USS Downes (DD-45)

USS Downes (DD-45) was a Cassin class destroyer that was based at Queenstown during the period of American involvement in the First World War and later served with the Coast Guard.

The Downes was named after John Downes, a US Naval officer during the War with Tripoli and the War of 1812. She was launched at Camden, New Jersey, on 8 November 1913 and commissioned on 11 February 1915. Her first commander was Lt Commander Alfred Wilson Johnson, who was in charge as she was fitted out and for a short period after she was commissioned. He later went on to win the Distinguished Service Medal for his time in command of USS Conyngham (DD-58) during the First World War and rose to rear admiral during the 1930s.

USS Downes (DD-45), 1919
USS Downes (DD-45), 1919

After her shakedown cruise she had to return to Philadephia, where she was placed in the reserve on 4 October 1915. While she was in the reserve she was given new machinery, suggesting that the original engines hadn't been satisfactory. She wasn't recommissioned until 26 May 1917.

On 18 October 1917 the Downes left New York heading for Europe. After visiting Devonport she moved to her new base at Queenstown, arriving on 17 November 1917. From then until 5 December 1917 she operated on convoy escort duties and anti-submarine patrols. She made a number of attacks on suspected U-boats, but without any clear results.

She was commended by the British Admiralty for her part in protecting USS Manley (DD-74), badly damaged by an accidental depth charge explosion on 19 March 1918 and a second time for saving the British Scout Class Airship SSZ 51 after she came down onto the sea near a convoy the Manley was escorting. The Manley was able to tow the airship to safety at Holyhead.

Anyone who served on her between 8 November 1917 and 11 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

USS Downes (DD-45) and USS Benham (DD-49), 1921
USS Downes (DD-45) &
USS Benham (DD-49)

After the end of the war the Downes moved to Brest to escort President Woodrow Wilson on the last stage of his voyage to France. She left for the US on 26 December and reached Norfolk on 18 January 1919. She spent the rest of the winter in Cuban waters, then moved to New York. She was overhauled, then placed into the reserve on 31 May 1919.

She was reactivated twice. The first time came in May 1921 and allowed her to take part in that year's summer manoeuvres. She returned to port in October and was decommissioned again on 6 June 1922. The second time came on 28 April 1924, when she was transferred to the Coast Guard to take part in the 'Rum Patrol'. This lasted until 22 May 1931, when she was returned to the Navy and the reserve. She was sold for scrap on 22 August 1934 under the terms of the London Naval Treaty of 1930. 

Displacement (standard)

1,010t nominal

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

29kts at 16,000shp (design)
29.14kts at 14,253shp at 1,057 tons on trial (Duncan)


2-shaft Parson turbines plus reciprocating cruising engines
4 boilers for 16,000shp


305ft 5in


30ft 2in


Four 3in.50 guns (DD-43 & DD-44)
Four 4in/50 guns (DD-45 to DD-50)
Eight 1in torpedo tubes in four twin mountings

Crew complement



8 November 1913


11 February 1915



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 (20 June 2016), USS Downes (DD-45) ,

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