USS Kennedy (DD-306)

USS Kennedy (DD-306) was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the Pacific Fleet during 1920s before being sold for scrap in 1931.

The Kennedy was named after John Pendleton Kennedy, Secretary of the Navy in 1852 and 1853.

The Kennedy was launched by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp, San Francisco on 15 February 1919 when she was sponsored by Mrs Eugene F. Essner. She was commissioned on 16 August 1920 and reached her new home port of San Diego on 7 October 1920, where she joined the Pacific Fleet. The Kennedy joined the 32nd Destroyer Division, where she appears to have spent her entire active career, although some newspaper reports and even some US Navy photographs incorrectly place her in the 33rd Division.

A few days later, on 28 August 1920, the Kennedy was involved in a tragic accident when two men were killed by her propeller as she backed out of a slip at the Union Iron Works.

USS Kennedy (DD-306) under way USS Kennedy (DD-306) under way

On 22 December 1920 the Kennedy was conducting a full speed trial off San Diego when a water glass in the engine room exploded. The Kennedy’s engineering officer, Lt. F.S. Crosley, was struck in the eye and so seriously injured that the Kennedy headed back to port at full speed. Lt A.J. Kingsmill, from the Kennedy’s sister ship and division mate Thompson (DD-305) was also injured by flying glass, but not so seriously.

In January 1921 the Kennedy was part of a large fleet that left San Diego to take part in inter-fleet manoeuvres in the Panama Canal Zone. Her division was amongst the first ships to return on 5 March, two months later.

In April 1921 she was part of Destroyer Division Thirty-Two (Stoddert DD-302, Paul Hamilton DD-307, Reno DD-303, Kennedy DD-306, Thompson DD-305 and Farquhar DD-304).

In May 1921 she took part in a massive search for the missing fleet tug Conestoga, which had disappeared without a trace while sailing from California to American Samoa. Despite the massive search, her wreck wasn’t found until 2009 (just outside San Francisco Bay), and not identified until 2015.

In November 1921 the Kennedy was at sea taking part in torpedo exercises with the battleships Pennsylvania, Tennessee and New Mexico when her port main engine failed and she had to return to port.

In December 1921 the 32nd Destroyer Division (Stoddert, Reno, Farquhar, Thompson, Kennedy and Paul Hamilton) moved from San Diego to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, where they stayed until February 1922.

The Kennedy and her division represented the US Navy at the Monteray Industrial Fair of 1-4 September 1922.

On 8 September 1923 she was one of thirteen destroyers that were returning home after a trip to Puget Sound. The squadron turned to enter the Santa Barbara Channel, but they had misjudged their position. The leading seven ships ran aground on Honda Point, and were lost – the largest peacetime loss of destroyers in US navy history. The Kennedy was further back in the formation, and avoided the disaster. She was leading the rear division of Destroyer Squadron Eleven, and during the investigation into the disaster stated that even through he believed they were too close to shore he would have ‘followed the leader’ as required by destroyer doctrine if he hadn’t observed the ships of the leading division slowing down in some confusion.

USS Kennedy (DD-306) laying smoke USS Kennedy (DD-306) laying smoke

In October 1923 the 32nd division was given the task of retrieving torpedoes during battleship torpedo practice being held off San Clemente Island.

On 21 November 1923 she rescued five men from a F-5-L seaplane that had been observing naval torpedo practise when the aircraft was destroyed in a freak accident. One her of crew had stood up to throw out a smoke bomb to mark the location of a torpedo when it was blown out of his hands, hit him in the chest, bounced off and hit a propeller, which shattered it, sending burning fragments back into the aircraft. The aircraft plunged into the sea, but all of her crew could swim and managed to stay afloat until the Kennedy could rescue her.

In the spring of 1924 she entered the Caribbean to take part in Fleet Problems II, III and IV, which took place at the same time and covered possible operations in the Pacific and an attack on the Panama Canal. She returned to San Diego on 22 April.

The Farquhar, Paul Hamilton and Kennedy represented the Navy for the Independence Day celebrations at Port Angeles in 1924.

On 13 June 1925 she departed for Hawaii, where the fleet had just carried out Fleet Problem V. The Kennedy arrived in time to take part in a good will cruise to Samoa, Australia and New Zealand, and didn’t return to San Diego until 26 September.

The Kennedy was sent to Newport Beach for the Navy Day celebrations on 27 October 1925.

On 23-24 April 1926 the Kennedy formed part of the defending fleet during naval exercises that simulated an attack on the California coast.

In 1926 the Kennedy was part of a larger fleet that remained at San Diego for the Navy Day celebrations on 27 October.

Early in 1927 she moved to the Caribbean for Fleet Problem VII, another attack on the Panama Canal. She then paid a visit to Norfolk and New York, before returning to San Diego on 22 May.

On 8 April 1928 she departed San Diego heading for Hawaii. Fleet Problem VIII was carried in the seas between California and Hawaii and saw the battle force face a cruiser fleet based on the islands. She returned to San Diego in June 1928.

In July 1929 she was part of a squadron that took part in a reservist training cruise (Farquhar, J F Burns, Stoddart, Thompson, Kennedy and Paul Hamilton).

By now it was clear that the Kennedy’s Yarrow boilers were badly worn. The US Navy decided to swap thirty four of the badly worn destroyers for almost fresh sister-ships that had been in the reserves for most of the 1920s. The Kennedy was decommissioned at San Diego on 1 May 1930. Her hulk was sold on 19 March 1931 and sold to satisfy the terms of the London Naval Treaty.

Lt R.S. Holmes: - October 1925-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

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


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


2,500nm at 20kts (design)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4in


30ft 10.5in


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



15 February 1919


16 August 1920

Sold for scrap

19 March 1931

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
How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 October 2020), USS Kennedy (DD-306) ,

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