USS Thompson (DD-305)

USS Thompson (DD-305) was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the Pacific Fleet in the 1920s, as a floating restaurant in the 1930s and as a target for trainee bombers during the 1940s.

The Thompson was named after Richard Wigginton Thompson, Secretary of the Navy from 1877-1881.

USS Thompson (DD-305) laying a smoke screen USS Thompson (DD-305) laying a smoke screen

The Thompson was laid down by the Bethlehem Steel Corps at San Francisco on 25 September 1918 and launched on 15 January 1919 when she was sponsored by Mrs Herbert H. Harris. She was commissioned on 16 August 1920 and after a shakedown cruise that took her south into Mexican waters was allocated to Destroyer Division 32, Destroyer Squadron 11, part of the Battle Fleet.

On 22 December 1920 Lt A. J. Kingsmill of the Thompson was injured while carrying out a full speed trial on the Kennedy, a fellow member of the same division. A glass component in the engine room exploded, and flying glass injured Kingsmill and one officer from the Kennedy.

On 7 January 1921 the Thompson left San Diego to take part in fleet exercises off Panama and then south of Valparaiso, Chile. She left Valparaiso on 4 February heading for Balboa in the Canal Zone, then moved to La Union in El Salvado. She departed from La Union on 27 February to return to San Diego. On 21 January 1921 she was photographed with the combined Atlantic and Pacific Fleets in Panama Bay.

In April 1921 she was part of Destroyer Division Thirty-Three (Stoddert DD-302, Paul Hamilton DD-307, Reno DD-303, Kennedy DD-306, Thompson DD-305 and Farquhar DD-304).

In May 1921 she took part in a massive search for the missing fleet tug Conestoga, which had disappeared without a trace while sailing from California to American Samoa. Despite the massive search, her wreck wasn’t found until 2009 (just outside San Francisco Bay), and not identified until 2015.

Torpedoes for USS Farragut (DD-300) and USS Thompson (DD-305) Torpedoes for USS Farragut (DD-300) and USS Thompson (DD-305)

In December 1921 the 33rd Destroyer Division (Stoddert, Reno, Farquhar, Thompson, Kennedy and Paul Hamilton) moved from San Diego to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, where they stayed until February 1922 for a regular overhaul.

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

In February 1923 the Thompson was in the Caribbean, probably taking part in Fleet Problem I, a test of the defenses of the Panama Canal.

On 8 September 1923 she was one of thirteen destroyers that were returning home after a trip to Puget Sound. The squadron turned to enter the Santa Barbara Channel, but they had misjudged their position. The leading seven ships ran aground on Honda Point, and were lost – the largest peacetime loss of destroyers in US navy history. The Thompson was further back in the formation, and avoided the disaster.

In October 1923 the 32nd division was given the task of retrieving torpedos during battleship torpedo practice being held off San Clemente Island.

In January 1924 she was part of the large part of the Pacific Fleet that moved to the Caribbean to take part in Fleet Problems II, III and IV, which took place at the same time.

On 15 April 1925 the Thompson left San Francisco to take part in the later part of Fleet Problem V of March-April 1925, a simulated attack on Hawaii. She then took part in a massive goodwill cruise to Samoa, Australia and New Zealand. The Thompson was at Pago Pago, Samoa on 10-11 July, Melbourne from 23 July-6 August, Dunedin, New Zealand for ten days from 10 August then Wellington from 22-24 August. After that she returned to the US, arriving at San Diego on 26 September (after an absence of six months). After her return the Thompson operated with DesDiv 32, DesRon 11.

The Thompson was sent to Ventura, California, for the Navy Day celebrations of 27 October 1925.

Early in 1926 she paid a visit to the east coast, visiting Norfolk, Newport Rhode Island and New York before returning to San Diego. She was photographed at the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 8 March 1926 having work done on her, so must have returned from the east coast by then. At the end of March 1926 the Thompson carried the ashes of Captain Raymond Hasbrouck, former commander of USS California, out into the sea off San Diego where they were scattered in front of 25,000 men from the fleet.

USS Thompson (DD-305) and USS Melville (AD-2), Pearl Harbor, 1925 USS Thompson (DD-305) and USS Melville (AD-2), Pearl Harbor, 1925

On Independence Day 1927 the Farquahr and Thompson represented the Navy at Pismo Beach.

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-209), Stoddart, Thompson, Kennedy and Paul Hamilton).

In 1929 the Thompson’s Yarrow boilers were discovered to be beyond economical repair (along with most other Yarrow powered ships). It was decided to replace them with an equal number of destroyers from the reserve, using the crew of the old ship to refit the new one. The Thompson moved to San Diego, where her crew spent the winter of 1929-30 refitting the Babbitt (DD-128). The Thompson was decommissioned on 4 April 1930, and her crew moved to their new ship, which was promptly recommissioned. This move came at the same time as the US Navy needed to reduce its tonnage to satisfy the terms of the London Navy Treaty, so the Thompson helped satisfy that requirement as well. 

The Thompson survived much longer than most of the destroyers decommissioned at this time. Instead of being scrapped she was used as a floating restaurant in Lower San Francisco Bay during the 1930s. She was re-purchased by the US Navy in February 1944, sunk in the mud flats of San Francisco Bay and used as a bombing target for Army and Navy aircraft.


USS Thompson (DD-305) being stripped for scrap USS Thompson (DD-305) being stripped for scrap

Lt Commander Thomas A. Symington: July 1922-

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



15 January 1919


16 August 1920

Sold by Navy

10 June 1931

Repurchased and partly sunk for use as bombing target

February 1944

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.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 September 2020), USS Thompson (DD-305) ,

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