USS Gamble (DD-123/ DM-15)

USS Gamble (DD-123/ DM-15) was a Wickes class destroyer that entered service too late for the First World War, but that was present at Pearl Harbor and served as a minelayer during the Second World War.

The Gamble was named after two brothers, Lt. Peter Gamble and Lt. Col. John M. Gamble, both of whom fought in the War of 1812. Peter Gamble was killed at the battle of Lake Champlain, while John Gamble took part in Captain Porter's extraordinary voyage into the Pacific.

Joint launch of USS Gamble (DD-123) and USS Breese (DD-122), 1918
Joint launch of
USS Gamble (DD-123) and
USS Breese (DD-122), 1918

The Gamble was launched at Newport News on 11 May 1918 and commissioned on 29 November 1918 with Commander H. J. Abbet in command. Her shakedown training took her to the Virginia Capes, and early in 1919 she joined the fleet for the winter manoeuvres in Cuban waters. She was then based in new England until June 1919, when she was allocated to the Pacific Fleet.

The Gamble reached her new base at San Diego on 7 August 1919, but was placed into the reserve on 1 December 1919.

The Gamble was recommissioned for the first time in October 1920. She was used as a training ship for reservist and operated with the Battle Force, before being decommissioned once again on 17 June 1922.

The Gamble was recommissioned for the second time on 24 May 1930. On 13 June she was reclassified as a light minelayer (DM-15), and was converted to her new role at Mare Island. Once the conversion was complete she moved to Pearl Harbor, where in July she became the flagship of Mine Squadron 2. Later she was used as the flagship of Mine Division 1, Mine Squadron 1. She was used as a plane guard and radio tracker for seaplanes, as a training ship for Naval reservists and took part in the Fleet problems. She was decommissioned once again at San Diego on 22 December 1937.

The Gamble was recommissioned for the third and final time on 25 September 1939. She joined Mine Division 5, and was used on patrols and as a school ship from her new base at San Francisco.


In April 1941 the Gamble moved to Pearl Harbor where she joined Mine Division 2.

USS Gamble (DD-123), c.1920
USS Gamble (DD-123), c.1920

The Gamble was moored in berth D-3 of the Middle Loch when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. She was flagship of Mine Division 2 at the time, and was at the northern end of the line of destroyers. She opened fire with her .50in machine guns at 0758, aiming at Japanese aircraft flying directly overhead. Her 3"/23 antiaircraft guns opened fire one minute later and her .30in machine guns at 0805. At 0810 she prepared to get under way. At 0925 she claimed one Japanese aircraft. Five minutes late she was able to get underway, but at 0955 she had to briefly anchor near the Medusa. She was back underway at 1005 and at 1021 began anti-submarine patrols. At 1204 she dropped three depth charges. At 1632 she sighted a submarine and opened fire with her 4" guns, but luckily she missed, as the submarine turned out to be American. At 1732 she sighted the carrier Enterprise and was ordered to join her escort forces, acting as a plane guard.

In the aftermath of the attack the Gamble's battle dressing station was moved from the wardroom, which cut be cut off by damage control measures, to the more accessible galley area.


In mid February 1942 the Gamble formed part of the escort of a convoy heading to Pago Pago, Samoa. She the worked with USS Ramsay (DD-124) to lay a defensive mine field off Tutuila. In late March both ships moved to Fiji and laid a minefield around Nandi (7-14 April). She then returned to Pearl Harbor to have her armament updated. Over the summer she was used on convoy escort duties and then laid a defensive minefield off the entrance to Second Channel, Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides (with Breese and Tracy).

On 27 August the Gamble and four other destroyers (one minelayer and three fast transports) joined a convoy heading for Guadalcanal.

USS Gamble (DD-15), c.1940
USS Gamble (DM-15), c.1940

During the morning of 29 August lookouts on the Gamble spotted the Japanese submarine I-123. The Gamble still carried her depth charges, and carried out a successful attack on the submarine. Oil slicks and deck planking came to the surface, as did a large air bubble. The submarine's last message, 'under heavy enemy attack' was also intercepted.

Soon after noon the convoy was attacked by Japanese aircraft, and shot down two without taking any damage.

On the afternoon of 29 August the Gamble rescued four downed airmen from the Saratoga, who had taken refuge on Nura Island.

The Gamble landed 158 marines on Guadalcanal on 31 August. She then moved to help the William Ward Burrows, which had run aground on her way to Tulagi. On 2 September the Gamble helped two other ships tow her free. The Gamble then sighted a Japanese submarine, and in the confusion the Gamble ran aground yet again. The Gamble helped pull her free once again on 3 September. The Gamble then escorted the William Ward Burrows to Espiritu Santo. The Gamble then returned to the battle around Guadalcanal.


USS Walker (DD-163), USS Crosby (DD-164), USS Thatcher (DD-162), Cuyama, USS Gamble (DD-123)
USS Walker (DD-163), USS Crosby (DD-164), USS Thatcher (DD-162), Cuyama, USS Gamble (DD-123)

One of the Gamble's most successful missions came on the night of 6 May 1943, when along with the Preble and Breese she laid 250 mines across Blackett Strait, at the western entrance to Kula Gulf. This minefield soon paid off. On the night of 7-8 May four Japanese destroyers from the Tokyo Express ran into the mines. Kuroshio sank immediately. Oyashio and Kagero were damaged and summoned the Michishio to help. Coastwatchers spotted the struggling Japanese ships and summoned Allied aircraft. The two damaged destroyers were sunk, and the Michishio forced to withdraw.

On 30 June, the first day of Operation Toenails (the invasion of New Georgia) the Gamble laid a defensive minefield across the beachhead.

In July she returned to the United States for an overhaul, returning to the war zone in early October. On 2-8 October she escorted the attack cargo ship USS Thuban (AKA-19) from Pearl Harbor to the Ellice Islands. She then returned to the Solomons, and supported Operation Cherryblossom, the invasion of Bougainville. She supported the landings in Empress Augusta Bay on 1-2 November, operated in the Bougainville Strait on 7-8 November. She then returned to Purvis Bay, Florida Island in late November, and then on to the New Hebrides Islands.


The Gamble spent most of 1944 carrying out escort duties between the Solomon Islands. She returned to San Francisco for an overhaul on 12 October 1944.


The Gamble left San Diego on 7 January 1945 and sailed to Iwo Jima. She arrived on 17 February, and was assigned to provide fire support for mine sweepers and to explode any loose mines. However she wouldn't survive for long at Iwo Jima.

On 18 February the Gamble was hit by two 250lb bombs. They hit just above the waterline and punched two holes in her bottom. Both of her firerooms were flooded and she was dead in the water. Five men were killed, one was missing and eight wounded. Skillful damage control meant that the Gamble remained afloat, and on the following day she was towed to relative safety by the Dorsey (DD-117/ DMS-1). She was then towed to Saipan, where she arrived on 24 February 1945. However by this point in the war the old flush-deckers were increasingly obsolete, and it was decided that it wasn't worth repairing the Gamble. She was decommissioned on 1 June 1945, and on 16 July she was sunk outside Apra Harbour, Guam.

The Gamble earned seven battle stars during the Second World War, for Pearl Harbor, for sinking the submarine I-123, Solomon Islands, New Georgia, Guadalcanal, Treasury-Bougainville and Iwo Jima.

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



11 May 1918


29 November 1918


1 June 1945


16 July 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

WWII Home Page | WWII Subject Index | WWII Books | WWII Links | Day by Day

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 August 2017), USS Gamble (DD-123/ DM-15) ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy