USS Woolsey (DD-437)

USS Woolsey (DD-437) was a Gleaves class destroyer that served on convoy escort duty, then took part in Operation Torch, where she helped sink U-173, the landings on Sicily, at Salerno, Anzio and the South of France,

The Woolsey  was laid down on 9 October 1939 at Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works, launched 12 February 1941 when she was sponsored by Mrs. Irving Spencer and commissioned on 7 May 1941.

USS Woolsey (DD-436) on builder's trials USS Woolsey (DD-437) on builder's trials

The Woolsey was named after Melancthon Taylor Woolsey, who served in the US Navy during the Tripolitan War, the War of 1812, and commanded the Navy Yard at Pensacola, and served as commodore of the Brazilian station and his son Melancthon Brooks Woolsey, who served in the US Navy during the American Civil War, serving on the South Atlantic Blockading Suqadron and the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.

The Woolsey was originally classified as a Livermore class ship, but became a Gleaves class ship when the two classes were merged because the two Gleaves class ships were given the same more powerful engines as the Livermore class.

The Woolsey’s shakedown cruise took her to the Caribbean. She then joined the Atlantic Fleet and served on the Neutrality patrol. She was also used to screen the new battleship North Carolina (BB-55) during her shakedown period. Later in the year she began to escort convoys between the United States and Iceland, and she was in Iceland when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

After the American entry into the war the Woolsey continued to operate in the North Atlantic, but also escorted convoys all the way to the British Isles and south to Puerto Rico.


The Woolsey continued to work in the North Atlantic for most of 1942.

On 1-2 June 1942 the Hilary P Jones, Charles F. Hughes (DD-428), Ingraham (DD-444) and Woolsey (DD-437) screened the Indiana (BB-58) during her speed trials.

In the summer of 1942 she underwent an overhaul at the Boston Navy Yard, which was over by 5 August.

In the autumn of 1942 the Woolsey was allocated to the forces to take part in Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa. She joined Destroyer Squadron 13, which served as an anti-submarine scree for the Center Attack Group, heading for Fedhala near Casablanca. Her force left Hampton Roads on 24 October. On 28 October it joined up with the rest of Task Force 34 at sea. The Atlantic crossing was quiet, and the Woolsey arrived off Fedhala just before midnight on 7-8 November. During the first day of the fighting she carried out anti-submarine patrols, but the Germans didn’t react quickly. After a few days a small number of submarines began to attack the invasion fleet. On 16 November the Woolsey, Swanson (D-443) and Quick (DD-490) detected U-173, and successfully sank her.

On 17 November the Woolsey departed for the United States, reaching Hampton Roads on 30 November.


In mid-January 1943 the Woolsey began a series of convoy escort missions across the Atlantic.

USS Woolsey (DD-437) being launched, 1941 USS Woolsey (DD-437) being launched, 1941

On 14 January she left New York with Convoy UGF-4, which reached Casablanca on 25 January. She spent a week in port, then escorted Convoy GUF-4 back to New York, arriving on 13 February.

In early March she escorted Convoy UGF-6 to Casablanca. She then made a round trip to Gibraltar, before escorting Convoy GUF-6 from Casablanca to New York in early April.

For the rest of April and into May she operated along the US East Coast, carrying out a mix of escort missions for coastal convoys and anti-submarine patrols, largely between New York and Norfolk.

On 14 May she left New York with Convoy UGS-8, reaching Casablanca on 1 June. She then remained at Casablanca for two weeks.

On 15 June the Woolsey left Morocco heading into the Mediterranean, where she joined the 8th Fleet, ready to take part in the invasion of Sicily.

On D-Day for Sicily, 9 July 1943, Woolsey, Buck and Brooklyn operated off Green Beech at Licata, opening fire as soon as it was light enough, at about 0445. After an initial shore bombardment they laid smoke to cover the incoming landing craft.

On 14 July Brooklyn and Woolsey accidently strayed into an Allied minefield that had been laid to block Axis submarines from attacking the shipping off Gela. The Brooklyn triggered two of the mines, but they had been laid at submarine depth, so the two ships escaped largely unscathed.

The Woolsey spent most of the Sicilian campaign providing fire support for the ground troops and anti-aircraft protection for off-shore shipping. She also made one round trip to Algiers in mid-July.

Her next role was to support the landings at Salerno on the Italian mainland. She was allocated to the Southern Attack Force Fire Support Group, which contained four American and one British cruiser and Destroyer Squadron 13. On the first day of the landings, 9 September, she only received one call for fire support, when her shore based fire control party asked her to help the Bristol (DD-453) bombard a formation of Axis tanks. She left Salernon on 10 September and returned to convoy escort missions, this time between North Africa and Naples.

On 16 December the Woolsey, Trippe (DD-403) and Edison (DD-439) put to sea from Algiers to find the survivors of a torpedoed merchant ship, and to hunt for the U-boat that sank her. During the evening they picked up a sonar contact, which turned out to be U-73. A depth charge attack forced her to the surface. Woolsey turned on her searchlights, while Trippe picked her up on her fire control radar. Both destroyers then opened fire with the 5in guns. After six minutes of gun fire U-73 began to sink. There was enough time for 34 survivors to escape, with 23 rescued by Woolsey.  This attack happened exactly one year and one month after Woolsey sank U-173 not too far to the west.


In January 1944 the Woolsey was allocated to the Fire Support Group for Operation Single, the landings at Anzio. She reached the beachhead on 22 January and provided fire support for the largely unopposed initial landings. She then spent the next month operating in support of the ground troops as the Germans mounted a major counter-attack and threatened to push them into the sea.

In late February she departed to the United States to undergo repairs, reaching Boston on 25 February. The repairs were completed by mid-March. After a period of refresher training in Casco Bay, she departed for the Mediterranean in the third week of April and reached Oran on 1 May. She then spent the next three months on anti-submarine patrol duties from Oran.

In mid-May she was part of an anti-submarine group operating in the approaches to Oran (Benson (DD-421), Ludlow (DD-438), Niblack (DD-424) and Woolsey (DD-437). On 17 May the group responded to a sighting of torpedo tracks and found U-960. This was the start of a two day battle. On the night of 18-19 May the destroyers split into two groups of two. An aircraft then sighted the U-boat ten miles ahead of Niblack and Ludlow. They carried out 11 depth charge attacks over four hours, and forced the U-boat to surface just as the Benson, Woolsey and Madison (DD-425) arrived on the scene. The five destroyers all opened fire, and a Vickers Wellington joined in, dropping depth charges. The submarine was hit several times before submerging. Niblack then dropped more depth charges and the submarine was forced to surface. Her crew abandoned her just before she sank at 0715 on 19 May. Niblack and Ludlow were given credit for the sinking, but all five destroyers played a part in the battle.

In late July the Woolsey joined the forces being gathered for the invasion of the south of France. She was part of Rear Admiral Morton L. Deyo’s bombardment group, built around the Arkansas (BB-33), Marblehead (CL-12), HMS Argonaut and the French cruisers Duguay Trouin and Emile Bertin.

On the day of the invasion, 15 August, she supported the landings on the right flank of the assault area, near to St. Raphael. During the day she knocked out two German tanks, but the fighting soon moved too far inland for her to support. She was then allocated to the forces supporting the 1st Airborne Division as they pushed east along the coast towards Italy. She was used to bombard German lines of communication along the coast, and also took part in the liberation of Cannes on 24 August. She left the south of France in late October, when she moved to Naples. She then continued on to Oran, arriving on 29 November. This was a brief break and she was back in action off the south coast of France in mid-December. 

 In that capacity, she supported the landings on the right flank of the assault area-near St. Raphael. During the 15 August invasion, her guns knocked out two German tanks; but, though the Camel area assault proved to be the most heavily contested thrust, the entire southern France operation constituted little more than a walkover.

Consequently, very soon after the initial invasion, Woolsey shifted to supporting the 1st Airborne Division's drive along the coast toward Italy. She fired upon enemy lines of communication along the coast- particularly roads-and supported the liberation of Cannes on 24 August. The destroyer continued her operations along the Franco-Italian coast until late October. At that time, she headed for Naples for a visit before returning to Oran, where she arrived on 29 November. The warship was back off the southern coast of France in mid-December and resumed her interdiction duties until mid-January 1945.


The Woolsey remained off the south of France until mid-January 1945, when she left the Mediterranean. She spent a few weeks patrolling in the Azores, before reaching New York on 23 February. From then to late April she operated along the New England coast. In May she escorted a convoy to Britain.

After returning from Britain she underwent a refit in which she was given extra anti-aircraft guns, ready for a move to the Pacific theatre. In late June she moved to Guantanamo bay for refresher training. On 9 July she passed through the Panama Canal. She was at San Diego from 18 July to 3 August. When the Japanese surrendered she had still only reached Pearl Harbor.

After the Japanese surrender she escorted a convoy of occupation troops to Japan, arriving in last August. She remained at Sasebo until 26 September. She then visited a series of Pacific ports – Manila, Shanghai, Okinawa and Saipan, before leaving Saipan on 3 November to head back to the United States. She passed back through the Panama Canal on 29 November and reached Charleston on 4 December.

The Woolsey was placed in commission in the reserve on 6 February 1947. She was decommissioned on 6 February 1947 and spent the next ten years with the Charleston Group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. In 1957 she was towed to Boston. She was struck off on 1 July 1971 and sold for scrap on 29 May 1974.

Anyone who served on her between 1 November and 7 December 1941 qualified for the American Defense Service Medal.

Woolsey (DD-437) earned seven battle stars during World War II, for the Algeria-Moroccon Landings, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, the South of France and for sinking U-73 and U-173.

Anyone who served on her on 22-26 September or 14-29 October 1941 qualified for the Navy Occupation Service Medal

Displacement (standard)

1,630t design
1,838t as built

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts design
36.5kt at 50,200shp at 2,220t on trial (Niblack)


2-shaft Westinghouse turbines
4 boilers
50,000hp design


6500nm at 12kt design

Armour - belt


 - deck



348ft 3in


36ft 1in


Five 5in/38 guns
Ten 21in torpedo tubes
Six 0.5in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


Laid down

9 October 1939


12 February 1941


7 May 1941

Sold for scrap

29 May 1974

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

WWII Home Page | WWII Subject Index | WWII Books | WWII Links | Day by Day

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 November 2023), USS Woolsey (DD-437) ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy