USS Decatur (DD-341)

USS Decatur (DD-341) was a Clemson class destroyer that spend most of the Second World War on escort duty in the Atlantic and Caribbean, as well as one tour with the hunter-killer group built around USS Card late in 1943.

The Decatur was named after Stephen Decatur, famous as the commander of USS United States when it defeated HMS Macedonian early in the War of 1812, before being captured by the Royal Navy while commanding USS President.

USS Decatur (DD-341) in colour, 1930s USS Decatur (DD-341) in colour, 1930s

The Decatur was laid down at the Mare Island Navy Yard, launched on 29 October 1921 and commissioned on 9 August 1922.

The Decatur was laid down by the Mare Island Navy Yard and launched on 29 October 1921 when she was sponsored by Mrs. J. S. McKean and commissioned on 9 August 1922.

Unlike most of her sister ships the Decatur remained in active service for almost her entire career. After an initial deployment to San Diego she was decommissioned on 17 January 1923, but that only lasted until 26 September 1923, when she was recommissioned, and became the flagship of Destroyer Squadron 11 in the Battle Fleet. Between then and 1937 she spent most of her time in the Pacific, apart from visits to Caribbean and Hawaiian waters, normally during Fleet Problems.

In the summer of 1925 she took part in manoeuvres in Hawaiian waters, and was one of a number of ships that had to go to Pearl Harbor for repairs after they were completed.

Between April and September 1925 she took part in a goodwill cruise to Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.

In April 1926 she was used to survey the Mexican Coast. On 28 July 1926 Secretary of the Navy C.D. Wilbur came onboard at Bremerton, Washington, and used her for an official cruise in Alaskan waters, which lasted until 6 August.

On 4 June 1927 she took part in the Fleet Review, in which ninety eight warships passed by the President.

Early in 1930 President Hoover sent a commission to Haiti, which was then occupied by US troops, to investigate conditions in the country. The Decatur was used to transfer the Commission back to Santiago, Cuba, arriving there on 14 March 1930. The Commission concluded that the American occupation had been a failure, and fresh elections were held towards the end of the year, in which Haitian nationalists were victorious. After this the Decatur visited New York and Chesapeake Bay, where she took part in the Presidential Fleet Review of 19 May. She then returned to the Pacific.

USS Decatur (DD-341) at New York, 1943 USS Decatur (DD-341) at New York, 1943

The Decatur’s time in the Pacific ended in 1937, when she was transferred to the Training Detachment of the US Fleet. She reached her new base at Norfolk on 22 February 1937. She was then used to escort President Roosevelt, on the Potomac (AG-25) to New Orleans and Texas, before beginning a period of Midshipman and Naval Reserve training cruisers.

In the summer of 1939 she took part in the annual midshipman summer cruiser, with the Claxton (DD-140), Fairfax (DD-93), Roper (DD-147), Simpson (DD-221) and Babbitt (DD-128). This lasted from June to mid-August.

After the outbreak of war in Europe she also took part in neutrality patrols, operating along the east coast of Cuba.

In January 1940 she was the flagship of DesRon 10 and part of the Antilles Detachment when that force paid a visit to Cumana, Venezuela to show the flag. They left Cuba on 24 January, arrived at Cumana on 27 January, then moved on to St Eustatius on 2 February. After that they returned to Guantanamo Bay.

The Decatur arrived at Argentia, Newfoundland on 14 September 1941, and began a period of convoy escort duties on the route to Iceland. This lasted until 17 May 1942 when she returned to Boston.

In October 1941 she was part of the convoy SC 48, the first US Navy escorted convoy to become engaged in a battle with the U-boats. The escort included the Livermore (DD-429), Kearny (DD-432), Plunkett (DD-431), HMCS Columbia, HMS Broadwater (formerly the Mason (DD-191), four Canadian corvettes as well as the Decatur, but despite their best efforts the Germans were able to sink six merchant ships and damage the Kearny during an attack on the night of 16-17 October.

On 6 December 1941, while operating with Task Unit 4.1.4 as part of the escort for convoy ONS 39 she carried out a depth charge attack on a suspicious contact. This came a few days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor triggered a German declaration of war on America.

1942

On 7 January she departed from Iceland with the Cole (DD-155), Plunkett (DD-431) and Badger (DD-126) to escort a small convoy of six ships south to join the westbound Convoy ON-53. The larger group then continued on to the US, although their voyage was slowed down by a fierce gale that actually snapped the mainmast on the Badger!

From 4 June-25 August 1942 she operated on convoy escort duties between Norfolk, Virginia and Key West. From 30 August to 13 October she operated on the route between New York and Guantanamo Bay. From October to 14 January 1943 she escorted ships out to sea, and on the route from Boston to New York.

1943

USS Decatur (DD-341) underway, 1944 USS Decatur (DD-341) underway, 1944

During 1943 the Decatur made five trips across the Atlantic, from New York or Aruba (in the Dutch West Indies) to the Mediterranean. This duty lasted from 11 February to 1 October.

She then joined the anti-submarine hunter killer group built around the escort carrier USS Card (CVE-11), and took part in that group’s third hunter-killer cruise, which lasted from 24 November 1943-3 January 1944. On 23 December the group ran into Wolf Pack ‘Borkum’, triggering a fairly even battle. The Decatur’s job was to guard the Card, and both ships were attacked by U-415 early in the fight. USS Schenck sank U-645, but U-275 and U-382 sank USS Leary. The Decatur then had to spend a night as the only protection for the Card while the survivors from the Leary were rescued.

1944-45

Between 26 January and 17 February 1944 the Decatur escorted a convoy to Panama, then a return convoy heading to the Hampton Roads. From 13 March-3 April she served as the the flagship of TF 64, the escort for a large convoy heading to Bizerte, Tunisia. On the last day of March the Decatur and her task force were able to fight off a combined U-boat and Luftwaffe attack between Oran and Algiers. The Decatur departed from Bizerta on 11 April, and reached Boston on 2 may, where she underwent a brief overhaul and training.

Arriving at Norfolk 2 July 1944 Decatur sailed from this port on escort and training duty in the Caribbean Sea until the last day of June 1945 when she entered Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for inactivation.

In the summer of 1944 she made several visits to the Gulf of Paria, Trinidad, escorting larger warships on their shakedown cruisers. From 8-31 July 1944 she was there with the USS Wisconsin (DD-64) then at the start of August escorted the battleship to Puerto Rico for gunnery trials. In the late summer of 1944 she escorted the USS Alaska (CB-1) during her shakedown cruise off Trinidad. From 4-12 October she performed the same duty with the cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42).

On VE Day she was at Casco Bay, escorting the USS Augusta (CA-31)

At the end of June 1945 she entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard to be inactivated. She was decommissioned there on 28 July 1945 and sold on 30 November 1945. She received two battle stars.

Displacement (standard)

1,190t

Displacement (loaded)

1,308t

Top Speed

35kts
35.51kts at 24,890shp at 1,107t on trial (Preble)

Engine

2-shaft Westinghouse geared tubines
4 boilers
27,000shp (design)

Range

2,500nm at 20kts (design)

Length

314ft 4in

Width

30ft 10.5in

Armaments

Four 4in/ 50 guns
One 3in/23 AA gun
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple mountings
Two depth charge tracks
One Y-Gun depth charge projector

Crew complement

114

Launched

29 October 1921

Commissioned

9 August 1922

Sold

30 November 1945

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 (16 June 2021), USS Decatur (DD-341) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Decatur_DD341.html

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