USS Wilkes (DD-67)

USS Wilkes (DD-67) was a Sampson class destroyer that served from Queenstown after America entered the First World War, and helped support the first trans-Atlantic flight in 1919.

The Wilkes was laid down on 11 March 1915 and launched on 18 May 1916. She underwent her trials in September 1916, and was commissioned on 11 November 1916, with Lt Commander Julius F. Hellwig as her first commander. She was named after Charles Wilkes, a US naval officer and explorer, who served during the American Civil War before his career was ended by a court martial triggered by a public dispute with the Secretary of the Navy.

USS Wilkes (DD-67) on trials, 30 September 1916
USS Wilkes (DD-67)
on trials,
30 September 1916

After being commissioned the Wilkes went to Philadelphia to complete her outfitting, then joined the fleet for exercises in Cuban waters. After the US entry into the war on 6 April 1917 she escorted the French cruiser Amiral Auge as she moved from Norfolk to New York.

On 14 June 1917 she was part of the escort for the first US troop convoy using American ships, the transports Tenadores, Saratoga and Havana, operating alongside the USS Seattle, USS DeKalb and USS Roe. On 22 June this convoy was probably attacked by a U-boat. The cruiser USS Seattle's helm jammed forcing her out of the formation. Just after this a probable torpedo track was noticed, passing 50 yards ahead of her. The Wilkes took part in an attack on this suspected U-boat, but without success. She then visited Portsmoth, where she celebrated Independence Day, before reaching her new base at Queenstown on 6 July.

This was the only occasion on which the Wilkes was involved in an attack on a suspected U-boat. She spent the rest of the war operating from Queenstown, mainly carrying out anti-submarine patrols or escorting convoys into English ports, She also sometimes visited Brest or St. Nazaire. On 25 July 1917 she rescued 23 survivors from the SS Purley, sunk by a U-boat. She continued with her escort missions until the end of 1918, before finally leaving for home on 26 December 1918.

Depth Bomb Launchers on USS Wilkes (DD-67)
Depth Bomb Launchers on USS Wilkes (DD-67)

Anyone who served on her between 26 June 1917 and 11 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

In May-June 1919 the Wilkes helped support the first successful trans-Atlantic flight, carried out by the Navy Curtiss flying boat NC-4, the only one of the squadron that attempted to flight to complete it. NC-4 made the flight in two main stages - the first took her to the Azores, which she reached on 17 May, the second from the Azores to Lisbon, on 27 May. The Wilkes was the fourth in a line of fourteen destroyers that marked the route between the Azores and Lisbon. 

The Wilkes spent almost three years operating along the US east coast, combined with annual winter exercises in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. She was decommissioned by the Navy on 12 April 1922.

On 23 August 1926 the Wilkes was recommissioned as the Coast Guard vessel, with Lt Commander M.J. Ryan in command. She spent the next eight years as part of the Coast Guard's 'Rum Patrol', but was returned to the Navy after the end of prohibition. She was decommissioned by the Coast Guard on 29 March 1934 and returned to the Navy. She was struck off on 5 July and sold for scrap on 22 August 1934 under the terms of the London Naval Treaty.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

29.5kts at 17,500shp (design)
29.57kts at 17,964shp at 1,135t tons on trial (Rowan)


2-shaft Curtis turbines
4 boilers



Armour - belt


 - deck



315ft 3in


29ft 10in


Four 4in/50 guns
Two 1 pounder AA guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple mountings

Crew complement



18 May 1916


10 November 1916

Sold for Scrap

22 August 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 (2 December 2016), USS Wilkes (DD-67) ,

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