USS Walke (DD-416)

USS Walke (DD-416) was a Sims class destroyer that served with the Neutrality Patrol in 1940-41, then moved to the Pacific after Pearl Harbor. In 1942 she took part in the early carrier strikes, the battle of the Coral Sea and the invasion of Guadalcanal. She fought at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942 where she was hit by a torpedo and heavy gunfire and sank with the loss of 82 men.

USS Walke (DD-416) off Mare Island Navy Yard, 1942 USS Walke (DD-416) off Mare Island Navy Yard, 1942

The Walke was named after Henry A. Walke, who served in the US Navy from 1827 until 1871, fighting in the Mexican War and the American Civil War.

The Walke was laid down at the Boston Navy Yard on 31 May 1938, launched on 20 October 1939 when she was sponsored by Admiral Walke’s grand-niece Mrs Clarence Dillon, and commissioned on 27 April 1940.

The Walke’s shakedown cruise took her to South America, and she was also used to transfer 48 US Marines to the Wichita (CA-45), which was then showing the flag along the coast of South America. She was back at Boston on 4 September and spent the rest of September and October on post shake-down repairs.

The Walke was then allocated to Destroyer Division 4, Destroyer Squadron 2, Patrol Force. In November she was the test ship for degaussing tests carried out by the Naval Ordnance Laboratory at Solomons Island, Maryland, to make the ship less vulnerable to magnetic mines.

In the spring of 1940 the Walke joined the neutrality patrol, operating in the western Atlantic and Caribbean. On 6 June, the day after the start of ‘Case Red’, the second phase of the German campaign in Western Europe, she left San Juan with the O’Brien to patrol the Caribbean. The rapid fall of France and the formation of the Vichy government meant that there was a danger that the French warships in the Caribbean might switch sides. The Walke spent most of the rest of 1940 patrolling off Martinique, to make sure that the aircraft carrier Bearn and the auxiliary cruisers Barfleur and Quercy didn’t attempt to leave port.

This duty ended on 14 December when she departed for Port Castries in the British West Indies, where she arrived on the next day. There she became the flagship of Commander Lyman K. Swenson, Commander of Destroyer Division 17. Shen then moved to Guantanamo Bay, arriving on 19 December, where she underwent a period of upkeep from the Prairie (AD-15).


For the first few weeks of 1941 the Walke operated around Guantanamo Bay and Haiti, where she took part in battle practice.

Throughout February she operated as the plane guard for the Wasp as she carried out flight operations from Guantamano Bay and Culebra.

Until mid-March she was based at Fajardo Roads, Puetor Rico. She then departed for Charleston on 20 March, where she underwent repairs and alterations that were completed in early May. She briefly visited Norfolk (10-13 May) then moved on to Newport, Rhode Island, her base for most of the rest of 1941.

Stern plan view of USS Walke (DD-416) Stern plan view of USS Walke (DD-416)

For the rest of May and June she was part of the neutrality patrol, operating in the western Atlantic.

On 27 July the Walke and O’Brien left Norfolk to escort the Wasp towards Iceland, carrying P-40s and PT-17s to support the US take-over on the island. A few days later this force joined the main convoy, TF 16. On 6 August the Wasp and her escorts left the main force to launch their aircraft. Once they were in the air and on their way to Iceland, the Wasp and her escorts turned back, and they were back at Norfolk on 14 August.

By 8 September 1941 the Walke was on her way back to Iceland with TF-15. On that day she helped hunt a possible submarine contact, although without success. The convoy reached Hvalfjordur on 14 September. She remained at Iceland until late September, then departed for Casco Bay, Maine.

On 10 Novmber 1941 Thomas E. Fraser became her commanding officer, a post he held until she was lost.

The Walke began an overhaul at the Boston Navy Yard on 25 November, which was completed on 7 December, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Walke was selected for transfer to the Pacific, leaving Norfolk on 16 December and reaching San Diego on 30 December.


On 6 January 1942 the Walke left Pearl Harbor as part of Task Force 17 (Yorktown (CV-5)), to cover a convoy carrying reinforcements for the Marine garrison of American Samoa. The convoy arrived at Tutuila on 24 January.

The Task Force then moved north towards the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, where the Walke served as a plane guard for the Yorktown as her aircraft hit Japanese bases on Jaluit, Makin and Milli. The fleet returned to Hawaii on 7 February.

The Walke departed from Hawaii on 16 February with TF 17 (Yorktown, Astoria (CA-34), Louisville and four destroyers) and headed towards the south-west Pacific. On 6 March TF 17 joined Vice Admiral Wilson Brown’s TF 11. Admiral Brown’s initial plan had been to raid the Japanese base at Rabaul, but on 7 March the Allies discovered a Japanese invasion fleet at Buna, New Guinea, and on the following day the Japanese captured Lae and Salamaua, on the north-eastern coast of New Guinea. Admiral Brown decided to change his target to Lae and Salamaua, and moved his fleet into the Gulf of Papua, south of New Guinea. On 10 March the Yorktown and Lexington sent their aircraft north across the Owen Stanley, and they caught the Japanese by surprise, sinking an number of crucial transport ships.

Bow plan view of USS Walke (DD-416) Bow plan view of USS Walke (DD-416)

The Walke remained with the Yorktown’s task force until mid-April. She was then detached to escort the Ramsay (DM-16) and Sumner (AG-32) to Suva in Fiji, arriving on 19 April. She then moved on to Tongatabu, Tonga, arriving on 22 April, where she took on fuel from the Kaskaskia (AO-27) and depth charges. Shen then returned to TF 17.

On 4 May she screened the Yorktown as her aircraft raided Tulagi in the Solomons. The Americans then moved to block a Japanese invasion fleet that was heading around the eastern tip of New Guinea to attack Port Moresby, triggering the battle of the Coral Sea, the first naval battle in history in which the two side’s surface ships never sighted each other. The Walke formed part of the Support Force (HMAS Australia, HMAS Hobart, USS Farragut (DD-348) and Perkins (DD-377), which was sent to patrol the southern end of the Jomard Passage, at the eastern end of New Guinea. On 7 May this task force came under repeated air attack. First came a force of Aichi D3A1 ‘Vals’, which were driven off by anti-aircraft fire. Next a force of twin engined torpedo bombers attacked, but again without success. Finally a force of 19 high altitude bombers attacked, but again without success. There were identified as either B-17s or B-26s, both of which were used in ineffective high altitude bombing attacks on shipping in this period.

The Walke then had to be sent to Brisbane to have damaged starboard reduction gear repaired, arriving on 12 May. The work was completed on 29 May, and she departed for New Caledonia on 9 June, arriving on 13 June. She then moved to Samoa, where she joined Task Group 21.1, with which she departed for Bora Bora in the Society Islands on 26 June. On 11 July the group was dissolved, and the Walke was ordered to escort the Castor (AKS-1) back to San Francisco, arriving on 2 August.

The Walke was photographed off Mare Island on 24 August, when she was painted in mottled camouflage

While she was at Mare Island she was given depth charge racks alongside her rear superstructure, extra anti-aircraft guns in the same area, new radar on top of the bridge structure and the top of her funnel was modified. The yard work was completed on 25 August, and the Walke was ordered to move to San Pedro, to escort the oiler Kankakee (AO-39) to Tongatabu, arriving on 9 September. She was then used to escort a convoy made up of the Kankakee, Navajo (AT-64), and Arctic (AF-7) from Tongatabu to Noumea.

By 24 September the Walke was part of TG 17.8 (Washington (BB-56), Atlanta (CL-51), Walke and Benham (DD-397)). This group spent the next four weeks escorting transports from Espiritu Santo to Guadalcanal.

At sunset on 13 November, the second day of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, TF 64 (Washington (BB-56) and South Dakota (BB-57), Preston (DD-379), Gwin (DD-433), and Benham (DD-397), sortied heading for Guadalcanal. By the last morning on 14 November TF 64 was fifty miles to the south-west of Guadancanal. They were spotted by the Japanese, who reported the group as one battleship, one cruiser and four destroyers, a fairly accurate report. On the American side Admiral Lee, commander of the Task Force, was aware that there were probably at least two Japanese battleships in the area, and he also had to avoid Japanese air attacks, while heading north around the western tip of Guadalcanal.

The Walke was in the lead of the American column as it passed Guadalcanal, sailed east across the northern side of Savo Island, then south-east between Savo and Florida Islands, then turned west to pass between Savo and Guadalcanal. At this point a Japanese force consisting of the battleship Kirishima, the heavy cruisers Atoga and Takao, the light cruisers Sendai and Nagara and nine destroyers, appeared from the north. The Japanese detected the Americans first, and split their force, with part heading west of the island and part to the east. The Walke and the South Dakota and escorting destroyers soon became engaged with the Japanese forces to the west of Savo Island, the cruiser Nagara and six destroyers. The Americans had the worst of this part of the battle. The Walke opened fire on a target that was probably the Nagara but was then straddled by gun fire, before being hit by a ‘Long Lance’ torpedo on the starboard bow just below mount 52 and a salvo of shells that hit the radio room, foremast, and the area of mount 53. The torpedo did the most damage, blowing off the bow and causing a fire that detonated the 20mm magazine.

It was clear that the ship was doomed and Commander Fraser gave the order to abandon ship. Only two life rafts were intact, so most of the crew had to go into the water. The depth charges were set to ‘safe’ but several detonated anyway, killing and wounding some of the survivors. Luckily the Washington dropped more life rafts as she passed by during her battle with the Kirishima. Most of the Walke quickly sank, although the damaged bow came back to the surface, and some of the survivors were able to cluster around it. Most of the survivors were later rescued by the Meade, which picked up 151 men, although six died later at Tulagi. 84 men, including Commadner Fraser, had died when the ship was lost.

Walke received three battle stars for her World War II service, for the Pacific Raids of 1942, Coral Sea and the naval battle of Guadalcanal.

Displacement (standard)

1,570t design
1,759.3t as built  

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kt design
38.75kt at 51,387shp at 1,948tons on trial (Anderson)
36.91kts at 51,138shp at 2,230tons on trial (Anderson)


2-shaft Westinghouse turbines
3 boilers
50,000shp design


6,500nm at 12kts design
5,640nm at 12kts at 2,350t wartime
3,660nm at 20kts at 2,350t

Armour - belt


 - deck



348ft 3.25in


36ft 1.5in


Five 5in/38 DP guns
Twelve 21in torpedo tubes in three quad tubes in design
Eight 21in TT in two quads as built
Four 0.50in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


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 (pending), USS Walke (DD-416),

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