USS Nicholas (DD-311)

USS Nicholas (DD-311) was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the Pacific Fleet, before being lost during the Honda Point disaster of 8 September 1923.

The Nicholas was named after Samuel Nicholas, the first man to receive in a commission in the Marines from the Continental Congress during the War of Independence.

USS Nicholas (DD-311), San Francisco Bay 1923 USS Nicholas (DD-311), San Francisco Bay 1923

The Nicholas was laid down by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corps at San Francisco on  11 January 1919 and launched on 1 May 1919, when she was sponsored by Miss Edith Barry. She was commissioned on 23 November 1920.

The future Admiral William M. Callaghan helped to fit out the Nicholas while she was still at the Bethlehem Yard, then served as her first engineering officer from 23 November 1920 until 4 January 1921, when he moved to the Dent (DD-116).

The Nicholas was assigned to Reserve Destroyer Divisions of the Pacific Fleet, and left for her new base at San Diego on 17 December 1920. She spent most of 1922 in the San Diego area with a reduced complement.

At the start of 1923 the Nicolas joined Destroyer Squadron 11, and departed for the Canal Zone on 6 February 1923 to take part in Fleet Problem I, a mock attack on the Panama Canal. After taking part in the fleet exercises she returned to San Diego on 11 April. The Nicholas then moved north, cruising along the coast of Washington State from 25 June to 31 August. On 27 July she was part of the escort for President Warren Harding as he arrived at Seattle after a cruise in northern waters. This was meant to have been part of a much larger cruise around the coast of the Americas, but Harding was now seriously ill and died a few days later. August was taken up with squadron exercises alongside Battleship Division 3.

On 8 September the Nicholas departed for her home port along with most of her squadron. At 21.00 the squadron leader, USS Delphy turned east to enter the Santa Barbara Channel, but in the poor visibility she turned too soon, and a few minutes later she ran ashore of Point Pedernales, better know as Honda Point. Six more destroyers, including the Nicholas, ran ashore after her. The Nicholas was pushed back onto the rocks, and came to a half with her stern lifted up, and listing by 25 degrees to starboard. Her crew spent the night attempting to save the ship, but by the morning it was clear that she couldn’t be saved, and her captain issued the order to abandon ship. The entire crew got ashore safely.

USS Nicholas (DD-311) at Honda Point USS Nicholas (DD-311) at Honda Point

The Nicholas was clearly beyond saving, and she was decommissioned on 26 October 1923 and struck off on 20 November. Her wreckage was eventually sold to Robert J. Smith of Oakland on 19 October 1925, but he was only able to salvage some of her equipment.

-8 September 1923: Lt Commander Herbert Roesch

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

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


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


2,500nm at 20kts (design)


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



1 May 1919


23 November 1920

Lost at Honda Point

8 September 1923

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.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (11 November 2020), USS Nicholas (DD-311) ,

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