USS Smith (DD-17)

USS Smith (DD-17) was the name ship of the Smith class of destroyers and served with the Coast Patrol in 1917 and as an escort ship based at Brest in 1917-18. After the war she was used as a target for bombing tests before being sold for scrap.

The Smith was named after Joseph B. Smith, the commander of USS Congress when she was attacked by the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia on 19 October 1861. He was killed in the battle.

USS Smith (DD-17) at anchor, 1910
USS Smith (DD-17)
at anchor, 1910

The Smith was laid down at Philadelphia on 18 March 1908, launched on 20 April 1909 and commissioned on 26 November 1909. She served with the Atlantic Torpedo Fleet from 1909 until October 1912, when she was placed into the reserve. After her initial trials she had her funnels heightened. On 1 January 1914, while still in the reserve, she was officially part of the First Division, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Torpedo Flotilla.

In December 1915 the Smith was recommissioned, and took part in neutrality patrols off Boston, although with less than her full complement. After a year in that duty she was chosen to take part in a recruiting campaign for the Naval Auxiliary Reserve, serving at New Orleans from 10 December 1916, Key West from 12 February 1916 and New York from 15 February.

On 1 April 1917, the American entry into the First World War increasingly likely, the Smith was ordered to move to the North River to prevent any German ships then docked at New York from escaping or scuttling themselves. This only lasted for a few days, and on 4 April she was allocated to the Patrol Force on the east coast, a role she performed from 10 April to 14 May. This period saw her first contact with a submarine. On 17 April she sighted a U-boat, which submerged and fired at her, but without success.

From 17 May to 16 July the Smith prepared for overseas service, and then departed for the Azores, where she was based from 26 July to 5 October. While at the Azores she patrolled the surrounding seas and escorted ships coming close to the islands.

On 20 October 1917 the Smith arrived at her new base at Brest, from where she escorted inbound and outbound convoys through the most dangerous area - the 500 mile submarine danger area west of Brest. During her time at Brest she attacked a number of suspected submarines, but without apparent success. One of these attacks came on 1 June 1918, while she was carrying rescued survivors from the President Lincoln.

In June-July she was one of seven destroyers escorting a convoy of eight transport ships west across the Atlantic after carrying US troops to France (Little DD-79, Conner DD-72, Cummings DD-44, Porter DD-59, Jarvis DD-38, Smith DD-17 and Reid DD-21). On 1 July 1918 U-86 sank the transport ship Covington(ID # 1409), previously the SS Cincinnati of the Hamburg-American Line. According to the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships six crewmen were killed and 770 rescued. The Smith concentrated on rescuing survivors, while other destroyers guarded against another U-boat attack.

Between 16 September and 3 November she underwent repairs in England. Another month of repairs followed at Brest between 7 March and 2 April 1919, before she departed to the US on 11 May. She was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 2 September 1919, and was placed up for sale on 28 February 1920. Before she was sold the Navy decided to conduct bombing tests, in response to Billy Mitchell's claims that bombers could sink any warship. The Smith was selected to serve alongside the old battleship Indiana (BB-1) and the submarine G-1 for the tests, which took place in Chesapeake Bay in the autumn of 1920. After the end of the tests she was sold for scrapping on 20 December 1921. 

Displacement (standard)

600t design

Displacement (normal load)

900t as built

Top Speed

28kts design
28.36kts at 9,946shp at 716t on trial (Smith)


3-shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers


2,800nm at 10kts design
2,000nm at 18kts on trial


293ft 10in


26ft 0in


Five 3in guns
Two 0.30in guns
Three 18in torpedo tubes

Crew complement



20 April 1909


26 November 1909


Sold for scrap 1921

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 (15 January 2016), USS Smith (DD-17) ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy