USS Tattnall (DD-125/ APD-19)

USS Tattnall (DD-125/ APD-19) was a Wickes class destroyer that entered service just to late for the First World War, but that served as a convoy escort and then a fast transport during the Second World War.

The Tattnall was named after Josiah Tattnal, a US Naval officer who fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, but who then chose to serve in the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War.

USS Tattnall (DD-125) on Navy Day, 1932
USS Tattnall (DD-125)
on Navy Day, 1932

The Tattnall was laid down on 1 December 1917 at Camden, New Jersey, launched on 5 September 1918 and commissioned on 26 June 1919. After her trials she was allocated to the forces operating in the Mediterranean, reaching Constantinople on 27 July 1919. She spent the next year based in Turkish waters, although she also visited Egypt, Greece, Russia and Syria. During this period one of her roles was to act as a passenger and mail ship.

The Tattnall returned to the United States in June-July 1920. She then joined the Pacific Fleet, reaching her new base at San Diego on 17 December 1920. She served on the Californian coast until she was decommissioned on 15 June 1922.

The Tattnall was recommissioned for the first time on 1 May 1930, and joined the Battle Force, operating on the West Coast. At the end of Fleet Problem XII in March 1931 the Tattnall was one of nine destroyers that were transferred from the Battle Fleet to the Scouting Fleet (Scouting Force 1 from 1 April 1931). She joined Destroyer Division 7, part of Destroyer Squadron 3, Destroyer Flotilla 1, Scouting Force 1. Most of April and early May was spent in exercises off Guantanamo Bay, before the division moved to its new base on the US East Coast.

In 1932 the Tattnall joined the rotating reserve. On 1 January 1934 she moved to the Scouting Force Training Squadron, where she remained for the next year. Most of 1935 was spent back in the rotating reserve, before she rejoined the Training Squadron towards the end of the year. She was still with this unit when he became part of the Training Detachment, United States Fleet.

On 17 November 1938 the Tattnall and the J. Fred Talbot (DD-186) replaced the Dallas (DD-199) and Babbitt (DD-128) as part of the Special Service Squadron, based in the Panama Canal Zone. The Tattnall was part of this unit until it was disbanded on 17 September 1940, but she remained based at Panama after that date, operating in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

USS Tattnall (APD-19), Charleston, 1943
USS Tattnall (APD-19), Charleston, 1943

In June 1941 she helped escort part of a US Marine expeditionary force from the Panama Canal to the US East Coast. This force had been raised with the occupation of Martinique in mind, but in the end was used to replace the British garrison of Iceland. 

After the US entry into the Second World War the Tattnall found herself operating in an active war zone, as the U-boats attacked shipping off the US Coast and in the Caribbean. She was used to escort coastal convoys and made many passages through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Hispaniola, a key hunting ground for the U-boats. During 1942 and the first half of 1943 she carried out a series of attacks on possible targets, but without any recorded successes.

The Tattnall reached Charleston with her last convoy on 10 July, and work then began on converting her into a fast transport. She was redesignated as APD-19 on 24 July, and the conversion was completed on 6 September. She had a short shake-down cruiser in mid-September, and then began a period of training in amphibious warfare.

In April 1944 the Tattnall was made flagship of Transport Division 13, based in the Atlantic. She was sent to the Mediterranean theatre along with USS Roper (APD-20), USS Barry (APD-29), USS Greene (APD-36) and USS Osmond Ingram (APD-35). She joined the 8th Fleet in late April 1944, and began to prepare for an invasion of Elba and Pianosa. During this period she was used in a deception operation, feigning a landing near Civitavecchia, north of Rome. The Germans apparently fell for this ruse, announcing the invasion, and probably diverting troops to that area.

The invasion of Elbe and Pianosa took place on 17 June 1944. The Tattnall landed her troops by boats which came under machine gun fire, but landed without suffering serious damage.

The Tattnall then spent a short period escorting convoys between Italy, Sicily and North Africa, before preparing for the invasion of the south of France. On 15 August she helped land 1,600 troops from the Canadian 1st Special Service Force on the Hyeres Islands, east of Toulon. The islands were secured in three days. The Tattnall was then used to bring reinforcements and supplies to France and evacuate casualties and the increasing number of prisoners of war. She then spent the rest of 1944 escorting convoys in the Mediterranean, before returning to the United States late in the year,

On 31 January 1945 the Tattnall left Hampton Roads, heading for the Pacific. She reached Okinawa on 19 April, and was used to form part of the anti-kamikaze screen around the American fleet. On the night of 29-30 April she claimed one twin engined aircraft, which was brought down so close to her that debris actually pierced her hull above the waterline.

After this drama the Tattnall departed to the Mariana Islands, arriving on 3 May. She escorted a convoy back to Okinawa, which arrived on 20 May. She then rejoined the defensive screen, but this time without coming under attack.

In June the Tattnall was moved to the Philippines, and she spent the rest of the war patrolling around the Philippines and escorting convoys to Ulithi and Hollandia.

After the war the Tattnall departed for the United States on 13 September, arriving at San Francisco on 30 October. She was decommissioned at Puget Sound on 17 December 1945, struck off on 8 January 1946 and sold for scrap on 17 October 1946.

The Tattnall earned three battle stars during the Second World War, for operations off the west coast of Italy in 1944, the invasion of Southern France and Okinawa.

Displacement (standard)

1,160t (design)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts (design)
35.34kts at 24,610shp at 1,149t on trial (Wickes)


2 shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
24,200shp (design)


3,800nm at 15kts on trial (Wickes)
2,850nm at 20kts on trial (Wickes)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4in


30ft 11in

Armaments (as built)

Four 4in/50 guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple tubes
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


Laid down

1 December 1917


5 September 1918


27 July 1919

Sold for Scrap

17 October 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 (31 August 2017), USS Tattnall (DD-125/ APD-19) ,

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