USS Somers (DD-301)

USS Somers (DD-301) was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the Pacific Fleet in the 1920s, taking part in many of the early Fleet Problems, and surviving the Honda Point disaster.

The Somers was named after Richard Somers, who served in the US Navy during the Quasi War with France and the war against the Barbary powers. He was killed during an attack on Tripoli on 4 September 1804.

USS Somers (DD-301) at Culebra Bay, 1920s USS Somers (DD-301) at Culebra Bay, 1920s

The Somers was laid down by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corps at San Francisco on 4 July 1918, launched on 28 December 1918 and commissioned on 23 June 1920. She reached San Diego on 20 July 1920 and was soon into what would become her normal routine, taking part in exercises with the Battle Fleet off Puget Sound. In August she took part in exercises off Coronado.

At the end of September 1920 it was announced that the John Francis Burnes (DD-299), Babbitt (DD-128), Somers (DD-301), Fuller and Percival (DD-298) were to be placed into reduced commission.

On 22 November 1920 the Somers collided with the tender Prairie at San Diego. The tender was only slightly damaged, but a large hole was torn in the Somers’s side close to the water line.

The Somers returned to full commission in March 1922. She then underwent an overhaul at Puget Sound, before arriving at San Diego on 8 July. The rest of the year was spent on normal training exercises.

Early in 1923 the Somers took part in Fleet Problem I, which took part off the coast of Panama in February-March 1923. She remained off Panama until 11 April, then returned to Puget Sound for an overhaul that lasted from 22 April-28 June. She then took part in exercises with the Battle Fleet, still in norther waters. On 25-26 July she carried some of President Harding’s staff from Seattle to Vancouver, during his fatal visit to the north west – the President died on 2 August. 

Somers (DD-301), Farragut (DD-300), John Francis Burns (DD-299), Percival (DD-298) and Stoddert (DD-302)Somers (DD-301), Farragut (DD-300), John Francis Burns (DD-299), Percival (DD-298) and Stoddert (DD-302)

On 27 August the Somers left Puget Sound heading from San Fransico and San Diego. On 8 September the leading ships of her fleet turned east too soon, thinking they were heading for Santa Barbara. Instead seven of the division ran aground near Honda Point and were lost. The Somers and Farragut were both able to avoid serious damage, and were the only two members of the fleet to hit ground but survive. The rest of the fleet avoided land altogether. The Somers was able to stay on the scene, and helped with the rescue efforts before returning to San Diego. She then needed repairs that lasted from 31 October to 5 December.

Fleet Problems II, III and IV were all carried out early in 1924. The Somers passed through the Panama Canal on 18 January, and took part in Problems II and III, before returing to San Diego in early April. From 2 July-1 September she took part in exercises around Puget Sound, then spent a month at San Diego. The year ended with an overhaul at Puget Sound that lasted from 25 November 1924-17 February 1925.

The Somers left San Diego on 3 April 1925 heading for Hawaii. She probably missed Fleet Problem V, which took place in March-April, but did take part in Joint Army and Navy Problem 3 while on her way to Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on 27 July. She then took part in a Battle Fleet cruise around the South-west Pacific, which began on 1 July, visiting Melbourne, Dunedin, Wellington and American Samoa. She returned to San Diego on 26 September.

The Somers departed from San Diego on 1 February 1926 to join the fleet off the Canal Zone (probably for Fleet Problem VI), and remained there until 20 March. From 14 June-1 September she took part in summer exercises in the Puget Sound area. In July 1926 her commander, Ernest L. Gunther, was selected to serve as an instructor at a new naval training unit at the University of California, working alongside Chester Nimitz. The year finished with an overhaul at Puget Sound that lasted from 7 December 1926-19 January 1927.

USS Langley (CV-1) and USS Somers (DD-301) USS Langley (CV-1) and USS Somers (DD-301)

On 17 February 1927 she departed from her base to take part in Fleet Problem VII, a simulated attack on the Panama Canal, from the Caribbean end. After this finished the Somers joined the Pacific Fleet as it visited New York, took part in a Joint Army and Navy Exercise in Narragansett Bay, then the Presidential Naval Review in Hampton Roads. After that they returned to the Pacific. The Somers was back at San Diego from 25 June-1 July and took part in exercises around Puget Sound from 16 July-20 August.

On 20 August the Somers and her squadron departed from Puget Sound to try and find any survivors from the Dole Air Race, a competition for the first fixed wing flight from Oakland, California to Hawaii. Eight aircraft reached the starting line, but only four actually managed to get going, and of them two, the Golden Eagle and Miss Doran went missing. The Somers took part in the attempt to find them, but no sign of either aircraft was ever found. On 16 November the Somers and the Zeilin (DD-313) collided off Point Loma, San Diego, while heading out of San Diego to take part in exercises. Nobody was injured, but both destroyers had to return to port to have the damage repaired. The Somers then underwent another overhaul, lasting from 25 December 1927 to 29 February 1928.

On 9 April 1928 the Somers departed for Hawaii to take part in Fleet Problem VIII. This was followed by summer exercises off Puget Sound in late June and July, including a reserve training cruiser to Alaska from 7-21 July. The Somers underwent repairs at Bremerton from 31 December 1928 to 8 February 1929, then operated with the fleet off Puget Sound from 18 June-28 August 1929.

In 1929 the Navy decided to decommission those ships with Yarrow boilers, which had worn out unexpectedly quickly, and replace them with non-Yarrow powered ships from the reserves. However the budget wasn’t available to do this in a conventional way, so the work was carried out by the crews of the ships that were about to be decommissioned. The Buchanan (DD-131) was chosen to replace the Somers. On 25 September 1929 the Somers towed the Buchanan out of the reserve fleet. Over the next few months she was given an overhaul by her new crew. On 10 April 1930 the Somers was decommissioned and the Buchanan commissioned in her place. The Somers was struck off on 18 November, scrapped by the Navy in 1930-31 and her materials sold off on 19 March 1931.

Lt. Commander Ernest L. Gunther: -July 1926-

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



28 December 1918


23 June 1920

Sold as scrap

19 March 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 (2 September 2020), USS Somers (DD-301) ,

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