USS Benham (DD-49)

USS Benham (DD-49) was a Cassin class destroyer that served from Queenstown in 1917-18 and Brest in 1918.

The Benham was named after Andrew Ellicot Kennedy Benham, a US Naval Officer who served on the blockading squadrons during the American Civil War then rose to high rank, retiring as a Rear Admiral in 1894. 

The Benham was laid down at Philadelphia by William Cramp on 14 March 1912, launched on 22 March 1913 and commissioned on 20 January 1914. During her trials she reached an impressive 31,774 knots on 16 December 1913.

After a shakedown cruiser and a few months of operations from Hampton Roads she went into the reserve between July and 21 December 1914. After being recommissioned she joined the neutrality patrol. In October 1916 she rescued the crew of the Dutch SS Blommersdijk¸ sunk just outside US territorial waters off New England by U-53, an incident that caused a great deal of diplomatic outrage.

USS Downes (DD-45) and USS Benham (DD-49), 1921
USS Downes (DD-45) &
USS Benham (DD-49)

The Benham was part of the first group of US destroyer sent to Europe after the American entry into the First World War on 6 April 1917. She left New York on 17 May and reached Queenstown, Ireland, on 24 May. Her first combat patrol began on 24 May, and she spent most of her time performing a mix of anti-submarine patrols and escort duty.

One of her commanders during her time at Queenstown was William Halsey, later one of the most important US Admirals of the Second World War.

On 13 July the Benham had an encounter with two U-boats while defending a convoy. Three torpedoes were fired at the Benham but none hit. She then dropped depth charges and drove away the U-boats.

On 22 July the Benham collided with USS Jarvis (DD-38), causing significant damage to the Jarvis, which took until September to repair. The Benham herself was soon back at sea.

On 30 July the Benham came within 1,500 yards of another torpedo. Once again she attacked, this time with depth charges and guns, bringing oil and air bubbles to the surface. She was credited with probable damage to a U-boat.

On 21 August the Benham collided with the British mine sweeper HMS Zinnia, and suffered serious damage. She had to be towed to Queenstown, where she was photographed with her main deck nearly under water.

On 15 December 1917 Benham and Drayton (DD-23) picked up 39 survivors from the SS Foylemore, which had been sunk by a mine.

In June 1918 the Benham moved to Brest, from where she operated for the rest of the war.

The Benham departed Brest on 21 December 1918 and rejoined the Atlantic Fleet early in 1919. She took part in the annual manoeuvres in Cuban waters, then visited the Azores in May, before going into the reserve on 28 June. She was recommissioned in 1921, and spent part of 1921-22 as a plane guard and tender for the Atlantic Fleet Air Squadrons. She was relieved from that duty in May 1922 and decommissioned once again on 7 July 1922. She was struck off on 8 March 1935, scrapped at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and her materials sold on 23 April 1935.

Anyone who served on her between 24 May 1917 and 11 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

On 21 December 1918, Benham put to sea from Brest for the last time and began the voyage back to the United States. Rejoining the Atlantic Fleet at the beginning of 1919, the warship participated in the annual fleet maneuvers held in Cuban waters and then made a cruise to the Azores in May. Upon her return that summer, she was placed in ordinary at Norfolk on 28 June. Active again in 1921, she cruised the eastern seaboard until assigned duty as plane guard and tender to the Atlantic Fleet Air Squadrons. That duty terminated in May 1922, and she stood into Philadelphia on the 12th to prepare for inactivation.

Benham was placed out of commission there on 7 July 1922. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 8 March 1935; and, after she had been scrapped by the Philadelphia Navy Yard, her materials were sold on 23 April 1935.

Displacement (standard)

1,010t nominal

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

29kts at 16,000shp (design)
29.14kts at 14,253shp at 1,057 tons on trial (Duncan)


2-shaft Parson turbines plus reciprocating cruising engines
4 boilers for 16,000shp


305ft 5in


30ft 2in


Four 3in.50 guns (DD-43 & DD-44)
Four 4in/50 guns (DD-45 to DD-50)
Eight 1in torpedo tubes in four twin mountings

Crew complement



22 March 1913


20 January 1914


Sold as scrap 1935

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

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (6 July 2016), USS Benham (DD-49) ,

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