USS Upshur (DD-144)

USS Upshur (DD-144) was a Wickes class destroyer that served as a convoy escort ship in the Atlantic for most of the Second World War, and then as a plane guard and target ship in 1944-45.

The Upshur  was named after John Henry Upshur, a US naval officer during the Mexican War and American Civil War, who retired with the rank of Rear Admiral in 1885.

USS Upshur (DD-144), Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 1931-33
USS Upshur (DD-144),
Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, 1931-33

The Upshur was laid down at Philadelphia on 19 February 1918, launched on 4 July 1918 and commissioned on 23 December 1918. Her first assignment took her to European waters, and during 1919 she visited Devonport, Harwick, Heligoland, Copenhagne and Danzig before returning to the US via Harwich and Ponta Delgada on the Azores.

The Upshur's next assignment took her to the opposite side of the world. After a period spent at San Diego over the winter of 1919-20, in April 1920 she sailed west to join the Asiatic squadron. Soon after she arrived, unpaid troops of the warlord Chang Ching-yao, murdered William A. Reimert, an American missionary. The Upshur was ordered to rush from Hankow to the scene of the incident at Yochow, leaving four of her men behind. She sent a landing party ashore on 25 June to protect the American mission, but they were only needed for two days. She then helped deliver food to refugees in the local area, but the situation soon calmed down, and on 8 July the Upshur was free to return to the fleet.

In the winter of 1920-21 the Upshur took part in exercises off the Philippines. In the summer of 1921 she operated in Chinese waters. She then returned from the Far East in the spring of 1922, and was decommissioned on 15 May 1922.

The Upshur was recommissioned on 2 June 1930 and jouned the Battle Fleet then the Scouting Fleet, operating on both coasts, before she was decommissioned for a second time on 22 December 1936.

She was recommissioned for a second time on 4 October 1939, to join the Neutrality Patrol. She operated with the Atlantic Squadron of the fleet and performed a mix of training and neutrality patrols. In December 1939 she helped track the German steamship Columbus as she attempted to escape from Vera Cruz back to Germany. The US fleet reported the location of the Columbus, until she ran into the British destroyer HMS Hyperion and was scuttled by her crew. The cruiser USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37) then rescued her crew.

On 23-25 December 1940 she escorted the heavy cruiser USS Tuscaloosa on the first part of her voyage across the Atlantic carrying the new US ambassador to Vichy France, William D. Leahy.

Anyone who served on her between 20 August-3 September, 10 September-14 October or 26 October-29 November 1941 qualified for the American Defense Service Medal.


In March 1941 the Upshur joined the Support Force, a small force that was created for use in 'distant seas'. The Upshur operated from Argentia, Philadelphia, Narragansett Bay (Boston) and Reykjavik during this period.

On 11 September she left Argentia to meet up with an outward bound convoy. The convoy (HX150) sailed from Halifax five days later, and on 17 September the US escorts joined up. Upshur was one of five US destroyers that escorted HX150 to the mid ocean meeting point. After handing most of the convoy over to the Royal Navy, the US forces then escorted part of it to Iceland. This was the first convoy escort mission performed by the US Navy during the Battle of the Atlantic, and came three months before the official US entry into the war.

The support force carried out another fourteen convoy escort missions between 16 September and 30 October, and seven (escorting fourteen convoys) between 1 November and 7 December. This was the period that saw the Kearny damaged by a torpedo on 17 October and the Reuben James (DD-145) sunk by U-552 on 31 October.

The Upshur remained with the Support Force after the US entry into the war, and between 7 December and mid-February 1942 helped escort another dozen convoys in each direction.


On 4 February 1942 the Upshur left Londonderry with Gleaves (DD-423), Dallas (DD-199), Roper (DD-147), and the "Secretary"-class Coast Guard cutter Ingham in an attempt to try and hunt down a U-boat that was threatening their convoy. They then joined up with Convoy ON-63 on 7 February, attacking another U-boat soon afterwards. Although the U-boat escaped, the Upshur and the Gleaves did prevent it attacking the convoy.

The Upshur spend most of 1942-43 taking part in convoy escort missions across the Atlantic.


By the start of 1944 the Upshur was no longer needed for convoy escort duties. She spent most of 1944 operating as a plane guard and target aircraft for trainee pilots preparing to operate from aircraft carriers, During this period she operated with the Kasaan Bay (CVE-69), Ranger (CV-4), Mission Bay (CVE-59), Tulagi (CVE-72), Tripoli (CVE-64), Wake Island (CVE-66), Prince William (CVE-31), and Solomons (CVE-67).

This duty continued into 1945. She was reclassified as a miscellaneaus auxiliary AG-103 on 3 June 1945, but was still acting as a plane guard (for the Essex class carrier Lake Champlain (CV-39). She was decommissioned on 2 November 1945 and sold for scrap on 26 September 1947.

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



4 July 1918


23 December 1918


2 November 1945

Sold for scrap 26 September 1947
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 (17 November 2017), USS Upshur (DD-144) ,

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