USS Stoddert (DD-302)

USS Stoddert (DD-302) was a Clemson class destroyer that served in the Pacific during the 1920s, before becoming a radio controlled target ship from 1930-33.

The Stoddert was named after Benjamin Stoddert, the first Secretary of the Navy, serving from 1798 until 1801, helping develop the early US Navy.

The Stoddert was laid down by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corps at San Francisco on 4 July 1918, and launched on 8 July 1919 when she was sponsored by Mrs Gavin McNab. She was commissioned on 30 June 1920 and allocated to Division 33 of the Reserve Destroyer Squadron, Pacific Fleet. She served with that fleet throughout the 1930s, and spent most of her time operating along the US west coast, taking part in a variety of training exercises.

These exercises often took her further afield. This began fairly soon after her entry into service, when she departed from San Diego on 7 January 1921 with the Pacific Fleet, to meet the Atlantic Fleet for joint exercises in the Pacific. The combined fleet cruised south to Valparaiso, Chile in January-February 1921, then returned to the Canal Zone where inter-fleet championships were held. She was back at San Diego on 5 March 1921. In July she moved north and took part in exercises off the coast of Washington State (with the Kennedy (DD-306)). She then entered the Puget Sound Navy Yard for an overhaul that lasted from 15 December 1921 to 7 February 1922. After that she transferred to Destroyer Division 32 and spent 1922 in normal operations along the west coast.

The Stoddert and her division represented the US Navy at the Monterey Industrial Fair of 1-4 September 1922.

USS Stoddert (DD-302) from the left USS Stoddert (DD-302) from the left

On 8 February 1923 the Stoddert headed south with the Battle Fleet and Fleet Base Force to take part in the first Fleet Problem, which was carried out around the Panama Canal Zone. These ended with the sinking by gunfire of the remote controlled target ship Coast Battleship No.4, (the veteran battleship USS Iowa (BB-4), which had been converted into a radio controlled target ship)

The summer of 1923 was spent on a cruise along the coastline of Washington State. In July she was part of the fleet that escorted President Warren G. Harding to Alaska, on the first stage of a planned voyage that would have taken him to Mexico, through the Panama Canal and back up the US East Coast, but Harding was taken ill during the cruise, and died on 2 August.

On 8 September 1923 she was on the fringes of the Honda Point disaster, in which seven destroyers were wrecked after running aground because of a navigational error. The Stoddert was part of Destroyer Squadron 11, but wasn’t actually caught up in the mass groundings after getting enough warning of the impending danger to turn away. Later in the same month the Stoddert and her division returned to San Diego harbour where they formed a circle and scattered flowers in remembrance of the men lost in the disaster (still the worst peacetime loss of ships in the history of the US Navy).

USS Stoddert (DD-302) and USS Dent (DD-116), c.1931
USS Stoddert (DD-302) and
USS Dent (DD-116), c.1931

In January 1924 the Stoddert passed through the Panama Canal to take part in Fleet Problems II, III and IV, which simulated possible campaigns in the Pacific as well as testing the defences of the Canal Zone. She was back at her home base of San Diego on 22 April 1924.

On 27 April 1925 the Stoddert departed for Hawaii to take part in fleet exercises around the islands. During the voyage she took part in a joint Army and Navy Problem designed to test the defences of the Hawaiian Islands if they were attacked by a large hostile force. On 1 July, after these exercises were over, the Stoddert departed from Pearl Harbor with the Battle Fleet to carry out a good will cruise to Samoa, Australia and New Zealand. She returned to San Diego on 26 September. Later in the year she took part in the Navy Day celebrations at San Diego (21-27 October 1925).

1926 was a quieter year for the Stoddert, although she did take part in the Founders Day festivities at Astoria, Oregon, on 20-23 July 1926. She then underwent an overhaul at the Bremerton Navy Yard.

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)

In late March 1927 the Stoddert sailed to Balboa in the Canal Zone, joining the Battle Fleet for exercises (although possibly not that year’s Fleet Problem, dated to March 1927). She then took part in exercises at Guantanamo Bay, Gonaives and New York, underwent repairs at the Boston Navy Yard, then took part in a Presidential Review in the Hampton Roads. She was back at San Diego on 25 June. In August she took part in the rescue efforts after the Dole Air Race, between San Francisco and Honolulu, ended in disaster with two of the aircraft involved missing somewhere over the Pacific. The Stoddert took part in the search for the missing aircraft, but they were never found (and another of the competitors was lost during the search).

In April 1928 the Stoddert took part in Fleet Problem VIII, which was held between California and Hawaii, and included anti-submarine warfare exercises. The Stoddert reached Honolulu on 28 April 1928. She returned to San Diego on 23 June 1928.

At the end of September 1928 she provided part of a naval escort for the British Foreign Secretary Sir Austen Chamberlain as passed through San Diego on a long cruise

In July 1929 she was part of a squadron that took part in a reservist training cruise (Farquhar, J F Burns (DD-299), Stoddart, Thompson (DD-305), Kennedy and Paul Hamilton).

By the late 1920s it was clear that the Yarrow boilers in many of the Clemson class destroyers were badly worn, and it was decided to swap them for fresher ships from the reserve. The Stoddert was one of those ships, but unlike most of its Yarrow powered sister ships a new role was found for her. On 20 May 1930 she was decommissioned, and work began on turning her into a radio controlled target ship, one of three conversions. She was the first to be converted, becoming Light Target No.1. The experience gained on her conversation helped with the next two – Boggs (DD-136) and Lamberton (DD-119). They were then followed by the much larger conversion of the battleship USS Utah (BB-31/ AG-16).

Steel Funnel Covers on USS Stoddert (DD-302) Steel Funnel Covers on USS Stoddert (DD-302)

The Stoddert was recommissioned in her new role on 6 April 1931. She was redesignated as AG-18 on 30 June 1931 but reverted to DD-302 on 16 April 1932. In September 1931 her new radio controls were demonstrated in public. She was able to change speed and direction and use her searchlights and even her whistle, all controlled from USS Perry. The Stoddert then joined Mobile Target Division 1, based at San Diego, and was used as a target for dive bombers, aerial torpedoes and fleet gunnery training. For much of this period she was attached to the carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3). Her new role didn’t last for long, and she was decommissioned on 10 January 1933, at which point many of her officers transferred to the Lamberton. She was struck off on 5 June 1935 and sold for scrap on 30 August 1935.

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


Laid Down

4 July 1918


8 July 1919


30 June 1920

Sold for Scrap

30 August 1935

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 (9 September 2020), USS Stoddert (DD-302) ,

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