USS Shirk (DD-318)

USS Shirk (DD-318) was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the Pacific Fleet during the 1920s, taking part in many of the early Fleet Problems, before being scrapped because of her badly worn boilers.

The Shirk was named after James W. Shirk, who served in the US Navy from 1849, fighting in the Civil War where he served with the Mississippi Squadron.

The Shirk was laid down by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corps at San Francisco on 13 February 1919 and launched on 20 June 1919, when she was sponsored by Miss Ida Lawlor Dunnigan. She was commissioned on 5 February 1921.

The Shirk was based at San Diego, arriving in her home port on 7 March 1921. The rest of March was taken up with exercises, before she went into the reserve. She emerged from the reserve in October, and spent the next few months carrying out exercises off San Diego.

On 27 June 1922 the Shirk left San Diego with the fleet to carry out exercises off Puget Sound, in the Pacific North-West. She returned to San Diego on 19 September 1922.

On 6 February 1923 the Shirk left San Diego once again, this time to take part in Fleet Problem I, a combined fleet exercise that was held off Panama. The Shirk was involved from 26 February to 31 March, and returned to San Diego on 11 April. This was the first of a series of Fleet Problems that were held throughout the 1920s and 1930s, mainly in the Canal Zone or between the West Coast and Hawaii. From 9 July-1 September 1923 the Shirk underwent an overhaul at Mare Island, before resuming operations from San Diego.

On 2 January 1924 the Shirk departed for the Caribbean, passing through the Panam Canal on 19 January, to take part in Fleet Problems II, III and IV, which took place in January-February. During this time she visited Veracruz, Mexico (23 January-3 February) and Tampico, before joining the main fleet at Culebra on 10 February. After the end of the exercises she returned to the west coast, and underwent another overhaul at Mare Island (19 March-7 May 1924). Between 26 June and 12 July she carried out an unusual version of plane guarding duty – normally this was done in support of aircraft carriers, but on this occasion it was to support aircrafty flying from San Diego to Seattle, a reminder of how precarious long range aviation was at this date. She returned to Puget Sound on 13 July and San Diego on 1 October.

The Shirk didn’t take part in Fleet Problem V of March-April 1925, but did join the fleet at Pearl Harbor on 27 April to take part in combined exercises with the Army. She then took part in a massive goodwill visit to the south Pacific, visiting Melbourne, Australia; Lyttleton and Wellington, New Zealand; and American Samoa. She returned to San Diego on 26 September.

1926 began with another overhaul at Mare Island, this time from 11 January-26 February. She thus missed Fleet Problem VI, which took place at the same time. However on 14 June she left San Diego to take part in summer exercises off Washington State. This was followed bya period of repairs at Mare Island, which lasted from 30 December 1926 to 4 February 1927. 

On 7 February 1926 the Shirk left San Diego to take part in Fleet Problem VII, which was held off the Panama Canal in March. The Shirk passed through the Canal on 5 March, and took part in exercises in the Caribbean. On 22 April she departed for the US East Coast, visiting New York and taking part in a joint Army and Navy exercise in Narragansett Bay. She then moved to Hampton Roads, arriving on 29 May 1927 in time to take part in a Presidential Review.

This was followed by her one period of active duty, when she formed part of a US flotilla that was supporting an American intervention in Nicaragua. She patrolled off the coast of Nicaragua from 1-23 July 1926, before returning to San Diego on 23 August.

1928 started with another overhaul at Mare Island, this time from 26 February to 11 April 1928. She then departed from the West Coast to take part in Fleet Problem VIII, which was conducted in the ocean between California and Hawaii. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on 28 April, and remained in the Pacific for a few weeks, not returning to San Diego on 23 June.

From 27 January-6 February 1929 the Shirk took part in Fleet Problem IX, a simulated attack on the Panama Canal that demonstrated the potential value of a fast carrier strike force, after the Saratoga and a single escorting cruiser successfully attacked the Canal. The Shirk then underwent a final overhaul at Mare Island, although this time she appears to have had a rather low priority, as it lasted from 24 February to 20 June! She then spent the rest of the year operating from San Diego.

By now it was clear that the Shirk’s Yarrow boilers were badly worn. The US Navy decided to swap thirty four of the badly worn destroyers for almost fresh sister-ships that had been in the reserves for most of the 1920s. The Shirk was decommissioned at San Diego on 8 February 1930 and sold for scrap on 27 January 1931, helping to fulfil 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)

Armour - belt


 - deck



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



20 June 1919


5 February 1921

Sold for scrap

27 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 (30 December 2020), USS Shirk (DD-318) ,

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