USS Hulbert (DD-342/ AVD-6)

USS Hulbert (DD-342/ AVD-6) was a Clemson class destroyer that served as a seaplane tender in the Aleutians in 1942-43, then as a plane guard for new aircraft carriers for most of the rest of the war.

The Hulbert was named after Henry Lewis Hulbert, a native of Hull in Yorkshire, who joined the Marine Corps and won the Medal of Honor during the fighting against the Philippine Insurrection in 1899. He was still with the Marines after the American entry into the First World War, and was killed on the Western Front on 5 October 1918.

USS Hulbert (DD-342) with damaged bow, 1922 USS Hulbert (DD-342) with damaged bow, 1922

The Hulbert was laid down by the Norfolk Navy Yard and launched on 28 June 1918 when she was sponsored by Lieutenant Hulbert’s widow Mrs. V. C. Hulbert and commissioned on 27 October 1920.

At the start of December 1920 she had to go into dry dock for repairs, after colliding with the Balch (DD-50) off Hampton Roads, at the start of a planned trip to Charleston.

Photographs from early in 1922 show her with bad damage to her bows, suffered during winter maneuvers in Cuban waters. By April it had been decided to repair her by giving her the bows from her sister ship Graham (DD-192) , which had been badly damaged in a collision with the SS Panama late in 1921 and wasn’t going to be repaired.

On 20 June 1922 the Hulbert left the US heading to the Asiatic Station. She travelled east, throught the Mediterranean and Suez Canal, visiting Ceylon, before arriving at Chefoo, China, on 26 August 1922. This was the start of a seven year spell in Far Eastern Waters, where most of her time was split between the Philippines and Chinese waters.

In April 1923 six of her crew were killed by an explosion in the boiler room, caused by a flare-back of oil while she was at Manila.  

In September 1923 she took part in the relief effort after a massive earthquake hit Tokya and Yokohama.

The Hulbert was one of three destroyers that arrived at Shanghai in February 1927 to protect American citizens as the fighting in the lengthy Chinese civil wars of the period began to threaten the city. She helped evacuate American civilians in March 1927, as the Nationalists and Communists in the city rose up against the warlords who then controlled it, and again in September 1928 (although the reason this time is less clear).

On 22 July 1929 the Hulbert departed from Yokohama, heading home after her tour of duty in the Far East.

She reached San Diego on 17 August and spent the reast of 1929 acting as a plane guard for the carriers Langley and Saratoga.

From 1930 to 1934 she operated along the US West Coast, taking part in some of the major Fleet Problems, which took her to the Caribbean and East Coast.

USS Hulbert (DD-342) returns from Asiatic Waters, 1929 USS Hulbert (DD-342) returns from Asiatic Waters, 1929

In the summer of 1930 she was part of Destroyer Division 11, Battle Force.

On June 1932 Ellis Hugh Geiselman became her commanding officer, having spent two years (from June 1930) as her Executive Officer and Navigator. He was probably there until July 1933 when he moved to the US Naval Academy. Geiselman was later the Executive Officer of the Arizona when she was sunk at Pearl Harbor.

In 1934 it was decided to take her out of commission. She arrived at Philadelphia on 14 August 1934, and was decommissioned on 17 October 1934.

In 1939-1940 the Hulbert was converted into a seaplane tender, and on 2 August 1940 she was recommissioned at New York Navy Yard with the new designation AVD-6. She reached her new base at San Diego on 24 August and began to support Patrol Wing 1. At first this wing was based on the US West Coast, but in May 1941 the Patrol Wing and the Hulbert moved to Pearl Harbor. The Hulbert was used both to service and repair the wing’s seaplanes and as its floating headquarters.

Second World War

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Habor on 7 December 1941, the Hulbert was moored at berth S-3 in the Submarine Base. In her captain’s after action report he stated that she went to general quarters the moment the Japanese were first sighted and that he believed she was the first ship in the fleet to open fire. She shot down one torpedo bomber that was about to attack the battleships off Ford Island at 0758 (in her post action report it was stated that ‘no other anti-aircraft were being fired at this plane when brought down’,. She also claimed a share in a bomber at about 0820.  The after action report from the Tautog (SS-199) claimed that both she and the Hulbert hit the aircraft shot down at 0758, but gives the Hulbert sole credit for the later aircraft and supports the claim that the Hulbert was the first to open fire. The report from the Thornton (AVD-11) claimed a share of one aircraft with the Hulbert but didn’t give a time, but the report from the Sumner (AG-32) makes this the 0820 claim.

On 9 December the Hulbert moved to Hilo, on the coast of the Big Island, to set up an advance base for the patrol bombers. As well as supporting her aircraft, she was also used to make supply runs to Palmyra Island.

On 6 June 1942 the Hulbert departed for Kodiak, just off the Alaskan coast, to join the campaign against the Japanese occupiers of the western Aleutians. She was used to support the seaplanes of VP-43, which were used for reconnaissance and bombing missions over the Japanese held islands, especially Kiska and Attu. On 30 August 1942 she landed a party of Marines on Seguam Island, where they searched for a Japanese radio station (although probably without success, as I’ve found no mention of a Japanese presence on the island). On 31 August she moved to Atka to help the torpedoed tender Casca (AVP-12). The Casca was refloating in September and repaired and returned to service.

The Hulbert departed for San Francisco on 4 Ocotober, where she took on supplies and was repaired. She left Seattle on 8 December to return to Kodiak, where she resumed her duties supporting patrol bombers.

USS Hulbert (ADV-6) aground in Massacre Bay, 1943 USS Hulbert (ADV-6) aground in Massacre Bay, 1943

In May 1943 the Hulbert moved to Amchithka to serve as a communications ship during the campaign to recapture Attu.

In June 1943 the Hulbert and the Avocet (AVP-4)escorted a merchant ship from Adak to Attu, arriving on 21 June. The Hulbert was then used to provide fuel and communications services for seaplanes and torpedo boats, but on 30 June 1943 she was blown ashore in Massacre Bay by a severe storm. She ended up grounded parallel to the beach, and was held upright largely by sand that had been piled up around her by the weather. It took some time to get her afloat again – the tug Ute spent most of the first three weeks of July on the task.

This ended the Hulbert’s combat career. The damage was serious enough to force her back to Seattle for repairs, arriving on 30 August. At the same time she was converted back into a regular destroyer, and she was redesignated as DD-342 on 1 December 1943. On 15 January 1944 she departed for San Deigo, where she became an escort ship. Her main role for the rest of the war was to act as a plane guard and screening ship for the dozens of new escort carriers that were being produced. She rescued around a dozen pilots while performing this duty.

On 30 September 1945 she left San Diego to escort the carrier USS Ranger to the Canal Zone. She then moved on to Philadelphia, arriving on 17 October,. She was decommissioned on 2 November 1945 and sold for scrap in October 1946.

Hulbert received two battle stars for World War II service.

Displacement (standard)

1,190t

Displacement (loaded)

1,308t

Top Speed

35kts
35.51kts at 24,890shp at 1,107t on trial (Preble)

Engine

2-shaft Westinghouse geared tubines
4 boilers
27,000shp (design)

Range

2,500nm at 20kts (design)

Length

314ft 4in

Width

30ft 10.5in

Armaments

Four 4in/ 50 guns
One 3in/23 AA gun
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple mountings
Two depth charge tracks
One Y-Gun depth charge projector

Crew complement

114

Launched

28 June 1918

Commissioned

27 October 1920

Sold for scrap

October 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 (22 June 2021), USS Hulbert (DD-342/ AVD-6) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Hulbert_DD342.html

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