USS Little (DD-79/ APD-4)

USS Little (DD-79) was a Wickes class destroyer that was used as a fast transport during the Second World War, and was sunk off Gualalcanal in September 1942. Little received two battle stars for World War II service, including one for the Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings and one for the capture and defence of Guadalcanal.

The Little was named after George Little, a US Naval Officer during the War of Independence and the Quasi-war with France.

USS Little (DD-79), USS Jarvis (DD-38) and USS Burrows (DD-29), Brest, 1918
USS Little (DD-79),
USS Jarvis (DD-38)
USS Burrows (DD-29),
Brest, 1918

Looking aft from Crow's Nest, USS Little (DD-79), 1918
Looking aft from Crow's Nest
USS Little (DD-79), 1918

Port Gun of USS Little (DD-79), 1918
Port Gun of USS Little (DD-79)

The Little was built by the Fore River Shipbuilding Corp of Quincy, Massachustes. She was laid down on 18 June 1917, launched on 11 November 1917 and commissioned on 6 April 1918 with Commander Joseph K. Taussig in command.

The Little left Norfolk on 5 May 1918 and crossed the Atlantic to join the Patrol Force, Coast of France. In June-July she was one of seven destroyers escorting a convoy of eight transport ships west across the Atlantic after carrying US troops to France (Little DD-79, Conner DD-72, Cummings DD-44, Porter DD-59, Jarvis DD-38, Smith DD-17 and Reid DD-21). On 1 July 1918 U-86 sank the transport ship Covington (ID # 1409), previously the SS Cincinnati of the Hamburg-American Line. According to the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships six crewmen were killed and 770 rescued. After the end of the fighting she was part of the flotilla that escorted President Woodrow Wilson into Brest on the USS George Washington, on his way to the Paris Peace Conference.

Anyone who served on her between 27 May and 11 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

The Little returned to Boston on 18 January 1919 and joined the Destroyer Force, Atlantic. In this role she escorted President Wilson back to New York on 6-8 July 1919. On 17 November she joined ComDesRon 3 in the Reserve. She came out of the reserve on 4 January 1921, and operated off the Atlantic Coast until she was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 5 July 1922.

USS Little (DD-79) at Brest, 27 October 1918 USS Little (DD-79) at Brest, 27 October 1918

Rear gun and depth charges, USS Little (DD-79), 25 October 1918
Rear gun and depth charges, USS Little (DD-79), 25 October 1918

Forward Gun of USS Little (DD-79), 23 October 1918
Forward Gun of USS Little (DD-79), 23 October 1918

In 1940 the Little was chosen for conversion into a high speed transport. She was redesignated as APD-4 on 2 August 1940, and recommissioned in her new role on 4 November 1940, with Lt. Commander K. Earl in command. In February 1941 she moved to the Caribbean for exercises with the Atlantic Fleet, and she then moved to San Diego, arriving on 9 March. After a spell of amphibious landing training she returned to Norfolk on 1 December 1941 for a spell in dry dock.

On 14 February 1942 the Little left Norfolk and moved to San Diego, as flagship of TransDiv 12. In April she took part in more amphibious landing exercises, and she then left for Pearl Habor. In June she visited Midway, before on 7 July she led for New Caledonia, to support the invasion of Guadalacanal.

On 7 August 1942 a largely US force landed on Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Florida Islands. However the unloading of supplies was disrupted by a Japanese naval attack (battle of Savo Island, 9 August 1942). Supplies soon began to ran short, and with the seas off Guadalcanal too dangerous for slower transports, the APDs came into their own. On 30 August the Little landed supplies at the main beachhead, but even this wasn't safe, and USS Calhoun (APD-2) was sunk by Japanese aircraft.

By this point both sides were reinforcing their troops on Guadalcanal at night. The Japanese efforts were the most famous, andbecame known as the 'Tokyo Express'. The Little was sunk early on 5 September after running into part of this force. On 4 September Little and USS Gregory (APD-3) were used to land a force of Marine raiders on Savo Island. The island turned out to be unoccupied by the Japanese, and so the marines were shipped back to Lunga Point. By this point it was very dark, and Commander Hugh W. Hadley, commander of the transport division, decided to spent the night off Lunga Point and return to Tulagi Harbor on the following morning.

At the same time three Japanese destroyers (Yudachi, Hatsuyuki and Murakumo) were in the area. Having landed their supplies and reinforcements, they moved up the coast to bombard the American bridgehead at Henderson Field. At about 1am observers on the Little saw the gun flashes from this bombardment, but assumed they came from a Japanese submarine. A Navy Catalina made the same mistake and dropped flares, but all this did was illuminate the two US fast transport. The two American transports were badly outgunned - the Japanese destroyers had seventeen 5in guns between them, the Little and the Gregory had been built with only four 4in guns each. Japanese gunfire disabled the Little by 1.15am and they then sailed between the two American ships and continued to fire on them. The Gregory sank at about 1.40am, but the Little remained afload for another two hours, eventually sinking on an even keel. Her commander when she was lost was Gus Brynolf Lofberg, who had taken command six months earlier, on 27 February 1942. USS Lofberg (DD-759) was named after him.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts design
34.81kts at 27,350shp at 1,236t on trial (Kimberly)


2 shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
27,000shp design


2,500nm at 20kts (design)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4.5in


30ft 11.5in


Four 4in/ 50 guns
Twelve 21in torpedo tubes in four triple mountings
Two 1-pounder AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement



11 November 1917


6 April 1918


5 September 1942

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

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 February 2017), USS Little (DD-79/ APD-2) ,

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