USS Roper (DD-147/ APD-20)

USS Roper (DD-147/ APD-20) was a Wickes class destroyer that sank U-85, before becoming a fast transport that served in the Mediterranean and Pacific theatres.

The Roper was named after Jesse M. Roper, a US Naval Officer who was killed while attempting to rescue a trapped seaman during a fire on USS Petrel on 31 March 1901.

The Roper was laid down at Cramp on 19 March 1918, launched on 17 August 1918 and commissioned on 15 February 1919. She was immediately allocated to the US forces in the Mediterranean, and arrived off Constantinople at the start of July 1919. For the next month she worked with the Peace Commission and Relief Committee in the Black Sea, carrying mail and passengers between Constantinople, Novorossisk, Batum, Samsun and Trebizond. After a month she departed for the US, reaching New York on 20 August.

USS Roper (DD-147) seen from above
USS Roper (DD-147)
seen from above

At the end of August 1919 the Roper departed for her new base at San Diego, on the West Coast, where she remained until July 1921, when she left San Francisco to move to the Asiatic Fleet.

The Roper reached her new base at Cavite, in the Philippines, on 23 August 1921 and remained there until December. She then moved to Chinese waters, and was based at Hong Kong and Chefoo until the summer of 1922, when she departed for San Francisco, arriving on 13 October after visits to Nagasaki, Midway and Pearl Harbor. She was decommissioned at San Diego on 14 December 1922.

The Roper was recommissioned on 18 March 1930. She joined the Pacific fleet, and was mainly based in southern California, moving between active and rotating reserve status. She also visited Panama, Hawaii and the Caribbean and took part in the fleet problems in 1931, 1933, 1935 and 1936. In January-February 1936 she operated in Alaskan waters.

In February 1937 the Roper joined the Atlantic Fleet. From then until 1939 she mainly took part in exercises of the East Coast and the annual exercises in the Caribbean. She also took part in the 1939 midshipman summer cruiser (with Decatur (DD-341), Claxton (DD-140), Fairfax (DD-93), Simpson (DD-221) and Babbitt (DD-128).

In November-December 1939, after the outbreak of the Second World War, the Roper moved to Key West, where she was used to patrol the Yucatan Channel and the Florida Straits. She was based at Norfolk from December-January 1940, then at Charleston from January-March, then in March she joined the New England Patrol.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the Roper was at see off Cape Cod. She moved to Argentia, and in February 1942 crossed the Atlantic escorting a convoy to Londonderry (HX-169), arriving on 21 February.

In March 1942 the Roper began a period of patrol duties off the Norfolk area. On 31 March she rescued 70 survivors from the City of New York, sunk by U-160 on 29 March.

Kamikaze damage on USS Roper (APD-20)
Kamikaze damage on USS Roper (APD-20)

On the night of 13-14 April she found U-85 on the surface off North Carolina. After opening fire on the surfaced sub, she dropped depth charges as she submerged, and destroyed her. Some of the crew from U-85 are buried at Hampton National Cemetery.

From May 1942 until February 1943 the Roper escorted convoys between Key West and New York. Between February and October 1943 she escorted convoys between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, supporting the fighting in North Africa.

In October-November 1943 the Roper was converted into a fast transport at Charleston, becoming APD-20. Her training lasted into 1944, before on 13 April she departed for the Mediterranean, where she joined Transport Division 13, part of the 8th Fleet, at Oran. On 17 June 1944 she landed French troops on Pianosa, an island off the coast of Tuscany. Between June and July she operated on the route between Oran and Naples. In August she took part in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the south of France. On 15 August, as part of 'Sitka Force' she landed troops on Levant Island, off the coast east of Toulon. In September-December she returned to the Oran-Naples route, before departing for the US in early December 1944.

At the end of January 1945 the Roper departed for the Pacific. She reached Nakagusuku Wan, on the southern coast of Okinawa on 22 May, and moved to the Hagushi anchorage. On 25 May, while performing screening duties at Hagushi, she was hit by a kamikaze. This caused enough damage to force her to return to the United States for repairs, although not before she sent a party to help save the USS Barry (DD-248), also hit on the same day. She left on 6 June and reached San Pedro in July. She moved to Mare Island for repairs in August, but these were cancelled at the end of the war. The Roper was decommissioned on 15 September 1945, struck off on11 October 1945 and sold for scrap.

The Roper earned four battle stars during the Second World War for sinking U-85 on 14 April 1942, operations off the West Coast of Italy, the Invasion of the South of France and Okinawa.

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



19 March 1918


17 August 1918


15 September 1945

Struck off

11 October 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 (4 December 2017), USS Roper (DD-147/ APD-20) ,

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