USS Dickerson (DD-157/ APD-21)

USS Dickerson (DD-157/ APD-21) was a Wickes class destroyer that served on convoy escort duties until 1943 when she was converted into a fast transport. In 1945 she was struck by two kamikazes and suffered such heavy damage that she was sunk by US gunfire two days later.

The Dickerson was named after Mahlon Dickerson, Secretary of the Navy from 1834-38.

The Dickerson was launched on 12 March 1919 at the New York Shipbuilding Co, Camden, and commissioned on 3 September 1919.

Dickerson operated along the east coast and in the Caribbean and in 1921 took part in the combined fleet maneuvers off South America, visiting Valparaiso, Callao, and Balboa, before returning to Hampton Roads where the Atlantic Fleet was reviewed by President W. G. Harding. On 22 July 1921 she was given the task of sinking the former German submarine U-140, which had been taken by the US navy as war reparations after the end of the First World War and then used for aerial bombardment tests.

The Dickerson was decommissioned on 25 June 1922.

USS Dickerson (DD-157), San Diego, early 1930s
USS Dickerson (DD-157),
San Diego,
early 1930s

The Dickerson was recommissioned on 1 May 1930 and joined the Atlantic Fleet. She took part in the normal mix of operations along the East Coast and in the Caribbean. In 1932 and 1933-34 she took part in fleet exercises on the west coast. She took part in the Presidential Fleet Review of 31 May 1934 at Brooklyn, and then entered the Rotating Reserve as Norfolk, where she underwent an overhaul. In 1935 she joined the Training Squadron, and was used to train the Naval Reserve, operating between Chareston and the Caribbean.

In 1938 the Dickerson joined Destroyer Squadron 10, Atlantic Squadron. She operated as a plane guard for the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) off Norfolk. In the spring of 1939 she took part in fleet landing exercises in the Cairbbean. In the late summer of 1939 she joined Squadron 40-T, then based at Lisbon, Portugal, supporting US citizens caught up in the Spanish Civil War. She visited a number of Spanish ports and helped evacuate refugees from Casablanca.

The Dickerson returned to the US In July 1940. She joined the Neutrality Patrol, and was based at Key West, operating in the Caribbean, until October 1941. In October 1940 she briefly moved to New London to operate with Submarine Squadron 2, but then returned to the Caribbean. In September 1941 she rescued six survivors from the SS Libby Maine.

After the American entry into the Second World War the Dickerson was based at Argentia, Newfoundland, where she spent December 1941 to January 1942 on patrol duties and escorted one convoy to Iceland. She then returned to coastal patrol duties off Norfolk. At the start of 1942 she was part of Destroyer Division 54, Destroyer Squadron 27, Destroyer Flotilla 8. On 19 March she was the victim of a friendly fire incident, when the nervous crew of the SS Liberator opened fire and hit the chartroom. Four men were killed, including her CO, Lt Commander J.K. Reybold. The destroyer escort USS Reybold (DE-177) was named after him.

Between April and August 1942 the Dickerson escorted convoys between Norfolk and Key West. Between August and October 1942 she escorted convoys between Key West and New York. Between October 1942 and January 1943 she escorted convoys between New York and Cuba. In the first half of 1943 she escorted the crucial tanker convoys heading to Gibraltar and Algiers and operated in the Caribbean.

The summer of 1943 saw the start of a series of dramatic changes of activity. In June she joined a hunter-killer anti-submarine group based around the carrier USS Card (CVE-11), which operated in the mid Atlantic. Between 17 July and 13 Auugst she took part in exercises with units of the British fleet from Londonderry.

After this she returned to the US, where she was converted into a high speed transport. On 21 August 1943 she was reclassified as APD-21.

The Dickerson departed for the Pacific on 1 November 1943. She was used to escort convoys from Espiritu Santo to Guadalcanal, then operated on patrol and escort duty in the Solomons.

On 30 January 1944 she landed a reconnaissance party of New Zealanders on Green Island, withdrawing after being strafed by Japanese aircraft. She then took part in the occupation of the Green Islands, landing New Zealanders on 15 and 20 January. On 20 March she landed US Marines on the undefended Emirau Island.

In April 1944 the Dickerson moved to New Guinea where she supported the landings at Seleo Island and Aitape.

USS Dickerson (APD-21), Chesapeake Bay, 3 October 1943 USS Dickerson (APD-21), Chesapeake Bay, 3 October 1943

The Dickerson carried an underwater demolition team during the invasion of the Marianas, and supported their operations at Saipan and Guam until July 1944, acting as their supply, control and fire support ship. On 18 June she helped cover the tug Apache (ATF-67) as she rescued the stranded landing craft LCI(G)-348, which had become stuck on the shore on Guam.

After a refit on the west coast the Dickerson returned to New Guinea. On 27 December 1944 she departed for Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, supporting an underwater demolition team during the landings of 9 January 1945.

The Dickerson was part of the screen of a logistics support force during the invasion of Iwo Jima of 19 February 1945. She briefly returned to Leyte carrying 58 prisoners of war. On 24 March she left Leyte as part of the escort for a convoy of LSTs and LSMs heading for Keise Shima, an island which was to be used as a heavy artillery base during the invasion of Okinawa. After completing this mission she moved to the transport area to the south-west of Okinawa. On the night of 2 April one kamikaze aircraft hit the Dickerson at a low angle, slicing off the top of her two remaining stacks then hit the base of the bridge, starting fires. Just afterwards a second kamikaze hit the centre of the forecastle, causing a massive explosion. One of the aircraft was a Kawasaki Ki.45 'Nick' twin engined reconnaissance/ ground attack aircraft. Fifty-four men were killed, including a second commanding officer to be lost on the Dickerson. Damage control efforts had to be abandoned when the fire threatened to reach the forward magazine and the survivors were evacuated. The Bunch (APD-79) and the tug Arikara (AT-98) managed to put out the fires, but the Dickerson was beyond repair, and on 4 April 1945 she was sunk by US gunfire.

The Dickerson earned six battle stars during the Second World War, for the Bismarck Archipelago, Hollandia, Marianas Islands, Luzon, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

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



12 March 1919


3 September 1919

Hit by kamikaze

2 April 1945

Sunk by gunfire

4 April 1945

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (24 January 2018), USS Dickerson (DD-157/ APD-21) ,

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