USS Colhoun (DD-85/ APD-2)

USS Colhoun (DD-85/ APD-2) was a Wickes class destroyer that saw limited service towards the end of the First World War, and was later converted into a fast transport and sunk in a Japanese air attack off Guadalcanal.

The Colhoun was named after a US naval officer who served in the Mexican War and during the American Civil War, taking part in the capture of Fort Fisher, North Carolina. After the war he commanded on the South Pacific Station and at the Mare Island Navy Yard, and retired as a Rear Admiral. The Colhoun received one battle star for her participation in World War II.

USS Colhoun (DD-85) escorting troop convoy, 1918
USS Colhoun (DD-85)
escorting troop convoy, 1918

The Colhoun was built by the Fore River Shipbuilding Co of Quincy Massachusetts. She was launched on 21 February 1918 when she was sponsored by Miss A. Colhoun, and commissioned on 13 June 1918 with Commander B.B. Wygant in command.

Between 30 June and 14 September 1918 the Colhoun escorted convoys on the route between New York and Europe. On the afternoon of 27th July 1918 the Colhoun reported a U-boat attack at latitude 38deg 35'N, 70deg 40'W, probably carried out by U-156, some two hundred miles off the US East Coast.  

On 10 November 1918 she moved to New London, where sound detecting equipment developed by Professor R. A. Fessenden of the Submarine Signal Company was installed.

Anyone who served on her between 23 June and 11 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

USS Colhoun (DD-85) in dazzle camouflage, 1919
USS Colhoun (DD-85)
in dazzle camouflage, 1919

Detail from Battle of Scheveningen by Willem van de Velde the Elder
USS Colhoun (APD-2)

During 1919 the Colhoun operated off the US East Coast and in the Caribbean. On 1 January 1919 she rescued 194 returning troops from the transport Northern Pacific, which was stranded on Fire Island. On 1 December 1919 she was placed in reduced commission at Philadelphia. This was followed by an overhaul at Norfolk and a period in the reserve at Charleston, before she was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 28 June 1922.

In 1940 the Colhoun was selected for conversion into a high speed transport. She had to be towed to Norfolk for the alterations, where she was recommissioned as APD-2 on 11 December 1940. She spent 1941 training off the US East Coast and in the Caribbean.

In the late spring of 1942 the Colhoun was sent to the Pacific, where she formed part of the forces allocated to the invasion of Guadalcanal. She was sent to New Caledonia to pick up some of the troops required for the invasion, arriving at Noumea, New Caledonia, on 20/21 July 1942. During the voyage to New Caledonia the Colhoun, Little (APD-4), McKean (APD‑5) and Gregory (APD-3) acted as the anti-submarine screen for Task Group One (based around the Saratoga). The fast transports left the Task Group, which was heading for Guadalcanal, and picked up the First Marine Raider Battalion at Bulari Bay. They then carried out some landing exercises, before rejoining the main invasion fleet on 26 July.

The Colhoun took part in the initial landings on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942, landing part of the First Marine Raider Battalion. She then joined the anti-submarine screen for the next wave of landings. On the night of 8-9 August she formed part of the screen for the defensive screen for the transport ships in the Tulagi area.

USS Colhoun (DD-85) and troop convoy, 1918
USS Colhoun (DD-85) and troop convoy, 1918

The Colhoun formed part of Transport Division Twelve (Command Hugh W. Hadley), alongside the Little (APD-2), McKean (APD‑5) and Gregory (ADP-3). All four of the ships would be sunk in the Solomons - the McKean off Bougainville, the other three off Guadalcanal.

On 27 August the Colhoun joined a mixed force heading for Guadalcanal. On 29 August this force fought off a Japanese air attack, and the Colhoun was able to unload seventeen tons of supplies. She was less fortunate on the following day. A first raid, at around 14.00, destroyed her ship's boats and the aft davits and caused a diesel fire. At around 14.58 lookouts on the troop transport William Ward Burrows (AP-6) spotted a raid of eighteen Mitsubishi G4M 'Betties' at 22,000ft. These aircraft ignored the Burrows, which was then firmly aground on Sylvia Reef, and instead attacked the Colhoun off Kukum Point. The attack began at 15.12, and they Japanese scored four direct hits. The foremast, two 20mm guns and one 4in gun were blown off the ship, and the after deck house was destroyed. The Colhoun sank by the stern at 15.15. Fifty-one men were killed and eighteen men were wounded in the attack. The Japanese aircraft were land based aircraft from the Kizarazu and Misawa Kokutais. The survivors were rescued by tank lighters from Guadalcanal, and some were taken onboard the William War Burrows.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts design
34.81kts at 27,350shp at 1,236t on trial (Kimberly)


2 shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
27,000shp design


2,500nm at 20kts (design)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4.5in


30ft 11.5in


Four 4in/ 50 guns
Twelve 21in torpedo tubes in four triple mountings
Two 1-pounder AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement



21 February 1918


13 June 1918

Sunk by air attack

30 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

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 March 2017), USS Colhoun (DD-85/ APD-2) ,

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