Porter Class Destroyers

The Porter Class Destroyers were the first destroyer leaders built by the US Navy, and were armed with eight 5in single purpose guns that made them less useful during the Second World War than the smaller destroyers of the Farragut and similar classes, which carried dual purpose guns. Officially they were designed as large destroyers rather than destroyer leaders, but they spent much of their active careers serving as flotilla flagships and later convoy escort flagships.

Design Process

The Porter class was developed within the restrictions of the London Naval Treaty of 1930, which introduced limits on destroyers for the first time. No destroyer was to be above 1,850t standard displacement or carry guns above 5.1in. In addition only sixteen percent of destroyers could be above 1,500t standard.

Above-front view of USS Porter (DD-356) at Mare Island Above-front view of USS Porter (DD-356) at Mare Island

In the decade after the end of the First World War the US Navy had produced a series of possible destroyer designs (see Farragut class article for more details), but none had been built. After the London Treaty was agreed work finally began on designs that were expected to be produced. In response to the design discussions the Construction & Repair Bureau produced three suggestions, for a light 1,375t type, a 1,500t type and a 1,850t leader. The 1,500t design evolved into the Farragut design, while the 1,850t type was the basis of discussions that led to the Porter class.

In January 1943 the General Board requested a speed of 35 knots, five 5in/ 38 DP guns and eight torpedo tubes. Some limited armour was to be carried, including bullet proof shields for the guns and protection against machine gun fire for the bridge. The 35kt design might also carry some protection for the boilers and machinery, but a possible 36.5kt design wouldn't carry this. This was the same firepower as the Farragut class ships, and a number of alternative designs were explored, including one with six guns in single mounts and another with six guns with two single and two twin mounts. All carried their torpedoes in two quad mounts.

In May 1932 the General Board accepted Scheme 10, with single mounts, three fore and three aft. They weren't entirely happy with it, as the guns took up took much centerline space, and during the development process they were replaced with eight 5in/ 38 single purpose guns in enclosed gunhouses, saving length. Congress agreed to fund eight 1,850 ton destroyers in fiscal year 1934.

Porter Class Design

The Porter class ships ended up armed with eight 5in/38 single purpose guns in four twin enclosed gunhouses, two fore and two aft. Eight torpedoes were carried in two quad mounts, with eight reloads also carried (the Farragut class ships carried no reloads). The four boilers provided 50,000shp, up from 42,800shp on Farragut class. This gave the Porter class ships a top speed of 38kts. They were given cruiser-type tripod masts in an attempt to reduce the amount of wire bracing required. However these masts were heavier than the more traditional destroyer types, and caused a problem when more anti-aircraft guns were needed. The smaller destroyers had a forward superstructure and lower aft deck houses. The Porter class ships had fore and aft superstructures, providing more space but also increasing top weight.

Anti-aircraft fire was provided by two quad 1.1in machine guns, one on the aft superstructure and one behind and firing over B gun house. Two fire control directors were installed - one fore and one after, no other destroyer then afloat had two controllers.

The Navy wasn't entirely clear on what it wanted these ships to be. The 1,850t ships in the London Treaty were seen as destroyer leaders, but during the design process the Porter class ships came to be seen as heavy destroyers, designed to operate together. Once they entered service they ended up being used as destroyer squadron flagships.

The Porter class ships are often seen as a response to the Japanese Fubuki class destroyers. They were the same general size as the Japanese ships, but with a heavier displacement that made them sturdier, carried more guns but had fewer torpedo tubes.


The detailed design was produced by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, which also built four members of the class. They were funded as part of the FY 34 programme, with money allocated from the National Industrial Recovery Act. The other four ships were built by Bethlehem's Quincy yard.

Two more Porter class ships were to have built as part of the FY 34 programme, but theses were built as the Somers class ships DD-381 and DD-383.

Service Record

By 1939 the 1,850 leaders of the Porter and Somers classes were serving as destroyer leaders in nine-ship destroyer squadrons (DesRons), or in DesRon 9, which contained seven 1,850t ships, led by the Moffett

The outbreak of the Second World War soon changed this, and many modern destroyers were moved to the Atlantic. The Moffett (DD-362) was there by January 1941 serving as a squadron leader. By June four of the Porter class ships were in the Atlantic (DD-358, DD-359, DD-362 and DD-363), as were four of the Somers class. The leaders were now serving in two four-ship DesDivs. DD-359 and DD-362 remained in the Atlantic for the entire war.

The Porter served in the Pacific, and was lost at Guadalcanal.

In 1943 DD-361 and DD-368 were posted at Balboa in the Panama Canal Zone, from where they escorted convoys into the war zone.

DD-357, DD-360 and DD-363 saw some service with the fast carriers, fighting at Attu in the Aleutians and in the Marianas campaign.

In 1944 the surviving leaders were classified as convoy flagships.

USS Porter (DD-356) was based in the Pacific in 1939-41, but left Pearl Harbor a few days before the Japanese attack. She took part in the Guadalcanal campaign and fought in the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. During the battle she was torpedoed, and had to be sunk by US gunfire.

USS Selfridge (DD-357) was based in the Pacific in 1939-41 and was present when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She took part in the attempt to save Wake Island. She took part in the occupation of Guadalcanal in August 1942, but then spent the next nine months operating in the Coral Sea area. She returned to the Solomons in 1943 and took part in the battle of Vella Lavella, where she was badly damaged by a torpedo. In 1944 she took part in the Marianas campaign and the battle of the Philippine Sea. She then moved to the Atlantic, and during 1944-45 she served as the flagship of convoy escort forces, mainly on the route between the US and Tunisia.

HMS Prince of Wales and HMS McDougal (DD-358) HMS Prince of Wales and HMS McDougal (DD-358)

USS McDougal (DD-358) was based in the Pacific in 1937-spring 1941, then moved to the Atlantic. She was used to transfer President Roosevelt to HMS Prince of Wales during his conference with Churchill in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. She spent the rest of 1941 and the first half of 1942 operating in the South Atlantic. She then moved to the Pacific, and spent two years operating from Balboa, in the Canal Zone, patrolling the west coast of South and Central America. She then returned to the Atlantic, and spent September 1944- March 1945 escorting convoys between the US and Britain. After the war she was briefly used as an experimental ship, then as a training ship, before being decommissioned in 1949.

USS Winslow (DD-359) was based in the Pacific from 1938 until April 1941 when she joined the Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic. She was present at the Placentia Bay conference, and then used to escort troops to Iceland. In November she was part of the first US convoy heading for Singapore from the east coast, but had only reached Capetown when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She was recalled to the US and joined the 4th Fleet in the South Atlantic. She served in that theatre until April 1944. After a brief spell escorting new warships from Boston to the West Indies she became a convoy escort flagship on the US-UK route. In March 1945 she began a refit to prepare her for service in the Pacific, but the war ended before she was ready. She was then used for experimental work until she was placed in the reserve in 1950.

USS Phelps (DD-360) was present at Pearl Harbor and claimed one Japanese aircraft. She then fought at the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, and took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal. In 1943 she took part in the invasions of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians, then the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. In 1944 she took part in the invasions of the Marshalls and the Marianas. As with the rest of the class she was then turned into a convoy escort flagship, and operated on the route from the US East coast to the Mediterranean.

USS Clark (DD-361) served in the Atlantic and Caribbean, before moving to Pearl Harbor in April 1940. She was undergoing an overhaul at San Diego when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She escorted a series of convoys in the Pacific theatre from then until December 1942, when she became the flagship, Commander, Southeast Pacific Force, based at Balboa. From then until August 1944 she operated around the coast of South America before becoming a convoy escort flagship. Between September 1944 and April 1945 she escorted six transatlantic convoys.

USS Moffett (DD-362) was part of the Atlantic Fleet until April 1941 when she joined the South Atlantic Neutrality Patrol. After the US entry into the war she continued to operate in the South Atlantic and Caribbean. On 17 May 1943 she shared in the sinking of a German U-boat, and in August she helped sink U-604. In 1944 she became a convoy escort flagship, and escorted convoys to Britain, Bizerte and Oran. She was undergoing repairs at the end of the war and was decommissioned in November 1945.

USS Balch (DD-363) served as Flagship, DesRon 12, in 1938 and was based on the US west coast until 1940, when she moved to Pearl Harbor. She was at sea when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She took part in the Dolittle raid on Japan, guarding the oilers as the main fleet carried out the attack. She just missed the battle of the Coral Sea, but was present at Midway. She took part in the Guadalcanal campaign, from the earliest landings into 1943. In 1943 she took part in the liberation of Attu, and then underwent a refit. Late in 1943 she carried out convoy escort duties in the Solomon Islands. In 1944 she took part in the bombardment of Kavieng on New Ireland and the invasion of Emirau Island. She then took part in the fighting at Hollandia and Wakde-Sarmi on New Guinea. In June 1944 she was ordered to the US east coast, where she became a convoy escort flagship. She was used to escort a series of convoys to the Mediterranean, before in June 1945 she began a refit designed to prepare her for a return to the Pacific. The war ended before she was needed and she was decommissioned on 19 October 1945.

Displacement (standard)

1,850t (design)

Displacement (loaded)

2,131t (design)

Top Speed

37kts design
38.19kts at 51,127shp at 2,123t on trial (Porter)
38.17kts at 47,271shp at 2,190t on trial (Porter)


2-shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
50,000shp design


7,800nm at 12kts design
8,710nm at 15kts at 2,157t on trial (Porter)
6,380nm at 12kts at 2,700t wartime
4,080nm at 15kts at 2,700t wartime


381ft 0.5in


36ft 10in


Eight 5in/38 SP in four twin mounts
Eight 21in torpedoes in two quad mounts
Eight 1.1in AA guns in four twin mounts
Two 0.50in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


Ships in Class


USS Porter (DD-356)

Lost 26 October 1942

USS Selfridge (DD-357)

Sold 1946

USS McDougal (DD-358)

Struck off 1949

USS Winslow (DD-359)

Struck off 1957

USS Phelps (DD-360)

Struck off 1947

USS Clark (DD-361)

Sold 1946

USS Moffett (DD-362)

Struck off 1947

USS Balch (DD-363)

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 (28 January 2019), Porter Class Destroyers , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_porter_class_destroyers.html

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