USS Babbitt (DD-128)

USS Babbitt (DD-128) was a Wickes class destroyer that operated on escort duties in the Atlantic during the Second World War, including long spells operating from Reykjavik.

The Babbitt was laid down at Camden, New Jersey on 19 February 1919, launched on 30 September 1919 and commissioned on 24 October 1919,

The Babbitt was named after Fitz Henry Babbitt, a US naval officer during the War of 1812 who was killed in the final battle of USS President, after the official end of the war.

The Babbitt joined Division 16, Flotilla 6, Destroyer Squadron 5 of the Pacific Fleet in January 1920. She spent most of the next three years taking part in normal fleet operations along the west coast, before on 15 June 1922 she was decommissioned as part of the post-war reduction in the size of the navy.

USS Babbitt (DD-128) making smoke, 1920s
USS Babbitt (DD-128)
making smoke, 1920s

In 1929 the Babbitt was chosen to replace theThompson (DD-305), a destroyer with worn out Yarrow boilers. The work was carried out at San Diego with the help of the crew of the Thompson. On 4 April 1930 the Thompson was decommissioned and the Babbitt was recommissioned with the same crew. The Babbitt joined Division 14, Squadron 6 of the Battle Fleet, and was based on the west coast during 1930 and into 1931. In February 1931 she took part in the annual fleet exercises, which were being held off the Pacific coast of Panama. After the exercises ended she was transferred to the Scouting Fleet (soon renamed as the Scouting Force), and moved to her new base at Charlston, South Carolina.  The Babbitt formed part of Destroyer Division 7, Destroyer Squadron 3, Destroyer Flotilla 1, Scouting Force, along with the Badger, Jacob Jones, Tattnall and Twiggs.

In 1932 the Babbitt served with the Naval Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island. In February 1933 she accompanied the USS Indianapolis (CA-35) on her shakedown cruise. On 25 May 1933 she was placed into the rotating reserve, a scheme in which a single crew alternated between two destroyers - one active and one in the rotating reserve.

She came out of the rotating reserve on 20 october 1933  but only to go into reduced commission with Destroyer Division 28, part of the Training Squadron, Scouting Force. She returned to the rotating reserve on 5 January 1935, but the scheme was abolished in May and she returned to the Scouting Force. In July 1935 the Babbitt was posted to the Scouting Force Training Squadron and she spent the next eighteen months conducting training cruises for midshipmen from the Naval Academy.

After an overhaul between Noveember 1936 and January 1937 the Babbitt joined the Special Service Squadron, a small force based in the Caribbean to represent American interests. She served with that unit until early in 1939 when she returned to her training duties. This included a period working with aircraft and the 1939 midshipman summer cruiser (where she formed part of a destroyer squadron alongside the Decatur (DD-341), Claxton (DD-140), Fairfax (DD-93), Roper (DD-147), and Simpson (DD-221)).

At the start of September 1939 the Babbitt was ordered to the Southern Drill Grounds for more exercises, but this was stopped by the outbreak of the Second World War. She returned to Norfolk, and then in mid-September moved to Key West to join the Neutrality Patrol. After another brief refit she served with the Neutrality Patrol in the north Atlantic in the first half of 1940, before taking part in the 1940 midshipmen summer cruiser. In September she trained local naval reservists at New York, and in October she rejoined the Neutrality Patrol, this time off the US north-east coast.


At the start of 1941 the destroyer moved to Key West (with Leary (DD-158) and Schenck (DD-159) to patrol the Yucatan Channel at the western end of Cuba, and later the Nicholas Channel, at the eastern end. In late March she returned to Norfolk and began another period of training. In May she provided the escort for the cruiser Tuscaloosa (CA-37) on her way to Newport News and the newly completed battleship Washington (BB-56) during her trials.

Most of the rest of the summer of 1941 was spend on neutrality patrol duties between Cuba and Puerto Rico. In September she returned to New York to have her four 4in single-purpose guns replaced with six 3in dual-purpose guns. After training with the new guns she moved to Iceland, to form part of the American naval squadron based on the island. In September the United States had taken over convoy escort duties beween Newfoundland and Iceland. Babbitt carried out her first convoy escort mission in late October, escorting a convoy from the mid-ocean meeting point to Reykjavik (along with the Badger (DD-126), Broome (DD-210), Mayo (DD-422), and Leary and Schenck).

This first escort mission was followed by a trip back to Boston to have radar installed. She then returned to Iceland as part of the escort of a convoy from Argentia, arriving on 27 November. Between 1 December and 10 December she escorted another convoy, and was then ordered back to Boston for more yard work.

Anyone who served on her between 15 September-31 October and 13 November-7 December 1941 qualified for the American Defence Service Medal.

On 7 December the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, forcing the United States into the war. A few days later the Germans and Italians also declared war, and the Atlantic became an official war zone for the US Navy.


The Babbitt was soon back to work, and in January 1942 returned to Reykjavik as part of the escort for another convoy. She then spent the next eight months escorting convoys between the mid ocean meeting point, a long period in bleak waters. In mid-August she was ordered to move to Lisshally, North Ireland, for a two week break, before returning to the United States for another refit. This took longer than expected, and she wasn't ready to return to duty until mid-November. During this refit she had one boiler replaced with more fuel bunkers, increasing her endurance but at the cost of some speed. She also had 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns installed, replacing the less effective .50in guns.

In mid-November the Babbitt returned to Iceland, escorting the repair ship Vulcan (AR-5). She then returned to her convoy escort duties, a task that she performed until March 1943.


The routine was sometimes broken by the need to provide reinforcements for the regular convoy escorts. This happened twice in March 1943. The first incident saw her join slow convoy SC-121, heading for Iceland escorted by Task Unit 24.1.3 (Escort Group A3), with the Greer (DD-145), Coast Guard Cutter Spencer and the coverettes HMS Dianthus, HMCS Rosthern, and HMCS Trillium. The convoy slipped past a large U-boat ambush, but unfortunately ran into U-405, part of a second smaller ambush. This triggered four days of heavy attacks on the convoy. The Babbitt joined the battle on 9 March. 

The second incident saw the Babbitt join the defenders of convoy SC-122 to help escort the Iceland part of the convoy. After nearly two days with SC-122 she was ordered to join HX-229, which was being attacked by a large number of U-boats (eventually losing 11 ships). The Babbitt reached the convoyearly on 19 March, and detected a U-boat as she approached. She made a series of attacks on thuis targer, dropping 53 depth charges in 11 attacks, but without success. She then moved on to join the convoy. This ended her time on Iceland. She was ordered to accompany the convoy to Northern Ireland, arriving on 22 March. She spent a short spell there before escorting a group of tankers heading for Curacao. She then returned to Boston for repairs.

The Babbitt then began a period of operations in somewhat warmer waters, operating on a route between New York, the Dutch West Indies and North Africa. The first convoy set a general pattern - she would escort a convoy of tankers in ballast from New York to Curacao, where they would take on petrol. They would then cross the Atlantic, where the convoy would split into Dakar and Casablanca elements. The Babbitt would escort the Casablanca bound part of the convoy. The group would then retrace its steps, this time taking fuel from Cuacao to New York. This was repeated in July-August, but with Aruba and Algiers replacing Curacao and Casablanca, and in September-October, this time heading out via Aruba, stopping at Bizerte and returning via Curacao.

In late October the Babbitt had a change of duty, when she joined an anti-submarine hunter-killer group based around the carrier USS Card (CVE-11), but after a week she developed engine trouble and had to return to New York for repairs.

On 29 December the newly repaired Babbitt mpved to Newport, Rhode Island, to escort a convoy to the Azores, but soon after leaving her engine failed again. She remained with the convoy until she could be replaced by the Biddle (DD-151) and then returned to New York for more repairs.


The repairs were soon over. In February she escorted the Nevada (BB-36) from Boston to New York.

On 12 February she joined another convoy, this time a large convoy of 83 merchant ships with an escort of 12 warships, heading for North Africa. The voyage was quiet, and she reached Casablanca on 3 March. On 4 March she took part in a mission to intimidate a Spanish fishing village believed to be helping U-boats, before departing for the Unitd States. This was her last trans-Atlantic convoy escort mission.

In April the Babbitt began a period of escort duties close to the US east coast. In April she escorted a tanker from Staten Island to Galveston, Texas then back to New York. In May she repeated the trip, this time with a diversion to Burmuda on the way back. At the start of June she carried out a run from Norfolk to Galveston and back to Staten Island. Late June saw her under repair at Norfolk. In early July she escorted a repair ship to Boston and the Saturn (AF-40) to Bermuda, then Cuba, before returning to New York and the end of the month. August saw her visit Cuba and Trinidad, before returning to Staten Island.

On 5 September the Babbitt put to sea to escort the Yuko n(AF-9) to a US Army base on Greenland. This part of the mission went well, but as the two ships approached Reykavik on 22 September they came under attack. U-979 missed with several torpedoes, before one hit the Yukon 50ft from her stern. This blew her bow open, and caused massive damage, but despite this she was able to reach Reykjavik with the help of tugs. The Yukon had to remain at Reykjavik for repairs, while Babbitt returned back to the United States. 

On 31 October-1 November she escorted the Wake Island as she moved from Quonset to Norfolk after two months on carrier aircraft qualification duties, part of five weeks of works with carrier qualifications.

In December 1944 the Babbitt went into the Boston Navy Yard to have experimental sound gear installed.


This work was complete by the end of January 1945, and the Babbitt then moved to the Navy Underwater Sound Laboratory at New London, Conn, arriving on 2 February. She took part in sonar experiments for the rest of 1945, even after being redesignated as the miscellaneus auxiliary AG-102.

In December 1945 the Babbitt went to New York to be inactivated. She was decommissioned on 25 January 1946, was struck off on 25 February 1945 and sold for scrap on 5 June 1946.

The Babbitt received one battle start during the Second World War, for Convoy SC-121.

Displacement (standard)

1,160t (design)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts (design)
35.34kts at 24,610shp at 1,149t on trial (Wickes)


2 shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
24,200shp (design)


3,800nm at 15kts on trial (Wickes)
2,850nm at 20kts on trial (Wickes)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4in


30ft 11in

Armaments (as built)

Four 4in/50 guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple tubes
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


Laid Down

19 February 1918


30 September 1918


24 October 1919


25 January 1946

Sold for scrap

5 June 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 (8 September 2017), USS Babbitt (DD-128) ,

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