USS Dorsey (DD-117/ DMS-1)

USS Dorsey (DD-117/ DMS-1) was a Wickes class destroyer that entered service just in time for service in the last months of the First World War, but that saw more extensive service as a high speed mine sweeper during the Second World War before being badly damaged in a typhoon off Okinawa just after the end of the war.

The Dorsey was named after John Dorsey, a midshipman in the US Navy who was killed during the attack on Tripoli on 7 August 1804.

Crews of Rathburne, Talbot, Dent, Waters, Lea and Dorsey
Crews of Rathburne, Talbot,
Dent, Waters, Lea

and Dorsey

The Dorsey was launched at William Cramp & Sons of Philadelphia on 9 April 1918 and commissioned on 16 September 1918 with Commander G. F. Neal in command,.

The Dorsey departed from Philadelphia on 20 September 1918 as part of the escort of a convoy heading for Ireland. After escorting the convoy across the Atlantic she returned to New York on 19 October. From 28 October to 20 November she was used on escort duties between the East Coast and the Azores.

Anyone who served on her between 20 September and 11 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

From late November 1918 until 13 January 1919 the Dorsey operated from New York. She then moved to Cuba to take part in fleet manoeuvres in January-February 1919. In early March she escorted President Woodrow Wilson on USS George Washington as far as the Azores, before returning to Cuba for more manoeuvres. 

The Dorsey's next assignment was as part of the Adriatic Squadron. She arrived at Valetta on Malta on 26 April 1919 and helped implement the terms of the Austro-Hungarian armistice until 9 July when she departed for New York.

The Dorsey left New York to head for the west coast on 17 September 1919. She passed through the Panama canal with USS Bailey (DD-269) on 25-26 September and reached San Diego on 12 October. She then moved south to take part on fleet manoeuvres in the Panama Canal Zone and operated with seaplanes off Valparaiso on the coast of Chile, before returning to San Diego.

At some point in 1919-1920 she had her aft 4/50 gun moved from the main deck to the top of an enlarged deck house.

Crew of USS Dorsey (DD-117)
Crew of USS Dorsey (DD-117)

Her next assignment was with the Asiatic Fleet. She reached Cavite in the Philippines on 24 August 1921. She was based in the Philippines for almost a year and took part in long range battle and torpedo practice and experimental work with submarines. On 3 June 1922 she left the Philippines at the start of a leisurely trip back to the US, calling at Shanghai, Chefoo, Nagasaki and Pearl Harbor before reaching San Francisco on 2 October. She was decommissioned on 9 March 1923.

The Dorsey was recommissioned on 1 March 1930. Over the next five years she operated off the West Coast, around Hawaii and in the Panama Canal Zone. She was used as a plane guard for carriers and took part in the regular fleet manoeuvres.

In 1935 the Dorsey was chosen for conversion into a high speed towing vessel. She was briefly placed in the reserve from 10-29 June 1935, then given the towing gear at Mare Island Navy Yard. After her conversion she was used to tow high speed targets for gunnery and other training, normally operating off the West Coast or in the Panama Canal Zone. Between 29 December 1938 and 25 April 1939 she operated in the Caribbean, and on 3 July 1940 she moved to Pearl Harbor.

After her arrival at Pearl Harbor she was chosen for conversion into a fast mine sweeper. The conversion began in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard on 6 November and on 19 November 1940 she was reclassified as DMS-1.

The Dorsey was at sea with Task Force 3, heading for Johnson Island, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Dorsey returned to harbour on 9 December and was allocated to the Hawaiian Sea Frontier, carrying out a mix of patrols, escorting local traffic and training duty. She visited San Francisco for a short overhaul from 1 January-11 February 1943 and then returned to the Hawaiian Sea Frontier, where she remained until 24 September 1943.

In September 1943 the Dorsey finally moved closer to the war zone. She escorted convoys heading to Efate in the New Hebrides and Noumea on New Caledonia, and then move to the Solomon Islands, where she operated as a minesweeper. She carried out mine sweeping operations off Cape Torokina, Bougainville, and then screened the transports during the invasion of 1 November 1943 (Operation Cherryblossom). She returned to Bougainville with reinforcement convoys on 8 November and 13 November. From November 1943 to 29 March 1944 she was used to escort transports moving between Port Purvis (Florida Isles) and Neoumea (New Caledonia). Between 29 March and 12 May 1944 she was used to escort transports moving between Port Purvis, Kwajalein, the Manus and New Georgia.

USS Dorsey (DMS-1) at sea, 1943
USS Dorsey (DMS-1) at sea, 1943

A brief change of duty came on 12 May, when she arrived at Majuro for a short spell of high speed target towing.

This only lasted for a month, and from 20 June-8 July she was used to escort convoys moving between Kwajalein and Eniwetok. She then escorted the carrier Makin Island (CVE-93) to Pearl Harbor, before heading to San Francisco for an overhaul.

The Dorsey returned to Pearl Harbor after her refit on 1 October 1944. For the next month she was used in minesweeping experiments and for more towing duties, before on 9 November she departed as part of the escort of a convoy heading for Port Purvis. December was spent minesweeping off Manus.

At the start of 1945 the Dorsey took part in the invasion of Lingayen Gulf. She took part in the pre-invasion minesweeping off the invasion beaches, and during this period claimed a number of victories over attacking Japanese aircraft.

USS Dorsey (DD-117) at New York Fleet Review, 1934
USS Dorsey (DD-117) at New York Fleet Review, 1934

The Dorsey repeated her minesweeping duties off Iwo Jima, starting on 16 February 1945. On 18 February she was used to tow the damaged USS Gamble (DM-15) to safety.

On 1 March she departed from Ulithi heading for Okinawa. She begin minesweeping duties off Okinawa on 25 March, but on 27 March she was hit by a kamikaze aircraft. The glancing blow killed three and wounded two of her crew, but she was able to stay in position for the landings of 1 April, and didn't depart for repairs until 4 April.

On 1 May she was part of ComMinDiv 6 (Mine Division Six), Mine Squadron Two, Minecraft, Pacific Fleet.

The Dorsey returned to the fleet at Okinawa on 1 July 1945. She formed part of the minesweeping unit that supported the Third Fleet's raids on the Japanese home islands, including a sortie into the Van Dieman Straits (or Osumi Straits), at the southern tip of Kyushu in mid September 1945.

On 9 October the US fleet off Okinawa was hit by Typhoon 'Louise'. The Dorsey was one of 222 ships that ran aground in the storm, and because of her age this ended her career. She was decommissioned on 8 December 1945 and her hulk was destroyed on 1 January 1946.

The Dorsey earned six battle stars during the Second World War, for Treasury-Bougainville, Luzon, Iwo Jima, Okinawa Gunto, 3rd Fleet operations against Japan and post-war Minesweeping Operations.

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



9 April 1918


16 September 1918


8 December 1945


1 January 1946

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 (26 July 2017), USS Dorsey (DD-117/ DMS-1) ,

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