treaty hadn't imposed limits on destroyer construction, but the London Treaty imposed a size limit of 1,850 tons and a maximum gun of 5.1in. The United States was allowed to operate 150,000 tons of destroyers. Only sixteen percent of these ships could be over 1,500 tons. These were 'standard' displacements, without fuel or reserve feed water, so the actual ships would always emerge as heavier.

The Navy now began the process of designing a new destroyer that it was reasonably certain would be built. Once again there were two views. The first was to build two types of destroyers - large fleet defence ships with a normal displacement of 2,400 tons, heavy gun battery and speed of 28-30kts and smaller attack boats, 1,100 tons with a top speed of up to 40kts and heavy torpedo batteries. The second view was that the Navy needed destroyers with the endurance to accompany the Battle Fleet as it fought its way across the Pacific to break up any Japanese attack on the Philippines. The smaller boats wouldn't have the range, and the larger boats would be too expensive. Instead the Navy should build a large number of the smaller 1,500t standard type.

The Construction & Repair Bureau produced three possible designs, two standard destroyers at 1,375t or 1,500t and a leader at 1,850t. All carried 5in/25 guns, which were felt to be easier to use on a destroyer than the more powerful 5in/50 gun, and had a raised forecastle to make them drier in heavy seas. The 1,375t would carry 16 torpedo tubes (two quad mounts on each side), giving it two broadsides of 8. The 1,500t design got three triple mounts in the centre, for a broadside of 9. The 1,850t class carried two quadruple mounts on the centre line, for a broadside of 8. While the 1,500t design led to the Farragut class, the 1,850t design was further developed into the Porter Class Destroyers, the first US destroyer leaders. 

C&R produced a more detailed design for the 1,500t plan in January 1931. This had a normal displacement of 1,725t. It would be armed with two single 5in/38 DP guns at the front, and twin 5in single purpose guns on either side of the aft deckhouses. It would have three triple torpedo tube mounts all on the centre line. The General Board wasn't happy with this design, and suggested five alternative layouts, and ended up recommending one with four protected DP guns and three triple torpedo tubes. The Secretary of the Navy preferred a design with five guns and two quad torpedo tubes, as long as the first two guns were shielded.

The Farragut Design

On 27 March 1931 C&R submitted the design that would emerge as the Farragut class ships.

This carried five of the 5in/38 DP guns, and had a standard forecastle in order to provide enough deck space for all five guns. Two guns were mounted in front of the bridge, two at the stern and one behind the funnels. They were carried on pedestal mounts attached to the decks.

Two quad torpedo tubes were carried between No.3 Gun and the aft deck houses. The smoke uptakes from the boilers fed two funnels, with one going to a narrow funnel just behind the bridge and the rest to a larger funnel just ahead of the half way point. It was also considered possible to replace No.5 gun with another set of torpedo tubes. The ships had a raised forecastle, and the stern was also higher than on the flushdeckers. The new ships also had a redesigned stern, replacing the 'V-shaped' stern of the flushdeckers which had given them a poor turning circle. The sterns had to be strong enough to carry depth charges, and they were built with sonar. Depth charges weren't carried as standard equipment in the original design, although this was probably done to stay within the treaty limits, with the idea of of adding them if needed in wartime.

The ships were to have welded hulls with longitudinal frames to increase strength.

As was standard at the time the Navy didn't specify the details of the ship's machinery, but instead issued general specifications, with the details to be provided by the builders. The specification for the Farragut class ships was designed to fit in with the licence-built Parsons turbines then in use. These operated at 3,460rpm on the high pressure turbine, and the boilers operated at 400psi and 648 degrees F (low pressure and temperature for the time).

The new design was seen as a great improvement over the flushdeckers, with more firepower, better seakeeping qualities, greater endurance and an increase in speed.

The detailed design was drafted by Bethlehem Steel. It used license built Parsons Turbines. Construction was split between Bethlehem at Quincy, the Bath Iron Works and the New York, Boston, Puget Sound and Philadephia Naval Yards. Each constructor launched one ship in 1934, and New York and Boston followed with a second ship in 1935.

When the Farragut class ships were completed they turned out to be under weight, which allowed for some expansion in later classes, but also gave them a reputation for being somewhat flimsy.

Overview of Interwar Destroyers

Class

Standard Displacement

Guns

Torpedo Tubes

Farragut

1,500t

Five 5in/38 DP

Eight (2x4)

Mahan

1,500t

Five 5in/38 DP

Twelve (3x4)

Dunlap

1,500t

Five 5in/38 DP

Twelve (3x4)

Gridley

1,500t

Four 5in/38 DP

Sixteen (4x4)

Bagley

1,500t

Four 5in/38 DP

Sixteen (4x4)

Benham

1,500t

Four 5in/38 DP

Sixteen (4x4)

Sims

1,570t

Five 5in/38 DP

Twelve (3x4) design
Eight (2x4) in service

Benson

1,620t

Five 5in/ 38 DP

Five or Ten (1 or 2 x5)

Gleaves/ Livermore

1,630t

Five 5in/ 38 DP

Five ot Tne (1 or 2 x4)

Porter

1,850t

Eight 5in/ 38 SP

Eight (2x4)

Somers

1,850t

Eight 5in/ 38 SP

Twelve (3x4)

The first six classes (Farragut to Benham) were limited by the London Naval Treaty of 1930. The Sims, Benson and Gleaves classes were built under the less restrictive terms of the London Treaty of 1936, but changes were limited by the need to avoid delays in production. The Porter and Somers class were destroyer leaders built under the terms of the 1930 treaty. Their single purpose guns limited their usefulness during the Second World War.

The nine standard destroyer classes fell into three broad groups. The Farragut, Mahan and Dunlap classes carried five guns and up to twelve torpedo tubes. The Gridley, Bagley and Benham classes carried sixteen torpedo tubes and only four guns, a victory for the pro-torpedo community. The final three, Benham, Sims and Gleaves classes reverted to five guns and smaller torpedo loads.  

Wartime Service

The Farragut class ships had fairly similar experiences. Only the Monoghan served with the Atlantic Neutrality Patrol, possibly because of the light construction of these ships. All eight were present at Pearl Harbor, and survived the attack intact. They then took part in many of the major engagements of the Pacific War, from the battle of the Coral Sea to the invasion of Okinawa, as well as the campaign in the Aleutians. In 1945 the surviving members of the group tended to move away from the front line. Three were lost, one when she ran aground in the Aleutians and two in the great typhoon of December 1944.

USS Farragut (DD-348) was based in the Pacific in 1939-41. She was present at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, but only suffered minor damage. She took part in the early campaigns around New Guinea, supported the initial landings on Guadalcanal and then remained in the area, taking part in the battle of the Eastern Solomons (24-25 August 1942). In 1943 she took part in the US reconquest of the Aleutians. Later in the year she took part in Operation Galvanic, the invasion of the Gilbert Islands (November-December 1943 - the battles of Makin and Tarawa). In 1944 she took part in Operation Flintlock, the invasion of the Marshall Islands, the landings at Aitape and Hollandia on New Guinea, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the invasions of Guam and Saipan and the return to the Philippines. In 1945 she took part in raids on the coast of Indochian and the Chinese coast, the invasion of Iwo Jima and the invasion of Okinawa. She left the war zone in August 1945, and was decommissioned on 23 October 1945.

USS Dewey (DD-349) was based in the Pacific in 1939-41 and was undergoing a tender overhaul when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She took part in the failed attempt to save Wake Island. In 1942 she took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, the landings on Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. In 1943 she took part in the Aleutian campaign, including the invasions of Attu and Kiska. In 1944 she took part in the invasion of the Marshall Islands, the landings at Hollandia, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the invasion of Guam and the invasion of the Philippines. She was damaged in the typhoon of 18 December, but was back with the fleet in early February 1945, in time to take part in the invasion of Iwo Jima. She also took part in the invasion of Okinawa, and screened the fast carriers during their raids on the Japanese Home Islands. She also left the war zone in August 1945, and was decommissioned on 19 October 1945.

USS Hull (DD-350) was based in the Pacific in 1939-41 and was present at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. After a spell on convoy duties she took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal. In 1943 she moved to the Aleutians and took part in the liberation of Attu and Kiska. Late in the year she supported ihe invasion of Gilbert Islands, then in early 1944 the Marshal Islands. She was with the battleship force during the invasion of the Marianas, and took part in the battle of the Philippine Sea. After a brief spell in the States, she returned to the Pacific to take part in the invasion of the Philippines, but on 18 December 1944 she was lost in the great typhoon that hit the US fleet.

USS MacDonough (DD-351) was based in the Pacific in 1939-41 and claimed one Japanese aircraft during the attack on Pearl Habour. She spent a few months scouting west of Oahu, then escorted convoys from the US west coast to Hawaii. In the summer of 1942 she took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal, and fought at the battle of Savo Island. In 1943 she took part in the liberation of Attu, but was damaged in a collision and missed the landings on Kiska. She was repaired in time to take part in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands late in 1943 and of the Marshall Isalnds, early in 1944. She took part in the landings at Hollandia, the invasion of the Marianas and the battle of the Philippine Sea. She guarded the vulnerable troop transports during the battle of Leyte Gulf. After a refit early in 1945 she was used as a radar picket off Ulithi until July, and then to escort convoys running between Ulithi and Okinawa.

USS Worden (DD-352) served in the Pacific from 1939-41, and was at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack. She took part in the failed attempt to save Wake Island, and fought at the battle of Midway. She took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal, and the battle of the Eastern Solomons. In the first part of 1943 she was sent to the Aleutians, where on 12 January 1943 she ran aground and was wrecked.

USS Dale (DD-353) was based in the Pacific in 1939-41. She was present when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In 1942 she fought at the battle of Midway, then supported the invasion of Guadalcanal then protected transport ships bringing reinforcements and supplies to the island. Early in 1943 she moved to the Aleutians, where she took part in the invasions of Attu and Kiska. Later in the year she supported the invasiono of the Gilbert Islands, then in 1944 the Marshall Islands. She supported the landings at Hollandia and the invasion of the Marianas, and fought at the battle of the Philippine Sea. Late in 1944 she supported the invasion of the Philippines, then joined the fast carriers of TF 38. In 1945 she supported the logistics group that brought supplies to Okinawa.  

USS Monaghan (DD-354) spent much of the pre-war period in the North Atlantic, but by 1941 she was based at Pearl Harbor. She sank a midget submarine during the Japanese attack, then took part in the failed attempt to relieve Wake Island. She fought in the battle of the Coral Sea and the battle of Midway, then moved to the Aleutians for part of 1942 and 1943. Later in 1943 she took part in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. In 1944 she toom part in the Marshalls campaign, then escorted the fast carriers. She took part in the invasion of Hollandia, then the battle of the Philippines Sea. In December 1944 she was sunk in the great typhoon that hit the US fleet, with the loss of all but six of her crew. 

USS Aylwin (DD-355) was based in the Pacific in 1939-41. She was badly damaged in a collision on 19 March 1941, but had been repaired by the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She took part in the failed relief of Wake Island. In 1942 she fought at the battle of the Coral Sea, the battle of Midway, the campaign on Guadalcanal, and a significant amount of convoy escort duty. In 1943 she served in the Aleutians, taking part in the invasion of Attu and Kiska. She then moved south and took par tin the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. In 1944 she took part in the invasion of the Marshall Islands, then joined the fast carrier force. She took part in the invasion of Hollandia, and the Marianas, but missed the battle of the Philippines Sea. She took part in the invasion of the Philippines, then survived the typhoon that sank two of her sisters. In 1945 she took part in the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. She was decommissioned in October 1945.

Displacement (standard)

1,500t

Displacement (loaded)

2,064t

Top Speed

36.5kts
36.6kts at 40,353shp at 1,513t on trial (Farragut)

Engine

2-shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
42,800shp (design)

Range

6,500nm at 12kts
8,968nm at 12kts on trial (Farragut)
5,980nm at 12kts at 2,150tons (wartime)
3,710nm at 12kts at 2,150tons (wartime)

Length

341ft 3in

Width

34ft 3in

Armaments

Five 5in/38 DP guns
Four 0.5in AA guns
Eight 21in torpedoes in two quad mounts
Two depth charge tracks added later

Crew complement

160 (much higher in wartime)

Ships in Class

Fate

USS Farragut (DD-348)

Sold 1947

USS Dewey (DD-349)

Sold 1946

USS Hull (DD-350)

Lost in typhoon 1944

USS MacDonough (DD-351)

Sold 1946

USS Worden (DD-352)

Lost 12 Jan 1943

USS Dale (DD-353)

Sold 1945

USS Monaghan (DD-354)

Lost in typhoon 1944

USS Aylwin (DD-355)

Sold 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 Janaury 2019), Farragut Class Destroyers , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_farragut_class_destroyers.html

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