USS Blue (DD-387)

USS Blue (DD-387) was a Bagley class destroyer that was present at Pearl Harbor, took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal and was sunk there by a Japanese destroyer early on 22 August 1942.

The Blue was named after Victor Blue, who carried out intelligence missions on Cuba during the Spanish-American War, served as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, and commanded the battleship USS Texas (BB-35) during her time with the 6th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet.

Christening of USS Blue (DD-387) and USS Helm (DD-388) Christening of USS Blue (DD-387) and USS Helm (DD-388)

The Blue was launched at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 27 May 1937 (at the same time as her sister ship Helm (DD-388). The Blue was slightly more advanced at the time, with her guns and torpedo tubes installed, while the Helm was still waiting for her guns. The Blue was commissioned on 14 August 1937 when she was sponsored by Victor Blue’s sister Kate Lilly Blue.

The Blue spent the next year on shakedown and training cruises along the east coast and in the Caribbean.

In August 1938 she departed for the Pacific, where she became the flagship of Destroyer Division 7, Battle Force. She was based on the west coast until April 1940.

In February 1939 she was part of the escort for a cruise by President Frankin D. Roosevelt.

In April 1940 she moved with her division to Pearl Harbor, which became her base until the Japanese attack. She returned to the west coast once, for a refit in February-March 1941, then stayed for exercises from San Diego in April.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 the Blue was undergoing buoy upkeep, and only had four junior officers on board. During the action she was commanded by Ensign Nathan F. Asher, who had only left the Naval Academy two years earlier. At 0800 her crew saw the Utah being torpedoed, and at 0805 she opened fire with her .50in machine guns, with her main 5in guns following a couple of minutes later. She was able to get underway at 0847 and kept firing as she left the harbour. She claimed one aircraft shot down. She passed the channel entrance at 0910 and began to patrol outside. She carried out several depth charge attacks on possible submarines, and claimed to have sunk or badly damaged one submarines. One of the midget submarines that attacked Pearl Harbor was found in 1960 in about the right area, and showing signs of depth charge damage, but it isn’t possible to tell which destroyer damaged it.

USS Blue (DD-387) c.1937-40 USS Blue (DD-387) c.1937-40

After the Japanese attack the Blue spent most of the rest of December 1941 and the first part of January 1942 carrying out patrols in the approaches to Pearl Harbor. She also helped run supplies to Midway Island, where she was photographed on 26 December.

1942

At the start of 1942 Admiral Nimitz decided to combine Halsey’s and Fletcher’s task forces into a single force (TF 16), which would carry out a raid on Japanese bases in the Gilberts and Marshalls. The two forces met on 25 January and headed towards their first targets.

On 1 February Halsey split the force into three. TG 8.5 consisted of the Enterprise, with Blue, McCall and Ralph Talbot as her escort. The Enterprise’s aircraft then attacked Kwajalein, Maleolap and Wotje, while the other two groups carried out gunnery bombardments.

On 21 February the Blue rescued Ens Norman D. Hodson from the sea after his F4F-3A crashed during take-off from the Enterprise.

On the afternoon of 23 February the task force split, with the Enterprise, escorted by Blue, Dunlap, Ralph Talbot and Craven heading towards Wake Island. On 24 February the Enterprise’s aircraft attacked the island, and the small squadron then rejoined the main task force.

The forces next target was Marcus Island, further to the west (and now the most easterly island of Japan). The Blue was part of the carrier escort during the air raids on 4 March.

From March to June 1942 Blue escorted convoys between Pearl Harbor and San Francisco

She was photographed at Mare Island on 11 April, when she may have been given new 20mm guns (seen in the photograph).  

The Blue was active on the fringes of the battle of Midway at the start of June, when she and the Ralph Talbot (DD-390) provided an escort for the oiler USS Guadalupe (AO-32), with the three ships designated as the Midway Refueling Unit.

On 18 July she arrived at Wellington, New Zealand.

At the start of August she joined TG 62.2, and took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942, where she carried out fire support and screening duties.

USS Blue (DD-387) and USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) , Mare Island Navy Yard, 1942 USS Blue (DD-387) and USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) , Mare Island Navy Yard, 1942

On the night of 8-9 August Blue and Ralph Talbot (DD-390) were patrolling to the west and north of Savo Island, but despite being equipped with radar, she failed to notice a Japanese cruiser force as it passed her patrol position. The Japanese came close enough for their lookouts to spot the Blue at 0044 on 9 August at a range of 11,000 yards (in contrast the Blue reported visibility as being only 8,000 yards). The Japanese cruiser force was thus able to attack a force of American and Australian cruisers undetected (Battle of Savo Island, 9 August 1942), sinking several. However when the Blue did attempt to report the visible signs of battle she was unable to contact anyone apart from the Ralph Talbot, suggesting that even if she had seen the Japanese she may not have been able to effectively report it! The Blue also never received any new orders, so continued to carry out her patrol duties until 0515 when she was ordered to help the Canberra. Official US Navy reports felt that Blue’s performance before the battle was poor, with both her radar and lookouts failing to spot several targets that they probably should have seen.

In the aftermath of the battle she helped rescue the crew of HMAS Canberra, coming alongside her port bow. She was able to rescue 250 men from the Canberra’s forecastle, while the Patterson rescued another 400. She was then part of the destroyer escort as the transport ships and damaged warships retreated back to Noumea.

From 13-17 August the Blue patrolled off Noumea.

On 18 August Blue, Henley (DD-391) and Helm (DD-388) left Noumea to escort supply ships to Guadalcanal. On 21 August the Blue and Henley (DD-391) arrived at Guadalcanal, as the escort for the cargo ships Fomalhaut (AK-22) and Alhena (AKA-9). Helm (DD-388) arrived on the following day.

Early on 22 August the Blue was patrolling in Ironbottom Sound, when she was torpedoed by the Japanese destroyer Kawakaze, which was operating alone and had managed to evade detection by Blue’s radar.

The torpedo hit in the stern, killing nine men and wounding 21. It also badly damaged her main engines, shafts and steering gear, leaving her dead in the water. 
 
On 22-23 August a series of attempts were made to tow the Blue to nearby Tulagi where she could be repaired. Amongst the ships involved was the elderly destroyer Stringham (DD-83/ APD-6), now acting as a fast transport. 

USS Fomalhaut (AK-22), was ordered to take the Blue in tow after unloading her cargo. However only a quarter of her cargo had been unloaded when reports of Japanese surface forces in the area meant that the Blue was scuttled at 22.21 on 23 August to prevent her falling into Japanese hands, and the Fomalhaut was ordered to depart. The Japanese were indeed coming, triggering the battle of the Eastern Solomons.

Blue (DD-387) received four battle stars for her nine months service in World War II, for Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Raids of 1942, the invasion of Guadalcanal and the capture and defence of Guadalcanal.

Displacement (standard)

1,624.3t

Displacement (loaded)

2,245t

Top Speed

38kts design
36.8kt at 47,191shp at 1,969t on trial (Blue)

Engine

2-shaft General Electric turbines
4 boilers
46,000shp

Range

6,500nm at 12kts design
6,940nm at 12kts at 2,200t wartime
4,360nm at 20kts at 2,200t wartime

Length

341ft 3in

Width

35ft 6.5in

Armaments

Four 5in/38 guns
Sixteen 21in torpedo tubes in four quad mounts
Four .50in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement

158

Laid down

 

Launched

27 May 1937

Commissioned

14 August 1937

Scuttled

23 August 1942

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 (20 July 2022), USS Blue (DD-387), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Blue_DD387.html

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