Sampson Class Destroyers

The Sampson Class Destroyers were the final batch of '1,000 tonner' destroyers produced for the US Navy, and were the first to be built with anti-aircraft guns.

The class was authorised on 30 June 1943 as Destroyer 15 (for FY 15). It was the first to be built with a new BuOrd triple torpedo tube, which could carry three torpedoes at a weight of 8,600lb, compared to two at 6,400lb on the twin tube mount. The increase in firepower was thus bigger than the increase in weight. The Sampson class ships were also the first US destroyers to be completed with two 1-pounder anti-aircraft guns, which had been recommended for the earlier Tucker class.

DD-66 to DD-68 were built with a single cruising turbine that could power one shaft. DD-63 to DD-65 had two cruising turbines that powered both shafts.

The destroyer community within the US Navy wasn't keen on the Destroyer 15 design. They still saw the destroyer as an offensive weapon, built to carry out a single torpedo on the enemy battlefleet. They wanted to go back to 750t 'flivver' size ships, modified to carry the 21in torpedo on centreline tubes to allow the biggest single salvo. The 1000-tonners had yet to prove themselves at sea, while the 750 tonners were good sea boats (the larger ships would soon prove themselves to be more suited to operations in the Atlantic). It was even suggested that the destroyers could be towed to the combat zone! The idea that the destroyer's main role was to defend the fleet didn't seem to have penetrated. The General Board totally disagreed with these plans, and continued to produce the larger destroyers. The Board was also aware that the US Navy lacked modern cruisers, and so the destroyers also had to act as fleet scouts, a role that the 750 tonners weren't really suited for.

USS Sampson (DD-63) was based at Queenstown, Ireland, from May 1917 until the end of the First World War. In 1919 she took part in experimental work and then helped watch the route of the transatlantic flight of four Curtiss NC-4 flying boats. She was decommissioned in 1921, and scrapped in 1936.

USS Rowan (DD-64) was based at Queenstown from May 1917, and took part in one attack on a U-boat. She was decommissioned in 1922, struck off in 1936 and scrapped in 1939.

USS Davis (DD-65) was based at Queenstown from May 1917 to the end of the war. On 12 May 1918 she rescued the survivors of U-103. After the war she was decommissioned in 1922, but reactivated to serve with the Coast Guard's 'Rum patrol' from 1926 to 1933. She was sold in 1934.

USS Allen (DD-66) was the only one of the 1,000 tonners to see service during the Second World War. During the First World War she was based at Queenstown from June 1917, and carried out ten attacks on possible U-boats. She was decommissioned in 1922, but was then recommissioned as a training ship from 1925 to 1928. She was placed in the Reserve Fleet in 1928, but was reactivated once again in August 1940. She was based at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked, and claimed three Japanese aircraft. For the rest of the war she was used to escort ships travelling within the Hawaiian islands. She was decommissioned once again in 1945, and sold for scrap in 1946.

USS Wilkes (DD-67) was based at Queenstown from July 1917 until the end of the war. She wasn't involved in any attacks on U-boats, but did rescue survivors from their attacks. After the war she supported the transatlantic NC-4 flight, and was then decommissioned in 1922. She served with the Coast Guard from 1926 to 1934. She was sold for scrap soon after being returned to the Navy.

USS Shaw (DD-68) was based at Queenstown from July 1917. On 9 October 1918 she suffered very heavy damage when her rudder jammed, taking her into the path of the British transport Aquitania. She lost 90 feet of her bow, but in an impressive sign of the robustness of the 1,000 tonners survived and reached safety under her own power. Repairs lasted into 1919, and she was placed in the reserve after returning to the United States. She was decommissioned in 1922, but reactivated to serve with the Coast Guard from 1926 to 1933. She was scrapped in 1934.

Five members of the class were scrapped in 1934-36 in order to comply with the terms of the London Naval Treaty. The exception was USS Allen (DD-66), which became the only one of the 1,000 tonners to serve during the First World War.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

29.5kts at 17,500shp (design)
29.57kts at 17,964shp at 1,135t tons on trial (Rowan)


2-shaft Curtis turbines
4 boilers



Armour - belt


 - deck



315ft 3in


29ft 10in


Four 4in/50 guns
Two 1 pounder AA guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple mountings

Crew complement


Ships in Class

USS Sampson (DD-63)


USS Rowan (DD-64)


USS Davis (DD-65)


USS Allen (DD-66)


USS Wilkes (DD-67)


USS Shaw (DD-68)

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 November 2016), Sampson Class Destroyers ,

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