USS Stewart (DD-224)

USS Stewart (DD-224) was a Clemson class destroyer that was deliberately sunk in the floating drydock at Surabaya during the disasterous defence of the Dutch East Indies in 1942 but later raised by the Japanese and pressed into their service as a patrol boat.

The Stewart was named after Charles Stewart, a US naval officer during the Quasi-War with France andwho served as commander of the frigate USS Constitution during the War of 1812, winning some of the US Navy’s last victories of that war.

The name USS Stewart was assigned to a series of destroyers before finally being used by DD-224. On 23 September it was assigned to DD-216, but by 7 October this had been renamed as USS John D. Edwards. On 7 October DD-292 was named the Stewart, but she was almost immediately renamed USS Reid. Next to get the name was DD-291, on 9 October 1919, and she held it until late October when she was renamed as USS Converse. Finally the name was given to DD-224 on 27 October 1919.

The Stewart was laid down at Cramp’s of Philadelphia on 9 September 1919, launched on 4 March 1920 and commissioned on 15 September 1920.

USS Stewart (DD-224) launching a torpedo
USS Stewart (DD-224)
launching a torpedo

The Stewart spent most of 1921 operating with a reserve division, before joining the Destroyer Squadron, Atlantic, on 12 October 1921. She then took part in the normal winter exercises in the Caribbean between 12 January and 22 April 1922, before departing for the Asiatic Fleet. She went the long way – via the Mediterreanean and India Ocean, visiting the Philippines and then reported to the Asiatic Fleet at Chefoo, China, on 26 August 1922. 

The Stewart soon fell into the standard pattern of life in the Asiatic Fleet, spending the winters in the Philippines and the summers in Chinese waters, operating from Chefoo and Tsingtao. This was a period of frequent chaos in China, with an ongoing civil war, and the start of the Japanese intervention, so the US fleet’s summers often involved efforts to protect US interests. She spent some time in South China and also on the Yangtse patrol.

On 1 September 1923 a massive earthquake devastated the Tokyo and Yokohama areas. The Stewart was sent to the area to help with the relief efforts, operating off Yokosuka from 6-21 September. The Stewart served as the flagship of Destroyer Division 38 during this relief mission.

In 1924 the USAAS carried out the first flight around the world, taking 175 days to complete the journey. From 25 May to 16 June the Stewart was used to support the operation, first operating in Japanese waters and then at Shanghai.

On 12 June 1925 landing parties from the Stewart and Paul Jones (DD-230) landed at Shanghai, replacing marines from the gunboat Villalobos (PG-42), who had landed two days earlier. Anyone who landed in June-July 1925 qualified for the Yangtze Expeditionary Medal.

In September 1926 she travelled up the Yangtze with the Pope to Hankow to protect US interests as General Chiang Kai-shek’s army advanced north from Canton. On 5 September the US warships came under fire, and around 300 rounds were fired at them in 20 minutes, although without causing any serious damage.

In March 1927 Shanghai and Nanking both fell to Chang Kai-Shek’s nationalists. In the aftermath of the fall of the cities there were a series of attacks on foreigners, starting at Nanking on 24 March. The US Navy and Royal Navy intervened at Nanking. The Stewart was at Shanghai when the fighting broke out, and she spent the next three and a half months operating at Wuhu, Nanking, Shanghai and Chenglin, protecting US interests. 

Anyone who served on her on one of twelve periods between 3 September 1926 and 25 October 1932 qualified for the Yangtze Service Medal.

On 14 January 1928 she left Shanghai to return to Manila for winter training.

From 20-28 September 1928 she payed a visit to Nagasaki, Japan, to give her crew a recreation break.

USS Stewart (DD-224) from the left USS Stewart (DD-224) from the left

From 28 September 1928 until October 1929 she was commanded by Ryland Dillard Tisdale, who later joined the anti-Japanese resistance on Mindanao and was killed in a clash with pro-Japanese Moros on 23 May 1942.

The Stewart was off the Chinese coast when the Japanese attacked Shanghai in January 1932. She was used to protect US interests at Swatow and Amoy from 1-3 and 9-24 February and Shanghai from 26 February-23 May.

After the outbreak of war between Japan and China in 1937 the Stewart was based at Tsingtao and Shanghai from 15 August-18 December 1937, again from 21 February-21 March 1938 and from 3 June-4 September 1939.

In June 1938 she was part of a destroyer squadron that payed a goodwill visit to French Indochina, visiting Tourane from 20-25 June and Haiphong from 26-28 June. She then returned to Manila. 

Anyone who served on her during four periods between 7 July 1937 and 4 September 1939 qualified for the China Service Medal.

After the outbreak of the Second World War the Stewart was called back to the Philippines, where she took part in the neutrality patrol around the islands. From 5 April-1 June 1940 she underwent an overhaul at the Cavite Navy Yard. After that was completed she acted as a plane guard for seaplanes flying between Guam and the Philippines. She then paid a final visit to Chinese waters from 7 July-23 September 1940.


The Stewart spend most of 1941 in the Philippines, but as the prospect of war got closer Admiral Hart, commander of the Asiatic Fleet, decided to send most of his major warships to the Dutch East Indies, where they could cooperate with America’s likely allies and avoid any early attacks on the Philippines. The Stewart was at Tarakan, Borneo, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

At this point she was part of the four-ship Destroyer Division 58 (Stewart, Parrott, Bulmer and Barker), part of Destroyer Squadron 29.

When the news of Pearl Harbor arrived, the Stewart put to sea with the Marblehead (CL-12), Paul Jones (DD-230), Barker (DD-213) and Parrott (DD-218) and moved to the Makassar Roads (between Borneo and Celebes).

On 27 December she set sail from Surabaya as part of Task Force 5, along with the Marblehead, Holland, Langley, Bulmer, Parrott, William B. Preston (AVD-7) and Whippoorwill (AM-35), heading to Port Darwin, Australia.

On 30 December she put to sea from Darwin, with the cruiser Houston, and the Alden, Whipple and Edsall, haeding to the Torres Strait, to meet up with a convoy coming from Hawaii.


On 2 January the small fleet reached Normanby Sound, and on 3 January they met up with the convoy, which they then escorted back to Darwin, arriving on 5 January.

On 1 February Allied aircraft detected a Japanese convoy at Balikpapan on Borneo, which was assumed to be heading for Makassar on Celebes or Bandjermasin in Dutch occupied Borneo. Admiral Doorman, commander of the ABDA fleet, decided to try and attack this convoy before it could land. On the night of 3-4 February he put to sea from Madura Island (at the north-eastern corner of Java), with a fleet that contained three four (the Dutch De Ruyter and Tromp and the American Houston and Marblehead), Destroyer Division 58 (Stewart, Edwards, Barker) and a Dutch destroyer division (Van Ghent, Piet Hein and Banckert). His aim was to head north into the Makassar roads to find the Japanese. However during 4 February the fleet came under heavy air attack. The Marblehead was badly damaged, while the Houston had one turret knocked out of action. The expedition was cancelled and the Marblehead detached from the fleet to reach safety. The Stewart helped escort her to Tjilatjap on Java.

On 14 February the Stewart put to sea as part of the screen for the Dutch light cruiser De Ruyter, part of a fleet that was trying to intercept a Japanese convoy. On the following day the Allied fleet came under heavy air attack. The first wave came at 1151, and a second wave at 1707, lasting until 1718. No warships were hit during these attacks, but they did convince Admiral Doorman to retire until air cover could be arranged.

On 19 February the Japanese landed on Bali, to the east of Java. Admiral Doorman’s ships were now quite badly scattered. The Stewart was at Surabaya, in eastern Java, along with the Tromp, Parrott, John D. Edwards and Pillsbury. This force of destroyers was to form the second of three attack waves planned by Doorman. They were to move east from Surabaya, then turn south to past through the Bali Strait (between Java and Bali), sail around the south of Bali and the advance north up the Badoeng Strait, east of Bali, to attack the Japanese. The second wave attacked on the night of 19-20 February. The Japanese were already alert, and the Allied destroyers moved too far north to make good use of their torpedoes. She came under accurate and heavy fire from Japanese destroyers, which shot away her boats, hit her torpedo racks and galley and flooded the steering room engine. That engine continued to work, despite being under two feet of water, and the Stewart managed to remain in station and escape back to Surabaya. Most of the damage was done by fire from the destroyers Oshio and Asashio

The Stewart was immediately placed into the float drydock at Surabaya on 22 February, but she wasn’t properly supported, and as the dry dock rose, lifting her out of the war, she fell off the keel blocks and ended up on her side in 12 feet of water. She suffered damage to her hull and propeller shafts, and there was no longer any chance of repairing her before the port fell to the Japanese. Her crew were evacuated on that day, and the naval authorities were given the task of destroying her. Demolition charges were set off, she was hit by a Japanese bomb, and finally the drydock was scuttled. The Americans assumed that the Stewart was sunk, and struck her off the Navy List on 25 March 1942. 

USS Stewart (DD-224) after recovery from the Japanese
USS Stewart (DD-224)
after recovery
from the Japanese

In fact the Stewart wasn’t beyond repair. In February 1943 she was raised by the Japanese. She was given a new trunked funnel and armed with two 3” guns, before being commissiond as Patrol Boat No.102 on 20 September 1943. She was then used by the Japanese Southwest Area Fleet on escort duty. In November 1944 she went to Kure for repairs, where she was given more anti-aircraft guns and a light tripod foremast. The Japanese then attempted to return her to the Southwest Pacific, but the American invasion of the Philippines meant she could not reach the area. She got as far as Korea, where she was hit by US bombs on 28 April 1945. She then returned to Kure, where she was found by the US occupation forces. The Americans already knew that at least one old destroyer was in Japanese service, as she had been reported by American pilots, who at first thought they had seen a US destroyer operating far behind enemy lines. 

A post-war interview with Captain Abe Tokuma revealed that the Stewart had been the most powerful vessel available to the 22nd Base Force at Balikpapan in 1943-44. At first the Japanese had struggled to get her equipment working, but this was solved by Lt Commander Mizutani, and she became a useful escort ship.

On 29 October 1945 the Stewart was recommissioned into the US Navy at Kure, as DD-224, although her crew nicknamed her RAMP-224 (Recovered Allied Military Personnel). An attempt was made to get her back to the United States under her own power, but her engines failed near Guam and she had to be towed back to San Francisco. Despite the emotional nature of her return to the Navy, the Stewart was struck off on 17 April 1946, decommissioned on 23 May 1946 and sunk on 24 May while being used as a aircraft target off San Francisco.

Stewart (DD-224) received two battle stars for her World War II service, for Asiatic Fleet operations (8 December 1941-22 February 1942) and for Operations in the Badoeng Strait in the Dutch East Indies (19-20 February 1942).

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






Sunk as Target

24 May 1946

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 (29 May 2019), USS Stewart (DD-224) ,

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