USS Phelps (DD-360)

USS Phelps (DD-360) was a Porter class destroyer that fought at the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, the invasion of Guadalcanal, the invasion of Attu in the Aleutians, the invasion of the Marshall Islands and Saipan, before ending the war on escort duty in the Atlantic. 

The Phelps was named after Thomas Stowell Phelps, who served in the US Navy from 1840-84, taking part in the capture of Fort Fisher in 1865.

The Phelps was laid down by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corps at Quincy, Mass, on 2 Januuary 1934, and launched on NN 1935. She underwent trials off Rockland, Maine, in December 1935, without her main guns installed. She was commissioned on 26 February 1936.

Stern of USS Phelps (DD-360), Mare Island, 1942 Stern of USS Phelps (DD-360), Mare Island, 1942

The Phelps was allocated to the Pacific Fleet, serving with the Scouting Force. One of her early commanders was Albert H. Rooks, who was killed at the battle of the Sunda Strait (1 March 1942) when serving as captain og the cruiser USS Houston (CA-30).

She was based at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941. She was in a next of destroyers all alongside the destroyer tender USS Dobbin, and was between the Dewey and the MacDonough. She was receiving steam, electricity and water from the Dobbin. Her forward 1.1in gun opened fire at 0802, only four minutes after she went to general quarters, but the rear 1.1in gun was in the middle of an overhaul, so didn’t get into action until 0815. Her first two boilers were lit at 0825, and she was underway at 0926. During the battle she claimed to have shot down one Japanese aircraft which flew past at short range and was hit by fire from the forward 1.1in gun, and to have probably hit two other aircraft which flew past the rear gun. By 0950 she was out of the harbour, and began to hunt for submarines outside the harbour.  

In February-March 1942 the Phelps operated with the Lexington (CV-2), mainly in the waters around Port Moresby, New Guinea. She was present at the battle of the Coral Sea (4-8 May 1942), where she was close to the Lexington when she came under heavy air attack on 8 May. The Phelps suffered no casualties, but then had to help sink the Lexington on 8 May after she was crippled by air attack.

After the battle she returned to Pearl Harbor, where she was photographed in late May, just before departing to take part in the battle of Midway.

The Phelps took part in the battle of Midway, helping to screen the US carriers. She formed part of Admiral Spruance’s Task Force 16 (Enterprise and Hornet).

From June 1942 to August 1943 Elmo R. Zumwalt served on her. He later went on to become the younger four-star Admiral in US naval history and the youngest man to serve as Chief of Naval Operations.

In August 1942 she took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal. She was part of the Air Support Force (Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes), and formed part of the escort for the Saratoga.

On 12 September she departed from Tonga as part of Task Force 11 (Admiral Frank Fletcher), which was heading for Pearl Harbor with the damaged battleship South Dakota and carrier Saratoga. The force arrived on 22 September.

Bow of USS Phelps (DD-360), Mare Island, 1942 Bow of USS Phelps (DD-360), Mare Island, 1942

In October 1942 she returned to the US West Coast and underwent an overhaul at the Mare Island Navy Yard. Photographs of the changes made show her with extra anti-aircraft guns and changes to her radar equipment. On 11 December she was photographed off San Francisco, suggesting her overhaul had been completed.

In 1943 she moved to the Aleutians. Before moving north she took part in large scale amphibious landing exercises in March 1943, including a daylight landing on San Clemente Island in which she took part in a practice bombardment with live ammo.

In May 1943 she supported the landings on Attu, where she was part of the Support Group of Task Force Roger (the Attack Force). This force included three battleships and seven destroyers. During the landings it was split into two, and the Phelps was part of the Northern Force. She acted as the northern control vessel and at 0927 on 11 May led eight landing craft in to Beach Red to land scouts. She then patrolled off the beaches while a decision was being made about where to land. At 1410 she led 29 landing craft to the beach, and at 1540 she led in another six. Later that evening she searched for any empty transports lost in the fog and was able to find 26 of them. On 12 May Beach Red came under Japanese artillery fire. The Phelps was ordered to attack any suitable targets in the Chichagof area. She performed a similar fire support role on 13 May. On 14 May she was used to support the troops fighting in the Holtz Bay area, firing 677 rounds of 5in ammo. On 17 May she bombarded targets in Holtz Bay once again. On the following day the northern and southern forces met up, and the first stage of the battle was considered to be over. Most of the fleet was to withdraw, but the Phelps was one of three destroyers that were to remain to provide fire support. On 22 May she was patrolling off Holtz Bay (with the 6in gunboat USS Charleston) when a force of 12-18 Mitsubishi Type 01 G4m Betty twin-engined heavy bombers attacked. Six attacked the Charleston, and 6-12 the Phelps. They dropped torpedoes, but none hit. The raid had been detected when 74 miles out, but neither ship had picked up the warming message. The Phelps carried out one final bombardment, firing 426 rounds of 5in ammo on 24 May, then departed for Adak.

In August she bombarded Kiska. On 2 August she was part of Task Group King, which bombarded North Head and the Japanese submarine base. Between then and 15 August the Phelps and other destroyers carried out ten bombardments. The Phelps also took part in a bombardment carried out by Task Group Baker on 12 August. The landings took place on 15 August, and only then was it realised that the Japanese had already evacuated the island.

She then moved south to join the main fleet.

USS Phelps (DD-360) off New York Navy Yard, 1945 USS Phelps (DD-360) off New York Navy Yard, 1945

In November 1943 she provided gunfire support during the landings at Makin Atoll.

On 25 January 1944 she took part in the rescue efforts when fifteen men were blown overboard by a fire on the Sangamon, caused by a crash landing in which the belly tank of an F6F came off and caused a massive fire. Thirteen of the men were rescued by three destroyers.

She was part of the force that raided Kwajalein, Maloelap and Wotje on 29-30 January 1944, sinking the Japanese cargo ship Katsura Maru at Eniwetok on 30 January.

At the start of 1944 she took part in the invasion of the Marshall Islands. On 31 January she was the control ship for the landing craft and LVTs during the invason of Albert (Ennumennet), the second island to the south of Namur in Kwakalein Atoll. The landings were rather chaotic, not helped by the Phelps being called away for a shore bombardment mission at a key moment. However once the troops were actually on the island it only took 20 minutes to defeat the garrison of only ten men.

In February 1944 she bombarded Kwajalein and Eniwetok.

On 18 February she carried out a shore bombardment of Engebi, to support the landings on the island, the first stage in the invasion of Eniwetok.

On 15 February 1944 she was credited with helping to sink the submarine RO-40, alongside the minesweeper Sage (AM-111) and the destroyer MacDonough (DD-351).

In March she helped protect the tankers that supported a carrier strike on the Palau Islands.

In June 1944 she bombarded Saipan to support the US troops fighting on the island. She was hit by Japanese coastal gunfire on 18 June and 20 June.

She then moved back the United States, where she had her armament changed at Charleston to prepare her for convoy escort duties. She left Charleston early in November.

In November 1944 she left Norfolk, Virginia, as part of the escort of a convoy heading to Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria. She helped escort four convoys to the Mediterranean, returning to New York after the final trip on 10 June 1945. She operated along the east coast, and was photographed at Casco Bay, Maine on 9 August.

The Phelps was decommissioned on 6 November 1945, struck off on 28 January 1947 and sold for scrap.

Phelps received twelve battle stars for World War II service, for Pearl Harbor, the Bougainville and Salamaua-Lae raids of 1942, the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, the invasion of Guadalcanal, the battle of the Eastern Solomons, the occupation of Attu, the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, the Palau raid of 1944, the invasion of Saipan and sinking the Japanese submarine Ro-40

Displacement (standard)

1,850t (design)

Displacement (loaded)

2,131t (design)

Top Speed

37kts design
38.19kts at 51,127shp at 2,123t on trial (Porter)
38.17kts at 47,271shp at 2,190t on trial (Porter)

Engine

2-shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
50,000shp design

Range

7,800nm at 12kts design
8,710nm at 15kts at 2,157t on trial (Porter)
6,380nm at 12kts at 2,700t wartime
4,080nm at 15kts at 2,700t wartime

Length

381ft 0.5in

Width

36ft 10in

Armaments

Eight 5in/38 SP in four twin mounts
Eight 21in torpedoes in two quad mounts
Eight 1.1in AA guns in four twin mounts
Two 0.50in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement

206

Laid down

2 January 1934

Launched

18 July 1935

Commissioned

26 February 1936

Sold for scrap

c.1947

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 (27 October 2021), USS Phelps (DD-360) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Phelps_DD360.html

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