USS Palmer (DD-161/ DMS-5)

USS Palmer (DD-161/ DMS-5) was a Wickes class destroyer that served as a mine sweeper during the Second World War, taking part in Operation Torch then in the Pacific where she was sunk by a Japanese bomber.

The Palmer was named after James Shedden Palmer, a US naval officer during the Mexican War and the American Civil War, who died in 1867 with the rank of Rear Admiral.

The Palmer was laid down by the Fore River Shipbuilding Co of Quincy Mass on 29 May 1918, launched on 18 August 1918 and commissioned on 22 November 1918. In 1919 she supported the transatlantic flight of the Navy Curtiss flying boat NC-4, taking up a station close to the US, next to the Boggs (DD-136) and Ward (DD-139). She joined the Pacific Fleet, where she took part in normal fleet operations until she was decommissioned at San Diego on 31 May 1922.

The Palmer wasn't recommissioned until 7 August 1940, when she was converted into a minesweeper. She was redesignated as DMS-5 on 19 November 1940. She then joined Mine Division 19, based at Norfolk, but focused on normal escort duties in the Atlantic and Caribbean. At the start of 1942 she was the flagship of Train Squadron Five. Between August 1940 and January 1942 she was commanded by Victor Blue, who was killed on 13 November 1942 while serving as the navigator on the cruiser USS Juneau (CL-52), lost during the naval battle of Guadalcanal.

In 1942 the Palmer joined the fleet that crossed the Atlantic to support Operation Torch. She was part of TF 34, and departed on 24 October 1942. On 7 November she arrived off Fedala, and carried out a sweep for mines, then joined the anti-submarine screen. On 8 November, the day of the invasion, she captured the French trawler Joseph Elise, and provided fire support, engaging a French shore battery. She remained off North Africa until 12 December, performing a mix of escort and patrol duties.

USS Palmer (DD-151) from the air, c.1919-21
USS Palmer (DD-151)
from the air, c.1919-21

In 1943 she returned to convoy escort duties, operating in the Caribbean, north-western Atlantic and along the US coast.

In 1944 she moved to the Pacific, joining FF 53 at Pearl Harbor early in the year. On 22 January 1944 she set sail to take part in the attack on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, where she remained on 12 February.

After escorting vessels to Pearl Harbor and Majuro, she was back at the front for the invasion of Saipan in the Mariana islands. She carried out a five hour mine sweeping operation on 13 June, then supported the troop transports during the invasion itself on 15 June. She was away from the fleet, at Eniwetok, during the battle of the Philippine sea, but then returned to Saipan to form part of the screen around the invasion fleet from 22 June to 8 July.

The Palmer arrived at Guam on 22 July, the day after the invasion, and spent five days screening the transport ships off Apra.

She then joined the force preparing for  the invasion of the Philippines. She arrived at Leyte Gulf on 17 Octonber and spent three days sweeping the main sea channels and transport areas. She then helped escort the transports through the safe channels before the invasion itself. She took part in a brief minesweeping sortie into the Surigao Strait, and then returned to Manus on 23 October, thus missing the battle of Leyte Gulf.

On 7 January 1945 the Palmer entered Lingayen Gulf and began minesweeping operations. At 1545 an explosion knocked out her port low pressure turbine. She withdrew to begin repairs, but at 1840 she was attacked by a twin-engined bomber that hit her with two bombs. These caused a fire that threatened the magazines, and the destroyer sank in only six minutes. Despite the speed of her loss, only around a quarter of the crew were killed - officially two dead and twenty six missing, and another thirty eight were wounded. 94 survivors were picked up by the Hopkins (DD-249). Two other DMS minesweepers, the Hovey and the Long were also sunk during these operations.

The Palmer earned five battle starts during the Second World War, for Operation Torch, the Marshall Islands, the Marianas, Leyte and Luzon.

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)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4in


30ft 11in

Armaments (as built)

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

Crew complement



18 August 1918


22 November 1918

Sunk by air attack

7 January 1945

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 (13 February 2018), USS Palmer (DD-161/ DMS-5) ,

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