USS Wainwright (DD-62)

USS Wainwright (DD-62) was a Tucker class destroyer that served from Queenstown in 1917-18 and from Brest in 1918, and had a series of possible encounters with U-boats, but without any successes. She then took part in the Coast Guard's 'Rum Patrol', before being sold for scrap in 1934.

The Wainwright was named after three related American naval officers. Commander Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright served in the US navy during the US Civil War and was killed during the attack on Galveston of 1 January 1863. His son Mater Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright Jr, joined the navy in 1867, but died of wounds suffered during an attack on a pirate ship in Mexican waters. Commander Richard Wainwright was a cousin of the first Jonathan Wainwright, and took part in the Union attack on New Orleans and the Vicksburg operations, but died of a fever on 10 August 1862.

This tradition was continued with two later Wainwrights. USS Wainwright (DD-419) was named in honour of the original three Wainwrights and Commander Richard Wainwright's son Rear Admiral Richard Wainwright. USS Wainwright (DLG-28) was named in honour of the previous four Wainwrights, and Admiral Wainwright's son Commander Richard Wainwright.

The Wainwright was laid down on 1 September 1913, launched on 12 June 1915 and commissioned on 12 May 1916, with Lt. Fred H. Poteet as her first commander. She joined Division 8 of the Atlantic Fleet Destroyer Flotilla in the summer of 1916 and spent much of the rest of the year on exercises. In January 1917 she moved to the Caribbean to take part in the Atlantic Fleet's annual exercises. This period of exercises was interrupted when she was used to transport Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission from Santiago to Port-au-Prince, Haita in late January. She returned to US waters in March.

On 3 April 1917, with the US entry into the First World War ever more likely, the Wainwright began two days of anti-submarine patrols off Hampton Roads. She was with the main fleet when the US entered the war on 6 April 1917. 

On 24 April the Wainwright departed for Europe, as part of the first US naval force to be sent to the war zone (along with Wadsworth (DD-60), Porter (DD-59), Davis (DD-65), Conyngham (DD-58) and McDougal (DD-54), under the command of Commander Joseph K. Taussig. The destroyers reached their new base at Queenstown on 4 May 1917.

The US destroyers were almost immediately committed to the fight against unrestricted German submarine warfare. The Wainwright was used to patrol the area between Ireland and Liverpool and other ports on the Irish Sea. During this period there were very few confirmed clashes between US destroyers and German submarines, but the Wainwright was involved in several.

On 11 May 1917 she sighted an empty lifeboat. After sinking the abandoned boat, a torpedo was reported to have passed 150 yards behind the Wainwright (8.15am). A possible periscope was spotted, and several rounds were fired at it. The target then disappeared, and an extensive search of the area failed to find it.

On 4 July 1917 a member of the crew reported spotting a periscope, and another torpedo was seen, this time only five feet behind the destroyer. This time the Wainwright dropped depth charges, but without any success.

On 20 August depth charges dropped by USS Rowan (DD-64) brought up some oil. The Wainwright dropped two of her own depth charges into this oil slick, just in case, and the destroyer flotilla then fired at various possible targets, but against without success.

The Wainwright spent the first two weeks of September undergoing repairs at Birkenhead. On 14 September she departed from Birkenhead to head back to Queenstown, but later that day her journey was interrupted by orders to join the hunt for a U-boat that had attacked a merchant ship 15 miles south-southeast of Helvick Head, Ireland. The Wainwright joined a sizable search for this submarine, which included surface units and a British dirigible. Towards 8pm (the end of the second dog watch) the Wainwright's crew spotted the submarine's conning tower miles off, and steered towards it. The U-boat submerged before the Wainwright reached the area, and a series of depth charge attacks had no result. The Wainwright was then detached from the attack to escort an Admiralty oiler to base. The Wainwright returned to the attack area on the night of 14-15 September, but by then the submarine was gone.

USS Wainwright (DD-62), New York, 20 May 1921
USS Wainwright (DD-62),
New York, 20 May 1921

On 20 September the Wainwright was ordered to the Connigbeh Lightship to rescue four survivors from the fishing smack Our Bairn, sunk by one of the most modern U-boats. The Wainwright then took the rescued fishermen to Queenstown.

On 18 October the Wainwright was ordered back to Helvick Head to hunt for another possible submarine. At 1.58pm a conning tower was spotted 1,500 yards off her starboard bow, possibly preparing for a torpedo attack on the destroyer. The U-boat submerged as the Wainwright attempted to attack her. The Wainwright dropped depth charges and a marker buoy at the last known location of the submarine, and then spent over twelve hours carrying out a circular search of the area.

On 24 November 1917 the Wainwright collided with the SS Chicago City and had to enter dry dock for repairs.

On 29 April 1918 the Wainwright spotted a sail on the horizon and went to investigate. The mysterious ship disappeared, but a series of oil slicks were found, and the Wainwright dropped four depth charges on the most likely to have come from a U-boat, but without any result.

In June 1918 the Wainwright moved from Queenstown to Brest, where she joined the US Naval Forces in France.

USS Wainwright (DD-62) on trials, 1915-16
USS Wainwright (DD-62) on trials, 1915-16

On 5 September 1918 U-82 torpedoed the troop transport Mount Vernon. Nicholson (DD-52), Winslow (DD-53), Wainwright (DD-62) and Conner (DD-72) all attempted to depth charge the submarine, but she escaped.

On the night of 19-20 October 1918 her crew believed they had spotted a U-boat on the surface, but fortunately they investigated further before attacking, as the ship was actually a derelict carrying the crew of the schooner Aida, sunk by a U-boat. The Wainwright rescued the survivors.

On 1 November the Wainwright ran aground on the breakwater at Brest in heavy winds. The destroyer USS Jarvis (DD-38) attempted to tow her free but failed, and she had to be rescued by the tug Concord.

Anyone who served on her between 4 May 1917 and 11 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

The Wainwright returned to the United States early in 1919 and joined the Atlantic Fleet destroyers. In May 1919 she was part of Destroyer Squadron 14 (USS Cummings (DD-44); USS Wainwright (DD-62); USS Parker (DD-48); USS Balch (DD-50); USS McDougal (DD-54); USS Ericsson (DD-56); and USS Dixie (AD-1)). She continued to operate off the US East Coast and in the Caribbean until 19 May 1922 when she was decommissioned for the first time.

On 2 April 1926 the Wainwright was transferred to the Coast Guard, where she took part in the prohibition era 'Rum Patrol'. She carried out this duty between 1929 and 1934, mainly from her base at New London. During this period she was called away for gunnery practise in January 1929, January 1930, January 1931 and March 1932. In 1933 her based was moved to New York. In September 1933 she had just begun a period of target practice when she was recalled by the Navy to operate in the Florida Straits during a period of upheaval in Cuba (the start of the Batista dictatorship).

The Wainwright was released by the Navy on 6 November 1933, and resumed her Coast Guard duties. That finally ended in March 1934, when she was decommissioned by the Coast Guard. She returned to Navy control in April, but was struck off on 5 July 1934 and sold for scrap in August 1934. 

Displacement (design standard)

1,090t (DD-57 to DD-59)
1,060t (DD-60)
1,150t (DD-61 to DD-62)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

29.5kts at 17,000-18,000shp
29.56kt at 16,399shp at 1,103tons on trial (Tucker)


2-shaft Curtis turbines
4 boilers
17,000shp apart from
18,000shp (DD-58, DD-59)
17,500shp (DD-60)


2,500nm at 20kts (design)


315ft 3in


30ft 6in (DD-58, DD-59, DD-51)
29ft 9in (DD-57, DD-60, DD-62)


Four 4in/50 guns
Eight 21in torpedo tubes in twin mountings
Depth charges

Crew complement



12 June 1915


12 May 1916


Sold for scrap 1934

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

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 November 2016), USS Wainwright (DD-62) ,

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