After the complete of the last examples ordered during the First World War the United States didn't build another new destroyer until the early 1930s, by which time her fleet of flush-deck destroyers was becoming obsolescent. The first new destroyers were approved in 1931, construction began in 1932 and the first new ship, the USS Farragut was commissioned in March 1934.
At first glance the scope of this book might seem rather wide, with 169 ships in 10 classes examined in 48 pages, but this is a little misleading. McComb is helped by the tendency of destroyers to operate in flotillas of similar ships, which has allowed him to produce a coherent account of their wartime service. Having established the characteristics of the earlier classes of destroyers, he is then free to focus on the changes in later classes, which were often fairly minor. More space is saved by ignoring the often lengthy debates that went on behind the scenes between classes, of interest to the dedicated naval historian, but not to the more general reader.
This gives McComb the space to look at those factors that genuinely impacted on the design of these ships, most importantly the series of Naval Treaties that limited tonnage and the number of new ships that each naval power could build, the Great Depression, which reduced the amount of money available for military construction, and finally the gathering war clouds which saw the treaty limits removed and the financial limits raised.
The adoption of foreign-designed Oerlikon and Bofors guns by the Royal Navy is sometimes used as an illustration of the decline of British technological skill compared to that of the United States and other powers. I was thus amused to find that the US Navy also adopted these guns, and for very similar reasons to the British - a lack of a suitable home-grown alternative.
The text is supported by a nice 'cutaway' diagram that shows just how cramped these destroyers were internally, with so much space taken up by the large engines needed to give them their high speeds. There is also a good selection of colour side-plans, which illustrate both the key design changes that took place and the various paint schemes that were used.
Design and Development
- The Treaty Classes: 1,500-Ton Destroyers
- The Treaty Classes: 1,850-Ton Destroyer Leaders
- The Post-Treaty Classes
Towards a Two-Ocean War
Destroyers in Action
- The Atlantic and Mediterranean
- The Pacific
- Dimensions and Design Specifications
- Recognition Features
Author: Dave McComb