USS Smith (DD-378)

USS Smith (DD-378) was a Mahan class destroyer that served on escort duty early in 1942, then took part in the Guadalcanal campaign where she was badly damaged on 26 October 1942, She returned to action early in 1943 and supported the campaign on New Guinea and New Britain, and the invasions of the Admiralty Islands, the Marianas, Leyte, Luzon and Borneo.

The Smith was named after Joseph B. Smith, who served in the US Navy at the start of the US Civil War and was killed when USS Congress was sunk by the ironclad CSS Virginia.

The Smith (DD-378) was laid down at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 27 October 1934 (alongside USS Preston (DD-379), launched on 20 February 1936 when she was sponsored by Mrs. Yancey S. Williams (the wife of Rear Admiral Yancey S. Williams) and commissioned on 19 September 1936. Her first trial trip, in December, took her around Mare Island. She was based on the US West Coast. In 1939-1940 she was the flagship of Destroyer Division Four.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the Smith was based at San Francisco as part of Destroyer Squadron 5. After the Japanese attack she was used on convoy escort duty between the West Coast and Hawaii.

1942

She was photographed at Mare Island, San Francisco on 15 January 1942 at the eastern end of one of these trips. This period of duty ended on 7 April 1942 when she was allocated to Battleship Division 3. Two months of training along the west coast followed, before the division departed for Pearl Harbor on 1 June as part of the escort of the Saratoga, in the hope of arriving in time to take part in the battle of Midway. However they departed too late and didn’t arrive at Hawaii until the battle was over.

USS Smith (DD-378) refuels, 1942 USS Smith (DD-378) refuels, 1942

After her arrival at Pearl Harbor she joined Admiral Marc Mitscher’s Task Force 17 for more training, before in July escorting a convoy back to San Francisco. She was photographed at Mare Island Navy Yard on 28 July 1942. She was back at Pearl Harbor in mid-August and began a period of training and upkeep. 

On 15 October the Smith was allocated to Task Force 16 (Enterprise (CV-6) and South Dakota (BB-57). This departed from Pearl Harbor on 16 October and operated to the north-west of the New  Hebrides islands. On 24 October news was received that a Japanese carrier force was heading for Guadalcanal. The Hornet (TF 17) joined TF 16 to form a new TF 61, which then moved to intercept the Japanese. The Smith fought in the resulting battle of the Santa Cruz Islands (26 October 1942). This developed into a classic carrier battle. At 0944 Japanese aircraft were sighted, and the Hornet was hit.

At 1125 the Smith was attacked by a force of torpedo bombers. There were no torpedo hits, but one of the Japanese torpedo aircraft crashed into her forecastle, triggering a large explosion. The bridge had to be abandoned, and fires meant that the forward decks were also unusable. However the rear end of the ship was still in action, and claimed six aircraft.

By the early afternoon all of the fires had been put out, but her magazines were flooded, and she had lost 57 men killed or missing and 12 wounded. Her two forward 5in guns were burnt out, as was much of the foreward superstructure. She was just about able to keep her place in the carrier screen, before on the evening of the same day heading for Noumea and temporary repairs (possibly in the company of USS South Dakota (BB-57), as a photograph of her refuelling from the battleship was dated to 28 October).  

On 5 November she departed for Pearl Harbor and more extensive repairs and an overhaul .

1943

The repairs were completed by 12 February 1943, when the Smith departed for Espiritu Santo as part of the screen for the USS Wright (CVL-49). They were joined by the Gridley (DD-380) and then continued on to Guadalcanal. The Smith carried out anti-submarine patrols off Guadalcanal until 12 March, before departing for Espiritu Santo. She then joined Task Force 10 for exercises in the New Caledonia and Coral Sea areas until 28 April.

In May she returned to Pearl Harbor to resupply, and then departed for Australia. She joined DesRon 5 for exercises in the Townsville and Cape Moreton areas which lasted until 10 June. She then escorted a convoy of merchant ships and landing craft to Milne Bay, where she was base for the rest of July. On 18 July the Smith, Helm and Conyngham escorted LST-457 to Kiriwina Island, then returned to Milne Bay.

USS Smith (DD-378) and USS Preston (DD-379) under construction USS Smith (DD-378) and USS Preston (DD-379) under construction

She was back in Australia on 1 August for a period in the yard, then returned to Milne Bay for more exercises with the 7th Fleet, which had been formed to support the campaign on New Guinea.  

On 23 August the Smith, (DD-377), Conyngham (DD-371), Perkins (DD-377) and Mahan (DD-364) bombarded the Japanese base at Finschhafen on New Guinea, without any opposition.

On 2 September the Smith, Perkins, Lamson, Drayton, and Mugford departed from Milne Bay (as part of TG 76.6) to take part in the landings at Lae in the Huon Gulf area. The Smith carried out a shore bombardment of the landing area for the 9th Australian Infantry Division, which attacked on 4 September.

On the night of 5-6 September the Smith, Perkins, Flussser (DD-368) and Sonama (AT-12) escorted a convoy of seven LSTs heading to Lae. The Smith was strafed by a Japanese aircraft at about 20.45 on 5 September.

On the night of 7-8 September the Smith and her squadron bombarded Lae. The Smith stayed in the area to support the fighting until 18 September.

Early on 10 September the Mahan, Perkins, Flusser and Smith were on anti-submarine patrol duties. The Mahan attacked a possible submarine with depth charges at 0127, and nine minutes later the Smith also dropped depth charges but no result was reported.

On 12 September the Smith and her squadron escorted LCIs onto the beach at Lae.

On 17 September the Smith, Reid and Perkins left Lae to return to Milne, arriving on 18 September. After refuelling and taking on supplies then departed for Buna on 19 September. 

From 20-23 September the Smith supported the landings at Finschhafen as part of TF 76. She then supported supply convoys heading to Lae and Finschhafen from Holnicote Bay.

On 3 October the Smith, Henley (DD-391) and Reid (DD-369) took part in an anti-submarine sweep of Huon Gulf, and at 1821 three torpedo wakes were spotted to the port of the Smith. She turned to avoid them, and one passed to her port and one to her starboard. The Henley wasn’t so lucky and was hit on the port side, broke in half and quickly sank. The Smith carried out a depth charge attack, but without success. The survivors of the squadron spent the rest of the month on resupply missions to the front. After a brief break at Milne Bay in early November the Smith was back in the Lae and Finschhafen area.

On 29-30 November the Smith, Reid and Mugford escorted four LSTs from Woodlard Island to Goshen.

On 14 December she joined the Arawa Attack Force, and on 15 December bombarded Orange Beach at Cape Merkus near Arawa on New Britain to support the invasion. On 26 December she bombarded Green Beach at Cape Gloucester, the second stage of the invasion.

1944

The Smith was allocated to the Saidor Attack Force, but on 1 January 1944 she was rammed in the stern by the Hutchins (DD-476) and had to return to Milne Bay for repairs, missing the landings.

After the repairs were over she returned to her resupply duties, operating in the Cape Gloucester and Lae areas.

On 6 February the Smith and Bagley escorted two LSTs from Milne Bay to Borgen Bay, Cape Gloucester, arriving on 7 February and then returning to Milne Bay.

On 11 February the Smith, Flusser, Mahan and Drayton  escorted three LSTs and a small tanker to Cape Cretin.

On 13 February she bombarded enemy guns around Herwath Point and Singor, to support the Allied attack on Madang.

On 28 February the Smith left Cape Sudest carrying 71 officera and men from the 1st Cavalry Division who were to take part in the invasion of Los Negros Island in the Admiralties. On the morning of 29 February the Smith bombarded the landing area then landed her troops. She then provided fire support for the day, before leaving to collect reinforcements.

On 17 March the Smith and DesRon 5 left for San Francisco and an overhaul. This may have been when she was painted in camouflage measure 31, design 23d, as she was photographed in this scheme on 12 June 1944. The overhaul was completed by 21 June when the squadron departed for Pearl Harbor. After their arrival they spent five weeks training.

USS Smith (DD-378) at Pearl Harbor, 1946 USS Smith (DD-378) at Pearl Harbor, 1946

On 1 August the Smith was ordered to move to Eniwetok, from where she blockaded the remaining Japanese held islands in the area until early September. This involved repeated periods of patrols off various islands, including a spell off Jaluit Atoll which ended on 30 August when she was replaced by the Mahan (DD-364).

On 8 September Smith, Lamson, Drayton and Mahan departed for Eniwetok. On 12 September the Mahan and Smith were diverted to hunt for submarines, spending four days on that duty. They reached Eniwetok on 17 September.

On 24 September she joined TG 57.9, which was built around TG 57.9. This group was used to patrol the northern Marianas, but the Smith wasn’t with them for long, departing for Eniwetok on 1 October with Reid and Mahan and arriving on 5 October. After an escort trip to Ulithi she moved to Hollandia, where on 26 October she joined the 7th Fleet.

On 27 October she set sail for Leyte Gulf, arriving at San Pedro Bay on 30 October. She patrolled Leyte Gulf with TG 77.1 from 1-16 November and then escorted a convoy to New Georgia and back.

From 1-3 December the Smith, Drayton, Shaw and Lamson hunted for a submarine that had been harassing TG 77.2 in Leyte Gulf, but they didn’t find their target.

On 6 December she joined the Ormac Attack Group, which bombarded shore positions on 7 December ahead of a landing by the 77th Army Division. This was carried out to avoid too much fighting in the centre of Leyte. The Smith was used as a fighter direction ship, but Japanese kamikaze attacks still hit the Mahan and Ward (DD-483), both of which were badly damaged and had to be sunk by American fire.

On 11 December the Smith and DesRon 5 left San Pedro to escort resupply ships to Ormac Bay. That evening they were attacked by Japanese aircraft and the Reid was sunk. The Smith claimed four victories. The attacks resumed on the following day and the Caldwell (DD-605) was hit and set on fire. The Smith continued these resupply missions until 17 December, then departed for Manus for resupply.  

1945

The Smith was part of TG 79.2 for the landings in Lingayen Gulf in early January. She departed from San Pedro Bay as part of the escort of the command ship USS Wasatch on 6 January. The invasion fleet came under heavy air attack, and on 8 January the escort carrier Kitkun Bay (CVE-71) was badly damaged by a kamikaze. The Smith picked up 200 of her crew, but on the following day was able to transfer them back to the carrier, which was back operating under her own power. The Smith then patrolled the northern part of the gulf.

From 28 January to 20 February she escorted convoys heading to Hollandia, Sansapor and Leyte. On 20 January she left Leyte escorting a convoy heading to Mangarin Bay on Mindoro, but on the following moring the Renshaw (DD-499) was hit by a torpedo and badly damaged. The Smith went alongside to transfer the wounded, provide power to the Renshaw and pump out the af engine room. She then towed the Renshaw for six hours before she was relieved. She then moved to San Pedro bay with the wounded.

On 24 January she was on her way to Mindoro when she encounted a 200ton Japanese lugger. The Smith opened fire at 2147 and the target was sunk by 2158.

On 26 February the Smith left Mindoro as part of the attack force heading for Puerta Princesa on Palawan. On 28 February she took part in the pre invasion bombardment then patrolled off the entrance to Palawan Harbour until 4 March.

On 24 March she sailed with TG 78.2 to take part in the landings of the Americal Infantry Division at Cebu City. On the morning of 28 March she took part in the pre invasion bombardment, then provided fire support. Over eight days she fired 1,200 rounds of 5in ammo at Cebu.

On 23 April the Smith left the Philippines to join TG 78.1 at Morotai. On 27 April the group set sail to carry the 26th Australian Infantry Brigade to Tarakan, Borneo. On 1 May she took part in the pre-invasion bombardment, and she remained on call until 19 May, providing fire support, and patrolling off the harbour entrance. She then returned to Morotai then joined up with the Mettawee (AOG-17) at Zamboanga to escort her to Tarakan. Once back at Tarakan she provided night fire support until recalled to Morotai.

On 26 June she joined TG 78.2 (Rear Admiral Noble) for the invasion of Balikpapan, Borneo. On 1 July she took part in the pre-invasion bombardment, but this time the Japanese fired back and three shells hit her number one stack. Luckily none exploded so no significant damage was done. One gun emplacement was knocked out by the Smith. On 2 July she departed for Morotai to collect a resupply convoy, which arrived at Balikpapan on 16 July. The Smith remained there until 24 July when she departed for San Pedro Bay.

On 15 August the Smith left the Philippines heading for Buckner Bay on Okinawa, which was now being turned into a US navy base. She stayed there for two weeks, almost to the end of the war. After the Japanese surrender she sailed for Nagasaki where on 15 September she picked up 90 former POWs. On 16 September she departed for Okinawa at the start of their voyage home. She was back at Nagasaki on 21 September to collect another 90 former POWs, transferring them to the Renville (APA-227) in Bucker Bay.

The Smith visited Sasebo on 28-30 September (or possibly October), then departed for San Diego arriving on 19 November. She was then sent back to Pearl Harbor, arriving on 3 January 1946. She was decommissioned on 28 June 1946. 

Smith received six battle stars for World War II service, for the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Eastern New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, Leyte, Borneo and the southern Philippines.

Displacement (standard)

1,487.9 standard

Displacement (loaded)

2,102.6t

Top Speed

37.8kts at 44,477shp at 1,749t on trials (Mahan)

Engine

2-shaft General Electric tubines
4 boilers
46,000shp design

Range

6,500nm at 12kts design
7,300nm at 12kts on trials (Mahan)
6,940nm at 12kts at 2,200t wartime
4,360nm at 20kts at 2,200t wartime

Length

341ft 3in

Width

35ft 6.5in

Armaments

Five 5in/38 DP guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in three quad mounts
Four 0.50in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement

158

Laid down

27 October 1934

Launched

20 February 1936

Commissioned

19 September 1936

Struck off

25 February 1947

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 (9 March 2022), USS Smith (DD-378), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Smith_DD378.html

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