USS Selfridge (DD-357)

USS Selfridge (DD-357) was a Porter class destroyer that fought at Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Vella Lavella and the invasion of the Marianas before moving to the Atlantic to escort convoys heading to Tunisia.

According to the US Navy’s dictionary of American Fighting Ships the Selfridge was named after both Rear-Admiral Thomas Selfridge, who served in the Mexican War and at the start of the American Civil War and his son Thomas O. Selfridge, who served throughout the Civil War. However a photograph of the ship’s own data plaque only mentions Rear-Admiral Selfridge.

The Selfridge was laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Corp on 18 December 1933, launched on 18 April 1936 and commissioned on 25 November 1936. Her shakedown cruise took her to the Mediterranean in January-February 1937. She returned to the US East Coast, where she had a post-shakedown overhaul. In September she escorted President Roosevelt to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She then briefly got underway for her new home base on the West Coast, but was recalled in November to escort the President once again. On 9 December 1937 she finally departed for her new base. She joined the Battle Force on 13 December, becoming flagship of Destroyer Squadron 4, and reached San Diego on 22 December.

USS Selfridge (DD-357) from above, 1944 USS Selfridge (DD-357) from above, 1944

The Selfridge was based on the west coast until 1940 when she was moved to Pearl Harbor. The Selfridge was normally the flagship of DesRon 4, but the commander and his staff moved to the Jarvis just before the attack when the Selfridge was sent on a special escort mission to Palmyra Isalnd.

On the morning of 7 December 1941 the Selfridge had just returned to Pearl Harbor after the mission to Palmyra Island. She was moored at the outer end of a nest of destroyers, next to the Case, Reid, Tucker, Cumming and Whitney. As a result of being on active service, ready boxes of ammo were close to her machine guns and all of her guns were ready for use. As a result her .50in guns opened fire at 0758 and her 1.1in guns soon afterwards, and she was probably the first ship in her area to open fire. In her after action report her CO reported four possible victories, including one that was seen to be hit by .50in fire and three that were under fire from the Selfridge when they were shot down. A total of 850 rounds of 1.1in and 2,340 rounds of .50in ammo were fired. No casualties were suffered on the Selfridge. It took until 1300 to find a mixed crew to take her to sea, and she then joined the forces patrolling off Oahu.

For the rest of December she operated with the Saratoga, taking part in the failed attempt to rescue the garrison of Wake Island.

1942

The Selfridge operated with the Saratoga until the carrier was hit by a torped 500 miles to the south-west of Oahu on 11 January. She then screened the damaged carrier as she returned to Pearl Harbor.

On 20 January the Selfridge and Helm (DD-388) left Pearl Harbor to escort the merchant ship Hualalai on a mission to rescue Department of the Interior workers from Howland and Baker Islands. The small convoy reached Canton Island on 27 January, and the Helm then went on to Howland and Baker Islands, picking up six men on 31 January. On 30 September, while the Helm was on her mission, the Selfridge depth charged a possible submarine. On 4 February the Helm rejoined the Selfridge and Hualalai at Canton, and they reached Pearl Harbor on 6 February.

On 9 February the Selfridge left Pearl Harbor to help escort the Saratoga back to Bremerton for repairs. In early March 1942 she was photographed at Mare Island in the style normally used for ships that have just been overhauled. In mid-March she returned to Hawaii as part of the escort for a west bound convoy. Late in the month she escorted ships carrying supplies to Canton Island.

In April the Selfridge carried Marines and mail to Palmyra and Christmas Islands, before moving to Bora Bora in the Society Islands, where she joined the forces escorting convoys to Samoa and Tonga.

On 21 May she left Tonga heading for the New Hebrides then Australia, where she joined Task Force 44 and carried out coastal escort duties. This role lasted into July.

In July she moved to Fiji to prepare for Operation Watchtower, the invasion of Guadalcanal. She was allocated to TG 62.2, the screening group for the transports. The group arrived off Guadcanal early on 7 August. At 0620 the Selfridge fired on a small gasoline carrier entering Tulagi harbour. She then helped screen the transports as the Marines landed on Guadalcanal. On 8 August she continued with that role, and also rescued two Japanese airmen shot down during a noon raid.

On the night of 8-9 August the Selfridge was one of the three destroyers and five destroyer-minesweepers that formed the screen for the transport ships still anchored off Guadalcanal, and was carrying Captain Cornelius W. Flynn, the commander of DesRon Four. That night the Japanese attacked the rather badly scattered US and Australian naval forces around Savo Island, and inflicted a heavy defeat on them. The Selfridge missed the battle itself, but she picked up a message from Admiral Crutchley soon after 2am, and mis-understood it as an order to concentrate to the north-west of Savo Island (it was actually to concentrate on the Australia, west of the transport area off Guadalcanal). As she moved north-west she passed signs of the battle, including the cruiser Astoria on fire. She was joined by several other destroyers, but was then ordered back to the transport area.

As she was returning to the transport area the Selfridge was ordered to support the crippled cruiser HMAS Canberra. She reached the cruiser at 0640, and found the Patterson evacuating her crew. The Selfridge was then ordered to sink Canberra, but four torpedoes (only one of which exploded near the Canberra and 263 rounds of 5in fire failed to do so, and the Ellet (DD-398) had to finish her off. The Selfridge remained off Guadalcanal until the evening, when she left to help escort the transport ships back to Noumea.

For the rest of August the Selfridge and the rest of TF-44 screened the carriers of the air support group, before on 31 August they departed for Brisbane.

The Selfridge spent the next nine months operating with TF-44 based on the Australian east coast, although she often operated to the north, helping to guard against any Japanese attempt to move ships around the eastern top of Papua New Guinea to reach Port Moresby and supporting shipping moving Allies troops and supplies to Papua.

On 11 September the Selfridge, Bagley, Henley and Helm were sent to Milne Bay to intercept two Japanese destroyers. They spent the night of 11-12 September searching for the Japanese but without success, then rejoined TF-44.

1943

In May 1943 the Selfridge was moved from TF-44 to the main 3rd Fleet, and on 12 May she reached her new base at Noumea. During the summer she operated with the cruisers of TF-36 and TF-37, and took part in exercises with TF-34, TF-38 and TF-39.

In late September she moved back into the combat zone, escorting a convoy of LSTs to Vella Lavella, at the western end of the New Georgia group. By this point the Americans had cleared New Georgia, and the Japanese had decided that they could no longer hold on to Vella Lavella and were preparing to evacute the remaining troops.

USS Selfridge (DD-357) from the left USS Selfridge (DD-357) from the left

On the night of 6-7 October the Japanese sent a force of three destroyer transports and 20 smaller transports, escorted by six destroyers, to evacuate the last troops on the island of Vella Lavella. This force was detected by the Americans, but they only had three destroyers - Selfridge, O'Bannon, and Chevalier – in the right place, patrolling to the north of Vella Lavella. Three more were detached from a convoy in an attempt to join them, but failed to arrive in time. As a result Captain Frank Walker, the commander of Destroyer Squadron 4, had to fight the Japanese with only three. He was embarked on the Selfridge during the battle.
 
The resulting battle didn’t really reflect well on either side. On the American side an attempt to reinforce the three destroyers north of Vella Lavella failed, leaving them to face a large force alone. As a result the Chevalier was hit by a torpedo that detonated her forward magazine, blowing off the area in front of the bridge. The O’Bannon rammed the Chevalier, which was now dead in the water. The Selfridge continued to attack despite Walker believing he was outnumbered by nine to one, before she was also hit by a Japanese torpedo. The Selfridge lost most of her bows, and photographs from just aafter the battle show the wreckage of her forward twin guns handing off the front of the remains of the ship. On the Japanese side the main problem was that their spotter aircraft kept exaggerating the size of the American forces, so Rear Admiral Ijuin believed he faced a force of cruisers and destroyers. In reality Ijuin still had five destroyers with which to face the three US reinforcements coming in from the south, but he believed them to be cruisers and withdrew. Both sides claimed victory in the battle – Walker claimed to have sunk three destroyers rather the one his force actually managed while Ijuin claimed two cruisers and three destroyers (having sunk one and damaged two destroyers). However the Japanese transport ships had reached Vella Lavella and evacuated the remaining 589 troops on the island, so could realistically claim victory.  This was the last surface victory for the Japanese Navy during the war. The Selfridge lost 13 dead, 36 missing (presumed dead) and 11 wounded in the battle.

The Japanese torpedo detonated close to frame 40, and the ship was cut in two at that point, with the bow section floating away to the starboard. However her engines were intact, and she was put into full reverse until she was heading backwards to reduce pressure on the remaining watertight bulkheads. Impressively it only took 40 minutes to carry out enough repairs to allow her to get underway, and she headed for Pervis Bay, 120 miles away, under her own power (although only at ten knots). 

Once she was at Purvis Bay the Selfridge was given temporary repairs by the Aristaeus (ARB-1). This included reinforcing her bulkheads and giving her a very short temporary bow just in front of the bridge. This work was completed by 23 November, when she departed for Noumea, New Caledonia, arriving on 1 December.

At Noumea she went into the floating drydock ARD-2, where more work was done on the temporary bow, to complete it below the waterline.

1944

Once the temporary bow had been improved, the Selfridge returned to the US west coast, arriving at Mare Island on 24 January 1944 for full repairs and an overhaul. During the repairs the chance was made to modernise the Selfridge. She was re-armed with a battery of five double purpose 5in/ 38 caliber guns (two twin mounts and one single mount) and given a newer modern bridge. After the repairs she was used in inclining experiments at Mare Island on 24 March 1944, which were extensively photographed. After these were over she was repainted in a camo scheme dominated by dramatic curve, and designed for her (Camouflage Measure 32, Design 22D). She was seen in her new colours at Mare Island on 10 April.

USS Selfridge (DD-357) during inclining experiment, 1944 USS Selfridge (DD-357) during inclining experiment, 1944

The Selfridge returned to Pearl Harbor on 10 May 1944 and joined the forces preparing to invade the Marianas. She was originally assigned to TG 50.11, but was then moved to TF 58, the fast carrier force. She joined that force at Majuro in early June, and formed part of the screen for the Bunker Hill during air attacks on Guam on 11 June. On 13 June she took part in the first shore bombardment of Saipan, carried out to cover minesweeping operations off that island, acting with the Western Bombardment Unit TU 58.7.3 (Indiana, North Carolina, Washington, Dewey (DD-349), Hull (DD-350), MacDonough (DD-351) and Selfridge). This included three newer fast battleships and carried out its bombardment from long range. On 14 June the Selfridge joined the Fire Support Unit, which took part in a closer range bombardment. On 15 June she screened the transport area as the actual landing began. During the night of 15-16 June she was part of the screen of the Birmingham (CL-62), as she operated off the west coast of Tinian. On 16 June and 17 June she was part of the screen during the day, while on the night of 16-17 June she carried out harassment bombardments.

On 17 June news reached the fleet that a major Japanese force was heading towards them. The Selfridge rejoined the fast carriers of TF 58 and acted as a link ship between TG 58.7 and TG 58.3. She was in this position during the battle of the Philippine Sea of 19 June, but no Japanese aircraft came within range. On 24 June the Selfridge returned to the transport screen, and on 26 June she returned to fire support duties.  

On 11 July the Selfridge left Saipan to screen transports heading to Eniwetok, arriving on 15 June.

On 18 June she left Eniwetok to escort transports carrying reinforcements for the invasion of Guam. She arrived off Agat on 22 July, the day after the landings on Guam, and spent three weeks supporting the invasion, once again carrying out a mix of screening and fire support missions, as well as operating against Japanese boats and barges.

This was her last combat in the Pacific. On 10 August she left for Eniweoto, then to Pearl Harbor. On 21 August she was orded to move to the Atlantic, to join the convoy escort forces. She passed through the Panama Canal on 7 September, then had a brief overhaul at New York, before she joined Task Force 65 as its flagship. Her new role was to escort convoys on the route between the US East Coast and Tunisia. 

1945

On 23 April the Selfridge dropped nine depth charges on a solid sonar contact, possibly U-853, which had just sunk PC-56 three miles off Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The U-boat escaped, and the US Navy didn’t officially acknowledge that the submarine had actually sunk PC-56 until 2001!

The Selfridge continued on convoy escort duting until 7 June, when she returned to New York after completing her last trans-Atlantic crossing after the surrender of Germany. She briefly visited the Caribbean and Maine for exercises, before returning to New York. She was decommissioned on 15 October 1945, struck off on 1 November and sold for scrap on 20 December 1946.

Selfridge earned four battle stars during World War II, for Pearl Harbor, the Guadalcanal landings, the naval action off Vella Lavella and the Marianas campaign (Guam, Saipan and the Philippines Sea).

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

Armour - belt

 

 - deck

 

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

18 December 1933

Launched

18 April 1936

Commissioned

25 November 1936

Sold for scrap

20 December 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 (6 October 2021), USS Selfridge (DD-357) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Selfridge_DD357.html

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