USS Gleaves (DD-423)

USS Gleaves (DD-423) was the name class of the Gleaves class of destroyers, and served on convoy escort missions and supported the landings on Sicily, at Salerno and Anzio and in the South of France.

The Gleaves was named after Admiral Albert Gleaves, who fought in the Spanish American War, commanded the Cruiser and Transport Force during the First World War and helped develop torpedo steering devices.

USS Gleaves (DD-423) being launched, 1939 USS Gleaves (DD-423) being launched, 1939

The Gleaves was laid down at the Bath Iron Works, Maine and launched on 9 December 1939 when she was sponsored by two of Admiral Gleaves’ grand-daughters,  Miss Evelina Gleaves Van Metre and Miss Clotilda Florence Cohen. She was commissioned on 14 June 1940.

After her shakedown cruise the Gleaves operated along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean. She returned to Boston on 19 March 1941 to prepare for Atlantic convoy duty. On 23 June 1941 she left Newport to join the forces being gathered to take over the occupation of Iceland.

The Mayo formed part of Task Force 19, which was formed to escort a convoy carrying US Marines to Iceland to replace the British garrison.

This was a powerful fleet, built around the battleships Arkansas and New York and the cruisers Brooklyn (CL-40) and Nashville (CL-43) and protected by two destroyer divisions – Des Div 13 (Benson, Gleaves (DD-423), Mayo (DD-422) and Niblack (DD-424) and DesDiv 14 (Charles F. Hughes (DD-428), Hilary P Jones (DD-427) and Lansdale (DD-426) with DesDiv 60 as the outer screen (Bernadou (DD-153), Buck (DD-420), Ellis (DD-154), Lea (DD-118) and Upshur (DD-144)

The task force left Argentia on 1 July and reached Reykjavik on 7 July.


On 4 February 1942 the Gleaves, Upshur, Dallas (DD-199), Roper (DD-147) and Coast Guard cutter Ingham left Londonderry to join a convoy returning to the US. On 5 February the force of American warships appeared to be being hunted by a U-boat, and they made seven attacks on possible contacts but without success. On 7 February they joined up with Convoy ON-63, and once again a U-boat was spotted, this time on the surface. The Upshur attempted to attack, and was able to fire two 3in rounds towards her before the U-boat submerged. The Gleaves then joined her and the two destroyers kept the U-boat away from the convoy.

On 11-12 May 1942 the convoy she was escorting was attacked by a large wolfpack, and seven merchant ships were sunk.

USS Gleaves (DD-423) being commissioned, 1940 USS Gleaves (DD-423) being commissioned, 1940

On 2 June the Benson, Livermore (DD-429), Mayo (DD-422), Gleaves (DD-423), Niblack (DD-424) and Kearny (DD-432) departed from Halifax as part of the escort for Convoy AT 16, heading across the Atlantic.

On 16 June the New York (BB-34), Livermore, Kearny, Gleaves, Niblack, Benson and Mayo departed from Greenock as part of the escort for convoy CT 1, arriving at Boston on 26 June. 

On 13 July the Gleaves, Livermore, Kearny and Mayo left New York to escort Convoy AS 4 towards the Persian Gulf. They were still with the convoy when they were joined by the Juneau and her task force on 18 July.

On 6 August the Arkansas, Brooklyn (CL-40), Roe (DD-418), Ericsson, Madison (DD-425), Eberle, Nicholson (DD-442), Kearny, Mayo, Niblack, Benson, Gleaves, Hilary P. Jones (DD-427) and Charles F. Hughes (DD-428) left Brooklyn to escort a convoy of fourteen US, British and Polish troop transports to Halifax, arriving on 8 August.

In December 1942 she trained with the Benson (DD-421), Plunkett (DD-431) and Savannah  in the vicinity of Norfolk, Virginia.


The Gleaves returned to Boston on 31 March 1943 after another escort mission, and was then allocated to the forces being gathered for the invasion of Sicily. She departed for the Mediterranean on 10 May.

The Gleaves supported the invasion and escorted convoys supplying the fighting on Sicily. On 5 August the Gleaves and Plunkett accepted the surrender of the Italian garrison of the island of Utica, and later landed troops on the island.

She also took part in the fight against the one effective part of the Axis surface fleet – the small E-Boats and Italian motor boats, driving off one group of five that attempted to attack shipping in Palermo harbour.

Between the fall of Sicily and the invasion of mainland Italy the Gleaves took part in bombardments of the Italian mainland. In September 1943 she supported the landings at Salerno. She was then used to escort convoys supporting the campaign in Italy.

On 9 October USS Buck (DD-420) was sunk by U-616 while patrolling off Salerno. The survivors were spotted in the water on the following morning and 97 survivors were rescued by the Gleaves and the British LCT-170.


In January 1944 the Gleaves provided anti-aircraft cover and fire support for the troops fighting at Anzio.

In the spring she returned to the US for a refit, and was photographed at the New York Navy Yard on 4 April 1944.

By May she was back in the Mediterranean, and in mid-May she took part in the hunt for U-616. In the end the U-boat was sunk by other ships that were taking part in the hunt on 17 May. The Gleaves was close enough to rescue some of the survivors.

In August 1944 the Gleaves took part in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the South of France. She supported the Rangers during their landings early on 15 August, D-Day for the invasion, then bombarded shore targets to support the main invasion force, before screening the larger warships further off shore.

On 18 August she was used to lay smoke of the beachhead.

She was then sent to patrol off San Remo. On 1 October she fired on shipping in the harbour of Oneglio, across the Italian border, hitting two cargo ships. On the night of 1-2 October was attacked by three German explosive motor boats attempting to move to San Remo, sank one and drove off the other two. She was attacked twice more and managed to sink five of the motor boats.

On the following morning the Gleaves returned to the area and found an Italian MTM explosive motor boat intact but disabled. It was captured, with its two crew – Seaman Karl Heinz Senff and Seaman Herman Schurring, proving that the Germans were now manning ex-Italian boats. The captured boat was examined thoroughly by the Allies and provided valuable intelligence. The US Navy’s online Dictionary of American Fighting Ships now contains a fine collection of photographs of that

On 28 October she bombarded German troop concentrations, barracks and gun emplacements on the Franco-Italian coast. The Germans returned fire, but inaccurately.

In December 1944 she became a fire support ship, operating on the Franco-Italian border, where Allied forces moving east from the South of France were clashing with German troops from the garrison of Italy.


She performed that role until she departed for the United States in February 1945.

By the time she had undergone a refit at New York and trained in the Caribbean the war in Europe was over. On 30 June she left Guantanamo Bay heading for the Pacific, reaching Pearl Harbor on 4 August. She was too late to take part in the war in the Pacific, but was instead sent west to take part in the occupation efforts.

She then moved to Alaska, and in November was having her machinery repaired at Adak. On 23 November news arrived that the there was a smallpox epidemic on the steamer Adabelle Lykes. On 25 November the Gleaves put to sea carrying the smallpox vaccine, and transferred it to the steamer on 26 November.

In early December she was used on Magic Carpet duty, transporting 300 veterans from the Aleutians to Seattle, Washington. She then moved to San Francisco and on to Charleston, where she was decommissioned on 8 May 1946. She remained in the reserve until 1 November 1969 when she was struck off. She was sold for scrap on 1 November 1969.

The Gleaves received five battle stars, for the invasions of Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and the South of France and for the sinking of a U-boat on 14 May 1944 (probably meant for U-616). Anyone who served on her on 23-26 September 1945, 17-19 October 1945 or 24 October-2 November 1945 could quality for the Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia clasp.

Displacement (standard)

1,630t design
1,838t as built

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts design
36.5kt at 50,200shp at 2,220t on trial (Niblack)


2-shaft Westinghouse turbines
4 boilers
50,000hp design


6500nm at 12kt design


348ft 3in


36ft 1in


Five 5in/38 guns
Ten 21in torpedo tubes
Six 0.5in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement



9 December 1939


14 June 1940


8 May 1946

Struck off

1 November 1969

Sold for scrap

29 June 1972

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 (6 September 2023), USS Gleaves (DD-423),

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