USS Shaw (DD-68)

USS Shaw (DD-68) was a Sampson class destroyer that survived having 90 feet cut off her bow in a collision late in 1918 while serving in European waters.

The Shaw was named after John Shaw, an Irish immigrant to the United States who served in the US Navy during the Quasi-War with France, the Barbary War and as commander of the USS United States during the War of 1812.

The Shaw was laid down on 7 February 1916, launched at Mare Island on 9 December 1916 and commissioned on 9 April 1917 with Lt. Commander Milton S. Davis in command.

The Shaw was soon pressed into active service. She reached New York on 10 June 1917. One week later she left the US as part of the escort for Group 4 of the American Expeditionary Force as it crossed the Atlantic. Her convoy reached Quiberon Bay on 1 July. The Shaw then sailed to Queenstown, Ireland, her base for the rest of the war.

USS Shaw (DD-68) after collision with the Aquitania
USS Shaw (DD-68)
after collision
with the Aquitania

The Shaw became operational from Queenstown on 10 July 1917. She was used on patrol duty and to escort ships through the most dangerous waters around Britain and Ireland. Most of her wartime service was fairly uneventful. On 1 July 1918 she responded to an SOS from the USS Covington, an American transport that had been torpedoed, but arrived after her crew had already been rescued and the ship unsuccessfully taken under tow.

On 25 September one of the ships in her convoy was attacked by a U-boat, but not hit.

On 9 October 1918 the Shaw's uneventful war came to a dramatic end. While escorting the Aquitania, her rudder jammed at the end of the right leg of a zig-zag. This took her right into the course of the Aquitania, and the much more solidly built British transport cut 90 feet off the destroyer's bow. Her forward boilers were destroyed, and her bridge was severely damaged, ending up leaning dramatically to the left at around 45 degrees! The Shaw's crew managed to put out the fires caused by the collision, and despite the severe damage a skeleton crew of 21 men were able to get her back to port under her own power, although she had to steam backwards the entire way to prevent water getting in through the damaged bow. Twelve men were killed and another fifteen injured in the collision.

The Shaw needed extensive repairs, which were carried out at Portsmouth, England. She was finally able to depart for the United States on 29 May 1919, arriving at New York on 17 June. From there she went to Philadelphia, where she joined the Reserve Destroyer Group. Two and a half years later, on 21 June 1922, she was decommissioned.

USS Shaw (DD-68), before 1918 collision
USS Shaw (DD-68), before 1918 collision

The Shaw was recommissioned on 25 March 1926, as part of the Coast Guard's Rum Patrol. She remained with the Coast Guard for the next seven years, before she returned to Navy in 1933, rejoining the Navy List on 30 June 1933. By now she was surplus to requirements. On 1 November 1933 she lost her name, which was then allocated to USS Shaw (DD-373), a Mahan class destroyer. She was struck off on 5 July 1934 and sold for scrap on 22 August 1934.

One of her commanders during her time at Queenstown was William Halsey, later one of the most important US Admirals of the Second World War.

Anyone who served on her between 17 June 1917 and 11 November 1918 qualified for the World War One Victory Medal.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

29.5kts at 17,500shp (design)
29.57kts at 17,964shp at 1,135t tons on trial (Rowan)


2-shaft Curtis turbines
4 boilers



Armour - belt


 - deck



315ft 3in


29ft 10in


Four 4in/50 guns
Two 1 pounder AA guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple mountings

Crew complement



9 December 1916


9 April 1917

Sold for scrap

22 August 1934

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

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (pending), USS Shaw (DD-68) ,

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