USS Jouett (DD-396)

USS Jouett (DD-396) was a Somers class destroyer that served in the South Atlantic for most of the Second World War, helping to intercept German blockade runners and playing a part in the sinking of U-128. She also supported the Normandy landings and Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the South of France.

USS Jouett (DD-396) passing President Roosevelt's flagship USS Jouett (DD-396) passing President Roosevelt's flagship

The Jouett was named after James Edward Jouett, who served in the US Navy during the Mexican War and the Ameican Civil War, fighting at the battle of Mobile Bay, and who remained in the Navy until retiring in 1890.

The Jouett was laid down at the Bath Iron Works of Bath, Maine on 26 March 1936, launched on 24 September 1938 and commissioned on 25 January 1939.

In September 1939 the Jouett was assigned to the neutrality patrol, and by late September she was based at Boston, where she was operating with the Ellet (DD-398) and the Coast Guard cutters Alexander Hamilton (WPG-34) and Bibb (WPG-31).

On 14 December 1939 the German liner Columbus and freighter Arauca, which had been trapped at Veracruz at the outbreak of war, attempted to escape into the Atlantic. As a neutral the United States wasn’t going to intercept them, but instead ordered her ships to shadow the Columbus. At first she was followed by the Lang (DD-399) and Benham (DD-397), but on 15 December the Jouett arrived, allowing the Benham to try and find the Arauca. The Columbus was shadowed by a series of US warships before she was finally intercepted by HMS Hyperion and scuttled to avoid capture.

From 15 February-1 March 1940 the Jouett was part of the escort of the Tuscaloosa (CA-37) as she carried President Roosevelt on a cruise in the Gulf of Panama.

After this cruise the Jouett departed for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 10 April 1940. She spent the next year operating in Hawaiian waters, her one period in the Pacific.

On 20 April 1941 the Yorktown (CV-5), Jouett, Warrington (DD-383), and Somers (DD-381) left Pearl Harbor heading east for the Panama Canal. They passed through the canal on 6-7 May, and reached Port-of-Spain, Trinidad on 19 May.

The Jouett then joined a force under Rear Admiral Jonas H. Ingram that had the task of guarding against German surface or U-boat attacks on neutral American shipping. This was built around a mix of light cruisers and destroyers.

Aft Engine Room Controls of USS Jouett (DD-396) Aft Engine Room Controls of USS Jouett (DD-396)

On 4 November 1941 the British oiler Olwen was fired on by a surfaced submarine, and broadcast the ‘raider’ signal. This triggered a large British and American naval effort to find what was believed to be a surface raider and to rescue the crew of the Olwen, which was erroneously assumed to have been sunk. The Jouett, Davis (DD-395) and Memphis (CL-13) were close to the location of the reported attack and were sent to search the area, but didn’t find anything. However two more American warships, the Omaha and Somers (DD-396) did find and capture German blockade runner Odenwald.

The Jouett was at Port of Spain when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

1942

In the aftermath of the US entry into the war the Jouett continued to operate in roughly the same area, the seas between Brazil and Africa, but was now able to take a more openly aggressive attitude and was normally based in a Brazilian port.

On 30 March 1942 she escorted Army engineers to Ascension Island, where they built an airfield that is still in use.

In the early months of 1942 the Jouett helped escort oil tankers south from Trinidad to South America.

On 8 May the Omaha and Jouett came across the Swedish MV Astri, which was discovered to be carrying fifteen survivors from the US freighter Lammot Du Pont, which had been sunk by U-125 on 23 April. At the time the Astri was suspected of being a tender for German submarines, so the Jouett was left to investigate her while the Omaha took the rescued survivors from Lammot Du Pont to Recife. Another 23 survivors were rescued by the Tarbell (DD-142) after they were discovered by a patrol aircraft.

On 30 November Jouett and Omaha departed Recife heading for the US. They parted company on 8 November, when the Omaha headed for New York and the Jouett for Charleston.

1943

By 21 January 1943 the Jouett was back at Natal in Brazil. On 27-29 January 1943 President Vargas of Brazil came on board, and the ship became his base during a conference with President Roosevelt on the Humboldt (AG-121).

In February the Jouett returned to escort duties. In March 1943 the South Atlantic Force became the US Fourth Fleet, still commanded by Admiral Ingram.

On 14 May she joined the hunt for U-128, which was operating off Bahai, Brazil. On 17 May two PMB Mariner flying boats from US Navy Squadron VP-74 dropped depth charges on U-128 off Pernambuco, Brazil. The submarine was forced to surface, and the Jouett and Moffett opended fire. The submarine was clearly doomed, so her crew abandoned ship, scuttling the U-boat as they went. Seven of her crew were lost but 47 were rescued.

1944

On 4 January Omaha and Jouett spotted an unidentified ship 55 miles off the coast of Brazil. The mystery ship failed to respond to signals, and two guns were spotted on her bow. The ship was the blockade runner Rio Grande. As the US warships closed in her crew detonated scuttling charges and began to abandon ship. Both US ships opened fire and attempted to force the German crew back onboard so they could help save the ship. However it was soon clear that she was sinking, and the effort was abandoned. Omaha and Jouett then left the scene to avoid attack by U-boats. Instead other destroyers were sent to rescue the survivors, with the Marblehead picking up 72 on 8 January.

Sonar crew of USS Jouett (DD-396) Sonar crew of USS Jouett (DD-396)

On 5 January another mystery ship was detected by patrol aircraft. She identified herself as the Floridian, but was believed to be the blockade runner Burgenlund. The Omaha and Jouett picked her up on radar, but the German crew sank their own ship with scuttling charges instead of risking her falling into the US hands.

Once again destroyers were sent to pick up the survivors, with the Davis picking up 21 on 7 January and the Winslow (DD-359) picking up 35 on 8 January.

On 6 February the Omaha, Jouett and Memphis was patrolling when they were ordered to look for survivors from U-177, which had just been sunk while resting on the surface. The Jouett spotted a yellow life raft and the Omaha was able to rescue fourteen survivors, but another fifty men had been lost with the ship. The survivors were then taken to Bahia.

In March 1944 the Jouett returned to Charleston, to begin to train to take part in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. She departed for England on 16 May, where she joined a Reserve Fire Support Group.

The Jouett wasn’t involved on D-Day, but she escorted coastal steamers carrying support troops to Omaha Beach on 8 June. While there she came under German air attack. From then until 21 June she was used to screen British capital ships during shore bombardments, and formed part of the anti-submarine screen around the Omaha Beach transport area. She was then used to escort convoys between Normandy and the Firth of Forth, before on 12 July 1944 she departed as part of a convoy heading for Algeria.

On 21 July she arrived at Oran. She then moved to Naples, from where she departed on 14 August to take part in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the South of France. On 15 August she arrived at the Delta assault area, and was used as the command ship of the Convoy Control Group, a role she performed until 3 September. She was then used on patrol duties from the newly liberated port of Toulon. In early October she provided fire support for US troops fighting off Cape Ferrat. On 9 October she destroyed mines off San Remo. She was also used to destroy bridges and to protect Allied minesweepers.

On 31 December the Jouett, Mervine (DD-489) and Hilary P Jones left Oran to escort the seven ships of Convoy GUF-18 back to the United States.

1945

After her arrival back in the US the Jouett went to Charleston for repairs. She underwent refresher training in Casco Bay in April, and was then used to escort convoys heading from the US to Britain and Cuba. This role lasted until 15 August 1945.

Crewman on bridge of USS Jouett (DD-396) Crewman on bridge of USS Jouett (DD-396)

The Jouett was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 1 November 1945 and scrapped in 1946.

Jouett received three battle stars for World War II service, for sinking U-128, the Normandy landings and the invasion of the south of France.

Displacement (standard)

1,850t (design)

Displacement (loaded)

2,130t (design)
2,766.6 (Sampson)

Top Speed

37.5kts (design)
38.56kts at 53,271shp at 2,179t on trial (Sampson)

Engine

2-shaft General Electric turbines
4 boilers
52,000shp design

Range

7,500nm at 15kts (design)
10,540nm at 15kts at 2,143t on trial (Sampson)
7,020nm at 12kts at 2,750t wartime
4,250nm at 20kts at 2,750t

Length

381ft 6in

Width

36ft 10in

Armaments

Eight 5in/38 SP guns in twin mounts
Twelve 12in torpedos in three quad mounts
Eight 1.1in AA guns in four twin mounts
Four 0.5in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement

 

Laid Down

26 March 1936

Launched

24 September 1938

Commissioned

25 January 1939

Scrapped

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 (6 July 2022), USS Jouett (DD-396), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Jouett_DD396.html

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