Dunbar, battle of, 27 April 1296

USS Sharkey (DD-281) was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the Atlantic Fleet during the 1920s, taking part in many of the early Fleet Problems, before being scrapped because of her badly worn boilers.

The Sharkey was named after William J. Sharkey, who was killed while trying to prevent an explosion on the submarine USS O-5.

The Sharkey was laid down at the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp’s Squantum plant on 14 April 1919. She was launched on 12 August 1919 when she was sponsored by Mrs Mary E Sharkey, and was commissioned on 28 November 1919.

Officers and Crew of USS Sharkey (DD-281) at Boston
Officers and Crew
of USS Sharkey (DD-281) at Boston

Before her shakedown cruise she was sent to help rescue the army transport SS Powhatan, and was one of four ships that stood by as she was towed to safety. She then carried out her shakedown cruiser, before departed from Newport to move to Guantanamo Bay on 28 January 1920. On 6 March 1920 she had to tow a disabled seaplane back to safety in Guantanamo Bay.  After this brief introduction to service, in late April she had to go to Boston for repairs. After the repairs were completed she was assigned to the Reserve Destroyers, Atlantic Fleet, from 5 October 1920.

On 10 May 1921 the Sharkey departed for Newport, where she took part in operations across the summer before returning to Charleston on 24 October.

On 29 May 1922 she left for exercises for Norfolk, which once again occupied all of the summer and most of the autumn. She then entered the Boston Navy Yard for repairs on 2 December.

On 11 January 1923 she left Boston to take part in Fleet Problem I, which was held off the coast of Panama and was designed to test the defences of the canal. She then took part in combined fleet exercises in the Caribbean, before heading to the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 2 April. During 1923 she was part of Destroyer Division 25 and carried the division’s Medical Officer (Paul M. Albright, later a senior medical officer during the Second World War, from May to September 1923) In late August she took part in manoeuvres off Newport and from 31 August to 4 September supported the Fisherman’s Races at Gloucester, Mass. On 1 October she moved to Newport for more exercises, before spending 18 November-3 January 1924 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

On 4 January 1924 she departed to join the Scouting Fleet to take part in Fleet Problems II, III and IV in the Caribbean. She then underwent an overhaul at Boston from 3 March-14 June. She was then used to test out a new rangefinder for destroyers. The first stage of this operation, from 10-28 July saw her operate with the battleship Colorado. She then had to have a bent propeller repaired, before returning to finish the trials with the battleship West Virginia. She then returned to Philadelphia for a short winter break.

USS Sharkey (DD-281) at Gibraltar, 1927 USS Sharkey (DD-281) at Gibraltar, 1927

On 10 January 1925 she left for the Caribbean. On 26 January she collected the President and Cabinet of Haiti who stayed on her for a short cruiser. She trained with the fleet in the Caribbean until 28 March, so probably didn’t take part in Fleet Problem V. From 14 April-6 May she was used for reserve training cruises, but had to withdraw with a damaged turbine and went to Norfolk for repairs. Once these were completed she returned to the reserve training from 23 July-5 September, then cruised to Cuba and back from 19 September-20 November.

The Sharkey departed to the Caribbean once again on 13 January 1926, then passed through the Panama Canal on 4 February to take part in Fleet Problem VI, which was held off the west coast of Central America. This was followed by an overhaul at Norfolk from 21 February-23 April.

On 17 June 1926 the Sharkey departed for a year long tour in European waters. She and her division visited northern Europe from 29 June-20 November 1926, then the western Mediterranean for three months (visiting Gibraltar in January 1927).

They visited the eastern Mediterranean from 20 February-7 May 1927, then spent one week in the Black Sea, visiting Romania and Bulgaria. After this they returned to the US, arriving at Newport on 11 July 1927.

The Sharkey then briefly returned to her previous routine. On 11 January 1928 she arrived at Guantanamo Bay and operated with the fleet in the Caribbean until 31 March. She then returned to the US East Coast, taking part in reserve training cruisers until the end of July. From 29 July-2 October she underwent an overhaul at Norfolk. She then spent two months training off Charleston, before ending the year at Norfolk.

USS Sharkey (DD-281) having a propeller removed USS Sharkey (DD-281) having a propeller removed

On 20 January 1929 she passed through the Panama Canal to take part in Fleet Problem IX, an attack on the Panama Canal. She returned east on 7 March and spent the next few weeks exercising in the Caribbean. She entered the Norfolk Navy Yard for an overhaul on 22 July, but like many of her sister ships her boilers were now badly worn, and she was decommissioned on 1 May 1930. She was struck off on 22 October 1930 and scrapped on 17 January 1931, helping to satisfy the terms of the London Naval Treaty. 

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



12 August 1919


28 November 1919


17 January 1931

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
How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 April 2020), USS Sharkey (DD-281) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Sharkey_DD281.html

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