USS Marcus (DD-321)

USS Marcus (DD-321) was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the Pacific Fleet during the 1920s, before probably becoming a bombing target in 1930 and being sunk by gunfire in 1935.

The Marcus was named after Lt Arnold Marcus, who was fatally wounded by an explosion onboard his submarine USS A-7 in Manila Bay July 1917. He was the commander of the submarine, and was the last to leave the ship, after making sure that his crew had been safely evacuated. His mother, Lady Popham-Young, gave a portrait of Marcus to the new ship. This was a popular choice, and her naming ceremony made the news in papers across the US.

USS Marcus (DD-321) being Launched USS Marcus (DD-321) being Launched

The Marcus was laid down by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corps at San Francisco on 20 May 1919, launched on 22 August 1919 when she was sponsored by Mrs. Arnold Marcus, widow of Lieutenant Marcus and commissioned on  23 February 1921. She was reported to be the fiftieth destroyer launched in the ‘new naval program’, although it isnt’ at all clear what that actually means, as far more flush-deck destroyers of the wartime programme had been launched by the summer of 1919. She was also the fifty-third destroyer to be launched at the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp’s Union plant.

Some of her crew came from the Woolsey (DD-77), a destroyer that was lost off the coast of Central America on 26 February 1921 while returning from naval exercises.

In October 1920 the Marcus, Mervine, Chase, Robert Smith and Mullany were allocated to Destroyer Division 45, part of Destroyer Squadron 13 of Flotilla No.2. However in the following year this was renumbered as Destroyer Division 35.

In December 1921 the Marcus moved from San Diego to San Pedro to enter the dry dock.

Her commander for a year from September 1922 was Walden L. Ainsworth, who later rose to command a series of Destroyer and Cruiser forces in the Pacific during the Second World War.

At the start of June 1922 she took part in large scale torpedo exercises which involved twenty destroyers and the battleship squadron. The Marcus spent most of July and August 1922 operating with the Battle Fleet in the waters around Puget Sound, before returning to San Diego late in August.

In February 1923 she was one of the ships listed as taking part in naval exercises in the Caribbean, and whose mail should be sent to New Orleans. This was Fleet Problem I, the first of a long series of annual fleet exercises that usually involved both the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets.

At the start of September 1923 Destroyer Division 35 (Marcus, Mervine, Selfridge (DD-320), Mullany and Chase) visited Humboldt Bay in Northern California, to take part in the convention of the American Legion, which was taking part in Eureka, the largest community on the bay. 

Fitting out Clemson Class Destroyers, Bethlehem, San Francisco Fitting out Clemson Class Destroyers, Bethlehem, San Francisco

On 8 September 1923 the Marcus was caught up in the Honda Point disaster, in which seven Clemson class destroyers were lost after running aground. The Marcus also ran aground, but had slowed down enough to avoid serious damage. However some rivets were loosened near the bow by the collision and some of the machinery was damaged by water that got in when gaps opened up between some of her hull plates while she was backing off the sand. She went into the dry dock at San Diego on 14 September for repairs.

In October 1923 Roy Coleman, a clerk in her paymaster’s office, was arrested at San Pedro and was suspected of stealing $2,000 that had gone missing from the paymaster’s safe. At the time of his arrest he was in civilian clothes, but the money wasn’t found on him.

At the end of December 1923 the Marcus was sent out to sea to try and find the missing fishing boat Fugisano, owned by a local Swedish fisherman William Swanson. By the time the Marcus found her, the Fugisano had been adrift with her engines disabled for twelve days, and the Marcus towed her into San Diego late on 31 December 1923.

In February-March 1924 she took part in Fleet Problems II, III and IV, which included an attack on the Panama Canal and a voyage west across the Pacific. After these exercises the Pacific Fleet paid a series of visits to ports around the Caribbean and US east coasts. The Selfridge and the Marcus were allocated to Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas. The Marcus finally returned to San Diego at the start of October, after a four month absence. On Navy Day, 27 October 1924, the Marcus and the Selfridge visited Port San Luis.

In April-July 1925 she took part in exercises at Hawaii, possibly including Fleet Problem V and certainly involving a joint Army-Navy exercise that followed it. She was then allocated to the large fleet that paid a goodwill visit to Australia and New Zealand, and was scheduled to visit Wellington.

The Marcus was at San Francisco for the Independence Day celebrations on 4 July 1926.

In March-April 1927 she took part in Fleet Problem VII, another mock attack on the Panama Canal. In May 1927 the 35th Destroyer Division was ordered to Nicaraguan waters, but the Chase, Marcus and Mullany were sent for their regular overhaul instead.

The Marcus was part of a large fleet that took part in the Navy Day celebrations at San Diego on 27 October 1926.

The Marcus and the Chase were at Mare Island for the Independence Day celebrations on 4 July 1927.

USS Marcus (DD-321) at high speed USS Marcus (DD-321) at high speed

In February 1928 the Marcus took part in the rescue efforts after a Vought UO observation aircraft from the Omaha (CL-4) crashed into the sea while spotting torpedoes during exercises. The Marcus reached the site of the crash while the wreckage was still on the surface, but found no sign of either crewman. The aircraft sank before it could be salvaged.

In the summer of 1928 she was part of Destroyer Division 35 (Marcus, Mervine, Mullany, Selfridge, Chase and Robert Smith). This division was used to take naval reservists from southern California on a training cruise to Honolulu and back, then in late July departed from Puget Sound to join the battle fleet which was carrying out manoeuvres in northern waters.

In May 1929 she moved form San Pedro to Mare Island.

By 1929 it was clear that the Yarrow boilers used in many Clemson class destroyers were badly worn, including those in the Marcus. She was thus chosen as one of thirty four destroyers that were to be decommissioned and her crew swapped to an almost unused destroyer from the reserve. She was decommissioned at San Diego on 31 May 1930.

She was used as a target ship for bomber training soon after being decommissioned, as the Aroostook (Id.No.1256) is recorded to have acted as a tender for training aircraft using her as a bombing target at some point between 13 June-3 December 1930. On 30 September 1930 it was reported that she and the Sloat (DD-316) were to be used as targets for aircraft from the USS Lexington off Los Coronados Islands. She was to be attacked every day from 6 October 1930 until sunk, but this part of the plan was clearly abandoned as she survived for another five years!

USS Marcus (DD-321) fitting out USS Marcus (DD-321) fitting out

The Navy announced that they were going to have another go at the Marcus and Sloat in May 1933, once again using them as targets for live bombs, although this time they expected them to be badly damaged or sunk, clearly having learnt from the previous experiences.

The Marcus was eventually sunk by gunfire on 25 June 1935.

Commander Harry J. Abbott: January 1922-
Lt Commander Robert M. Griffen: September 1923-

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



22 August 1919


23 February 1921

Sunk by gunfire

25 June 1935

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 (19 January 2021), USS Marcus (DD-321) ,

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