USS Montgomery (DD-121/ DM-17)

USS Montgomery (DD-121/ DM-17) was a Wickes class destroyer that saw service as the last few months of the First World War and as a fast mine layer during the Second World War.

The Montgomery was named after Brigadier General Richard Montgomery, a British soldier who had served under Wolfe at Quebec, but chose the American side in the War of Independence and was killed while leading an American attack on Quebec in December 1775.

The Montgomery was launched at Newport News Shipbuilding on 23 March 1918 and commissioned on 26 July 1918 with Lt Comdr W. R. Purnell in command. After a brief shakedown cruiser she entered service on 25 August 1918, beginning an anti-submarine patrol. For the rest of the war she was used for a mix of anti-submarine patrols and coastal escort duties.

Anyone who served on her between 1 August and 11 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

Radford (DD-120), Sproston (DD-173), Breese (DD-122), Badger (DD-126), Montgomery (DD-121)
Radford (DD-120), Sproston (DD-173), Breese (DD-122), Badger (DD-126), Montgomery (DD-121)
USS Montgomery (DM-17), c. 1930s
USS Montgomery (DM-17),
c. 1930s

At the start of 1919 the Montgomery took part in training exercises and fleet maneuvers, which took her to Cuba. She was then allocated to the new Pacific Fleet, and on 19 July 1919 left Hampton roads heading for the Pacific. She reached San Diego on 7 August and joined Destroyer Squadron 4, Pacific Fleet. Between then and the spring of 1922 she took part in fleet operations all the way along the coast, from Alaska to Panama. On 6 June 1922 she was decommissioned, and she spent the rest of the 1920s out of service.

On 5 January 1931 the Montgomery was redesignated as a fast minelayer, DM-17. She was recommissioned on 20 Augustu 1931, and in December she moved to her new base at Pearl Harbor. This second period of service lasted until 7 December 1937, when she decommissioned at San Diego.

The Montgomery was recommissioned once again on 25 September 1939. She remained on the west coast until December 1940, when she returned to Pearl Harbor.

The Montgomerywas moored in berth D-3 in the Middle Loch at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked, along with the rest of her division (Ramsay, Breese, Montgomery and Gamble). She opened fire with her machine guns and later with 3"/23 caliber guns (of which she carried two) and 4"/50 caliber guns. The division claimed two successes, and three possibles. By 8.45am the Montgomery was ready to get under way, and at 10.17am she and the rest of her division got underway. A hour later it began an anti-submarine patrol off the entrance to the harbour. At 15.14 she dropped eight depth charges on a sonar contact 3 miles from the entrance buoys. Later she ordered a sampan, the Shinyan Maru, to go into harbour. Early on 8 December she dropped five more depth charges on another contact. She continued to patrol outside the harbour entrance until 13 December, although made no more contacts.

On 11 April 1942 the Montgomery departed from Pearl Harbor. She spent the next sixteen months mainly supporting operations in the Solomon Islands, performing a mix of escort and minelaying duties.

In May-June 1942 she laid defensive minefields around Efate, working with the Ramsay (DM-16/ DD-124)

On 22 September 1942 the Montgomery and the Ramsay arrived at Adak, in the Aleutians, from where they laid mines as part of the operations to retake Attu and Kiska. She left the Aleutians on 12 November.

On the night of 24-25 August 1943 the Montgomery collided with the light minelayer Preble (DM-20/ DD-345), while laying mines off Guadalcanal. The Montgomery lost 20 feet off her bow and had to return to Tulagi and Espiritu Santo for temporary repairs, before heading to San Francisco for more permanent work. She arrived at San Francisco on 19 October and was ready to return to active duty by December.

Between 8 December 1943 and 5 February 1944 she escorted two convoys from San Francisco to Hawaii. From 17 March-4 April she laid a defensive minefield around Kwajalein. In May 1944 she escorted a convoy to Majuro. On 25 June 1944 she attacked a possible submarine, although without any visible results. Between 28 June and 16 July 1944 she escorted a convoy to Eniwetok.

On 6 September 1944 she got underway to take part in the invasion of the Palau Islands. On 12 September she arrived off Peleliu, where she was used to destroy mines that minesweepers had detached from the Japanese densive minefields. On 17 September she provided part of the screen for the landings on Anguar. She then move to Ulithi for more mine destruction work. From Ulithi she moved south-west to the small atoll of Ngulu, south-west of Yap. She bombarded the atoll on 15 October and then acted as the support vessel for smaller minelayers that took part in the occupation of Ngulu.

The Montgomery formed part of Task Unit 32.9.3 during this operation, along with USS Hamilton (DMS-18), USS Hovey (DMS-11) and USS Long (DMS-12). The task unit was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation for its actions at Anguar, Peleliu and the Kossol Passage between 12-15 September 1944.

On 17 October the Montgomery was hit by a mine. The explosion flooded both of her engine rooms and one of the fire rooms. Four men were killed. She was kept afloat, and towed to Ulithi for repairs. By 12 January 1945 she was capable of moving under her own power, and she made her way back to San Francisco, arriving on 14 February. However the effort was rather wasted, and it was decided to decommission the aging destroyer. She was decommissioned on 23 April 1945 and sold on 11 March 1946.

The Montgomery earned four battle stars during the Second World War, for Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, the Western Caroline Islands and New Georgia.

Displacement (standard)

1,160t (design)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts (design)
35.34kts at 24,610shp at 1,149t on trial (Wickes)


2 shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
24,200shp (design)


3,800nm at 15kts on trial (Wickes)
2,850nm at 20kts on trial (Wickes)


314ft 4in


30ft 11in

Armaments (as built)

Four 4in/50 guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple tubes
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement



23 March 1918


26 July 1918


23 April 1945

Sold for scrap

11 March 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 (9 August 2017), USS Montgomery (DD-121/ DM-17) ,

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